Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Dream Bleeder

All weekend, my breast pain continued, leaving me achy and smug.  The more my boobs hurt, the more cocky I got about being pregnant.  A big fan of Greek mythology, I have no doubt that hubris is real: if you get cocky, the gods will punish you.  Fly too close to the sun and your wax wings will melt and you will crash down into the sea like a dumbass.  And, listen, guys, I’m a poor swimmer.

When the breast pain mellowed early this week, I saw the sea up close.  We spent Monday night at the casinos, losing money and watching TV from a giant bathtub.  I woke up Tuesday in the aftermath of a nightmare.  In the dream, I looked down and saw blood all across my legs, coming from under my skirt.  It was bright red and vivid and devastating.

I’m no better with disappointment than with deep water.  If I get my period for real, I will crash down into a sea of tears—like a dumbass—and wish I’d never paid attention to my boobs.  Heather and I keep talking about “the universe,” debating whether it will consider this attempt a first time, since it’s my first insemination, and therefore find it ridiculous to allow me to get pregnant, or if it will take us as a couple (unlike the IRS) and consider this the 9th or 10th time, therefore meriting a boon from the gods. 

We’ve gone back and forth on testing.  I’m sick of the minute-by-minute anxiety—Did my left breast throb?  Was that an early PMS cramp?—but yesterday’s dream and diminished pain left me with such a nauseating sense of failure that I can’t imagine looking at a negative test a second sooner than I have to.  Heather, ever impatient when her own body was the vessel of all our hopes and fears, is now advocating that we wait to see if my period starts.  If it doesn’t by Saturday, then I should test, she says. 

Saturday is very busy in retail, and, since I know I’ll be miserable all day, I’ve decided, instead, to test on Friday morning.  Per an arrangement with my work bestie, I will call her if it’s a no, then take the day to marinate in my grief.  Lots and lots of junk food—cake with heavy frosting, French fries, more cake, cheese danishes, Oreos, McNuggets, hot dogs—and a massage and mindless TV.  Heather and I will snuggle.  She’ll tell me that it’s okay, that it’ll happen next time, and then I’ll sob myself to sleep.  Then I’ll wake up and eat more cake.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

My boobs hurt: eleven days post-insemination

Watch Animal Odd Couples on PBS. See more from Nature.
I am trying mightily not to psych myself out with pregnancy paranoia, but my bosom is trying mightily to remind me of what's possible.  It's adorable, but I'm wearing a sports bra while watching a PBS documentary about Animal Odd Couples (dog & deer friends, et al), and I don't much care for sports bras.  This should not be strenuous for anything but my tear glands.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Pedicures, ice skating, and secondhand smoke: fears and fantasies of imagined pregnancy

Heather keeps checking in: “Do you feel pregnant?”  And I’ve got nothing.  Some puzzling cramps from time to time, but not the overwhelming breast pain that I’m told is a hallmark of early pregnancy.  I do poke the girls from time to time, just to see, and I’m trying not to do it in public.

What’s ridiculous is that it’s only been about a week.  It feels like it’s been forever, and certainly the lifestyle thing seems like it’s taken over my existence.  I can barely remember a time when I wasn’t worried about the whole grain content in any baked good.  Just ten days’ worth of “maybe” leaves me with little room for reality of any kind, whether it’s getting a much-needed pedicure (What about the fumes?) or going ice-skating (What if I stumble and land directly on my uterus?).  What if Grayson is right about the profound danger of herbs and I’m slowly poisoning myself or the stuff that might be inside me. 

I’ve been trying to take a gentle approach to encouraging that stuff, not wanting to get too elaborate in case there’s nothing there.  Yesterday I laid my hands on my abdomen and closed my eyes, making up a song in my head to the tune of “Merrily We Roll Along”:

Exponentially divide and grow
Divide and grow
Divide and grow
Exponentially multiply
till you’re a full-grown fetus.

I’m tempted to test early, just so I’m not making up songs for nothing. 

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Cramps, cravings, and grumpiness

I’d like to say that I’m never grumpy and that my current attitude is a reflection of hormonal imbalance.  Alas, people are just annoying and I don’t have much patience with them. 

I can’t say that my cravings for Starburst are unusual, either, or that my desire to eat them isn’t regularly heightened by hostility towards my co-workers.  (I said I had plenty I liked yesterday, and I do, but there’s certainly a surfeit of irksome people around, too.)  I ate a few, even though they (Starburst, not co-workers) have no apparent relationship to the earth or nutrients or chi.  If anything, the Starburst probably absorbed and destroyed any chi that was available.  I think my body is probably a legacy of sugar and sugar substitutes, with a recent sprinkling of herbs and fruit on top. 

