Thursday, June 28, 2012

Game Plan

This is the story behind our current story. Statistics are involved. And not many adjectives. But it's how we got here, whether we like it or not.

One of the most unexpectedly difficult things about infertility are the anniversaries. These are the days to which you’d already said your goodbyes. Like that last-gasp Halloween party where you dressed up and acted like a kid again, one last time before you had a kid. Only now it’s Halloween again, and this year you don’t feel like dressing up at all. The Thanksgiving where you smiled at the thought of a baby smaller than next year’s turkey. But a year later, there’s just another turkey. That “last Christmas as just the two of you,” which turns into another Christmas with the same number of stockings hung. (Thank goodness your spoiled cats get stockings, too, or the sight of only two would be too sad to bear.) And then there are the weddings. People announce wedding dates far enough in advance that it’s easy to believe you’ll have a belly by the time the big day rolls around. And then one by one, you toast newlyweds with champagne instead. Time marches on.

Enough was enough. A year and a half after first trying to conceive on our own, we became patients at a fertility clinic. Our reproductive endocrinologist ran new fertility screens on us and came to this unhelpful diagnosis: Unexplained Infertility. Further rounds of poking and prodding and running dye through my fallopian tubes yielded nothing more than confirmation: Unexplained Infertility. I had mixed feelings about this diagnosis. On the one hand, my inner overachiever loved hearing that nothing was wrong with us. On the other hand, something obviously was wrong, or we’d be parents by now. Surely there had to be some answer out there, something specific we could try to correct. But no. We were answering every question correctly, yet still failing the exam.

Our doctor suggested we try Intrauterine Insemination (IUI), which facilitates fertilization by placing sperm directly into the uterus. Although we knew my husband’s guys could already swim and my ladies were ready and willing, the doctor believed a medicated IUI would improve our chances without the additional intervention (and cost) of In-Vitro Fertilization (IVF). We’d try IUI for a few rounds, and if that didn’t work, we’d move on to IVF.

According to our doctor, 85% of all couples trying to conceive have about a 20% chance of getting pregnant each month. For a couple like us, diagnosed with Unexplained Infertility, our au naturel chances are only 2-3% each month. Having an IUI without supplemental medications doesn’t meaningfully increase our chances, nor do medications without an IUI. We agreed with our doctor that an IUI plus medications was the best course for us, but this involved choices of its own.

We could take Clomid, an oral medication, and raise our chances from 2-3% to about 4-6%. Or we could choose an injectable medication and raise our chances to about 6-9% per month. There are pros and cons to both, but I disliked what I’d read and heard about Clomid much more than what I’d read and heard about injectables. Besides the obvious discomfort factor of injecting needles into yourself, the injectable route does come with one big risk: a multiple pregnancy. IUI + Clomid has about a 7% chance of having a multiple pregnancy, but IUI + Injectables has about a 30% chance of a multiple pregnancy. (Head spinning from percentage chances already? Here’s another fun one for you: if IUI doesn’t work for us and we move on to IVF, we’ll have about a 40-45% chance of conceiving each month, and only a 25% chance of a multiple pregnancy, but with 0% insurance coverage.)

If you’re now thinking we’re crazy to go through IUI and injectables for an at-best 9% chance of conceiving each month, which comes with needles and a 30% chance of having a zoo of children, you wouldn’t be alone. We thought that, too, when we first started trying. Now, though… it doesn’t sound so crazy at all.

We’re lucky that our insurance pays for a good percentage of an IUI cycle. The thought of IVF terrifies our bank accounts, so it’s prudent to try every other possibility first. Last December, though, as we faced a year of unknowns and all the pressures that come with that, we did something crazy instead of being prudent: we flew to Paris for Christmas to forget our troubles. We had a game plan for 2012, but we had the City of Lights to explore first. And it was worth it.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Introducing Max

Introducing Max... my newest nephew, who'll carry forward my grandfather's name. I'm so thrilled for my brother and sister-in-law, and can't wait to get my hands on this littlebig guy - and his proud parents! - next week. Life is good. Welcome to the family, Mr. Max!

