Sorry Swayze, we put baby in the corner. For the first few months at least, we’re going to have little human in our bedroom by my side of the bed. Eventually the operation will move to the nursery, but for now we’re all going to be roommies. I wanted to keep our bedroom clean and bright while bringing in some baby things that felt cozy and still allowed the room to work for all of us. Jack has already decided the floor pillow is his. I’m such a sucker.
To add storage, we brought in a dresser and added a changing mat on top. We mounted a tv and have wireless headphones for watching without disturbing little love. We’ve never had a tv in the bedroom, but I’m liking it. Watching the news in bed with a matcha latte in the morning is something I never knew I was missing out on until now. In the corner we put up a tiered woven hanging basket to hold bibs, coconut oil and other little necessities. Below that is an essential oil diffuser and night light. Right now I like to keep our room smelling like either lavender or eucalyptus since they are both calming scents.
The top dresser drawer below the changing mat is devoted to little human’s things. It has changing supplies, onesies, jammies, socks, tiny booties and mittens. The feetie pajamas always get me. That, and anything with ears.
For diapering, we’re trying out a trial of the popular compostable service offered in the Bay Area called Eco Naty that picks up soiled diapers from your doorstep and converts them into topsoil in 14 days, while also dropping off a new supply of diapers. Going into this, I thought any old biodegradable diaper was the way to go, but learned that unless you’re composting them yourself they actually have to go into the city trash bin (rather than the green city compost bin) because it’s human waste. Meaning, they go to the landfill like every other diaper and sit there. Granted the materials used are more natural and likely decompose at a faster rate, but, why buy biodegradable diapers if they aren’t going to be composted and biodegrade? Using less plastic while still having the convenience factor of a disposable is optimal for us. I’ll report back on how it goes. For wipes we’re using Water Wipes. They are made from 99.9% water, and .01% grapefruit seed extract. We went with this diaper pail and keep it next to the trash can in the kitchen.
I can’t say enough how much I love the wooden mini crib. It’s so pretty and I love that it rocks. Trey says he’s going to rig up something with the Arduino to make it rock on it’s own. I love his Honey I Shrunk The Kids ideas. He does this thing where I have something that breaks and he rushes to fix it, or I have a crazy idea and he comes up with a solution, then presents it to me saying (in my voice) “My Hero!”. I love him, I love him, I love him.
We also have a Snuggle Me for co-sleeping, though I’m not sure we’ll use it for sleeping at night since the dogs tend to sleep with us. We’ve been experimenting with shutting them out of the bedroom, but that doesn’t really work since they both know how to open doors. By morning they are both in the crooks of our legs. I tried putting a door wedge in the door (see photo below), but Keeper will try with all her might to open the door even with it in there…which can be loud. So yeah, we’ve created monsters. Don’t teach your dogs to open doors. Anyway, we’ll likely use the Snuggle Me nest during the day for naps on the couch since the bedroom gets really sunny in the afternoons and likely will be too bright for napping.
We made the wooden mobile above the crib using dowel rods, heavy duty fishing line, and different wooden shapes. I love how it turned out. When we have the windows open the breeze makes it spin in a slow, mesmerizing way.
The little patchwork pillow I made from scrap fabric I had laying around. The mini Jack and Keep toys are a favorite for obvious reasons. Beside the mini crib is a basket with cotton swaddles and extra mini crib sheets.
The little rocker chair is another piece I really love. It’s lightweight, making it easy for a little human to bounce themselves once they get to that arm and leg-flailing stage. I also like that you can move it from room to room. The rug we’ve had for a few years and just adds a little more comfort for tummy time shenanigans.
As for toys, we don’t have many at the moment. I have some in mind for Christmas. At this early of a stage though, simple rattles and shakers (and making funny faces) will do. Trey also brought home this little black and white dog lovie that I think is really cute!
I’m happy with how everything is coming together. With 9 days until my due date, it’s nice to cross “little human’s corner” off the list. We’re getting close. When I dropped Trey at the train this morning he told me “don’t go into labor, I need to rearrange the basement!” Like OK, I’ll try not to…!
“My week in lunches”…might be the most pregnant thing I’ve ever said.
