Saturday, September 15, 2012

The Embryo Transfer

The hospital is quiet as we walk in.  Because it's Saturday, the halls are empty and our footsteps echo.  My husband is clacking along beside me on crutches and we head up to the 2nd floor in the elevator.  We are greeted by the nurse and the acupuncturist.  They both ask me if I'm nervous, which has been a popular question the last few days.  When I say no, they both nod and smile.  After some paperwork, they take us back and I change in to a flattering blue hospital gown while my husband decks out in scrubs.  We both have nets on our hair and my husband wears a face mask.

The room was bigger than I thought it would be.  The bed is in the center, with lots of space all around. Once I get settled in, the acupuncturist gets right to work, putting needles in my feet, shins, belly, arms, hands, ears, and hairline.  The needles prick at first, but don't really hurt.  I chat with her as she works quickly.  She tells me how she met her husband in Vietnam, even though they were both from Denver. She also shares that they just decided last night that they would start trying to have a baby.

Once she's done, she says I have 15 minutes to relax before all the doctors come in.  I take deep breaths, counting by 6 in and out.  "Breath is life," I think to myself.  After about 10 minutes, I look at my husband, thanking him for being so amazing.  I didn't expect to, but I start to cry. The tears fall down the sides of my face for a couple of minutes before Mike notices.  "Are you okay?" he asks.  "Yes.  I just feel so lucky to be here, so lucky to be doing this."  Mike rubs my left shoulder, dragging his fingers along my arm.  I can't stop crying, and all of a sudden, he grabs my left boob.  "Babe!" I say, surprised. "Made you stop crying, didn't I?"  I laugh loudly, and then suddenly I can't stop laughing. 

The acupuncturist comes in to the room with a big smile, watching us laugh together.  She sees my tears and says, "Happy crying?" "Definitely," I say as she starts removing needles.  The nurse enters and asks me if I'm ready for everyone to come in.  Quickly behind her come in 3 nurses and 2 docs, shortly followed by J&M.  They also have scrubs on and their faces covered, and we reach out to each other, grasping hands for a moment.  The embryologist, David, comes in and discusses how the eggs did over the last 5 days since fertilization on Monday. Originally the guys wanted to implant 2 embryos, but since changed their minds.  David explains there was a clear "winner", an embryo that had made it to blastocyst, which means it's developed to the point of having 2 different cell components and a fluid cavity.

 David asks if they want to know whose sperm contributed to the embryo.  They say yes, and he tells them.  The guys look genuinely happy for each other, no apparent jealousy. They had agreed beforehand that the healthiest looking embryo would be the one implanted, regardless of the paternity.  They tell Mike and me later that if anyone asks whose it is, they will always answer "both of ours."  I love that.  

They discuss the rest of the embryos, which they'll be freezing for a possible 'later'.  They have never said, but I think it's cool they have the option if they decide they want more kids.  

From there, things move very quickly.  One of the nurses start the ultrasound, and proclaim my bladder is "perfectly full" (hmm, I was thinking more excruciatingly full, but whatever) and then describe my uterine lining as lush and beautiful.  Well, of all the compliments, these are ones I never thought I'd hear.  They decide the spot they'll deposit the embryo, and the doctor inserts a tiny catheter tube up in to my uterus.  Watching the ultrasound, we can see the tube.  I reach out my arm, and both guys grab my hand, and we all watch as they push the embryo out of the tube.  "Perfect" the doctor whispers under his breath.  We all squeeze each other's fingers a bit tighter.  

Afterwards, the acupuncturist comes back in and again puts needles in various points around my body. The guys are smiling big and everyone seems to be breathing a bit easier.  We talk about what we'll all be doing during the weekend.  The picture of the embryo slips between M's fingers and as it flutters to the floor, he says "Damn!  I dropped the baby already."  We laugh, and the mood is light and easy.  It all feels so perfect and right. 

Friday, September 14, 2012

What do you wear to an art gallery opening?

In surrogacy, you call the parents-to-be Intended Parents, or IPs.  You can break that down further to the Intended Mother (IM) and Intended Father (IF).  Well, there are no IMs in my situation, so I've got two IFs: J & M.  The guys are....amazing.  Seriously.  I remember when I was sitting at the surrogacy agency 7 months ago and the gal asked me, "Is there anything you are afraid of?" and right away, I said, "If the intended parents don't want a relationship with me during the pregnancy."  She told me that people come from all types of backgrounds and I can't expect anything.  Many times, they are coming from years of infertility or loss, and they are incredibly scared.  She explained that I can't control how the relationship unfolds and I have to be open.  For many heterosexual couples, this is their last effort in a long battle of wanting to be parents.

One of the interesting things about working with a same sex couple is that, often, it's the beginning of their journey.  That's not completely the case with the couple I'm working with, as they started down this path around 5 year ago, considering both adoption and surrogacy.  But now, they are a little nervous, but mostly super excited.

