acupuncture, dating, depression, fertility, IVF, meditation, outdoors, running, single mom by choice, SMC, trying to conceive, ttc

hope

First, thank you to all who have reached out to me in so many thoughtful ways. I love you.

It’s been hard to decide what to write as I navigate the aftermath of FET#1. The depth of grief goes well beyond what I’ve previously experienced in this process. I will admit that my last post was written hastily after learning the news myself–I was in shock. I wanted to appear strong to those who might worry that the disappointment would send me into total collapse. I thought I might be able to skip over dealing with it; with margaritas, keeping previously-made plans, and working hard. Keep moving forward.

Here’s a shocker: that didn’t work. By Thursday it caught up with me. I felt the familiar old tentacles of depression wrapping around me and pulling me down. The awful chanting of negative thoughts in my brain. The worst one: I spent my 30s trying to build a family, and I have failed. No one will attach to me permanently, not a man, not an embryo. (Not even a dog!) I sobbed to my therapist. Poor, poor me.

While grieving and disappointment and sadness (and even anger at slacker embie #1) are normal and healthy after how much time, money, and effort I’ve invested in this process, I also recognize the ‘poor me’ refrain. It’s a sign that I’m hooking into distorted thinking and descending into a place of hopelessness. I’ve felt it before. There’s a healthy grieving process and then there are the terrorists. The terrorists aim to use this as proof that hope is futile. Thank God I know the difference by now. I knew it was time to use my tools before I sunk any further. My acupuncturist reminded me that depression is a state of static and clenching, and, even if it sounds like the last thing you want to do, it’s important to force yourself to get out and be active, go for a run, be outside. It moves things around, helps you move through.

So, yesterday I hiked from 8-4, with MM, along the stunning, sunny coastline of the Marin Headlands–a big loop from Tennessee Valley up to Muir Beach and back through Green Gulch Farm. I cried to MM that there’s a big scoreboard and my score is zero, to which she responded, “And the game isn’t over yet.”

Toward the end of the hike, I stood at a single high point from which I could see Bodega Bay, Muir Beach, Ocean Beach, Sutro Tower, the GG Bridge, the SF skyline, the Bay, Mt. Diablo, I felt my body in the warm sunshine. My anti-depressant.

This morning, I listened to Tara Brach’s latest podcast, called “Part 1: Hope and the Spiritual Path.” I beg you to listen to this podcast. I command you. It’s one hour. You can listen to a lot or a little. Not only does it perfectly articulate where I am right now in terms of maintaining hope, it has priceless nuggets of wisdom for each one of you. I will listen to it many times. The potential of the oak tree is contained within the acorn. What we hope for is already within us.

There is egoic hope based in fear, and there is a holy hope based in a basic faith that God isn’t just rolling the dice on us. Our lives have meaning. It will be some time before I become a cheerleader for FET#2, but for now I feel, deeply, that I am still on my spiritual path, and this is all part of it, and it is all making me stronger and better prepared for whatever comes next. (That still sounds a little stronger than I feel, but I know it’s the right direction.)

At times, I have wondered how this blog could be inspiring to people–I have tried and failed ten times. Sounds like a bummer. Then, this past week, I have been reading other women’s posts online, and every time I see someone weather a failure and then somehow continue to put one foot in front of the other, my heart soars. I get it.

So, here I go, out for a run at Lands End. xo

[Tara’s podcast will be available within a week or so on her website www.tarabrach.com. Meanwhile, you can access this podcast by downloading the Podcasts app through the iTunes store, search for “Tara Brach. Enjoy, and please report back if you listen!]

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IVF, single mom by choice, SMC, trying to conceive, ttc, two week wait

not this time

For reasons I didn’t share earlier, I ended up doing the blood test today instead of tomorrow, and Olga called this afternoon to say it was negative.

I did absolutely everything right, the best I could do, spared no expense. It just didn’t work. Much like lots of life’s bad news, there is no reason.

I entered that surreal mode where I realized I was actually having the dreaded conversation (again) with Olga and not dreaming it. I hung up and sat very still for a long time, doing all the mental math to catch up with the verdict. I put my head down. I looked out the window at the unseasonal June rain. Then I called my family, one by one.