Max Douglas
June 25, 2012
9 lbs 11 oz

Friday, June 22, 2012

Friday I'm in Love

Hi friends! I'm working out of T's company's New York office today... all the better to scoot up to Connecticut tonight in time for family dinner. Last night we ate at Babbo, which has long been on my to-do list, and tonight we'll eat at a longtime family fave, The Place. From chianti-stained pappardelle to clams and corn on a tree stump... I try to be well-rounded, you know?

My view today... not too shabby

I hope your weekends are full of good cheer. Here are some tidbits from my world this week. Have a good one!

Women's Congressional Softball Game

One of my favorite things about living in DC are those moments when you realize our nation's capital is actually just sort of... a small town. Cue our neighborhood elementary school athletic field hosting the Women's Congressional Softball Game this week. Nerd Celebrity people-watching (my favorite kind), long-lost friends in the crowd, a favorite senator on the mound and a favorite congresswoman wielding pom poms, playing against the Media team featuring a slew of fantastic female journalists. Oh, and Andrea Mitchell and Sen. Klobuchar as the play-by-play and color announcers? I think I have to attend every year now.

Fur Rugs?

Are these rugs ridiculous, or as amazing as I suspect? Because I sort of love them. One on each side of the bed to greet our cold feet in the morning? Cats who will love us forever because we just brought the coziest rugs of all time into the house? I'm on to something here, right?

Lace Flower Pots

I'm totally charmed by this simple DIY. These would be adorable hanging out in my sunny office window back in DC. I think it's glue gun time!

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

This and that

This is one of those weeks where I look up and am shocked to discover that it's already Wednesday. So before the week escapes me completely, some tidbits:

Bedroom Progress

On Saturday we painted our bedroom, set up the new furniture, and purged. Let me tell you... that felt pretty awesome. I'm excited about finally getting the room to a good point and sharing it with you. I've even caught myself just hanging out up there, it's getting so clean and pretty. That's pretty major considering it used to be my least favorite place in the house. Putting together a gallery display over the bed is going to take some time, but I think the end result will be great. (By the way, see how the curtains aren't long enough? I've been meaning to fix that problem for over a year.)

TJ at the office

My latest eBay find: one of the Nationals presidential bobbleheads. Those racing presidents are one of my favorite things ever... of course I had to have this.


Speaking of the Nats, at the ballpark on Sunday I acquired the most awkward sunburn in the history of awkward sunburns. Let's just say that unclothed, I still look like I'm wearing a white v-neck tee. I'm desperately trying to correct the situation with strategically applied self-tanner in advance of our family portrait on July 6. Something tells me white shoulders with a sundress isn't a great look. When will I learn?

HBO, Always

This week it's 100 degrees outside, so I feel less guilty than usual blathering on about television. Tell me - is anyone else despondent that Girls is over? The show completely won me over, due almost entirely to Lena Dunham's writing. I mean, "she wears floral capris like her hymen’s still intact," are you kidding me? That line just kills me. Another television obsession of late that I already miss: Veep. An instant classic, that show. Since I'm already sharing raunchy lines today, how about Veep's spit-out-my-drink analogy of "that's like using a croissant as a fucking dildo." Oh, yes. One facial expression from the man I will always call Buster Bluth and I am done for, completely. And finally... we have entered the land of Game of Thrones, at long last. We're making our way through Season 1 via Netflix, and yep... everyone who told me we'd get hooked on this show, you were correct.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Friday I'm in Love

I'm looking forward to a weekend in DC where we shall slooooooooooow down. My plans include tinkering around the house, garden, and neighborhood, hanging out with friends, and booing the Yankees. Sounds pretty perfect to me right now. I hope your weekends are filled with slow goodness, too. Here's three little links from me to wrap up the week. See you on the flip side!

'Grow Your Own' Calendar

 I'm obsessed with this gorgeous planting guide print, available here and discovered here. I'd love it if they would expand their reach and include planting seasons for places other than England. Perhaps my Grandma Jessie Mae can be the planting expert for the Eastern NC calendar... But would I choose that one, or the Mid-Atlantic guide? Hypothetical decisions abound! Regardless, this piece would be perfect hanging in any kitchen or back porch, don't you think?

