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

A story of a Harvard student going through IVF

Decline

Couple days ago, a recruiter from a big company reached out for me for a position. I have known this firm for years and I applied 2 years ago when I was still with my old job. I didn’t get the position back then. So you could imagine I felt overwhelmingly flattered when they pitched me a job…

The job description started with this sentence – “This position requires at least 30% traveling”.

When I was a kid, I always admired people traveling for business. Though I never had a clue of what people actually ‘do’ when they are on a business trip, I thought being in different places, checking in luxury hotel rooms and meeting different people would be the ‘highlight’ of my career…

Until I was in my previous position, in which I had to drive alone for 2-3+ hours, navigating through the endless walnut farms and sitting in meetings with strangers for lobbying some ever changing contract policies, I then realized “business trips’ aren’t as fun and rewarding as I imagined. I was so lonely. I really didn’t see the purpose of me wasting my time on all these ‘road trips’.

Interestingly enough, as I scrolled down to the bottom of the job description from the recruiter, I saw the the requirement for traveling has now changed from 30% to 40% …It could be a human error or it could be a very honest expectation for the candidate.

I then turned my head to look at my son’s picture. He has been swimming in my womb and being a super star in all growth charts. I don’t want to trade his first word, first walk with any stupid road trips and/or any more lobbying events.

I respectfully decline the opportunity. Till next time.

Every “Kick” Is a Blessing

I am sitting here enjoying every little ‘kick’ from my miracle nugget…

Today is 20 weeks and 2 days. I am half way through the pregnancy. From the beginning till the 18.5 weeks, I had been in disbelief of the fact that ‘I am pregnant!’, despite the countless ultrasounds, blood draws and my growing tummy.  Just like Amanda Micheli, the Oscar nominated director of the movie “Vegas Baby” whom also went through infertility treatment, said “This amazing development has ironically presented a new challenge for me; I am not used to good news on this topic! The best way I can describe it is like PTSD: until quite recently, it was practically impossible for me to believe that this pregnancy was going to stick. Even writing this now, I am knocking on wood so hard, my knuckles might bleed.” 

For the longest time (since my miscarriage), I had been avoiding to shop at the baby section at the department store except getting a few things for my family or friends who were expecting. Picking up baby clothes, choosing nursery room decor, or talking about car seat selection are totally luxury to me (and to my husband…I think). Being able to get pregnant and beating all the odds throughout the whole 10 months are still very surreal to us. Just like people living with PTSD, we are always terrified by the idea that ‘what if? what if it (the baby) doesn’t stick?’ This has been keeping us from truly enjoying the success of our first IVF attempt.

My paranoid began slowly fading away when I entered 18 – 19 weeks…I started feeling a little ‘kick’ from my lower abdomen. At first, I thought those were just gas! Yet, as I started paying close attention, I could feel a little creature twisting its body or stretching its legs right below my belly button. The feeling is so incredible. Every move, twist and turn reminds me the existence of my little man. He has his routine and preferences. He will swim ‘back and forth’ to pick a side when I go to bed at night. At times when I start worrying about him (for not moving much within a certain period), he would give me a ‘a ‘little dance’ for the sake of reassurance…He has been a very good boy!

I can sit here all day awaiting for his next kick. Nothing more intimate and loving than feeling your baby moving and growing inside your womb. No fetal doppler or ultrasound picture can bring me the joy of simply feeling him.

I can finally breath a little easier. I can now have the courage to plan ahead.

We Are United By Infertility, Pregnancy & Motherhood

It is almost unbearable to watch the news these days.  The daily non-sense from the Cheetos head, the very nonproductive Congress, and the on-going oppression to the most vulnerable folks in our nation – which make you wonder how can we continue our lives with faith and hope?

I live in a ‘Blue Bubble’, where equality and social justice are ‘norm’ in our community. Yet, I can’t ignore the fact that folks from the rest of the nation might have a very different views on politic and humanity. But throughout the journey of infertility and pregnancy, I have been amazed and impressed by the power of ‘sisterhood’. By the grace of Facebook, a strong force of feminine power from all over the world have been supporting me through my up and down. Suddenly, we’re not divided by our physical, philosophical and/or political differences. Instead, we’re all united by our pain from the infertility treatment and our hopes to pursue a healthy and successful pregnancy.

