I spent 2005, for the most part, in a well of deep sadness. In January of 2005, we had been trying to conceive for exactly one year. The first six months of this year were spent undergoing fertility treatments and tests, all of which were meant to help me conceive and all of which failed. I sunk into a form of depression not easily detected by my family and friends, but which was painfully witnessed by my husband every day. I lost my faith. I cried at the drop of a hat. Relationships with some friends who had children changed, friends who couldn't understand what I was going through and didn't see why it would be hard for me to be around their babies. And I lost touch with others with children, those whom I didn't bother to clue in to my struggles. Being in their presence was just too difficult for me.
My relationship with my husband deepened though. While I knew he was mourning our failed baby pursuit just as I was, he didn't show his sorrow to me. Instead, he encouraged me, comforted me when I cried, turned the tv channel when a baby appeared on-screen, and distracted me whenever I would let him. He was my support system. He was the only one I would let see me at my worst.
While infertility encircled and influenced all that I did this past year, life went on. I quit my job where I had worked for seven years for a new one. In July I started this blog and went camping for the first time. We went to Seattle to visit my sister, and we went on our annual trip to New York City.
And in November 2005, we began IVF. Although I left my former job in February of this year for a new position, I continued to write on a contract basis for them, stockpiling the money for what, even then, I knew we would have to do in order for a chance at a baby. Every cent of the money I earned from my second job was banked for IVF, not a penny of which was covered by insurance. We never would have been able to afford it otherwise. The shots. The bloodwork. The ultrasounds. The egg retrieval under general anesthesia. The transfer of two "perfect" 8-cell embryos. One very expensive try at one very worth-it baby.
And on December 18th, 2005, at around 1 in the afternoon, after two years of emptiness and failure, we learned I was pregnant. Finally.
I spent the waning minutes of December 31st, 2004 in tears. At that point, we had spent a full year trying to conceive a baby, and we were no closer then than we were at the beginning of that year. I was mourning a year of failures. We had begun treatment at my fertility clinic in October of 2004. I had undergone two failed inseminations at that point. The path I had so diligently constructed for my life had taken a very wrong turn somewhere along the way. I didn't care much for the deviation.
The waning minutes of December 31st, 2005 will be spent much differently. I am pregnant. There is a baby growing inside me, finally, after two long years of heartbreak and emotional upheavel few can truly understand. And while we are cautious because it is still so early, and we are hardly going to pop the sparkling grape juice and toast our good fortune, we will ring in the New Year differently this year. As 2005 comes to a close, I will know in my heart that my papa in heaven is protecting this baby. I will know that my husband is strong in a way I never thought he was before we began our infertility struggles and this journey has made us, as a couple, stronger as well. And I will know that my body CAN get pregnant. And I will try to believe with all my heart that 2006 will bring us our miracle.
Happy New Year, everyone.
While my Christmas with my family (both immediate and extended) was wonderful, certain comments by her husband soured the experience. I present to you but a few:
1. My sister and I bought my mom a set of blue earrings she wanted. My sister, who until recently worked as a buyer for Nordstrom, has exceptional taste, and agonized over the decision on exactly which set of earrings to buy my mom. She called me from her cell phone in the store, describing the earrings to me and asking me which I thought our mother would like better. She made the decision, and when my mom opened them up on Christmas morning, she loved them. The husband then asked to see them. He turned the earrings over and said, "Made in China! Isn't ANYTHING made in the U.S. anymore?" He then asked my mom if she liked those earrings better than the $450 pair they were looking at together earlier (implying that he could afford to buy her MUCH more expensive earrings). Let's just say if looks could kill...
2. Earlier in the month while Christmas shopping for the family, my sister asked my mom what we could buy for her husband. (Let it be known that my sister has a far more magnanimous spirit than I do, because I would have been fine with getting him squat nothing.) My mom sent us a link to a website that sells the tea he drinks, and also the title of a book he wanted. We bought him both the tea and the book. He opens the gifts on Christmas and thanks...my mom. My mom tells him "Oh no, these are from the girls," less the idiot think somehow that the gifts were from my mom and not us. But he understood perfectly. He said, "Well sure, but you picked them out and told them what to buy. So thank you! Great job!." He never once thanked my sister or me.
3. While out to dinner my my grandma a few weeks ago, she mentioned how much she hates her work coffee mug because the lid always comes loose and she ends up spilling coffee on herself. I thought a nice new mug would be a perfect Christmas gift for her, so my sister and I bought her one. She opened hers once we arrived at her house for Christmas dinner, and really loved it. The husband, who happened to be in the room at the time, although sitting quite a distance away from my grandma, charges accross the room, grabs the mug, and tells her, "You know what the problem with this mug is? It has metal strips accross the cup, so you can't microwave it. They do sell ones without the metal strips, you know." But the EFF out!!
