The Baby Bean Blog

Thursday, September 30, 2004

The IUI Experience

The insemination was rather anti-climatic, if you want to know. It took the doctor about 60 seconds, and most of that time was spent trying to convince the Bread Winner that there was no way she could mess up depressing the plunger of the syringe to put the sperm inside me. Most doctors will offer to let the woman’s partner—whether that be her husband, boyfriend, or domestic partner—do this so that they can feel involved in conception. But the Bread Winner was afraid that she would mess it up, so she didn’t do it. That was fine with me. I know my involvement in this conception! If she would rather not push the plunger, that’s up to her. However, when it becomes her turn to try to conceive, I will push the plunger for her. Why the hell not?

But all that was not supposed to be the point of that paragraph. The point was the anti-climatic nature of the event. Like I said, the whole thing happened in about 60 seconds. The doctor was cheerfully chit-chatting the entire time. He put the speculum in, the syringe, tried to convince the Bread Winner for about 20 seconds, pushed the plunger himself, took the syringe out, the speculum out, and it was over. Not exactly a special moment to cherish. But that’s fine. I’ll just cherish the child him- or herself. If I am one of the lucky 15% who gets pregnant.

We did get to see something really cool. The nurse let us look at a drop of our semen. Good lord, there were so many sperm, just swimming around like crazy. It was very reassuring to see how exuberant they seemed to be. “Go boys!” I felt like telling them. “Swim! Swim!” The nurse said that it was an excellent sample, so I’m pleased with the donor we chose—so far. Since we already knew that he has two children, we knew that his little soldiers could get the job done, but it was quite exciting to seem them in action.

Afterwards, I had to go to Delaware to drive my mother to her doctor for a proceedure that required her to be mildly sedated (which was why she needed me to drive her). I was in the waiting room from about 11am to 2:30pm, and as I kept looking at my watch, I kept thinking, "Okay boys, you've only X hours/minutes left to find the egg--go!" It was strange thinking of it like a countdown. By the time it reached 2:30, the spermies were at the end of their 6 hour lifespan. If they didn't find the egg--or if the egg was not there--then this cycle is a bust. Even more depressing is that even if one lucky, hard-working sperm did find the egg and fertilize it, there's still about a 40% chance that the egg will fail to implant properly in my uterine lining, thereby having the cycle end in a bust anyway.

Yes, the stats are depressing. But I keep reminding myself of them in order not to get my hopes up too high. Naturally, I've already figured out that if I am pregnant, I'll give birth in June. Also, I'll be through my first trimester in time to tell all of our friends and family for Christmas (we're waiting till the end of the first trimester to tell real people as opposed to you fake online people who will know right away). So you can see that I am getting a little ahead of myself. And that's what the two week wait is all about--the struggle between good and evil, between hope and dispair. I'll leave you with that. My next post will pick up where this one leaves off and be all about the most stressful time in a woman's life who is trying to conceive: the Two Week Wait.

Wednesday, September 29, 2004

Has the Craziness Begun?

It's 3am. In just about 5 hours, I will be on a table, my legs spread, most likely having my first ever IUI. That's "intra-uterine insemination" for those of you not in the fertility loop. There's two types of artificial insemination. Well, three types to be precise.

There's the "do it at home" type which is just technically called vaginal insemination although most lay people refer to it incorrectly as ICI (we'll get to that next). Anyway, vaginal insemination is when you stick some kind of needleless syringe in your vagina, depress a plunger, and squirt semen (fresh or thawed) into your vaginal canal.

Secondly we have the aforementioned ICI. This stands for "intra-cervical insemination." In this proceedure--usually done by a doctor, but sometimes doctors will show you how to do it at home--the end of the syringe has a bit of an extended bendy plastic tube, and this tube is inserted only into the cervix. The semen is then deposited there.

Last but not least, we have IUI. This requires specially rinsed sperm and completely sterile equipment, so it is always done by a doctor. In this case, the bendy plastic tube is threaded all the way through the cervix and into the uterus, and the sperm is put right in there. That's what I'm having done.

