It's Almost Time

If my ultrasound goes as I expect it to later this morning, an IVF nurse should call me this afternoon and tell me to give myself one final shot tonight-the HCG trigger shot to mature my follicles into their final stage-and 32-36 hours later, on Friday morning, I should have my egg retrieval.

As of now, my doctor has measured 13 large follicles. He doesn't measure all of them, so there is the potential for more. And not every follicle contains an egg, although most do, so there is also the potential for less. The eggs will be extracted via a very long needle attached to an ultrasound probe. I will be placed under general anesthesia, so I won't feel a thing. While this is happening, my husband will be in another part of the hospital providing his "sample."

Once extracted, an IVF nurse will rush away my eggs to the lab, where my husband's sperm will be mixed with some of the eggs, and directly injected into others via a process called Intracytoplasmic Sperm Injection (ICSI). On Saturday morning (assuming I have the egg retrieval on Friday), an IVF nurse will call me with my fertilization report. She will tell me how many eggs fertilized, and whether I will have a Day 3 (the day of the retrieval is considered day 0) embryo transfer of two or three of my embryos to my uterus, or a Day 5 blastocyst transfer of likely the two best blastocysts. Most women undergoing IVF cycles have a Day 3 embryo transfer. But if the egg quality is very good, and I have a lot of eggs, blastocysts, which are eggs that have divided many times to the point where they are nearly ready to implant on the walls of the uterus, can offer a slightly higher pregnancy success rate with a decreased chance of multiples when compared with an embryo transfer.

Two weeks or so from Friday, I'll have a bloodtest, which will let me know if IVF worked for me. The last few weeks have flown by, yet when I think about it, it's taken almost two long years to get to this point. I've undergone fertility treatments for 14 of these months. I've had three failed Clomid IUI cycles (oral fertility drugs + intrauterine insemination). I've had two failed Gonal-F IUI cycles (injectible fertility drug + IUI). I've been giddy to the point of dwelling on those questions so many couples chatter about when they're trying to have a baby ("What will we name him or her?" and "When will we tell our family and friends we're expecting?" and "What color should we paint the baby's room?"). And I've wallowed in depression, crying each time I hear of another friend's pregnancy, and refusing to even consider the fact that any fertility treatment could possibly ever result in a baby for me.

And then there's my current mindset. If this doesn't work for me, I won't crumble. It will be devastating. And I will be upset. But I'll survive.

A friend of mine recently shared an interesting quote: Those who expect something are often disappointed. But those who expect nothing can be pleasantly surprised.

I'm hoping for a big surprise...or a few weeks' time.

Kitchen Meme. And What a $1.75 Cupcake Looks Like

It's time for another Sybil switch. Is everyone keeping up? Yesterday it was IVF doldrums, and's kitchen memes!

Fore score and five-and-a-half weeks ago, Dawn over at So Cal Foodie (yes, the same Dawn of the delicious and fabulous pumpkin cheesecake recipe) tagged me for a fun kitchen meme. Given that I don't have a digital camera, I told her I would love to participate, but that it would take me awhile to get the pictures developed and posted on my blog. Well, my friends, that day has at long last arrived. So, without further ado, the kitchen meme, followed by photos of my cupcakes from Magnolia Bakery.

1) Show us your kitchen ( a picture) and tell us what is it about this place that reflects your own personality.

Unfortunately, my kitchen is very small. I love my house, a cross between a Colonial and a Tudor, built in 1925, and full of old charm and character, but unfortunately, the kitchen is small, and full of appliances that are mainly from the early 80s. So, I tried to spruce it up a little and infuse it with the French Country style I love so much. We painted the walls yellow, the oak cabinets white, got rid of the hideous track lighting which was at least 20 years old, and put in a new ceiling that looks like tin but isn't. The shelves we installed are my favorite part.

2) Open a cupboard (the one you feel to open), take a picture and tell us what we see.

In my small kitchen, cupboard space is scarce. And many of my cupboards' shelves are completely inaccessible to me at 5' 2'' tall. So, as you can see, my food cupboards are packed with stuff. The top shelf stores many of my baking supplies. On the middle shelf, you see the cookies I bought at an Italian import store in Chelsea Market, along with the interesting juxtaposition of South Beach Diet cereal bars and Girl Scout Cookies, both of which are really good, believe it or not. Oh, and my husband's peanuts.

3) Present us your favorite kitchen-based household appliance.

This is a no-brainer for me. I love coffee. I am a total coffee snob. I probably drink way too much coffee, as this picture of my dirty coffee maker illustrates. My heart will always lie with Starbucks, but lately I've been visiting Dunkin' Donuts for my morning joe. Shhhh...don't tell my baristas.

4) Take out the ingredients you like the most, the ones you always keep stored.

Since baking has become my new weekend hobby of choice, I've made sure to keep the baking ingredients I use most often readily available, hence, the industrial-sized bottle of vanilla extract I bought a few weeks ago at BJs Wholesale Club. In the white cannister are cinnamon chips (mmmm...cinnamon scones), and of course, my favorite spices (cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, and cloves). And then there's my new favorite flavoring, almond extract.

5) My little steel friend: present us to your favorite cooking/baking recipient.