My sister and I asked my mom what exactly it is that she sees in him in a rare, just-the-three-of-us lunch the day after Christmas. She didn't say she loved him, or that he treated her well. She didn't say that he has a great sense of humor, or that he has this uncanny way of cheering her up when she's down. She didn't say that he encourages her or makes her feel special. She said that she enjoys their life together and the activities they do together (hiking mountains, jetsetting around the world on his dime (of which he has many), etc.). I believe my mom married him to make her life easier, both financially and socially, and while I love my mom dearly, I simply cannot accept this. He is a total and complete arse, and there is no amount of conveneince and money that could make me overlook these things. If anyone, and I don't care how much money that person has, insulted my family members the way he continually does (despite her "letting him have it" for his indiscretions when they're alone) that person would be out of my life faster than you can say "See ya." And that's the truth.
My big gift to my husband was a gift certificate to a golf store so he could buy golf clubs. He has accumulated enough gift certificates from this store over the past year or so, given to him by different relatives, to purchase new clubs this winter, so he's very excited.
And my gift was a KitchenAid Artisan Series 5-Quart Mixer!! There aren't words to describe how much I love this mixer. I've wanted a stand mixer for so long. Unlike the rest of my married friends, I didn't register for a mixer when I got married. I thought first, I would never use one, and second, because they were so expensive, I thought no one would buy it for me anyway if I did register for it. And truthfully, I wouldn't have used a mixer prior to this year, when I really started to bake regularly. But I've yearned for the beauty for a full year now, and now she's mine, in charming Empire Red to go with my yellow and red kitchen. Love that husband of mine!
I also received several other baking-themed gifts. I received two gift certificates to Williams-Sonoma (from my sister and my mom), a 10-inch tart pan (so I can make Ina Garten's Pumpkin-Banana Mousse Tart), pie weights, a pastry brush, Martha Stewart's Baking Handbook (yay! Love my Martha), and The Magnolia Bakery Cookbook, so I can try and replicate some of the yummy treats we sampled on our last trip to New York City. I also received these vintage-looking canisters from The Baker's Catalogue.
So, what was your favorite Christmas/holiday gift?
I ended up not telling my sister for a few reasons. First, it's still so early. Today, I am 5w3d (5 weeks, 3 days). Other than my friends who know, I don't want to share the news with anyone else at this point. Second, while she did make comments about "baby cuteness" of holiday-clad infants at Christmas Eve mass, and her seeming acceptance of a friend's recently announced pregnancy, she also still made several comments about not liking kids, etc. And as I said before, I didn't want to break the news to my first family member and have her not be happy for me. So, she'll find out long-distance somehow, when the time comes. There were times when I really wanted to tell her. I love my sister so much, and I wanted to share my elation at this miracle. But in the end, I just couldn't.
In baby news (I still can't believe I get to type these words!), I had my third HCG beta bloodtest today. If you'll remember, class, the beta number should double every two-three days. My last beta number was 786 last Wednesday. Today, it was 6,256! So my number increased very well, and exactly as it should have. The best news is that my doctor is so satisfied with my numbers that I'm done with having to get HCG bloodtests. Instead, I have my first ultrasound appointment on Monday, January 9th. The nurse I spoke with said that based on my numbers, her guess is that there's one bambino in there, although she also said to "be prepared for anything" because they've often been surprised at initial ultrasounds to find more than one, where it was thought there would only be one.
And other than a definite feeling of "something" going on in my belly, some body parts that are sore and others that feel bloated, and complete and total exhaustion that sets in around 6pm each night, I have nothing in the way of full-on pregnancy symptoms. No nausea or any of the other unpleasantries I've read about. But if I do start to feel sick, I will relish every second of it. I waited for so long, and tried so hard to have this chance that I refuse to complain.
Tomorrow I'm heading to the bookstore to find some reading material on how to prepare my body for this baby. It's funny-I know so much about infertility, drugs, procedures, tests, and options. I know nothing, not one thing, about what it means to be pregnant. I truly never believed I'd get past the hurdle of infertility. I don't know what I should be eating (or not eating), what kind of activity I should or shouldn't be doing. I have no idea how I should be taking care of myself and this little life growing inside me. I'm a bookworm by nature, so I'm sure I'll find a wealth of material to pour over. But if you've had a child and have any words of advice for things I should be eating (especially) or doing or not doing, please share them! I want to give this baby a healthy fighting chance to make it (I'm still so scared of losing him or her). And the more information I have, the better I'll feel.
Stay tuned for more Christmas stories in the coming days. I hope your holidays with your families were fantastic!
I'm taking a little break from blogging, but I'll be back sometime next week.
PS: I haven't told my sister yet, and I'm leaning toward not telling her at all. But that can change, of course!