Bedroom Upgrades

 I recently received a much-deserved (if I do say so myself) promotion and raise, and to celebrate, I ordered a piece of furniture I've been ogling for ages. Actually, I ordered two! These gorgeous Bedford Chests will serve as beefed-up nightstands for us, filling out a wall where we have space for more substantial furniture in what is otherwise wasted by only using small nightstands. I'm so.flipping.pumped that we're about to have more storage in our bedroom. We are ever so slowly getting a vision for what that room can become (only a year and a half after moving in... why does the bedroom always get shortchanged in my world?). I think I might even do some painting this weekend... it's been too long since these hands wielded a brush! The dressers are delivered Saturday... color me excited.

More Belle Boggs

 I know I recommended a Belle Boggs article last week, too, but this one was just too beautiful to go without mention. It was sent to me by my friend Cate (join me in wishing she was blogging again, why don't you?), and with good reason. In this piece (Yearning for Conception: The Art of Waiting), Boggs reminds me of Barbara Kingsolver in my annual spring/summer read Prodigal Summer. There's infertility, sure, but it's woven into the fabric of the NC Zoo, biology, and nature. Gorgeous stuff.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Spirits and Sparks

I may have developed an embarrassing weakness for psychics. Last year, three separate psychics told me that I’d get pregnant that November. I didn’t. You'd think that might have turned me off the fortune-telling game, but no. Just last month I found myself wandering into a New Orleans shop where an aisle of psychics waited for customers behind velvet curtains. "My" psychic told me that he can usually see a pregnancy aura when a spirit has chosen its mother. I do have a slight aura, he confessed, with one big problem – my aura radiates sparks. In other words, me, the woman who has allegedly been trying to get pregnant for two years, is shooting live fire ammunition toward the spirit who might otherwise become my child. 

I’ve long felt that I’m a complicated person, but this? This takes my issues to an entirely new level. 

The psychic who told me about my sparks is a kindly, rounded man who sounds every bit the Cajun that he is. He looks like the nicest kindergarten teacher you could ever have. His theory about the sparks is that I am unkind to myself – my own worst enemy. By improving my sense of self on the inside, he said, the sparks on the outside will disappear, thus allowing the baby spirit inside.

My theories are many, as you might imagine.

Theory 1: The sparks represent the fact that I am openly embarrassed about having a weakness for psychics, and also confused about the fact that I love psychic readings even though I’m not sure I believe a word of them. The sparks, in this theory, are really just evidence that the Cajun Kindergarten Teacher recognized a hostile audience.

Theory 2: The sparks represent the me who is up late writing this blog post, the me who questions and searches and seeks. She’s the one who still wants a PhD. She the one who thought she’d be an accomplished writer/activist/teacher/whathaveyou by now. She listened to cavemen Republicans in Virginia try to mandate vaginal ultrasounds before abortions and decided that on the infertility "plus side," this recent clip of three to four of those very same ultrasounds per week has made me a more informed citizen. She thinks I can do better in several areas of my life. She thinks I’m not trying hard enough. I like to think she makes me better in that way. She makes me want more, because I have the capacity to handle more. She does things that years later cause me to shake my head – how did she do that? – forgetting it was me all along. She is probably what the Cajun Kindergarten Teacher is talking about.

Theory 3: The sparks are just what happens when a non-baby person decides she wants a baby. I was not always a regular on the “TTC” Internet boards, you see. I had girlfriends who set a cutoff date for themselves, a date at which they’d use a sperm donor or be a single mom. They felt they were born to be mothers, whether a partner was involved or not. I always knew that wasn’t the right choice for me. I assumed that my biological clock would start ticking only when I found the right partner, only when the time was right to create someone who’d grow up to split our quirks and features evenly, and who’d be parented by us both. And sure enough, in the whirlwind of meeting my husband, marrying him, and moving around the country together, the idea of a little us went from a charming abstraction to something that we should probably go ahead and make. I didn’t want “a baby,” but my husband’s baby? Who’d have his eyes or hair or smarts or sense of humor? Oh, how I wanted that baby. Yet two years into trying, I’ve only recently felt what I’d describe as baby pangs when I pass a baby on the street or see one at the next table over at brunch (which usually coincides with me ordering another Bloody Mary… hmmm). Does that mean the sparks were even worse before? Or just that it’s taken me two years to get used to the idea that I'm actually ready for a child of my own?

