Restless Journey: Finding a Place to Fit In But Not to Settle

A story of a Harvard student going through IVF

The Most Miscellaneous Battle(s)

 

Today is 7dp5dt. If you wonder what that language is, it is the abbreviation used in the IVF community. It meant 7 Days Post (5-day blastocyst )Transfer. It’s like Morse code. It took me a while to catch up with what the ladies were saying in the support groups.

I was planning to do a home pregnancy test today but my acupuncturist asked me not to. It is because the hormone shot that I took before my embryo transfer might alter the test result. She is right. It has been a week since the transfer and I have already gone through a panic attack and daily anxiety drill. With the side effects from both steroid and progesterone, no one would want to see me going through another emotional roller coaster ride(s).

So I will patiently wait till my blood test on Friday to detect HCG, the pregnancy hormone test at doctor’s office. I am good at self-controlling.

Meantime, I have to battle with the miscellaneous side effects from my hormone pills – constipation, mood swing, edema, weight gain, greasy hair, bloating, cramping and spotting.

The most bizarre thing is that all these side effects are similar to the early pregnancy signs. So you have no way to tell whether you are truly ‘pregnant’ or you are just being played by the artificial hormone swimming in your blood stream.

“Is this the type of pink for implantation bleeding?”

“Is this cramping different than the one I had earlier?”

“Why I sweat so much?”

“Why my foot are so cold even with the socks on?”

“I don’t want to eat this. Am I pregnant?”

“I got no pants to wear. I look like an elephant!”

“Why am I not feeling nausea?”

“I am so bloated. It looks like I am wearing an air bag!”

And every time when I can combat an anxiety attack and/or having a regular bowl movement (sorry for TMI but this is real), that’s my moment to celebrate my victory.

So miscellaneous. Yet, it took so much efforts to fight each and everyone of them.

 

 

I had my panic attack today

It was so real. I had my panic attack today, 3 days after my embryo transfer.

I felt like I have blew my transfer, my IVF. I felt defeated. I was sitting in the restaurant trying to have lunch and all the sudden, I felt racing heat. I felt like I don’t belong to this place and I can’t access to anyone. I am all alone. The stress that I am bearing isn’t fair. What I am going through isn’t putting myself first. I feel very uncomfortable. I feel unease. I don’t know what to do.

I tried to finish my lunch as fast as I could. Then I left the place and went across the street to a Starbucks. The sun was shinning upon me and I was walking up to the door. I remember I almost fainted as I was trying to pull the door.

As I sat in Starbucks, I felt helpless. I was trying to distract myself by ear dropping what other people were talking. I was trying to check my Facebook for news. I was trying to think of what can I do to get myself out of the panic attack. Then, I felt so exhausted. I felt so helpless.

I wanted to call somebody and tell them “I am having a panic attack!”. But I know no one can save me at that min.

This is how depression and panic attack feel like. I feel even more guilty as I am bearing a responsibility, a task to allow this embryo to grow in my womb. Yet, I might have just blew it.

I am torn. I am mentally exhausted. I just want to find a place to rest and be mindless. Just me and no one else.

Just me.

I know you before you formed into sharp…

He is in me now

 

PUPO – this is a term often used by the IVF community, which means “Pregnant until proven otherwise”.

Guess what, I am officially ‘PUPO’.  Two days ago, our doctor has put this beautifully hatched embryo into my womb. Its identity number is 7, meaning the 7th embryo created from the egg retrieval and fertilization in April. Along with its 6 ‘siblings’, it had been quietly sitting in the freezer before the doctor decided the transfer day.

From the day of the embryo transfer, the two-week wait has officially began. I have been warned that the wait is excruciating. There are only 2 things running in my mind – A. the embryo sticks or B. it doesn’t.

For those who have never gone through the infertility journey, it is often easy to say “don’t stress out! Relax. It will be fine!” I understand the intention is right and that message is full of kindness and care. Yet, it is easier said than done. If we could all relax and not to care a damn thing, no one would be here fighting infertility.

I have been to the joy of being pregnant. I have also been to the heartbreak of losing our child. To combat this two-week waiting, I believe my life experience has prepared me well. Regardless of what is happening (inside my womb), I believe that, somehow, the outcome is already there. Our destiny has already been set. What I really need to treasure and focus is that in this moment,  I am absolutely sure that this embryo has been with us. We are(were) at least together for sometime. And I get to know all about it before it formed into sharp.