These are a relatively new addition to my kitchen. I saw these sweet little mini brioche tins in Sur La Table in New York, and had to buy them. I used them to make a a cream cheese cake recipe I saw in last month's issue of Martha Steward Living, and I took pictures! I'll blog about that kitchen endeavor soon.

I'm going to tag a few people, but don't feel you have to participate unless you want to.

Andy from Reluctant Baker
The Geekwif
Ramona from Kross-Eyed Kitty
Amy from BeautyJoyFood

And here are my Magnolia Cupcakes!

In Search of a Good Egg...or Two

12. I currently have 12 large follicles (seven on my right ovary and five on my left) as of my ultrasound on Saturday. I have another ultrasound tomorrow, and I'm hoping for even more. Even though my doctor has said there isn't a corrolary between the number of follicles and pregnancies (meaning, women can have 20 follicles and still not get pregnant), I still want the most chances possible. Not all of my follicles will develop into embryos for implantation, so I figure the more follicles I have, the more chances I have for a handful of "good eggs."

My egg retrieval will likely take place on Thursday or Friday of this week. I'll know for sure tomorrow. Then, three or five days after that (depending on embryo cell division) my doctor will transfer two or three embryos back to me. On or around December 14th, I should know if IVF worked.

This whole process has gone by so quickly. It seems like it was just a day or two ago when I started injections, even though the bruises and marks on my thighs tell a different story. I'm up to twice daily injections of fertility meds now (morning and night), along with Lupron injections in the morning to prevent premature ovulation. I can't believe that as soon as Sunday, I could have three embryos fighting to survive inside me. Would that technically make me pregnant, if only for two weeks if I'm unsuccessful? The thought it a strange one.

At my ultrasound appointment on Saturday, I was upset to see that another patient decided to bring her baby with her for her appointment. She wheeled her enormous stroller containing her adorable baby into the small waiting area where I was sitting alone. Her husband followed her.

At your very first visit to my hospital's infertility clinic, they hand you a binder full of information. And in that binder is a colored sheet of paper, asking you to please refrain from bringing your children to your appointments so as to be sensitive to the emotional needs of other patients. The hospital even provides free daycare for mothers with doctor's appointments on another floor in the building. Granted, this was a Saturday and the daycare may not have been available, but this woman also brought her husband with her. He could have wheeled the baby around in the stroller on the main floor of the hospital while his wife had her appointment. To me, this woman personified selfishness and insensitivity. She was a patient there! Perhaps her son was even the result of previous infertility treatments. Presumably, she knows how hard it is for infertile women to see the babies they want so much, much less to have them invade the small waiting area of their fertility clinic, the one space in the world that should be baby-free.

If I'm ever in her enviable position, my baby will stay home with his or her dad, because I won't soon forget what it feels like to be the infertile, sitting in her doctor's waiting room where she's been coming for 14 months, with an empty womb, a hardened heart, and a not-so-positive outlook about what she's about to endure.

I'm Thankful

In the five months I've been writing this blog, I've used my posts to highlight small successes in my kitchen as I attempt to turn myself into a decent baker, to wax poetic (or not-so-poetic) about the people, places and things I love, to vent on the experiences of my IVF journey, to bitch and to complain about things that bug me, and sometimes, to blab about nothing at all.

Today, in the spirit of tomorrow's Thanksgiving holiday here in the States, I'm going to give thanks for the blessings I have. And while it's very easy to lose sight of them, when so much of my life has turned inward lately, I truly have much to be thankful for.

I'm thankful for my incredible family. I admit a slight bias, but they are the most generous, loving, self-sacrificing group of people I've ever encountered. They have their faults, as does everyone, but I wouldn't be the person I am today without them. They make me feel loved every day of my life, and I realize how lucky I am to have this.

I'm thankful for my husband, who for the past two years of infertility treatments and the emotional upheavals that have followed has been nothing but loving and supportive of me. It's strange, but I think going through this process together has brought us closer. I'm still very aware that no one calls a married couple a "family," and that what we both want more than anything is to have something that's seemingly unachievable, but I truly believe that infertility has made us stronger people both as individuals and as a couple.

I'm thankful for my relative good health, and the fact that my Crohn's disease hasn't acted up in the two years since we've been trying to conceive, which would have made this process so much more difficult. Infertility and Crohn's disease aren't a walk in the park, but I'm not going to die from either one of them. So many others aren't as lucky.

And last but not least, I'm thankful to all of you who read this blog, and who lately have offered me words of encouragement in my IVF journey. This isn't an infertility blog, and I know many of you are blessed with your own children, yet you still plod through my frequent "emotionally charged" posts and offer kind words and a "shoulder" to lean on. I can't tell you how much this means to me.

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone.

Emotional Hurdles Ahead

My post-NYC euphoria has officially worn off, and I'm back to my normal IVF-based feelings of nervousness and trepedition. This post isn't upbeat or hopeful. If it's not what you're looking for today, I won't blame you for moving on.

I spend a good portion of each day worrying about the process I'm undergoing, and fretting about outcomes yet to be determined. It's my nature to anticipate negative results for events that haven't yet occured.

