Skipping Christmas

Truth be told, I don’t feel like writing.  But then I got a comment from a sweet blog-friend and realized some of the ladies in cyberspace might actually want an update, so I decided to oblige.  Maybe you don’t care, and that’s okay too.

We came home from Denver in the wee hours–some time in between the Red Sox winning the World Series (boo!) and Halloween, with its tiny people in costumes on my doorstep.  It was not a charmed trip.  There were the dumb things, like Obama’s visit to Boston delaying our flight home such that we barely made our connector into JFK (long story involving certain Jet Blue employees not knowing ass from elbow and having to go through security twice while literally jogging with luggage from gate to gate) and the fact that the weather was sunny and warm on all the days we were tethered to Denver for poking and prodding but rainy and cold on the days we were free to explore, which put the kibosh on any hopes of hiking in the mountains and left us bored, joining the AARP crowd for two midday matinees.  (By the way, I highly recommend Captain Phillips–in the same category as Argo in its capacity to be terrifying even though you know how it ends because it really happened.)

And then there were more significant disappointments like the fact that this cycle was my worst response on record, uncharacteristically lame, stupid ovaries, fucking underachievement has reached new heights.  The hilarity of this is that I have changed medication protocol every time in attempts 1-5 and I always get the same 7 embryos no matter what I do.  Okay, well technically I got 7, 8, 7, 6, and 7, but you get my point, right?  Not much variation despite all the doctors’ plans and promises.  This attempt, round 6, was the first time I have ever done the same protocol twice and just 2 measly months apart–one would expect the response to be the same, no?  Pshhh, please, don’t be so naive, my friend!  I got 3.  I know.  I was shocked too.  I’m tempted to do a cost-benefit analysis by tallying the medical fees, travel expenses, lost wages and sick days and some quantifiable value placed on the stress of organizing and executing an out-of-town cycle, but I won’t because then I will definitely cry again.  I got 3.

I knew it was going badly when I went in for local monitoring the Wednesday before last–only 3 measurable, one on the right, 2 on the left, nothing much in the “less than 10” category except some really tiny ones that I knew wouldn’t grow.  I called nurse H and she was all, “We can’t really trust the scans at other clinics because…yadda yadda yadda…and we really wouldn’t recommend cancellation this early on, so the best thing for you to do is to come out here and let us take a look.”  So I did, and it was still bad when I got there Friday morning.  Irony that didn’t escape me: when I did the first round with them, the stupid NP at the local clinic told me I only had 2 antral follicles and I got really upset, fearing this very thing, but that cycle was a smash success (in my book).  This time, my AFC looked totally fine, but most of those little suckers failed to grow.  Failed.  I feel so fucking defective.

I met with Dr. Schoolcraft later than morning, and honestly, he was never more human than in that moment.  B calls him a Vulcan because he has zero finesse with all those warm and gushy feelings (eww!) and he almost always makes me cry.  Not in front of him, no, never in front of him.  He’s not the right audience.  He said that if my “previous cycle had been, say, 2 years ago, we would blame this on a decline in fertility” but it was only 2 months ago and, based on that fact, this was probably “just a wonky cycle;” that I could cancel and try again, which would probably yield a better result, but that no one could guarantee that.  He said he was “on the fence” and that it might be best to “wait it out through the weekend” before making a decision.  We talked about my cycle history in which, regardless of total retrieved, I seem to consistently make the same 2 that have a chance to go to blast, and those 2 are probably the same vigorous growers I was poised to retrieve from this cycle.  He said I could cancel and cycle again or push forward but that either way I may “end up with the same net result…Let’s see what the bloods do,” and promised to keep an eye on things through the weekend so that I could make the ultimate decision with his input.  And finally, Dr. Spock (hmm, maybe that will be his new nickname) ended with, “I’m optimistic about your chances of taking home a live baby from all this.”  Whoah, what?  “Optimistic”???  He’s never said that.  CCRM is the clinic that nearly arm-wrestled (hyperbole, don’t want you thinking I was accosted by medical personnel) me into the psych eval for donor recipients on my ODWU.

So, of course, I found myself reasoning my way through a dilemma for which most of the deciding factors were totally uncertain, like July all over again!

Choice A: Cancel.  Fly home ASAP so I can get back to work on Monday.  Just kidding, everybody!  (Dogsitter, students, boss, etc.)  Do this all again in hopes of better results with no guarantee.

Choice B: Push on.  Retrieve however many stupid eggs I can, wake up the frosties, and bite the bullet with a significantly diminished sample size for CCS.  Sample size is important when you want closure–to feel like you tested enough blastocysts to gain assurance that if none were normal you’d probably never make anything normal and should just move on.

Choice C (B’s Plan): Don’t cancel.  Retrieve.  Freeze everything.  Cycle one last time so that we have a sample size we’re comfortable with.  If Dr. Spock’s whole theory about “net result” is accurate, then this will actually put us in a better position.  Money?  Oh yeah, it will cost a bunch of that.

