10; SHOTS SHOT SHOTS SHOTS SHOT-SHOTS (IN THE BELLAAY)

I warned you about the songs.

I’m gonna start this off by being very defensive in that I will say I have not had a hormone-fueled outburst ONCE throughout the last 11 days of hormone shots, except this morning on the way to the doctor. I am proud of this.

Granted, Josh and I have been spending limited time together in the evenings after work, meeting up only for shots. I’ve started calling 8 p.m. happy hour, in my head.

*Insert buttery nipple joke*
Red spots and bruises are the new black.

I say “only” re: us spending time together in meeting up for hormone injections, but it’s an exaggeration. We finished season 2 of The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel whichif you haven’t seen it, please fix that immediately. It alone is worth an Amazon Prime subscription. He let me sing karaoke on his new sound system last night. We tried to go roller skating a couple weekends ago (IDK man) but the rink was too busy. We’ve made some new recipes together.

It’s been fine, especially considering we haven’t had one drink since Jan. 1. I also gave up sweets this month, but I’m not gonna lie, I broke VERY mildly two times and one of those times was for beignets THAT I MADE. No regrets.

Proof of the initial fine-ness. This was two days ago. Poor bastard.

This morning, it was not fine. I was nervous for our appointment, hoping the nurses would find more follicles that looked like they would yield eggs but worried they would tell me that, instead, my ovaries look like a post-apocalyptic Tatooine. At my last appointment, on Monday, they found seven follicles that looked like they would definitely mature, along with 10 “little” ones they weren’t sure would, so I was nervous going in, to begin with.

I am a fan of silly old wives’ tales, so I told Josh as we drove over, “Hey FYI, according to the Mayan and Chinese gender-predictor calendars, our kid is going to be a boy since he’ll be conceived in February.”

Poor Josh proceeds to be like (apparently in a joking way, which I did not pick up on), “Aren’t those just for natural pregnancies? Doesn’t it not count for this?”

“Not count”? That, friends, is a phrase that has gone through my head so many damn times throughout this process I could write an entire book. So needless to say, I did not react well. And it was over something so minuscule, like shit I don’t even believe, but all I heard was, “This kind of pregnancy doesn’t really count.”

What he actually meant was that the people who made up the old wives’ tales (so, old wives, clearly) probably weren’t doing fertility treatments so I shouldn’t go by that, but I AM NOT GOING BY THEM ANYWAY, IT’S NOT REAL. Sigh. Like I said. It’s my first strike. And he handled it OK eventually, once I explained why it hurt and all of that. It was tense during the appointment because our clinic is literally a five-minute drive away and that wasn’t enough time to fix it, but afterward we figured it out.

Tonight is likely my last shot and thank God, because I am not going to miss the emotions, even though they haven’t been THAT crazy. I’ve mostly just felt really tired, which has led me to not keep up with my running, so that’s going to suck getting back into. I haven’t gained weight — in fact, I’ve lost some, which is great. I expected to gain, especially since I’ve felt a lot of heaviness and discomfort in my lower abdomen and I’ve heard hormone shots make you gain weight. But maybe it just depends on the person and life has thrown me a bone. Thanks, life.

Look ma, no pants.
“Smile, our child will see this.”

Speaking of bones I’m getting thrown, our genetic blood test results came back today and while Josh has a completely clean bill of ancestral health, I am the lucky winner of a Cystic Fibrosis carrier gene! And here I was sad that I’ve never won a big contest. But no, this threw me for a loop and was absolutely not something I was expecting so thank GOD we did the test. Apparently if both parents are carriers, their kid has a 25% chance of actually having CF, which is scary.

I also am a carrier for another couple minor things (thanks fam) but like I said, Josh has brown-noser blood, so we’re good. If we were both carriers of something serious, like CF, we would’ve had to screen our embryos with something called a PGD test — pre-implantation genetic diagnosis or, as I like to call it considering the thousands of dollars it costs, pocket-gutting diagnosis.

In happier news…

These were my results today. SIXTEEN FOLLICLES, READ ‘EM AND WEEP. IDK who would be weeping, except myself, from joy, but it felt cool to write that.

I am overjoyed at these numbers. I don’t think my doctor was expecting me to produce this many, and it gives me so much hope that we will have enough to work with come retrieval time. I know it’s more important that the eggs are good quality vs. the amount they get, but I don’t care. I feel so good, like my body responded well and like this process so far, knock on wood, has been going as smoothly as it possibly could have.

