Monday, October 4, 2010

It's about time

The Nobel Prize committee awarded biologist Robert G. Edwards, who along with his colleague M.D. Patrick Steptoe pioneered the in-vitro fertilization procedure for treating infertility, the Nobel Prize in medicine this morning.

Well done Nobel Prize committee. Four million children (so far) and their grateful families agree that Edwards and Steptoe's work is well worth honoring.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Life is a box of chocolates

I know that I'm supposed to be moping. I assumed that if the IVF was negative I'd mope for, well, I don't know. Days? Weeks? Months? A lifetime? But the truth is, I don't feel like moping. In fact, I feel pretty good.

Do I wish that the IVF had worked? Of course. I want another child. I want Eggbert to have a sibling. I want Mystery to be a daddy of two. But somehow, the fact that it doesn't seem to be happening seems to have lost a little bit of its sting with that last IVF. Apparently, for me, the feeling of desperation resulting from the knowledge of the ticking biological clock, coupled with a multi-year history of infertility giving me very little hope of conceiving on our own, coupled with a set of life circumstances that made doing another round of IVF very difficult, combined with the belief that an IVF cycle might actually work today, but not tomorrow, was actually more stressful than knowing that another round of IVF is unlikely to succeed. I guess it's called closure. I have been focused on trying to conceive #2 pretty much since the day that Eggbert was born, and now, I finally have permission from my body to stop focusing on that. It's quite a relief. I don't know if anybody else in my situation would feel this way, but I am so glad that we tried again, even though it didn't work.

The other options available to me--adoption, donor eggs, or living as a one-child family--all look pretty nice now that they've stepped out of the giant shadow cast by the hope for conceiving a mutually genetic child. I'd be thrilled if I got pregnant tomorrow, of course, but I no longer feel a sense of dread that I won't get pregnant tomorrow. I've faced my fear, and well, yes it sucked, but by facing it, I think I took away some of its power over me. So now I don't have to look at my other options through a filter of fear. It's liberating.

When I look at my life, I have to admit that, actually, it's pretty great. I am happy. I like my job. I adore my husband. And while I may be somewhat biased, I suspect that I have the most amazing child ever born. Now that my life isn't full of dread, I have been able to let her fill it with joy. We are having so much fun since we got home from Asia. Nobody is more surprised than me.

It could all have gone differently. I can't even imagine how I would be feeling if we didn't have Eggbert. But I do have Eggbert. So life is good.

I'm really not sure what happens next. But I'm not afraid any more.

Friday, July 30, 2010

The song of the fat lady

I tested again with a name-brand "early detection" test, and it was clearly negative. I don't know how I feel about it yet. At the moment, I just feel sad, but calm about it. We'll see how things progress.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Not looking good

The telltale migraine arrived yesterday, as it always does a few days before my period (or before the end of a failed IVF cycle). I'm not bleeding yet (as I did with my two previous failed cycles by this stage), but a home pregnancy test was stark white today (9 days past 3-day transfer). I will continue to use my progesterone like a good girl, and will test again in two days, but hope has officially left the building.

I told Mystery yesterday that I am done with IVF with my own eggs. I just can't keep doing this. If somebody offered to pay for another round, I guess I'd do it, but otherwise, it's just too expensive, too stressful, and too much of a hassle for such a low probability of success for me to be able to justify trying. I didn't feel that way after my last cycle, so I guess I'm glad that I did this one, but I'm not sure where this all leaves me. I'm just not ready to think about the next step (if there is one), before the dust settles a bit.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

All aboard!

I had such big plans for regular updates while I was on the road, but clearly that didn't happen. The reasons are many, including limited internet access, being surprisingly busy, writer's block, etc., but were different at different stages along the way. It's only now that I'm back on US soil (as of just a few hours ago) that I have been able to get it together to write an update.

Our trip had four main parts, only one (the last) of which was the IVF cycle. First we visited three destinations in Southeast Asia: one for work, and two to visit friends. Not living in Asia anymore, we just couldn't resist the chance to see some loved ones while we were there. A silver lining of that is that we will have many happy memories of the trip, regardless of the outcome.

Part 4 included work, visits with friends, AND an IVF cycle, so obviously it was the most intense. I had used BCP's to make sure that my period would arrive the day we got to Korea, so we were able to start the cycle right away. Within three days of arrival, I was on stims. In many ways, this was the easiest cycle I've ever done, but in other ways, it was the hardest. The easiest part was that it's so old hat by now, and there were so many distractions that I didn't obsess much at all. The side effects were minimal (headaches, mainly), and being an old fart with tired ovaries, the soreness associated with stimming was minimal. I was really busy aside from appointments, since I was also doing some consulting with my former employer and visiting friends, so despite the fact that we'd flown half-way around the world to do IVF, I didn't actually think about the cycle all that much. Those were the easy parts.