My lap top is teetering atop the growing mountain of a belly I’ve got going on. At 32 weeks, it’s getting pretty big and makes a nice spot for my lap top to rest on while typing this. I thought since food is a big part of my life right now (and in general) that I’d document some of the meals I’ve been preparing and eating for lunch lately. My diet hasn’t changed all that much since growing a little human except for making sure I load up on iron-rich foods and healthy fats, while avoiding certain iffy bacteria-harboring foods. Pregnancy only really requires 300 or so additional calories a day, so that whole “eating for two” thing is a myth. Really it’s making sure you’re getting enough vitamins and nutrients for two. I’ve found that sticking to a natural, whole food based diet with meals that are prepared simply makes me feel the best both physically and mentally. Everything in moderation though. Because, beignets. And brioche french toast. And parmesan truffle fries.
Avocado and tuna salad on sourdough with a side of spinach and kale, along with a daily prenatal vitamin + dHA supplement. Passionfruit La Croix to drink. I also ate a handful of chopped dates like a caveman after foraging in the cabinet for something sweet afterwards. I’m not big on eating tuna because they aren’t a very sustainable option. Their life cycles are long, meaning they don’t reach maturity until later in life and get overfished quickly. When I do eat tuna, I look for skipjack or albacore that’s pole caught (it says on the label) since those fisheries are doing the best. Seafood Watch offers a good guide for eating fish sustainably. Hops down off soap box…
Kale and heirloom tomato pizza with pesto and smoked mozzarella on a rice crust, left over from his and hers pizzas we made for dinner last night. Prenatal vitamin + dHA supplement. Lemon ice water and a green smoothie to drink. I like having a green smoothie or juice every morning, but was in a rush and didn’t have time to make one this morning so I had one at lunch. This one is spinach, kale, apple, coconut water and chia seeds blended on the juice setting of our Blendtec.
Thai pumpkin curry with coconut rice, leftover from dinner we made last night. Slices of fresh mango, and juice made with beets, apple, carrot, lemon and ginger. Prenatal vitamin + dHA supplement.
Today we had a doctor’s appointment to check on little human and went out for a late breakfast/early lunch afterwards at Grand Lake Kitchen. I got the french toast with strawberries and Trey had a turkey sando as big as his head. Prenatal vitamin + dHA supplement.
I beelined it to Roam Burgers after lap swim today for a beet, quinoa and black bean veggie burger with avocado and a side of sweet potato fries. It’s probably my favorite veggie burger in the Bay although there are lots of good contenders around here. To me, this is summer in burger form – so good! Prenatal vitamin + dHA supplement.
Over the weekend we turned our sunroom into a potting/work station. We used the crate planks and nails from our previous bed headboard. The sunroom is just off the kitchen right before going into the back yard, so it’s a good place to work on seedlings or pot plants before walking them down to the greenhouse or garden. I also like that the table makes Mila’s litter box a little less conspicuous. It also doubles as a nice little desk/office, since we’re no strangers to building those in odd places. I added a small bed for Mila since she likes to stay by my side while I work. There just so happened to be water and electric lines in the room (probably previously used as a washer/dryer set up), so it makes watering seedlings easy.
I’m so happy to be starting a new series where I document all things Little Human. I’m 25 weeks this Friday, which means we’ve started to gather a few things here and there and think about a nursery and a crib and do we really need a stroller the first 6 months? and all that exciting stuff. One of my favorite vintage shops in Oakland carries mini vintage clothes, so I picked up a pair of little vintage jeans (above). Mini clothes are my new weakness, I’m finding.
I’m excited to continue sharing this journey here…while I’ve raised, cared for and studied all kinds of animals ranging from four legged to winged to fluke and finned creatures, this is my first human and I anticipate the learning curve to be steep! This isn’t intended as an advice column on the subject of parenthood – just a place for me to document my little family and the things we do. Hopefully I’ll meet some mamas along the way. I know very few – and can be really shy about making new friends! I really hope our kid gets their dad’s outgoing personality… haha.
I can’t believe how fast this pregnancy is flying by. Little one will be here before we know it!
I haven’t done one of these in a while with everything going on, so I thought I’d share some photos of things around here. Thank you to everyone who has sent us good vibes and messages – we really appreciate that and will pay the kindness forward. It takes a while to write out, not to mention re-living it, but I’m working on it and will post more about the final stage of IVF soon. Here are a few photos from around here lately.
Mila the bird stalker looking out at the bird feeder.
We’ve been grilling a lot. I’ve been making lots of veggie burgers with thick slices of heirloom tomatoes. Right now I’m loving the beet burger from Roam…hoping to replicate it soon.
