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This is Part 2 of my Infertility Journey.
July—Looking back, the first IUI cycle was the least eventful, but it was the most stressful because I didn’t know anything. I had no clue. This was a time before blogs were really prevalent, and even though I gained a ton of knowledge from message boards and articles, there’s really nothing to prepare you for the experience of going through this alone.
I naively thought, for example, that I could get the needed fertility meds by just walking up to the counter at Walgreens and slapping a script down on the counter. Yeah, no. These are very specialized meds and must be pre-ordered through one of a handful of companies in the nation that manufactures them. To do this, I had to make several calls to my insurance company to determine what they would and would not cover. Then call more than one of these companies to purchase the various meds, and put hundreds of dollars’ worth of them on my credit card. And chase around the state to two specialized pharmacies for two of the injectibles.
I then learned that these could only be delivered by Fed-Ex. Which meant I would have to sign for them, and would not be home. I was renting from my
conservative close-minded cousin at the time, and couldn’t ask her to sign. The other option was my parents, which basically meant no option. What’s more, the meds had to be packed in dry ice, and then refrigerated! I shared a fridge with my cousin. It was 105 degrees out for days on end. I ended up arranging for the meds to be delivered on a Saturday to a Fed Ex center that would hold them for me. I was delirious with stress. On the hottest day of the year, then, I went with my parents to a local estate sale, but drove separately. Once there, I told my mom that I needed to grab something from home that I had forgotten. Then I raced at 20mph over the speed limit in the opposite direction to get my package, then zoomed to my parents’ in terror that anyone would be home. They were still at the sale, so I ripped open the box and wrapped the meds in paper bags, and placed them in the very back of my mom’s fridge.
They say you forget most of your fertility protocol once you’ve completed treatment. There is a lot of truth to this; not only because our mommy brains turn to mush, but because going through IF treatment is not a lot of fun. I recall, during the first IUI, sitting in a cramped waiting room with other women after our names were called for ultrasounds, and not a one of us looked at each other. No one read a magazine; we all had the same resigned, stoic look on our faces. I knew the IUI would fail, and felt it was a waste of time to sit in that room. Yet I do remember that my protocol included Follistim, Ganarelix, a mini HCG shot to boost egg quality, and a “trigger” shot which triggers ovulation to be timed exactly.
In other words, I was on Injectibles. Injectibles mean: you have to inject. Yourself. With a needle. Twice daily. In the stomach. Or, at least I did. They had me watch a DVD about it, but if you’ve never given yourself a shot before, it can be damn daunting the first time! I held that loaded needle in my sweaty hand for a good half hour before I had the courage to plunge it into my stomach area. It was only a sub-q shot, but it had to go all the way in and all of the ungodly expensive liquid had to pressed in.
Yet another obstacle was the fact that I lived and worked about 55 miles from my RE’s clinic. Ultrasounds were done 2-3 times per week and it was hard to get that time off work. My boss at that time was a Napoleanic-shit on top of it. Later, I got wise and took the 6:30am appointment, which meant that there was no wait, I could be done by 6:50am and zoom straight to the office.
On the third night of my Follistim injection, I felt sort of itchy while out on my walk. Maybe a mild rash in a couple of places, no big deal. I chalked it up to the hot weather. On the fourth night, though, the sneaking suspicion that I was having an allergic reaction to the Follistim was frighteningly obvious. Once again I went on my evening walk and then I laid down on the couch once I returned to my cousin’s, to read a book. But I couldn’t read for all the itching. Finally I went into the bathroom, stripped off my clothes, and looked at my skin. What I saw horrified me.
Giant welts the size of dinner plates were all over my legs and back. I’d never seen anything like it. In a panic, I called my RE’s after-hours emergency number. I told her that I wanted to still take my nightly shot. She said not to. That I could die from it with this kind of reaction. I so wanted a baby that I loaded the syringe anyway.
This can’t happen! I thought to myself. WHY FUCKING WHY did everything have to be so damn difficult for me? Was it not enough that I didn’t have a husband? Or that I had a shit, low-paying job despite a Master’s Degree (Summa Cum Laud, no less)? Had I not already paid my dues with endo and 3 surgeries and countless bullshit, to get this far into a cycle and then have it go awry over a few patches of hives?
So I loaded the needle and called my RE again. I told her that unless she could get me on a similar med by 6:30am the following morning, I had the needle loaded and would take my chances. She talked me down from that ledge, thank God, and put me on Gonal-F the next morning and even helped me recoup some of the money from the leftover Follistim. So I threw the syringe away and bought Benadryl—a handful of those had me mostly cleared up by morning.
Don’t freak if you’re starting to take Follistim. It’s rare to have that kind of allergic reaction to it. Gonal-F is a similar med and I had no reaction to that, and we managed to save the cycle.
Once the u/s showed that my follies were mature, I did a trigger shot an exact number of hours before having the IUI.
Last Minute Contemplations
The day before the IUI, over my lunch break, I sat with my mp3 player on a bench in a mini-park, smack dab in the middle of the downtown area near where I worked.
I sat and contemplated.
I asked myself: How did it come to this? How was it that my life had taken this path that I had not chosen for myself? I wanted to be married, I wanted my child to have a dad. By then, though, a lot of the Juno-style crying had already been done and I’d made a sort of peace with the situation.
The gravity of the situation, the decision that would change the course of my life, no longer made me angry (though anger has flared up occasionally since that time). It made me a little sad, but any woman who wants to become an SMC must first go through the grieving process and accept—and embrace—her situation. For most of us, this is Plan B. So that day on the bench, I was doing what Jane Mattes, the pioneer of the SMC movement, advised in her outstanding book: “allow yourself to grieve once more for the loss of bringing a baby into the world with a loving partner.”
It’s a good thing, too, because once you have the baby, your luxurious moments of “contemplation” or quiet time are pretty much nada.
The IUI Procedure
I’ll spare you all the grim details, but I took the day off work to have the IUI. They insert a catheter up into your uterus and release the sperm directly there for a better chance at conception. I felt some mild cramping throughout the day and laid down to (irrationally) make sure the sperm would not escape. The clinic handed me a pee stick and a card to remind me when to take the test.
Thus began the Two Week Wait.