I have been frustrated and feeling guilty of putting my career aside for IVF treatment. And out of the blue, I was connected to an amazing lady from South Africa, who has made a similar decision in order to focus on self love and recovery. My battle with panic attack and anxiety aren’t completely over. Yet, I found voices from these support groups whose ladies are all ‘in my shoes’. They offered me instant empathy (sometimes solutions, too) at the moments I needed the most.

I feel loved. I am literally experiencing human kindness amid all the craziness from the world these days. May be this is a silver lining from my uneasy path of pregnancy. May be this is a story worth telling to my future children…

Here is a picture from a very special friend who sent me 14 cards with motivational quotes to help me get through my toughest days.

The beginning of life

By the grace of God (or the creator of this universe), I became one of the lucky ones. I am pregnant!

This baby survived my panic attack, my emotional roller coaster, my low body temperature and all the side effects from my medication.

I couldn’t resist but to do a home pregnancy test 2 days before my beta test, a blood test conducted by your doctor office to confirm HCG hormone level. Unlike other pregnancy tests I did before, this time it only took less than a min to show the result. It blinked for a few secs and then boomed! It said “Pregnant”. I double checked to make sure there is no ‘NOT’ before the word ‘P’. I forgot to mention that I tested this at 5:30am, at the break of dawn. My husband rushed to the bathroom to see if I was ok. I showed him the result and we hugged.

Yet, I still wasn’t convinced that I am truly pregnant. It could be the leftover HCG from my pre-transfer trigger shot. Or, a trace of HCG detected by home pregnancy test isn’t a proven sign of a viable pregnancy….

On Jun 23, I woke up early and got myself ready for my 1st beta test. I even arrived at my doctor office 10 mins earlier. By 11am, I walked out from their lab and patiently waited for the result to come back. It was the longest wait ever and I was worry that I would have another panic attack during the wait. So I did everything I could to ‘kill time’ and to relax myself. I put on my earplugs and played my ‘anxiety reduction playlist’ nonstop. I walked around the lake by my doctor office and watched the baby duckies swimming around. An hour has passed and I still didn’t get a phone call. So I decided to drive back home and to be accompanied by my furry daughter. Throughout the entire ride, I played Coldplay’s “Strawberry Swing”, one of the songs recommended by neuroscientists for stress reduction. Just when I got home, my phone rang. Angela, my in-cycle nurse first asked me if I was driving. I told her I just got home and that she reached me at the perfect timing. Then she said “I have a good news for you. Your HCG result is 157. That means your home pregnancy test is correct. I am happy for you!” I busted into tears but feeling dizzy at the same time.

It’s positive. There is real a life inside me. I am really pregnant.

 

The dream I don’t want to forget

I woke up feeling content. I know the dream that I had last night left me great sense of comfort and feeling self-worth.

It is not about child birth. Nothing about seeing a BFP (big fat positive) pregnancy test result.

It was me working in a small school district as an interim Operation Head. I was assigned by the Superintendent (for some very lame reasons). 1st day on the job – my desk has piles and piles of paper and proposal to sign, teachers and PTAs were lining up to see me. I had a pretty competent secretary called Angel or Angele, who I could trust despite  I was new to the job.

I met with the teacher who wanted me to add supports and funding to the school health programs for students and parents.  I was eager to help. I asked her to give me a list of priorities and we can go through them in the next meeting. I also told her I have resources and experience in launching health program. She seemed happy the way I responded her.

I noticed the school district people had no idea who I am and where I came from. So I asked my secretary to forward me the announcement that the Superintendent emailed out about my appointment. As expected, it didn’t say much except my name and the high school I graduated from (!)

I knew there has been some discrepancies in funding allocation to the school operation and student support programs. Knowing that it is quite inflexible to make arrangement due to teacher union, I planned on setting up a separate foundation that will fund directly to the student programs. This way, I could bypassed the politics and have the student program up and running without any red taps from school administrators and teachers.

I was also planning to hire my recently unemployed RD friend to run the school nutrition program.

I like my secretary very much. I even wanted her to be the member of my sounding board.

I told myself even I am just an interim. I will do the best I can to make this school district works. I was really happy in the dream because I got to be in a position that make things moving. Driving progress, pulling resources and tackling issues for this small community.

It isn’t some fancy position, in which I was bringing a health tech IT company to IPO or me being a political figure driving a huge movement. It was just me working hard in the office, trying to help this small school district connecting the dots and moving forward.

Nothing fancy. All I want is to feel being useful.

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.

 

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