Keeper the greenhouse guardian.
Morning at our house. Smiley Jack.
Trey doing his thing.
I made the dogs some natural toothpaste this week. More on that later.
We have lots of bird feeders and houses in our back yard. Trey brought home a bird book the other day and we’ve been thumbing through it every time a new one shows up that we don’t recognize. We get mostly finches, robins, hummingbirds, and jays around here.
I’m not sure I was completely ready to do so when we did. I told everyone I was. Trey, Dr. Chet, my therapist, even myself – but on the inside I felt more like a zombie going through the motions, vaguely resembling something human on the outside. I was still bummed from the last time not working out, and I was hesitant to set us up for another let down.
We drove into the city on the morning of the egg retrieval surgery in early December. It was foggy and cold, a proper San Franciscan day. The office was on the top floor of a building off the Embarcadero, a street which sits right on the bay. The office had big windows that looked out at the bay and the boats docked off the pier with a great view of the Golden Gate bridge. I stood looking out for a while, too anxious to sit and flip through magazines. My life had changed so much in the past few years. On a day like today a few years ago I was out working in the Farallones marine sanctuary (an area of the Pacific beginning just outside the Golden Gate) when a pod of 50 or so huge, mottled Risso’s dolphins appeared out of the fog around our boat. Later that day we had a similar encounter with a pod of humpback whales lunge feeding. We were in rough water with 12 ft waves about 20 miles off the coast and the visibility wasn’t great but none of us wanted to call it a day. It was one of those days when you couldn’t feel the cold with all the adrenaline running through your body.
The nurse called my name, snapping me back to my current situation. She led us back, put an IV in my arm and an anesthesiologist came and spoke to me for a little while to make sure he got the anesthesia right while I signed the various medical history forms.
Once I was put under, the retrieval took less than 30 minutes and was successful. I asked Trey if he would recount this next part of this since it’s a bit embarrassing for me to do so myself.
Trey: After just enough time to make a cup of tea and reach the
end of my Instagram feed, a nurse opened the door to the
waiting room to let me know I could come back in. As I
approached her she assured me that everything went absolutely
fine, but that “she was pretty emotional, like… crying a lot”
I came back to find Nicole red-faced, tears running down her
face, dazed but assuring me “I’m fine, I’m fine.” She couldn’t
really explain much of anything at this point, about why she
was upset, nor was she able to recall even going into the surgery
room, or why she had asked everyone involved in the procedure
for a hug afterwards. Everyone was really sweet to her.
Apparently Nicole can be *really* sweet to strangers too,
especially when you heavily sedate her.
So, anesthesia can make you do silly things. The anesthesiologist (who I also asked for a hug, apparently) told me afterwards that sometimes when you have pent up emotions they come out when you’re waking up from the anesthesia and your inhibitions are lowered. Made sense, this was an emotional process. So, 1 bag of teddy grams, a cup of apple juice, and many hugs later and we were ready to go home. Dr. Chet told me to get some rest and that he would be in contact with more information about the eggs that were retrieved soon.
Now that the eggs had been retrieved, they needed to go to the lab to be fertilized w/ Trey’s sperm and cultured out (grown) in a dish for 5 days before being biopsied for any genetic abnormalities and then frozen to await transfer.
The next day, Dr. Chet called to give us an update. He told us 14 eggs had been retrieved, which was a good number. But then he told us that only 7 of those eggs were mature, which was abnormal given my age and having been on heavy stimulation drugs for 14 days. He thought almost all, if not all, the eggs would have been mature. 50% of eggs not reaching maturation was a possible indication of why I was experiencing infertility in the first place, although the process would have to be repeated in the future to really know if that was the case. Over the next few days he called us several times to give us updates about the remaining 7 eggs and how they were faring.
Of the 7 fertilized eggs, only 4 were normal after genetic testing (meaning no chromosomal abnormalities) and made it to day 5 to be frozen. In a week, we had gone from 14 eggs down to 4.
By now, I had been off the stimulation medications for about a week. Going off the medications again wasn’t fun. Throwing your hormones into fifth gear and then slamming on the brakes does a host of weird things to your body. Hot flashes, acne, nausea, exhaustion, blurry vision, moodiness, you name it. It’s not a walk in the park.
Enter: this post, where I had it up to my eyeballs with infertility and decided to finally write about it.