For example, in going through fertility testing last year, I was certain that my HSG procedure (hysterosalpingogram) was going to show blocked fallopian tubes as the cause of our problems. I've had prior abdominal surgery. I was certain scar tissue had blocked my tubes, preventing my eggs from getting fetilized and implanting in my uterus. I found stories of such cases all over the Internet. I was depressed. I cried constantly. I endured many sleepless nights until the day of my test. tubes were fine. All the worry and stress I put myself through was for no reason.

And now I'm at the court of last resort, so-to-speak. The end of the line, where I don't get to comfort myself with thoughts of "Well, if Clomid (oral fertility drug) doesn't work, then we can try Gonal-F (injectible fertility drug)" and "If Gonal-F doesn't work, we have IVF left to try." Now, it's IVF baby.

I'm worried that I won't produce enough follicles. I'm worried that my doctor will be unable to extract follicles from my ovaries during egg retrieval. I'm afraid that any follicles he's able to retrieve won't fertilize, or that those that might fertilize won't multiply in size as they should. And I'm afraid that if I get as far as embryo transfer day, and they're able to implant two or three embryos, that they'll die inside of me. And I'm afraid of how I'm going to react once I receive this news.

I don't know how my husband puts up with his crazed, hyped-up on drugs, hormonal IVF wife. One minute I'm fine. The next I'm not. One minute I'm laughing. The next I'm teary-eyed. If it's a rollercoaster ride for me, I can't imagine what it's like for him to live with Sybil.

The worst thing about this whole process is what I've let it reduce me to. I consider myself fiercely strong and independent. I've dealt with a lifetime of medical problems, and I've always been able to carry myself through them without crumbling when things didn't go as I wanted them to. And even though this is vastly different than what I've been through before, and there's a level of emotion and a sense of loss (for a baby I've not yet even come close to having), I still believe I should be able to endure this IVF cycle with the same determination and strength I've used to carry myself through other medical treatments. But I can't. And admitting that I am weak and is just killing me.

I look at the bruises on my legs caused by twice-daily injections and wonder if I'm hurting myself for no reason. I think about the fact that as of Saturday, I've had to give up running, something I really enjoy. I ask myself if it's worth it when I'm anticipating not having the baby I want so badly in my arms at the end of this nightmare. I would endure needle sticks from now until the end of time and give up running forever if I knew that IVF would be successful for me. But there are no guarantees. And I don't even have hope to hold on to, at this point.

I miss the innocence and positivity I had at the beginning of this process. I miss the discussions of "if we conceive this month, then the baby will be born in May. Or October. Or January." I no longer allow myself to envision my grandma, or my great aunt, or my great uncle holding my baby in their arms and smiling down at him or her with pride and love and sheer joy reflected in their faces. The sight of a pregnant woman used to make me imagine what I would look like carrying a child. Now I can't even look at a baby in a store, or in a restaurant, or on tv without feeling physical pain in my chest.

I should be excited now. I have a chance. Why isn't this enough?

Musical Reviews

Last Friday evening, I went with my husband to see the musical "Wicked" while we were in New York City. "Wicked" is based on the 1995 novel "Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West" by Gregory Maguire, and serves as a prequel of sorts to "The Wizard of Oz." The musical "Wicked" tells the story of Elphaba, the girl born with green skin who eventually becomes known as the Wicked Witch of the West who terrorizes Dorothy in "The Wizard of Oz."

However, this musical will turn everything you thought you knew about the Wicked Witch of the West on its head. I won't reveal plot points, in case anyone plans on seeing it, but I will say that Elphaba isn't as she seems, has a very interesting family tree, and, as it turns out, a surprising love interest as well.

What I loved about "Wicked" was the backstory it supplies for the characters in "The Wizard of Oz." In "Wicked" you meet the Tin Man and the Scarecrow as young men, before they become the Tin Man and the Scarecrow you meet in L. Frank Baum's tale. You meet Elphaba, Glinda (who eventually becomes the Good Witch of the North), and even Nessa (Elphaba's sister, and the witch on whom Dorothy's house falls in the beginning of "The Wizard of Oz") as teenagers, and you watch as their stories and characters evolve up to the point where Baum's story picks up.

The music in "Wicked" was also incredible. My husband borrowed the soundtrack from a coworker, and I have it loaded and playing frequently on my iPod. And the vocal performances by the two leads (Shoshana Bean as Elphaba and Megan Hilty as Glinda) were amazing. These two were on stage and singing for practically the entire show, and were truly fantastic.

Rue McLanahan ("Blanche" from "The Golden Girls") played Madame Morrible, the headmistress at Elphaba and Glinda's school. Her role wasn't significant, but she did a great job with it. And Ben Vereen played the wizard.

"Wicked" is most definitely a show worth seeing! And as soon as I finish Augusten Burroughs' "Dry," I'm going to start reading Maguire's "Wicked."

We also saw "The Producers" on the Saturday night we were in the city. "The Producers" follows the comic missteps of a seasoned, but perpetual failure of a Broadway producer and an accountant-turned-Broadway producer as they attempt to cast and produce the worst musical Broadway has ever seen, in order to turn a quick buck.

