IVF is BIG business…part 1

Infertility is one of the most painful experiences a woman will ever go through.  It cuts you to your primal core and you don’t leave without having changed in some way.  I may have had success but it doesn’t feel that way sometimes.  I’m unresolved, as they say.  But for many women in this world, there will never be a pregnancy or a baby shower or even a marriage once IVF has had their way with them.  These bitter, painful stories don’t get much mention in mainstream media or much sympathy, to be honest. How many times has a woman been told to “just adopt” or be happy for what you have? It could be worse, you could be going blind…..oh the comments.  And then the world celebrates the pregnant celebrity at age 50 with their gorgeous boy/girl twins. The words surrogate or donor eggs might be thought but they sure as hell aren’t getting spoken (unless someone outs them – which does tend to happen).  People bemoan the duty of said celebrity to speak about their journey “for the rest of us” but knowing how painful the whole procedure is, I don’t blame them.   So I get it, the public still thinks that they can have babies at 50 (yes, even my friends in their late 40s and early 50s are still on the pill because they are afraid their OH SO FERTILE bodies will get pregnant).  My point is, this isn’t a slam dunk.  Not everyone has success with IVF and you better believe that has plenty to do with the fact that ART is becoming as popular as the big mac.  Nobody wants to talk about the failures sure as our food industry doesn’t want to talk about what is happening to our bodies or to our children (THAT is another blog post for sure).  In IVF/ART land all is well and there is always hope.  Just like Disneyland – you only see what they want you to see – going backstage is a completely different experience (just ask my husband, he worked at Eurodisney straight out of college – I think the analogy is apt – he describes backstage at Disney something out of a correctional facility, by the way).

IVF is such big business because women are delaying their family building plans (for so many reasons from financial to career to plain old “I haven’t met a guy I want to have a telephone conversation with much less marry”.  The changes in our society are making some doctors very wealthy and the whole industry is getting bigger.  Bigger scares me. Bigger should scare you.

When I started this process (I was in the office of an RE two weeks after I got married), I was a doe-eyed, newlywed, an optimistic little thing with big dreams.  Dreams that were born when I was a toddler (thank you, Walt Disney).

In the beautiful offices of my new RE there were hundreds of pictures of babies and books about parenting on every table.  The entire place screamed “here are where your dreams are made”…I quickly formed an attachment with my affable RE that, looking back, was not healthy.  He was fatherly and spoke with authority. He made jokes and made me feel special…I knew that my future family was important to him.  Whatever this man said was like a word straight from the bible. I asked A LOT of questions and he reveled in the attention.  He told me about “this blah blah conference where I spoke on ICSI”..ladidahdidah. I was enthralled.  I took notes.  He also liked reggaeton. He let me peek into his life and I spread mine open for him to examine (figuratively and I guess literally not to be TOOO crass).  After months of “trying” ahead of my wedding, I was now going to escalate the process.  I was 37 when I married and the clock was ticking.  I was making it happen. I remember taking a co-worker with me to the clinic for monitoring and showing her the 8 growing follicles on the monitor – wondering aloud which would be my child or children.  My fear at that point in life was multiples.  I was terrified that I’d be having six children at once.  I never once considered that I would walk out of there empty handed. Like everything else I’d known to be true, I’d be a mother…that was a given, just as I’d go to college and meet a nice man and eventually have a dog and picket fence.  I’d already created my life long before I started living it, it seems.

