11/16/2003

You better shop around

I've been reading a lot of discussions about egg donation and how women go about choosing a donor. Some agencies provide pictures; others offer only a general physical description. Sometimes you're given test scores and grade point averages as proof of intelligence. If the donor has children of her own or has donated in the past, you'll be told about that, too.

But they don't seem to give the kind of information I'll really want if I end up using donor eggs. I would like to know:

  1. Can she do math? I can't. Those story problems are a bitch. It would be nice if her eggs had some math in them. And then when the kid comes to me for help with homework, I can call her on the sly and whisper, "Quick! What's 9 times 13?"

  2. The length of her second toe. Mine is longer than my big toe, giving my feet an unsettling resemblance to the antlers of one Bullwinkle J. Moose. We all want to give our kids a great start in life — why not begin with making sure they look decent in sandals?

  3. Her literary tastes. Anyone who has enjoyed writings by more than one of these authors...

    • Stephen King
    • Maeve Binchy
    • Tom Clancy and his terrifying cadre of tireless henchwriters
    • Those Left Behind freaks
    • Drs. Atkins, Phil, or Laura

    ...is off the list. No discussion.

  4. Can she turn the world on with her smile? Can she take a nothing day and suddenly make it all seem worthwhile? The ability to toss her beanie with palpable joy would be a definite plus.

Realistically speaking, though, the only thing I'd truly care about is her age. The younger the better, as far as reproductive potential goes, so I'd be keeping a keen eye out for someone who can sign the papers no more than thirty seconds after her eighteenth birthday. Barely legal, baby.

I don't know whether the donors get any input into who their matches might be. If so, I'm in a heap of trouble, unless some forward-thinking young woman out there likes formerly promiscuous irresponsible atheist drinkers who can't stop swearing.

Any takers?

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11/20/2003

Just a little off the top

I have learned something new. I have learned that some women get pretty for their doctors. Not only a good wash and maybe some hasty leg-shaving — which is as much as I ever do — but pedicures and bikini waxes to boot.

But I can't figure out why. Do we think our doctors are looking?

I can see how you might feel the urge to spruce up the place if you thought the person rooting around down there was actually interested. But I just can't imagine my doctor is. In his long career he's faced down vulva after vulva after vulva — so many that he doesn't even need to cast a downward glance while introducing the ultrasound probe. In fact, I'm pretty sure he could do it blindfolded, backwards, with one arm tied behind his back. Hell of a parlor trick. Life of the goddamn party.

Or maybe we're talking curb appeal. If I put out a nicer welcome mat and a couple of pots of geraniums, are my embryos more likely to decide that my uterus is a nice place to raise a family? One chipped toenail and there goes the neighborhood.

Or maybe it's part of some obscure pagan ritual. Maybe a neat pelt pleases the gods, but an unruly thicket calls down their mighty wrath, guaranteeing everlasting barrenness. Weren't human sacrifices washed, shaved, and oiled so that the gods might find them tasty? Maybe it's like that.

Look, if I thought my doctor actually noticed, I might be more invested in presenting a pleasing pubic picture. (I doubt it, but I suppose it's possible.) But he couldn't pick my pudendum out of a police lineup even if he had a crooked cop whispering in his ear. He doesn't even pronounce my name correctly, for God's sake. Why should I imagine he cares about my lovely, lovely crotch?

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12/01/2003

Jim Henson's whirling in his grave

I think it would have been a better idea for my doctor to hold this afternoon's post-cycle consultation in a conference room instead of an examination room.

Paul and I perched uncomfortably on plastic chairs, the chairs that have held up my empty jeans and crumpled underpants on dozens of occasions. The doctor wobbled precariously atop a wheeled stool, not unlike the one from which he presided over my in-office D&C. And before us loomed the table, stripped for the occasion of its paper sheathing, but still bearing those jaunty cloth covers on the stirrups.

You know the ones I mean. Sometimes they're fuzzy socks. Sometimes they're hand-knitted booties. In my doctor's office, they're sticky purple vinyl, kindly supplied by our friends at Ortho. I suppose they're intended to make pelvic intrusion a little more cozy.