I truly credit so much of this part to the DHEA I’ve been taking, which…could or could not be true, but I am going to choose to believe it is true and tbh I might even suggest to my doctor that he recommend it to other younger patients with diminished ovarian reserve. I did not expect to get more than 10 follicles, let alone over 15. And while it’s possible not all of them will have eggs, I think from what I’ve read that they are expected to — like this study, which is one of approximately 34237 ones I have read before starting this process.

I’M FERTILE, GUYS. I’M REALLY PRETTY FERTILE!

The plan right now is to go back in tomorrow morning for one more looksie and probably take the ovulation trigger shot tomorrow night for a Saturday retrieval. Which I’m super happy about because I really don’t want to take a whole day off of work if I don’t have to, since I’m a contractor and don’t have PTO.

In the meantime, I will continue my binge-watch of the creepy af show You on Netflix (I think John Stamos is about to show up, bless) and play The Sims 4, which I treated myself to because it was on sale and apparently it is 2014 in my house.

Before it showed up in the mail, though, I made Josh and me in The Sims 2 and Sim!Josh was way more excited than Sim!Jen about the baby we had. (We had two total, both girls.)

Josh, IRL: “WHO THE FUCK IS THAT MAKING OUR BED?”
He legit owns these exact pajamas.

I will probably update one more time Friday night with some nonsensical rambling borne out of nervousness for the weekend retrieval, but in the meantime…toodles.

8; Taking the (Needle) Plunge

Well, long time no talk. It’s been about three months since I’ve updated this blog after starting it and subsequently going balls to the wall with my brain dump, and I truly wasn’t even finished. I had lofty goals about rehashing the events up to this point — breaking out each failed IUI individually, for example — but I realized I really don’t want to. I don’t have the energy, and looking back to a stage I feel moved on from (mostly) sounds 100% unappealing. That’s probably why I stopped for so long.

What I do want is a place to just write out what I’m feeling along this path, when I’m feeling it — and from late October to now, I was feeling like I just didn’t want to think about it. Which was good. Josh and I were able to, despite a few bumps, enjoy the holidays, which came with five extra pounds for me on top of the 10 I gained post-miscarriage, but I’m working on it, OK?

I was also kinda sorta hoping that the miracle pregnancy people told me happened to their great-aunt’s neighbor’s niece right before she started IVF would happen to us, but here I am, which means it did not.

We *did* get to drink fancy warm winter drinks at Tavern on the Green in N.Y.C. at Christmastime, though. #win
Also grabbed a drink at Eataly’s swanky rooftop bar.
And ice skated at Rockefeller Center because it was a bucket-list item for me and not everything we do is alcohol related (unrelated side note, we gave up alcohol this month).

But NOW, this infertility shiz is priority No. 1 yet again because tonight, my friends, is my first dose of stims (stimulation drugs) for our IVF retrieval cycle. Hooray!

So to start — remember when I told you my AMH was .31 and all the details about what that means? Of course you do. Well, I got my blood drawn in December and after three months of taking DHEA, it went up to .79. Which at first consideration is still low, but when I really think about it, it more than doubled. Which is fantastic. I’m hoping by retrieval time at the end of this month/beginning of February, my egg count and quality will have made the four to five months of taking the DHEA 3x a day worth it, even if only in my mind. Good enough for me.

Speaking of shit I have to put into my body, here’s my pharmaceutical setlist for the foreseeable future:

  • Letrozole (more mild – oral stims)
  • Gonal-F (injectable stims – these are the $$$ drugs)
  • Cetrotide (prevents premature ovulation)
  • Novarel (trigger shot to ovulate 40ish hours later)
  • Vivelle dot patch (estradiol/estrogen)
  • Progesterone and oil – More on this fun later once I start it, but if you want a preview, you can read this amazing post by my favorite infertility blogger, Heather (and this one too tbh, she’s fantastic)
The spoils, part I.
Non-refrigerated spoils, a.k.a. part II.

$3,600 worth of drugs, folks, which…I’m relieved about. I never thought I’d say paying $3,600 for one month’s supply of medications would make me say that, yet here we are. I’m relieved because the clinic estimated $5,000 to $7,000, so Josh and I prepared ourselves for $7,000. And I should be getting a rebate from this amazing program my friend Amanda told me about called Compassionate Care, which anyone can register for and then they offer you a percentage off certain medications based on your income. Josh and I “only” qualify for 10%, but 10% off of the two in the above list that it covers — Gonal-F and Cetrotide — is $335! Big chunk of change for us.