While I would have LOVED to see Nathan Lane and Matthew Broderick in these roles, as Cara did, the two actors who played Max Bialystock and Leo Bloom did an outstanding job in their physically and vocally demanding roles. The dialogue was clever, often raunchy, and always hysterical, and the casting of most of the supporting roles was spot on, including the casting of Jai Rodriguiz (from Queer Eye) as Carmen Ghia, the flamboyant director's assistant. I've seen Jai perform on Broadway as Angel in "Rent", and regardless of the mostly pointless role he plays as the "culture guy" on Queer Eye, he is in his element on the stage.

I won't remember "The Producers" for its music (although there is one particularly hilarious and all-too-familiar scene in which Leo toils away at a desk along with other accountants, before he leaves this job to become a producer, as he sings a song entitled "Unhappy"), but instead for its intelligent and hilarious script, which has Mel Brooks' stamp all over it.

I do have to say that of all the musicals I've seen on Broadway over the years, my absolute favorite is still "Rent." I've seen it seven times in total: twice in New York, three times in Toronto, once in Buffalo, and once in my hometown. And on Wednesday, the movie version of Rent is being released, with much of the original Broadway cast appearing in their roles. I'm nervous, though, because I'm not sure how well the power and beauty of the musical will translate into movie form.

Do you have a favorite musical?

Let Them Eat Pumpkin Cheesecake

About a month ago, I stumbled upon Dawn's SoCal Foodie blog. Dawn's food blog is entertaining and fun to read, and always filled with great recipes and beautiful photography. AND she has a purple Kitchenaid mixer!

As I was reading along, I stumbled across a recipe for pumpkin cheesecake. Now, I must mention that I love pumpkin in anything. In the past few months, I've made pumpkin cookies, pumpkin scones, pumpkin bread, pumpkin-banana bread...and the list goes on. And, given that cheesecake is one of my favorites as well, this recipe was perfect for me and my pumpkin-loving tastebuds. There was only one problem. I had never made cheesecake before. I had, however, read about the potential challenges and pitfalls of making cheesecakes. Soggy crusts, crater-like cracks in the top, and mushy fillings. Yet, since I've turned into a brave kitchen soldier lately, I decided to give it a try.

Before attempting anything, though, I had a few questions for Dawn, and she was kind enough to answer all of them. She truly held my hand along my first foray into cheesecake-making. Primarily, my questions centered around this step from the recipe:

"Line a baking sheet with a triple layer of paper towels. Spread the pumpkin on the towels and cover with a second triple layer of towels. Press firmly until the towels are saturated. Peel back the first layer of towels and discard. Grasp the bottom towels and fold the pumpkin in half; peel back the towels. Repeat and flip the pumpkin onto the baking sheet; discard the towels."

What? I have to BLOT the pumpkin? But pumpkin puree isn't all that wet! Sure, it's moist, but I certainly can skip this step, which seemed like it would create quite the mess, and be just fine, right? Luckily, I emailed Dawn and she told me that yes, I do need to blot the pumpkin. No, pumpkin puree really isn't all that dry, and no, my cheesecake would not be fine if I didn't blot my pumpkin. So, following her expert advice, I dumped out the puree onto paper towels as instructed and discovered, much to my surprise, that pumpkin puree is wet. Really, really wet. I blotted it with masses of paper towels, and as a bonus, this entire process didn't create a mess. When it came time to slide the pumpkin into my mixing bowl, it came off without a problem.

And the end result was incredible. I don't think I've ever been prouder of myself for anything I've baked than I was of this cheesecake. It was flawless! No cracks on the top! No crumbly crust! No mushy center! The taste was delicious, and filled with those wonderful falltime spices of cinnamon, allspice, nutmeg, and vanilla. But it was also a light cheesecake, and not dense and rich as were other cheesecakes I've tasted.

Here it is in all its crowning glory...

Even my cat Chubbie had a piece, which she thoroughly enjoyed.

So, my friends, if you haven't figured it out by now, I highly, highly recommend you try this recipe. If I can do it, and have it turn out so well (if I do say so myself), then you can too. I feel I must warn you, however. As excited as you are about this recipe right now, and as much as you may want to go forth into the blogosphere and share the cheesecake love with which you're currently filled, I would advise against mentioning it in any way, shape, or form should you decide to visit Andy over at The Reluctant Baker. He tried it. And did not meet with success due to a springform pan defect. I tried to tell him it wasn't the cheesecake's fault! But he didn't want to listen. He begrudges the cheesecake. And he never wants to hear me talk of it again.

Quick IVF update: So far, so good. My morning injections of Lupron (ovulation suppression drug) are...well, painful as all hell, but I'm getting used to the needle sticks again. It's been awhile since I've had to inject myself. I've got some bruises on the tops of my thighs, which are only going to get bigger and more numerous beginning tomorrow, when I have to start the nightly Gonal-F (fertility drug) injections on top of my morning Lupron ones. I'm trying to take this whole process one step at a time. There are many potential pitfalls along the way, potentially beginning on Wednesday, when I go for my first ultrasound to see how many follicles the Gonal-F has produced on my ovaries. Cross your fingers for many.