The hard part was that it just didn't work all that well. After four days of stims, there was barely any follicular growth at all. After three more days, only one follicle on each ovary had reached medium size. Three more days resulted in four medium-sized follicles and a bunch of smaller, clearly non-viable follicles. Two days later, the doctor concluded that four was it, and scheduled the retrieval. All of my other cycles were completed in 15-16 days, but in this cycle, the retrieval was on day 17! I'd never heard of such a thing, and am practically gasping with relief that I allowed for a little extra time in the trip scheduling, just in case.

We retrieved two eggs from those four follicles. I had been hoping for four, but fearing zero, so I don't really know what to say about two. It is what it is, I guess. Luckily for me, my RE's office are magicians with gametes and embryos. Both eggs fertilized, and became "good" quality three-day embryos. They were transferred yesterday morning, and then we went to the airport to fly home. Talk about cutting it close!

I don't really know how I feel now. More hopeful than a few days ago, but obviously less hopeful than I was before the cycle started. I guess that the silver lining, if there is one, is that the cycle wasn't the kind that leaves you wanting more, if that makes any sense. At no step did it in any way encourage me to think that if we just tried again, it could work. Obviously it might, but the point of diminishing marginal returns is here. So, I am pretty sure that really was my last IVF cycle (at least with my own eggs). What happens next, I don't know.

I'll do a home pregnancy test on the 29th.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

In transit

Well, we've finished the first leg of our flights so far. So far so good. As it turns out, Dora the Explorer on a portable DVD player is a traveling mother's best friend. We didn't hear a peep out of Eggbert for the two hours that we let her watch it. Whew! The trans-Pacific segment is next. Wish us luck!

We are taking a holiday before the IVF, so we won't actually be in Korea for a few more weeks. I may not post for a bit, but just thought I'd let you know that we're underway. Woo hoo!

Monday, May 17, 2010

What to do what to do?

We're getting in the car tomorrow morning to start our epic journey (which starts with a road trip to see family, then a plane trip to see more family, and then the trip to Korea). I'm excited, nervous, and worried, all at once. Excited because there should be some fun in many places along the way. Nervous because traveling with a toddler is always nerve-wracking. Worried because the trip is likely to end with some very bad news. But I think that I can handle it. I guess we'll see.

To follow up on my previous post, I think it's only fair that I give a little more info about why I am feeling so conflicted about adoption. It's quite complicated, of course, so I'm not sure I'll be able to articulate it, but I'm going to try to at least list some pros and cons so you can see what I'm thinking.

Adoption pro: Almost guarantees a child.
Adoption con: Not necessarily true of domestic private adoption--we may never get picked. What pregnant woman is dying to place her child with a family that a) already has a bio kid, b) isn't at all wealthy, and c) speaks an obscure 3rd world language at home?

Adoption pro: May result in an orphan getting a home
Adoption con: Some of those "orphans" aren't really orphans, or at least didn't have to be. International adoptions sometimes (I'm not saying always, or even often, but sometimes) involve baby-selling or worse. Domestic private adoptions are sometimes executed in a coercive way, with agencies (and sometimes friends and family) putting pressure on vulnerable women to surrender their children when it might have been possible for them to parent. I think I might always wonder if we did the right thing.

Adoption pro: People will approve
Adoption con: People will say stupid things that will hurt all of our feelings

Adoption pro: An adoption would add a wonderful new dimension to our family
Adoption con: The child might feel really left out, since being Mysterious is a big part of Mystery's identity, and will probably be a big part of Eggbert's as well. (She is a dual citizen, and is bilingual.) An adopted non-genetically-Mysterious child would never be accepted as a Mysterious tribe member. Ever. Even if we adopted a child that LOOKED Mysterious, they wouldn't really be accepted as Mysterious by people who knew. And adopting from the land of Mystery is complex and might not be possible for us.

Adoption pro: We don't care about genetics--we just love children
Adoption con: The child might care about genetics, and might have some issues about the fact that his/her older sister is our genetic offspring, whereas she/he isn't.

Adoption pro: If we did domestic adoption, we might be able to have some openness, which would be good for the child
Adoption con: There are no guarantees. The birth parents can always cut off contact and there is nothing we can do to stop them.

Adoption pro: Our hearts really lean toward international adoption
Adoption con: If we adopted internationally, we'd miss the first few months or even years of our child's life.