Since I've been writing this blog, I've widened my circle of friends to include those who regularly read this blog (and whose blogs I read). I think it's a very neat thing to share the lives of people I'll probably never meet, who are scattered around the world, and who care enough about me to become involved in the details of my life. I consider it an honor each time someone takes the time to comment on my blog. I still can't believe there are those of you out there who come back day after day, just to read what I've written. It really gives me that warm and fuzzy feeling!
And now for a story about two of my friends, one from "real life" and one "blog friend." My "real life" friend I've known for years, and my "blog friend" I've known for mere months, but each did something for me that truly made me feel so loved and special, at a time when I needed it the most.
I've know Marie from Practigal for almost eight years. We met at work, and she is one of the sweetest, most genuinely caring individuals I've ever known. Two weeks ago, when I was home from work following my embryo transfer, I heard a knock at the door. It was Marie, and she had brought me freshly baked bread, scones, and cookies from this amazing bakery near my house. It was such an incredibly kind and thoughtful gesture, and I felt so loved at that moment. That little act of sweetness meant more to me than she'll probably ever know.
And then yesterday, I experienced first-hand that kindness doesn't just come from people you've known for many years. I arrived home from work, having received the good news of the rising HCG number just a few hours before, to find a package from Dawn from So Cal Foodie. Dawn and I have been blog buds for just a short time, but not only is she kind and helpful, especially when it came time to help me make my first cheesecake, but her comments are always thought-provoking, and her food blog is a blast to read as well. I opened the package to find a cute gingerbread cookie cutter, some California chiles to widen my food repertoire, and the most adorable little oven ornament with a note attached, which read "For your little bun in the oven." That package made a great day even brighter, and I'll always remember the kindness of a person I've never met, living 3,000 miles away, who cared enough about me to do something like this.
This will be a Christmas season I'm not soon to forget, for a variety of reasons. And having friends like these have made a time that started out pretty dark a time of light and hope instead.
There aren't words to describe how happy I am right now. With this news, I'm a little less nervous. I'm a little less cautious. And this baby (or babies) seems a little more mine.
For those of you who are interested, my doubling time (the time it took for my HCG level to double, which it needs to every 48-72 hours for the pregnancy to progress normally) was 34.8 hours, and my doubling rate was 1.61 days. These are good numbers!
I received quite a few " is it twins?" emails from friends once I shared my news. I have no idea. From what I've been able to research, it's too soon to tell, but my number is on the high end of the singleton (one baby) chart. I don't think they'll know for sure until the ultrasound.
I'm still pregnant. The bambino (bambini?) inside me is developing as he or she should, and for the first time this year, I can actually say I'm looking forward to Christmas. I've forgotten what it feels like to be this happy.
Well, my sister hates kids.
I guess "hate" is a strong word. She doesn't want kids of her own. When she sees a baby or small child crying or misbehaving in public, she gets visably annoyed. She makes comments about obnoxious child behavior. She resents having to pick up the slack at work for co-workers who skip out early to attend their children's school events (can't say I blame her for that one). She doesn't want to attend Christmas mass because she doesn't want to be trapped in a room of squirming children. Essentially, she's not a kid person. And she makes this abundantly obvious and clear to all who know her.
And I'm worried about her reaction to my news. I can barely type the words "pregnant" or say them inside my head without getting nervous and worried. After all, I am only 4 weeks along (or 4w3days). Anything can happen. I have my second HCG beta test tomorrow, where my number should be in the range of 400-500 if all is progressing as it should. I'm living on limbo island myself, and the thought of having company there, and one who is so close to me at that, is terrifying. Telling my sister would somehow make all of this real, and I'm not sure I'm ready to accept that yet.
But in addition to this, I don't want the first family member I let into the inner circle of fertility treatments, procedures, drugs, and IVF to great my news with negativity. I'm anticipating her telling me that I am crazy for getting pregnant, for wanting a baby. I fear she won't respect my decision and realize that just because she doesn't want children doesn't mean I shouldn't either. I'm worried she won't want to stay with me anymore when she comes into town.
Perhaps I'm underestimating her. After all, if all goes well, this baby will be her neice or nephew, and not just some random kid. And perhaps she can separate her life choices from mine. I don't know.
So, assuming I get good beta news tomorrow, do you think I should tell my sister my news?
I opened the door to the lab, and saw a baby carrier and heard the sounds of a newborn crying. It felt like the ultimate kick in the teeth. Here I was, an absolute bundle of nerves, anticipating a negative blood test, and fate saw fit to make the experience all the more heart-wrenching by placing a little baby, in a lab, at 7:40 in the morning on a Sunday.
I had my blood drawn, and after breaking down in the car on the way home over the absolute unfairness of things (even my pregnancy bloodtest experience had to be made more difficult than it needed to be?), we headed home to wait.
And it was agonizing. For awhile, we sat in the living room: me in my chair-and-a-half, my husband on the couch. He read a book. I listened to the clock ticking away the minutes. Then the hours. I was preparing myself, as I had been all along, for a negative. I was thinking of the four embryos we have frozen, and wondering when we should start our frozen cycle. I was playing the words the nurse would say to me once she called over and over in my head. "We're sorry. But the test was negative." I was crying and an emotional wreck, even before we got the call.