To be candid, we applied for two grants and did not get chosen for either one, so we took out a home-equity loan to pay for this which, if we don’t end up needing more meds and do a fresh transfer, is costing us $16,500 out the gate including the meds. If we produce enough good-looking embryos to risk aging to day 5/blastocyst stage and doing the PGS testing with a frozen transfer later, that will add about $4,000 to the total. Each subsequent transfer/”try,” assuming we have embryos frozen, is $5,000 to $7,000, so the idea is that having PGS “normal” embryos to work with will make our chances of a successful pregnancy higher the first time. Our loan was for $25,000, so we have a little wiggle room for now, and time to save up if, God forbid, this journey continues beyond the first try or two.

I’m putting these numbers out there because it’s completely insane that so many insurance plans (including ours) do not offer to help couples struggling with infertility. It’s garbage, and I really hope that changes ASAP. We are in the lucky group who can somewhat reasonably afford it, if not via our ideal scenario. So many people cannot.

Anyway, the plan is to start the stims (Letrozole and Gonal-F) tonight and take them for four nights. Then I have my first follicle-check ultrasound on Wednesday morning to see how those babies are growing. I should mention that on my medicated IUI cycles, I took 75 UI of Gonal-F two or three times, every other day. This time? 300 UI every damn night for what they estimate will be 12 nights. Oh boy.

I’m pretty worried about how they’re going to affect me, physically and emotionally. Josh says he’s ready and not worried because the 75 UI didn’t really have a big effect on my moods, but I don’t think he really knows what he’s getting into. I already asked him in advance to forgive anything that comes out of my mouth this next month and, if I get pregnant, the next 18.75 years after that.

The list of things he does for me is endless. This is us having fun.

There are a few more exciting things going on for me. I got full-time hours at my job, writing for PEOPLE.com, which is faaaaab. I’m very thankful to be working 8 to 4, Monday through Friday at my dream publication and not having to feel the need to seek out side projects. And I’ve rejoined Weight Watchers (sorry — it’s “Wellness That Works” now) and lost almost 5 lbs. these first two weeks back. Overall, I’m feeling good, and like I’m allowed to relax some and move forward.

But this post was mostly to tell you guys that IVF is officially a go, and moving full steam ahead. We’re scared. We’re nervous. But mostly we’re excited — truly. It’s been a lot of waiting up until this point and regardless of how this all turns out, we feel like there’s nowhere to go but up.

7; Infertility Makes the Marriage Grow Stronger (Right?)

Full disclosure: Josh and I fought a LOT in the earlier days of our fertility treatments. A lot. Just last month, after finding out I had an ovarian cyst that meant our days of IUI were numbered a month earlier than we expected, I ripped all the clothes out of my closet while screaming, then calmly hung them all back up while my husband sat in a catatonic state for 15 whole minutes because he had no idea what to do with himself or me. We have threatened to leave, multiple times. Nights sleeping on the couch. You name it, we have done it. I cut up a baby onesie once and left the pieces on the stairs, you guys.

And 99% of this behavior has stemmed from insecurities about ourselves — mainly fueled by our own individual penchants for self blame, and thinking it must be one of us screwing the whole thing up somehow. Or (and this is strictly a me issue) both of us, because our love isn’t “good enough.” And yes, I know plenty of people who have kids end up divorcing so this makes zero sense but during my especially low times, it seems perfectly reasonable.

We still struggle with these feelings but things are so much better now than they were a year ago. We have been seeing my therapist together once in a while, and actually did this past Tuesday to ask her for some tools on how to deal when I’m extra cray on the IVF hormones and we’re both stressed about taking out a home-equity loan to pay for this procedure. Her advice was very simple and similar to kinda what she always tries to drill into my head: Let it be, and don’t just expect the worst. I have a tendency to want to prepare myself for the Worst Possible Scenario so that if it happens, the distance I fall isn’t so great. The chink in that armor is the fact that I end up stressing so much about “what might” that when I get to “what is,” the amount of energy I’ve spent preparing myself is either greater than it needed to be or a wash. I haven’t just hoped for the best yet during a fertility treatment (and rarely at all, with anything), so maybe that’s something I need to try.

