Monday, April 30, 2007

What I did on my spring vacation

Okay, so people have been bugging the shit out of me, asking for pictures and details of my recent trip to Scotland & England. Well, here's the thing: sure, I took pictures, but they're either touristy stuff, or weird things I saw that were interesting to me. As far as the touristy pics go, do a search online for Big Ben, Wordsworth's grave, Anne Hathaway's cottage, Shakespeare's birthplace, etc. and you'll find far better pics than any I took. Really. I think it's far more interesting for me to tell you about things I experienced. So without further ado---

Things I Learned/Saw/Experienced in Scotland & England:

1) There are apparently only four hairstyles for men under the age of 40 in the UK: the fauxhawk, the shag (whether hobbit-curly or straight), shaved, or anything super-spiky that requires 4 tubes of gel each morning. I firmly believe that there must be a national advertising campaign encouraging young men to use styling products. I've never seen that much hair gel in my life. And I was a teenager in the 80s!

2) There are four words that are essential to your vocabulary. Just for fun, go out and annoy any English people you know by liberally sprinkling your speech with the following words.
--Sorry: A quick, all-purpose apology. Not "I'm sorry," just "sorry".
--Yeah: You know how stereotypes of Latin-language-speaking people always end questions (and sometimes just statements) in 'no'? Such as, Antonio Banderas saying, "It is a beautiful day, no?" Well, replace the 'no' with 'yeah', and you'll feel like you're in jolly ole England. Make sure to say 'yeah' at the end of every sentence, whether it's a question or not.
--Bloody: To Americans, saying bloody as a swear word seems like a stereotype, or something you only see in movies where Americans have really bad, fake British accents. Well, guess what? It's a stereotype for a reason. People use it. A lot.
--Cheers: 'Cheers' is like the Hawaiian 'aloha'; it can mean about a million different things. I heard people using it as hello, goodbye, thank you, excuse me, and of course, as an actual toast!

3) I have been successful in figuring out how NOT to look like a total tourist while on vacation. Having been stopped several time by people in Edinburgh who thought I lived there and were asking for directions, or asking if I wanted to sign local petitions and the like, I was quite pleased.

4) Everyone in the world knows that Elvis lived here. Whenever someone spoke to me, and then I answered them, they of course knew right away that I was an American. Inevitable question #1 would come: "Where are you from?" I'd tell them. Then inevitable question #2: "Oh, that's where Elvis was from!" I ended up in a 20 minute discussion with an old man that started with those two questions. I now know a lot about WWII and the British forces, racial issues in those days, and classist divisions as it pertained to music. Apparently the lower class people back then were really into rock & roll, while the hoity-toity folk were really into country music. Then again, that old guy may have been senile and just telling me a whopper. But he was funny and entertaining!

5) Dorks across the sea are just like dorks here. I found a Games Workshop store in Edinburgh. Just as in the dork shops here, my entrance into said shop caused a reverent silence that rivaled any cathedral. Girls are a rarity in those places, you see. There were many furtive, over the shoulder glances from guys putting together & painting models. Within 5 minutes, I had three different guys ask if they could help me, or if I knew what I was looking for. I smiled and answered politely to the first two, the classic, "Thanks, just looking."

By the time the third guy came up to me, I was just inwardly rolling my eyes. I mean, the store is only about 20x20, so I can't believe that he didn't know that I'd already been greeted! But oh, the third one hurt. He actually asked me, "Are you looking for something for a gift? For your nephew or son perhaps?" OUCH! When did I get old enough to look like someone's mom?!? So, I had to let loose on him. I turned with a sweet smile and said, "Oh, I'm just seeing what's new; I haven't been keeping up with GW in a while. I have Sisters of Battle." And he wandered away confused, because of COURSE girls don't play with toy soldiers, right? Right? Wrong!

6) I love Marks & Spencer food shops. And Pret A Manger.

7) Edinburgh is a fantastic place, and I'd love to go back. People were remarkably friendly, much more so than some folks I met in other cities. I had a wonderful time there, and it's really too much to try to describe. Edinburgh= heart it.

An apology

I don’t know if this is as much an apology, as it is an explanation. To all of my friends, both real life and online, who are not in the crazy world of TTC (trying to conceive), I just want to try to explain my life right now.

