Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Tick tock tick tock tick tock

Okay, so this is the 4th day of the longest two-week-wait of my life. Aagh! Actually, it's not so bad.

Yesterday's PIO (progesterone in oil) shot hurt a tiny bit. The needle felt like a sting, unlike the 2 previous shots. Still, it wasn't as painful as my acupuncture needles (which I'll be getting in about 2 hours). The area feels quite bruised now, even though it doesn't show it. The bandaid was also a bit more bloody than normal. Maybe that's the low-dose aspirin's fault, or maybe Dave nicked through a vein when putting in the needle (he didn't inject into a vein, though, he's pretty careful about checking). He's pretty good at these shots for being a beginner and bless his heart, he tries his best to make this ordeal easier on me.

In addition to preparing the whole shot himself, he hides it so that I don't have to see the needle. Even though I gave myself all of my subcutaneous shots, I still have a deep and long-term fear of needles. I don't really know why, but it's just a part of my being. I'm better at hiding it, or at psyching myself up for getting jabbed now, but I still have difficulty looking at the needles, especially the big ones. I can work myself up into quite a panic in anticipation of the jab. I find yogic breathing really helps, as well as other techniques (sort of a self-hypnosis method).

I've been getting treatment from my infertility clinic for nearly 2 years now and that has brought a lot of jabs with frequent blood tests and injectable hormones. To truly understand what an infertile couple goes through is to walk in their shoes. I have found, however, many people who don't have to experience infertility to be sympathetic to our situation. Thank you to my family and friends who have been so sweet and supportive. I know sometimes it's hard to know the right thing to say, but when you're sincere, that shows through more than anything.

When getting infertility treatments it's amazing that the couples, women especially, don't fall into a mind-set of the chronically ill. Infertility treatments can vary but it is common to have to get blood drawn frequently, sometimes daily. There are sometimes daily injections, frequent ultrasounds, other tests like the HSG, SHG, and hysteroscopy that cause anxiety and pain. Many couples, again - especially women, have to submit to surgery to diagnose and treat some conditions. the desire to have a baby pushes the couples through all of this and gives them the strength to bear it, month after month.

A typical natural IUI (intra-uterine insemination) cycle (no medications) may involve 2-3 blood tests in one month, 2-3 ultrasounds, and perhaps an injection of HCG (the hormone to trigger ovulation if the woman has difficulty ovulating on her own). A medicated cycle can include pills like Clomid or Femara or injections like Follistim, Gonal-F, Menopur, Repronex, or some others that are similar. The medicated cycles usually require daily administration of the pills or injections. These hormones make a woman feel physically sore and give emotional boosts (that's the best way I can describe it - everything is magnified).

The ultrasounds, or "dildoscans" as we patients like to call them, can leave you feeling sore and violated. They use a blue-green gel as a lubricant and sometimes that can bring about a little panic for days after as the female patient discovers an oddly colored discharge. Any internet search for a blue-green vaginal discharge can lead one to believe she has a terrible infection. Her first worry is not necessarily for herself, but for how this will affect her cycle and her chances of getting pregnant.

While women do usually have to deal with more of the brunt of the doctor visits, the injections, and surgery, men also have to face ordeals of their own. Society places a lot of value on a man's masculinity and virility. When dealing with infertility, this can wreak havoc on a man's self-image and psyche. They have to "perform" for a cup, sometimes quite often. They need to submit to semen analyses - sometimes repeatedly. When doing IUI or IVF, they need to perform on the spot on the ovulation or egg retrieval day at a specific time. Clinics usually want the specimen at a specific time and you only have about 1 hour to get it to them from the time of collection. Show up too early and you have to hold it somewhere difficult (between your legs, under your arm, or between your boobs if you have bigguns) until someone at the clinic can take it from you. Show up a few minutes late and you may have missed the pick-up from the andrology lab.

At my clinic, the patient may be seen by any of the staff members. There are 4 Nurse Practitioners that usually perform the ultrasound and coach you through what needs to be done. There are 3 Reproductive Endocrinologists (the REs - doctors that specialize in infertility treatment - Obstetricians with extra school and training), and several Registered Nurses who check the patient's blood pressure, weight, administer injections, give lessons on injections, offer extra support, make appointments, and give advice. I think pretty much every staff member at my clinic except for the receptionist has seen parts of my body that I would get arrested displaying anywhere other than Santa Cruz or Berkeley. With IVF I was introduced to another clinic and now more people are way too familiar with my personal bits.

With all of this it totally amazes me at how couples are able to hold their heads high and continue month after month and pursue this goal that comes so easily to most of the population. They experience extreme despair, sometimes complete loss of hope, and somehow are still able to pick themselves back up and build up hope again for another cycle. They do this cycle after cycle until they actually succeed, or until they have exhausted all avenues and cannot proceed any further.

These people are amazing and they deserve nothing but love and respect. I've learned so much from these years on this journey and feel very fortunate and blessed to have met the people that I otherwise would never have met, had I not shared this journey with them.


kaaron said...

Definitely relate to your fear of needles, and I am a nurse! Actualy, I can deal with the subQ shots, but I have a terrible fear of the PIOs!

I definitely have grown in ways I never would have thought had I not had this journey. Although I (and the rest of us) could have done without it, I have learned so much about my husband, myself and those that I share this experience with!

sara said...

One of the best written displays of the infertility journey I've seen. I agree totatlly!