I admit it: the presence of the examination table threw me. It made me uncomfortable. I mean, I couldn't really listen to a single thing my doctor had to say, because the whole time the poor man talked, all I could think of was how much I wanted to snatch up the stirrup covers and put on a rollicking puppet show.

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12/06/2003

For unto us a child is born. Oh. Wait.

In an inexorable torrent, this year's Christmas letters have begun to come in. You know the ones I mean:

Matthew's doing great in his new position as Chief Executive Widgeteer. He really likes the work and the people, though he misses the family when he's off on those frequent business trips to Butt End, IA.

Jane loves her full-time job as a SAHM to Madison, Taylor, Montana, and Dakota. She doesn't get much vacation time, but the fringe benefits are worth it! This year we spent our days in a course of exhilarating child-directed study of the environment — Taylor especially enjoyed catching tadpoles in the pond!

Et cetera, ad infinitum, ad nauseam.

I've been working on my own holiday letter. Want to take a look?

Season's greetings from Julie and Paul! It's been a while since we caught up — you know how hectic things can get — so we'd like to bring you up to date on how we've spent the past year.

January got off to a great start with a big jolt of Lupron. Julie says that smuggling the needles past airport security, shooting up in her grandparents' bathroom, and hiding the used syringes in the waistband of her underpants was the perfect way to ring in the new year. She had a few hot flashes and headaches, but then so did her grandfather, who was trying to adjust to the dose of radiation being used to treat his prostate cancer — so at least she was in great company!

February passed in a whirl of activity. Those 7 AM pre-dawn drives to the doctor's office sure gave Julie and Paul a lot of quality time together. Though Julie celebrated her birthday that month flat on her back with her feet in the air, exposing her pelvis to another man, Paul came through as usual, giving her a roomy pair of Polarfleece overalls as a gift. A great present, considering the uncomfortable bloating and painful ovarian swelling! At the end of the month, we had seven eggs to work with. Of course, only one fertilized, but everyone insists it only takes one!

At the beginning of March Julie and Paul left for a whirlwind trip to Las Vegas. I guess Julie was feeling lucky, because her first pregnancy test showed we'd hit the jackpot! Too bad our luck turned mid-month, when we learned the pregnancy wasn't viable — but at least we knew Julie could get pregnant!

March didn't exactly go out like a lamb, with two doses of Cytotec and a D&C, but in April we finally settled the matter once and for all with a whopping dose of methotrexate. Julie says the worst part about losing her first pregnancy was that she couldn't drown her sorrows in vodka! (Ha! Ha! Just kidding, folks!)

In May the cat had a great month at school. He got all As on his report card and was chosen student of the month! Not even his infuriating seasonal house-spraying could diminish our pride. Julie was heard to grumble that the school didn't send home a bumper sticker about that...!

June brought lovely weather to our neck of the woods, though Julie was a little too bloated by then to do much gardening. That's right! We were finally underway with IVF #2. Of course, Julie's body had its own agenda — when a single dominant follicle developed, the IVF was cancelled and converted to an IUI. Oh, well! At least Paul got to have his fun! (Just kidding, honey!)

But our Julie doesn't take no for an answer! Those fireworks you saw in the sky on July 4th? Those were for us. Much to everyone's surprise, the IUI worked — Julie was pregnant again! And this time none of that vexing tubal business, either. Once we saw the heartbeat on little Cellface, as we called it, we knew this one was a keeper.

Oops! Boy, were our faces red in August, when we learned it wasn't. Oh, well — like they say, easy come, easy go!

September was a lovely month here, with the leaves putting on their colorful annual show. The cat must have wanted to shed his own foliage, too, because he began pulling his hair out in large clumps, leaving it to drift across the carpet like gray and white tumbleweeds. The vet said it was probably stress — who knew a cat could feel stress, especially with such positive, upbeat owners?

Boo! Did we scare you? For Halloween, Paul and Julie dressed as anxious, exhausted, white-lipped patients undergoing IVF #3. It was a shriek a minute when the process revealed a frightful problem with Julie's egg quality. As October ended, we were wondering "witch" it would be: a trick or a treat? Would either of the resulting two embryos turn into a boy...or a ghoul?