You see, I am a hostage to my ovaries. I am a walking life-support system for my reproductive organs. I probably talk more to my RE’s nurse than I do to many of you, and for that I am truly sorry. It’s not that I don’t think of you, or that I don’t care about you. It’s just that the desire to conceive is so strong and overwhelming, and the frustration so strong, that it is quite simply almost the only thing on my mind 90% of the time.

When I wake in the morning, the first thing I do every day (take my temperature) is related to TTC. Then I take medicines to help with TTC. I record data about my TTC online. I talk with other women around the world online about TTC. Everyday, I analyze my body, and any maladies or sensations, according to what it might mean in TTC terms. Before I go to bed at night, I’m mentally going over plans for the current cycle of TTC. If I meet you for a meal, a drink, or just to hang out, I really am paying attention to you. But believe me, in the back of my head, I’m thinking about TTC.

While we’re out eating, I’m wondering if these cramps I’m feeling are just follicles growing, or if I could be overstimulated, or if perhaps that was just a bad batch of shrimp. As I pay for my check at the bar, I’m wincing at how much the next cycle is going to cost if I have to get more aggressive. When we’re just shooting the breeze, and you tell me about something cute your child did, I’m wondering if I’ll ever experience that joy firsthand instead of secondhand.

You see, time is running out for me. I only have maybe 6 more cycles to try before I’ll call it quits. At that point, if I’ve not managed to conceive, then the only alternatives will be surgery and/or IVF, and I just can’t go that route. My financial resources can’t support it, and I cannot in good conscience go that deeply into debt in the quest to have a child.

So please believe me when I say that you are all loved, and that I think of you often. It’s just that right now, I am in a “me” phase. It is hard for me to be as interested in my usual hobbies and activities, when most of my attention is focused on this animalistic drive to reproduce. I don’t talk about it with you guys because I would sound like a broken record playing the same track over and over and over. Anyway, that’s my “deal” these days. All I can ask is that you bear with me, and try to understand how encompassing this can be.

There is a fantastic website out there, and probably everyone in the TTC world knows about it. I would ask my real life friends to take a look. It describes what I go through everyday far better than I ever could. It’s from the point of view of a couple struggling with infertility, and not a singleton like me, but it still rings true.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

CD1, RE visit, and The Plan

Today was cycle day 1 and also RE day, the visit with Dr. McHottie. And while I was really looking forward to the visit, I was not looking forward to the horrible traffic, the highway construction around the hospital campus that I swear has been going on for the last 5 years, and of course, the idiotic driving of my fellow motorists caused by the fact that it's raining. So even though the appt. is only about 10 minutes away--under normal circumstances-- I left about 45 minutes early just to be on the safe side. Geez, why can't I do that for work?!?

As soon as I walked in, I was astounded that there was another patient in the waiting room. You see, even though the waiting room is really swank (nice wallpaper and paint, pseudo-Oriental wooden panel screens, a water feature, etc.), it's almost always empty when I go in. They tend to very quickly work you up, and send you behind the hallowed doors to a more private waiting area (what I call the holding pen) in the rear of the clinic.

Anyway, the other patient in the waiting room was busy talking away on her mobile phone, arranging for someone else to handle a deposition. She was one of those women who're so put together that you feel ugly & awkward just from sitting too close to them. Yes, and there I was in my sensible business-casual black pants and cranberry top. Completing my look of total mediocrity were my nice and comfy black loafers, and the hoodie sweater I grabbed as I ran out of the door this morning because I needed something to wear between the door and the car. Oddly enough, I didn't feel as weird as I usually would, since I figured her ovaries probably sucked, too. Inadequate reproductive organs are a great equalizer.

Yeesh, but I'm rambling today! So I get into one of the consultation rooms, and Dr. McH comes in. He asks me, quite tentatively, if I'd mind if a resident came in to listen. I assure him that it's fine, and then when the resident came in, I assured him as well. I mean, once you've had 4-6 people in a room with you while you have dildocams shoved up your hoo-hah, you quickly lose your sense of modesty regarding doctor's offices. I mean, sure, I wouldn't just start stripping down while people were in the room, but once I'm under that glorious paper sheet, you can start collecting a $5 cover charge and let in the masses.