However, there’s no excuse for the crampy twinges taking place around my lady parts.  Heather high-fived me when I told her, although the cramps have become less and less charming for me.  Ouch.  Still, there’s a lot of romance in imagining that my body is aching as it supports a small new life.  That’s exactly what I signed up for, and I’m cool with it.  I just wish I was cooler with the candy part.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Meanies at work, twinges, and processed food

Two of my favorite work people—although there are a lot—have informed me that Eastern medicine is hokum.  One has cast aspersions on acupuncture and the other was aghast over the herbs.  “You’re not going to take them, are you??”  Um, yeah, I am.


Wednesday nights used to be high points for me: Heather would go out to dinner with friends, and I would eat junk food and watch junk TV without her watchful eye upon me.  It was terrific.  Now, even though I get the TV and couch to myself—I totally sit in Heather’s spot—I don’t get to indulge in McNuggets or cookies.  Tonight will be scrambled eggs with (organic) spinach, and maybe a dessert of (organic) cherries.  For breakfast this morning, on my boss’ dime, I had scrambled eggs with dry wheat toast.  Reader, I gave away my bacon.


Candace, the acupuncturist, told me to eat dark purple and red foods for now.  I envisioned grapes, but for some reason she also said eggs.  Maybe “red” is different in China.  Maybe eggs are different in China.  Maybe anti-acupuncture/sweet-potato-doubting Adam and herb-alarmist Grayson, in their everlasting nutritional wisdom, don’t even know about Chinese eggs. 


I’m pretty confident, though, that Candace’s instructions are not so open to interpretation that “keep avoiding processed foods” actually means “eat heavily-frosted cake.”  I’m also pretty confident that I’m pregnant.  Not because I have any reason to believe that I am, but because I’ve not been given any reason (other than, say, statistics) to believe I’m not.  Sunday, whilst eating some healthy (organic) cantaloupe, I paused for a moment, turned to the kitchen sink, and vomited up all the organicness.  This was a clear reminder that it is a legitimately bad idea to take prenatal vitamins on an empty stomach, but also a sweet moment of fantasy.  I plan to keep hold of that fantasy until the (adorably plump) lady bleeds.


Tuesday, July 23, 2013

East meets west: acupuncture, part II

This morning I had my second round of acupuncture, this time with the fertility lady, Candace.  She burned my tummy and gave me pills.

Okay, what she did was burn herbs on my tummy.  The process is called moxibustion, a procedure in Eastern medicine wherein dried mugwort (she showed me a baggie and it looked just like weed) is rolled up thin, then laid across certain pressure points and lit to attract or generate energy in that area.  In this case, Candace laid several around my abdomen, with the intention of drawing energy to my uterus.  (According to Wikipedia and the acupuncture site I linked above, sometimes this is used to turn babies in the breech position.  Wow.) 

It was pretty low-key, to be honest.  Candace had started with some light acupuncture, explaining that my pulses weren't in balance (and she checked both my wrists a lot).  She placed needles in my feet and ankles, then some behind my knees, some in my wrists, and one at the top of my head.  After a few minutes, she came back, taking out some needles and replacing some others.  Then she swiped some ointment on my abdomen, then laid out the rolls of mugwort.  I couldn't see all that well, but she had one little incense stick (or, that's how it looked) that she used to light the mugwort, and what looked like a hollowed-out cigar to snuff it out.  I felt heat, but nothing direct.

I'm not even sure what happened, only that I find it entirely believable that I'm short on qi/energy.  Apparently it is not normal when you're comfortable sleeping 12 hours a day.  I don't, but I could.  So, you know, I'm cool if Candace wants to burn stuff on my stomach if that moves some energy around. 

Candace packed me off with some herbs.  Eight pills, three times a day.  That sounds super-crazy, but the pills look like miniature malt balls and aren't much trouble to take-- counting them out is as bad as it gets.

I go back to Candace in two weeks.  By then, we'll know what's up.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

What now?

Honestly.  What do I do now?

My friend Emily asked me what I could do now the inseminations are done.  It's slow sometimes, she pointed out, even for straight, fertile couples to get pregnant; is there anything I do now to help it along?  To the best of my knowledge, the answer is no.

Last night, Heather and I lay in bed after work, visualizing the embryo (zygote?) burrowing into my warm, welcoming uterine lining.  I don't even know if it would be there yet.  Maybe the sperm are waiting in the fallopian tubes.  I don't know where they are, or if there's anything that might have formed, or where that is, so I'm just going with the uterine-lining theory.  Nuzzle, nuzzle, little embryo!  When I went to bed, I snuggled into the sheets, imagining the embryo snuggling into my womb the same way.