The month of November began just like its name: with a big old "no." But we had other things to think about besides our own minor disappointment — our friends having babies, Paul's beloved aunt's death, and the likely death of our faithful feline friend, who had gone blind and lost his ability to walk. But we all know God never gives us more than we can handle! By the end of the month we were digging into a big turkey feast, feeling thankful for all the many blessings we've described above. More gravy, please!

December finds us ready for a holly jolly Christmas as we scramble to buy presents for other people's adorable moppets. This month brings Paul's 45th birthday (getting a little too old for international adoption, dear! Ha! Ha!) and we'll mark our first wedding anniversary. We'll also celebrate the season by asking Dr. Kris Kringle for a second opinion. No one will see Mommy kissing Santa Claus, but, oh, the things he does with an ultrasound wand...!

We hope this letter finds you and your loved ones happy and well. Here's to a joyful holiday season and a new year just as wonderful as this one!


Love,
Julie and Paul

Now that I look at it, I guess it could probably use a quick edit.

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12/07/2003

Things which were good now suck

I am outraged, outraged to learn that baby aspirin, prescribed to many women to assist in embryo implantation, is now compounded with artificial sweeteners!

I hadn't tasted baby aspirin since the olden days of my youth. Any childhood fever brought with it the thrill of Russian roulette: would we get the St. Joseph's for Children (sharp, orangey, and delicious), or would we get a spoonful of sugar mixed with grown-up aspirin and water (bitter, gritty, and so vinegary it felt like your tongue was shriveling under the onslaught)?

Okay, low-stakes Russian roulette.

On the assumption that, hey, it couldn't hurt, I bought a bottle today and popped one while I was driving home. Imagine my indignation when I recognized the cloying sweetness of aspartame. Why did they do this? Are they afraid baby aspirin will give me cavities? Do they know that too much sugar makes me a little bit hyper? Do they think I'm concerned about the calorie count? Or are they now angling for the low-carb toddler market?

What the hell is going on?

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12/12/2003

She's crafty

My period arrived this morning, a day early. Eager to let my, uh, creative juices flow, I have scheduled a day of crafts to celebrate. Just in case any of you lead a Brownie troop, I will share my plan here.

Fun and easy menstrual projects:

  • Thumbprint hamster

    thumbprint.jpgSupplies: Blood, paper, thumb, Sharpie.

    Procedure: Press thumb into blood. Press gore-soaked thumb onto paper, rocking thumb back and forth to assure even coverage. Wait for thumbprint to dry. With Sharpie, add a long tail, some tiny toesies, lovable-looking ears, cunning little snout, and three spiky whiskers on each side of face. (Evil slanted eyebrows optional.) With Sharpie, write, "Thumbody isn't pregnant!" Slip into doctor's mail slot.

  • Spin-Art

    spin-art.gif
    Supplies: Blood, paper, scissors, salad spinner, bleach.

    Procedure: Cut a pleasing shape out of the paper. A heart is nice, but you might also consider the silhouette of a uterus wracked with painful cramps. Place shape flat inside salad spinner. Dribble blood onto the paper. Replace lid of salad spinner. Send shape and blood for a short whirl. Remove shape and let dry. Sanitize salad spinner with copious amounts of bleach. Place heart under windshield wiper of doctor's car.

  • Untitled installation piece

    audi.jpgSupplies: Blood, bucket, expensive automobile, cover of darkness.

    Procedure: Stealthily approach your reproductive endocrinologist's parking space. When coast is clear, decorate vehicle with attractive lashings of red and brown. (Some artists strive for a Pollock vibe, but I work more in the mode of Rauschenberg.) Watch carefully for approaching authorities. Scamper away as fast as your Pamprin-doped carcass will carry you.

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12/20/2003

It's a theory

I have a theory about why I'm infertile: I think my uterus may be situated on an ancient Indian burial ground.

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01/04/2004

Um, what birds and bees?

My friend T. just called to tell me her six-year-old daughter had asked her, "But, Mom, how does the sperm get to the egg?"

I told her she was lucky her daughter hadn't asked me.

