Lights Will Guide You Home

The doctor’s office called R at noon. We debated whether she should conference me in to listen the voicemail together on her lunch break, but we were each too afraid to get bad news alone. She decided to leave work early so we could finally end the agonizing wait. At four pm we laid down on our bed, held hands, and pushed the voicemail button. The nurse’s tone was neutral. Professional. My heart sank. And then she said,

“Congratulations you are pregnant.”

I began sobbing. Sobbing so hard and for so long that R feared I was actually unhappy about the news. She shook me and said, “Please tell me you are happy about this?!” I managed to utter a garbled response, and continued sobbing.

Our long struggle is over.

I feel so much gratitude. I am so humbled by the scores of people who have prayed for us, hoped for us. Earlier this month I had a visual reminder of all the prayers and good wishes when my mother spilled an entire bowl of prayer beads on the living room floor.  When I laughed about the ridiculous sight of three adults crawling around fetching hundreds of tiny beads she said, “This is how many prayers are being said for you right now.”

Thank you thank you thank you. Oh my goodness thank you. I’m so grateful.

My sweet Bean(s), I can’t wait to meet you. Until then, you are held in the light of so many wonderful people. We just can’t wait for you to arrive.

Advertisements

How to Eat a Word Sandwich

As Dr. A was closing up shop after the embryo transfer he peered over his minute square glasses and said,

“Now, all my patients tell me the next two weeks are completely miserable. The best advice I can give you is to try to keep yourselves busy, but not too busy (that was for R). Do your best to avoid obsessing…am I pregnant am I not? Did it work…did it not? Try to just think positively, but not obsessively.”

I practically rolled my eyes and simultaneously blew the dust of my fingertips, all casual like. This dude obviously had no clue what freaking pros we are at managing the two week wait. We’ve only done this about a hundred 17 times over the last three years. Get real!

Cue Tuesday morning. I woke up in a cold sweat, burdened by a sinking feeling. My old friends Fear and Doubt were nipping at my heels. I tried to ignore them. They bit harder. My mom texted me just as I was starting to panic. She asked how things were going and I admitted my steely confidence had evaporated and I wanted it back. I stared at the photo of our two perfect embryos, and a few hours later I had recovered my hope. Mom also sent me a link to an article about creating a visioning board, and I have some ideas for making something similar. I think the project will keep me busy and hopeful (Doctor’s orders!) and give me something tangible to hold on to. But in the mean time, I’m eating a big ol’ word sandwich. And that brings me around to today’s subject: eating your words.

Let me tell you, I am becoming a P-R-O at eating my words. When we first started this whole adventure, some of our friends referred us to their lesbian friends who’d gotten pregnant by various means. One of them was a woman in my office, Rebecca, who was kind enough to meet us for lunch one day at a local vegan cafe. I still remember sitting there, listening to her story about trying to conceive for six years, and ultimately succeeding through IVF. I’m sure I had a Judgey McJudgerson look on my face, because she said

“You know, we can judge women for spending money on IVF, but I actually believe it should be covered by insurance.  We live in a society where it is often difficult for women to bear children and launch successful careers, and they need to do both at roughly the same time. Until we value the role of women as mothers and workers, we’re all sort of complicit in the role that reproductive medicine plays in our society and it shouldn’t be a burden that individual families have to bear.”

I considered her point, but didn’t agree with it. When we left I told R that Rebecca’s advocacy for insurance coverage for IVF was ludicrous, and I declared that I would never undergo invitro fertilization. Never!

And here we are, friends, entering week two of the two week wait after our first (and hopefully last) round of IVF. In the three years since our vegan lunch with Rebecca I’ve learned a great deal about the difficult choices women (and men) have to make as they try to create a family. I’ve learned that I can never know the full extent of another person’s suffering, nor how it shaped their journey to parenthood. Each family walks its own path and manages the twists and turns as it sees fit, and could use a relief station instead of judgement.

So yeah, Dr. A’s other patients are correct–the two week wait post IVF is HARD. Turns out that if I’m a pro at anything, it’s eating my words. My advice? When forced to eat a word sandwich, try to smile – you’ll need the room.

