Our Infertility Journey (1.12): Do men always get the easy infertility jobs???#GivingTuesday

My nerves were intense, evidenced by the slight tremor in my hands. Annoyed that I was letting myself show any signs of vulnerability, I shoved them under my thighs. I was tough. A needle into my ovaries couldn’t be that bad, right? So what if I would be awake! The Ativan and pain meds would take the edge off. They had assured me that anesthesia wasn’t necessary (nor was it an option).

How long would they make us wait? The clock hands seemed to be stuck in the same position that they had been in when we entered the waiting room. I wasn’t as nervous about the procedure as I was about the outcome. The unknown mocked me. I despised my inability to control ANYTHING. I couldn’t will my body to create more eggs, to respond more favorably to the stimulation medications, or to stop hyperstimulating. All that I could do was wait and hope for amazing news.Young woman stroking her belly becouse of bellyache

At least Dave was at my side today. Over the past several months his presence at my appointments had been hit or miss-most of the time miss. As a doctor in training he didn’t have the luxury of frequent time off. I understood, but I still hated it. I had to accept that we were not making a baby TOGETHER. I was making a baby with needles, doctors, nurses, labs, and countless medications. This was one more frustrating reality, added to my list of things that I was powerless to change.

His presence today was absolutely necessary. An egg without sperm is just an egg! The door opened and Dave’s name was called. It was time for his contribution. Back to the male suite he went to squirt into a cup once more. If only my role were that easy. I felt a twinge of jealously and anger but quickly willed myself to dismiss it. What good would a pity party do? No, I had to stay focused. I needed to be positive. But, in the midst of my positive thinking I still couldn’t dismiss the recurring thought that it wasn’t fair! Maybe he wasn’t propping his feet up all day long, but he certainly wasn’t feeling the full effect of infertility. relaxing

I was starting to feel groggy by the time that Dave returned to the waiting room…with an extra spring in his step. The Ativan was kicking in. The door opened again. It was my turn. Once in the procedure room the nurse told me to change into a gown and to remove everything except for my socks. Dave was given a blue paper jump suit and booties to put over his clothes. As I was stripping he was zipping up. The room was frigid. Icy. Sterile. I shivered as I covered my head with the blue surgical cap. My legs were shaking.Woman Having Eggs Removed As Part Of IVF Treatment

The nurse arrived to start my IV line. My first poke of the day felt like a tickle in comparison to what was to come. As I slipped my feet into the stirrups, I took a deep breath and braced myself for pain. My bladder was overly full and I couldn’t help thinking how horrible it would be to urinate all over the floor. The ultrasound smashing against my abdomen didn’t help the situation. I was about to celebrate as the abdominal ultrasound was removed, but before I could utter my thanks, the vaginal ultrasound probe appeared. This probe was unlike the others…equipped with a special needle that would poke through my vaginal wall, reach over to my ovaries, puncture each individual follicle, and then apply vacuum suction to remove the eggs. Great…a torturous version of the traditional vaginal ultrasound probe! I hadn’t thought it possible to dislike an ultrasound probe any more than I already did; my opinion quickly changed.

Each time suction was applied the tube was given to the embryology lab technician who then confirmed if an egg was present or not. If present, a number was called out, adding to the tally. I felt like a contestant on The Price is Right. I kept guessing how many eggs we would get. I held my breath with each needle poke. My heart sank each time our count stayed the same. Would we have enough? Would they fertilize? I squeezed Dave’s hand and asked for more pain medication. The procedure was painful…if I hadn’t mentioned that. I felt every needle poke. The pain meds took the edge off, but puncturing the follicles located along the wall of the ovary definitely hurt the most. I held my breath, clenched my jaw, and prayed for it to be over quickly.Nurse Aiding Egg Retrieval Proceedure In Theatre

The narcotics running through my IV made my head and my body feel sluggish and heavy. I forced myself to listen for the final count…9 or 10. Not huge, but still good! We were done. I tried to wiggle over to the recovery gurney, but my body was too heavy, weighted down by the narcotics and Ativan. I couldn’t talk. Opening my mouth took too much effort. I felt myself being lifted and then wheeled down a hallway toward recovery.

Eight hours later I awoke, sore and nauseated. The narcotics had knocked me out, changing what should have been a 1-2 hour recovery time into a day long stay. As I slowly opened my eyes, I found that I was alone. I looked for a balloon, flowers, a card. Nothing! It may sound silly, but I had specifically told Dave that I wanted a giant balloon at my bedside. I’m not sure why it was so important to me, but it was. Other than his presence and some sperm, it was the only thing that I had asked of him for the retrieval. He had forgotten.Crying woman

Actually, he had gone back to work after I made it to the recovery area. Yes, I had been asleep, but I still wanted his presence at my side. Instead, I was surrounded by an overwhelming sense of aloneness. It was only a few minutes before Dave walked through the door. The first thing out of my mouth was, “Where is my balloon?!?!” I was livid. After everything that I had been through, I wanted some extra compassion and gratitude, something to say, “Thank you for everything that you are doing to get us pregnant.”

