I should be wrapping presents, and, don't worry, I will be soon. (We've finally figured out our little geographic minuet, and tomorrow will set out to see our respective families. After a couple of days of silence with Nanna (and a couple of days of choking down the chicken and potatoes Ricky insists Marina cook every single night), and a brief elbow stab at Cornell, I'll head to the consumerist orgy at my in-laws; the wrapped presents need to be ready to go in the car with Beaker.)
Instead I've been sitting and writing memos to my department chair. Comments on drafts of the reports that have arisen from the department's recent contentious meetings, which he needs to have before I'll have computer access again. But catalog deadlines are coming up, and he also needs to know what I want to teach next year. What do I tell him?
We are a small department, and current budget constraints will making hiring a replacement even more difficult than our geography already does. But it is just too early, now, and, should I be lucky enough that it all keeps working, and I'm on leave next fall, I will have to pray that my helping out last spring (when we had someone go on medical leave a week before the semester started) earned me some Brownie points... or that we're all so in it together that we don't even need to count points like that. For now, though, I'll say nothing. The chair hasn't nagged me yet, and I think I can wait until he does.
What about the friend I'll see tonight, the one who went through a chemical pregnancy over Christmas a couple of years ago? Who I've been avoiding telling details just for this week because I don't want to freak her out? But everyone else at the tiny gathering knows, and I think it has to come out.
Or my brother- and sister-in-law, the ones we haven't told even that we were trying, just because... oh God. They run a horse farm. They talk about very little but their horses, which often require various forms of reproductive assistance: regular ultrasounds, HCG (get it? horse chorionic gonadtropin!) shots, inseminations... I haven't been able to face the transition any conversation with them about human efforts would take to comparison with horse efforts. But now Beaker's mother has strongly hinted that (a) we need to tell them and (b) they'll be hurt we haven't told them. I deduce (c) she's told them already, like she did with Beaker's other brother... but we still have to confess ourselves.
If you've never seen the abbreviation in the title, don't read this post. If you've never sat through an expensive progesterone-supplemented two-week-wait, don't read this. If you've sat through too many, or sat through one too recently, don't read this.
In fact, if you're not an emotionally stable infertility junkie (an oxymoron?) you shouldn't read this entry at all. You should go read A. M. Homes' stone-cold New Yorker account of her encounters, starting in her early thirties, with her birth mother and father. The involuntary construction of walls between oneself and a nakedly needy and damaged other, labelled "mother"? A tiny and desolate funeral? Unspoken indictment of self? Oh yeah baby, oh yeah. Her novels have always sounded too brutal, but I'm gong to try to track them down now.
The nurse who called was the one who took my blood on that long-ago day three, who isn't one of Dr. Data's nurses but who was my guardian angel, sort of, all through the cycle—she called with my trigger and retreival instructions, too. I couldn't read her voice from her initial greeting. (She must do this a lot.)
They didn't have estrogen numbers at all, and only progesterone numbers from last week (the dinky lab here has to send just about everything out): 15 and 19, so they want me to up my 1/2 cc to a full 1 cc. They're happy with the beta number, and want me to retest in a week (December 27). Then we hope an ultrasound two weeks after that (January 10: where the hell will I be?! Stuck in a snowstorm in Nebraska?!)
If today weren't Sunday, I'd know already. They're having me tested 12dp3dt, even though the Cornell standard seems to be 11.
Beaker saw some old friends of ours while I was still in New York. He told them where I was, and why. "Have you considered adoption?" the female half asked blithely, and explained that adoption will give her a few extra years before she really needs to worry about the kids thing. I'm so glad I wasn't there.
I went to see Nanna the day before my transfer and told her more about what we were doing—I had to, to explain why I was still in New York. She didn't ask about what the Pope would have thought, and she said she'd pray for us.
I've never done an HPT. Ever. Not even once. I have one in the cupboard now, that came free in a box of OPKs—somehow I missed the big blue "bonus" stickers. I'm not going to use it.
