In the wake of struggling massively with my anxiety and sleep over the last few weeks, and all the other stressful things that have demanded attention in my life, I’ve sort of lost track of the fact that we have our first appointment. We’ve tentatively decided to try stimulated ovulation straight away, so we have an appointment to get the drugs and sign forms, and then it will be only a week or so of checking how my follicles are developing and how many eggs I am ovulating (if any) and then, theoretically, insemination.

You know sometimes I find it a bit depressing, the way in which all of this has to be medicalized for us. I mean obviously, if it wasn’t for medicine we wouldn’t be able to do it at all! But…I guess I’m a bit jealous of your average straight couple, who gets to do baby making without the long words and scans and injections.

I am doing a bit better every week now with the anxiety, but I do wonder if I should put this all off a bit, give myself time to truly get my anxiety under control.

But then another part of me says, I’m just as entitled to want a baby as anyone else, and who knows what the future holds. We’ve already had to wait so long. And who knows how many cycles we’ll have to try!

So I just keep working at other people’s speed, basically. Which is not exactly proactive, but then – maybe everyone just does the best they can do. I am not really doing much research into stimulated vs non-stimulated ovulation – I looked into it to try and see if they had any different success rates but no one seems to have actually studied the difference! – so I feel a tiny bit like I’m going into it a bit blind, but then I only have so much capacity, so much time, so much worry to spend. Maybe it’s ok to leave somethings in the hands of doctors and go with the flow.

I think this feels like a post of indecision – I think I’ll title it so. Decisions are hard for me when they are important, because the consequences seem so crucial but yet uncertain. I can make my best guess about what decision will lead to result A, but the truth is I can’t actually make result A happen. Instead I simply start a domino reaction with a bazillion splits, a hundred different ways they might fall. Decisions feel like they mean so much, and yet they offer no real control of the future. There’s nothing but unformed consequences waiting with a pile of guilt in the wings.

So if we can’t control how the dominos fall, if we can’t choose the future but only make the best choices we can in the present with the hopes that the future works out, if in fact we can’t control much of anything about what will happen to us or how our choices will pan out – why do I spend so much time worrying about it?

 

My favourite search term leading people to this blog BY FAR is ‘artificial wombs’. Its been used more than once to find the blog tho I’m not sure why.

Of course artificial wombs are awesome. One of the best inventions in science fiction and I hope some day real science. Can you imagine the way that would change gender politics?

But unfortunately no such device exists yet. We’ll have to keep using our bodies as wombs, crazy design tho it is. Not taking medicines that could help us, not drinking, carrying around a ridiculous heavy bump…such a good idea pregnancy.

I haven’t talked much about my anxiety in a while.*  But unfortunately, that’s not because it has gone away. While I have finished the slow process of going off my meds, and have now been off them for a couple of months, there does seem to have been a reason I was on them. Everything was just a little bit easier when I was on my drugs. I found it a bit easier to cope with problems, quite a bit easier to sleep (my insomnia has come back much stronger than its been in years), easier to handle stress and over working. I miss that little bit of easier. Things are generally a bit harder now.There’s more struggle.

I don’t want to go back on the drugs if I can help it. Even if the risk of birth defects is only increased by a couple of percentage points, I worry enormously about what would happy to my potential baby’s brain as it’s developing. I mean they barely understand what SSRIs do in our brains, why they help with anxiety and depression. So how can they (they being the medical community here) know how they affect the developing brain of a fetus?

But equally, I don’t want to be miserable. That wouldn’t be good for the fetus either, as they do know that too much stress hormone is really quite bad for the fetus.

I’m kind of seeing how things go. But I just wish things were easier! And I’m waiting for them to develop artificial wombs.

 

*Ok side note. And this is so random but – what is the difference between awhile and a while? I have never known and always written both versions willy nilly.

 

 

We picked our donor. After much agonizing and me being paranoid that maybe he didn’t smile enough in the pictures and therefore there was something wrong with him (I’m not kidding, that was a real worry of mine. Yes, I can worry about anything).

We picked him, we talked to the lab, we filled out various paperwork (or at least we talked about filling it out and will totally do so tomorrow!), we confirmed prices and calculated how much we could buy…and then tonight we called.

Excited and a little bit nervous we huddled around my computer and talked to the international person.