I gotta admit, though, that it has crossed my mind that this cycle will be the first one where people from Dr. McH's clinic will be all up in my southern exposure. All my other exams and procedures have been elsewhere, so this will be new. Maybe I should shave my pubes in the shape of a sperm just to get some laughs. I'm not sure exactly how that would work-- I mean, where would the tail go?-- but that's something to think about another day.

Dr. McH and I are in agreement on trying femara again for mild ovarian stimulation. And yes, we're doing u/s monitoring and a hcg trigger once I get a nice, juicy follicle ready. So, everything's on track. I have a new script for femara, and my first ever script for Ovidrel. Woot!

Friday, April 20, 2007

Ultrasounds = $$$

Since I'm a complete novice when it comes to the new treatment & monitoring that I'll be doing next cycle, I decided to check on the prices of ultrasounds for follicular checks. I'd much prefer to know upfront exactly how much my pocket is going to suffer; when it comes to fertility treatment, surprises over your bill are NOT a good thing!

I was shocked at the disparity between the three places I checked. You wouldn't think that there would be much of a price difference, in the same city, for the same procedure, but man! At all of them, I asked for the cost based on the assumption that I would be paying 100%, without any insurance coverage.

First I called Dr. McHottie's office (my RE). They charge $250 for the first u/s. If you have to have additional u/s in the same cycle, the charge goes down to $150 per u/s. The prices reset with the next cycle.

Then I checked with my ob-gyn's office. Everyone I spoke to there seemed completely confused; I finally got to someone who knew what the hell I was talking about. I was told that yes, they do follicular u/s; but, they were unable to give me a firm price. I was quoted the range of $150-$300 dollars.

I decided to check with a radiology group here in town. They're a free-standing facility with an excellent reputation, and I've been there before for other u/s. They told me that the u/s would normally be priced at $300, but if I were going to pay it out of pocket-- and at the time of service instead of being billed and/or going through insurance, it's only half that, at $150 a pop.

So, a range of $150-$300 for the same u/s. That's just insane to me. I swear, I think that the medical profession is a subset of a Mafia syndicate. They're all a part of the same family, they send business to one another, and it's like there's a silent agreement that they don't step on each other's toes. I chose the wrong profession. I should have either gone into medicine, or into a skilled labor profession. Either way, I'd make a hell of a lot more money than I do now!

The biggest shocker of the whole thing was my mom. I keep her informed about my treatment and everything. Out of the blue, she offered to cover the costs of my next "stepped up" cycle. I was completely thrown for a loop! I always get the impression that she's not entirely in approval of what I'm doing, despite her soul-deep hunger for a grandchild. And since I'm an only child, I'm the only chance she has of getting any! But she never judges me or makes any negative remarks, and I appreciate that. So for her to volunteer to foot the bill really meant a lot to me. Maybe I'm reading too much into it, being pre-menstrual and all, but I couldn't help but feel like it meant that she was showing her support of me. That, although she might have her reservations about my actions, she respects my choices and is backing me in a way that is comfortable for her.

See, my mom is the most non-female female I know. She isn't physically demonstrative, and she doesn't like talking about feelings. I'm honestly not sure she's ever actually said she was proud of me, even though I know it without a doubt. Repression and stoicism are her friends. So I didn't/don't expect her to come right out and say, "You go for it! You try to get knocked up!" But by offering to pay for my cycle, I think she said it in the only way she knew how. Go mom!

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

I threw away a perfectly good egg (even though starving children in Africa would be grateful to have it)

Today I am 10dpo, and it means absolutely nothing, as I am on a break cycle. I knew that I would be very close to ovulation when I got back from vacation, so I decided to sit this cycle out instead of worrying through my entire trip: “Will I ovulate early and miss it? Or will the stress of travel delay my ovulation? Will I have time to get boy juice for insem? Should I take meds this cycle or not, in case all of the previous things happen?” So, I decided beforehand to screw it all, and just have a good time.