I've spent the day shivering and reading bad novels. Yesterday we went Christmas shopping, mostly for my young nephews. Malls are not good for Beaker's asthma this time of year, and this one somehow had three candle shops and a Bath & Body Works—their stuff chokes even me.
A friend who used her little ovulation detector for a total of 3 cycles on the way to having her two kids pushed hard for me to test myself. "It's always worked for me!"
I've been getting bloodwork done at our tiny local hospital, close enough to walk to and probably about to go bankrupt (hey, at least I don't have to wait in line). Their phlebotomists have left horrible bruises.
Two of my friends are midway through pregnancies that, given their medical circumstances and ages, would have to be described as "miracles." They both have been profoundly kind.
Annajane's birthday was the day after Christmas (Beaker and I always saw his family at Christmas to avoid the associated psychodrama; I was cruel because I wanted to be happy). Nanna has declared that Christmas is cancelled this year. Beaker's family will be celebrating on the 28th, so I may try to get to Weatherwood for the 25th or 26th.
I keep chanting my axioms to myself. It doesn't help. Nor does remembering how dead, how grey, how flat my body and my soul felt after our earlier failures.
Before it's too late, before my ever growing bitterness becomes infinite: I am glad we changed clinics.
Cornell ran my stims completely differently (different drugs, tapering down instead of ramping up, far fewer days). They got good fertilization for the few mature eggs they managed to get (100%, vs. 25% for the 2nd cycle at my old clinic). The cell counts at 3 days were much better; co-culture, perhaps? Or just a different lab? They didn't ultrasound-guide the transfer, removing a giant source of unnecessary stress (my cervix is easy, folks, and my bladder is the size of a walnut, and I got my very first UTI when I was catheterized after my first transfer at the old clinic). The lower PIO dose is freaky, but my butt hurts a lot less.
And, the staff were consistently professional and encouraging. I admit that I was worried about some of the cattle-call stuff I'd read about. But, when the crowds were big, I remembered that I was there precisely because they're a huge clinic, and that you always always always want to be treated by people who do nothing but take care of your kind of problem, all day long, every day, for years and years and years.
If we had cycled at our local clinic again, and failed there again, I would have had doubts that I don't think I'll have after changing. (Of course, I'd have another $8000 or so, too.) (And, of course, there are still plenty of other doubts left over for me to enjoy.)
I'm certainly not claiming that Cornell will always be the best for everybody. But IVF is still an art more than a science, and going someplace different will get you a different treatment philosophy. Whether it's more or less suited to your peculiar biology, well, who can ever know? But it's something I needed to do.
Never, ever, ever, put an ultrasound of your unborn child's head on your holiday cards. The resulting pro-life feel can utterly destroy an otherwise hip and ecumenical design.
If for some reason you do, please do not send the resulting card to a friend who, as you know perfectly well, is in the middle of her last IVF. (Really, she wouldn't mind being left off the list this once.)
From my next-door neighbor, whose pet program just got summarily cancelled by the college administration: "Look, when you were away we accepted these beautiful flowers that were delivered for you, and of course we didn't know why they were sent but then I heard something through the grapevine about your mom and I'm so sorry, Sally and I really enjoyed the flowers when they were fresh but at least you can see the card now, should I just drop them on your porch? [Pause.] I didn't wake you, did I?"
From my favorite adjunct, who is not being rehired for next year, and whose thick Eastern European accent you must imagine as you read: "I hope you are at peace." [Blink.] "I mean, you are not waking up in the middle of the night, saying to yourself, 'I wish I had...,' are you?"
No, no, I'm not. I'm watching the snow fall and wondering who I know, that I can call, who might have good news. Because my department, heck, my institution, and my family, and many of my friends, are all suffering from big blows too. So much sympathy needing to be expressed, so much sitting quietly with other sad people.
It's strange being home. Both Beaker and I have been away so much of the fall that the house had really gone all to heck. This weekend we managed to reclaim the kitchen and install a giant, giant bookcase that was forced on us by friends, but I still haven't touched my New York luggage or the accumulated bills, which together occupy all the floor space in the foyer. Boxes of my mother's stuff are tucked into a corner of my office; the bag we picked up from the hospital is in the kitchen, waiting to be laundered.