“Yes” we said, “We are ready to order. We’d like donor X.”

Only turns out, Donor X has been snapped up by 10 UK families and is no longer compliant since a couple weeks ago.

That was a bit of a shock.

So we got off the phone to look things over. It turned out, Donor Y (the other of the final 2) wasn’t available for the UK anymore either! That’s what we get for not searching but just going straight to the profiles to pore over every detail.

We looked at who else was available, and new donors, and found someone we liked who was new, we’d never seen him before, and we looked at everything about him once, looked at his pictures three times and his educational info twice and his donor essay then in the end, after having looked through 20 profiles in 40 minutes  – we just went for it. We bought it.

 

We spent 3+ months looking at sperm donors. I spent at least a month of that time agonozing over how big a decision it was, and the last week in a panic about it. And in the end, we chose someone in 40 minutes*. And I think I like him better than I liked Donor X!

Life’s kind of funny.

 

 

*to be fair, those 3 months meant we really knew what we wanted…

So, I have been looking at sperm for about a year.

To clarify – not actual sperm. That would be super gross.

But donor websites, and profiles. Thinking about what we wanted genetically from a donor, without the  decision feeling very real. I was much more into this than B, and looked for ages at the free info available on the websites we can use.

But then shit got real, and we bought the packages to see pictures, and get actual information about these people who are theoretically going to make up half the genetic material of our kid. And that was terrifying enough.

But then shit got even realer. And suddenly instead of looking at pictures and essays and saying, “oh he looks ok” or “god no!” – we actually have to make a decision.

I’m not a bad decision maker. But the truth is I like to put off the actual moment of decision as long as possible. When we go on holiday I take like 10 books, because I don’t know which ones I’ll be in the mood for. And without really realizing it, I’ve been procrastinating the hell out of this one. Because it is so huge.

I don’t really know where I stand on the nature vs nurture debate. I think intellectually I’m more on the side of nurture, but viscerally (and especially on this subject), I feel more on the side of nature. Or at least, that nature is really quite important.

So that means this feels like the biggest decision in the world, like we’re picking who our child will be, and that is crazy, because I want our child to be half me and half B. But sadly science isn’t there yet and well, fine, then the intellectual side jumps in and says that it will be half of us, because we’ll be raising it. But.

Then there’s the thing where I’m not sure I like ANY of them enough. But I guess that’s down to wanting B’s genetics not some random stranger’s.

I didn’t expect to feel like this. And where we thought we had another month or so until the Nurse appointment to make this decision, it turns out we need to make it super quick. So we just gotta do it. And I think we know who we’ll be picking, I think we’ve got a favorite.

But I kind of wish we could just have the baby without any of these shenanigans.

I just called the clinic to chase about getting a nurse’s appointment, as we were told to do at our last appointment, and boy, was it ridiculous.
At first the receptionist asks “when is your treatment scheduled for?”
and I was like…I don’t know, that’s why I’m calling for an appointment!! Though in a much nicer way of course.
Then she looked it up on the system and said I was scheduled for January. And I’m saying, I really don’t think that’s right, that’s not what the doctor said at all. And so she got a bit sniffy and started going on about waiting lists and how everyone has to wait their turn.
Then finally I made it clear that it was IUI not IVF (trying for a whisper at my desk that would be loud enough to be heard over my mobile), and then she says we don’t need a nurses appointment!
So I’m like, the doctor said we did, and she’s reading our last letter and going ‘who is this doctor who wrote this’ all annoyed at the lack of info – HA! – and then finally realizes that we are using donor sperm and therefore we do need an appointment. You’re on the waiting list for a nurse’s appointment, she says. Ok, fine.
But do we have the donor sperm here, in the lab? she says. No, I say, we were told to get it after we had the nurse’s appointment. No, she says, the doctor told you things backward. You have to get the donor stuff here first. You can’t have a nurse’s appointment until the donor sperm is actually here in the lab.
Oh for goodness sake.

In a lot of ways, I am really glad I am going to have my theoretical baby in the UK. I like the midwife system, I like that there is less medical intervention on the whole, I’m pretty sure there are fewer c-sections and there is a marginally better infant mortality rate.