Prime Time

My favorite number is 37.  I like that it’s a prime number comprised of two prime numbers. So what better day for our transfer than 3.7.13 – the trifecta of prime numbers?

We arrived at the clinic and sat nervously in the waiting room, where the other (hetero) couples smiled politely and tried not to stare. The surgical assistant, Patty, called us back and instructed R to put on a hospital gown, hair cover, and shoe covers. She started to hand me one of the pre-sorted stacks of surgical scrubs, hair and shoe covers and realized all the stacks were size 3XL. Guess they don’t have very many lesbian couples coming through! Patty went to the staff changing room and grabbed a small set of scrubs for me, and I tugged them on while R stuffed all our belongings in locker number 3.

Lucky number 3

Lucky number 3

Once we were dressed in sterile clothes, Patty led us into the procedure room and reviewed the process with us. After a few minutes Dr. A came in and made a joke about loading all six embryos into the catheter for transfer. I told him I’d already called TLC to discuss the plans for our reality show’s pilot episode. We shared a giggle and then he opened a little window into the lab and read off R’s date of birth and social security number. In return he received a printed photo of the two highest quality embryos, who looked just perfect to me.

We chatted about the remaining embryos, which may or may not survive until Monday when they could be frozen and stored for future use. While we’d love to have a spare or two, we were just thrilled to have two really strong looking embryos for today’s transfer. After Dr. A answered all our questions he knocked on the little window and a technician reached through it with a long thin catheter. Dr. A threaded the catheter into R’s uterus and gently pushed the two embryos out. It all went so smoothly that we had to be told (twice) the procedure was complete.

Patty and Dr. A left us in the room for about 20 minutes, during which time we congratulated each other and looked forward to two weeks of relatively little medical intervention. We smiled and hugged and marveled at the photo of our strong little Beans. We’ve done everything we can do. Now it’s their turn to work and our turn to rest.

Two Angels

I’m live blogging again today folks. It’s 9:42 and Dr. A said to expect his call before 10.  I’m trying to keep calm, though the coffee may not have been helpful in my pursuit of tranquility. I’m revisiting A Blessing for Waitingand breathing deeply. I’m also taking comfort in this photo of my great grandmother, Hazel.

Great Grandmother, Hazel

 Hazel

The photo is on my side of the bed in my aunt’s guest room. Just in front of it is an angel figurine that somehow managed to survive the Christmas decor round up. In her arms are six apples.

 

Two Angels

Two Angels

Last night I interpreted the whole scene as a signal that grandmother Hazel is tending our embryos until we can. And when the doctor’s office finally called at 9:57 am, we learned we have six embryos growing. I’ll entrust them to grandmother for safe keeping.

Before and After

I’m watching R sleep comfortably in the recovery room, wrapped in the baby blanket her maternal grandmother made for her when she was born. The blanket traveled all the way to Ohio, along with two small pebbles we picked up on a beach somewhere long ago. While R was in the operating room I held onto the pebbles and said my prayers.

Dr. A retrieved 11 follicles, gave me a reassuring arm squeeze, and whisked them off to the laboratory where our KD’s sperm is thawing from a deep freeze. And with that folks,  it’s all out of our hands. I’m relieved to know that our part of the work is over. Rather, the hardest part is over; while we still have a few meds to remember each day it will be a cake walk from here to the 21st.

So I’m sitting in the dark, a little more free to breathe deeply, and happily listening to R’s heart beating in perfect synchrony with that of the lady in the next bed. Every now and then they break rank, but for the most part, they mark time together.

It’s nice to breathe again. Our trip here was a little harrowing. The “tinker toy” (my aunt’s nickname for the tiny red Fiat we rented) was covered in ice this morning, and it idled the entire way to the clinic. At one point I thought it was starting to smoke. I wasn’t sure we would make it here today, between the malfunctioning car and R’s attempt at reading directions through a thick fog of valium. If we have to do this again,  R’s support person is going to need a support person!