I wish we had time to just relax here. This town, this house, have become home, finally. But Beaker's heading out on business again tomorrow, and there's Christmas shopping, and seeing probably both families at Christmas. Not to mention getting our fucking butts in gear to move to fucking California right after New Year's. Plus, the angel of death has another big chance to tap me on the shoulder next Monday.
I've decided not to go to the workshop next week. I haven't told the organizers yet (I will tomorrow); of course I'll explain, but the full truth would sound like I was stretching.
The day before triggering (as it turned out) I went looking for serious jasmine tea to one of the most extreme tea rooms in New York, early enough that the owner herself was at the till. Now, she's managed to keep her overpriced little emporium going for over 10 years by sheer force of personality. So I suppose it's not surprising that she worked hard to distract me from the sad truth that she was out of all varieties of of jasmine tea (except for some peculiar scarcely scented but highly origami-ed leaves). I'd admitted to medical issues on my way in ("My doctors don't want me to take hot baths, so I'm looking for something else soothing, and I shouldn't have much caffiene*, so it has to be green"). After I declined some horrible herbal wellness concoction (with wheatgrass!), she finally asked point-blank what was going on.
"I'm doing an IVF cycle."
"Like Julia Roberts?"
"Same place, I suspect."
"My sister. My sister did that. I'm an aunt to twins." Pauses, stares deep into my eyes. "You need to clear yourself of everything else, you know. It's all what's in your mind. My sister did nothing her first cycle, just accupuncture her second cycle, but for the third, she did that, and Alexander, and Reiki, and..."
I stare at her in horror.
"Look at you! You haven't breathed since you came in here. Do you do breathwork? You need to clear your mind. My sister became a Reiki master, after what it did for her. I can get you an Alexander teacher."
I keep staring.
"Julia Roberts had her birthday party here, you know. And Julia told me she did Reiki."
Finally she shifts back to sales (right! you sell tea, lady, and I buy it! that's what we're here for!) and begins pulling out her other green teas. We settle on a green lychee. She promises she's got a shipment of her best jasmine coming in that afternoon.
Out of sheer suicidal stubborness (plus, I have to confess, the empty magic-dragon-balls canister had smelled really good), I went back the next day. The owner wasn't there, and neither was the tea. It made me feel better to find out that she'd lied about something.
Episode 2: Closer.
The night before transfer, I went to see Closer. I like bleak emotionally compelling movies, and I'd never seen Julia Roberts in anything before (really). Wow, did she look miserable, and every second of her age. And the costuming, with all the loose trousers, made me wonder if she shot it early in her pregnancy.
I suspect I would have loved the movie if I hadn't had to listen to the rest of the (very New York, very young) audience shout back at the screen. On the one hand, yes, there were a lot of confrontational scenes where of course, one might want to. But everyone else was on Larry's side, and I was rooting for Anna**.
Episode 3: the tabloids.
The National Enquirer tells me one twin is in the NICU. The Sun says they've both gone home. There's a lot of inconsistency in the reported birthweights. But mostly all the fuss has reminded me of how extreme what so many of us go through is to "normal" people.
So, on the one hand, I respect people's right to privacy. On the other hand, after the horrible blooper of mentioning genders so very very early, there wasn't much that could be done. Most overseas sources, and even some domestic ones, are reporting she did IVF.
And, on the third hand, kill me, but I really, really want to see pictures.
* I have tried to be less compulsive during this cycle. For instance, Cornell has never said anything harsh about caffiene, so I figured a cup of green tea every other day or so wouldn't kill me, and might help with the compulsive napping (alas, it didn't). Of course, just being in the city has had me walking a lot more; I think not cutting back physical activity so drastically has been sanity-preserving. I'm also not getting ritualistic about the PIO shots—no icing beforehand, no heating pad afterwards (so far, the bruising is much less bad—smaller volume? different oil? I don't know). And, about a week ago, I stopped diarizing every pill, every shot, every twinge, like I had been.
** Look, I don't hate Gwyneth Paltrow either (although I might if she didn't have to bleach her hair).