One of the really sucky things about infertility is you never feel like you’re in control of anything – your body, getting pregnant, the process – all of it. And then with IVF, you turn yourself over to doctors and it very much feels like everything is out of your hands. Your hormones are being manipulated with drugs, you’re being poked and prodded with needles, vaginal ultrasounds, blood draws, IVs, put under anesthesia, etc.
One of the ways you do get to have some control in the matter is by having the ability to choose whether or not you want to find out the gender of your embryos. If you do, you can choose whether you want to transfer in a male embryo or a female embryo or both (given you have both female and male embryos and don’t mind the chance of twins).
We elected to know the genders. Dr. Chet called us when the lab confirmed them.
Had this have been a normal getting-pregnant experience, we wouldn’t have had a particularly strong preference over girl or boy. Either would have been a happy, random surprise. But, going into this we had a long time to think about whether or not we wanted to transfer in a boy embryo or a girl embryo. We knew IVF would allow us to know, and given the chance to choose, we both really wanted a boy.
The next time we spoke with Dr. Chet he told us that of the 4 embryos, 3 were female and 1 was male.
He asked us which embryo we wanted to transfer in and without any hesitation we told him, “the boy”. It made sense for us, there was only one male embryo. We had plenty of female embryos to keep frozen for the future if we wanted more kids. We were really excited. This was what we had been waiting for and everything was starting to feel like it was falling into place.
Dr. Chet told us he would instruct the lab and a few days later called to give us our embryo transfer date: January 5th, 2017.
The weeks leading up to the transfer were intense. It was end of December now and we were spending the holidays just the two of us since traveling with the medications seemed too difficult. I was on a lot of injections again, new ones this time to prep for the transfer. Plus, it’s not like you can be totally cavalier when you’re scheduled to go get a baby put inside you. Trey and I would lay in bed at night and talk about everything that was to come. Would the embryo transfer be successful? If it was, what would we name him? What would he be like? Would he look more like you (Trey) or me?
But then we’d remind ourselves to take things one day at a time.
Let’s get through the medications. Let’s get through the procedure. We told ourselves.
We sat in the waiting room of the IVF center waiting to meet Dr. Chet. Smooth jazz played overhead, a spread of celebrity magazines were fanned out on a coffee table in front of us. A large stone statue of a pregnant woman stood stoic in the corner. It was 9:00am on a Monday last summer.
Neither of us were entirely convinced we needed to be there. We were young and healthy. Surely the last 3 years had just been a rough patch of bad luck. Had it really come to this?
The nurse called my name and lead us back to Dr. Chet’s office. We walked in and were greeted by an older man with patchy gray hair sitting behind an old wooden desk. Degrees from Yale and other prestigious institutions flanked him on the wall above. In the corner of the room his computer screensaver played a photo collage of all the babies he had helped bring into the world on loop. We told him our history – that we met young, had been together for a long time and wanted to have kids. We said we had been trying for close to 3 years with ovulation predictor kits, Clomid and IUI procedures, but nothing had worked. I had no history of any endometriosis, ovarian cysts, or ovulation dysfunction that we knew of. Trey’s sperm (cue Magic Mike music) had been tested and were normal. I just wasn’t getting pregnant and we had no clue why.
They took my blood to measure my hormone levels and did an ultrasound to look at my ovaries. Not the cute belly ultrasounds. These are the ones where they stick a wand up your vagina. He sent me to a radiologist to get an HSG (hysterosalpingogram) done, which is an X-ray test where they inject a dye into your uterus and fallopian tubes via a thin catheter to see if there are any structural abnormalities. All in all, everything came back normal with the exception of my hormones being a little off. He talked to us about our options. Given the 3 years we had tried with ovulation predictor kits on our own, and the months on Clomid + IUIs we had already done, he put our chances at conceiving on our own as being pretty low. It was something we needed to hear. He was right and we knew it even if we didn’t want to believe it right then. Neither of us wanted to keep going down the road we were going on.
He told us we could spend months doing lesser-invasive treatments like injectable stimulation medications that may or may not work. Or, we could do IVF where the probability of me getting pregnant was more likely. IVF (In Vitro Fertilization) is when an egg is fertilized by sperm outside of the body. Medications are used to stimulate the ovaries into producing lots of eggs, which are then surgically retrieved, fertilized using sperm, and then transferred into the uterus (or frozen and transferred later).