IUI has a higher success rate than vaginal insemination or ICI. IUI is supposed to give you about a 15% chance of getting pregnant, where the other methods give you about 10%. The benefit of IUI is that the sperm have a much shorter distance to travel. The downside is that the sperm only live about six hours as opposed to the 24 hours you get from ICI prepared semen. Why? Because the fluids in a woman's vagina and cervix clean out all the debris from an ejaculation, thereby letting only the spermies get into the uterus. If that debris got into the uterus, it would be the equivalent of rubbing your dirty hands into a person's abdominal cavity and they sewing them back up again. In other words, you'd get really sick with a nasty infection. So the semen for IUI is washed so that all that bad stuff is gone. However, this is a stressful process for the spermies and shortens their lifespan.

Why does that matter? Another good question. It matters because the egg is only good for 6-24 hours after it bursts free of the follicle and begins its journey down the fallopian tube. You've got two windows of opportunity, and they've got to line up. Only, there's no way to know for sure when a woman will ovulate or even if she just did a few hours ago.

The reason they are doing internal ultrasounds and measuring the size of the follicle in my ovary is to get a good idea of when I will ovulate, but there's no way to know for sure. A follicle might grow 2mm one day, 1mm the next, and 3mm the day after that. Somewhere after 20mm, it generally pops out the egg. But when after 20mm? It's impossible to tell. In addition, the follicle takes a while to shrink back down, so you could look at an internal ultrasound and see a 22mm follicle, but still not be able to tell if the woman won't ovulate for another day or if she already ovulated three hours ago.

Basically, it's a crap shoot, which accounts for the low success rate of this procedure.

It also accounts for the fact that I am awake at 3:30am, writing this, instead of sleeping. I can't sleep. I'm so nervous. About everything. And it's completely counter-productive. Stress can delay ovulation, which is the last thing I want. Unless, of course, I would be ovulating too soon otherwise. Agh!

I keep telling myself that I can't control this. I just have to trust my doctor and let what happens happen. There is literally nothing I can do. However, amongst the things I can't do is sleep. And then I stress about the fact that I can't sleep, which makes it even harder to sleep. Now I've given up. Maybe I'll just stay awake until it's time to leave.

Tuesday, September 28, 2004

My Guy

On the eve of my first anonymous insemination, I find that I can't stop humming the old 1960s song, "My Guy". I don't know the whole song, but little snippets come into my mind like, Nothing you could do could make me untrue to my guy, and There's not a man today who could take me away from my guy. A quick google search for the actual lyrics brought this suitable verse to my attention:

As a matter of opinion I think he's tops..
My opinion is he's the cream of the crop
It's a matter of taste to be exact
He's my ideal as a matter of fact

My guy already has two children by two different women--one in Washington state and one in Massachusetts. That is a double edged sword, to me. On one hand, it's good to know that his sperm can get the job done. On the other hand, I'm a little possessive about my guy. I don't like the idea that he's got children by other women. Obviously, you can't have it both ways, and we've decided to deal with the fact that he has other children.

This other children thing is not the same as my friend Angel and Carol, who bought anonymous sperm that will stay anonymous at least until their child is 18. Their guy also has other children, but like I said, they won't have any opportunity to know them for another 18 years if ever.

I will learn the identity of my guy when my baby is three months old (providing I get pregnant), and he will learn mine. He already knows his two other children (both boys), so the opportunity for them to be a part of our lives is somewhat greater. I woud prefer to pretend that these half-siblings don't exist, but I'm not sure how fair that would be to my child. On the other hand, how confusing will it be to know they have half-siblings all over the country? If the other mothers are amenable, I'd like to call these half-siblings living in other families "cousins." We would, of course, explain that they are a special type of cousins, but the idea of cousins is less threatening to my idea of family than brothers. Like I said, I'm the jealous sort.