NYC and Kitty Photos

Instead of another "texty" post, I present to you photos (yes, photos! On THIS blog!) from my trip last weekend to New York. Unfortunately, some photos, namely those of the Magnolia cupcakes, are on a yet-to-be-finished roll of film, so those will have to wait. However, I did develop the other roll I took. And so, without further ado, allow me to present...

Lunch at Tavern on the Green...

Followed soon after by the trip to Magnolia Bakery. That's my uncle standing next to me, and my aunt peering inside the window. My uncle is slightly unpleased, and extremely cold.

And here's one of my cat Claudia, celebrating Fall, her favorite season. And no, she didn't come to New York with us.

The Cupcake Bouncer

This past Friday, while visiting NYC, I dragged my husband and great aunt and uncle to the famous Magnolia's Bakery in Chelsea. Having seen the bakery and its cupcakes featured on numerous Food Network shows, and having read about the delectable virtues of the cupcakes on several food blogs, I knew I had to make Magnolia's a part of my most recent visit to the City. My companions, however, didn't quite understand the allure of the bakery, but indulged my desire anyway.

As we were walking down Bleecker Street, I warned my companions about something I had read about Magnolia's online-namely, that it was extremely popular, though very tiny on the inside, so people often had to wait in lines outside. But, I also had read that the lines move quickly. I hadn't read anything that indicated why this was so. However, once we arrived, the truth behind the smooth progression of Magnolia's lines became evident: Magnolia's has a bouncer.

But I'm getting ahead of myself. We arrived at 401 Bleecker Street and saw that there was a line that wrapped around the corner outside of the building. We queued up, and my uncle (who is about to turn 81, and is as sharp as a tack) says "I would have bought you two Hostess cupcakes for 99 cents!" Neither my aunt nor my uncle nor my husband could understand why we were standing outside, in a long line, in 40-something degree weather, with a biting wind blowing...for cupcakes. I was hopeful the cupcakes we would enjoy would not disappoint.

The line moved at a pretty good clip. Once we arrived near the front of the line, we realized why. There was a bouncer standing at the door. He asked for the number in your party. He scanned the tiny bakery, and once there was enough room to let more people in, he moved aside from his post blocking the door and you were allowed to enter. He was kind, though, and didn't resemble your typical bouncer in that his neck was normal sized and his forearms didn't resemble large hams.

Once we got inside, I took in the 1940s-styled design of the bakery, the mixers whirring, and the employees frosting cupcakes in full view of visitors, and then scrambled toward the stars of the show, arranged on baking sheets toward the front of the store. There were four varieties to choose from. Vanilla with vanilla buttercream frosting, vanilla with chocolate frosting, chocolate with vanilla frosting, and chocolate with chocolate frosting. The cupcakes were each decorated with some sort of sprinkles or sugar candies, and piled high with loads of frosting. My husband and I had decided ahead of time that we were going to buy four cupcakes. Given my loathing for all things chocolate, I selected two vanillas with vanilla, and my husband chose one of the same, plus one chocolate with vanilla frosting.

We got in line to pay for our cupcakes, and scanned the bakery case by the register for other desserts. Magnolia also makes cookies, cheesecake, and a variety of other traditional cakes. My husband chose a small, individual-sized vanilla bean cheesecake to take back to the hotel with us as well. We approached the register, paid for our $1.75-each cupcakes, plus the cheesecake, and hustled out of Magnolia. As we were leaving, my uncle asked the bouncer how many cupcakes Magnolia sells a day. 10,000. Magnolia's sells 10,000 cupcakes in one day!

Back at the hotel later that night, and after I had finished taking some photos of the cupcakes (coming later this week), we sampled what we purchased. Magnolia's cupcakes did not disappoint. The cake itself was not overly sweet. It was dense, flavorful, and most certainly unlike any cupcake I had ever tasted. Many cupcakes I've had virtually fall apart almost before you bite into them because they are so light. And most all cupcakes I've tasted have been extremely sweet as well. But Magnolia's cupcakes were sturdy little fellas, and the majority of the sweetness came from the thick and delicious buttercream frosting swirled on top. We each ate one, saved the other two for Saturday night, and then dug into the mini cheesecake, which was incredible as well. Worth the wait, worth the price, and worth the trip down to Chelsea. I'd recommend a visit to Magnolia's for anyone with a sweet tooth who is planning on visiting the City.

And in pizza news: when we returned from seeing Wicked on Friday night, my husband and I tucked the old folks into bed in their room, and ordered our annual pizza from Ray's. It arrived at midnight, a time when I'm normally fast asleep, but we were both starved, having not eaten dinner that night because we had indulged at Chelsea Market, and then, of course, on the cupcakes. We each had three enormous, cheesy slices, and went to bed an hour later with full and bloated bellies.

A "Wickedly" Good Time

I'm back from New York. We had a great time, with too many interesting experiences to recount in one post, so I'm going to divide them up into several this week.

On tap for today:
An update on the covert fertility drug smuggling mission
Food experiences: Friday, part 1

If you read this post, then you know how worried I was about getting my fertility drugs and needles inspected by security without my great aunt and uncle seeing what was going on. I planned on having them go ahead of me in line, and then having my husband usher them away from me. Well, not only did circumstances allow me to escape to the security checkpoint all by myself, but the TSA inspectors also didn't even open my bag after it was scanned!