"Well, Emily, the thing is, it doesn't."

Or maybe...

"The daddy sits alone in a grubby little room and frantically performs the secret handshake, while the mommy lies on a gurney drugged to the gills. Then a mysterious masked man introduces a needle the size of a shish kebab skewer into her bathing suit area. What? Wait, where are you going? Hey, why are you crying?"

Or, more succinctly...

"When a reproductive endocrinologist and my Visa card love each other very, very much..."

Any of you with children are welcome to give old Aunt Julie a call when it's time to have that awkward conversation. Or I suppose you could just buy a record, if you think it'd be safer.

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01/08/2004

how_i_feel_about_my_re.xls

love-chartI want to be fair.

My feelings about my reproductive endocrinologist are occasionally quite negative.  But I swear it isn't personal. 

In fact, on a personal level, I'm crazy about him. He's a lovely man who's shown me great kindness on many occasions, the sort of kindness I needed when everything went haywire: laughing dutifully at my feeble attempts at humor when most people would have been horrified.  He has never shied away from the questions, complaints, and occasional abuse with which I've ambushed him.  Although some of the decisions that have been made about my treatment have turned out very badly, I can't doubt the purity of his motives or the goodness of his intentions.

Based on a careful study of my journal entries (and recollection of a very few bizarre and smoking-hot dreams), I've concluded that the spikes of annoyance I've experienced over the last few months are really nothing personal.  I've found that the intensity of my feelings correlates directly with the success of a given phase of treatment.

Thanks to the magic of Microsoft, I have prepared a chart that proves this, including several important milestones over the last two years.  I feel it's quite persuasive.

01:37 PM in I am full of good ideas, The doctor is IN | Permalink | Comments (15)

01/16/2004

Yes! Please send me 12 jam-packed issues!

bitter-thumb.jpgThere are many reasons that sitting in the waiting room at an infertility clinic might be a bit depressing. My clinic shares a waiting room with an OB/GYN practice, so there is a constant parade of pregnant women, each more blooming and happy-looking than the last. There is also consequently a related parade of tiny, tiny babies swaddled in Polarfleece, in the arms of proud-looking new mothers appearing for their six week postpartum checkup.

But that's not all. There's bad art on the walls. Now, I know you think you know what I mean when I say bad art. But you don't. You can't. Imagine, if you will, a palsied, slavering, lobotomized Doberman with a paintbrush stuck up his ass. Got it? Okay. That dog looks like Caravaggio compared to the reprobate responsible for these crimes against art. The subjects run heavily to animals among vegetation. One is some sort of great spotted cat, or maybe a hyena, amid a thicket of what looks like nothing so much as dark green pubic hair. Another captures a deer, or perhaps a flounder, peering over its shoulder apprehensively — almost a reproachful look back at its creator. "Why have you made me? I didn't ask to be born."

And of course there's the miasma of desperation that collects in the corners where the infertile patients huddle (well out of the pathway of the triumphant new mothers). If you were to draw a cartoon, you'd put in some thick, wavy hashmarks — stink lines — to depict the palpable sadness.

Those things are depressing enough, God knows, but today I discovered yet another reason to hate and fear this waiting room: the magazines.

Here is a list of the periodicals that were available for my perusal this morning as I waited:

  • Parents
  • Pregnancy Today
  • ePregnancy
  • Parenting
  • American Baby
  • Child
  • Car & Driver
  • Business Week
Number of times I have ever seen a woman paging through those last two: 0
Number of times I have ever seen a man paging through any of the first six: 0

Now sometimes I take in issues of The Economist or New Scientist and leave them prominently on the table as a low-key form of protest (having first carefully excised the address label). Today I didn't, and found myself without anything to read.

So instead I sat and wondered if there are any magazines out there for the infertile crowd.

You know. "Quick makeup tips to hide those nasty belly bruises." "Creepy global fertility rituals: What the Hell, give 'em a whirl." "10 good reasons to try very hard not to punch your sister-in-law's lights out."

I kind of doubt it.

But there should be. In fact, I'm considering launching one myself. Look for the inaugural issue in your mailbox in a couple of months.

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