I've eaten the equivalent of two pineapples since the first insemination.  Tonight I guess I need to buy more.  Can the lady acupuncturist do anything?  It's worth hoping.  Meanwhile, I'm drinking water and organic green tea, and putting blankets over my midsection lest the embryo get chilly.  Now I just need to keep busy for two weeks.  Suggestions?

Friday, July 19, 2013

ICI #2: "It's like a pit of water!"

Yesterday was Day 13-- the first official day of ovulation and the second ICI.  (The theory goes that, since sperm can live in the body for quite some time, it's safe to inseminate before ovulation, especially since, at the latter end of ovulation, cervical mucus turns acidic and kills sperm.  Boo.)  Because ovulation had really kicked in, my os had widened, and suddenly the mucus went from a moderate accumulation to a flood.  Heather was caught between delight and horror: just because it's crucial to conception doesn't make it more glamorous.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Egg & dot & sperm

Last night was my first insemination.  It was amazing and bizarre.

Earlier in the week, I'd gone to the ob-gyn for a thumbs-up (granted) and to the acupuncturist for some puncturing (punctured), then spent $160 at Whole Foods in an organic haze.  The sperm tank was in our entryway (welcome, guests!), and I was surreptitiously checking my cervix on bathroom breaks.  I know that sounds dirty, but, jeez, there's never a great time for poking your own cervix.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Failures, forms, phone calls, and faxes

I don't care for telephones.  I answer them for a living, but my willingness to do so is predicated on the understanding that I will speak for ten seconds, listen for fifteen, then get the hell off the line.  Anything more than that is hurtful.

Last week, I called Dr. King's office, sat on hold for five minutes of "At XYZ Clinic, we believe every patient deserves a close, personal relationship with her doctor," etc.  When one of the scarce receptionists answered, I said, hey, is it okay if I have some sperm shipped to you?  And they said okay.  Meanwhile, I live-chatted with a rep at the sperm bank to check that the clinic was in their database; answer: nope.  So she faxed a form to the clinic.  I called the clinic, sat on hold for five minutes of "Make regular appointments with your doctor to maintain blah blah blah," and said to the time-shared receptionist, hey, can you see if this fax came through?  Then they sent me to Records.

Remember the Records lady in Dr. King's office?  I do.  I heard that kindly, creaky voice and I knew I was back in hell.  Fuck.  This is what happened afterwards, as I reported it to my work bestie:

1)  I spoke to the admin lady at my ob-gyn for the second time so she would send the form to the sperm bank, which for whatever reason needs a sign-off from a doctor even if the doctor isn't doing the procedure.  We clarified that I didn't expect the doctor to do the insemination.  Good.
2) Then I went to Heather's office to call the sperm bank and make the order.  Then the lady there said she needed a form from me, so I raced back to my desk to fill it out and electronically sign it.
3) Then I raced back to Heather's office to call them again... and the lady said they hadn't gotten the aforementioned form from the doctor's office.  I started crying and half hung up on the lady, who was trying to be nice.
4) I reported all this to Heather.  Heather reacted by cursing about how the doctor's office sucked and couldn't get it together and she didn't understand why we were using them.  I shut the door and raised my voice, telling her that it didn't matter how she felt about the doctor's office, since she wasn't the one calling them or even going there.  She told me she hated them, and I cut her off to repeat that every time she said it, I felt like she was reminding me that it was my fault that we were using that office and that, by extension, it was my fault that we were having these problems.  She said, no, she just hated the office.  I told her that it made things worse when she said that, and that all I wanted from her was to tell me she's sorry I'm stressed and that she hates it for me.  I cried a bunch more.
5) Since Heather had ordered from them before and I was losing my shit, she called the sperm bank and tried to order it under her own name... except that the doctor's office listed under her name is the clinic in fucking Nashville, and this particular sperm bank won't ship to our house-only to the doctor's office.  So that was a wash, and I was miserable.
6) I called the ob-gyn's office to talk to the admin lady about the form.  I got stuck in her voicemail and left a very tense message for her to check on the form shortly and to call me back.
7) She did not call me back.
8) I occupied myself with a Milky Way.

At lunch, I called the doctor's office again and got the lady on the phone.  She said, hey, no, I sent the form earlier and got a confirmation email from Spermy McSpermerson.  I felt bad for being so hostile, so I thanked her profusely.  Back to the store, called the sperm bank again.  The lady said, okay, I need xyz from you.  Got it.  Then she said, hey, we don't have your doctor's form.  I said, dude, no, I just spoke to my doctor's office and they got a confirmation e-mail from Spermy McSpermerson.  Oh.  So she put me back on hold and went to see Spermy McSpermerson to find out.  Okay, found it.  After all that shit, she offered me two shipping options, and I told her that we need the stuff Tuesday, so the economy option is fine.  Nope, she said: you'll have to pay extra for the overnight shipping because we stopped shipping half an hour ago.