The four of us checked in, and my husband and I only brought a carry-on stuffed with our clothes, and my bag, which contained the drugs and a book. My aunt and uncle had luggage they needed to check. So, following check-in, the two of them had to stand in another line where inspectors opened their checked luggage and searched it. My husband and I didn't have to go through this, since our carry-on luggage would go through the scanner at the security checkpoint. So, while my aunt and uncle waited in their line, I told them I had to use the bathroom, took off by myself, and went through the security checkpoint. I had my letter from my doctor out and ready, since I anticipated them seeing the needles on the screen once my bag was inside the scanning machine. So I waited, hoping and praying that my husband, aunt, and uncle wouldn't get in the line and see what was about to happen.

And then...nothing. My bag came out the other end of the machine, no one asked to inspect it, so I picked it up (along with what seemed like my entire wardrobe for the day-they make you practically strip down to your birthday suit before walking through the metal detectors nowadays), and walked to my plane's gate to wait for them. It was that easy! Apparently, one can bring needles on-board an airplane without security personnel blinking an eye. Good to know. experiences. We basically ate our way through the entire weekend. I believe I gained at least five pounds in three days! But it was so, so worth it.

On Friday for lunch, we ate at Tavern on the Green in the the Terrace Room. This picture doesn't do the room justice. It was absolutely beautiful, filled with at least seven crystal chandeliers, white linen tableclothes, and absolutely gorgeous floral displays. This was by far the most fancy restaurant I've ever eaten in. We had both a waiter and a table captain. The menu contained no prices. Every member of the wait staff was impeccably dressed in Tiffany's-blue coats and white pants. I felt a little like a child at a very fancy tea party. And I would have felt even more out of place if the room hadn't been filled with tourists, many of whom had behavior and dress that fell into the "ugly American" category, but I'll explain that later in the week.

We all ordered sandwiches for our meals, all of which were excellent. My aunt and uncle very generously picked up the tab, which was...substantial. But it was an incredible experience that was not as much about the food, but about the entire dining experience as a whole.

On Friday afternoon, we headed to Chelsea Market. It was this vast indoor one-floor market featuring not only storefronts, but also back room kitchens where you could see bakers hard at work preparing all sorts of yummy treats. Most of the stores themselves were tiny, as the majority of each's space was reserved for the kitchens. Especially tiny was FatWitch Bakery. If I didn't know the place sold excellent brownies (which I didn't try because all the varieties had chocolate in them. I know! I know!), then I would have passed it right by, the storefront was so small.

I did, however, "try" a small round sourdough loaf from Amy's Bread. And "try" doesn't quite cover it because I ended up finishing the whole thing, all by myself, by the end of the day. Put a loaf of fresh bread in front of me, and you can pretty much guarantee it will be eaten, in its entirety, in the short term. It was worth every bite though.

My overall impression of Chelsea Market was that I was a little disappointed. I expected bigger storefronts with more variety to choose from. It was also smaller than I expected as well. I did buy two packages of Italian cookies and vanilla paste (which I have been unable to find anywhere in my town) at Buon Italia, an Italian import store, so that was a find for me. I'm glad I went though. The bread alone was worth the trip.

This post is already way longer than anticipated. Congratulations if you read this far! Stay tuned tomorrow for part 2 of Friday's food experiences, including my trip to Magnolia's Bakery and the late-night Ray's pizza experience, as well as an on-street celebrity sighting, my reviews of Wicked and The Producers, and Saturday's visit to Little Italy. And...writing this blog has inspired me to get my photos developed ASAP, so I'll have some pictures up hopefully by Wednesday or Thursday.

Broadway Bound!

This time tomorrow, I'll be in New York. I am very excited. Earlier in the week, I set up plans to meet up with one of my friends from high school after The Producers on Saturday night. I haven't seen him since the beginning of the year (he moved back to the City in the summer), so I'm looking forward to that.

One thing I am NOT looking forward to is somehow smuggling my needles and fertility drugs through security without my great aunt and uncle seeing them. As you know, they don't know about the IVF. I have a note from my doctor for the TSA security people, informing them that I'm not shooting up heroin, just trying to have a baby, so please don't arrest this girl. However, the drug has to be kept refrigerated, so I have to pack it in a little cooler in my carry-on. I know they're going to inspect it when I go through the security checkpoint. I just have to figure out how I'm going to let this transpire while my aunt and uncle are nearby. As of now, the plan is for them to go first, followed by my husband, and then for my husband to hussle them away from the security area ASAP, so I can have my stash inspected without them seeing.

If you have any other ideas, please let me know!

I'll be back on Monday. Have a good weekend.

My Love Affair with Ray's Pizza

One of my favorite things about visiting New York is the food. Now, I'm no gourmet. In fact, if I had to count the foods I eat and enjoy on my hands, I'd probably have fingers left over. I'm a plain Jane in the culinary department, but there are certain foods that I really, really love eating. And in my opinion, the finest example of one of my favorite foods is found in the city I love: pizza.