It feels unfair in the sense that I deserve this after trying so hard for so long. But I know that’s not how life works. Life can be random and sometimes the worst things happen to the nicest people.

This is hard, but not even close to one of the worst things.

Last February, after the second-to-last IUI failed, my friend A gave me a charm representing “Unexpected Miracles.” I hung it on my purse. At the time, we laughed about how a baby wouldn’t exactly be unexpected.

What didn’t occur to me then but occurs to me now is that while we still haven’t gotten a baby out of this, SO MANY unexpected miracles have taken place in my life: the uber focus on wellness, the million forms of therapy, the getting stronger through adversity, the writing, and, especially, the friendships. I feel grounded.

I’m not going to be a martyr here and say I’m not disappointed, as tears balance on the edge of my eyelids. But I’m not falling apart. I reserve the right to fall apart later, but my impulse is to just keep going. I’m glad to be out of the wait.

I’ll meet with Dr. Tran on July 3 to discuss my protocol for transfer of embie #2 later in the summer. On the SMC board, they recently changed BFN (big fat negative) to NTT (not this time). I’m lucky there’s a next time. Four of them.

Meanwhile, long (long!) runs in the woods, two weeks on the lake with my family, and, in two hours, at least one margarita.

I love you guys so much. I wanted to tell you before you start sending well wishes about tomorrow. Which I know you would have, and for which I am already grateful.

Thank you for all the support. I’m gonna need some more. xoxoxoxoxoxoxo

anxiety, fertility, IVF, single mom by choice, SMC, trying to conceive, ttc, two week wait

surrender

The sky looks a shade darker than in the banner of my website and there’s a 3/4 moon out the window above my dining room table. It’s already 9–I was so excited for a luxurious evening at home and the time flew by. I’m making pasta and whipping off a blog post because I don’t mean to leave my dear readers hanging.

And yet, we all know there is nothing concrete to report until the blood test. I could list you all the symptoms–but couldn’t it be the hormones? stress? the inevitable result of intense scrutiny of every bodily sensation?

Pasta w/ pesto is now steaming to my right. I’ve decided not to POAS (pee on a stick) this time. I know, it’s radical. It’s even a little ludicrous when Tuesday is essentially 19dpo and 13dp5dt. Anyway, however you do the math, I am going fully conservative on this one, and it still won’t change the outcome. I will not add to the roller coaster by creating a gap between POAS and beta. I will be as kind to myself as possible  by waiting and following the UCSF rules, which include an admonishment not to do a home test due to false negatives.

On Sunday, I went to the hypno-restorative yoga class and while we were in one of the poses, we went down an internal staircase and took a short path to a place in our minds that we associate with joy. And there were our spirit animals, and what was mine? A unicorn. I questioned it–really, a unicorn? Not a white horse or a zebra? Nope, it was definitely a unicorn. It had big soulful brown eyes through which it communicated with me. It asked me to stop comparing myself to others and reassured me that I have done every single thing I could do and now it’s time to let go.

Nevertheless, on Monday, I went a little crazy googling “6dp5dt” and reading other women’s fertility blogs. I also learned of two women who transferred the same day I did and had already POAS and are pregnant. And I was obsessively reading the SMC national board. I found that, while it can be so reassuring to see that someone who felt exactly the same as you on the same day of the process ended up with a perfect baby, it can be equally troubling to read of other people’s heartbreak. So I finally listened to the unicorn and swore off anything related to fertility on the internet.

Since Tuesday, I have felt calm. I think my busy mind ran through all the mathematical possibilities and exhausted itself. I have finally thrown the reigns over to the universe. I’m enjoying this part, this blissful ignorance where I can choose my reality. Soon enough, my path will emerge again from obscurity in the brightening moonlight.

anxiety, IVF, meditation, outdoors, running, single mom by choice, SMC, trying to conceive, ttc, two week wait

PUPO

Yo! We are 4dp5dt to those in the know. Aka 4 days past 5-day transfer. 10 days till beta.

