The Score

Negative Pregnancy Tests: 5 / Me: 0

I’m clearly lagging behind here.  The good news is that I feel a bit positive about it right now.  Maybe there is a plan that eludes my current sensibilities.  Thats what I’m banking on, anyway.  It’s getting exhausting to be chronically depressed and disappointed, so I’m trying a new tactic.

Here’s an update in this journey that I’ve affectionately named: The Everyday Life of a Sperm Sleuth.

I’ve asked exactly three people to be un-frozen sperm donors: a local good friend, a new African friend and a dear friend’s gay cousin, who lives out of state.   In each scenario I had a “buckle up” moment with the guy, and then plead my case.  I may be so bold as to say that you haven’t really lived until you’ve sat with a grad student from Ghana at a local coffee shop and popped the big question: May I have your sperm? I’ll pay you.

Yeah, I did that.  Three times.

For truly legitimate and thoughtful reasons, each of them said no.  But my Ghana friend now thinks Americans are even more audacious than he assumed when coming to this country, and we did go see Delivery Man together.  He rolls his eyes when I lament about my once-in-a-lifetime-shot at birthing a biracial baby.  I laugh when he rolls his eyes because Africans aren’t, culturally speaking, sarcastic.

I’ve not taken a true break until now.  I’ve intended to but the past few months I’ve made quarterback decisions to try again.  And by try again I mean scurrying about in the final pre-ovulatory days to find a new donor (goodbye days of thoughtful and prayerful dedication to my perfect sperm counterpart) and getting all the moving parts aligned: cyro tank fed ex’d, predicted ovulation sorted out and coordinating the schedules of my A-Team inseminators.  In a way, I’m getting a leg up on the multi-tasking that comes with children.

Also, it helps when life-beyond-trying-to-get-pregnant is happening.  I had a lovely, spontaneous trip to NYC a few weekends ago with a new friend.  I’m in Washington DC right now with old friends. And honestly, getting pregnant artificially has taken a back burner.  For now.  I’ve decided that my Christmas present to myself is a true little break (back into the medicine cabinet Mr. Thermometer) from temping and being an expert in the nuance of cervical fluids.

I’m assuming I’ll be back in the baby-making-game in 2014, but for now I’m wiping the scoreboard clean.  Let’s hope for a better season next year.

Keep Calm and Carry On

I’ve been avoiding my blog because I haven’t sorted out how to write about my recent disappointments.  The quick: I’m not pregnant. After five vaginal ultrasounds and anxiety-producing blood draws I got a “trigger shot” which is a shot that goes into the hip to promote ovulation. Then I went in the next day for the IUI.  When the doctor analyzed the sperm he determined that my donor had a low sperm count.  As in get-a-refund-low sperm count. In layman’s terms, only 7% of his little swimmers could swim in a straight line (to presumably meet the egg).  Earlier that day I’d made a quarterback decision to order another vial, same day delivery (aka $1,000) and have my friend E do a 2nd IUI the following morning, at home.  This was before I knew my donor was a dud.   Those 7% didn’t make it either morning.  I’m hoping to get a refund for the vial that was analyzed.  Unfortunately, I have to eat the cost for the other five vials, since the only analysis of those vials were my friends and I … well, looking at them.  I was upset.  Well, truth be told, I got a little crazy.  The doctor had me on nine hormone pills a day post IUI, for the two week wait.  When the nurse called me and told me I wasn’t pregnant and that the doctor was not available for a post-procedure consult, I lost the plot. I turned into an unhinged, desperate lady on the phone, accosting the messenger.

Are you telling me the doctor won’t talk to me?  I just spent #$^%& dollars (shamefully, I went there) at your clinic and now my body is all jacked up, I’m on all these hormones and I just want to talk to the doctor!  I’ll talk to him on the phone, I don’t care.  Doesn’t he OWE ME a follow up?!

I’m so sorry, but he doesn’t really do that.  Would you like to set up an appointment to meet again and talk about trying again?

Will that cost me money?

Well yes, it’ll cost the initial consult fee of $150.