He told us the costs for both options. We sat with the numbers for a while and told him we’d get back to him about where we wanted to go from there. We went home and tried for two more months on our own and got nowhere.
It was the beginning of September 2016 when we scheduled the appointment to tell Dr. Chet we wanted to go through IVF. Given that months on Clomid (a stimulation medication) + IUIs didn’t work in the past, we decided we didn’t want to waste our time trying the injectable stimulation medications and wanted to proceed directly to IVF. Dr. Chet gave me a prescription for an oral birth control medication to take that would balance my hormones and put them in a good place to start the IVF medications. The nurse worked with us to find a pharmacy that gave us an amazing deal on the medications through manufacturers coupons, insurance, and some publicly-available fertility medication discounts programs. A big cost in IVF are the medications, so we were really fortunate to be able to find affordable solutions.
A couple weeks later the medications arrived on our doorstep in a over-nighted refrigerated Fed-Ex box. I took the medications and spread them out on the kitchen counter. Small gauged needles, larger gauged needles, syringes, vials of thick fluids. Trey and I couldn’t believe the amount of medication that was involved.
IVF is done in 3 stages: Stimulation, Egg retrieval, and Embryo Transfer.
For this first stage, the stimulation phase, I would be using medications that would stimulate my ovaries into producing lots of follicles, which would house eggs to be retrieved. The medications were self-administered injections in the abdomen every morning and night. The medications used were identical vials containing hCG #1 (to be taken daily) and hCG #2 (to be used only on the last day of stimulation), Gonal-F, Cetrotide, and an oral medication, Medrol. My blood was tested every other day for the 12-14 day stimulation period and I had daily ultrasounds to measure the follicles in my ovaries. When the follicles reached a size that would likely yield mature eggs, I was instructed to inject the “trigger shot”, hCG #2, which would tell my body to stop stimulating the follicles in my ovaries for preparation for ovulation (release of eggs), and egg retrieval in my case.
Everything went smoothly. The injections weren’t that bad. The needles were relatively small and thinly gauged and if I pinched my belly fat and injected on those parts I could barely even feel them. Sometimes the needle wouldn’t go in easy and it would leave a bruise, or bleed….but for the most part they were okay if I got a clean stick. Trey and I got into a good routine. He would set out the syringes, vials, alcohol wipes, etc in the morning and I would then come and measure out the medications before self-administering the injections. Then we would leave to go to the IVF center for blood work and ultrasound. It ended up being around 50-60 injections and sticks for the stimulation phase including the blood draws. The medications made me feel oddly good physically at first. I think I was feeling good because of the hormones, but mostly it was excitement that this might actually be happening for us soon (!).
We got to day 12 of the stimulation phase and were in a bit of a rush getting out of the door. Our routine was off that day and I had to get the syringes and vials prepared myself, then measure out the meds to be injected. We got to the appointment and after the ultrasound Dr. Chet told me the follicles were large enough in my ovaries to likely yield a lot of eggs. So he told me in the next day he would call to tell me the time (everything in this process is done on a timed schedule) to inject the trigger shot, hCG #2.
It was then when I realized my mistake. In our rush that morning, I had injected the wrong hCG medication. I had already given myself the trigger shot (hCG #2) unknowingly and my body was now preparing to ovulate. I had grabbed the wrong identical looking hCG vial from the refrigerator. Dr. Chet and the nurse told us that that meant I wouldn’t be able to go through the egg retrieval surgery this go around, but instead we would need to try to save this cycle by going home and having lots of intercourse over the next 24-48 hours. Intercourse. Because that’s what it was. Shirts on, scheduled, intercourse.
At the time I felt like a massive failure. On top of my body already failing me, I had just unknowingly sabotaged our IVF efforts. I was really hard on myself. We had gone all the way through the stimulation phase, I had injected up to 4 medications into my abdomen a day, and at the very last moment accidentally triggered my body to ovulate too soon. I was mad. I don’t make mistakes like this. I’m the girl who worked in genetics labs all throughout college and grad school and knew the precautions necessary to minimize errors. But I did make the mistake. The difference this time being it was with my own body and I was the experiment. There would be no egg retrieval, not this time. I did what any self-loathing person would do – went to Taco Bell drive-thru and screamed into a plate of Nachos Bel Grande in my car in the parking lot with the windows up. Trey was there, he screamed too (not at me, at the nachos).