We also talked about how I feel better prepared to try that route now because Josh and I have already been through something really, really hard with the miscarriage after already having tried to conceive for a year and a half and with three fertility treatments. Neither of us really went into that second ultrasound prepared not to see a heartbeat even though we weren’t necessarily shocked when we didn’t, but if I could go back and “prepare” myself for that, I don’t think I would. Yes, it was hard, but I wouldn’t trade that month we got to live in the parents-to-be dream state for anything. Buying a crib was fun. Re-imagining how we were going to turn our upstairs loft area into a play area with baby gates was fun. Going to Walt Disney World for my birthday and taking our unborn baby on their “first ride” was fun. Browsing the going-out-of-business sales at Babies ‘R’ Us was fun. Avoiding alcohol was fun (I know, WTF!). Preparing myself for the sadness would’ve ripped that experience away from me, and honestly I don’t feel like I “learned” from it in the sense that we’d do anything different if I get pregnant again. We’d still tell our close friends and family and obviously, with this blog, much of the world will know (well, the tiny slice that reads this, at least).

I also have been struggling with feeling not so much that Josh will leave me but just the idea of a more fertile woman being able to give him biological children. The little devil on my shoulder sometimes pokes at my brain with its stupid pitchfork and conjures up this image of my husband with a much younger, prettier, more successful woman with a few little blond kids running around and I just lose it internally, both from pure anguish and from guilt that I might be somehow holding him back from something because he deserves to be a dad so much. He is built for fatherhood, way more than I am built for motherhood. But I think the latter thing has changed a lot over the past couple of years, which I’m sure I’ll touch on in a later post.

There are two flaws to this Twilight Zone-worthy nightmare fantasy, though, when I step back and look at it through the lens of a non-crazy person. One, the “issue” isn’t necessarily me. My gut tells me it probably is but it could be him, too, or both of us. Or neither of us and we’ve just had super shitty luck. And secondly, there’s a very slim chance we will not be able to have children. Biologically, there’s a bigger chance, but at all, no. We’re both open to adoption down the road if the biological route doesn’t work for us, and Josh has assured me time and time again he would rather adopt with me (or even not have kids) than have biological kids with someone else. In fact, he might’ve even suggested the adoption route naturally if I had been on board with it instead of trying IVF first. We haven’t delved super far into the idea of adoption yet because I have always imagined having children biologically and at this point it’s still very much a word I, regrettably, associate with failure (for myself, not others), as in, “Well, you weren’t enough to do it the other way.” Which is a TERRIBLE thing and not at all the actual truth, but you know. Insecurity is a bitch. And adoption is amazing. I’m so thankful to know people who have done it, and I hope I can eventually come around to it fully if our journey takes us in a different direction than the one we’re going right now.

My point is that anxiety-ridden times of trying for a baby are NOT fun. I do not recommend it. In this way, we are so happy to have a few months off before we take this next step in fertility treatments. I actually feel like I can relax now and not just fake relax, or “relax” a.k.a. just not tell people who are telling me to relax that I’m not actually relaxing and on top of that, feeling guilt for not relaxing.

And honestly, if I have to hear one more time that “Omg it’ll happen when you’re waiting for IVF, watch!” I will kill someone. It won’t. I mean, if it does, great. I know it happened to your aunt’s hairdresser’s friend and she had triplets or whatever. But all I hear with that sentence is, “Aw, you haven’t fully failed yet, you still have a couple more months!” Again though, probably a me problem, but I’m a little sensitive at the moment.

5; Being My Own Advocate, or It’s My Ovaries and I’ll Plan If I Want To

If there has been one constant in this ever-changing puzzle called Baby Haupt or Bust, it has been the fact that the only person who is going to advocate for what is best for me is myself. Josh too, of course, but to a point — over the past two years, our idea of what’s best has differed from each other’s. More on those super-fun fights in a later post or seven, but rest assured these experiences have actually made us so much stronger in the long run. Even now, before we have a baby in our arms, we can feel it. Wine helps.

Yesterday, we had a big disagreement — over Google Hangouts of all places, even though once we started this journey, we swore we wouldn’t talk about anything important over email or chat or anything like that. But when you’re married to a writer who can go on forever about things, you learn that sometimes that person has to get it all out through writing — and when that writer is a neurotic psychopath, they have to get it all out through words right. The. FUCK. NOW. (Being married to me is paradise, really. Can’t wait for all the hormone shots! Lucky Josh!)

