Saturday, 2 November 2013

Because they are hard

"We choose to go to the moon and do the other things...
not because they are easy, but because they are hard"
When we first moved to California, Husband and I befriended Kylie though a field hockey league. Kylie was a 34 year old Australian who had just moved the area to start a three year work visa.  She soon developed a friendship with one of her work colleagues. Although they were biologists, there was a strong chemistry between the two, but they were both too shy to make a move. Enter a little too much al-kee-hol at the staff holiday party, and they were inseparable following a drunken snog. After a year, they started discussing their future together. He hadn't proposed, but took her shopping for engagement rings. One day she mentioned that she wanted to marry sooner rather than later, so they could start trying to conceive right away. "Oh, I don't want to have children." He announced. "I've been thinking about getting a vasectomy."

That was a deal breaker that ended their relationship right then and there. She boxed all his belongings from her flat and delivered them to his desk at work the next day. A few months later, he left the company for another job and she started looking into artificial insemination. Her visa would be expired by the end of the year and she knew it much harder for a single woman to acquire donor sperm back in Australia. She asked me to help her select a donor. It was one of the greatest honours I've been given. (Although I would have been happy to go to Australia with her to help select a live donor..) She conceived on her first IUI and gave birth to a beautiful baby boy. When I told my parents about Kylie's pregnancy, to my surprise, my Dad was a little judgmental.

"I just don't see why anyone who chose to be a single parent. It's just going to be so hard to raise a child on your own." he commented.
"Well, she really wants to be a mother and doesn't want to run out of time." I informed him without going into the details of her age (37) or issues of acquiring donor sperm in Australia.
"Besides" I countered. "When something is really important to you, do you become discouraged just because 'it's hard'?" I could see his face softening a little. This was actually starting to become fun. "In fact," I continued "Aren't most things in life that are worth achieving the result of hard work?"
He smiled. "Who taught you that, Jane?"
"Oh, I don't remember... this guy in my life... he calls himself my Dad... thinks he's pretty wise..."

We all know how this process is so much easier for fertiles. Samantha Bee from The Daily Show with John Stewart described that she can't even use the same bar of soap as Jason Jones without becoming pregnant. Eve at Infertile in the Garden on Eden has a friend who practically conceived via FaceTime. It's as almost if they're living in one of those Viagra adverts; when the moment is right for conception, their house magically transforms into a rainforest, or some other romantic setting and invites them for a procreating romp. Total cost: maybe a bottle of two buck Chucks. Sometimes not even that much. Observational studies note a spike in the birth rate nine months after a widespread blackout, as more people are engaging in coitus due to a lack of other entertainment options. There was also an increase in the birth rate in July 2009 -nine months after Barack Obama's electoral triumph. By the way, the easiest place in the world to get laid is at a campaign victory party. I had five offers on the night of Ned Lamont's successful primary challenge, but I am seriously digressing...

We all accept it's going to be a much tougher road, and may discover that it's even harder than we first perceived. I decided to approach the process in stages. Pre-stimulating ovarian suppression, stimming, retrieval and fertilization status, possible CCS testing, then transfer prep leading up to an eventual transfer and two week wait. So far, it was the first stage that was the most miserable. In order to avoid going into hypertensive crisis on the oral contraceptives, I started myself on Labetalol at 50 mg twice daily. The Labetalol worked beautifully to control my blood pressure, but it killed my swim times. In the last few days of practice before our big meet, I was feeling exhausted during warm-up and had no energy to sprint.

I held my morning beta blocker on both days, so that I could compete. My times were a little slower than I wanted them to be; but I'm trying to remind myself that as a sprinter, I'm fretting over tenths and hundreds of seconds. I did improve my times on my distance swims and it was encouraging to know that my interval speed on those events, was my 100 yard sprinting speed two years ago. I was also able to carry this post from Aramis for extra motivation:

You think you're in pain during this 100 m butterfly? Wait until you go into labour, then you'll know pain. SUCK IT UP AND SWIM BITCH!

Quit breathing. When you go into labour, you can breathe all the air you want. 

Oh, and my coach may have issued the ultimate throw down to my uterus when she mentioned that I should work toward entering the 200 Fly by next April.