DE pro: The resulting child would be Mysterious, and would be genetically related to Mystery and Eggbert.
DE con: It might not work.

DE pro: I'd get to gestate and breastfeed (which for me is HUGE).
DE con: It's expensive and might not work.

DE pro: Nothing about the appearance of our family should draw attention from strangers beyond that which we already get (as long as we choose a white door so the child is the same mix as Eggbert)
DE con: Our friends and family might not understand.

DE pro: We'd be able to take the best possible care of the baby from the date of conception
DE con: The child might resent the circumstances of his/her conception

DE pro: The child would be genetically related to the two people that I love most on earth
DE con: The child might wonder if I love him/her less than Eggbert (but this is a con for adoption too)

DE pro: We could choose the donor
DE con: We might not be able to get a donor that we like

DE pro: There is no heartbroken birth mother in this picture.
DE con: An egg donor might be less likely to be willing to answer a child's questions when they grow up than a birth mother.

This isn't an exhaustive list, but at least you get the idea.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Pleasing the people

When I was trying to conceive Eggbert, I don't think that it ever really occurred to me to worry about what other people thought about my choices. I don't mean that I wasn't aware of the judgment that the world heaps on infertiles (and mothers, and, for that matter, women), but I never let it creep into my thinking when I was making important decisions about family-building. But for some reason, other people's opinions bother me more now. I can't really put my finger on why.

I've always been a bit of a people pleaser, so caring what people think, unfortunately, isn't exactly a new thing for me, but caring what they think about my family is. When I met Mystery and we fell in love, our relationship was almost universally disapproved of in the community where we lived at the time. Our families were supportive, luckily, and so were my friends, but several of Mystery's then closest friends really let him down, and our coworkers were unanimously appalled. I can't say that we were happy about that, but it never made either of us doubt that we were making the right decision for ourselves, and ten years later, we still think that we did (and the naysayers have mostly come around).

And when we ran into infertility, I certainly heard the "just adopt's" and the "perhaps it wasn't meant to be's" and even the "it's God's will's," but I just chalked those off as stupid things to say and then moved on. Sure, it hurt my feelings sometimes, but it never made me doubt my choices. People that think assisted reproduction is wrong found me nothing but supportive of their decision not to undertake assisted reproduction, and when they didn't agree with my decision to use it, well, they were welcome to kiss my PIO-bruised arse.

For some reason, though, it feels different this time. Maybe it's because I've somehow landed in adoption-land central. In my 12-person department at work, five people have adopted children, and one of my closest friends outside of work is currently waiting for a placement. Apparently, adopting is the standard operating procedure for infertile couples here. It is not a coincidence that while all of my friends and colleagues know that we're going to Korea this summer, I haven't told all of them why.

But that's not the worst of it. The fear of disapproval isn't just silencing me, it's also getting into my head and giving me doubts about where to go from here. Mystery and I had a really difficult time deciding to try IVF again, but now that we've made that decision, I feel good about trying one more time, but then what?

Like many people, I find it much easier to start an ART cycle when I have a backup plan for if (when?) it fails. When we started trying for Eggbert, our backup plan was adopting from Ethiopia. I felt really good about that plan, and it definitely helped me to get through some dark days. So you'd think that I'd know what we were going to do if this cycle fails, but you'd be wrong. Now I am full of doubts. I don't doubt that I would love an adopted child wholeheartedly, but I am increasingly doubting whether that would be the best decision for our family as a whole. It's so complicated. At this point, I'm torn between three options: 1) embracing Eggbert's status as an only child, 2) adopting, and 3) trying donor eggs. And when I listen to my heart, I lean toward option 3. I've been trying for about 20 minutes to outline the reasons for my waffling, and am having trouble getting the words just right. It's so hard to talk about these things without seeming to condemn other people's choices. Or am I just afraid of your disapproval too? I really don't know. Reason #85 gajillion that I really hope this cycle works. If not, I really don't know what the next step should be, and I'm pretty clearly not yet ready to face it, whatever it is.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

I think we're going to do it

Numbers have been crunched, souls have been searched, and now, plans are being made. We're going to try it. One more time.

Monday, April 5, 2010


The clomid challenge test results did not suggest that my ovaries have gone kablooey yet. Dr. Google assures me that this is not particularly encouraging, but rather simply isn't DIScouraging. In other words, a normal-ish (my FSH on CD3 was "very slightly elevated", but my doctor isn't concerned) result doesn't mean anything, whereas a bad result is bad. So, I now have a decision to make.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Still alive, despite strange loss of words

Life is strange. I left Korea assuming that I'd be blogging weekly or more, as usual, about this, that, and the other, but somehow on the way across the Pacific, the cat got my tongue. Or fingers. And here we are, nine months later, without a single post.

