The case of the stolen sperm.

The title is a lie.  The sperm itself wasn’t stolen, just the IUI.  It’s been quite a day.

Sea is recovering from the flu, and this morning her hacking cough woke us up before the alarm did.  As she coughed and I stared at the clock, we decided that attempting further sleep would be an exercise in futility and we might as well get up and go for an IUI instead.

We left our house smug, congratulating ourselves and each other for the early morning that, we assumed, would translate into arriving at Clinic One before the morning rush.  Then, cutting through a park to get to the bus stop, we saw the man lying on the cement path– glasses broken and blood around his head.  A woman stood over him, on the phone with the emergency dispatcher, but she was the only other person there.  Of course we stopped to help.  As I sat on the ground next to his head, rubbing the shoulder nearest me and encouraging him to stay still, Sea ran to the ambulance bay conveniently located about twenty feet away from where he had fallen.  She came back minutes later, now on the phone with an emergency dispatcher herself.  “But I can see the ambulances!”, she said, exasperated.  “I’m at the park immediately behind Station #123…  What do you mean what’s the nearest intersection?”  Sea continued to go through the same questions that the dispatcher had just gone through with the other woman.  I kept talking to the man on the ground, encouraging him not to move, still rubbing his shoulder.  Finally, fifteen minutes after Sea’s call, an ambulance drove up to the edge of the park and two men in bright yellow jackets appeared.  They simultaneously helped the man up and flirted with the woman who had been there when we arrived: “Are you okay sir?  Oh, uh, that’s a nice coat, ma’am.”  The woman smiled briefly at the compliment before kicking snow over the blood on the path and hurrying away, explaining that she was late for the first day of a new job.  We followed behind her to the bus stop, not explaining what we were now late for.

We arrived at Clinic One almost at the end of cycle monitoring hours, stopping at the andrology lab first to request the thawing of our first vial of Lefty.  As the nurse teaching me how to inject myself had said during our visit, “They won’t thaw the sperm until they’ve seen the whites of your eyes.”.  As I signed the waiver, I pointed to a machine steaming in the background: “Is that the machine that thaws the sperm?”  Sperm Thawer laughed and replied no, it was just a humidifier.  Oh, okay then.

Having missed the early morning lull at Clinic One, Sea and I walked into a crowded waiting room.  We sat watching other people being called for blood draws and ultrasounds, aware of how far down I was on both lists.  The blood drawing miracle worker was on shift: I anxiously watched every time she came out to call another name, hoping that she would call mine.  She didn’t, and the back of my hand suffered yet another puncture wound.

I was soothed from the injustice of my bloody bad luck (Ha, get it?  Bloody!) by my ultrasound.  Granted, the wait was long enough to prompt Sea to ask, “It still hasn’t happened?!”, but while I stood by the closed door of the ultrasound room I ran into a couple who I had met years ago in a gayby making info session of sorts.  I couldn’t remember their names, but in the context of a fertility clinic still felt comfortable enough to compare sperm counts and procedures with them.  They’ve been trying for about as long as we have, and together we marvelled over the fact that you could put 20 million sperm right up next to a just-ovulated egg and still not get pregnant.  I was finally called in by the same sonographer who had performed Saturday’s ultrasound.  The room was, clearly, the room where they do pregnancy ultrasounds.  A screen was placed at eye level with the exam table, and I watched as my uterus and ovaries appeared, ghostly in black and white, on the screen.

After the ultrasound it was a long wait.  Sea and I began to name the fish in the aquarium.  We used my phone to read every website we could think of, twice.  I began texting The Doctor.  I had pulled out my knitting project and Sea was attempting to stifle a coughing fit when Dr. Text finally called us in for the IUI.  He seemed pleased with the timing of the IUI which, compared to his usual confusion with my chart, was a nice change.  As Carly Rae Jepsen’s “Call Me Maybe” played over the radio, Dr. Text reviewed Lefty’s sperm count with us.  18.9 million: a fine count that still managed to dash my dreams of Lefty being a much more virile donor than Mickey had been.  Dr. Text performed the IUI as all three of us chatted about how our parents had shared, or not shared, our conception stories with us.  Sea and I may or may not have high-fived at some point during this process.

Dr. Text left after the procedure and, a few minutes later, so did we.  We didn’t just leave the room, we left the clinic.  Without paying for the IUI, or picking up the additional progesterone suppositories Dr. Text had ordered.  To be fair, our sperm-fueled equivalent of a dine and dash was entirely accidental.  We were several blocks away from Clinic One when I turned to Sea and said, “Um, we forgot to pay.”  We debated going back, but we were far enough away that an awkward return to the clinic we had just accidentally fled was too unappealing to contemplate. So we just kept walking.  Tomorrow morning I’ll go back to Clinic One to pay and get more progesterone, but right now you are reading the blog of an IUI thieving fugitive.  May that one day be the search term that lands somebody here.