I expected them to call before noon, since this is the norm for bloodtest results for my doctor's office on the weekend. Noon came and went. The phone rang a few minutes after 1pm. I picked it up. The nurse said, "I'm thrilled to be able to tell you that it's definitely positive." In that moment, I felt a rush of emotions unlike any I've ever felt. I immediately started crying. And shaking. I told my husband it was positive. He told me to sit down because it looked like I was going to fall over!
Once I got myself together, the nurse told me that my HCG number (the pregnancy hormone measured by OTC tests and bloodtests) was 187, and the doctor was very pleased with this. They consider anything over 100 to be good. She also said the number is likely consistent with one baby, rather than two, but that they won't know for sure until I get more bloodtests, and they won't know this definitely until my first ultrasound in the first week in January. I have to have a repeat bloodtest on Wednesday, and they want the HCG number to double (or so) by then, so I'm crossing my fingers for that. I'll likely have more bloodtests every few days to make sure things are progressing as they should, and I have to continue the progesterone shots (which I will now gladly receive!) indefinitely.
After I hung up the phone, my husband and I just hugged each other and cried. Afterwards, we just sat together in complete disbelief. Not jumping for joy, but no longer steeped in a sad sort of longing either. We are cautiosly optimistic. We are trying not to think too far ahead. I think if we were a "normal" couple, and had simply tossed away the birth control pills, tried for a few months, and achieved success, our reactions would be different. But we're not that couple.
We're a couple who has endured heartbreak for the past two years. We know the hope of a period that's a day or two late. And we know the devastation that arrives when it eventually shows up. We've endured the tests and procedures, some of which were painful, and all of which were embarrassing, only to be told that there's nothing our doctor can find wrong with either one of us. We've experienced the pain behind the smiling face we've shown as each friend has announced a new pregnancy. We know loss, and disappointment, and anger intimately.
So for now we are cautious. We didn't talk too much about the news yesterday. We are taking this, as we did the entire IVF cycle, one day at a time. And we will celebrate the little bits of good news as they come, the first of which will hopefully arrive on Wednesday.
I am in shock. I don't know what to feel. It's not real to either my husband or to me. Of course, we're not out of the woods yet. I'll probably never feel completely secure until the baby is born. But right now, until I hear otherwise, I'm going to try like hell to celebrate this.
Thank you for your prayers, your thoughts, and your words of encouragement. They mean the world to me.
My own birth brought a unique joy to my family. Every baby is welcomed and loved and celebrated when he or she arrives. But less than a year before my birth, my great-grandmother, my grandma and great aunt's mother, passed away. From what I've learned about her, she was a wonderful, incredible, and loving woman, an amazing cook, a skilled knitter and sewer, and a devoted grandma to my mother and her siblings. Her loss was felt deeply. My mother told me once that she prayed to her grandma for me, to send her a baby to brighten the lives of those who were in mourning over her loss. And my mother believes her grandma, my great-grandma, answered her prayers. When I arrived, it was if the sadness was replaced by an overwhelming sense of love and joy. My mom believes I was sent by her grandma to do just this.
I have prayed to my own papa for a baby for the past two years. Of course, I want a baby for myself and my husband, because we so desperately want to become parents. But I've also prayed to him, and still to God, despite my lapsed faith, to send us our baby for my grandma, who still, almost a decade later, is almost daily consumed by grief in missing my papa. I know what a great-grandchild would mean to her. I know what happiness my baby would bring to her life.
My grandma's song for me, which she's sung to me since I was a little girl, is "You Light Up My Life" by Debbie Boone. When I was born, she used to tell me this is what my presence did for her. I have music boxes that play this song. I have cards in which she's written out the words. She calls me on the phone whenever she hears the song on the radio. And tomorrow, at 7:30am, I'll drive to the only lab in my area that's open on a Sunday, and receive a bloodtest. A few hours later, I'll know if I can once again make my grandma smile.
The lovely Dawn over at So Cal Foodie is hosting the third and final Holiday Cookie Exchange this weekend. So head over there for even more last-minute cookie ideas.
Oatmeal Spice Cookies
(These are from Cooking Light)
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour (I used ½ wheat and ½ white flour)
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar (I used 1/4 cup Splenda For Baking)
1/2 cup stick margarine, softened
3 tablespoons light-colored corn syrup (I used honey instead)
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 large egg whites
1 large egg
3 cups quick-cooking oats
1 1/3 cups raisins (I used butterscotch chips instead)
Preheat oven to 350°.
Combine first 6 ingredients in a small bowl, and set aside.
Combine brown sugar and next 6 ingredients (brown sugar through egg) in a large bowl, and beat mixture at medium speed of a mixer until well-blended.