In the end, like a lot of errors, it turned out to not be that big of a deal. One of our nurses put it in perspective for us – we ended up doing what a lot of couples do, which is try the stimulation meds first to see if that alone would work. If it did, we would save thousands of dollars on medications and procedures and not have to go through the IVF process. So we did what the doctor told us to do and went home to, in the words of Marvin Gaye, get it on.
At each stage of treatment for infertility, you think you’re getting closer to actually getting pregnant, so naturally you get kinda excited. I remember the first few times I used an ovulation predictor kit I thought “alright, it’s really going to happen”. Then with Clomid, I thought “this is going to work!”. Then with the months combining Clomid + IUIs I kept thinking “this time it’ll happen”. And now with the injectable stimulation drugs and knowing my body had the perfect mix of medications to put my hormones levels in the perfect place, I found myself again thinking – “oh man, soon!”.
But then the pregnancy test came back negative two weeks later. It was a big blow. In some ways it was good affirmation that IVF was the route we needed to be going down, but it was also a set back because I was again – not pregnant. After 30+ months of negative pregnancy tests over the course of close to 3 years, that excitement I felt finally went away. I didn’t want it to, but it was like I didn’t have a choice in the matter anymore. I couldn’t bring myself to get my spirits up again because I didn’t want another monumental crash afterwards. In it’s place came a dark, callousness. I felt a big part of me change in the months that followed.
Dr. Chet told us my body needed time to rest and let things go back to normal before we could try again with the stimulation drugs. If you use stimulation drugs too frequently, it can lead to cysts and excess fluid in your abdomen. Coming down off the drugs was hard, worse than Clomid. I had headaches and mood swings. I had put work on hold at this point and found it hard to find the motivation to get out of bed. I wasn’t feeling much like myself. I told Dr. Chet how I was feeling and he referred me to a therapist who had been through IVF herself. I started meeting with her once a week. I was emotionally exhausted in a way I had never been before. I stopped going out and doing things with friends. I’ve always been introverted, but this took it to a new level. I wasn’t leaving the house or talking to anyone. I’ve never been the type to look to others for help. I’ve talked about my childhood here before some, and… self-reliance was something I learned from a young age. I didn’t know how to seek support from others because I had never really been in a situation where I felt like I couldn’t handle it on my own. I always dealt with things myself or with Trey. I didn’t know how to write about it here. I definitely didn’t want it to look like I was writing about it for the wrong reasons. So, I took some time to devote to therapy and swimming and getting myself in a better place to start over with treatment.
When it came time to decide whether or not we were going to try again with IVF this year (2016), I had mixed emotions. We had come so far in the past few years, and it felt like we were getting closer, but I didn’t want to go through another let down if it didn’t work out. It was early November, 2016. The therapy had helped some, I was feeling better physically, and was starting to feel like I was getting back to being myself. I had told myself I had one last treatment in me for this year and then I was going to take a break and travel if it didn’t work out. I imagined laying on a beach somewhere, or renting a loft in Mexico City to write for a few weeks.
Trey asked what I wanted to do. He told me it was my body and there was no pressure. Trey is the best partner on the planet for me. Throughout all of this, and everything to come, he would never miss an appointment, blood draw, or ultrasound. He also is really funny and knows how to make any situation lighter, like making origami cranes for me while I’m getting my blood drawn.
I thought about it for a little while, then looked over at him and said confidently, “Yes. Let’s try this again”.
There I sat in my OBGYN’s office. Assless paper robe on, legs in stirrups, vagina mural on the wall next to me. My eyes searched for patterns in the drop tile ceiling above me, trying to pretend someone’s face wasn’t in my vagina. I broke the silence, effortlessly segueing from our small talk about the rain we were having, to launching full-on into how I had basically been standing on my head for the last year trying to fornicate a love child with my boyfriend and thought it would have happened by now. I sat up on my elbows to see her reaction. We stared at each other. I hadn’t told anyone at that point that I was considering pregnancy. I was young by California standards. 28 in the Bay Area is hosting your first dinner party, staying above a 4 star Uber rating, and finally getting into the swing of a vitamin regime. She was cool about it. I could tell by her nose ring and avante-garde bangs that we’d probably be friends if she didn’t know my cervix so intimately. She gave me some good advice: use an ovulation predictor kit, do some yoga, and relax. I went home and relayed the pep talk to Trey: it’ll happen, don’t stress. I ordered some predictor kits off Amazon and started using them.