In this clinic I started to learn a few of my first lessons in infertility and the business of disappointment.  The first lesson, looking back, is that I was an enormous dollar sign. I represented many, many potential dollar bills. They has assessed me – they knew my financials (where we worked, how much my husband made, how much I made) and they knew my desire was strong. They combined financial potential with desire and came up with an equation.  I was worth at least 3 climid cycles, 3 IUS and 7 IVF procedures.  Oh yes, my commitment was strong and I had really amazing insurance and back up cash at that point..  They started me off on Clomid and let one of my follicles reach 28 before triggering me.  28!  The other was around 24.  I started to get annoyed and thus began my studies in Google MD.  The next Clomid cycle was an interesting one.  I got pregnant but nobody gave me progesterone.  My level was a whopping 5 but I had a positive pregnancy.  Not viable, they said.  Quite likely because I was never given progesterone support.  I left that clinic and never went back – far short of their financial plan for me, that much I know.  I had no plan B for the first time in my life.  I vowed to do a bit more research for the next time. It was 2005 so things like vitrification didn’t exist (or if they did, they were not widespread).  PGD was around and things like CGH were but a hope….  My new boss found out that I was struggling and pulled me into his office. At the time I was working as the right hand for the COO of a very large investment bank.  My boss was extraordinarily success at everything but procreation, it seemed.  He gave me a number and a name of a doctor that would help.  His wife was currently pregnant with twins and they had been trying for six years until they went to the name on the paper. I walked out of his office and dialed the number.  Unfortunately they were full and would not be able to see me for six months.  I mentioned my boss’s name and suddenly the doctor was available to meet me that day – he would forego his lunch for me. It was only one lunch, after all.

Future told, my visit would enable him to eat about 20 years worth of lunches.  Yes, 20 years.

And this is just the beginning.

Advertisements

……a memory

My friend John

Written September 9, 2011 at 5:06pm

I could sit here and cry.  Wipe away tears and then start to cry, repeat, repeat.  But instead I’d like to honor one of my best friends.  We met in 9th grade.  He had a devilish streak and so did I.  He had the audacity to steal his father’s yellow car and I encouraged him and often rode shot gun.  We used to find six packs of random beers or wine coolers and drink them in the woods.  We made fun of our English teacher.  He and our friend Jennifer, used to call me out of class and ask that i come to the principal’s office.  Mr. O’Brien always bought it.

Then we graduated.  He went away to school and so did I but we both found our way back to our hometown.  His father’s death took a toll on him.  My indecision led me to Washington DC to study something random that got me a job waiting tables.  I forced him to move to Washington.  He confessed that he was gay.  I rolled my eyes and told him that I knew that a long time ago.  I dragged him to his first gay bar and we lived together like Oscar and Felix for a year.  He moved out one day. No notice.  He broke my heart.  We didn’t talk for awhile.  I moved to NYC.  I got word that he had moved there and reached out.  The years that we hadn’t spoken were like minutes  and soon we were back to old tricks only older and wiser.  He hosted elaborate dinner parties with china, steuben and lots of gossip.  I hosted dinner parties where everyone agreed to order in.  He and his long time partner Tom came to my wedding and were the talk of the town – I had to explain to the girls that they were not for sale.  When I threw my bouquet of wishes, John caught one of the flowers.  It was a perfect day and his presence and that of his sister, my dear friend Amy made my day even more special.  We were back together – oh how I had missed my friends.  In 2006 (Feb to be exact), we bought a house outside of NYC on ten acres of land.  A small log cabin that would later grow.  John was the first tenant and my co-decorator.  We spent weekend after weekend together.  It was during this time that I suffered many miscarriages and he was my rock.  Although he didn’t care to hear about the particulars of my female parts, he did listen and he cared.  One Saturday I had planned a big get together with all of our hometown friends. Unfortunately the date coincided with the transfer of four embryos into my uterus.  I joined the team up at the house and was treated like a baby.  “No walking up the stairs” – Tom and John’s orders.  “Leave mama alone” – nobody was allowed to stress me out, look at me the wrong way.  They took care of me….that weekend I did get pregnant and it was touch and go for a while.  My husband was traveling a lot – Middle East, etc. but I always had Johnny as my weekend log cabin companion.  When I went into labor at 31 weeks, it was John and Tom who sat with me in the hospital….my husband could’t take the boredom and headed to a bar.  When I gave birth, Tom and John were one of the first to hold our son.  My wee one…..he fit perfectly in their hands and a very memorable photo was taken of him resting in his palm.  Over the next 9 months, they were frequent guests at our house.  You would often find one of them asleep with my little one on their chest.  They called themselves his “fairy godfathers”.  They were greeted with screams of delight whenever my little boy saw them after any absence – even a week.