The time lag is probably not coincidental. A lot of unexpected things happened in the immediate aftermath of my leaving Korea, and one of those things involved an accidental pregnancy (not mine) that took the wind out of my sails so thoroughly that I could barely breathe for a few months there. I didn't know that it was possible for me to feel so horrible about someone else being pregnant. Unfortunately, or perhaps fortunately, I really didn't feel like it was something that I could talk about on the internet, since the events that made it so hard for me involved loved ones who may read this blog, but since it was hard for me to think for a while without thinking about it, I found myself going silent. However, with the birth of a beautiful healthy baby girl today (not mine), it seems as good a time as any to close that chapter (well, OK, it was a very short chapter, having no actual words in it), and try to start again.

So, here I am.

Transitioning back to life in the US has been, well, interesting. In some ways it was surprisingly easy. I'm not as socially awkward among Americans as I had expected to be after several years away. In fact, people are often surprised when they hear my life story after knowing me casually for a little while. So I think I'm passing as normal, which, I suppose, is good.

Other things have been hard, though. After living in a cosmopolitan city where I was a foreigner for almost three years, it has been hard to readjust my expectations about the world views of the people around me. You see, I'm now living in a very small town. A very small, very white, very homogeneous town, in the South. And it's weird, y'all. Don't get me wrong. The people are nice, as in shirt-off-of-their-backs nice, holding the door even if you're 30 feet behind them nice, exchanging endless pleasantries nice, and seeming to genuinely care about the people around them nice. I'm undoubtedly the rudest person in town by a mile. But everybody around here seems to think that this little town is the center of the world. And as far as I can tell, it's not. I suspect that I would have felt dislocated just about anywhere, but I have never lived in a small town in the USA before, and really, small town America IS a different world from urban America. It's very beautiful here, but it sometimes feels like I'm in a foreign country, even though I'm actually in the US. Other times, though, it feels kind of good. I'm really not sure yet if I like it here. I guess we'll see.

Eggbert is now a big girl of 28 months. She talks, she dances, she climbs anything climbable, and she sings. She is the most delightful person that I have ever known. I remember when she was a newborn wondering if I would continue be as thrilled by the sight of her once I actually got used to having her around. If anything, I find her even more amazing today. She still does ask for her little best friend from Korea, though. I had no idea that it was even possible for a two-year-old to remember someone that they haven't seen for nine months, but it appears that she does.

Mystery is doing OK. He's one of only a handful of brown men in town, which took him a little while to get used to, but by now he just takes it in stride. At first, we both felt uncomfortable when people did a double-take at our family. Now, we don't even notice. One unexpected benefit of being in a tiny minority is that he gets huge smiles (usually coupled with nods or other gestures of acknowledgment) from every other person of color that he passes in a public place. I also get the smiles when I'm out with just Eggbert. The warm feeling that these feelings of instant connection give me more than make up for the occasions when total strangers approach me and Eggbert to ask me what country I adopted Eggbert from. As far as I can tell, I am the only white mother of a nonwhite child in the county that didn't form their family via international adoption. It bothers me that a) they think it's OK to ask a total stranger how their family was formed, b) they assume that all nonwhite kids are foreign, and c) someday, Eggbert will understand the question, and it might bother her a lot more than it bothers me. Often when I explain that she is my bio daughter, they seem embarrassed. As if the problem with their question was that it revealed that they thought that she adopted. And then that bothers me more. Oh well. My skin is thickening quickly, and given the size of the town, probably most people have figured us out pretty soon anyway.

Fertility-wise, we're still in a holding pattern. We're thinking about making a trip to Korea this summer to try one final IVF cycle (while also visiting friends) before we admit defeat. When I mentioned this to my GYN, she suggested that I might want to repeat the clomid challenge test, just to see if my ovaries have totally given up, before we book the tickets. That seemed sensible, so I'm on day 2 of clomid now. For a second, I let myself think "hey, maybe the clomid will do the trick and I'll get pregnant!" And then I remembered that not only has it never done so before, but also that it's specifically contraindicated in women over 40 (ouch! I'm still not used to being one of those) as a fertility treatment because it ruins the uterine lining. I don't really know what we'll do if the results are horrible. I'm pretty sure that tears will be involved, but then again, it might help me to just face facts and move on. I guess we'll see. I spend a lot more time thinking about other options, including both adoption and donor eggs, than I used to. I think Eggbert would be an awesome sister.