The Pregnancy Test Wait – The Longest 14 Days Ever

I took it easy for the first couple of days after our insemination.  I really wasn’t sure how to feel.  Part of me wanted to be so sure that it had worked and that positive thinking could only increase my chances of pregnancy.  Another part of me wanted to assume that it had not worked and start getting ready for my next cycle to try again, to avoid a massive disappointment.  To the world, I was calm and cautious.  I was constantly telling my wife that it probably didn’t work, but really, truly, deep down I knew I was fooling myself and that every fibre of my being wanted to believe that it had worked.  It was a confusing time, to say the least.

Every time I was hungry or tired, I would think that it was an early sign of pregnancy and get a boost of excitement and joy.  And then I would immediately get a wave of sadness because I knew I was just trying to convince myself desperately that it had worked.  And then the next minute, I was telling myself that it HAD to have worked, I was so healthy and everything was so perfectly timed.  One of those 40 million sperm just had to have found their way around my uterus.  They just had to.  I wanted to try and get off the fertility emotional roller coaster as much as possible, but unfortunately it was pretty unavoidable.

Distraction became an excellent tool for me during these two weeks, and I focussed on the things that I could control: taking my pre-natal vitamins, eating healthily, going to yoga and trying to decrease the harmful chemicals in my environment in preparation for a potential pregnancy.

I had been taking my pre-natal vitamin (along with vitamin D, vitamin C, magnesium and evening primrose)  pretty religiously since Christmas, as I have read that it’s a lot more effective if you start before you’re actually pregnant.  A baby develops it’s neural tube during the first four weeks of pregnancy!  It is so amazing to me that something so critical is being formed so early in life..  This little ball of cells that is the size of a poppy seed is just laying the foundation for a human brain and spinal cord.  No big deal.

In addition to my pre-natal vitamin, I also decided to adopt a plant-based diet for my pregnancy.  I have been vegetarian for a long time now, but I have been noticing sensitivities to dairy products and I have been hearing that dairy isn’t all that great for us in large quantities anyway.  Of course, diet is something that is very personal, so I’m not advocating one way or the other, but for me switching to a plant-based diet just made sense.  It’s made me add in even more fruit and veggie options and I feel really great.  We’ll see how everything works out with potential pregnancy cravings and such, but pickles are vegan and I’ve found some really amazing vegan ice cream substitutions already, so I think I’m set.

Yoga has been an amazing addition to my life.  I have practiced on and off for many years now and getting back into it recently, has been awesome.  I feel more calm and grounded, not to mention I have killer triceps (well, I think so anyway) from all of those downward facing dogs I have to do.  I am aiming to stay as active as possible throughout my pregnancy, not only for myself, but for the baby as well.  There’s lots of great evidence that exercising while pregnant is not only good for moms, but it’s good for babies as well!

The number of crazy chemicals in our environment is a bit scary.  I hate to use that general term (and I am also aware of the naturalistic fallacy when it comes to “natural”and “organic” products), because there are a lot of chemicals that are completely safe and very useful.  But one need look no further than the BPA madness from a few years ago to see that there are not a lot of safety regulations in place for many home and personal products.  Without being too obsessive (which is definitely easy to do when you start reading product labels) I started to cut down on the obviously harmful cleaning and personal products in my life.  We started purchasing unscented products and made more use of our Norwex cleaning cloths that just use water to clean.  I ditched my deodorant and found an amazing homemade recipe (I told you I’m a huge hippy!) that actually works very well (full disclosure: I sweat a lot, so I can tell you that with a high degree of confidence).  I also have only been purchasing shampoos, lotions and make-up products that are paraben and phthalate free.  In general, as I run out of a product, I just don’t replace it with anything.  I have cut down all of my personal products quite significantly (my wife can gladly attest to this) and just try to use less of everything!  I know that I can’t get rid of every harmful chemical in my environment, but I figure it’s my due diligence to make sure everything is a safe as possible.