Lately John has been sick and I started a company so we’ve been trading phone tag rather than gossip.  I’ve been counting down the days until I could resume our life in NYC replete with long soaks in the hot tub at midnight, dinner parties at each others houses and more babies for the fairy godfathers.

There is more but for now, I have to do something other than cry and worry.  I have to tell you about my friend who I love and would find hard to live without….please send him strength.  I no longer believe in God – well, not the God that most people believe in.  Don’t fault me for it, I have my own beliefs.

I do know that John is one of the kindest, most humble and fun people I’ve ever known.  26 years is a long time to love someone.  I’ll keep doing it for the rest of my time – please let it be with him rather than without him.  That is all I want.

John died three days later  –  just as I was circling the airport, about to land and rush to his bedside – he went to the light. He was in his early forties.

Never forget what you have.  It can all go in an instant. Cliche but never were words more true.  I mss him each and every day and am grateful I had that kind of friendship once…

July? Wow. I wonder if anyone reads this thing.

I’m so neglectful of my little corner of the internet universe. It isn’t right especially since some of you come looking for a solution to a very big problem (one I can’t give but I can certainly give a much researched opinion!!).

First things first – my uterus. I’m so sick of vaginal ultrasounds, blood taking/giving and all that goes with the most routine visit to the RE. So, after Doctor H (that is what I will call him – the doctor here in our new city is also my friend’s husband…weird but I’m getting over it) saw the septum I booked a hysteroscopy in Denver with Dr. S. UNDER SEDATION. No way was I going to do that awake like I did the time before. What did he find? Nothing. NOTHING!! I have no septum.

What I do have is a secret that I am about to share with you. I begged the doctor to tell me the sexes and he told me that the policy was not to give the information because it is not correct (I know it is 90 percent correct from what I’ve read). He didn’t tell me but I found out – I won’t say how but the 5AB is a girl and the 4BB is a boy. I knew it! I JUST knew it. Girl embryos are stronger and will likely implant sooner than a boy. With my son – he did not implant until day 10 (the last day in the window). How do I know? I was going to a Chinese doctor for acupuncture and he told me that he felt a good pulse but still no implantation. I’d gone to him for days after the transfer and he kept saying the same thing. The pee sticks (damn I even hate writing the words) were all negative. So Dr. Wu (love this guy and will post his info at the bottom of this post) told me that Wednesday afternoon that because it was day 10 and there was no implantation yet, he would try something else. Not sure what he did but 2 hours later I started to cramp. One and a half days later I tested positive with the FRER (love you FRER) and my beta was 11. They are supposed to detect levels of HCG above 25 but there it was – a DOUBLE LINE. So I know that boy embryos can cause a mama all sorts of stress because they take their damned time.

As for why I am so absent – I started a preschool. About a year ago around right now (precisely!) I was doing my last IVF. I remember sitting in the bedroom crying, feeling miserable and then went out and bought a whole bunch of books. One book was Nurture Shock. I read it and then immediately decided that I would open a preschool. Don’t get me wrong, this isn’t something that just came to me. I’ve wanted to open a preschool my entire life (first it was an orphanage but that was when I was very young). So start a preschool I did. At the time, in the Inverness Hotel with tears streaming down my eyes I thought…if I can’t have more children, I’ll have hundreds. I also am a huge proponent of early education – at home, at a good preschool, music classes. Kids are so, so much smarter than we give them credit for and my preschool recognizes this and promotes teaching and learning UP (without pressure – everything we do is fun so they think they are just playing but no sir, they are learning!). I have a 17 year old boy who can look at an A and say AH (what the letter says). I am so excited about the school and what is happening there. To say it was hard work is a huge understatement. I gathered together all the resources, people and my own gumption and just did it. When my husband lost his job (another post..lest my blood pressure go up) this school will likely weather us through the unemployment storm. Right now I’m working 14 hour days and not getting much to see for it (monetarily speaking) but I know that if we keep doing what we are doing that we will develop and grow locally and I hope nationally. I truly detest some of the preschool education that is out there right now – some of it is awesome and wonderful and others are a complete joke. Kids deserve better. So much better. Every day I have at least 15 hugs from kids who see me in the hallway or when I enter their room to speak to their teacher. Every hug reminds me why I have done this and I truly love each child in my school. They are all so very different but amazing and wonderful beings. I will post about what we are doing and why it is so special. It also helps to employ real teachers who have years of experience!