It was a good few days back at work–focused, productive, forgetting at times, remembering with a smile. I’ve felt every symptom on the list already, so that was predictable. Thrilled to have embie #1 with me. My little, huge secret. (PS 75 microns is the width of a human hair.)

Last night, with the distraction of work lifted away, I found myself sinking into worry over the not-knowing. Then I was instinctively scolding myself for not thinking uniquely positive thoughts during this critical time. I have this image of the perfect two-week-waiter: serene, neutral, intuitive, self-assured, full of faith (does this person even exist?).  Once I became aware of this layered internal dialogue, I did what I have learned to do: I turned to Buddhism.

I put on a Tara podcast. Her soothing and wise voice calmed me and encouraged me not to resist the thoughts–invite them to tea. On the night that the Buddha achieved enlightenment, Mara showed up, a demon who tried to tempt the Buddha away from his spiritual practice. He fired arrows at him all night, but because the Buddha didn’t react, the arrows turned to flower petals and eventually Mara disappeared. There were mountains of flower petals in the morning. Rather than resisting or reacting, we can invite our fears to sit with us, to  have tea with us. So I did. I remembered that I’m on a bunch of hormones. I cried and fell asleep. I moved through.

Tara quoted Annie Lamott, which kind of blew my mind, given their recently prominent roles as my spiritual leaders. The Annie quote was, “My mind is like a bad neighborhood. I try not to go there alone.”

Today, I met up with two SMC friends and was reminded in a big way that I am not alone. I met C, 38 weeks pregnant, for a muffin and tea, then J, 18 weeks pregnant, for brunch. I came away remembering that motherhood at every stage of pregnancy and beyond is about living with uncertainty–heck, LIFE is about living with uncertainty–and I am getting a lot of relevant practice. My SMC friends are inspiring examples–even if there are days when they feel disorganized, they have their shit together in such a fundamental way. And they reflect this back to me. Which makes me feel like I don’t have to solve everything today, since I can’t anyway and neither can anyone.

I swam this morning, exercise being a critical part of the program of keeping me afloat. Swimming will be my new substitute for running, and although I don’t love swimming in the same way, it did feel good. Although wow is it really hard when you’re not in the habit. And kind of annoying with the sharing a lane, and boring with the repetition, etc. But a great low-impact, muscle-toning, cardio workout, and hopefully I’ll get stronger. Swimming and yoga. I signed up for a 3-hour hypno-restorative yoga class tomorrow afternoon with C. Also hoping to get outside into our deliciously cold weekend fog in the morning.

I’m back to being happily-maybe, and sometimes probably. Grateful to be PUPO = Pregnant Until Proven Otherwise. Rolling with it. Making friends with the present moment and all it has to teach me.

night night

 

acupuncture, fertility, IVF, single mom by choice, SMC, trying to conceive, ttc, two week wait

happy transfer

Embie on board!

I took the Valium an hour beforehand, so by the time my sister got here to pick me up I was giggly. I was overly-accessorized, wearing one item to represent each family member: earrings from my dad, a scarf from my mom, arm warmers from my sister, a bracelet from my other sister, and a ring from each grandma. I was Ready.

Upon arrival, I took all that off and changed into my gown, cap, and booties. So did my sister so she could be in the room. We were invited into the transfer room adjacent to the embryologist lab and the first thing Dr. Tran did was hand me this printed photo of embie #1, freshly thawed and hatched this morning:

embie1 (2)

I am SUPER PROUD of this photo and it’s on my fridge now. Dr. Tran said that this is a “textbook” blast, looks really really good.

I asked how big it was and he said 75 microns. How big that is, I am not sure. Still very small.

The embryologist gave me a visual tour of the lab from where I could see it from the table, and I can’t say I remember any details in my loopy state but I was fascinated and thought he was cute. I thanked him a lot and he gave me a thumbs up.

