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

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


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.

Neurosis and butterflies in the city

Yesterday I took a break. A break from all things related to fertility. After spending the past week researching 1001 ways to get pregnant sans sex and signing up for too many fertility calendars, chat groups and donor registration sites to keep track of all the passwords, I was reminded by that small inner voice (well, that and M, my midwife friend) that the key factor to conception is being relaxed. Oh the irony.

In my former I-want-to-have-a-baby-yesterday self I am a pretty laid back person. I typically go with the flow, like to have fun and am up for whateves. Except. Except when I get neurotic and overstimulated by a surge of information about something I’m into and manically gather data in the wide not deep sort of way. Eventually I enter into an analysis paralysis; foiled over and again by the ole’ First World paradox of being immobilized by options.

So. Yesterday I resisted the single mom blogs, the donor sperm baby memoirs, the fertility Q&A’s, the home insemination PDF I downloaded and even my actual donor site, where I often go to peruse all the sweet little childhood faces and profiles of my top 22 favorite donors (how to decide??). I took a bath, splayed myself out on the couch with a cold glass of water, and read an awe-inspiring interview in The Sun magazine with John Elder, entitled The Wild Places Close to Home. Curled up in the womb of my couch on a rainy afternoon, I reveled in one of my other loves: nature.

(I’d like to believe this is exactly what the doctor would’ve ordered, if I had the insurance to actually have a doctor for non-catastrophic life events.)

Elder writes: When Thoreau speaks of “awakening,” he means being present to the moment. In Walden he writes, “only that day dawns to which we are awake.” Wildness is not about millions of roadless acres. Wildness is a quality of awareness that millions of roadless acres may help us to achieve. And if we do achieve it, we’ll be thrilled by those acres. But that awareness can also be cultivated in the middle of the city. In fact, you’d better look for it in your city, and your home, and your office.

This brings me hope. Sometimes my pregnancy plan feels akin to looking for daffodils in a Detroit automotive plant–unnatural and uncommon. And then I read an interview with a naturalist, who speaks of the migratory-bird routes that come down over Staten Island, and the monarch butterflies that migrate down Fifth Avenue in NYC just above the heads of pedestrians. The little wings of grace that pass us by unnoticed, when left to our premeditated trances of how things are.  I’m reminded to let go, look up, breathe slower and take heart.

Fertility (bearing no infertility issues) is really just timing and timing is really just awareness.  And awareness is more spiritual than anything.  It might be bad: I may be infertile.  I may get pregnant next month, it may take six months, I may never get pregnant.  I don’t know.

What I do know (for now, anyway) is that it’s all going to be okay.  That if we live in a world where caterpillars turn into butterflies and then take flight in the busiest city in America, the order of things is indeed wild and often precarious … and there is hope for me on this new path.  Hope and also transformation.

Artificial Insemination is NOT for the Birds

Let’s start with the acronyms:

TTC (trying to conceive)
O (ovulation or orgasm? I still don’t know)
IUI (inner uterine insemination) not to be confused with ICI (inner cervix insemination),
G (total number of pregnancies)
P (total number of delivered pregnancies)

I could keep going …

I’m learning a new language.  Really, I’m learning a new everything: a new way of thinking about parenthood, a new way of managing expectations and thinking about finances; a new way of getting pregnant (the least sexy part of this whole process!), a new way of relating to men, my friends and myself.  New reading. (If you could see the things I’m Googling these days, such as: ici home insemination and orgasm. I know, right?!?) Hopefully, a new life.

Two nights ago I spent almost an hour on the phone with my cousins friend in L.A. who used a frozen sperm donor eight years ago.  I’d had a long (but good) day of seeing clients and was walking around the lake with my dog, blathering on about all things sperm. (Still weird.)  I had a thousand questions and, lucky for me, she had a thousand answers.  She told me about “Mom’s by Choice” the on-line community of single parents, and sibling registries where you can see if your potential child has 20 half-siblings running around.  We talked about the lonely bits of raising a child by yourself, along with the endless supply of love you gain, and all the vulnerability you learn to withstand.

I left the conversation grateful but exhausted.

I keep coming back to an email my friend J wrote me earlier in this process:  Love, is the thing. Isn’t it? You want a child biologically but you want the love of a child, and a child to love. That’s the essence. That’s the thing to concentrate on. Everything else is dross.

Love is the thing.  I have to remember this when I get overwhelmed with exacting my knowledge of ovulation, calendar matching it with Fed Ex-ing frozen sperm, not KILLING the sperm in the defrosting process, or SPILLING it during insemination.  This strange, expensive process … it all comes down to love.  And really, don’t we all do crazy things in the name of love?