I’ve been listening to a great pregnancy and birth podcast (check it out here, if you’re interested) lately that had an expert in pre-natal psychology on for an interview.  Yep, pre-natal psychology.  As in, the psychology of babies still in the womb.  Well, that totally blew my mind.  Of course, I know that babies had brains and some level of consciousness before they emerge into this crazy world, but I never thought that there was an entire field of psychology dedicated to it!  This expert brought up the very interesting point that parenting really starts from the moment you’re pregnant.  He spoke about how important it is to sing to and talk to your baby in the womb, and even mentioned some “games” that you can play with baby when they start really being active.  This really resonated with me and reinforced my efforts to foster a happy, healthy body for my future baby to share.  It was so motivating to think in a small way I was already a mama!  Well, maybe a mama.  I started brainstorming ideas for how to connect with my child before he or she was born and started daydreaming about my wife and I singing our baby to sleep every night.

Aaaand, just like that I was back on the fertility roller coaster.  The two weeks just dragged on and on.  I mentally crossed off each day, counting down until I could go for my blood test and find out if our dream was coming true, or if I should start getting ready for my next cycle.

-K

P.S.-I do not receive any compensation for the above recommendations (let’s face it, I’m not that cool), they are just experiences that I wanted to share from my heart to yours! 🙂

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The Appointment – What it Feels Like to be Inseminated

I woke up the day of our big appointment full of excitement, but also full of disbelief that we were actually going to do this.  Today.  Like, for real.  At the same time, I was hesitant to let myself get too excited, so I brushed off those feelings and tried to just focus on getting ready for our big trip.

I had been pretty calm, cool and collected (maybe my wife’s personality is rubbing off on me) for the past couple of days, and my current excitement was definitely at odds with my desire to be calm and level-headed about the whole thing.  Over the past few days I had received so many well wishes and questions about how I was doing, and I was never really sure how to respond.  I suppose most people would have expected me to be incredibly excited, but I was feeling more reserved and almost apprehensive about the situation because the outcome was so variable.  Believe it or not, IUI only has about a 20% chance of working the first try (which is about the same success rate as the old fashioned way), which to me meant that there was an 80% chance that it wouldn’t work.  I saw this appointment as yet another stepping stone in our journey.  A stepping stone that could easily disappear or just continue to move further and further away, if things didn’t go according to our plan.

I know, I’m a big downer.  But if you prepare for the worst, then nothing can disappoint you, right?

We jumped into the car and got my last coffee from Starbucks (a delicious latte with almond milk!) and made the familiar 2 hour trip to Saskatoon.  My feelings cycled between nervousness and excitement during the whole trip, as I tried to wrap my mind around what was happening.  I could tell my wife was also excited and nervous, because she was acting just a bit sillier than normal.  Upon arrival at the clinic, we paid our $350 clinic fee (cha ching!) and our $100 storage/admin fee (cha ching!) and sat in the waiting room.  The nurse let us know that our sperm was being thawed, which would take about half an hour, and that we would be taken into the office shortly.  Tired from my erratic feelings, I rested my head on my wife’s shoulder and watched some TV while we waited.

As I was just getting into “The View”, the woman sitting next to us in the waiting room started talking to us.  She was very pleasant, about our age, and just casually offered us her brother’s sperm.  Yep, you read that right.

Seriously.  I could not make this stuff up.

We were initially a little taken aback (you know, with her being a complete stranger and all), but to be fair, it’s not the first time that we have received an offer like that.  When some of our male friends found out we were trying, we got offered sperm by the bucketful (usually as a joke, but not all the time).  But we’ve never received an offer from someone we didn’t even know!  She was very friendly (if clearly a little nosey) and also prefaced her offer by saying she could just mind her own business, if we found her request insulting in some way.  We just chuckled, thanked her sincerely for her offer and let her know we had already picked a donor.  We continued a bit of polite conversation and my wife mused on how that conversation with her brother might go.

Some people may have found this offer offensive, but I actually found it rather encouraging.  I’m sure it took a lot of courage for her to even strike up a conversation with us, let alone make the offer that she did.  So to us, a total stranger offering to help us (a clearly gay couple) start a family was a beautiful sign of support and compassion.  It really warmed my ovaries to see such a genuine gesture from a complete stranger.

We were called into the office by a nurse, who instructed me to take off my clothes from the waist down and lay on the table.  As I was getting ready, my anxiety and excitement came flooding through my calm and collected barricade and everything started to feel very real .  What if this actually works?!  What if it doesn’t work?

