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03/01/2003

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.

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