I might add that while all of this was going on I had not slept in 36 hours, trying to reason with a brain in tatters in a time crunch.  I emailed my therapist (Is that inappropriate?) because I needed a rational person’s help.  When he called back he said, “What’s going to result in the least amount of regret?…Fuck money…It’s just one more shot.”  Later on that day nurse H called me and pushed my next monitoring appointment back from Saturday to Sunday, saying, “The doctor is not supporting cancellation” because the blood showed that my E2 had tripled in 2 days, an indicator of healthy eggs, scarce as they may have been.  That put B, Dr. Spock, and Vince all on the same side, so I let these men in my life make the decision for me: Choice C.  How out of character!

I monitored, braced myself for disappointing ultrasounds, retrieved, braced myself for the egg count and the fertilization report.  I tolerated the OR nurse who greeted me with, “Oh my goodness, you’re a baby!  How old are you??”  (That sort of thing, the emphasis on how “young” I am, always makes me feel more broken, more cheated, more abnormal.)  I talked to nurse H about plans for banking cycle #3, which will force us to skip a month since cycling right back into priming and stimulation would land retrieval right around Christmas, while the clinic is shut down for the holidays.  Truthfully, I’m really overwhelmed and exhausted by the whole prospect–the waiting (and worrying) in anticipation of a verdict, the inevitable attacks of egg donor fears, the need to take another public(ish) leave from work, the travel, the juggling of monitoring and bills and medication orders–but I’m swept along in the current of this river, and there is no easy way out.  There is nothing easy or guaranteed about any of the alternatives, like some of the “just adopt” novices might believe.

And all of this during the holidays, while dealing with my family?  Oh, hell no!  We’re skipping Christmas.  Yesterday I booked a room in suburban Pittsburgh.  Our San Francisco friends whom we visited in July will be out there for the holidays, and we are spending Christmas with them as our surrogate family this year–no drama, no baggage, no shopping or decorating or cooking or expense, no risk of pregnancy announcements striking too close to home.  We’re bringing the dog, driving west, keeping it simple.  And the weekend after New Year’s, we’re renting a ski house in Vermont with some friends as our gift to each other.  In sum, we’re taking back the desperately needed R & R that was so unfairly trampled by pregnancy loss #6 over the summer.

Wanted: escape and replenishment for the thread-bare and severely depleted infertile couple.
Universe, please cooperate…for fucking once.

21 thoughts on “Skipping Christmas

  1. It sucks when things don’t go as you have expected. It think it’s brilliant for you to plan for a Christmas that is going to be simple and without drama. Breaks are so important.


    • Breaks are a lifeline. And this whole thing has so empowered me to skip all the niceties and take care of myself. I would have been hard-pressed to find the courage to drop a bomb like this on family before all this. But they’ll be fine for one year, and this is what we need.


  2. Fuuuuuuuuuuck. I was of course wondering about you. I’m just so sorry. And mad at the universe. There is nothing left to be said other than I’m with you, thinking of you, supporting your every move. This from a woman who spent the entire morning wondering if she can ever be happy again—but here I am in the autumn sunshine, actually (against my better judgment) feeling a tad better. We have to trust the opinions of others, go with the Spocks, once we’re caught mid-stream—it’s crazy, but it seems like that is what we have to do. And then, if nothing works, I guess a natural breaking point will announce itself and tell us to stop moving in this particular direction. Whatever. I’m just another exhausted chic out here trying to make sense of these injustices and depletions. My husband treats war veterans. I think of them a lot. How some of them had longer terms of service than others. I sometimes feel like that—like I’m in the long term of service, weathering battle after battle. Maybe we are comrades in arms. I like your strong-woman decisions to go to Pittsburgh (my recent reprieve!) and Vermont. I have no idea how we’re gonna weather the holidays, and these clinics must have some idea how hard it is on women when they get caught in a bad situation and the holidays come along in the middle of it. But one thing is shining bright for me in your post—Does this make you feel hopeful: “the blood showed that my E2 had tripled in 2 days, an indicator of healthy eggs, scarce as they may have been.” ? Maybe those 3 are great quality? Darlin, take good care of yourself, TLC all the way. xo


    • I thought about the Pittsburgh thing–just another one of those weird parallels I’ve noticed with you and me. This whole thing really is a crazy train, and I have been following and thinking about you, but it’s all just so sad and unfair and there’s nothing to say. Shit. I wish words were enough; I have those in spades. It’s answers and solutions I’m missing. I have to believe that you and me, we’re good people, and we’re strong, with a proven and formidable tenacity. This has to work out in the end, right? But like you, it’s just a question of how much more unwarranted suffering. Know that I have shed many bonafide tears reading your updates, and I am pulling for you as hard as you are pulling for me.