I looked down at my arm, which was still bruised and hurting from the confirmation-you’re-not-pregnant blood draw earlier that day. The nurse had dropped the cotton ball when she was ready to pull the needle out and had me reach across the room to grab another one for her, with the needle in my arm.  It was an accident, but the needle moved in my arm when I moved and created an ache that I hadn’t experienced prior to that particular blood draw.

Are you serious?  He won’t just talk to me and let me know what he suggests now?  I just want to know if my eggs are good.  Was it solely the sperm?  Do I have fertility issues? How long until my body gets back to normal?  What about all these hormones?!  

I’m embarrassed to say that I was almost yelling by this point.  I wasn’t truly yelling, but I wasn’t just talking either.

Well, I uh can talk to the doctor and uh call you back.

I gathered the shred of composure I had left and told the nurse I’d collect myself and get back to her in a few days.

Then I walked into a client session.

The whole scene was not one of my better life moments.

That was a week ago.  Since then I’ve stopped all the extra hormones, decided to see a therapist for a little while and have slowly started to think about the next step.  I’ve decided to take this month off, mostly because of finances, but also for some sanity.  And perspective, as elusive as it is at times.

I’m sure all this sounds terribly dramatic for those of you that haven’t experienced infertility, or trying to have a baby on your own.  I think it would to me. I can hear the judge in my own head: get a grip; it takes a while; you can’t get pregnant if you don’t chill out and relax.  I know, I know.  And still … you know–if you’ve been down any semblance of this road, how crazy sneaks up on you.  It becomes a primal face-off: maternal desire meets unbridled emotion.

Longing and capitulation; then repeat.

Last night I made tapioca pudding, which is what I do when I’m feeling down or stressed.  The rhythmic slowness of stirring the milk, eggs, sugar and tapioca from liquid to pudding soothes me. The transformation of the elements offers perspective. I think, ultimately, this is what most spirituality and therapy boils down to: a reduction. In foodie terms a reduction is the process of thickening and intensifying the flavor …  I’m realizing that as I’m up against the most elemental parts of myself, everything does intensify. I’m being exposed to what I’m fundamentally made of; my relationship with impulse control, tenacity, trusting the process, trusting God, vulnerability, hope and renewal.  It all gets cracked open and exposed, with or without my consent. Recapitulation.  Last night I made pudding, which made me happy.  It was really good too, I might add.

I’m not really desperate or hopeless or unhinged, in the grander sense of the words.  I can pick back up, try again and maybe again, and life will take its course.  Right now I’m a student of my own process, learning what I’m made of and what I can endure.  That’s life-giving and edifying, in it’s own paradoxical way.

Recently I read this line by J.M. Barrie in his book The Little White Bird: Shall we make a new rule in life … always to try to be a little kinder than is necessary?

Kinder than necessary.  What a marvelous line.  Kinder than is necessary.  I love that line, that concept, because it reminds me that we carry with us, as human beings, not just the capacity to be kind, but the very choice of kindness.  Kindness to others, to ourselves, to God and the universe when they serve up the wrong order. In the face of primal rage, there’s the primal counterparts too — love and grace and the simpleness of kindness.

So I grapple with this and other existential truths while I’m researching other sperm banks, more pregnancy options, having drinks with friends, going to NFL games and laughing when things are funny.

Keep Calm and Carry On.  So cliche; so true.

meltdowns, hormones and gratitude

I know, I know … it’s been a while.  In fertility-talk I’m another cycle down and gearing up for round three of Project Pregnancy sans a Man.

I’ve been discouraged.

Perspective is not the easiest part to grasp when you’re 41 (I had a birthday in August) and on the fertility/infertility roller coaster.  I’m reminding myself this is only my third try and most people having sex try at least this long to get preggers before the BFP (big fat positive).  I haven’t blogged because I’ve felt full of complaints … and what does another woe-is-me add to the world, the blogosphere, my life, or yours?  This is my current path, for better and for worse, and I’m doing my best to just get on with it — with gratitude (I’m trying, truly!) — since, financially speaking, I have the means to get on with it (for now).

