Sugar n’ spice n’ everything nice…

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The “Babysicles” Saga – THE CONCLUSION:

“Babe, there’s babies in a lab with our name on them. Does that make you happy?”

“Yeah! I mean not like, Del Taco Nachos happy…. but so close!”

Paul’s sense of humor is pretty great. Paul’s sense of humor when I’m high as a kite on painkillers and anesthesia is the pretty much best thing ever.

So….. After all was said and done, they retrieved 12 eggs from my ovaries at my IVF procedure.

8 were mature enough to fertilize, and they all survived until Day 3 – which is kind of impressive in-and-of-itself, according to my acupuncturist. By Day 5, when they determine which embryos (or blastocysts, as the pros call ’em) are strong/developed enough for genetic testing, we had 4 that were good to go for the big exam.

On Day 7, the results were in.

When I got the call from my doctor about the final outcome, I was in Anthropologie, doing some Christmas shopping with my mom, who had come to town for the holidays with my dad. I had stepped away to take the call, and when I walked back to her, I took one look in her eyes and started to cry.

“He said, of the four, two weren’t genetically healthy. That they were “incompatible with life”…. and the other two…. (sob)… they’re both little girls.”

In that moment, I felt such an overwhelming and powerful mixture of grief and relief, and I didn’t know how to process it.

Grief: that two of them didn’t make it. I had really done a great job of talking myself into believing that all four would pass the test. But, despite all the research that indicates that mixed-race children are more likely to be genetically strong, we still had a 50% “failure” rate. Grief, that after all that hard work, that simply wasn’t true. There were two. Which might not even guarantee us one pregnancy, or one child, depending on how my body reacts to the transfer.  Grief that, ideally, and selfishly, I would have opted for one of each gender. Grief, probably, that the process was over… as challenging as it was. Not to mention the hormone withdrawal I was experiencing, which complicated and compromised my emotions just that much more.

Relief: that we had two, rather than one, or (worse), none. That all that hard work had resulted in the gift of two potential babies. That they were girls, which tapped a nerve deep within my heart about my forever dream of having a daughter. That there are two future daughters out there, just waiting for us. Two healthy little girls with our names on them. That we made. Together. And that I got to share in that momentous moment with my mother. To look into the eyes of the woman that made me, and tell her that I, too, had made a daughter. A granddaughter for my parents. Maybe even two. Relief, that nearly a year’s worth of waiting, the wondering, the worrying… that it was all over. Paul and I had a strong chance at biological children. Relief that my biggest fear: that it was just too late, was somewhat allayed.

It was… complicated.

ivf quote

I gathered myself and we went into separate fitting rooms, where I promptly sat and proceeded to sob even harder. It all just hit me like a ton of bricks. And though I tried to be as quiet about it as possible, as though through maternal instinct, my mom was there, knocking… knowing. And within seconds, I was in her arms.

Paul, on the other hand, handled the news beautifully. Much more regally than I did… partially given his reasonable nature, and partially because he wasn’t in the throes of a major hormonal shift that skews every slight minutiae completely out of perspective. He was absolutely thrilled at the prospect of daughters. But he did share my concern about the fact that there were only two. We decided to give it some time before making any decisions about the next steps, and rather celebrate our outcome, and enjoy the holidays with our families. And in the days that passed, I began to revel in the joy of counting my two new blessings… along with the rest of all the joys I am lucky to have in my life.

I’d like to share more about the end of the process, but the last week of stims, and the week following my retrieval procedure is kind of a blur. I was so jacked up on hormones, and the anticipation was so high… and then afterwards, I was so high (thanks, drugs!)… I remember very few details other than these:

The nurses and anesthesiologist and doctors at our Fertility Center are some of the finest medical professionals I’ve ever encountered. Just the sweetest, kindest, most patient and nurturing folks ever. And I’ve seen my share of these kinds of people over the course of my 15 surgeries. These are some of the best I’ve met. I can’t recommend them highly enough for fertility or IVF treatments.

At my surgery center, the hospital gowns have slots in them that are hooked up to a giant reverse vacuum that pumps warm air into your gown, creating like a warm, cozy cocoon around your body the whole time you’re there. IT. WAS. GLORIOUS.

Percoset. Percoset. Percoset. Percoset. Percoset. Percoset. God bless it, that wonderful drug.

Naps. Lots of ’em. All the naps. Hibernatin’ like a bear.

Aaaaaaaand, that’s the bulk of it.