Theories, then, but no answers. Never any answers. Our official diagnosis is Unexplained Infertility, by the way, which infuriates someone like me who likes answers. (Although Unexplained Infertility does leave room for “sparks” to be the underlying cause, I suppose… I wonder what my reproductive endocrinologist would say about that?)

I told the Cajun Kindergarten Teacher that we were a bit beyond the wishing and hoping stage, that our babymaking efforts were serious and clinical enough to preclude even the use of a carefree term like “babymaking.” His response? Keep up what we’re doing, but “invite the baby spirit in.” No matter the theory or the why or the how. Just issue an invitation. My Cajun friend also predicted an RSVP this summer.

Time will tell. Along with many more conversations with the baby spirit, of course.

Friday, June 8, 2012

Friday I'm in Love

I'm so pumped it's Friday today that I'm flashing back to my teen cousins visiting last summer and wishing they were here incessantly singing "Friday" to me. Yep, that annoying song (I'd rather link to Glee boys than the esteemed writer/performer herself - so shoot me). After a hectic work week, I'm off to North Carolina tonight to attend the birthday party of my favorite three-year-old boy and to hang with the rest of the crazy crew sharing my bloodline. I predict lots of laughs, which is a good thing, because I'm ready for them. Here are a few links to round out the week:

Lego Bird Creations

I was a Lego kid, and so is another kid I know. If these cool bird projects were sold by Lego, I absolutely would've snapped one up for his birthday gift. If you vote for this creation, it may well become an official Lego set. And really, who doesn't need the challenge of building something besides yet another fort out of those nubby blocks?

Gentlemen of the Road

I'm already a Mumford & Sons fan, but this tour would tug at my heartstrings even if I wasn't. To quote: "Join us this summer for a series of Gentlemen of the Road Stopovers at handpicked locations around the world. Each Stopover is a day-long event, celebrating the music, food and people of the places we're visiting. We'll be bringing a full lineup of some of our favorite bands from around the world, and curating events that combine a music festival and local gathering into one epic party. We plan to start early, and go late, taking the party from the stage to the town." Boy do they know how to speak my language. My August does have room for a Portland or Bristol trip, now that I think about it...

Infertility Words I Wish I Wrote

Since bursting out of the infertility closet over here, so many of you have e-mailed me saying the equivalent of "I don't know how you must feel, but I'm offering support anyway." This is why you guys are a pretty great crew, by the way. But I thought I'd share this piece today for two reasons: first, this is how it feels. And second, this is also the high level of decision-making taking place in our own house/hearts/minds. For a girl who shrugged her way through science classes her entire life, being fluent in the world of follicles and zygotes and implantation is pretty major for me. It will come as less of a surprise that the online "TTC" world the author describes is something I took to far more quickly than that of near-daily ultrasounds. At any rate, for those interested, have at Visible Life.

And that's all from me this week, folks! I'll check back next week full of kiddo birthday cake... Have a happy weekend!

Monday, June 4, 2012


Besides big confessions and big travel, there's been another change afoot in my world lately: I'm working in an office again.

Crazy, right?

Two things prompted the daytime move: first, my work life keeps been getting busier and busier - I was constantly in meetings anyway; second, my company opened a satellite office in DC near my primary client. My schedule is in flux enough that I'll probably still spend more time in my home office each week than the average full-time employee, but I must say, I've been pleasantly surprised by how much I've liked having a professional home away from... home. Being able to get to work in no time at all is great, too - my commute is incredibly laid-back.

The telecommuting lifestyle rocks for many reasons, and I'll definitely miss some of them: the ability to roll out of bed five minutes before start time, the ability to wear whatever I want, the ability to run errands during the day when everything's empty, and the ability to cook my own food for lunch. But my new office isn't a bad deal, either - I have food trucks galore and the Nationals baseball stadium right outside my door. Now if I could just figure out how to wake up early...

Rollin' with the changes over here. It feels pretty good.

The only things in my work digs right now besides work: letterpress and a baseball schedule. You know, the basics.
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