In August M the midwife did an IUI at home, which was a sweet time indeed but didn’t produce a baby.  Last week I went to the fertility clinic.  It was a bad day.  Doctor showed me his 20-year-old wedding pictures, which I wasn’t interested in because I wanted to talk about my fertility not his days of being ‘thin like me,’ (his words). I went to the pharmacy to pick up my prescription and the pharmacist couldn’t understand the nurses script (according to him she had talked too fast in her VM) so I left empty handed. Day went on like this.  I had my first true meltdown that day, with the support of P in the afternoon and S in the evening.  (My meltdown came in two acts.)  I was also — insult to injury — PMS-ing.  Thank God for good friends through this process! 

Emotionally, I was overwhelmed.  Primally, I was ornery that my little plan didn’t work.  One day I wanted to tell Baby Dirks (we’ve affectionately named him after his donor look-alike) that Aunties E, M, S and K helped bring him into the world.  I wanted to be pregnant by now and have a baby at the end of March.  I had it all planned out (dammit) and, per usual, Plan A has turned into Plan C and may go all the way to Z for all I know.  Funny that we still get tripped up by this tried and true reality.

Still, hope has resurged and I’m feeling positive right now!  Although the doctor tells long-winded rabbit trail stories about all things not related to fertility, he’s aggressive and wants to get me pregnant; for that I’m grateful.  Also, his nurse is really nice and we’ve become friends.

I’m going to be jacked up on hormones this month.  Taking synthetic estrogen now (a big dose).  Will do a trigger shot to induce ovulation next Friday.  A big dose of pseudo progesterone after the IUI to help strengthen the uterus lining (I think). Four doctors office visits to do vaginal ultrasounds (to observe the growth of my egg follicles) and blood work, along with acupuncture three times a week.  I’ve had more needles in me that past two weeks than I have my entire life.  I’m that girl that’s never too sickly, has never broken a bone or been to the hospital  …  for which I’m so grateful! (See how that works?)

Sadly, I’m a little weary of my donor.  I’ve used four vials of his sperm so far.  I’m giving him one more shot before I move onto another donor.  There are five reported pregnancies with his sperm, which keeps me going back. I know he CAN get women pregnant … maybe not me, though.

I recently bought a new piece of art for my office.  It has a lyric on it from a favorite Mary Oliver poem.

Tell me,

What is it you plan to do with

your one wild and precious life?

This makes me smile, gets my tenacious little self out of the pity pool and back to the business of my ‘one wild and precious life.’  Gentle perspective, staring at me every working day.  For this, I’m grateful.

Baby Making part 2

Well, as some of you know, it didn’t work.  I wanted to collect myself before I got all bloggy about it.  I “spotted” last Thursday.  Felt very discouraged.  Nothing Friday or Saturday.  A twinge of could-this-be-implantation-bleeding surfaced.  Full fledged menstrual cycle on Sunday.  Blech.

Its funny, the Internet.  You can find all the data you need to either be A. confounded: (I had three months of periods but just knew I was pregnant and I was!!) or B. thrown into despair: (nobody gets pregnant without IVF after 40.  NOBODY!!)  I knew that statistics weren’t on my side on this first go.  Everyone knows it when they try to get pregnant.  And yet we all hope against the odds.  I guess this is true for most things in life.  And my inseminators were still pretty amazing, we must all admit; I’ll always remember the “first time.”

So I felt sorry for myself for a few days, took a deep breath, got out my credit card and ordered some more sperm.  Because that’s what you do when you are single and wanting a baby without the hassle and headaches that come with going to a bar and trying to sexy-talk a stranger.

On the upswing, lots of fun stuff has been going on in my non-baby-centric life, so that’s good.  And I’m on vacation, actually writing this blog from a hammock.  Things could be much worse.  They always can be.