So I’m waiting for the stress of owning my own business to lower and then will do the transfer.

Wow – if I had boy/girl twins at the age of 43 that would be some serious miracle. I will post more. I want to keep this blog moving and hopefully share some of the information I have on all of the things I’ve ever done:

1. Be a recording artist and songwriter
2. Be infertile and obsess about it
3. Open my own business

There is more but for now here is Dr. Wu’s info – I loved him and plan to go back to see him pre transfer (or someone here) and then post transfer after Denver. That is probably just too much flying around. Thanks for being a reader and hanging in there with me as I disappear and then reappear. I’m going to use this little blog as an outlet – the next few months are likely to be hard. I’ll need to vent but only to you. In real life I need to be a “tough chick” (as my friend Sherean says and as Gwen Stefani inspired her to say).

Will keep you posted. Aiming for February!

http://www.nyfertility.org/associated-staff.html (scroll down to read up on Dr. Wu)

Decision!

Yesterday at the doctor’s appointment my RE told me that I would be released to my OB on December 22 which sent a shiver down my spine… I don’t have an OB here in Atlanta and judging from my requirements, there isn’t an OB in Atlanta who fits the bill.

Call me spoiled but I had the most amazing doctor with Alex. Her name is Janice Marks and she was recommended by my NYC RE. Knowing how worried I was about staying pregnant he recommended that I see Dr. Marks. In his words, “I’ve seen her operate and she takes command” – boy was he right! She is on top of everything, tests for everything, monitors your every move. In essence, she was neurotic about my pregnancy so that I could relax. When I asked my RE yesterday if he knew anyone like Dr. Marks in Atlanta he told me, “there is no other Dr. Marks – she is one of the best doctors I’ve ever worked with” (He previously worked at Lenox Hill with her).

So I called her…and she says she thinks we can do it. I’ll be going back and forth for important appointments like the first and second trimester screenings (the nuchal and that amnio) and then she will want to see me come to NYC around week 34 if all goes well. I’d be induced at 38 weeks.

It might be a little bit of a hassle – uprooting my son for a month…and once I deliver I’ll be far from home – but the relief I feel at knowing she will be in charge of my birth is so worth it.

Mind you, my friend called me today and in the course of conversation let it slip that one her friends had a miscarriage at 8 weeks….that brought me back to earth. This is not a done deal. Some might say I’m stupid for telling anyone let alone the internet but I’ve been through enough struggle, enough loss to understand that this is not something to be ashamed of nor is it something I can control. I’d rather share my journey with my friends and perhaps help someone else out there who is still finding her way through infertility. If I miscarry I’ll be fine – I have enough support and for that I am very grateful.

January 22, 2007

On this morning I got up, showered, waddled about the apartment packing my bag to take to Lenox Hill Hosptal, charged up my blackberry, made a small video…and left in a cab with C to go uptown for my 8:30 amnio. The procedure wasn’t that bad – it hurt for a second and then it was over. I was 38 weeks and 2 days – had I waited another three days I could have been induced without an amnio but, after all those weeks of bedrest, I was ready. The heartburn was killing me and the kicks were becoming unbearable. It was time to give my little tenant an eviction notice.

C and I left the hospital to await the report on the maturity of the lungs and headed to a burger joint nearby where we stuffed our faces. I knew that I might not eat again for a very long time so…..I chowed down. By this time I was weighing in at 180lbs….a full 50 pound heavier than my ideal weight – not comfortable at all.