      • I so, so, so needed to hear this right now. I just received the most hateful, hurtful, judgmental comment on my blog from a woman who read most of it recently and harshly judges almost everything about me and my decisions, and I can’t shake the feeling that untold countless people out there are hating on me, when I am at my most vulnerable. I know that is not really true, but I just feel so violated right now and shaky. Has this happened to you yet? Anyway. Let’s keep pulling. Must get better for both of us. Thank you for your tears, your support. I will follow your story through to its happy ending, which is just a matter of time, I hope not too much more time. xo


        • My husband always says: “If only closed minds came with closed mouths.” People too often inhabit that dangerous chemistry of ignorance-meets-certainty, painfully illustrated in imprudent moments when I stupidly read the comments underneath NY Times articles on infertility and IVF. No one has posted anything like that on my blog…yet. I’m going to assume that it’s along the lines of what a lot of blissfully shielded fertile people say about donor eggs–you’re playing God, you’re engineering your child, the needy orphans of the world are the sole province of the infertile, etc. They’re idiots who are fortunate enough to have no idea what the fuck they’re talking about. You received your “star” with such unrestrained and boundless love that I felt, at times, like a jerk for so stubbornly still trying with my own eggs. It has been humbling to watch you. If the coward with the keyboard fails to see that, she’s blind and deserves our pity–how sad to live within the confines of such a base and narrow mind.


          • God, thank you for validating. How can people be so mean to others who are so obviously suffering? It would seem almost pathological…but the commenter says she has been through something infertility-related (unclear what). She calls me selfish, self-indulgent, says that I am feigning self-awareness and altruism while being blind, that I am selfishing subjecting myself to masochistic treatments despite the obviousness of the situation, that I pander to my readers because I want to write a book–she has no idea how scared I am to write *anything* to a wider readership specifically because of bullying, mean-spirited, judgmental, assumptive readers like her! ( I often think when it comes down to it I simply won’t have the guts.) She says I could have adopted or chosen to be child-free and have caused stress in my family, that I expect people to venerate and pity me…it is hard to imagine where this is all coming from, but you’ve helped me imagine it, a base and narrow mind, yes. Thank you for your kind words as always. I know you’re going through your own stuff right now, so thanks for taking the time to respond when I needed a friend. So mad that this shook me so.


  3. I’m spending Thanksgiving with friends to avoid family drama. I am genuinely looking forward to it, for the first time in years. Optimistic Dr. Spock sounds good! I can’t believe the nurse called you “a baby”.. I know she probably meant it kindly, like you have plenty of time or something, but it just sounds dismissive to me. Maybe I just have a chip on my shoulder. I think Plan C was the best, too. I’m hoping you get some excellent results!


    • “Dismissive,” yes, totally the perfect word. It’s just a big eyeroll, like, “Yes, I’m a big freak. Everybody else my age gets pregnant without this much help. Thanks for the reminder.”


  4. I just dont know about plan C… maybe it’s because I just pulled the plug on a cycle but not every cycle resets the same and while it could be a ‘wonky” one you’ve been pretty solid so far. Hard to say just push through so you can do another one just behind but you have my complete support for whatever you opt for!!! I’m not looking forward to the back to back cycles of 2 and 3. I keep hoping that this cycle will just be so great that we wont even consider another. I am all for skipping Xmas! Although Pittsburg wouldnt be too high on the list but I love Cure and Casbah if you land in town.

    Hope that the few caviar you have are really good ones! I know they always say it just takes one but I know I need much better odds. Yeah IVF – taking the fun out of procreation.


    • Well, we’re not going to Pittsburgh for the scenery so much as the company: amazing friends, better than the best beach in Maui. And as far as Plan C, I will get the month off in November, so maybe that medication vacation will help. They want me to do the protocol you’re doing when I cycle again, which is a little scary to me. You’ll have to let me know how it goes. I’ll be watching and rooting!


      • I’m very thrilled that you’ve got such great support in Pittsburg (good thing I dont love the beaches in Maui 🙂 Any break from meds I think is another crazy good thing. So far so good on this protocol. It’s been better than the other two but we’ll get to see how I feel this time next week. Wish it all happened faster with positive results!! Thanks for the support – it means the world!


  5. Thank you for writing ❤ Your Christmas plans sound perfect to me, certainly a wise decision. I also tend to think that the fewer might actually mean the better. Lots of hugs, hoping for the best for you!


    • Thank you, that’s super flattering coming from such an impressive writer. I did this for the Liebster a few weeks back (post turned private to avoid outing myself with personal details), so I might only respond in a pared down version. I hope that’s okay.


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  8. I’m also a CCRM patient of Dr. Spock’s 😉 and am a 7 egger too. Everything you write (so nicely I must add) rings home with me.


    • Funny, I was just thinking of that October cycle. My sweet babe came from that retrieval. We still have another ‘normal’ blast left from the 3 eggs that were retrieved that time, a girl, petrified to transfer her for fear that she may have the same problem :/


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