Mama loves you. Hope you alright.

Today Is My Birthday

Today is my birthday. Who would have thought that I was scheduled to have sonohysterogram on my birth anniversary. This is a procedure to prepare for the frozen embryo transfer? The purpose is to detect if there’s any abnormalities since the egg retrieval and hormonal treatment.

I have heard so many scary stories about what people have found during the procedure – polys , tumors, unknown tissues, etc. I have also been told about how discomfort it could cause.

The bottom line is…I hate vaginal-ultrasound. That thingy is never ever girl’s best friend. And if you are putting saline and a balloon in it for a scan, that doesn’t sound like a pleasant experience to me at all.

So I was mentally prepared that something would have gone wrong…or the Dr might say something like “hmm, we found something. And we will need to delay your embryo transfer. I am sorry!”

I was holding my husband’s hand so tight as I was so worry that it could be very painful. Even my hubby thought that I would bite him (for stress relief). While my Dr was inserting all sort of ‘materials’ to get ready for the scan, I was anxiously waiting for the ‘pain’ to happen. I waited and waited…nothing yet. Then all the sudden, my Dr said “Ok. Everything looks fine. Your uterus is perfect. Good luck on your transfer!”

The scan by itself was less than 10 secs.

WHAT? That’s it?! I have a perfect uterus?!?! You kidding me?

Disbelief. For days and weeks, I told myself that I ain’t the lucky one who would have a smooth cycle. I never would have thought to have a ‘perfect uterus’. I sat by the ultrasound machine and kept asking my Dr for any possible signs of imperfection. The answer was still ‘No’. She took off her gloves and left the room.

So…this is it. I am one step closer to transfer. I have the privilege to continue this path. This is scary, yet surreal.

Today is my birthday. The birthday present I gave to myself is a perfect uterus.  Unbelievable.

A Year After My Graduation

Me, my husband, Harvard

It is officially a year since I wore this graduation grown. I still remember the heat and the excitement from the commencement on May 26, 2016. I know my parents were so proud of me. I know my husband was busy taking pictures of us in a 75 degree weather.  I was showered by greeting cards and congrats messages.

Some people might have anticipated for what’s in the store for me after graduation.  I know a few people have constantly checked my Linkedin profile for new ‘job title’. I got messages from mentors and colleagues asking about my ‘career updates’. I have recruiters pitching me a few job postings.

I don’t think anyone would have expected that I literally took the whole fxxking year trying to conceive.

Yes. I gave up career and turned my head into ‘planned parenthood’. In just a few days, I am 1 year closer to the big ‘four zero’. While my colleagues are traveling for business meetings and/or getting a promotion, my husband and I visit the fertility clinic once or twice a month in preparation for a in vitro fertilization.  I stopped going to professional networking. Instead, I joined 3 IVF support groups to receive advice and to lend my shoulder to other struggling women.

We retrieved 23 eggs, fertilized 12. We created 7 embabies.

This is me. This is what I have been doing since I graduated.

 

How to Tell Your Male Mentor You Are on IVF

“Hey, what are you up to? Let me know if you will be XX by the next few months so that I can help make some introduction”

“So good to hear from you! I’m recovering from a procedure from IVF but I’m doing well. Where are you heading to? I may plan a trip soon.”

Soon after I entered ‘send’, this conversation became radio silent. I didn’t hear from him for a nearly a month.

I am not sure if my mentor was confused by my response. Or he just took it as “I am taking a break in my career and making babies now. Bye!”

Obviously, I didn’t get the ‘introduction’. The feeling is so cold as I felt like I am not the ‘chosen one’, just like the ladies in any episodes of the ‘Bachelor’ . I am no longer being invited into an elite group of executive business; I won’t be joining the important conversation of investment for the future. For a few seconds or hours, I felt worthless. All the hard works that I put in order to follow the shadow of my executive sponsor meant nothing now. All I have left was a bunch of tight pants, dresses and business tops that I can no longer wear (due to weight gain by fertility treatment).