My husband and I discovered Ray's Pizza (full name: Famous Original Ray's Pizza) on our first trip to the City together in 1997. Neither one of us is an adventurous eater (although my husband definitely enjoys trying new foods more than I do) and we were trying to do New York on the cheap. So we asked the concierge at our hotel to recommend a nearby pizza place, and she recommended Ray's. We were not disappointed. It was everything New York-style pizza should be: huge pieces, thin crust, and lots of cheese. We were in taste bud heaven.

From then on, we made a pizza from Ray's a part of our annual New York trip. In fact, we talk about ordering pizza from Ray's weeks before we even leave, one of us reminding the other to make sure and bring Ray's phone number. And of course, on either Friday or Saturday of this week, we will enioy an enormous Ray's pizza while we're in the City.

In IVF news: Today I'll head to the bank at lunch time and ask for a bank check for a sum of money I haven't seen since we handed over the closing costs for our house. We have to pay for our IVF cycle in full on Monday. In a lot of ways, I'm frustrated that we have to essentially drain our savings account to pay for a chance at what everyone else in the world seems to be able to do for free. I suppose I'm entitled to a whoa-is-me, pity-party moment every once and awhile, right?

The New York Dream

This coming weekend, my husband and I, along with my great aunt and uncle, are going to New York City. We have a full weekend of fun activities planned, including:

Two musicals: Wicked and The Producers

Lunch at Tavern on the Green in Central Park

A visit to Chelsea Market, an awesome place filled with cool stores, and yummy restaurants and bakeries, including FatWitch Bakery and Amy's Bread. Oh, and Emeril films his show there too. Retch.

A visit to Little Italy. My Italian great aunt and uncle have never been to NYC's Little Italy, although they've both been to Italy, where their parents were born. I'm so excited to show them New York City's version of their "homeland," including Ferrara Cafe, this amazing bakery and cafe with a dessert menu that's five pages long! If you're a fan of Italian pastries and cookies, this place will make you think you've died and gone to heaven.

Every visit to the City is special for me, because I came very close to moving there after college. I planned to graduate, move to London for five months to work, and then return home and move to New York. However, one month before I graduated, I started dating my husband. He has many wonderful attributes, but a love of adventure and new things is not one of them (although eight years of exposure to me has changed that about him...slightly). He wanted no part of moving to New York. So instead I graduated. Moved to London. Returned home. And stayed home. Bought a house. Got hitched. And didn't move to New York.

So my concilation prize is a weekend in New York City every year. And my husband loves visiting almost as much as I do. After all, New York is the home of his beloved Yankees. But despite my promise to buy him season tickets to his favorite team, new golf clubs, and just about anything else my credit card can afford, moving to New York in the near future isn't happening for us, however much I would love it if it did.

Moving to New York would fulfill many a dream of mine. In New York, I believe I could find a job in the publishing world that I would actually enjoy. New York is the headquarters of many publishing houses, travel magazines, and of course, the headquarters of Martha Stewart Omnimedia! I could be Martha's next apprentice! But in all seriousness, I honestly believe that I could find a job to love there.

Moving to New York would mean endless exposure to a cultural scene that's all but absent in my hometown. Musicals, plays, concerts, museums, amazing bakeries, restaurants, and cool stores abound there. There's always something to do there, and always somewhere new to try. I thrive on adventure and new experiences, and if New York is about anything, it's about these things.

Moving to New York would mean I'd never have to drive in rush-hour traffic again, because I'd sell my car and take the subway or bus everywhere. It would mean that I would be surrounded by people who look and talk nothing like me, who come from different countries and cultures, who dress differently than I do and approach the world in ways completely different from the way I do. I would learn so much.

I do enjoy my current life. I love my house (although I desperately want a second bathroom!) and I know I wouldn't be able to afford a house anywhere near the City if we moved downstate. But every time we visit the City, I come away from the trip thinking...I wish this was my city. That black-and-white American Express commercial with Robert DeNiro in which he talks about his love for New York makes me weepy. I would love the City that much as well, if I lived there too.

In other, completely unrelated news, I did my first IVF injection this morning. I'll inject myself in the thigh with Lupron, a drug designed to suppress ovulation, every morning for the next two weeks. Soon, the morning injection will be followed by an evening injection of Gonal-F, the fertility drug designed to make me produce trillions (well, actually just dozens) of eggs. The injection was fairly uneventful, since I had done this type of injection in previous fertility treatment cycles.Three weeks to go until egg retrieval if all goes well.

Bad Behavior Knows No Income Bracket

I usually go for my run in the evening after work. But since I have a late meeting today, I decided to go early this morning. Part of my normal route takes me into a very nice neighborhood about two miles away from my own. It is full of beautiful old houses situated on wide, tree-lined streets adorned with old-fashioned street lamps. It's truly a gorgeous neighborhood, and one of the most expensive areas to live in my town.

It was still dark out as I was jogging down one of the roads in this neighborhood. Out of the corner of my eye, I noticed a car slowly pulling out of its driveway down one of the side streets that run parallel to the one I was jogging on. I reached the end of the road, turned around, and headed back the way I had just come. By this time, this car, which I now noted to be a shiny, black Lincoln, had pulled onto the street I was jogging on, and was driving slowly ahead of me, but far enough away that I wasn't afraid I was about to be beat up and left for dead along the side of the road.