There are plenty of problems too…while the US medical establishment tends to push epidurals (there was a good anecdote in Expecting Better that I was talking about earlier – when she told her doctor she didn’t want to have an epidural, the doctor said, oh well you’ll probably have one anyway.)…the UK establishment tends to be against them. They are all about natural birth. You have to have a very strong voice (or your partner does) – in the middle of possibly one of the most vulnerable moments of your life – to get one, or else you have to be quite clearly unable to take the pain.

Personally I haven’t decided what I want yet and it will depend a lot on how various things go, but I would like the opportunity to decide freely, you know? Not pushed one way or the other. On the upside, I do have a loud voice and will make B have a loud voice too if necessary.

The NHS is also very pro breastfeeding. Now there is nothing wrong with that  – I am very much hoping I can breastfeed. But I think sometimes the pressure to do everything naturally (from giving birth to breastfeeding) can mean women for whom that doesn’t work out (ie their birth doesn’t go the way they wanted, there’s some reason they can’t breastfeed) they end up (or are made to) feel like a failure, when that is not the case.

Of course, all my opinions of this are based on TV shows, books, friends’ birth stories, and supposition.  Guess I’ll (hopefully) wait to find out what I really think.

So I’ve mentioned how frustrating bad communication from the doctor or the clinic can be. There’s nothing like a rushed doctor who won’t listen to you, or getting a letter in the mail with a diagnosis and numbers but no context.

Which is why it was just SO nice to have a a doctor who took his time, answered all our questions, didn’t hurry us, and explained things in great detail. Maybe it was partly so good because we’d gone in with very low expectations, but he was really very good.

This appointment was about deciding whether we were doing IUI or IVF, and the clear decision was IUI. What he also made clear to us (for the first time in this whole process) is that we actually get 6 IUI tries and 3 IVF tries after that if the IUI doesn’t work. Which is really just fantastic.

AND, we might (though this was one point he wasn’t completely clear) be able to start earlier than December. Basically, three things need to happen before we can start now. (AND I WAS RIGHT, in your face first doctor, there is NOT a waiting list for IUI, it’s only for IVF. He really did not explain things well)

1. We have to have an appointment with a nurse to go through various things (we have a hunch it is going through the SAME things as we went through with this doc but oh well) and get the ovulation drugs

2. We have to buy the sperm and get it sent to our clinic

3. I have to get my next period.

That’s it. That’s all. We could start trying in September if everything moved at its quickest pace.

But the only problem is that we don’t have an appointment in the books with the nurse.  In the one instance of the reception being less helpful than the doctor, they were highly confused that the doctor wanted us to keep the IVF appointments we already had in November/December, but make a new, earlier appointment with the Nurse. So they took my phone number and said the nurse will call me.

“What do you think the timeline is on this?” I asked, meaning when will the appointment probably be.

“Oh, it should be within 3 weeks.”

“Oh, great!”

“Yeah, if she hasn’t given you a call in 3 weeks, call us up.”

So the timeline was that within 3 weeks we MIGHT get a call from the nurse. Snort.

I suppose it is still summer (though really, this weekend was a bit mixed), but thinking of these last few posts as a summer recap is making me happy. So there.

After the counselor, we did have a bit of a wait until I got my period. basically I had happened to be a few days into my period when we had the first doctor’s appointment, and it was too late to get the tubes test done that cycle. So we had to wait about a month and then call for an appointment, and then wait for the appointment.

But finally, we had the tubes test. They shoot some radioactive dye into your womb via your cervix, and push it up your tubes, and then x-ray you to make sure the dye got all the way up there, thus indicating your tubes are open.

It was the most painful 20 minutes of my life.

As I have mentioned before, I find pap smear/smear tests (depending on your side of the ocean) really, really, really painful. I have cried every time I’ve had one done, they don’t get better, and every time someone tells me to ‘just relax’ I want to punch them in the face. If I could fucking relax, I would fucking relax. And I just do not believe that the level of pain I have can just be caused by my lack of relaxation…

But I digress. I knew I find speculums (is that a plural word? I mean I’m down on speculum singular so I hope I don’t have to use the plural much more) painful, so I was already worried about the test – obviously if they’re sticking stuff up my cervix. they’re going to use a speculum.  B came with me for the appointment, which made me feel better, but then they wouldn’t let her come in the room with me because of the radiation, which made me feel worse. I did actually cry before I even got in the examination room (and YES, I know that means I probably wasn’t very RELAXED).