These guys have totally got their shit together.  They've been together for 20 years, they know what they want, and they are established in their careers.  J is in real estate and M is an artist, and also a college professor.  I can't say that if we came across each other on the street that we'd become fast friends...but we have settled in to an easy and fun relationship.  They are communicative and open, and I've honestly just fallen in love with them.  Is that weird?  In the "i'm-gonna-grow-your-baby" kind of way. You know.

M had a gallery opening on the Friday before The Big Day and invited us to attend.  I'm was thrilled he wanted us there....but was a little nervous because..uhh..what the hell do you do at an art gallery opening?  I realize in this moment that I am an uncultured buffoon, but I just had no idea what to expect.  My experience is drawn solely from movies and TV shows, where very well dressed people walk around places talking about the composition and texture and postulating on the meaning of the piece.

Turns out I had no reason to sweat it.  We wore jeans and had a great time.  The art was interesting and I loved hearing M tell me about his pieces.  The highlight of the night was being introduced to some of the closest people in J&Ms life.  I wasn't really expecting to be introduced to anyone, I didn't know they were ready for that.  I got to meet M's sister and niece, as well as their friends and M's students.  One of their neighbors turned to me with tears in her eyes and told me how much it means to her that I'm helping them.  She told us about a night about 6 years ago when they were all sitting around having dinner, talking about kids.  She hugged me, I started crying, M started crying. It was ridiculous. And totally awesome.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Shots, pills, patches, and more

What is this, you ask?

It's the day by day sheet of all the drugs I'm scheduled to take.  Let's talk about them, shall we?

First, things started off with Lupron, a ridiculously large shot into my bum to suppress ovulation.

This is, by far, the largest shot I've ever had in my life. The craziest thing is I picked it up from the pharmacy and was expected to administer it myself!  Well, not ME, but my husband. I'm thankful that my stepdad is a doctor and he was nice enough to do it for me.  Well, maybe "nice enough" isn't the right term....maybe "giving him the chance to get back at me for having all those parties in high school" would be better.

The day after I took my shot, a girl on my team at work left this note on my desk:

Every other night, I put on between 2 and 4 estrogen patches called Estradiol along my hips, trying to find a new spot along the mine-field of previous patches.  This is to build up my uterine lining, since my body isn't ovulating.  

Both in the morning and the evening, I take a pill called Medrol, which they tell me makes the embryo transfer more successful. This tiny pill, irregardless of the length of time on my tongue, leaves the nastiest taste in my mouth.  Every morning, I pop a Synthroid pill, which is bringing my normal thyroid level really low, which also increases the chances of successful implantation.  To make things more fun, I have to take Synthroid on an empty stomach, but Medrol I have to take with food.  This kind of high maintenance shit is challenging for a girl who could barely remember to take a daily multivitamin.  I also take a multivitamin pill with folic acid, which I have found is less likely to make me nauseous when I take it right before I go to bed. 

Also in the morning and night, I take progesterone in the forum of a vaginal suppository called Crinone.  This one is my faves, let me tell you!  I'll save you from the details of this one, except to tell you there was a thrilling three part instructional video on administering this drug.

Luckily, despite all of these meds, I feel....not much of anything. I had a brief few moments of headaches after my big shot and sometimes I get sleepy when I'm perfectly well rested - although who knows if that's from my low thyroid level or from having two kiddos with endless amounts of energy. But for a girl who rarely even takes Advil, this is a pretty substantial change in pace.  

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Uterus Vacancy

Now that the transfer is just one week away, the doctors want to make sure that my body is doing what it's supposed to be doing on all the drugs I'm taking.  I'm sad that I'm missing my son's soccer game to drive to the hospital on this Saturday morning, but so excited that things are getting close.  

They bring me back right away and tell me to take off my pants. I fold my underwear deep in to the fold of my jeans....because god forbid that the guys about to get up close and personal with my hoo-ha catch a glimpse of my underwear.  I hop on the table and cover my lower half with a sheet.  Then begins that awkward wait where I am sitting straight up and don't want to move until the doctor gets there.  To my right in an ultrasound machine with the mighty vaginal ultrasound wand standing proud, smeared with a hearty helping of lube. 

What's a girl to do but to promptly drag my hand across it?  

Thankfully I have enough time to wipe myself clean before 2 doctors come in and get right to work.  They move the wand around, making sure that I don't have any stray eggs hoping to be fertilized and that the lining of my uterus looks good.  They are looking for something more than 8, and mine clocks in at 9.9.  I feel very proud of my uterus!! "This might sound dorky, but can I take a picture?"  He smiles and turns the screen towards me more.

By this time next week, hopefully this uterus won't be quite so empty.