Stir in oats and raisins or butterscotch chips, and let stand 5 minutes.
Stir in flour mixture.
Drop dough by level tablespoonfuls 2 inches apart onto baking sheets coated with cooking spray.
Bake at 350° for 10 minutes or until lightly browned. Remove cookies from pans, and cool on wire racks.
Store cookies in an airtight container for up to 1 week. Makes about 4 1/2 dozen.
1/2 cup softened butter
1 cup sugar (I used 1/4 cup Splenda For Baking)
1 15oz can of pumpkin
1 tsp vanilla
2 cups flour
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp cinnamon
1 cup butterscotch chips
Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
Cream egg and butter until light anf fluffy.
Add sugar and pumpkin and mix well.
Add vanilla, salt, baking soda, baking powder, and cinnamon, and mix well.
Stir in butterscotch chips.
Drop by the teaspoonful onto ungreased cookie sheets.
Bake for 12-14 minutes or until firm.
Transfer to wire rack to cool.
Makes 3 dozen.
These were the little cookie bags I made for my friends to take home.
Many of my blog friends and one of my "real life" friends who have gone through IVF have taken an over-the-counter pregnancy test prior to their scheduled bloodtest. Obviously, the suspense in waiting to see if this very expensive science experiment worked is high for everyone that's endured the six-week process. And like them, I want to know too! But, when going through any kind of fertility treatment, the woman has to inject herself 36 hours before the insemination (or in my case, the egg retrieval) with HCG, a hormone designed to trigger ovulation for insemination patients, and which will give eggs a final growth spurt prior to retrieval for IVF patients. This hormone can stay in your system for up to two weeks. This is the same hormone measured by over-the-counter pregnancy tests.
Can you see where this is going? I could take a pregnancy test prior to Sunday and get a positive. A potentially false positive. To then go on Sunday to get a bloodtest, and have a nurse at my doctor's office call and tell me it was negative would be devastating. And at this point, I'm in too fragile a state to chance that.
So, I'll wait. Impatiently. Nervously. And very, very scared. Until Sunday, if I make it that far. A natural (if anything about this process can be considered "natural") female event may occur prior to Sunday, which would make the bloodtest unnecessary. But for now, for this moment, my gut tells me I'll make it until Sunday. Whether I'll get the result I want, well, that I don't know.
I have had 13 years of Catholic school education. I attended church all my life, except for a brief stint in college when Sunday morning mass times didn't quite fit into my weekend lifestyle. I was married in a Catholic church by a priest who has been a family friend for decades. I attended mass at this church regularly, every Sunday, with my husband. The priest there is wonderful, intelligent, liberal, and compassionate, which I think are rare Catholic priest attributes these days. And then, a few months ago, we stopped going.
Infertility has shaken my faith. I'm embarrassed to admit it. This seems the ultimate in selfishness and immaturity. "God doesn't give me what I want? Well, forget him, then." I feel horribly guilty about this (as any Catholic is trained to feel). But at the same time, I feel in many ways that God has forgotten about me.
I didn't expect an easy time in conceiving a child. In fact, I've always believed it would take awhile. But why has it come to IVF for me, when I've endured so much medical hardship in my life, especially as a young child with ulcerative colitis and then later Crohn's disease? Why didn't God see fit to make this easier for me? I deserve that much, don't I?
I often wonder why God allows crack-addicted homeless teenagers to get pregnant, but he won't allow the same for a couple who so desperately wants a child. A child that would be loved, provided for, and wanted. How does something like this fit in his plan?
I have more questions than I have answers. I want to go back to church and renew my faith, but I remember kneeling on the pews, hands clasped together, with tears in my eyes, begging God to send me our baby. And then I remember the monthly disappointments, when my prayers weren't answered. I realize faith is an essential tenet of any religion. Right now, mine is gone.
Having seen the musical so many times, we were really apprehensive about how the movie version of our favorite show would be handled. Would we even recognize the characters we loved so much? However, once we read in an article that most of the original Broadway cast was appearing in the movie, we felt slightly better.
And I was really impressed with the movie. The director didn't try to add much of anything to the storyline that didn't already appear in the stage version. And what he did add was subtle, and actually pretty clever. During Roger's "Glory," the screen flashed back to Roger's days as a musician, performing on stage, alternated with scenes of Roger and his girlfriend April (whom you never actually see in the stage version). Roger contracts AIDS from April, but in the stage version, you never see how April contracted AIDS. In the movie version, you see her shooting heroin.
I also really enjoyed the use of the stage version's main set (the twisted tangle of metal and Christmas lights) as the backdrop for Maureen's stage performance. In the stage version, this set doesn't move from the stage very often, and is as much a part of the musical as the characters are, but obviously in a movie, the set needs to change, so it was nice to see the director use that set as a part of the movie.