In the end, we’ve decided to do another round, just for safety’s sake. We’ll probably start next month or the one after. Our hope is to end up with 3-4 embryos total – enough for 2 transfers, in case the first one doesn’t work out, and in the hopes of ending up with 2 children of our own. We are so extremely fortunate to be able to afford this luxury… but even if I had to go deep into debt and live off of ramen for a year, I’d probably choose the same. Because, while it’s not always true, my faith in this keeps me going:

Screenshot 2014-01-25 16.49.15

In the meantime, let’s raise a glass to the possibility of 2 future daughters! I think about them every day.

(PS: miss part one? click here. miss part two? Click here. Not sure what this is all about? click here.)


Writing this post made me need a nap. No, but really.

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The “Babysicles” Saga – Update #2:

Where did we leave off? Oh, yes. THE NEEDLES.

I have been giving myself 2-3 shots, nightly for the past 10 days now. Kids, it’s none of the fun.

I mean, at first you kind of think you’re a bad-ass. And by “you”, I mean “I.” I suppose because I have had plenty of needles in all body parts before, (like oh, you know, my eyes, and my arms, and my cervix, and did I mention my eyes?)… I thought I was all hard and would be completely unphased by the idea of nightly abdominal injectable punishments. But, oh… I failed to take into consideration the sting. And the bruising. And, worst of all, the side effects. Oh, how quickly my self-aggrandizing concept of bad-assery flew out the window.

ivf bruising

The day after my first round of shots, I felt… okay. I was tired. I felt as though the volume on life had been turned down a bit. Not depressed, per se, but definitely reminiscent of that sort of… distance from life that I associate with depression. But not exactly sad. Just distant. and super tired.

That night, within an hour of the injections, I was a complete mess. I had a fever. Every muscle in my body ached, especially my hips, which made it hard to walk. I felt like I’d been hit with the flu and a truck, at the same time. My throat was sore. I went to bed at 9pm and basically slept until 3pm the next day, with brief breaks for trips to the bathroom on very unstable legs, and to take my vitamins or drink some water. I was all: “This is my old yeller moment, Paul. Time to put me down.” Apparently, these are not uncommon side effects from the 300iu of Follistim and 150iu of Menopur I am injecting into my lower belly to ripen my follicles all together. Oh, what a joy. (Side note: Paul did not, in fact, euthanize me, contrary to my wishes. Instead he made me a protein shake and tucked me back in with a kiss. WHERE IS THE COMPASSION?)

I took it super easy for the first few days, and by Tuesday, I was thankfully feeling much more myself. The exhaustion definitely stuck around, but in a much less punishing sense – and the fever, aches, and sore throat were waning. Soon, Paul and I were settling into our nightly routine of measuring, diluting, filling, stabbing, stinging, bleeding, and swabbing. Ah, true romance.

A week later, and I’m still staying the course. My follicles have been very slowly growing, and there are less of them than I had hoped. Whereas a couple weeks ago, the doctor counted 14 follicles, only 8-10 are ripening together. There are another few, smaller follicles in there, which could catch up… but yesterday my doctor gave me the look. The one that says “don’t cry but…” and then he proceeded to prep me for the possibility that I’ll probably only make 8-10 eggs. Once they’re fertilized, only 4-6 might develop into embryos. Of those, maybe only 2-3 will be of freezable quality. He was right. I wanted to cry.

All of this. For only 2-3 embryos? *Sigh* Yes. I suppose so. If that gets me 1-2 babies, then yes. It’s worth it. And I’m grateful.

But.

Most “normal” women my age go through this and turn out 15-30 eggs like bad-ass chickens. That annoying little voice inside my brain wailed “why can’t my body do anything normally?” for most of the day yesterday, in between naps. Then today, I told that voice to kindly shut the fuck up. I have time. I have strength. And I spent an hour on the acupuncture table today breathing white light into my ovaries, visualizing the follicles inside them swelling bigger with every breath. “Grow, my babies… grow!” I thought to myself as I breathed, fueled by a desperate determination to manifest as positive a result as I can. (If you listen real closely, you can hear Oprah shouting “The Secret!!!” in the distance.)

This morning, I added injections of Ganirelix to my daily cocktail, to prevent premature ovulation, until we use another drug to trigger it a few days before retrieval. Yesterday my follicles measured an average of 10mm each, with a few 6-7s hiding in the back, and my doctor is estimating retrieval on Saturday or Sunday of this week.

How do I feel? Well, I’ll tell ya: I get night sweats, day sweats, insane dreams, I’m easily tired, my memory is for shit, I’m spotting, and on the weepy side of moody. Which is a vast improvement from the uber-bitchy wrath that teenage pms hormones used to yield upon me. My boobs have stopped growing. (damnit.) On the plus side, I get to nap whenever I want without guilt, (seriously. the writing of this post was interrupted by a nap, in fact.) and this whole process has turned me into a drooly, juicy, humpy teenager and all our co-ed naked sports activities are benefiting greatly from this. Bow-chicka-wow-wow!

hormonal ecard

Thanks to the laziness of my follicles taking their sweet-ass time to ripen, I’ve had to refill the Follistim and Menopur, saying a tearful goodbye to yet another $2,500 that we didn’t expect to spend. If we get enough embryos to warrant genetic testing (PGD), we’re looking at another ~$10k in fees, but we’ll see how things go before deciding on that.