It’s been a bittersweet week. In midst of our hope and anticipation we lost R’s grandmother, Ruth. In many ways R lost her grandmother years ago when dementia stole away with the chain smoking, coffee drinking woman who taught her to play penny poker at the kitchen table. Many of our family members pondered how Ruth, who loved dancing to big band music, gardening and drinking margaritas, left this world just as our children are about to enter it. I like to think of them, mingling and laughing, in that place where we are before and after we are here.

Once, Twice, Three Times a Lady

The start of this morning’s email exchange with R went something like this:

Hey, Katie just called and your E2 level is great (656)! That’s about three times the upper limit of normal estrogen levels, so you’re ‘Once, twice, three times a lady!’

I’m waiting to hear if she was as amused as I was.

So far things are going pretty smoothly. It turns out that having a few weeks off from making major life decisions is really rad. I’d almost forgotten what that is like. I didn’t even really realize the toll it was taking until yesterday, when I told a friend that it feels like I’ve been making major decisions every single month for nearly three years. She pointed out that I have been making major decisions every month for the last three years, and that is really stressful.

I like to think that all this is teaching us something, and maybe some day I’ll compile a list of lessons learned and post it here. Here’s a preview: the first lesson is How to eat a word sandwich.  Then What not to read and Things to know before meeting your sperm dealer: a guide for lesbians.

Alas the dissertation beckons, so I hope you’ll be happy with this pithy report. Just wanted to let you know that it’s day 26 and we’re getting on pretty well. We are busily preparing for our big trip, which begins at the crack of Wednesday. Cross your fingers!

For THIS child I have prayed.

Yesterday our shipment of medications arrived, along with our multicyle plan contract and some educational DVDs about how to inject all the fertility drugs. Between the giant box of meds and the receipt for the IVF payment, I was more than a little overwhelmed. And strangely, my anxiety was less about whether or not this plan will work, and more about whether we’ll be glad we went to all this trouble.

Now, everyone in the parenting club says it’s amazing and totally worth the sleep deprivation, the poop, the sore nipples and all that jazz. But every now and again I wonder if they aren’t just lying to trick us into buying a membership and getting their numbers up. You know, some kind of sick parenting schadenfreude.

I wonder how the decision to relentlessly pursue parenting will affect my life, my marriage, my future happiness. I worry about having buyer’s remorse and wanting to revoke my membership. As much as I know I should have no expectations of my children or of parenting more generally, I do have these vague visions of what life with kids will be like.  I envision us camping, hiking, taking trips, working on homework, puzzling over science fair projects, going to the library, eating gluten-free, no-sugar-added cupcakes. (JK on the last point.) But our child(ren) might hate all those things, or more importantly, they may be unable to do them.

This week I read about how R’s age and our use of ART increases our risk of having a child with a chromosomal abnormality or cerebral palsy or a few other birth anomalies. And yesterday I was struck with a cold panic over all the things that could go wrong after R conceives on top of my baseline panic over all the things that could go wrong beforehand.  I wondered if we’re ready to accept any outcome, because that seems like an important prerequisite to parenting. There’s no guarantee that after all this money and effort spent we’ll walk away with a healthy, happy child. And even if we do, s/he may still turn out to be a royal pain in the ass. I guess it’s natural to get cold feet when you have to work so hard to make something happen. It’s probably normal to constantly reevaluate your motives, your desires, your goals as you inch further and further toward complete insanity to achieve them. But it’s a little unsettling.

This morning I hopped on a TTC forum to check on how a friend was doing after her egg retrieval today. I noticed that one of the other women posted under the subject line “1 Samuel 1:27.” It was a fitting passage for me to stumble upon today, after chewing on my anxieties for a few days. The verse says:

I prayed for this child, and the Lord has granted me what I asked of him.

You’d be within your rights to suspect I find comfort in this passage because it suggests the good Lord is going to grant my wish. But truthfully, and astonishingly, when I read the passage I automatically placed the emphasis on the word “this.”

I prayed for this child, and the Lord has granted me what I asked of him.

And I feel sure that when I finally meet my child, I will know s/he is the exactly the one that I prayed for, and the one who belongs with me.