Tomorrow morning, I will be hoping and praying that my DNA will be able to combine with the DNA of a virtual stranger--a man I only know on 7 sheets of paper. It's sort of a weird thing to wish for. I will be linked forever with my guy if things go the way I hope they will.

Monday, September 27, 2004

Crusing Along

I have to admit that I was a little worried. I've had cycle problems before--namely extremely delayed ovulation. This all happened when I was going through the stress of trying to conceive last fall. I was also 30 pounds overweight. Now I am not overweight although I am still a little stressed. But nonetheless, my ovaries are doing their thing and crusing along right on schedule.

Today's ultrasound revealed that my follicle has grown to 18 mm (good follicle) and my uterine lining is at a healthy 10 mm (good uterine lining). My doctor congratulated me on these accomplishments. Even though I have no conscious control over these things, I took the credit. Like Steve Spurrier said about the Washington Redskins, I claimed to have "coached 'em up," meaning my ovaries. For the non-sports enthusiast, Spurrier was referring to a less than stellar team roster. When asked how he would make due with those players, he said that he would "coach 'em up," implying that his coaching would make the players better than they had the natural talent to be. Spurrier failed miserably and has been run out of Washington. I, however, have succeeded.

I will be rising bright and early on Wednesday morning to go to my doctor's office to be inseminated. The Bread Winner is going to come with me. Then the really difficult part of this process begins--the two week wait. But I'll hold of on a post about that until I'm there.

Friday, September 24, 2004

The Joys of Internal Ultrasound

When most people think of an ultrasound, they think of a doctor standing over a very pregnant woman, squirting some gel onto her stomach, and then rubbing a thick rod with a sensor at the end over the woman's stomach. That is an external ultrasound. There's another kind, one that works from inside.

This process also uses a rod with a sensor on the end of it, but the rod is thinner and the sensor is smaller. For hygenic reasons, the ultrasound tech actually puts a condom over the rod and then squirts the gel onto the tip of the condom. Then it is inserted into the woman's vagina, and around and around we go. What we will see, will soon be known.

That's what happened to me today. I can only imagine that my uterus and ovaries are offended. They've lived their whole lives safely enclosed in my abdomen, and now this condom covered sensor is rubbing all over them. How rude.

This is day 11 of my cycle. Women who are trying to conceive no longer think in terms of dates on a calendar. They think in terms of the day of their cycle. The classic cycle is 28 days long. The first day of a woman's cycle is the first day of her period (spotting doesn't count--we're talking full-on blood). In this classic model, the cycle is split right in the middle by ovulation on day 14, which is then followed by 14 days of what is called a "luteal phase." Then the whole process begins again with her next period.

My doctor had wanted to see me on day 12 or 13 of my cycle to check and see how things are progressing before my expected ovulation day on cycle day 14. But because this cycle started on a Tuesday, that means that days 12 and 13 fall on a Saturday and a Sunday. In this situation, they have you come in on the Friday beforehand, day 11. All of this is, of course, assuming the classic model: 28 day cycle, ovulation on day 14.

Right now, my cycle is fairly normal. It ranges from 28-31 days. My luteal phase is not 14 days, but rather 13 days. This is completely fine and normal. It's like saying the average height of a woman is 5'6". If you're 5'5" or 5'7", you're still completely normal. Same deal.

However, this does mean that I am not likely to ovulate before day 15. Let's all do our cycle math together. If my cycle was, in fact, 28 days long this cycle, and I have a 13 day luteal phase, 28-13=yes, you guessed it, 15. Of course, the doctor doesn't believe me when I say I know my cycle, but that's the subject of another post.

My day 11 ultrasound showed just what I thought it would: I will mostly likely ovulate on Tuesday or Wednesday of next week: day 15 or 16 of my cycle. My uterine lining was at 6.4 mm. It still has some growing to do. It should be at least 7 mm in order to give the (hopefully) fertilized) egg a good place to implant. It looks like my left ovary is the magic ovary for this cycle. It's got a follicle in there at 11 mm. The follicle will probably be 20 mm or so before the egg bursts out, and since it grows at a rate of about 2 mm per day, that puts it, yes, at 19 mm on Tuesday and 21 on Wednesday (days 15 and 16).