The pregnancy test is on Sunday, March 2nd.  I can only hope that Clinic One hasn’t issued a warrant for my arrest and put up my mugshot next to their liquor licence and collection of baby photos by then.  Stay tuned.

Total Ultrasound Count: 28

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Venial Cupid.

Last night I dreamed that Sea and I had a baby.  I was pregnant in the beginning of the dream, but it then became clear that the baby had been born and we were supposed to pick her up.  We went to get her from a building that looked a little bit like our grocery store.  A group of people wearing white scrubs were working in an area that looked like a cross between a factory and a professional kitchen.  They reached into a large metal machine and handed us our daughter.  She was small, and had the same nose as Lefty– the one feature of our new donor that I really don’t like.  As I tried to push the baby’s nose into a different shape, Sea held her.  Walking through the aisles of the building, Sea and I decided that we would name the baby Venial Cupid.  We decided this was an elegant name, reminicent of the goddess Venus.  A friend of ours (V!) appeared and told us that the name was terrible, and sounded more like venereal disease than anything else.

I woke up and realized that it was time to go to Clinic One for cycle monitoring.

Clinic One was crowded, but operating with unusual efficiency.  Within ten minutes of arriving at the clinic I had my pants off for the ultrasound.  The sonographer, an older woman who has only performed one or two of my many ultrasounds, worked with friendly efficiency as “Some Nights” played over the radio: “What do I stand for? What do I stand for?  Most nights I don’t know anymore…”  Pulling my pants back on, I told the sonographer that I find the ultrasounds less invasive than the blood drawing (true).  Smiling, she explained that they were necessary, “but not very romantic”.  Also true.

After my blood was drawn– from my hand again– Dr. Text called me in to the exam room he often uses as an office.  After looking at my chart for a few minutes he bluntly announced, “Well, the Femara has done nothing.”  I still only have one follicle– now 20mm.  The 11mm follicle hasn’t grown but has, mysteriously, transferred sides from the left to the right.  I’m going to assume that one of the sonographers marked it down on the wrong side and it hasn’t actually gone wandering, because if it has we have bigger problems than ineffective Femara.

Dr. Text flipped back and forth between the pages of my file, trying to decide when to trigger ovulation.  Finally deciding on tonight, he sent me to see a nurse who would explain the process.  Though I was only there to learn how to inject myself, she poked through my chart like a nosy relative, commenting on my beautiful follicle and asking why I hadn’t gotten pregnant yet.  She sighed over the cost of the processes in the same tone as somebody bemoaning the rising cost of gas.  Finally, asking whether my thighs were less fat than my stomach, she told me how to inject myself.  As we walked back out to the reception desks, I asked her what the “TDI” she had written on my chart stood for.  She raised my file to her mouth before answering, in a stage whisper that would have made Heterosexist Receptionist proud, “therapeutic donor insemination”.   Lowering the file, she cheerfully told me that if she was the one doing the procedure that she would set things up and then let Sea do the rest.  This seems both sweet and suspect.

It turns out that the Inject Yourself 101 course was unnecessary: Nurse Brittany called early this afternoon to tell me that I was beginning to surge naturally and that I should refrigerate the (non-refundable/returnable) shot for later use.  IUI #4 is on Monday morning.

Total Ultrasound Count: 27

How romantic.

I tossed the cookies onto the file lying open on the exam table: “These are for you.”

Sea had stayed up late the night before, making dozens of cookies to take into work.  As I did dishes, and she carefully arranged red and pink candy onto the dough, I asked her to save a couple for Dr. Text.  “Is that weird?”, she asked, “Will he eat them?”  I was fairly sure that it was weird, but equally sure that most people will eat freshly baked chocolate chip cookies when presented with the opportunity– particularly festively decorated cookies. Also, I argued, maybe he would work harder to make us a baby if we had made him cookies.

So this morning I walked into Clinic One with festive cookies tucked into my bag.  Though the waiting room was almost empty, I noted that there were fewer people sitting alone today.  Instead, silent couples sat slumped in the chairs.  It seemed as if the clients of Clinic One had decided that a Valentine’s Day trip to the fertility clinic was not a solo undertaking.  Judging by the glum expressions that surrounded me, however, these couples also realized the irony of sitting in a fertility clinic on a holiday represented by a cherubic, fat, weapon-wielding baby.  I appreciated that Clinic One hadn’t tried to decorate for the occasion.