Once we were ready to go and Dr. T. inserted the catheter, the nurse had put jelly on my belly and it was my first non-vaginal ultrasound perhaps ever. I could see the end of the catheter appear on the monitor, with a white dot on the end. The catheter nudged a little until the dot stayed in place and the catheter backed out. I saw the dot stay in my uterus and it brought me joy. I looked over at my sister and we were both wearing masks but had WOW in our eyes.

And that was that. I was given an “After Visit Summary” that begins, “We want you to know that once the embryo is transferred, there is really nothing a patient can do to influence the outcome of the cycle.” (And then goes on to list a bunch of restrictions anyway… Precautions.)

Mostly I’m supposed to take it easy for a couple of days and that’s it. Dr. T. said not to run a marathon or take up smoking. Be sensible. Modern medicine has done everything in its power to create a successful pregnancy, and now it’s up to the embryo to do this last step on its own. The handout also says, “Most embryos that fail to implant do so because of intrinsic genetic abnormalities.” We know my embie is normal so let’s hope it’s happening right now (implantation in the first 24-48 hours).

I told Dr. T. that I was so glad it was him today and he said he would have done it even if he hadn’t been on this week. Love him!

I’m really, really tired. I woke up at 4:40 this morning and couldn’t fall back to sleep in my excitement. Then the Valium knocked me out in the afternoon–I napped, then did acupuncture, and now I’m a wet noodle. Time for bed.

THANK YOU for the many good wishes today–love you all.

acupuncture, anxiety, fertility, IVF, meditation, outdoors, ovulation, parenthood, pregnancy, running, single mom by choice, SMC, trying to conceive, ttc, two week wait

tomorrow

Tomorrow is my transfer day, at 12:15pm! Good vibes, prayers, and love sent in the direction of Sutter and Divisadero, SF, CA, USA are  welcomed and appreciated! Thanks so much for the love, hugs, texts, emails, and calls already flowing in.

The weekend was a slow and steady build toward the big day. On Friday night, I had my two-hour clairvoyant reading. The five readers sat across from me with their eyes closed as they took turns reading my energy. They checked all my chakras, cleaned out the old pictures, told me about some of my past lives (I was a contented Eskimo mom as well as a famous actress in the 1910’s), and generally validated my commitment to having a child. No major blockage toward reaching my goal. After the intensity of the reading, I felt emotionally delicate. I walked to Dolores Park and sat on a bench overlooking the twinkling city, and cried. It was cleansing. If that’s what it means to get your chakras cleaned out, I’m for it.

On Saturday morning, I ran to the top of Twin Peaks, remembering with every uphill that it would be my last challenging run for a while–I savored it. I don’t normally go to the tippy-top, but this time I did.

In the afternoon, I went for Maya abdominal massage. At first, we talked about diet. She gave me some foods to target: avocado (superfood), cilantro (cooling), cinnamon (anti-inflammatory), chia seeds (another superfood w/ omega 3s, she wants me to eat them throughout the day), have a smoothie soon after waking up (to maintain blood sugar), avoid grains in the evening (to not spike blood sugar then crash overnight), drink cranberry leaf tea (to support healthy lining), etc. She has a really soothing manner. We both spoke softly.

Then, we prepared for the vagina steaming, which was very simple: she had been simmering some herbs in a regular pot which she put under what I think was a birthing stool, with the lid at an angle to let the steam rise up. she had me sit on the stool and then she wrapped me in a thick red blanket, leaving me to meditate for ten minutes. It felt odd but nice, not too hot. Every herb in there had a specific purpose, the end result ostensibly being an irresistibly sticky womb.

Afterward, I got on the massage table and she said she was going to feel around for my uterus. Did you know this was possible? I did not. I would have thought it was too far in the middle of the body. The uterus is, in fact, impossible for me to visualize, unless it’s a Georgia O’Keeffe painting, or a pancake. In the 3D environment of my body, I am clueless.

She found it with her fingers, pressing gently. She exclaimed, “She’s pretty anterior!” and then gradually guided “her” back to center. It felt a little strange to have someone pawing at my belly, but not as uncomfortable as I imagined it could be.

She finished with a full body massage, my first in years–so amazing. I was jello after that. I had no choice but to go home and take a nap. The rest of the weekend I spent holding babies at parties and celebrating my sister’s graduation.