We checked in to our labor and delivery room around 12pm…and at 2:30 the doctor ordered a pitocin drip to get things going. I had been 4cm dilated for weeks so was hoping this would be easy and that I would deliver quickly and painlessly. I had planned to try to give birth without an epidural. Frankly the idea of a needle in my spine was gripping me with fear. When I told my doctor that I planned to try without pain medication she laughed at me. “I have 10 patients out of 100 who do not use pain meds and believe me, you are not one of them”. I was offended at the time by her comments and determined to prove her wrong. When my OB walked in to check on me at 7pm I had progressed only only one centimeter. She turned up the dial on the pitocin and broke my water. “I’ll be back after dinner – you won’t deliver before midnight”. Immediately after she left I started to feel very intense feelings – they were contractions and it felt similar to a leg cramp (the kind that wakes you at 4am out of a deep sleep) only in my uterus. I had the anesthesiologist in the room about five minutes early but had sent him away. Now I was desperate. I called the nurse and begged her to find the anesthesiologist. I tried to walk around and breathe through the pain but i couldn’t – it was overwhelming. When the anesthesiologist showed up I willingly leaned over and let him put a needle in my spine. I felt relief almost immediately and professed my love for him. Now I was able to relax, watch some television and feel a bit peaceful. C was with me, helping me calm down. His parents were visiting from England and had stopped by to check on us. They left for dinner and a few minutes later I began feeling pressure…in my rectum. It was if I needed to take a bowel movement – all in the butt and it hurt. It wasn’t supposed to feel like this when you have an epidural – right? I called the nurse and she decided that I needed an internal. It was only 9:00pm so I told the nurse that I wanted to wait for my OB to return. I’d read stories about infection and did not want to have any internals unless it was absolutely necessary. By 9:15 I couldn’t take it anymore. The resident on duty performed an internal and found that I was ready to push – 10 centimeters dilated. When my OB arrived we began. I was pushing, and pushing and pushing when I saw my OB glance at the attending nurse. Something was wrong. The baby’s heartbeat was dipping dangerously. I was in a LOT of pain. I was given oxygen and a neonatal nurse was called. “Push as hard as you can” she told me….and push I did. “How tall are you” she asked – “5.4′ was my answer. “well you push like you are 5 feet nine inches tall – you need to stop right now because you are about to blow your labia in half”. I stopped to let her perform an episiotomy…one that required about 30 stitches to mend…

Two hard pushes later and they could see the head. My husband was watching our baby crown – and getting a bit choked up. Push, they all yelled….and then C yelled, “push!”…and I told him to shut the F up. Poor guy – I was at the end of my rope…when suddenly he was out. Alex was born at 10:31pm on the evening of January 22, 2007 at Lenox Hill hospital in NYC. At that moment I was in a daze…and quite frankly afraid to meet him. I felt shy! They put him into my arms and we gave each other a look like…”oh it is you…you are the one I’ve been kicking/you are the one who has been kicking – you are the only I’ve loved all this time”. It was so emotionally overwhelming. They took him off to be cleaned and weighed. His heart rate had been dropping because he had his hand on his face the entire time – which was also the cause of my back labor.

Immediately after giving birth they asked me to get up and walk around. I started to move but felt very ill. They would not let me move to my room until I could walk there myself but that seemed impossible. As soon as I stood up I fainted and fell to the ground. Needless to say they wheeled me to my room…where i waited until 4am for the return of my baby boy. I couldn’t sleep – I just wanted to hold him and kiss him and stare at him – which I did. Once I did get some sleep I was rudely awoken several times by nurses who needed to massage my uterus (the thought of it still makes me sick) and apply huge ice compresses to my …ugh what do you call it….vaginal area?

None of that mattered – our son was here and I’ve never felt more happy in my life. It took us 25 embryos, 3 IVFs, 2 clomid cycles and about 75 thousand dollars out of pocket but all of it was worth it. Every single tear, every minute of feeling terrified, all the pain and suffering was worth it… Nothing even compares.