To date, it’s cost ~$20,000 for the whole shebang. Half of me wants to be incredulous about the expense. Or angry at the world, that yet another thing in my life is some expensive medical challenge. But the other half of me, the smarter half, knows that this is probably our only chance at biological children, and even if it cost $1,000,000 – it would be worth it. And I’m so very, deeply grateful to be in a position, for the first time in my life, to have a) I found the perfect fiance, who will soon be a perfect husband, and later, a perfect father, for these frozen babies, and b) that we can afford it. And that happiness, that comfort, that calm, that love… that’s worth all the money in the world.

I’m almost there. Almost.

Ha. And I can tell I’m not quite m’self, because this post is hellllllllllllllla boring. Sorry, folks! It’ll be over soon.

(PS: miss part one? click here. Not sure what this is all about? click here.)


How an episode of New Girl changed my life (or: the frozen baby story)

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Last December, I was sitting in the living room of my mid-divorce crash-pad (you know, that friend’s apartment where you live for a few months before you can bear going out into the world on your own), in the midst of what I thought was an innocent New Girl binge… trying to escape the realities of my life by daydreaming about how I’d totally be best friends with Jess, thanks to our love of patterns and polka dots, our quirky glasses, our awkward outbursts, and similar reactions to a glass of rosé….

New-Girl_Meme-V1.jpg(But I mean, let’s be real. I’d probably freaking hate her in real life, because she’s too cute and stylish and charming. How could I compete with that? That shit ain’t natural.)

Anyway… there I was, enjoying Schmidt’s shenanigans, the whole “will they or won’t they” Jess and Nick saga, and their rollicking games of “True American.” And then I reached Season 2, Episode 9: Eggs.

HOLD THE DAMN PHONE, YO.

Did you guys know that there’s a simple blood test that can check the age of your ovaries? Or rather, gives an estimate of the remaining egg supply, or “ovarian reserve”? Yeah. Neither did I, until Zooey and friends did an episode about getting Jess and CeeCee’s AMH (anti-müllerian hormone) levels tested. And there I was, staring down the nose of my 35th birthday, in the midst of my divorce, and for the first time, doubting my fertility.

My ex-husband and I had always planned on “starting to talk about trying” around the time I turned 36, and I foolishly, blindly, just assumed that I’d be good to go, no matter what. But suddenly, I saw the ignorance of that assumption and was gripped with terror about the possibly dwindling likelihood of my ability to conceive naturally.

If I’ve ever known one thing for sure, it’s that, my whole life, I’ve desperately wanted to bear children. Like, grow them in my belly and push them out the hard way. All my friends were always much more “if I could just skip the pregnancy and get straight to the baby raising, I’d be happier” types. But I’m like the opposite. It’s a mind-melting miracle that we can create a human out of such basic, seemingly miniscule matter. It blows my mind that we can serve as a host to this… alien, living through us until they’re ready to emerge. That we, as women, are equipped for such a task. And, with all the hell my body has put me through in the form of medical mysteries and chronic illness, I figured the least I could do is use it for this unique purpose that only half of us are built to serve. It’s on my life list and has been, as long as I can remember. So, the idea of losing that chance because I had my head in the sand for too long was no bueno at all. Like, not at all at all. The good news was that I had a physical scheduled for later that week, including several blood tests, in preparation for an eye surgery the following week. “Bingo!” I thought, in the midst of my sweaty panic, “I’ll just add this on!”

So there I was, a week later, wrapped in my clumsy paper gown on the exam table at my local urgent care, trying to act casual while asking them to “maybe just draw an extra vial of blood for an AMH test. Cuz… you know, New Girl.” (by the way, what is with those damn paper gowns? How have we not come up with some better, more comfortable way to deal with medical modesty? Do they make you sweat, like, extra? They make me sweat extra. But I digress…) The blood was drawn, and a week later, the doctor emailed me a scan of the results, with a note suggesting I talk to my gynecologist for her interpretation, since they weren’t knowledgeable about their meaning enough to comment. But it wasn’t necessary. I could plainly see that between an “expected range” of 0.16 – 8.43 for my age, my result was a paltry 0.96. My heart leapt into my throat and then sank slowly into my stomach. I didn’t know exactly what it meant… but I knew it wasn’t good.

