Thursday, September 15, 2011

Blastocysts On Board!

Well friends, we made it through our first, full IVF cycle yesterday when we transferred two previously-frozen-now-thawed blastocysts into my cushy uterus. According to the embryologist, nurse and doctor "everything went beautifully" and the blastocysts looked "wonderful." So, that's about the best we can hope for at this point. I've spent the last 24-hours bed-resting and have another 24 hours of lounge-time ahead of me, at least. To be conservative, I'm even supposed to be wheeled to my flight back to L.A. on Sunday! I'm going to need a sticker (or maybe a forehead tattoo?) that says,"Blastocysts On Board!" that I can wear at all times between now and D-Day, Sept. 23rd. After that, let's hope I can graduate to the usual "Baby On Board" nonsense. :)

Saturday, September 10, 2011


Last Saturday, I went to hear the Vietnamese-born Buddhist monk, teacher, author, and peace and social justice activist who helped originate the "Engaged Buddhism" movement., Thich Nhat Hanh, speak in Pasadena. TNH is turning 85 soon and he looked like a jolly, little Yoda when he sits on a small cushion to teach us. For three hours, he and his entourage of monks and nuns engaged the audience in mindfulness meditation, chanting, and contemplation. Just being in the presence of someone so peaceful and wise was a healing balm for me, but beyond that, TNH's message of compassion and understanding enveloped my heart with a warmth that I haven't been feeling much of lately. The untrained voices of the monks and nuns lifted a chant to the bodhisattva associated with compassion, and I realized how much I need more compassion in my life--for my friends and coworkers whom I reject because they get pregnant so easily, for Ivan, whom I pounce on for little things even though he does all the big things so right and so loyally, and for myself.

THN then spoke of a lotus flower--its beauty, serenity, delicacy and joyful presence. He brought the flower to life in my mind and then, very gently, he pointed out that every lotus flower is made of "non-lotus elements," by which he means sunlight, water and mud. So, every time you look at a lotus admiringly, you should realize that it took these other, "non-lotus elements" to create that beauty. Of course, the metaphor is a simple one: the beauty and joy in every person's life must inevitably contain "non-lotus elements"--especially, MUD. This metaphor struck me so profoundly--but why? Perhaps it was the gentle, knowing quality of TNH's voice, or the way he addressed the audience as "Beloved Friends" that made me soften and open my heart. Or, perhaps it was just that his message felt so right for where I am in my life: stuck in the mud.

All along this two-year infertility journey, I have tried hard to remember the "glowing sunshine and refreshing water" that make up so much of who I am and what I have in my life. But I must not be very good at counting my blessings because many times, those beautiful elements of my life pale in comparison to the "mud of infertility" that has glopped nastily all over my mind, my heart, my sex life, my marriage, my body, my soul. Most of the time, I think I'm just made of mud now--that this sorrow and loss and anger and jealousy are my only "elements" and that I'll never be a flower again. I imagine that, even if we eventually adopt a baby and finally become a family, I'll never be happy because I was unable to live this dream of pregnancy, the dream of giving the gift of life.

But strangely, TNH, the unmarried monk with no children, was able to convince me--if only briefly--that all this "mud" is not only a necessary part of who I am now, but it's an essential aspect of the lotus flower that I can be. He also reminded me that everybody is part "mud" and that I need to have more compassion for the suffering in each person's life. We are all made of "non-lotus elements"--even my friends and colleagues who get pregnant just by standing next to their partner have suffered, or continue to suffer, on their journey to motherhood. I should try to appreciate that we have that in common, even when I feel so far away from them now.

After the talk last weekend, I searched out some of TNH's writings and found this quote. It's my latest talisman, the lotus in my back pocket. It reminds me that yes, I am the sticky, staining mud, but I am also the warming sunlight and the clear, cold Colorado mountain water. I hope that Thich Nhat Hanh's wisdom makes you smile:

"Suffering is not enough. Life is both dreadful and wonderful...How can I smile when I am filled with so much sorrow? It is natural--you need to smile to your sorrow because you are more than your sorrow."

Saturday, September 3, 2011

The F-Word

Oh, "what a long, strange trip it's been" since I last blogged! I spent August mostly on my back, with men sticking things in me and sucking things out of me--and no, I was not having hot sex. Instead, we experienced our first IVF cycle: a frenzy of syringes, every-other-day vaginal ultrasounds, piles of scary release forms and bills, and a bathroom scale with ever-climbing numbers. As the hormonal cocktail worked its magic, I produced 26 eggs and bloated out like Humpty Dumpty. When I finally "fell off the wall" and into the surgery to collect my eggs, they cracked open my shell (entering my ovaries with a vacuum-syringe) and sucked out 21 viable eggs. Of these, 14 fertilized and 8 grew to the desired blastocyst stage (at 5-6 days old, when they are ready for implantation into the uterus' lining). Sadly, I was in no shape for the planned embryo transfer due to being overstimulated by the meds, so we were told we'd have to come back for "the fun part" (i.e. the procedure that actually means you could get pregnant) in September. All that work growing eggs, and no chance to even get pregnant that time around. :-(

So, we returned home to L.A. and I lolled about praying that the tidal surge that was my giant, bloated belly would recede and those nine pounds of non-baby weight would drain away, leaving me something like myelf again. Two weeks after the IVF storm, I do feel somewhat normal, although I am still strewn with the inevitable post-storm debris in the form of bruises all over my stomach from the hormone shots I took and the blood-thinning shots I'm still taking, as well as a few extra, non-water-weight pounds from the lack of exercise and the doctor's explicit advice to "eat lots of salt: chips, Gatorade, popcorn, etc." At least that was a perk!

But here I am with 8 great-looking, frozen embryos chilling (pardon the pun) in a lab in Colorado--anyone in the IVF would would call that number of healthy embryos a success--and I still feel like a failure. I can't seem to get my hopes up anymore, because every time I do that someone I know gets pregnant on accident/easily and reminds me what a loser I am for going through all this BS and spending $30,000+ and still not being pregnant. Okay, I know they're not getting pregnant just to spite me, but I'm the kind of bad person who takes it personally and feels like every announcement is a slap in the face, no matter how gently it's conveyed. And, yes, I know it's true that we haven't actually finished the IVF process since they wouldn't transfer the embryos when I was hyper-stimulated last month, so I should at least get through the whole process before I give up, but I honestly can't get myself to believe it will work. I'm so used to failure now that it seems inevitable.

What a bad way to go into the process of nurturing the life that's going to be put inside me! I need to reclaim the f-word: to get "failure" out of my head and heart and to get "fuck" back in there:
Fuck whining about how unfair this all is!
Fuck feeling jealous!
Fuck imagining yet another lonely blue line on a failed pregnancy test!
Fuck not being allowed to fuck my husband during treatment cycles!
Fuck failure.

If I'm ever going to be a mom, I need to stop whining and start fucking--well, you know what I mean. I need to find my inner bulldog-in-lipstick or mama bear or whatever that archetype is that allows women to lift cars off their squashed children. But how?