If you are reading this, I am not asking you to lie to your mentor / boss about IVF. Nothing will make you feel more relief and powerful than telling the truth. But if you are like me, I want you to be prepared that male mentors aren’t necessarily trained / prepared to assist women like me, who is undergoing fertility crisis. The fact that they are kind enough to take you on board, despite the gender gap, is already remarkable. What I’d suggest is not to take the ‘silence’ as a rejection. Find the most appropriate time to engage with him and to let him know that you are always appreciative of his support. Always be grateful for his thoughtfulness and continue to maintain the mentoring relationship the best you can.

And last but not least, don’t put too many eggs in one basket. There is always someone out there that is nurturing and eager to listen.

The Pins & The Needles

The Pins & The Needles

I don’t have allergy like most of the people do. Luckily, I have been pretty healthy all along. The only pill I took daily was just multi-vitamins or prenatal vitamins. Never used drugs before…not even a cigarette.

So this IVF journey has taken me to a whole wild world – I have been on hormonal therapy for 2 months, despite physically, I have no problem producing reproductive hormones and my organs are healthy.

Doctor put me on birth control pill since Feb, followed by hormone injections twice a day a week ago. As of 2 days ago, my injections at night went from 2 to 3. No joke, they burn like hell. I have become numb poking my belly with an 1.5 inch needles. But the aftermath of the injection feels like a little firework under the tissue. Then the injection site becomes red, swollen and itchy. This happen twice a day, 8 days straight by far.

I have never drugged myself this much in my whole life. Let alone the hormonal effects are insane. I don’t remember well. I am moody. I can sleep all day if I could. I almost googled “ivf medication side effects dementia?” the other day. My body is empty. My brain isn’t working. All I have is a bloated belly with close to 2 dozen eggs in it.

IF today is Halloween, I can easily dress up as Winnie the Pooh. No joke!

In the past, I had blamed that the whole IVF treatments are sexist. The physical pain and emotional torture that women have to suffer is far from what the men have to deal with, despite the infertility issues might not be on the female side. So I have to remind myself about the wedding vow, in which it said “in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish, till death do us part.” A true testament to marriage and parent-want-to-be.

This is my current state of mind

My wishes for my eggs

My Full Time Job

medication-injury

“So what do you do these days?” I got this Qs asked almost every time I left my house. That’s almost 1-2x / week, approx 10x per month. At first, I was terrified. Now I just felt numb. I change my answer depending on my mood.

It is completely understandable. You graduated with a business degree. You did all the course work. You sat in the commencement ceremony and heard the inspiration speech from whoever was the speaker that year. You’re loaded with aspiration and expectation (mostly from others). I understand. I do.

So here is what I do ‘full-time’ after graduation – Trying to get myself pregnant.

I researched fertility treatments, acupuncturist (specialized in fertility). I studied all ranking/evaluation of the fertility Drs in the Bay Area. I spoke to insurance companies for coverage details. I am in at least 3 IVF support groups. I read people experience, protocols. I ask Qs regarding their choices. I looked up my list of Rx, compare prices and look for legit pharmacy. I communicate between my fertility center and insurance companies to understand payment. I go to my acupuncturist once a week and we discuss my treatment plans and strategies.

On top of all that, I walk my dog at least 1 hour every day.

If I have spare time, I write my book. I meet up with people who are recruiting me to serve on their Board of Directors and/or being their pro bono  business consultant.

This is completely not what I expected when I was growing up.

 

A scary and lonely path

20170228_174621

This is it! My IVF process has officially begun. Today, I have been handed a long list of Rx, in addition to 7 files of consent forms to sign…

I looked at those unfamiliar terms and meds. I got instant chill.

I asked myself “why do I need to go through this?” “Why the neighbor/co-worker/colleague/friend of my age doesn’t need to take all these injections to make a baby?”

WHAT THE FXXK IS WRONG WITH ME? What did I do in my life to deserve this? Should I have freeze my eggs before my 30s? Or should I have listened to my peers to make babies 10 years ago, while I was switching jobs?

This is insane. Feeling like a punishment for all those times I refused to enter motherhood. Now, I have to artificially load my body (my uterus to be exact) with hormones and meds in order to welcome life (with 30% failure rate).

All I want to tell myself is….”you suck!”

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