I'm to go in again on Monday, day 14, for another ultrasound and some bloodwork to boot. We'll see if my body is continuing to behave itself or not.

Thursday, September 23, 2004

I Purchased Semen

This show is finally, well and truly, on the road. I'm not sure if I should get my hopes up or not. It seems like things are working out, but the way my life is going, I can't believe it.

Snags have popped up in this process. Lots of them. It seemed like they were popping up again when I finally called to order the semen two days ago. My partner (aka the Bread Winner) and I had been planning on putting this rather expensive purchase on our Discover card. The sperm bank said that they accepted credit cards. We just assumed that included Discover. Yes, we know that Discover isn't accepted everywhere, but it seems to be more and more these days. So we kept the Discover card free and clear and put all of our expenses on our other cards and accounts.

Let me explain why this is necessary. Perhaps you don't realize how expensive it is to buy sperm. Each vial costs $225. My doctor wants me to have two available in case something is wrong with one of them. So that means $550. My doctor also requires that the specimens be shipped in a liquid nitrogen tank. The shipping costs is $260. That brings our total for this month up to $710. Quite a lot, especially considering that we can expect to pay that amount every month for 6 or more months to come. But we had the Discover card all cleared and ready to accept the burden.

Then the sperm bank said that they don't accept Discover. Uh oh. Our other credit cards are pretty damn close to their maximums. We might have managed it by splitting the charges between a couple of different cards, but that seems kind of pathetic. The Bread Winner and I talked about it and decided that we could probably write a check to cover this month. I just had a birthday, and my mother gave me $500. That means that we only needed another $210. As it turns out, I had two $100 checks that hadn't been deposited yet. (The Bread Winner handles all that, so I'm a bit in the dark about where my money is sometimes.) All you math whizzes out there will realize that $500 + $100 + $100 = $700. How's that for serendipity? We needed $710, and I happened to have received checks recently that equal $700.

In addition to that good fortune, the sperm bank is a very small sperm bank that I have been dealing with for about six months while I prepared for this, and they said that they would go ahead and ship the semen even though they didn't have the check yet. They said they would trust us to send it. How's that for cool?

The semen was shipped yesterday and arrived at my doctor's office today. It's there, ready and waiting for me. Tomorrow I go in for an ultrasound and bloodwork. This is just to check and see how things are progressing in there. I probably won't have my first insemination until Tuesday, 9/28.

Wednesday, September 22, 2004

Posts That Pre-Date This Blog

The Baby Bean Blog is actually the third blog that I've created. I started out with one blog, The Bean Blog, and I wrote about all aspects of my life there. Later I decided that I would rather split out two of the major storylines of my life: my wedding photography career, which became the blog Weddings by Oz and what I had to do to have a baby, which became the Baby Bean Blog.

But the story of my trying to have a baby didn't start on September 23, 2004, when I started this blog. Actually, it had started about a year before that, before I'd even heard of blogs (yes, I'm afraid I must have lived under a rock at the time). I can't recapture all of what I went through between August 2003 and May 2004, but I can include links to the posts that I wrote on the Bean Blog about baby-making before I started this blog. So if you're curious to see the history as far back as it goes in the blog world, here are a list of links from the Bean Blog that would have fit (more or less) into this blog if I'd had it at the time.

September 9, 2004: You're in on My Secret

September 2, 2004: Which Sperm is the Sperm for Me?

August 30, 2004: More Bad News

July 16, 2004: Interesting. Very Interesting

July 9, 2004: Stuck with a Needle Again

June 30, 2004: There Is No Answer

June 29, 2004: Big Night

June 23, 2004: My Period Arrives

June 17, 2004: Let's Get Physical

June 15, 2004: Seventeen and Life to Go

June 14, 2004: Sperm: the Missing Ingredient