The story so far
I'm Julie. When I met Paul 8 years ago, we didn't think immediately of having children. In fact, I'd spent most of my 20s trying very hard not to. Unfortunately, I devoted significantly less energy to avoiding STDs. My doctor delicately referred to those years as "your days of wine and roses." It would be more accurate to call them my days of dope and vodka, but his phrasing is certainly more poetic, so we'll just go with that and move on.
I contracted chlamydia, which didn't seem important at the time, and HPV, which did. The chlamydia succumbed to a single course of antibiotics, but the HPV was more worrisome. Although I never had any symptoms at all beyond abnormal Pap smears, I did need painful cryosurgery to remove the abnormal cells from my cervix, and endured frequent followups for the next year. Oh, and let's not forget the humiliation of having to make some very difficult phone calls to my many casual sexual partners. "Hi. Uh, remember me? No? Well, um..."
This brush with grossness pretty much cured me of my promiscuous ways, and by the time I met Paul in 1996 I was older, wiser, and somewhat more prudent. (Translation: I'd learned which end of the condom was the business end.) Our romance progressed apace; by September that year we were living together in Manhattan.
There are certain things you just don't know about a person until you share close quarters. I didn't know about Paul's annoying habit of leaving dishes in the sink "to soak," brimming with cold, gray, greasy water. He didn't know about my crippling monthly periods, five days of the harpy — heavy bleeding, excruciating pain, and a junkie's need for frequent large fixes of Advil.
And what I didn't know until I visited a gynecologist in 1997 was that these were classic symptoms of endometriosis. A laparoscopy revealed that my insides were just riddled with the stuff, including one of my ovaries that was almost turned inside out with it. Because we weren't planning to have children in the near future, I didn't ask many questions about what this could mean for my future fertility. At any rate, I was too psychotic from the six-month course of Lupron that followed my lap to say much of anything beyond, "TURN ON THE AIR CONDITIONING OR I WILL MURDER YOU IN OUR SWEAT-SOAKED BED."
But by late 1998, having children began to seem like an option. I jettisoned my birth control pills and waited for nature to take its course. We weren't making any special effort, hadn't yet succumbed to the tyranny of the calendar, so it didn't seem alarming that I hadn't become pregnant by early 2000.
Then the efforts began in earnest. Because I didn't want to pressure Paul, I started keeping careful but secret track of my own personal fertility cues. Never was a woman more engrossed by mucus than I! While we agreed we were ready to have kids, I was determined not to turn our sexual relationship into something mechanical and sterile, so while I was toying with my cervix and watering OPK sticks on a daily basis, I was trying hard to keep the more intricate plotting and scheming to myself: Pee on a stick in the morning; frolic gaily in bed at night while seeming not to have a care in the world; keep hips elevated for half an hour while clenching teeth grimly; mark the calendar the next day and count the days until my period inevitably arrived again.
Lather, rinse, repeat.
I must have been insane, but I think I did a good job of hiding it. Paul swears I didn't make him crazy. Good man. Or fine liar.
By late 2001, we'd moved out of Manhattan and had settled into a big house in a small New England town. We knew we were ready to have a family, and we knew that I should have managed to get pregnant by now. The first doctor we consulted was an OB/GYN with no particular expertise in the fertility arena. He performed a painful HSG, an unsuccessful IUI, and then, having emptied his meager bag of tricks, wrote a letter of referral to the state's only infertility clinic.
After looking at the HSG results, Paul's sperm analysis, and my cycle patterns (28 days like clockwork — the trains run on time around here), the new doctor suggested a few more IUIs, just to make sure we'd given the least invasive treatment a chance to work. Clomid, hCG, and a syringe full of love were enthusiastically and hopefully applied, but in vain.
By winter 2002 we were shrugging our shoulders in puzzlement. By this time I was 31 and Paul was 44, and we both appeared to be healthy. No obvious reason seemed to exist for our inability to conceive. So we brought out the big guns and began our first IVF cycle at the end of January 2003.
I started on birth control pills to regulate my cycle, then began a course of Lupron to prevent me from ovulating prematurely. Once my hormones had been beaten into submission, I started twice-daily injections of Follistim and Repronex, along with the Lupron I'd already been taking. Twelve days later, I was given an injection of hCG to mature the eggs that were studding my ovaries, and on February 23, 7 mature eggs were retrieved from 11 large follicles. "Perfect stim," my doctor said, patting my hand before he left the hospital that day.
Unfortunately, the rest of the cycle went straight to hell shortly thereafter. On Monday I was told that only one of our 7 eggs had fertilized. For the next couple of days I agonized, worrying that our single embryo would die before transfer. We were briefly in luck, as it grew into an 8-celled beauty, which we then transferred on February 26. And I did get pregnant, as I found out in early March.
That's where my journal picks up.