And Maureen and JoAnn's engagement party as the setting for "Take Me Baby" was another neat addition to the movie version that wasn't a part of Rent on stage.
If you love the musical version of Rent, do not be afraid to see the movie version. The director stayed true to the plot, characters, and amazing music of the musical, and the original cast reprising their roles only enhanced the movie. And even if you haven't ever seen the musical version, go see the movie. You won't be disappointed.
Quick IVF Update: Today is 7DP3DT. For those of you not hip to trying-to-conceive lingo, that stands for "Seven Days Past Three Day Transfer" (meaning, it's been seven days since my embryo transfer, which occured three days after egg retrieval). I feel absolutely normal. In the past two years of trying for a baby, I've learned not to overanalyze every twinge and tweak I feel in my belly, and as of now, 10 days after egg retrieval, I can't say I feel anything out of the ordinary. I'm trying to stay busy and to stay positive, the latter of which is much harder than the former. And most importantly, I'm trying to take one day at a time, and not think beyond today.
One of my most favorite songs in Rent (and they are all good) is "Another Day." The message is simple. Take one day at a time. Here are the lyrics:
"I can't control my destiny
I trust my soul
My only goal is just
There's only now
There's only here
Give in to love
Or live in fear
No other path
No other way
No day but today..."
Candy Cane Cookies
These cookies and I go way back. My mom used to make these cookies for my sister and me every Christmas that I can remember. The little cardstock cookbook the recipe comes from (curiously published by my city's gas & electric company and probably mailed out to customers) is at least 25 years old, somewhat tattered, and the page the recipe is typed on is stained with red food coloring.
The back of this cookbook features a paragraph on the gas and electric company's Home Service Department. It reads, in part, "Our Home Service Department is made up of a staff of Home Economists. They will be glad to help you with your homemaking problems. New recipes and suggestions are always available. Call us for help with freezing, baking, and laundry questions, too...Cooking demonstrations and talks are available to clubs, church groups, and other organizations."
All this, from the gas and electric company? Huh. Who would have thought you could call your gas company for recipes at one point in time. Anyway, moving on...
This little cookbook, and the recipes in it, have history and that's why I love it. My mom gave me her old Betty Crocker Cookbook from the 1960s when she moved to the Adirondacks, and this little cookbook was tucked within the pages.
1 cup butter
4 cups sifted all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp salt
2 eggs, beaten
1 cup sugar (I used 1/2 cup Splenda for Baking)
4 tbsp milk
1 tsp vanilla (I doubled)
1 tsp baking soda
Several drop red food coloring
1/4 tsp peppermint extract
rubber gloves (to avoid staining hands with food coloring)
Cut butter into flour using a pastry blender or food processor. Add salt.
Combine eggs and sugar in large bowl and beat well.
Combine milk, vanilla, and baking soda in another small bowl.
Add the milk mixture and the flour mixture alternately to the egg mixture and beat well.
Chill cookie dough for at least one hour.
Divide cookie dough in half.
Put on rubber gloves, and add a few drops food coloring and the peppermint extract to one half, and blend. Start with a few drops, and then add more to deepen the red color.
Shape a small amount of each dough into a long roll about 1/4'' inch thick. *(It really needs to be this thin. In a minute, you'll see why, so take out a ruler and measure if you need to.)*
Cut each rope into 4'' lengths.
Press one of each color strip lightly together, and twist like rope.
Place on ungreased cookie sheet, and curve the top down to form the handle of the candy cane. Press down both the top and the bottom of the cookie slightly.
Bake in a 400 degree oven for 10-12 minutes. Take out, and enjoy!
* And now for an important lesson. About five years ago, I attempted to make these cookies myself for the first time. I was having a Christmas party for some friends, and I thought these cookies from my childhood would make a nice addition. However, I neglected to roll the dough out thin enough before twisting. My husband and my friends referred to them as dog biscuits. While they still tasted good, they looked like a meat-flavored doggie treat. And my first batch today? Looked, once again, like dog treats. You can laugh. I won't mind!
For the past two years of our infertility struggle, my husband and I have for the most part relied on each other for support. No one in either of our families knows what's going on, and it's only been in the last year that I've told my friends, "Hey! We're infertile!" I didn't want the sympathy. I didn't want to wonder what the hushed conversations were about. I didn't want nosy but well-meaning family members asking, "So...how's the baby-making going?" About a year ago, I reached the point where I had to tell my friends. I needed their support. So a told a few, and then eventually a few more. It's such a personal thing, even though now I'm about as open about it as I can be (except with my family). I've realized that I needed the love and shoulder to cry on that only a girlfriend can offer. And thanks to some wonderful real-life and blog friends, I now have that.
But in the beginning, it was only my husband and me. We prayed like crazy, being the good (although recently lapsed) Catholics we are. We cried together (well, I cried and he tried to make me stop crying) and we grew closer together. And let me tell you, there's nothing like injecting your wife in the arse with progesterone every morning to keep the home fires burning!