Lastly, I’ve noticed I talk in fertility-talk these days.  Last week a client was talking about a situation where she was excited, if not nervous, and wondering if she was getting ahead of herself with her life’s current agenda.  I heard this metaphor come out of my mouth:  Well, it’s a bit like wanting to have a baby.  You can have the intention and desire to have one but still have to wait until you ovulate.  And if it doesn’t work, you have to wait some more.  She agreed.  Great analogy, she said.  If she only knew …

Another upswing is that I don’t have baby envy anymore, right now.  A friend recently had a baby and I loved holding him and being with her.  I didn’t want her life or her baby.  I felt very content with my own–and this crazy path I’m on, and that felt nice.

Started Clomid today.  Trying again at the end of next week.  Round two, my friends.  This song comes to mind.  “I know my faith will lead me on.”

baby making

Last week was a big week for me since making a baby was on my to do list. I had a date last night and the guy asked me what’s been going on since our last (and first) date a few weeks past. Brazilian food at dinner club, a birthday party, pool time, A moved to town and oh I almost forgot, my girlfriends tried to get me pregnant last week!  Pass the salt?

I had four of my dearest friends (I now fondly refer to as ‘my inseminators’) help me create this baby.  Here’s the newest chapter of my ongoing modern family love story:

The players:

M–the midwife

K–the dermatology nurse practitioner

S–the OBGYN

E–the nursing professor at a local university.

(This, my friends, is the perfect team to have in your inner circle, if you plan to have a baby without a man.)

Last Wednesday, after my LH surge, M and K came over after work for the first of three inseminations.  We felt all bad-ass and excited, as you might imagine, prepping to potentially make a baby.  I had a big clanky tank Fed-Ex’d to my home earlier in the day with three tiny vials of sperm in it.  We read all the instructions, prayed, cried (happy, hopeful tears), laughed and got on with the task of getting me preggers! The vial was small, with only about 1/2 tsp of sperm, so if doing this at home, I highly recommend using someone that knows how to do a pelvic exam, exact a little specimen into a tiny syringe and is very familiar with the cervix.  Without getting too graphic, we made it happen. We thawed one vial of sperm in a warm water bath.  I laid on my bed as M inserted a speculum in me and K used a light to sort-out where the cervix was.   There was so much love and expectation in my bedroom it didn’t occur to me to feel awkward or self-conscious as my friends were examining my girly parts. Afterwards, both girls left and I elevated my hips for a bit, blissed out by all the love, hope and anticipation I was able to share with my girlfriends.

That night a guy that I’d been out with the previous Saturday texted me (different guy from last nights date), suggesting we hang out again.  I really want to see you again, he texed.  Hmmm.  Dear Guy, I just tried to get pregnant. Isn’t that amazing??  Too much for a second date?  What I really said was this: Sure, that’d be fun!

Still navigating the dating life  …

The next day S came over at noon.  My 11 AM client was late and, going to the restroom at 11:05, I noticed that I had ovulated since I’ve become somewhat of a cervical fluid expert.  I called S.  Can you come at noon?  S: I’m on it!  I switched my 12 PM phone appt to 1 PM, cancelled my 1 PM lunch and voila, 45 minutes after ovulation I had my OB bestie at my beside with syringe and catheter in tow, putting everything in its proper place.  We had a round of I love you’s, she left, hips up–take two.  I dreamt about pregnancy possibilities for 15 minutes and then my 1 PM phone client called and business as usual.  Usual, except I was lying on my bed with my hips elevated and sperm swimming up my cervix.   Surprisingly, I was totally present and focused with my client.  Because really, you can only think about potentially being pregnant for so long …

On Friday, day three, E and K showed up after lunch.  We were pros by then.  Almost felt prosaic to thaw the sperm, prep the syringes, yada yada.  E was amazing too.  Found the cervix, poked me with the syringe, Did you feel that?  (I did!) and performed the final insemination.  Hips elevated, I was texting friends and making evening plans.

That night I was laughing and toasting champagne, here’s to Baby H, with the same crew I broke down with three months earlier, over the challenges and stark disappointments in life.

Life is like that isn’t it.  It’s unbearably hard and then … time passes, we risk and we hope … and it gets better.

