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

A story of a Harvard student going through IVF

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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

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“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

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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!”

The New Era – IVF

ivfIt has been 2 months since I wrote something here. Like many months before, I was hopeful at the beginning of my cycle, followed by daily anticipation then ended the month with heartbreak and disappointment. I am too familiar with the 5 stages of grief. And I found myself repeatedly blaming my body for not doing what it supposes to do.

Then I realize, I need to stop. I need to surrender. Just when I felt hopeless, we were notified that my husband’s company has introduced new benefit – IVF package. I didn’t think twice but immediately contacted the representative to schedule our first appointment.

So we officially entered into the new era called – IVF.

“This place” is full of new terminologies with many ‘protocols’ that I never heard of. I have been in healthcare for nearly 20 years and have never ever been introduced to world of ‘infertility treatment’. I thought I am pretty self-equipped with dietary and self-care. NO – this place has its own revelation of diet planning and supplements, which are believed (by the fertility doctors and the IVF community) to be effective. As the beneficiary of this IVF package, I literally do not need to worry / stress on anything except following every single instruction from the doctor, whom said his success rate is 70%.

I understand this is a privilege. As I am leaving the TTC (trying to conceive naturally community), I know that I am being provided the best, high end, state of the art technologies to pursue a healthy/full term pregnancy, something that I have never thought about few years ago. But here I am, acknowledging the fact that I have this privilege…

And I must give in and let myself to take the backseat.

Let’s Celebrate Infertility!

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You got to be kidding me? I know…At some points, I have to stop telling myself that I will be pregnant again.

This is a complicated post. If you think I am talking non-sense here, please feel free to close this browser and walk away. No judgement. What I am going through is what a lot of women going through, yet people rarely talk about it. I understand that a cute newborn baby picture (or ultrasound) is far more popular than a negative pregnancy test. At the end, people (boys and girls) tend to believe that getting pregnant is as easy as ordering takeout through door dish – press ‘order’ and boom! Congrats Mr & Mrs X, welcome to parenthood!!

When you were a kid, anyone would tell you that success is a matter of how hard you try. (No…even at every single college graduation commencement…they said the same old thing…) So shame on me! I became the firm believer that I fall short of getting an A or a better performance eval because I didn’t try hard enough. How come no one ever came to me and said “hey kid, guess what? Even if you try hard and risk everything for something you want it so badly, you might not get it. So suck it up!”

I wish someone was honest to me about this. So I know I wouldn’t blame myself.

It marked almost the 6th month of me trying. Medically speaking (and by the book), folks at my age are considered ‘infertile’ even with history of pregnancy.

2 days ago, I thought I was pregnant. Even my acupuncturist , , after taking my pulse, said my chance is high. I am few days late and got no signs of mother nature. My temp is as high as Palm Springs in Summer. From a scientific point of view (with every single data collected), my chance of ‘hitting a jackpot’ is higher than ever…I am very compliant, very disciplined; I didn’t do any preg test till I am as close as possible. For the past few days, I skipped coffee, avoided lifting heavy stuff. I stopped running with my dog and went to bed early. I even bought a baby blanket (how silly I am). I felt like there is a team cheering for me as I am reaching the finish line. I thought I am having it this time.

At 6am this morning, I took a deep breath and got tested – It is negative. I managed to hold my tears for a couple mins but ended up breaking down when I reached the dining room. I was watching the sunrise and sobbing (quietly) by myself. I asked “why?”

For the past 8 months, I gave away opportunities where it will take me to different places for career sake. I turned down many social events to give myself downtime. I chose to be home and not to think about my career and/or how to best use of my degree. I chose to seek for ‘motherhood’. I chose to ‘lean out’ because I know it’s all worth it. I am willing to give up all these shinny titles and status to seek for a pregnancy.

Today, I exhausted my resources. I am not sure if I have lost myself but…I have tried. I tried hard. But I want to live, too. You understand? I don’t want to plan my days/weeks/months around my cycle. I don’t want to pity myself every time when I see Aunt Flo coming. I don’t want to blame myself of having cold hands / feet (they believe it will make it hard to fertile). I so want to have a cold drink when it’s 80 degree outside. When I see people at my age keep popping babies, I really want to leave ‘this body’ and see how others live their lives. I have never smoke. I never did drugs. I don’t even drink. I am sure my organs are in pretty good sharp. Yet, I am infertile.

I have enough. I just want to live.

I told myself I need to ‘get up and move forward’. I chose to celebrate my infertility – I took my dog to jog along the lake. I soaked up the sun, despite the wind and chill. I drunk my 1st cup of coffee. I ordered another pumpkin soy latte with my lunch. I bend over to wash my dog.  I lift her up and blow dried her all by myself.

I felt so good doing these all. I taste freedom, although I am in sorrow.

Let’s celebrate infertility.

 

 

 

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