Our disagreement was over how to proceed with our IVF treatment. We met with our doctor Wednesday to go over some of the basics and here’s basically what transpired:

Me: So doc, blah blah, egg retrieval in January plus PGS (pre-implantation genetic screening) and a frozen transfer in May, right? YAY!

Doc: Actually I think we should do a fresh transfer in January and skip the testing, a.k.a. the exact opposite of what you’re telling me lolz!

Me: …?

Doc: Your diminished ovarian reserve means you probably won’t produce a lot of eggs so we don’t want to put them at risk by testing them, freezing them, defrosting, etc.

Me: OK cool that makes sense.

A little background, which I touched on previously but didn’t go super into: I have something called diminished ovarian reserve (DOR), which means the little ovarian follicles that produce eggs? I have fewer of those than most women my age, and therefore fewer eggs and years of fertility remaining than most women my age. Dr. Google gave me this handy article predicting IVF success rates at this one clinic based on AFC (antral follicle count).

I had 12 at my last scan, which is pretty close to the low end of normal but my doctor says the Anti-Müllerian hormone (AMH) is a better indicator of how my body will respond. Anything over 1.0 is considered OK, with somewhere around 2-3.5 being average for my age. Last blood draw, in April, mine was a freaking .31. Nine months before that it was 1.3, so it dropped like whoa. My doc said that can happen as a result of fertility medications, which…great. Nice catch-22. My ovaries are literally a perfect reflection of my personality, which is the type to throw out shit I might need later based on the self-assurance that I probably won’t need it, and half the time I’m kicking myself because I trashed an important document or something. See also: My nails, which I have bitten since before I can remember, and my eyebrows, which I over waxed/plucked in high school and are now mere shadows of their formerly bushy selves. Josh is even worse — he thinks I’m a pack rat, and I probably am compared to him. But the point is, if he had ovaries, he’d have NOR, which is Nonexistent Ovarian Reserve, which is something I made up. But alas, he’s a man, and his man reserve is fine because OF COURSE IT IS.

I’ve been taking this supplement called DHEA, which is a controversial thing in the medical field. My doctor gave me the OK to safely take it but warned me there haven’t been enough studies to back up its supposed benefits, which are that it could help elevate AMH and AFC. This, in theory, seems absolutely ridiculous because AMH and AFC are indicators of how many eggs you have left and women are born with all the eggs they will ever have, meaning you can’t magically start producing more like Yoshi. But I’ve heard stories from other women who beg to differ and whose egg quality and AFC/AMH numbers have been improved as a result of DHEA supplementation. There have been been some studies that report this, too — specifically for younger women with DOR, like me — such as this one, but I’ve also read it can be detrimental to women whose DHEA is not low to begin with. From everything I’ve read, I think we can assume mine isn’t great. ALSO…my AFC was always around 8-10 before this last ultrasound I had (my first since starting the DHEA, about three weeks prior), which tells me the DHEA might be up to something. Regardless, I’m taking it until my retrieval cycle and going to get my blood drawn again in December. So we’ll see.

Oddly, DOR doesn’t really affect pregnancy rates because you’re usually still ovulating fine. So even though I have this, I’m still a case of unexplained infertility.

Anyway, back to the soul-crushing IVF consultation, with a little aside. This was also a fun convo:

Me: I’m thinking May if we do a frozen transfer.

Doc: Why wait that long?

Me: I’m not trying to have a baby over the holidays, we already have way too many of those plus our anniversary.

Doc: Wow, I’ve never heard of a woman caring about timing before when it’s taken them this long to have a baby.

Me: First time for everything huh? HAHAHAHA. (< I did not say this but I should have, like GTFO I do what I want.)

I shit you not, he used the word “inappropriate” twice. TWICE. Not about this, but in general — and he meant it like “not the right course” more so than “Bitch, what are you on?” (I think). I’m probably the most annoying patient he has ever had but when I pay you $20,000-$25,000 after I’ve already paid you at least $10,000, you will take it. I have learned in the past two years not to apologize for asking questions or for pushing for a certain test or procedure, and I’m so thankful for that. I truly believe it has made all the difference in getting us closer to becoming parents.

So many tangents. I’m going to wrap this up and finish over the weekend with the thrilling conclusion about how I Josh and I decided to move forward and why. Surprisingly, it involves me letting go of some of the control, but it’s not blindly following exactly what the doctor says either — which is something my husband wishes we could do, but we cannot. Not for this much money and not when so many variables are at play.