(Incidentally, speaking of celebrations, while waiting to have my blood drawn I noticed a still-posted bulletin granting  Clinic One a temporary liquor license for 12/12/12 at 12:00am.  I wonder what that party was like, and who was in attendance.)

Both the technician drawing blood from the back of my hand and Diana, who performed my ultrasound, asked what my Valentine’s Day plans were.  I did my best to explain that these were my Valentine’s Day plans– getting my blood drawn, having an ultrasound, seeing Dr. Text.  Sea and I have never celebrated Valentine’s Day in any significant way and, anyways, she had left for work early that morning and I would be working late into the evening.  So Dr. Text was my Valentine.

He seemed to appreciate the cookies: his smile was certainly wider than usual as he hunched over my files, and I doubt that it was my follicles making him grin.  In my last cycle, unmedicated, I had three 11mm follicles on Day 10.  This time around I have one 16mm follicle and one other at 11mm.  Dr. Text seemed pleased enough: taking his cookies and leaving the room, he told me to come back on Saturday.  While 16mm is certainly more than I’ve seen on Day 10 before, I had hoped that Femara would improve my odds a little more.

I left Clinic One a little disappointed, which I guess is how many Valentines end.  But I guess that we only need one good follicle, some strong sperm and a little luck.

How romantic.

Total Ultrasound Count: 26

Switching it up.

Despite the undisguised bitterness over January’s negative result, I’m beginning this cycle with some modicum of optimism.  I may not have been humming a happy tune or skipping down the hallway as I headed towards Clinic One this morning, but I also wasn’t kicking my feet against the taupe tiled floor.  Enough is shifting this cycle to make it feel like we’re doing something different, not just expecting a different outcome with the same steps.

Of course most things haven’t changed between January and February.  Heterosexist Receptionist greeted me by name in the same, slightly nasal, voice as always.  The blood draw technician, not the blood drawing miracle worker, still couldn’t find a vein in my arm.  I ran into the same acquaintance in the waiting room.  Dr. Text rushed down the hallway at the same frantic pace.  But some things were different.

There were the small things that make every visit to Clinic One different enough to write about: the Christmas tree was finally gone, replaced by a chair, and the blood draw technician told me that riding a bicycle would make my ovaries shrink.  In addition to running into my acquaintance, I also ran into two actual friends– a couple, there for their first visit.  (“Oh, you know them?”  Heterosexist Receptionist said, with surprise) and I sat with them as they filled out their paperwork and I waited for Dr. Text.

Then there were the bigger things, like my visit with Dr. Text.  Though his race down the hallway hadn’t slowed over the past couple of weeks, his first words as he sat down at the desk and opened my file were, “Now let’s go through this very slowly”.  It turns out that a slow read of five months worth of medical documents takes five minutes for Dr. Text.  As he settled on to January’s paperwork, he told me that he thought it was time to try medication.  He explained that, if somebody asked, he wouldn’t be able to say I was infertile– that, in fact, he didn’t actually think that I was.  But, he continued, he understands that this is costing a lot of money and, repeating one of his oft used lines, he can’t just tell us to go home and have sex.

Dr. Text raised the issue before I could, but I had been planning on asking.  As a person who generally considers taking two Advil excessive, I find the idea of fertility drugs disconcerting.  After three months of trying, there’s really nothing to suggest that I’m infertile and not just unlucky.   At the same time, I’m learning very quickly just how emotionally and financially draining this process can be.  Sea and I have spent thousands of dollars on sperm, procedures and various pills, powders, oils and suppositories with nothing to show for it—not even a lousy t-shirt.  I’m sure the ends will justify the means and our kid will be worth every penny, but we would prefer to get there sooner rather than later.  My health insurance covers medication, including fertility medication, so this increased chance isn’t going to cost any more money.  I left the office with a prescription for Femara.

The other big change for February is our new donor, made necessary by the fact that Mickey retired at the impressive age of 24.  I appreciate having the option to blame other people when situations aren’t going my way, and I’ve decided that blame for the IUI failures to date should be placed squarely on the shoulders of  the young drum circle enthusiast who donated his sperm.  I don’t know whether the sperm was inadequate or fate intervened to prevent the creation of a dangerous killer but, either way, Mickey wasn’t working out.  I’m confident that our new donor—Lefty—will be impossibly virile and using his sperm will result in children who will awe everybody with their impressive accomplishments and bent towards pacifism.

New month, new meds, new donor– here’s hoping for new results.

Total Ultrasound Count: 25