Today, I went around feeling like I swallowed a canary. At the end of the day, I stopped to pick up groceries for an uber-healthy, delicious dinner, and ended up spending $15 on a wild salmon filet that turned out to be maybe the best salmon I’ve ever had, simply prepared with lemon and garlic in foil. Also, broccoli. And chips with homemade guacamole w/ cilantro. Now I’ll drink some cranberry leaf tea and take a bath before bed.

My evening protocol right now has me decreasing the estrogen patches on my belly while I increase the dosage of intramuscular progesterone injections. This is mimicking what happens after ovulation, but without the ovulation, getting my uterus right where a Day 6 blast would want and expect it to be. The progesterone shots are gnarly–1.5″ needle and a funky angle to do on yourself. They’re not so painful at the time, but I have a little painful knot developing behind each hip. I massage them a lot. I’ll continue these for several if not many weeks–and it should be noted that the side effects are identical to those of pregnancy (including delaying AF!).

Tomorrow is a dream day: therapy at 7:30, personal trainer at 9:30, go home and take a Valium, my sister picks me up at 11:30, meet embie #1 soon after 12:15, then acupuncture at 3pm.

How do I feel? I feel like I’ve done a really good job. I have done everything in the world I could reasonably do. I feel really hopeful and a little anxious, also grounded, centered, uterus-centered, nourished, peaceful. I feel like all that I’ve learned and practiced around self-care these past weeks are gifts already received from the baby to be.

What a process. Grateful for you and all of the above and the chance to get pregnant tomorrow.

xo

acupuncture, anxiety, fertility, IVF, meditation, single mom by choice, SMC, trying to conceive, ttc, two week wait

transfer date

You guys! At long last, we are almost to transfer.

I drove over to my lining check feeling happy to be going back to UCSF after weeks and weeks of no appointments. The woman at the front desk told me I owed “$27.99.” I looked at her in confusion and told her my co-pays are usually $40. She said, “No, sorry, I meant [whispered] $2,799.” OOHHH. Right. This is the cost of one Frozen Embryo Transfer, up front. This time, I had an amazon Rewards Card–see, I’m getting better at this all the time.

When Dr. Zamah walked into the exam room, I was reading through my lengthy FET consent form, getting my head back in the game. He said he’d be looking for a good lining and no cysts. I wasn’t anxious until that moment–who’s to say what’s going on in there??

Going in, though, I knew that throughout this entire process, I have not missed a single pill, injection, or patch. Amazing. That’s how #1 this is in my own mind.

Awesome results–lining is great, left ovary quiet, right ovary quiet; he said, “I approve! Green light!” He’s a nice, light-hearted guy. And, just like that, I was over the last hurdle.

Almost. I met with Nurse Claire, who said they’re having great results with FETs recently. We went over my new protocol. (I now have four calendars taped to my kitchen wall from this whole process.) Tonight, I’ll peel off one of the four estrogen patches on my belly and give myself a progesterone shot. Start Medrol tomorrow. Valium on my transfer date, which is:

—>Tuesday, June 11<—

My sister will drive me there and back. We are transferring one embryo, my Day 6 5BB, my frontrunner.

Between now and then, I’ll do acupuncture, a clairvoyant reading/healing, and Maya abdominal massage (including vagina steaming–you know I will report back). I’ll sit outside with friends, and otherwise relax and meditate and rest and drink smoothies. (I just had one with banana, avocado, frozen blueberries and strawberries, spinach, honey, almond butter, chia seeds, coconut milk, and ice. Delish.) I’ve got this covered.

Pregnancy test 2 weeks later on 6/25 (yep, it’s still a two week wait…if I don’t pee on a stick first).

On the way out, I saw Maria from the front desk and Lili the genetic counselor and gave them hugs. When I told them my transfer was Tuesday, Lili said, “O….M….G!!”