Acknowledging my unfair advantage, stimming was pretty easy as I'm adapt at administering injections; although I did inflict myself with one small bruise. Four days in and I was feeling fine. My weight was actually down half a pound. What the Fuck? Were these meds even working? Apparently a little too well, as my first estradiol level came back at 317. I was instructed to decrease my Gonadal-F. My first ultrasound found that I had four follicles, which was judged to be "not bad." The E2 was still trending high at 471 and I got to skip out on Gonadal-F'ing myself. Wow, I don't think I've heard of anyone else having to hold meds. Day 6 E2 was 714, I now had to half my dose of Menopur. Man, that stuff burns like a motherfucker. As an atheist, I was happy to have less reconstituted nun-pee in my body. Husband was having too much fun teasing me about whether I was feeling the Holy Spirit or having visions of the Virgin Mary...

I went into for a scan on day 7 and found the number of follicles on my left side had doubles and had quadrupled on my right ovary. I had a total of 10. Ten follicles. My RE seemed pleased with my yield so far. I saw on his notes that he was anticipating a retrieval of at least 10, so I'm pleased to have met his expectations. I anticipated I may produce a dozen, so that seems within reach. It's hard not to feel encouraged at this point in time, but I need to keep bringing myself back to reality. It's like Annie's warning to the newly engaged couple in Bridesmaids, "Awww, you two really love each other...that will go away!" Not all oocytes will be mature, not all with fertilise, not all will be euploid. Yet, I need to be thankful for with what I have to work. I can't realistically ask for anything more.

Of note, I never received any specific instructions on what I could do or couldn't do during my stimming cycle. Not that I would have followed any rules. I kept swimming each day, although I did move myself to a slower lane. I attended Cross-Fit classes, but on day 6, I informed my instructor that I needed to modify box jumps. "Sure honey, is everything alright?" she asked. "Let's just leave it at that I tweaked my groin.." I explained. "O-oh..." she commented with a knowing smile. I may have given the impression that I sustained a sex injury Score! Plus, I got to modify burpees with some air squats and regular push-ups Double Score! I played tennis and I went to a yoga class. I did excuse myself from my field hockey match. Interestingly, I played hockey the day before I miscarried (which I know had no influence) but I wasn't going to take any chances with my ovaries!

I've been thinking about President Kennedy's description about the prospect of going to the moon and how we can't be daunted by challenges just because they seem hard. It's so amazing to acknowledge that only a mere 7 years after Kennedy made that pronouncement, Neil Armstrong was walking on the moon. I often think about Kylie and all the difficulties she faces a single mom. It makes the action of administering injections seem so insignificant. Yet, this part seems easy because it's in my command. I am taking all my meds like a good girl. I am getting my blood drawn as scheduled and attending my appointments with the vag probe. Once things are out of my command, it will feel so much harder...


  1. Jane, you have no idea how relieved I am to read your stim results and to hear they're actually decreasing your dosage. I absolutely HATE it when someone gets slammed with a DOR / poor responder diagnosis that they only find out about when they start stims. Not that you had any reason to think so, but I always worry anyway. Keep on kickin' ass and takin' names, my dear!

  2. This post reminded me of

    It is not because things are difficult that we do not dare; it is because we do not dare that they are difficult.

    (attributed to Seneca, which may or may not be accurate).
    For me, IVF itself did turn out to be much easier than what I worried about, Pregnancy, on the other hand, which I had always dreamed happily about... much harder.

    I'm impressed you keep up most of your exercise routine! Must be good for mental health, if nothing else. I'm much less active than you are, but did yoga through my entire IVF cycle and found it very helpful. Fingers crossed!!

  3. What a great perspective your Dad, and JFK, had at looking at difficult things. I'm glad the stinking has been going well and hope for a great retrieval and fertilization!!!

  4. This is great news!!! So much better to have high numbers and decrease the dose then find out that they need to add more more more drugs to get you to respond!!! And I am super impressed by your level of activity! You go!

  5. I know that your clinic is not so great with doling out information, but you should be careful with your activity while you are on stims. Your ovaries are not supported by anything and they grow very large on stims. My clinic warned against jumping, running, etc.- basically anything that could lead to ovarian torsion. I was terrified of losing an ovary so I played it pretty safe- be careful!!