The nurse came back into the room and started up the pleasant type of conversation that medical professionals start when they are about to touch you in a very private area.  She was asking us about our jobs, as she told me to scooch my butt to the edge of the bed and put my legs up into the stirrups (a la Pap test, for those familiar with that lovely procedure).  She continued making small talk as she drew the sperm sample up into a pipette with a long cannula (thin tube) attached to it.  She warmed the speculum under the tap, lubed it up and let me know she was going to insert it.  Seeing my discomfort, my wife came to my side and put her hand on my shoulder.  I heard the familiar clicking of the speculum as she expanded it to access my cervix.  She then inserted the cannula into my uterus, squeezed in the sperm, removed the speculum and we were done.

That’s it?!  We drove 2 hours for that?!  As my sister-in-law so eloquently put it, “What were you expecting?  Streamers!?”

The nurse told me to lay flat for 15 minutes, then I could put my clothes on and we were free to go.  Our fertility doctor popped in a couple of minutes later and let us know that the thaw went well, there were 40 million sperm in the sample and that everything looked great.  It was hard to believe there were 40 million of those little swimmers, just paddling their way through my uterus.  Surely that would be enough.  While we waited, my wife and I debated whether we should have a little nookie.  We had heard anecdotally that orgasm can really help draw the sperm up into the uterus and fallopian tubes, and we wanted to increase our chances of conceiving as much as possible.  It appears that the research is split on whether it actually increases pregnancy rates or not, but it can’t hurt, right?  Anyway, I was far too shy, so unfortunately you guys won’t get to hear the titillating details of a medical office romp.  According to this interesting article, there is a little bit of research to support higher sperm retention and motility towards the ovary following female orgasm.  If there is a next time, we may have to give it a try…for scientific purposes of course.

I was given a requisition for blood work to check my hCG levels two weeks from that day.  The lab would deliver the results that same day to the clinic, and the clinic would then call me with some very good news or some very disappointing news.  If it was good news, then I would go for one more blood test 2-4 days after, just to ensure hCG levels were progressing normally.  And if it was the news I was dreading, I would just call them on day 1 of my cycle and start this whole process all over again.

I put my clothes back on and waddled my way carefully out of the clinic down to the car.  I know it’s silly, but I really felt like the sperm were going to fall right out!  We spent good money on those babies, so I wasn’t about to let them get away!  I spent the next few hours moving cautiously, raising my hips when I could and crossing my legs with much more force than was necessary.  My wife just laughed at me, and rightly so, I’m sure I looked ridiculous.  When we got home, we relaxed in bed (with my hips up on a pillow, of course) and cheered on my left ovary to do it’s thing.

Over the next few days, I was hyper-aware of anything going on “down there”.  Any little flutter in my lower abdomen or tiny cramp convinced me that it was the beginnings of a baby…until I realized it was actually just gas.  I knew that it was too early for anything to really be happening, but my anticipation really got the better of me.  I was torn between wanting this so badly, and knowing that it probably wasn’t going to work the first round.

The next step was just to wait.  We had to wait 14 long, grueling days until we could find out if we had made a baby or not.  We’re pretty good at waiting by now, but it felt like there was a constant battle between my mind and my heart, optimism and negativity, hope and reality.  During the next couple of weeks, I found myself frequently putting my hands on my lower belly and just sending as much love as I could to everything that was going on down there, hoping that it would be enough.

-K

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The Consult – Our First Fertility Clinic Visit

 

Who would have thought that not having a penis would be such a hassle?

After a three month wait, my wife and I finally had our first consult at the fertility clinic in early January.  We were so excited to finally get this process underway!  I could barely sleep the night before and my mind was racing with questions.  Are my hormones okay?  Are my fallopian tubes blocked?  Are we going to need to sell all of our earthly possessions to pay for treatment?  Wouldn’t it just be easier to have a one night stand with a random guy at a bar?

My wife didn’t seem too keen on that last option, so the morning of our appointment we jumped in the car and drove 2 hours to the clinic.  We checked in and filled out the standard paperwork and then…I had my weight taken.  Ugh.  All of a sudden, every single delicious Christmas cookie and beach cocktail from our honeymoon was staring me straight in the face!  Seeing that number on the scale was the last thing I needed that day.  How could I have let this happen!?