The conversation never really happened. It wasn’t like we allotted a time and place in our schedules to sit down and talk babies. It was late, we were two bloody marys deep on a plane back from Barcelona, writing back and forth on the notes app on my phone to not disturb the person next to us. A young French couple around our age sat across the aisle from us, cute dark-haired baby sprawled across both their laps sleeping. The woman was perfectly undone, with that kind of French girl je nuis se quoi that American girls write books about. The guy had long hair, a five o clock shadow and tattoos. I took out my phone and wrote:
That was it, that was when we decided sometime in our near future we wanted to combine powers and create a gourd sized suspiciously alien looking miniature humanoid to raise together. And it was fun, really fun. It’s like all of a sudden you’ve got all this intent behind everything you do. Everything is electric. What gusto! Every night is a performance! Encore that shit, we’re prevailing our species here. We’d time our travels to sync up with ovulation so we were basically going on sex trips. Which sounds as psychedelically erotic as it was back then. It was the Summer of Love. Maybe we’d have some story to tell our kid about how they came to be along the Yucatan Peninsula somewhere, or on the beach in Costa Rica, or in that artist’s loft in Ravello, Italy overlooking the Tyrrhenian sea. Those were good times. The future was an exciting unknown and we were just along for the ride. Whatever happened, happened….like everything had in our lives leading up to that point.
8 months later I was back in my OBGYN’s office staring at the same drop tile ceiling again. This time it was for an IUI, a procedure where they insert sperm into your uterus via a thin catheter. I had been put on Clomid, a fertility medication that stimulates follicles in your ovaries to produce a “super” ovulation. Really it’s a bitch drug that makes you feel like crying into your bowl of oatmeal while simultaneously wanting to throw a chair at someone’s head.
The following is a list of things that made me emotional while on Clomid:
1. Seeing a photo of a spider nebula from the hubble space telescope
2. Thinking there was a leftover bean and cheese burrito in the fridge when there wasn’t
4. Cutting my bangs too short
5. Missing the train and somehow forgetting another one comes in 15 minutes
She cranked the speculum, clamped my cervix open, and inserted the catheter into my uterus. Catheters are not your friends. They are those bitches who act like your friends but really have it out for you. A few minutes later, she took her gloves off. “There.” she said confidently, signaling to me that I could put my legs down. “Hopefully I just got you pregnant”. I went home feeling like a new woman. This was it, I thought.
It wasn’t. After a few months on Clomid and failed IUIs, my OBGYN referred me to an IVF doctor. I had now officially graduated from the minor leagues of infertility to the major leagues and needed a more experienced coach: a Russian infertility specialist doctor in his 70s who we’ll call Dr. Chet for the sake of anonymity and also because his name is really hard to pronounce.
And that’s when it all began…my experience with IVF treatment.
(I’m posting my writings after having gone through 8 months of treatments and 3 years of infertility. These are the posts I wrote while going through it. I will continue to post them until I work up to present day).
Maybe that was a lot, that last post. One of my best friends told me over a string of text messages from the other side of the country that it was. Sorry Jess.
But I’m not sorry. Not really. It’s how I felt; feel. It’s how I feel. I was going to write an abbreviated, candied version of what the last year going through IVF has been like, but it felt wrong to trivialize it. I thought maybe I’d wait until it was all over and I was pregnant (hopefully) and could write about the whole thing from a bigger-picture perspective that was more optimistic. But that didn’t feel right either. There’s something about detailing the process that is cathartic. And maybe, selfishly, I needed that.
So instead of writing the equivalent of a passing conversation you’d have with someone you hadn’t seen in a while in line at the grocery store, I thought I would instead sit down and write about it as though you and I (whoever reads this) were talking over a macchiato and almond-chocolate croissant in a cafe somewhere in the city instead. Tell me if it gets weird.
I guess I should start with some backstory. I’ve always wanted to be a mother. Ever since this little kid Jake hijacked my heart and there was nothing I could really do about it. At the time I was in college working afternoons at a preschool and he had just transitioned from the three year old class to the four year old classroom where I worked. He was sweet and infectiously happy and had these kaleidoscope blue-gray eyes. He would scout the playground for beetles during recess and when he found one, he’d cup it in his hands delicately and bring it to me like he’d found buried treasure.