Only bad things happen when phones are involved.  You have to hang up on nice people, you have to leave voicemail with your birthdate, and then you cry a lot.  Someday, I will live in a hole with only my laptop and Uncrustables.

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Day 5 of THE cycle.. or just a cycle

When you're tracking, you have a lot of opportunity to anticipate your period.  Friday was easy: I got fussy when I cooked dinner (an undelicious dish of salmon, asparagus, and whole-wheat noodles) and reminded Heather that I was due to start any day now.  Lo, Saturday morning, I was greeted with red, just in time to update the fertility monitor and to inspire profound self-doubt.

If this "pre-mester" of preparing my body is really important, than is trying to get pregnant after only a month of following its tenets going to be enough?  How many flaxseeds, or acupuncture sessions, does it take to make a difference?  Should I wait another month?  Or should I just go for it?  Heather, impressed that I've maintained self-control for over a week, is ready to make the move.

And, to be honest, there's a part of me that's still pretty cocky: I'm barely thirty, my cycle runs like clockwork, and that one time at the IVF clinic they saw a bunch of follicles.  Golden, right?  Except that I'm not convinced that anyone is golden.  Our previous experience demonstrated how little you know in advance about someone's fertility: outward signs might be great, and even a huge number of tests might look great, but sometimes there are other, buried issues that catch you off-guard.

Nonetheless, I'm doing my visualizations.  I'm imagining the follicles growing.  My uterine lining is developing into a thick, warm home for embryos.  Heather and I have picked a donor, and this is happening in a week.

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Day who-knows of the pre-pregnancy diet, wherein optimism is re-examined

I've been hewing pretty closely to this Making Babies plan.  The other night, I ate two plain-- unbuttered, unsalted-- cobs of corn, then ate a full third of a baked sweet potato before I officially went, "Eh," and gave it up.  I put butter and sugar on it, but it's still a weird root vegetable, and there's only so much I can do about that.  The next night, I made sweet potato oven fries, which were likewise unspectacular (especially in comparison to the afternoon's Independence Day diet of hot dogs and Ruffles).  After a breakfast of Cheerios with banana and a half-cup of green tea, I decided I was the most virtuous creature ever to set foot to earth.

Virtuous and brave, too: I made an appointment to see an acupuncturist.  This is less brave than it is the fulfillment of my modest yearnings for adventure combined with a blessedly absent fear of needles.  Lying on a table with a guy tapping tiny needles into my body seems, to be honest, a lot easier than eating kale.

The only trick to all this is that we thought Heather was going to be real easy to knock up, and it took two years for us to feel sure she wasn't.  Now I eat half a plum and am overcome with certainty that I'm mere weeks away from nourishing life in my womb.  It has to happen the first time to somebody, right?

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Day 1 Million of the Pre-Pregnancy Diet: Walnuts, Plums, and Parking

I've been reading a book about preparing your body for optimum fertility, and I kind of want to be a jerk about it-- "They demand so much!  It's absurd!  I have to give up gluten and dairy and all carbs!"-- but it's actually pretty reasonable.  There are guidelines for charting and eating and whatnot, but the authors say, "Well, listen, if it's too much or it stresses you out to track your temperature, skip it.  If you eat right 80% of the time, that's great; don't deprive yourself of everything."  And, really, eating watermelon and cantaloupe hardly sounds arduous.

Apparently there's an association between the brightness of a fruit or vegetable's color and its nutritional value, as well as an association between the item's color and its particular nutrient, so they recommend a mix of blue/purple items, like grapes and plums and blueberries, with reds, like peppers and tomatoes and watermelon.  Dude, I love watermelon.  Of course, the trick is that it's all supposed to be organic, lest various chemicals leach into your body, and that's an expensive pain in the ass.  I'm not really a farmers-market kind of girl.  Oh, and flaxseed: I'm supposed to put flaxseed in everything.  This is some hippie shit.

That said, buying $50 of organic produce is a pretty good investment if there's a possibility that it could save us $1,000 in sperm.  Even the cheaper stuff is $600 for a vial, before you calculate shipping, and I'd really prefer to keep speculum time to a minimum.  The less Heather has to look at my cervix, or squirt sperm towards it, the less wrenching, humiliating pain involved.  I mean, until childbirth.