Each month for over a year I had let go of another version of myself. I’d be the girl who was going to have a Halloween 2007 baby, or maybe a Thanksgiving 2007 baby or a Christmas 2007 baby…or maybe a Halloween 2008 baby…or I would be the girl who would totally get pregnant the month before her first appointment with the fertility specialist…or maybe the girl who got pregnant on the very first month of treatment. I wasn’t any of those girls.
After the cancelled cycles, Sandy and I set up an appointment to go talk to the infertility doctor who was vaguely reassuring without saying anything very specific. We asked if my recently diagnosed thyroid condition could be a cause of the infertility and she shrugged it off: maybe, maybe not. She rattled off a few other possibilities, like scar tissue from my appendicitis surgery four years ago, but kind of dismissed the importance of figuring them out. They play the odds. For women with unexplained infertility, where there’s no obvious physical problem they can solve (i.e. a blocked Fallopian tube), who are ovulating, who have a partner with good sperm count…they just try a bunch of stuff. Odds are that one of the things will work.
The next thing on that list of stuff they try, which we’d been trying valiantly to do for three months, was an IUI, which is the innocuous-sounding acronym for what used to be called artificial insemination. It provides a shortcut for the sperm, so instead of negotiating through a series of obstacles, they get a free ride most of the way to where the egg is hanging out waiting.
We had no idea if this would help, because we had no idea if the route from sperm to egg was even the problem, and neither did the doctor. But it was the next step, and it had worked for a close friend, and we were ready to give it a try.
A few weeks later, I had an ultrasound on a Friday morning, which confirmed that we had sidestepped the overstimulation problems of the last few months by cutting my Clomid dosage down, and I had just one egg that was about ready to pop out. The nurse called at about 4:15 on Friday afternoon to give me my instructions: take a “trigger shot” that night to make the egg release at a certain time, and make an appointment to come in between 8 and 10 Saturday morning to have the first round of the procedure done.
She transferred me to the front desk to make my appointment. But it turns out the front desk closes at 4. After waiting for 30 minutes in a hellish vortex of hold messages and misleading reassurances that they’d be with me shortly, I hung up. And then I started to panic. After three months of desperate disappointment, I was simply not in the mood to have my procedure ruined by a phone mishap.
Eventually, after calling back and navigating my way through the phone tree to the answering service, I got connected to a nurse on call who calmed me down and told me I could make an appointment in the morning.
I calmed down, headed home, and suddenly remembered the trigger shot. I had done this once before, but it was still kind of frightening. It’s actually a shot you have to give yourself, with a needle, in the stomach. And we had plans that night exactly during the time window I’d been given to take the shot. With no other option, I stuck my syringe in my pocket and took it to Levi and Stacey’s house for dinner. At around 9:30, I excused myself for a rather long bathroom break and gave myself a shot. In someone else’s bathroom.
The next morning, I popped up bright and early, still a little stressed that I didn’t have an appointment for the IUI. The answering service cheerfully informed me that “Nobody’s answering the phone over there right now. You’ll just have to call back.” Thirty minutes later, still no answer. I burst into tears.
“Look, I’ve given myself a shot, and I have to do the procedure today. I have to! You have to find someone for me to talk to!” Scared of the hysterical infertile lady, the answering service woman promised to find me someone, and a few minutes later, I had my appointment all set up. It’s possible I overreacted a teeny tiny bit, but that’s what happens when you give yourself hormone shots in the stomach.
For the first IUI, Sandy came down to the clinic with me to provide The Sample. For future visits I could bring the sample with me in a little cup, carried close to my body to keep it warm. But for the first one, we hadn’t managed to bring any cups home ahead of time. When we got there, the nurse told Sandy he was third in line for The Room. The waiting room was almost empty. Just a few other women and couples, so everyone knew what was going on. It was horrifying.
Nevertheless, Sandy was a trooper, and did what needed to get done. After that, there was a lot of waiting while the sample was centrifuged and otherwise cleaned up for the procedure. An hour and a half later, a nurse came and brought me back to a room. “Great numbers!” she told me, waving a syringe full of Sandy’s sperm.
What followed is best described to the ladies as feeling like a pretty long pap smear. Not too painful, just sort of pinchy and uncomfortable. And weird. But then it was done, and after ten minutes lying on my back, I was ready to go. “Don’t do anything too…jarring today,” the nurse told me. I decided to sit out the Whirlyball game we were scheduled to play that afternoon.
The next day we repeated the procedure, except we brought a cup home, and so Sandy didn’t have to, you know, in the awful room again.
And then, we waited. The dreaded Two Week Wait is a terrible time. For two weeks after you ovulate, you can’t tell anything. Implantation doesn’t happen for at least a week, and it takes days after that for the embryo to begin secreting enough pregnancy hormone to register on a pregnancy test. The worst part is that the progesterone your body secretes after ovulation (which most fertility patients are supplementing with even more) causes most of the symptoms of early pregnancy. You’ve got fourteen days of feeling each boob and trying to determine if they’re the same amount of painful as they are normally in this part of your cycle. What about that twinge in your abdomen. Is that how it usually is? And your level of tiredness. Typical? Or is is something more. It’s a no-win game. Well, I mean unless you’re pregnant. Then you win. But for the rest of us, the chronically un-pregnant, you can’t win. Everything you feel feels like it’s special and meaningful and happening for the first time, even though you know in your heart of hearts that it’s not.
Two weeks after the IUI, I went back for a pregnancy test. They don’t call you until the end of the day with your results. It was a long day. Because I was working at home, I went to Sandy’s office in the afternoon so we’d be together when the call came. She didn’t call until 4. Sandy and I went out into the hall. “Is this a good time to talk?” she said, then – “I’m so sorry.” My face collapsed, along with yet another version of myself. I wasn’t going to be the girl who got pregnant on the first IUI after all.
[Next: Part V]