And then we discovered ladybugs. Or, rather, they discovered us. About six weeks ago, at the beginning of my IVF cycle, I returned to my desk at work following a meeting and found a ladybug sitting in front of my keyboard. I work in a standard office building, in the middle of a cube farm, with no windows anywhere near me. What was a ladybug doing sitting on my desk?
A few weeks later, my husband was cleaning our spare bedroom. On the windowsill? A ladybug.
On Saturday, the day of my IVF egg retrieval, I opened the December 3 window on my advent calendar. (My mom still believes my sister and I are ages seven and eight respectively, and buys each of us an advent calendar every year.) The picture inside was a ladybug.
And then yesterday, while my husband was getting dressed, he noticed something on the floor in front of the bed. Yet another ladybug.
Now, common sense tells me that it's getting very cold here in Western New York, and these ladybugs are just trying to find a spot inside to stay warm. But both of us have only ever seen one ladybug at a time, not an infestation. They're appearing in some odd places-places where they have no business being. And they're appearing at some very curious times as well.
The reason this is interesting for us is that ladybugs have historically been viewed as symbols of good luck. I've know this for quite some time, but didn't know that the reason was because ladybugs were brought over from Australia in the 1800s to save orange trees in California from being destroyed by pests. And they did.
Now, of course we're probably subconsciously searching for any sign-ANYTHING-that would give us hope of a baby after all we've been through. And believe me, our feet are firmly planted on the ground. In fact, mine might actually be buried. But it's fun to play this ladybug game while we wait.
So, are we one step away from seeing the Virgin Mary's face in a grilled cheese sandwich?
So....based on my age (young, by IVF standards) and my size, they decided to transfer back two of the 8-cell, Grade 4 embryos back to me. One of them was even compacting, which means the cells were showing a progressed stage of development and melding together, which is a good thing!
If I was older, bigger, and if my embryos weren't as good a quality as they were, they would have transferred back three, with the thought that three so-so embryos equates to two really good ones. But given the factors I just described, two it was!
My doctor was really happy. He said the embryos he was transferring back to me were the equivalent of receiving two A+s on a test.
The process was completely fascinating to watch. First, they squirted the ultrasound gel on my stomach, and got the wand in a position where they could clearly see my uterus. My doctor inserted the catheter, and then the IVF tech left the room, entered the "million dollar egg lab" (as my doctor put it) retrieved the embryos, and my doctor slowly injected them. We were actually able to see the tiny little dots positioned in fluid in my uterus. We have a picture of it. It was totally amazing.
I rested there on the table for about 20 minutes. I'm under orders to rest today and tomorrow, and they recommended I don't go to work tomorrow, so I'm not. Then, on Thursday, I can resume normal activity, but I can't do anything that will elevate my heart rate. I'm supposed to avoid all exercise, not lift heavy things, avoid performing labor-intensive household chores, such as vacuuming (darn!), take stairs very slowly, etc. Basically, the nurse who went over my instructions told me not to do anything in the next two weeks that would cause me to think, if this doesn't work, "if only I hadn't done this or that." So, I'm going to try and take very good care of myself, slow down my normal fast walking pace, not exercise, avoid caffeine, etc.
My pregnancy blood test is on Sunday, December 18th.
Based on what the doctor told me today, we have a good chance. And at this point, that's all I can ask.
The always-funny Laurie from Crazy Aunt Purl has tagged everyone on the "internets" (and that includes me!) to play along with this silly meme. In return, I will tag anyone who reads this and cares to play along.
TEN random things you might not know about me
1: I don't have a large intestine. Had it removed when I was ten.
2: I've never highlighted my hair, but I have dyed it red, purple, and black.
3: I would secretly love to open my own bakery-bookshop combo store.
4: I cannot add...or subtract, multiply, or divide. Math is not my friend.
5: I love musicals! LOVE them!
6: I've met Anne Rice, before she reinvented herself as Mel Gibson.
7: I am small talk-challenged.
8: People tell me I look like Christina Ricci. Frequently.
9: I love Hillary Clinton. Don't hate!
10: My childhood nickname has stuck around for 29 years. Couldn't say "Kristi" and called myself "Shish" instead.
NINE places I’ve visited
6: St. Lucia
EIGHT ways to win my heart
1: Bring me coffee.
2: Buy me books.
3: Bake me fresh bread and deliver it while it's still warm.
4: Snuggle with me on my big overstuffed chair.
5: Espouse your passion about a social issue that means a lot to you.
6: Don't lie to me.
7: Love my family.
8. Love animals.
SEVEN things I want to do before I die
1: Write a book.
2: Travel the world.
3: Become self-employed.
4: Buy a house with a second bathroom.
5: Turn myself into a really, really good baker.
6: Commit an unpunishable act of road rage.