That's when the car stopped dead center in the middle of the road. The man in the driver's seat got out, opened his back driver's-side door, and took out a bag of garbage, and dumped it in his neighbor's green garbage tote, which was set out on the curb for pickup! I couldn't believe what I had seen! This man was driving a Lincoln! He lives in a house that probably costs close to half a million dollars. And he's dumping his garbage illegally in his neighbor's tote because presumably he doesn't want to pay the, what, $50 a month garbage pickup costs?

I tried to think of other possible explanations for this, and came up with nothing. Now I think I've seen it all.

Fun with Needles

Yesterday my husband and I attended our "IVF Teaching Appointment." This appointment's purpose was to cover my drug protocol for the next month, to hear about the different stages of an IVF cycle, to learn how to perform intra-muscular injections, and for my husband to practice giving me an my posterior. I was a bit unprepared for that last part.

As we arrived for the appointment, we soon realized it wouldn't be a private session. Two other infertile myrtles and their husbands joined us in the room. I had a bunch of questions I wanted to ask, but I didn't feel comfortable sharing them with four strangers.

We were handed a personalized, color-coded calendar filled with the dates of my cycle, which days to inject which drug, what time to perform the injection, and how much of each drug to inject. It's a completely confusing process, but luckily the chart is pretty self-explanatory.

The nurse running the session explained that they recently switched to performing the egg retrieval procedure (where they remove the mature eggs from the ovary) under general anesthesia. I knew this already, but apparently this was news to the woman sitting across the table from me, because she immediately started to cry, and asked if it was mandatory. It is. Personally, I'd rather be knocked out. While I've endured medical procedures and surgeries throughout my whole life, I'm still a big baby with regard to pain, and with general anesthesia, you don't feel a thing. So bring on the heavy drugs, the IV, and the intubation, baby!

Three or four days following egg retrieval, they'll transfer two or three fertilized embryos to my uterus. The goal is for me to produce and for my doctor to retrieve as many eggs as possible (eight is good, but some women produce close to 30!) but as the nurse explained, it's not the quantity of the eggs, but the quality. So eight really good eggs that fertilize well and grow in their little tubes before some are transfered back to me and the rest are frozen for future use is better than, say, 20 eggs, where only two or three are of good quality.

I learned than once I start taking the fertility medication, I won't be able to run anymore. High-impact exercise, such as running, has the potential to cause an ovary to twist and cut off the blood supply to itself, which would, in essense, "ruin my eggs." And once I start with the fertility med injections, my ovaries are going to grow and I could experience abdominal pain as a result of producing so many eggs. A "normal" woman produces one mature egg a month. I have the potential to produce 30. Yikes!

At the conclusion of the group session, two more nurses came in and each couple went off to a private room with their nurse. The husbands needed to practice giving their wives the intra-muscular shots... in their arses. Essentially, for the purposes of understanding what intra-muscular means, all you need to know is that "intra-muscular" is synonomous with "enormously long needle." My husband will give me these nightly injections every night for two weeks following the embryo transfer. The drug he'll inject (progesterone) will support the lining of my uterus, and help the embryos to grow and develop.

You should know that I am the type of person who likes to be in control at all times. I would rather be the one to have to inject myself, as I was in previous fertility injection cycles and as I'll do with all injections up to the point of embryo transfer, and cause myself the pain, rather than have my husband do it, screw it up, injure me, and then get mad at him for it. But in this case, I have no choice. I can't exactly inject myself in the arse, now can I?

So I pulled down my skirt slightly, and the nurse told him where to insert the needle (in one, quick fluid motion, in case you're interested). Apparently, there are several "danger zones" in one's arse-spots where if you stick the needle, you have the potential to hit a blood vessel, vein, or artery, the syringe will immediately fill with blood, and the injectee will experience serious pain. So it's essential that one's husband "hits the mark" so-to-speak.

He counted to three, and then in went the needle, which was filled with saline. It hurt, of course, but not as much as I expected it to. I'm actually pretty proud of my husband for doing it. If our situations were reversed, I would be nervous about hurting him, unless of course he had done something to piss me off just previous to the injection.

Then, we learned that following my first ultrasound in two weeks, a nurse would draw a bullseye on my arse, so my husband would know where to aim the needle each night! Ahh... more humiliation in an already embarrassing process. Is this how Hester Pryne felt? Instead of a scarlet "A" around my neck, I'll have an inked-on bullseye on my arse. Awesome.

Following the practice injection, we were done. We gathered our stuff and walked out. I'm excited. I'm worried I won't produce enough good quality eggs, even though I've always done so in previous fertility med cycles. I'm trying to figure out what, if anything, to tell my family about what we're embarking on. But most of all, I'm ready.

Quick Snapshot:

  • 34-year-old writer and
    mother to a daughter
    born in August 2006 following
    IVF and girl/boy twins born in October 2008 following FET. Come along as I document the search for my lost intellect. It's a bumpy ride. Consider yourself warned.

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  • "All journeys have secret destinations of which the traveler is unaware." -Martin Buber

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