Dave really is a considerate and amazing husband, but even he will say that he fell short on this occasion. He left my bedside once again, but this time he returned with a giant monkey balloon, a children’s book, and a matching stuffed animal. The name of the book was, “I Love Monkey”. It was the silliest looking monkey I had ever seen with a flat face, the tiniest feet, and little striped socks. When he said that he had bought it for our baby to be, I couldn’t help but smile and forgive him. While his infertility role was not as physically or even emotionally challenging as mine, living with a wife pumped up with hormone injections was probably not the easiest job either. He too was learning as he went.Sad woman is talking to the phone in bad, in home.

I was back to work the next day; feeling very sore but hopeful. We were in the process of making beautiful embryos! We waited expectantly for the phone to ring. How many embryos would we have? What would their quality be? We waited and we waited. Finally, the call came.



Our Infertility Journey (1.11): The Neighborly Infertility Waiting Room

As soon as my ovaries shrank back to their normal size (after a failed IVF cycle, sabotaged by ovarian hyperstimulation); my hormone levels normalized; and I had my period, I was immediately ready to start another cycle of IVF. I was going to make this work. I was not going to be discouraged. I was going to get pregnant.Pregnant Woman holding her hands in a heart shape on her baby bu

I was fertile…incredibly fertile…confirmed by a tiny drop of medication overstimulating my ovaries.  I didn’t need a break. I needed a baby. And, so, we started over again. This time I was required to have more frequent ultrasounds and more frequent blood draws (oh, so convenient for my work schedule). The medication doses were titrated to push the ovaries to make follicles but not to hyperstimulate. We were on the right track. But…

Once, again, I hyperstimulated. It was not as intense this time. I was able to continue the cycle, but unfortunately because we were using such small doses of medication I ended up with a lot of very small follicles that didn’t have eggs at the right stage of maturity. I only had a few follicles that looked promising. Would these few follicles be enough? I held onto hope.

During this cycle, a somewhat random and awkward series of events transpired. As I made my way into the clinic one morning, I noticed a familiar face. Not just a vaguely familiar face, but the face of my next door neighbor. She sat alone, looking down at either her phone or a book, or anything just to avoid eye contact. I knew that she had seen me. How could she not, with only a glass wall to separate us on entry, and one other person sitting in the waiting room?Three patients sitting in doctor's waiting room

For several months now I had observed that everyone always looked up when someone entered the waiting room. Maybe they look out of curiosity. Maybe it was an instinctive reaction to the sound of the door opening. Maybe they thought the nurse was about to call their name, or maybe it was a glance longing for connection-the connection of seeing someone else struggling with the same grief that infertility brings. In this silent community of women, all were pained by similar emotions yet distanced from one another by shame or a desire for privacy. But, behind each heart filled with pain was also a yearning for understanding and support.

As I sat down, I tried to make eye contact. Instead of feeling like my privacy was being invaded, I was excited to find comradery. I wanted to know my neighbor’s story. I wanted to tell her mine. I eased myself into the seat, sore from my distended pelvis. I wondered if she was in the middle of a cycle. As my mind was racing through possible scenarios, she briefly glanced my direction. I tried to catch her eye and smile. This time she did see me, but instead of saying hello and exchanging pleasantries, she simply gave me a hasty, half-hearted smile and quickly looked back down. Each morning after was the same.Outdoor profile portrait of a beautiful thoughtful Chinese Asian

I didn’t judge her. How could I? Just months before I had been shrinking behind the vending machine hoping that no one that I knew would see me. How could I expect her to behave differently. She hadn’t invited me into this private part of her life. She didn’t want me to know her struggle. She deserved the right to her privacy, to her reaction, to her annoyance at my presence. I understood. She was dealing with her infertility struggle in the way that worked for her. Who was I to pressure her to talk or to share?

Over the next several months we saw each other frequently. Our exchanges were limited to a quick glance and a brief smile. By now our husbands were accompanying us to our appointments whenever they could. My neighbor’s husband would smile and greet me comfortably, as though we were both in our front yards watering flowers. Our husbands worked out in the same gym and would run into each other on occasion. Somehow they were easily and openly able to talk about our simultaneous infertility journeys and failed IVF cycles.

Young woman doctor in cap and face mask in surgery room interiorAs coincidence would have it, we both ended up having our egg retrivals on the same Saturday morning. So, just the four of us sitting in the fish bowl waiting room at 6 am, eager, worried, and more than a little tired. Would we both come out of this round pregnant? Would only one of us have success? How many eggs would each of us get today? How many embryos? So many questions…so many what if’s. I wasn’t sure what to say. Besides, my mind was more than a little hazy from the sedating medication I had taken before arriving to the hospital. This clinic expected you to be tough. A benzo by mouth and some IV narcotics were all they gave for egg retrievals. Looking back, I’m a little jealous of my friends who had full anesthesia at other clinics! I’m pretty sure I’d be okay with never knowing what an egg retrieval feels like!

From The Mom in Me, MD