The ghosts of daughters future: babysicles round 2 (electric bugaloo)

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How can you miss something you’ve never actually had?

Paul and I recently completed our second round of IVF embryo freezing, and through the miracle of science, we have produced another healthy female embryo. In addition to the two we produced the first time around.


I’ll spare you the long, boring details of this round and skip to the meat of it: things moved more quickly this time, so I only stimmed for 12 days instead of 15. But I didn’t have as good an output – only 8 eggs this time, 5 of which were mature enough to fertilize. As of day five, there were only 2 blastocysts that had developed enough for the PGD (genetic) testing. And only one of the two was genetically viable.

And thank god for that one.

I can’t imagine how frustrating and painful it would have been to put my body, our family, and our bank account through all that strain… and have nothing to show for it. It was a hard enough pill to swallow, knowing that exactly half of all the embryos we made were so genetically imperfect they would not have survived. It’s a product of my type of fertility problems, having more low-quality eggs than your average bear. But it’s not something we expected.

But those three survivors are such tremendous gifts. I am so incredibly, awe-struckenly grateful for them, and the potential they represent.

And it’s ironic. Because I was so sure… deep down in my heart of hearts… that this time would be better. I did everything “right”: I ate right, I exercised, I went to acupuncture twice weekly, I took my supplements and herbs, and even added in DHEA (which is supposed to support egg production and quality). I wore bracelets given to me by a Buddhist monk. I cherished a talisman given to me by a Hindu man. I visualized white light into my ovaries every night. But, at the end of the day, my body is struggling… and nothing can reverse the damage that being on chemo for 4 years has done.

Science, man. I feel so lucky for the miracles that science has made possible. Our three miracles.

So, Paul and I talk about them, because they’re real to us.

“Oh, I bet we’ll do lots of that with the girls.”

“OMG, this would be so fun for the girls.”

“For real, when the girls are here, we’re definitely/never __________.”

“I wonder if the girls will ___________.”

And it’s weird. It’s weird having to wait for them. It’s weird feeling like I miss them… when they are (for lack of a better word), just possibilities, really. But it’s so totally surreal, knowing we made them. Knowing they’re healthy. Knowing they’re girls. Knowing they’re just waiting for a chance at coming to life.

But, still, I yearn for my future daughters. I can’t help it. Damned biological clock! Damned friends with adorable families! Damned hormones! Damned Pinterest nurseries! They all make me so impatient.

girl quotes

And I know, there’s no guarantee my body will accept any of the 3 embryos we have in the freezer. There’s just no way to know, until we try. And even though my intuition failed me this last round, I still remain as positive as ever that we’ll have luck with pregnancy.

The time will come, soon, for them. And I can only have faith that at least one will find her way into our arms.

Estrogen is a helluva drug.

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The “Babysicles” Saga – Update #1:
(yeah, I just referred to my future children as babysicles. what about it? They’re gonna be in a freezer for the next howeverlong, and it sounds better than “frozen babies”, or “embryfroze”. Although fro-yo would work, I’m not really a fan of mixed metaphors y’know? bro?)

On October 18th, it was day 3 of my cycle, so we went in to get my FSH levels tested and get a follicle count to get ready for my IVF. They spotted about 8-9 follicles that day, and I nearly cried with joy when I heard that my Follicle Stimulating Hormone level had dropped from a 9 in April to a 5 now. When I told my acupuncturist, who specializes in fertility treatment, her response was: “See? This shit really works!” Damn straight, son. I’ve been seeing her twice a week since April and the numbers don’t lie! It’s great news because, the lower your FSH level, the less work your body is doing to produce healthy eggs, which is a good thing. At this point in the cycle, my doctor would normally would prescribe birth control pills, to give them more control over the timing, but BCPs tend to aggravate my depression, so we decided to skip it and told me to come back 20 days later instead.

On November 5th, I saw the doctor again. He counted my follicles, and thought he saw 9 or 10, which kicks ass because, hey, it’s more than 8 or 9. He also not-so-subtley hinted that my ovaries are camera-shy. Compared to other women, apparently my follicles like to play hide and seek with the ultrasound wand. I told him I prefer to think of them as stealthy, but he didn’t seem very impressed.

While I was being probed, Paul was in another room, making a “deposit” for his semen culture and analysis. I had wanted to help him out in there, but he was totally weirded out by the whole situation, and opted to just take care of it solo-style. The masturbation station at our clinic is fitted with a la-z-boy recliner, thoughtfully covered in what appears to be a puppy pee-pad, a flat-screen TV displaying the homepage for, and an assortment of porn magazines that covered the four basic kinks: boobs, butts, young-looking girls, and dom/sub action. Their pump-and-dump philosophy appears to read thusly: Men = predictable.

We later received the happy news that Paul’s swimmers are a strong and plentiful army. So hearty, in fact, that we’ll be able to bypass the need for ICSI, (or intracytoplasmic sperm injection) which is basically a fancy way of saying “inject sperm into egg.” Instead, they’ll just introduce his men to my ladies, and let them get hot and bothered and hook up in a dark corner of the petri dish of their own accord. Hooray for Paul’s healthy balls!

The next step for us was to begin “Estrogen Priming Protocol” by wearing two Minivelle Estradiol patches on my lower abdomen for 3 days each. The patches are each the size of a quarter, and deliver estradiol transdermally, which down-regulates FSH receptors. By providing external estrogen, we’ll trick my pituitary gland into thinking a follicle is developing (because follicles produce estrogen) and will thereby reduce the amount of FSH (Follicle Stimulating Hormone) it pumps out. This process give my ovaries a little time off at the spa, and allows the doctor to take control of my cycle. In addition, it will promote estrogen dominance in the follicular fluid, which is believed will help protect the developing eggs.

Why am I doing estrogen priming, you ask?
EPP is an aggressive form of an IVF Antagonist Protocol, used most often in women with high FSH and/or over 35 years of age. It’s a sort of “slow burn” methodology — the hope being that they slow me way down and protect egg quality while allowing me to stim longer. In addition, the slower stimming may help all the active follicles to stay in sync, allowing the doctors to retrieve as many mature eggs as possible.

estrogen patches
I have found that covering the patches with a strip of Tegaderm really helps keep them safe from pant-waist friction, bathing, puppy pawnails, et cetera. Stop staring at the pant-waist imprint on my belly, please. Thank you.

The estrogen has made me rather crampy, and a bit on the weepy side, for the past two weeks. I’m like Eeyore, kind of. But no one is stealing my tail. I just feel a little deflated. But not the skinny kind of deflated. Rather the opposite. But that’s not the estrogen’s fault. It’s the cheese’s fault. Also, my nipples are like, WAY sensitive, and prefer standing at attention, at all times, under the influence of estrogen, it seems. And, my bewbs are noticeably more bodacious! I never had any of those fun “bigger boob” benefits from hormonal shit before. As a card carrying member of the Itty Bitty Titty Committee, I count this side effect as a super win!

But the real side effect worth noting takes place behind my tightly locked bedroom door. Sans pants. Yes, folks, it’s like that. I’m pretty sure that after all is said and done, I’ll be hustling for estradiol patches on the streets, chasing the white dragon of horizontal mambos past. Let’s just leave it there, shall we? 🙂

Tomorrow, I’ll go in again, to begin Stimming. This involves multiple needles on a daily basis for the next 2-3 weeks. IVF drugs
This is my hypodermic loot. It cost… wait for it…. a little over $5,700. These boxes. Cost that much.


Tune in next time, for the next installment of The Babysicles Saga. In which I stab myself repeatedly with needles. Cuz, science.

(PS: wondering why I’m doing this? Click here.)