This morning marked our 4th round of iui and the beginning of our 4th 2-week wait. By the numbers, that’s 22 ultrasounds, 9 vials of sperm, 8 uterine catheters, 7 tenacula, 6 hormone injections, 5 blood tests, 4 weigh-in’s, 3 early surges, 2 donors, and hopefully soon – a monkey in a pear tree.
On the way to the doctor I told MKL that despite our decision to wear pajamas to our early morning appointment, I feel like there should be some kind of pomp and circumstance surrounding today’s attempt. We’ve already decided to take a few months off if this cycle isn’t a success, so today felt like a graduation of sorts. Doc greeted us in her pajamas as well (with a white coat thrown on for good measure) and we got down to business. As of yesterday’s pre-ovulation iui I still had 2 follicles on the left and 1 on the right. I was expected to ovulate sometime yesterday evening, and doc had high hopes that at least 2 of the eggs would release on time. In truth, I was a little skeptical. This isn’t the first time I’ve had multiple follicles ready on time, but I’ve never managed to release more than 1 in time for an iui. If I have finally learned what ovulation feels like (very low indigestion-like twinges), then it happened at 6:00 and again at midnight. Whether I properly detected the timing or not, doc confirmed via ultrasound that I released an egg from each ovary yesterday. The remaining follicle on my left side grew overnight, and she’s relatively sure it will also release sometime today. She hasn’t been wrong yet, so I’m guessing this is a 3-egg omlette…uh, cycle we’re working with here.
So we proceeded with a 2-vial insemination early this morning. Since we’re planning to take a break, we want to be sure there is no sperm in storage after this round; so we’ve gone all in…so to speak. If you’re keeping score at home, that’s 3 eggs, and 3 vials of sperm, counting yesterday’s vial. We thawed today’s 1st vial while waiting for doc to make the 1-mile drive from her house to the office, and upon confirming yesterday’s ovulation via ultrasound, she instructed her assistant to retrieve the back-up vial from the nitrogen tank. Then the 4 of us hung out in the exam room, chatting about everything from the grooming of doc’s schnauzer (yeah, I said it) to the vocal stylings of Anita Baker, while doc held the 2nd vial to thaw it herself. It was an oddly casual moment…and one that I experienced in stirrups and a life-sized paper towel. I took a picture of that scene with my mind. If this attempt works, I want to remember how simultaneously awkward and appropriate (dare I say Apatowian?) it felt; me, lying completely vulnerable, MKL going through our bag of good luck charms and giving me a twinkly smile, and doc laughing with her assistant while she held our extra vial in her hands with a surprising amount of humanity and care.
I’ve never really talked in detail about how the procedures feel, and don’t worry – I’m not going to start. I’ll just say that they’re not painful so much as uncomfortable. Don’t get me wrong – out of 8 times, there have been 2 or 3 that legitimately hurt. But all in all, it’s not that bad. I could go on for a paragraph or two about the flood of emotion that washes into the room when doc says “ok…” indicating that she’s done injecting, and what it’s like to stay afloat in that flood for 15 minutes while I lay with my legs angled toward the sky, eyes locked with MKL’s. I could easily write a book about what it feels like to intentionally try to bring a new life into the world, and the responsibility that comes with it. Thoughts of that responsibility loom as prevalent as the thoughts of folding onesies while we fight back tears, make small talk, and wait for doc’s assistant to come back in and turn the light on. And someday maybe I will write some type of technical manual for coping with the sometimes painful, often hilarious happenings in the exam room. Since the first week of August, we’ve spent a total of 26 hours in her office…reading magazines in the waiting room, getting annoyed on the scale, listening to doc reprimand her assistants for prepping the wrong size speculum (having already felt the physical pain associated with that realization), and staring at some bad artwork on the walls and ugly ceiling tiles. [A side tip for any professional whose work requires your patients to lie down: decorate your ceiling. Your patients will appreciate the effort.] I could tell you about all of it…right down to the joys of the sperm cup. But unless you’ve experienced it, you’ll never fully comprehend what it feels like to take this journey. Try as I might, Christ knows I’m not a good enough writer to put it into words.
As we left doc’s office, she told us she hopes to see us soon for a pregnancy sonogram. We all walked to our cars, headed back to our Sunday beds, and MKL asked how I was feeling. Full, I told her. I wanted to mean it in a deep way (i.e. I am full of hope or full of love). But I really just mean full…down there, as your weird aunt used to say. Apparently a little extra sperm makes a big difference. (I sure hope it does!) The end of our 2ww will bring a fork in the road: either we’re pregnant, or we’re getting off the roller coaster for a bit. Someone asked me if we were looking forward to getting back to our “normal” lives (of course, having already expressed his hope that we’ll conceive this time around!). I had no idea how to answer that question – not because it’s not a valid question – because I can’t picture going back to our old lives. There’s no going back now. Regardless of the outcome, we’re adjusting to a new normal. We might have a low-key holiday season, focused on spending quality time with each other, living a good healthy lifestyle, and paying down medical expenses so we can get ready to incur them again next year. But I’m hoping and praying that we’ll be fighting morning sickness, talking about baby names, registering for all kinds of necessary (and completely useless) stuff, and making room in our house for our sweet little monkey. We’ve already made room in our hearts.