7: Work at Starbucks.
SIX things I’m afraid of
1: Never becoming a mother.
2: My cats dying.
3: My grandma and great aunt and uncle dying.
4: Scary movies. I don't watch them. EVER.
FIVE things I don't like
1: Ignorant people (I'm looking at you, W).
3: The color pink.
4: Cube life.
5: Slow drivers.
FOUR ways to turn me off
1: Be cruel to an animal.
2: Not have an opinion.
3: Avoid the things I bake.
4: Bathe in cologne.
THREE things I do everyday
2: Try to avoid negative thinking
3: Kiss my kitties.
TWO things that make me happy
ONE thing on my mind right now
1: Babies, babies, babies. (Huh. That's more than one. But when you have 12 fertilized eggs...)
We arrived at the hospital bright and early yesterday morning at 7am. Once they were ready for us, my husband went off to provide his "specimen" and one of the nurses put an IV in my arm. About 8am, they wheeled me down to the operating room, where we were met my an anesthesiologist who asked me the standard questions they always ask you before you have any kind of surgery. The last thing I remember is placing my legs in the stirrups. After that, it was lights out. I didn't feel any pain whatsoever after that.
I woke up in the recovery room about 30 minutes after the retrieval. That was it! I was tired and groggy, but when my husband came in to help me dress and walk around a bit, and told me the good news about my doctor retrieving 15 eggs, I perked right up. I was able to leave around 9:45am. We were home by 10.
According to my husband, when my doctor relayed the news about the number of eggs retrieved, my doctor was "giddy." I'm not sure if he didn't expect to get 15 eggs with the number of follicles that were last measured on Thursday (18) or what, but my husband said he was definitely happy. And at that point, we were both really happy too.
I rested most of the rest of the day on Saturday. I took a nap, and spent the majority of the day in bed. We did leave later in the evening to go to my friend's birthday party (I had baked her cake, after all!), but I was in bed by 10pm. We were both nervous for the results that would come this morning-the fertilization report, which would detail how many of the 15 eggs had fertilized.
The IVF nurse called us at about 9am. She said "I have good news for you! You have 12 embryos." Of the 15, the IVF staff had fertilized eight eggs with ICSI (injecting a single sperm directly into the egg) and seven eggs the old-fashioned way (if anything about this high-tech science experiment could be considered "old fashioned") by placing the sperm in the tube or dish with the egg and letting the sperm do their own work. Of the ICSI eggs, 6 of the 8 had fertilized. Of the "old-fashioned" eggs, 6 of the 7 had fertilized.
They froze four eggs (to be used later for another try at a baby, or, if this works, siblings) and they're keeping the remaining eight until Tuesday, the day of my transfer, so they can select the best 2-3 to transfer. Then, if there are any good ones leftover at that point, they'll freeze them as well.
I am ecstatic, thrilled, and relieved. I have 12 embryos. It is absolutely mind-boggling to me that the beginnings of 12 potential persons are sitting as a mass of cells in little dishes in a lab about five miles from my house right now. 12 embryos with my and my husband's genetic material, awaiting their return to my body on Tuesday. I am so grateful for the technology and medical advancements that have given us this chance at a baby.
Two hurdles crossed, and one big one coming up in about two weeks time. But for now, it's one step at a time. We have our embryos, and a dozen chances to become parents. And for this, I am grateful.
Current physical state: extremely bloated and uncomfortable. This is due to ovarian hyperstimulation. My distended belly makes me look about four months pregnant already. I'm also totally exhausted and have no energy, which is completely unlike me.
Current mental state: nervous, excited, and scared. My doctor told me yesterday that there was a chance I might have to have the egg retrieval in the regular office with conscious sedation instead of general anesthesia in the OR as planned, because apparently on Saturdays they have a hard time getting a time slot commitment from the people who run the OR. You'd think on a Saturday, this would be easy, but apparently not. This was not good news, as I was looking forward to being completely "out" and seeing, hearing, and feeling nothing. But, it turns out that I'm able to have the procedure under general anesthesia after all. Which now leaves me time and energy to obsess over other things.
Current focus: trying to remain calm until tomorrow, and trying like hell to remain positive. I want to keep busy and stay distracted. Unfortunately, this has proven difficult due to my current physical state. However, for the next two weeks, I want to take care of myself as best as I possibly can in order to give the embryos they'll transfer next week the best shot possible to implant (assuming the eggs fertilize tomorrow). This is going to be difficult for me, since I'm such an emotional mess.
My egg retrieval is only 24 hours away. This crazy science project is almost over. I can't believe it's time. I will blog about my experience as soon as I'm able, and I hope to have a fantastic fertilization report to write about on Sunday.
To all my blog and "real life" friends who have offered me support here and in other ways, thank you. You have made this IVF cycle so much less stressful for me, and your kind words of support have truly carried me through. I am lucky and blessed indeed.