It was his first day in our class and the school day was coming to an end. It was time for everyone to get ready to go home. He took his jacket and little back pack out of his cubby and put them on. One by one the kids’ moms and dads arrived to pick them up until it was just Jake left. I sat with him, legs criss-crossed on the alphabet rug, and told him we could play a game while we waited. He rummaged through the toy box and came back with two dinosaurs – a big brontosaurus and a little raptor. He handed me the big one and kept the small one for himself.
“Let’s play dinosaurs”, he said. “I’m not sure I know how to play dinosaurs”, I admitted. “It’s easy, I’ll show you.” he reassured me, taking the dinosaurs into his hands. “Ok, you be the mama and I’ll be the baby”, he said to me.
He moved from the rug to my lap. In front of me, he made the dinosaurs talk and dance in the air. I didn’t think much of it at the time. Kids like to play games like that. After twenty minutes or so, his dad came in – out of breath, rushing, apologizing for being late. I could tell by the way he said it that it wasn’t the first time this had happened. I told him it was no worries, that Jake was great and I didn’t mind. After they left, I was picking up the dinosaurs to put them back in the toy box when the person cleaning the floors came in.
“He’s a good kid”, she said smiling. I turned and looked at her. “His dad’s always late, he works 45 minutes away. No mom either, she died.”
I thought back to the dinosaurs. I learned later that Jake’s mom had been diagnosed with late stage cervical cancer while pregnant with Jake and refused chemo to save him. She died when he was just 18 months old. Over the next two years, I scheduled my classes around spending afternoons in the preschool classroom. I started driving him home so his dad didn’t have to rush. That led to being his nanny while also juggling school and two other night jobs. We would swing on swings in the park, I’d take him to karate class and give him the “thumbs up” on the sidelines, and on his birthday we’d go to the museum downtown that had the giant T-rex skeleton. When I finished my last semester of college and left for San Francisco, I remember leaving Jake’s house for the last time in my old Honda civic. His little hands waving at me from the end of the drive way saying “goodbye”. His dad and his new girlfriend (now wife) standing behind him. I drove away that night thinking “one day I will have a Jake of my own”. One day I’ll be the mama dinosaur.
That’s why all this is hard. It’s hard because it’s something I’ve, we’ve, wanted for a long time now and at the moment seems so far away. One day there will be a little human, but for now he or she is just an idea, a thought, a distant daydream we have to keep reminding ourselves isn’t a reality. Not yet.
2016 was hard. We lost David Bowie, Donald Trump was elected president of the free world, and the only princess I ever related to died last week.
2016 got personal. After three years of “giving er’ all she’s got” (unapologetic Star Trek euphemism), we decided to undergo IVF. Little did we know the months that would follow were to be met with one massive failure after another. My abdomen, arms and hips are bruised from 100+ self-administered injections, my insides flooded with hormones that scrambled my brain. I’ve felt lonely, directionless, depressed, angry and then I stopped feeling anything at all. Of all the emotions to feel, numbness is the most disorienting. The absence of feeling. Feeling feelings is kind of all I’ve ever really been good at.
I did make some new friends. A russian fertility doctor in his 70s, a nurse I’m on texting-basis with, a middle aged french therapist, and a pregnant dog I fostered from a shelter that was going through a shitty female situation all her own.
In a slightly masochistic way I thought at first ‘huh, maybe this is the inspiration I’ve been looking for. I’ll write about it. I’ll make this into something’. I mean, some of the best stories are born out of tragedy.
“girl, 30, seeks to procreate with love partner, fails miserably”.
You know, a quirky off-beat love story about two people desperately seeking spawn.
But that was before the emotional asteroid hit and left a crater of psychological ineptitude in my brain, a hemispheric wasteland where creative thought used to live. That was before the familiar voice in my head, the one that’s always present, narrating the world around me in a young Julie Andrews-like voice went silent. And it’s hard to write without her.
I considered giving up. Fuck it, fuck all of it. I don’t need the uterine distress of birthing a turkey-sized homosapien and apparently the universe feels the same. But you can’t run from everything in life. It’s a sick loop, you just end up back where you started eventually.
2016 was the year I hated. I am different from it. And maybe it’ll all turn out to be a good thing eventually, but right now it feels like I’ve spent the past year circling the drain. So here’s to a new year, to the start of another trip around the sun, and to leaving 2016 behind. It will be good.