Friday, September 7, 2012

Scar Tissue

One of my best friends is newly pregnant and, although she's heard the stories of my kids being born at least a couple of times, she is newly interested in every detail.  Although an amazing time, the birth of my first son is painful to remember in many ways because it was a time that was particularly messy with my mom's alcoholism.  The months that I was pregnant was a slow and tortuous build up of her drinking getting steadily worse and worse.  Our relationship was strained at best and I felt helpless as I was so ridiculously codependant, taking everything she did and said as a personal attack...rather than understanding she was lost in her own mess.

My water broke three weeks before my due date.  After I was at the hospital, I called my mom to tell her I was in labor, but to PLEASE not come to the hospital.  At the time, her drivers license was suspended because of her most recent DUI, so I thought I was safe telling her. Before I knew it, she was in my room, being dropped off by a friend.  It was 9am, and she already reeked of alcohol.  The day I was supposed to be focusing on one thing, my mind was wrecked with her sitting drunk in my hospital room.  Once my stepfather arrived several hours later, he convinced her to wait it out at home, and I was very grateful for this. In the moments after my son's birth, she swooped into nuzzle in to him, and I grimaced with the thought of her somehow tainting him with her alcoholism.  In that moment, something changed.  She could mess with me all she wanted, but I would never let her hurt him.

On the day my husband went back to work after taking the first two weeks off with me, my mom and stepdad offered to come over to make dinner. As always, I began assessing her behavior the moment she stepped out of the car.  I breathed a sigh of relief when I realized she wasn't drunk, and enjoyed the time with them giving me a break.  She pushed me off to the bedroom for a nap while they cooked and occupied the baby.  Just before I walked out of the kitchen, I mentally marked the half-full wine bottle that my husband had left in the refrigerator.  When I woke up 2 hours later, the smoke alarm was ringing, and I ran downstairs in a panic.  Something my mom was cooking was burning, but everything was fine...except the mental mark I had made on the wine bottle was far above where the liquid had now settled and my mom was staggering around the house.  True to how I usually dealt with these situations, I didn't say a word...just silently stewed in my anger.  "How could she do this to ME?" I thought, so relieved when they finally left.  I finally decided to do something about it.  The next day, I stormed in to her house and confronted her.  I told her that she had broken all my trust by drinking around the baby, and I wasn't sure where she fit in to my life anymore.  She looked at me with her mouth wide open as I walked out of her house.  That night, she tried to commit suicide. After the unsuccessful attempt (the third in the last 10 years she had made), she went to a 30 day inpatient rehab for the first time in her life.  During the family weekend, I traveled to the out of state facility and watched as she had once again spun her web around her fellow drunks and users, her counselor, and the entire staff.  She was proclaimed healthy and ready to come home.  I started letting her see Finn as long as she was supervised...and it didn't take long for her to get drunk while watching him again.

I'd had enough. Really. I wrote her a long email and told her that I wasn't willing to see her again until we started therapy.  I was tired of the lies, tired of keeping quiet, tired of pretending there was not something terribly wrong with both her AND me.  She didn't write me back for 2 months.  In the meantime, I started seeing a therapist who was skilled at dealing with families of alcoholics.  I had a purpose: How do I heal from everything my mom had done to me.  It became clear quickly that my therapist had another purpose: Get me to see how I had contributed to the mess.  ME!?  I was appalled! I spent the first 3 sessions telling her all the ways I'd been wronged.  After each story, she asked me, "And what did you do afterwards?" and the answers varied from nothing to crying to sulking to angry outbursts.  The obvious pattern emerged...and I began to change.  Each week when I left therapy, it was like my cloudy brain was clearing and the answer was right there all along.  I realized that I actually did have a part in the cycle that our family had down to a perfect science.  Mom fucks up, we all cover it up and make excuses, and put our hard hats on in anticipation for the next explosion.  She was never made accountable and nothing ever changed.

Once my mom and I reconnected, I was a new person.  Calm, and unfettered by her choices.  I realized that I did love her, regardless of her decisions. And I realized there is a different between unconditional love and being unwilling to allow someone to poison you with their choices.  I could love her AND set boundaries! The next few years were not perfect.  She tested my boundaries, but I was able to stay strong without the emotions had used to come with her drinking.  She stopped drinking...and then not...and then back and forth a few times more.  Today, she is about 8 months sober, and committed to AA for the first time in her life.  She frequently thanks me for believing in her and told me the other day that she's so proud that her grandsons will never see her drunk.  She has a sponsor and leaves her AA book lying around the house for any person to see.  She's no longer ashamed and we don't talk about it in hushed tones anymore.  I truly believe that is the difference - she realizes that she's not a bad person just because she used to drink.

Our relationship has come a long way in these past few months. She has never come out and apologized, but that's okay, I don't need it.  Has she had her last drink?  I'd like to hope so, but who knows.  She's in a forever battle of alcoholism. But one thing I know for sure is that I'm okay either way. I realize now that I don't need to believe in her...she just needs to believe in herself.