Of course, it didn’t really turn out that simple. I ended up ovulating on Easter Sunday; how’s that for irony? The ultimate Judeo-Christian day of renewal and hope, and that’s when I ovulated. On a break cycle. With no hope at all of being pregnant. So for about four days, all I did was beat myself up for not trying this cycle… even though it would have been practically impossible. I couldn’t help but think that an Easter Sunday ovulation was a SIGN, and I had missed my chance.

Isn’t it amazing how pathetic infertility can make you? I mean, I might be all Pollyanna bright when it comes to dealing with other people’s pregnancies, but believe me, when it comes to my own failures and treatments, I am the most depressing and pessimistic Debbie Downer ever.

“Sure, a superstitious (or desperate!) person could think that ovulation on Easter might be a good sign for conception to occur, but with my luck, I probably would have gotten a semen sample contaminated with a flesh-eating virus that would have destroyed my entire reproductive tract.”


I have my next RE consult next Wednesday, where we’ll discuss lovely things such as cervical mucous, ultrasounds, and hcg trigger shots. Honestly, though, I’m just about at a point in my treatment that I’m seriously thinking about seeing if my ob-gyn can do these things. Financially, this is about as “high tech” as I can go, and for those in the know, this ain’t nuthin’. But I absolutely, positively cannot move on to IVF, so I’m going to give this route a try for a while: minimal stim during follicular phase with femara, u/s to track follicular growth, then hcg trigger before insem.

Thing is, many ob-gyns can handle this level of treatment. And I’m about 95% sure that the costs would be less through an ob-gyn than through an RE. It seems like each and everything that goes through an RE’s office gets stamped “Infertility”, which is an automatic denial by most insurance companies, including my own. But ob-gyns tend to code things based on your underlying problems, which in my case is “PCOS”, which is more likely to be at least partially covered by insurance.

I just don’t know. Some days I just want to throw in the towel and say fuck it, I’m done. Then that insidious whisper always starts. “Don’t give up yet, this next cycle might be the one. C’mon, you know you wanna try again.” I swear, being infertile is like doing drugs: you start off just wanting a quick “fix”. But that one fix isn’t enough, and things get more complicated and expensive. Then one day, you discover that you’re addicted, and can’t figure out how to stop.

Maybe I’ll end up on a street corner somewhere, waving at passing cars and yelling out, “I’ll give you head for IVF money!”

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Have I mentioned that I'm a nerd?

I saw this, and almost spewed coffee through my nose at work this morning. And believe me, feeling hot coffee tickling at your sinus passages is nothing to sneeze at! Anyway, here's what really happened after the Death Star blew up.

Monday, April 16, 2007

People can be really stupid

I've been back from my vacation for a couple of weeks now, and I'm finally rested up enough to start venting online again. Umm, I mean, writing. I promise I'll do the whole boring, "and this is a picture of Sir Wally Peniston's castle" thing soon, but I haven't finished cataloging my photos yet.

Anyway, I was catching up on
Dos Mamas blog, and a comment by one of her readers reminded me of an incident from about 8-9 months ago. My female friends, most of whom have children, all get together on a semi-regular basis for what we call "Girls' Night In". One person is the hostess, and we all hang out at their place once the kiddies are in bed.

As usually happens, someone mentioned that an acquaintance was pregnant. It reminded me that earlier that day, one of my online gal-pals had just discovered she was pregnant with triplets. So, feeling all happy for my online friend, I told my real-life friends about her struggle with infertility, and how she'd done IVF with donor sperm, and was now going to be the mama of three little ones.

Most of my girlfriends had positive reactions. One, however, said one of the most stupid things I've ever heard. She actually said, "Eww, donor sperm! I just couldn't do that. I mean, I'd rather go pick up a guy at a bar; at least then I'd know he was really cute, you know?"

I stared at her in disbelief. How could an educated woman in her 30s actually think that trolling for a random stranger was a better reproductive choice than using donor sperm? Once I could actually speak again, I retorted, "Yeah, pick up a guy at a bar and have unprotected sex with him to try to get pregnant. I don't think so. I'd rather use donor sperm, which has been tested for STDs, quarantined for 6 months, then tested again. That's just a little safer, don't you think?"

Maybe my memory is faulty, but I'm pretty sure there was an uncomfortable silence for a moment. But I remember the evening as being fun, so somebody probably broke the tension by doing something sophisticated, like burping or farting.