Exactly.

meditation, outdoors, single mom by choice, SMC, trying to conceive, ttc

weekend snapshots

I absolutely must be in bed at 10 tonight, which is in 38 minutes, which means tonight we’re doing snapshots from my weekend at Spirit Rock:

  • I checked my email confirmation at 7:25am to make sure what time I needed to arrive for the Daylong in Nature and for the first time noticed that I was supposed to be there not at 9:30, but at 8:45. Which meant I’d have to leave in 20 minutes. I flew around my apartment eating breakfast, packing my lunch, showering, not washing my hair, and jumped in the car with only 45 minutes to do an hour’s drive. Rushing to a meditation retreat is ridiculous. I sped over the bridge and once on Sir Francis Drake realized I’d be about 10 minutes early. And I felt my brain click over to the next thing to worry about: would I have time to use the bathroom, find a refrigerator for my lunch, and get water? I didn’t even spend one second feeling relieved and grateful before moving on to the next worry. But at least I noticed it.
  • In a related story, later on that day a woman at the retreat mentioned that while meditating, she had a fly buzzing her left ear. Then her right ear. She was really irritated. Then the fly flew away, and she felt “lost.” We talked about how the fly could represent anything and how we all live from fly to fly, wondering when we’re going to get chocolate cake.
  • Back to my arrival: I checked in, used the bathroom, got water, and learned that there was no fridge available. I sat in the warm sun in the overgrown grass putting on sunscreen when I met two women sitting near me. I learned that their names were “Spring,” and “Rain.” I said, wait–did you say Spring and Rain? And then Rain says to Spring, “I thought your name was Stephanie?” and Spring says serenley, “Spring is just easier.”
  • We spent the day in silence, starting when we walked up the hill. I realized that it was my first full event in silence. I loved it. As much as I enjoy meeting people, it’s a relief for once to peel that layer off the whole experience and just focus inward. We were given permission not to speak, gesture, or whisper. We shuffled along the path together silently–and suddenly I noticed a lizard, a spiderweb, and a brilliant blue sky.
  • The nature event included less teaching and more meditation–alternating between sitting and walking. Sitting is going better for me, not so uncomfortable. Walking meditation is surprisingly mind-blowing. The point is simply to walk mindfully, which means walking slowly. I always get a zombie vibe when I look around at the people ambling aimlessly. But when I stop looking around, I get totally lost in the moment. I discovered wildflowers (orange, yellow, and purple, wished MM were there to identify), found patches where deer had slept, studied a dead tree against the blue sky. I walked barefoot. I ambled along the trail, up the hill, down the hill, into the bushes (here’s hoping no poison oak). I put my hands on a large rock, partially embedded in the earth, warm in the hot sun. It reminded me of similar rocks on my grandparents’ property and I had a moment with them. I came back to my cushion feeling like I’d had a busy day at work–but a whole new kind of work.
  • I noticed this weekend how many people at meditation retreats are on the verge of tears, how many going through true crises, my heart blew up with compassion for some of the people who shared their stories.
  • Today’s daylong was with Tara Brach, a famous meditation teacher from DC whom my friend A raves about. A went as far as giving her baby son the middle name Brach–such a deep connection to her spiritual guide. There were around 200 people there plus another few hundred online. I was excited to experience Tara’s teaching after listening to a few of her podcasts, and now I know why she has such a massive following. Her guided meditations were extraordinary. I pushed past stuck thinking in at least four different personal life issues. In one case, she had us envision a situation where we were triggered and reactive, to play it through like a movie, frame by frame, and then pause on the most triggered moment. Then imagine someone you admire (Pema Chodron) filling in your shoes in that moment–how do they react? What advice do they give you? Tears poured down my cheeks as I realized how she’d tricked us all into connecting with our own deep wisdom.
  • Afterward, I had her sign my book (she wrote: “For Katie, with blessings and love. <3, Tara”) and told her I’m a friend of A and another aspiring single mom, and she wished me the best. She told me her sister was an SMC. I put my hand on my heart and she put her hands in prayer and I am her newest fan. www.tarabrach.com (check out her weekly podcast)
  • I feel inspired. I remember what and whom I love. I am aware of my body. My heart is open.
  • I bow to the divine in you.