I’d like to say that my following thought pattern was one of body positivity, full of heart warming thoughts about how strong and wonderful my body was, but that would be a lie.  My brain was a familiar jumble of negativity and put-downs, that never really got me anywhere and made me feel like I should just curl up into a ball with my heated blanket and eat a bowl of Chicago mix.  I have struggled with my weight for most of my life and hating my body was a familiar feeling.  Strangely, so was hating myself for hating my body.  I think that is the part that bothers me most because my body is so capable, and yet I can’t help but berate myself for not looking like the cover of a Cosmo.  I am capable of breathing and walking and yoga and weight lifting and hugging and healing and, maybe one day, creating a human being.  So why do I curse my curves?  Why do I lament my waistline?  I am so much more than that, and in spite of my imperfections I can do amazing things!  And yet standing on that scale, it was so easy to forget all of that and just simply hate my body.

Shaking off my insecurities and trying to focus on the appointment ahead, I went back to the waiting room to meet my wife.  I distracted myself from my mini-breakdown with some pamphlets and started to feel my excitement growing as we were called into the office.  Okay guys, this is it!  The appointment we’ve all been waiting for!!!

It was actually pretty standard.

The soft-spoken doctor had a very calming presence (thank goodness) and introduced herself and the specialties of the clinic.  She went through a basic health history with both of us and launched into the various fertility options.  Given our relatively straightforward situation of being in a same-sex relationship (in the grand scheme of fertility issues), she recommended intrauterine insemination, or IUI.  Basically, we would select a donor from an online catalogue, have it shipped to the clinic and at the next appointment it would be inserted into my uterus with a cannula (small tube).  Easy peasy!  Well, not actually, but I definitely was not fully processing the situation at this point…more on this later!  My blood work looked great, so next up was to check my fallopian tubes and make sure everything down there was in tip-top shape.  I was directed to a change room to undress from the waist down for a procedure called a sonohysterogram.  Say that five times fast.

I always forget how vulnerable it is being a patient.  As a nurse, it’s part of my job to ask a patient to undress for an assessment or expose a private part of their body.  It’s definitely a reality check when another health care professional asks you to take your clothes off, hoist your feet into some stirrups and open your legs for everyone to see, under the blazing fluorescent office lights.  Of course, I realize that this doctor has probably seen a million vaginas that day, and mine isn’t anything to write home about.  As I’m casually laying back on the exam table, the lovely assistant is striking up a conversation to make everything less awkward.  The doctor gels up the speculum and inserts it into my vagina, giving it a few clicks until I feel some pressure.  Definitely my favourite part of any doctors appointment!  She then warns me that I will feel a little bit of cramping as she injects some saline into my uterus.  Normally she has patients take some ibuprofen a couple hours before, but apparently I looked tough.  I felt some pressure in my uterus, which very quickly turned into a painful cramp just like Aunt Flo brings once a month.  Deep breathing, I turned my attention to the ultrasound screen and tried to distract myself.

Next up was the very intrusive transvaginal ultrasound, which is basically a big ultrasound wand that goes in…you guessed it…your vagina!  It was cold and covered in gooey gel, so thank goodness it only took her a few minutes to snap some pics of my bits.  She said everything looked great and there was no blockages.  What a relief!  I hustled out of there to the bathroom to change, hoping I didn’t flash anyone from under my paper gown wrap on the way out or leak leftover saline down my leg.  Feeling much more comfortable in my clothes, I rejoined my wife in the waiting room and headed out for some Indian food.  Nothing like a good transvaginal ultrasound to really give you a hankering for some curry.

All in all, it was a good clinic experience.  A little nerve wracking at times, simply because of my own anxieties and insecurities, but I was very impressed with the professionalism and courtesy of all of the staff.  As we drove the two hours back home, I alternated between processing the reality of the appointment and napping (because of the emotional fatigue of processing the reality of the appointment).  Okay, so we have to pick out a sperm donor, taking into account my blood type and my CMV status, which means I’ll need to get my blood work done to get my CMV status and then we need to figure out some criteria for picking a donor and pick which donor bank we want to use and I wonder if we get to see their pictures and wait…how much did she say a vial of sperm was?  Oh right…eight hundred dollars.  Each.  Not including shipping.  And of course there is the clinic fee and the admin fee and the storage fee and the fee fee.  Not to mention getting time off of work and driving to Saskatoon once a month and potentially forever if I’m really secretly infertile and holycrapohmygodwhatishappening.

That guy at the bar was starting to look pretty good.

-K

P.S.- Mad photo cred to my wife. xo

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