I was really scared – but realistically? I wasn’t scared enough. Smear tests take 20 seconds or so, if you have a good/motivated doctor or nurse, and let me tell you, having a panicking and sobbing patient often leads to highly motivated doctors. So the longest I’ve had a speculum in is maybe 30 seconds.

This was at least 5 minutes.

I was in so much pain, they almost stopped the test (to which I said, “is there any other way to do this?” “No.” “So I’d just have to come back and do it again?” “Yes” “THEN KEEP GOING!!!” I wasn’t going through that a second time ). I basically co-opted one of the nurses to just stand there and hold my hand – she actually had to designate someone else to do the job she was supposed to be doing. I was sobbing uncontrollably, and it felt – seriously, it really felt – like someone was pulling me apart from the inside out.

The actual tube test can be painful. It makes you feel like someone’s kicked you in the stomach with period pains, it’s very disconcerting and it does hurt. But that pain – it was NOTHING compared to the pain from the speculum. It was a candle next to the great fire of London.

When they finally finished (though I know they were trying to go as fast as they could), they lead me into a bathroom where B was waiting, and she helped me calm down and get dressed. The good news was they had found that my tubes were clear. yay. But boy did that hurt. And it hurt for days.  I couldn’t sit down properly for a week

I’m now even more terrified of the actual insemination process, and even less able to relax. Sigh.

I interrupt this regularly scheduled summer recap…

There’s been a recent controversy over this book:

Screen Shot 2013-08-27 at 8.23.47 AMhttp://www.amazon.co.uk/Expecting-Better-Conventional-Pregnancy-Wisdom/dp/1409142310/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1377589509&sr=8-1&keywords=expecting+better  (this is the british cover and link, where people are not reacting quite so crazily.)

Because in 12 pages out of 309, she talks about why a few of drinks of alcohol a week, no more than one a day, is not harmful, based on the evidence.

The whole book was about examining pregnancy rules, myths and worries in an evidence based fashion – an economist, she used statistical analysis and quantitative research skills to look at all the existing medical research on a variety of subjects. The point was, she was providing the facts so pregnant women could make their own choices.

Though from the amazon us comments thread, you would thinks she spent the whole 300 pages trying to convince women they should drink 10 beers a day while pregnant:

http://www.amazon.com/Expecting-Better-Conventional-Pregnancy-Wrong-/product-reviews/1594204756/ref=sr_1_1_cm_cr_acr_txt?ie=UTF8&showViewpoints=1

 

The whole controversy was at first crazy interesting and then hugely annoying to me. I picked up the book in my local bookstore as a whim, and had no idea it was in its first week of publication, let alone that it was the source of so much angst. Someone was suggesting women women make decisions about their own bodies! Woe betides us.

And then, just to make sure I was in a fighting mood, I read this:

Screen Shot 2013-08-27 at 8.34.25 AMhttp://www.amazon.co.uk/Intrusion-Ken-MacLeod/dp/1841499404/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1377588719&sr=8-1&keywords=intrusion

Which is an (AWESOME) distopian novel about a Britain not so far in the future, where pregnant women have to wear a monitor ring that reports if they have a sip of alcohol, where they can’t even work in offices where people smoked 70 years before, because of the minute, minute traces of carcinogens. As one of the characters handily puts it, ‘why take the risk, even if it’s miniscule’?

It was quite the coincidence that I read these both one after another, in the same weekend. Boy did they leave me feeling sensitive about the way that society feels it can make decisions for women, especially pregnant women, in their own best interests – rather than letting them have the facts and decide for themselves.

Over here in the UK, having a glass of wine occasionally while pregnant is not seen as a problem (though there are still debates). In america, it’s like a single granule of alcohol touching a pregnant woman’s lips is some sort of national crisis. And in one bit of Expecting Better, Oster recounts a doctor saying ‘well if we tell people they can have one glass, they’ll probably have more.’

And by people, that doctor means women. And by keeping the facts away from women for their ‘best interests’, it’s treating women like tiny children. And as Oster points out throughout the book, the vast majority of medicine around pregnancy does just that.

I’m not sure exactly what my point is here, except that basically, if I am so lucky as to get pregnant, I will be making my own decisions, even if I have to look up all the individual medical studies to make them.