The reality is that I could not be pregnant.  For most people it takes more than one (or three) shots.  That said, even if it’s a bust, I’m grateful.  This is a burden of love and I’m not alone.  I have four (but really more) people that are in it with me, committed to getting me pregnant.  And when this baby finally comes, he or she will be born into so much desire, love, community and intentionality … I get chills thinking about it.

The Final (well, actually First) Countdown

I got my test results back and feel very blessed that they were all good.  Good progesterone (which means I ovulated last month) and good AMH levels, which means I supposedly have a good reserve of eggs.  I’m especially sensitive to these issues as I’ve become aware (through my new on-line community) of fertility issues and how challenging it is for many women to get pregnant.  I still don’t know my journey on this front, but gave a shout out to God for the favorable results.

This month is the first of a possible series of pregnancy attempts.

Will inseminate in about two weeks at home. My friend M said it best: So when are you going to uh, have intercourse with a needle?  Of course I quickly corrected her: I’m having sex with a syringe, NOT a needle.  

Many have asked how this actually works so here’s the brass tacks:

  • Tank with frozen semen is overnighted to my home.
  • I’ll time this with my LH surge, which indicates that I should ovulate in the next 24-36 hours.
  • My brave and supportive nurse friends K and E are my ‘baby making’ duo.   We’ll thaw the sperm and use a syringe to insert the sperm close to the cervix. Afterwards I’ll attempt to relax and keep my hips elevated for a while.

This will be the plan for 2 or 3 days in a row, I haven’t decided yet. I’ve opted out of any fertility drugs this first time, since my test scores are positive.  My plan is to get more aggressive as I go: Clomid next try; possibly an IUI (where a doctor inseminates my uterus, bypassing the cervix–what the sperms usually swim through to get to the uterus) in a few months.  And on and on.

And one of these days, or months, I may get a baby out of the deal.

Deep breath.

Game on.

(If anyone of my new virtual friends has had success with this route please share your story, or any tips you may have!!)

Baby Daddy: #13403

Hello Blog,

It’s been a while.  How’ve I been?  Oh, fine.  Lake day with great friends (jumped off a very high cliff!).  Weekend in the mountains with different great friends.  Back.  Working.  Waiting for some test results from the doctor, which will determine how I’ll get inseminated (at home or at the fertility clinic).  Picked sperm-donor (!!).  Simultaneously doing my life and waiting for it to dramatically change.  Normal fare.

I have a little crush on the profile of my sperm donor.  According to California Cryobank he is rugged and outdoorsy but knows his way around literature and food.  His favorite book is Infinite Jest and he wants to go to Spain to better understand Don Quixote. He grows French herbs in his backyard (herbes de provence, chervil and savory) since they are hard to find at the grocery store.  He’s 6.4 and played football in college; was smart in high school (4.3 GPA) and (I’d like to think) “preoccupied” in college (2.9 GPA).  The staff at the sperm bank claims that he is a ‘more attractive version of Dirks Bentley.’ But what set him apart from the other seemingly amazing young men that are giving away their seed for cash (yeah, there’s still that) is that he seems really funny and down to earth.  Like someone I’d enjoy hanging out with, who would cliff jump with me or be a good date at my dinner club: he seems compelling, with a twist of dry wit and a dash of self-deprecating humor. He’s currently a Spanish translator.  Grew up in a Baptist church.  His dad was a famous baseball player.  Good bill of health from grandparents forward.

All this and more for $650 per vile of sperm?  

Sold to the 40-year-old mother wannabe!

And still; who knows?  Half of my potential baby’s DNA is from an Internet profile, including: a three paragraph written essay, a 10 min audio interview, a few childhood pics and an extensive medical and family medical history.  When did my visceral and virtual lives become so intertwined??

I’m excited.  I find myself day dreaming. Who is this guy that is going to help me create a little being?  And the he or she baby?–Already a little love mystery to me.

It feels strange to me that my whole life is still a potential trajectory.  And that nothing has actually changed, except what I want and what I’m after.