The conversation with my gyn was unencouraging:

“We really don’t like to see anything below a 1.0 in women your age. My advice would be to try to get pregnant as soon as you possibly can.”

“Um… I’m kind of in the middle of a divorce.”

“Oh. Well, then I’d say you should look into freezing your eggs sooner rather than later.”

I knew full well that freezing ones eggs is a huge expense. My mind was racing in panic. Would I need to take out a loan? Could I even get a loan? Should I just find a sperm donor and move home to Chicago and do the single mom thing right now? Should I just give up hope and get comfortable with the idea of adoption? Should I just show up at a local bar with a T-shirt on that says “open for business: put a baby in me!”? BECAUSE THERE’S NOTHING MORE ATTRACTIVE THAN A DEPRESSIVE DIVORCÉE WEDDING BLOGGER WHO IS PROCREATING OUT OF SHEER DESPERATION, AM I RIGHT?

Then, I pretty much had a full-on nervous breakdown. Granted, it was fueled by wayyyy more than this egg nonsense, but it surely wasn’t helped by it. (more on this later, probably.)

I was doubting everything. My decision to divorce. My future. The meaning of life. My sanity. The axis of the earth. I was sure I was being punished.

new girl meme

(I have a tendency to over-react a bit.)

Meanwhile, the simple truth is that I had been on low-dose chemotherapy for 4-years in college to suppress my immune system so it couldn’t attack my eyes. And well, chemo is an all-too-common thief of fertility. If I had only known that earlier…

I got the name of a reputable fertility specialist from my gyn, and went in for a consultation a month later. On my birthday. Because that was the first available appointment they had. A month later. On my 35th birthday.

“So, Ms. LaRue… what brings you here today?”

(Deep breath) “Well, today’s my 35th birthday and I’m getting divorced and I saw an episode of New Girl about the AMH test and my results were low and I really want my own baby and I don’t know what to do.” – It all just tumbled out of my mouth like an avalanche of emotion.

My doctor, god bless him, looked at me with a benevolent mixture of pity and amusement, and patiently walked me through a super clear understanding of fertility and exactly what my test results meant. Long story short, it means my ovaries are much older than that of a “normal” 35-year old woman, but the eggs inside them are totally the age they should be. Which means, if I freeze my eggs at 35, when they’re defrosted (no matter when that may be), they’ll still be 35-year old eggs. But, what it also means is, if I don’t freeze my eggs, my ovaries will stop producing enough of those perfectly-aged eggs for me to get knocked up with, sooner rather than later. So, while I might be able to get a baby in me naturally, I also might not, and the longer I wait, the less likely that is. So to harvest/freeze my eggs would be the most prudent security measure. Like an insurance plan, of sorts. Then a lovely front-office assistant came in and informed me that the process would cost about $8,000. And none of it, including today’s visit, would be covered by insurance, that’ll be $250 for today, thank-you-very-much.

I had no money, and I had no idea where to find any. So I had no choice but to put the baby thing on the back burner for a while, which was a good thing because, frankly, my mental stability was pretty damn tenuous at that point, and I was more concerned with just making it through the darkest days of my divorce grief and depression alive.

Fast forward a few months. I turned a corner in my mental health: I made peace with my split with my ex, I had quit drinking for several months, my medication had been managed, I had gotten my own apartment. I was starting to feel human being again. Healthy again. And, miracle of miracles, I had HOPE again.

And then, I met Paul. And like, suddenly, in a very once-in-a-lifetime way, that was it. When I absolutely least expected it, I found my lobster.

you're my lobster (yeah, I just totally made a Ross and Rachel reference in the same post I referenced Nick and Jess. Pop culture love fest up in here!)

On our second date, he asked me why my ex and I hadn’t had children, and I told him everything. I figured it was better to lay it all out on the table right off the bat – no surprises, no secrets. And he was just like, “well, shit. We’d better get those eggs in a freezer then!” On our second date.

Seven months later, we’re there. Tomorrow is the first day of my cycle, and that’s our cue to start the process with my doctor, harvest my eggs, fertilize them, and put them on ice, where they’ll await us until we’re ready. That’s right: I am about to make my future babies. I just won’t get to meet them until… we’re ready.

When this began, I was convinced it was a punishment. Now I see, it was a gift. The elegance of this crazy world is clear to me, and it seems as though it was always supposed to work out this way. (At least, that’s how I like to think about it.)

So, thanks, New Girl. If it weren’t for you, I might have completely missed out on a chance to realize the future I had always pictured for myself.

I’ll be documenting the process here, if you care to follow along. And happy to answer any questions y’all might have. So stay tuned, it’s gonna be an interesting ride!