Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Cold snap

Did I really think try #13 would work?

When I got pregnant, I thought, I'll have a baby by Christmas. When I miscarried, I thought, surely it'll happen again quickly. I never imagined I wouldn't be pregnant by my due date, yet here I am, buying tampons and making plans for my next series of inconveniences.

Here's hoping for better luck in 2007.

Sunday, December 17, 2006


Heat is good.

Heat means your body is making stuff. It's whirring.

If you're trying to conceive, your basal body thermometer is your first interaction of the day. It's a little fussy: you need to take your temperature before you get up, drink water, etc., and if you wake up early or late, the temperature is unreliable.

If you're a woman who ovulates, your body has two basic temperatures: in the first half of your cycle, before you ovulate, it's a little lower; say between 97.5 and 97.9. After you ovulate, the follicle that released an egg turns into a corpus luteum and releases progesterone. That raises your temperature, say to between 98.1 and 98.5. (You know how in the movies, the wife walks into the kitchen with a thermometer in her hand and says to her hubby, "I'm ovulating"? Total crap. Once your temperature has risen, it's over.) If you get pregnant and all is well, progesterone production will continue and your temperature will remain high. Some books say you're almost definitely pregnant if your temperature remains high for 18 days.

If you don't get pregnant, your progesterone will fall around the time your period arrives. Which means that if you're waiting to find out if you're pregnant, you can get a preview by watching your temperature. A single dip isn't bad -- sometimes this is caused by a fertilized egg implanting into the uterus -- but multiple dips are an unhappy trend. My period isn't due for two days (though I took Clomid this cycle, which can make things screwy), but my temperature was down this morning and yesterday. Toss that in with some cramps and a bit of low back pain, and you've nearly got yourself a negative pregnancy test with no signs of blood and without peeing on a stick.

The price of pregnancy


That's how much I've spent this year trying to have a baby. I have a strong stomach, but writing that makes me want to throw up.

That includes:
- $8,680 to my sperm bank for sperm, intrauterine inseminations (including about $1,800 for inseminations that my insurer should have paid for but wouldn't -- long story), ultrasounds I wasn't able to get otherwise, sperm storage fees for vials I bought before I got pregnant and then didn't need, and tank rental fees when I had the pleasure of schlepping a large nitrogen tank around town.
- $67.80 to the Web site that lets me do charting easily (I have my own Excel spreadsheet, but I like this site)
- $964.36 to Acupuncturist #1, for both treatments and Chinese herbs that I didn't always take
- $504 to Acupuncturist #2 (more on her another time)

That doesn't include:
- a number of $15 co-pays to the three doctors I've seen this year
- however much I've paid Walgreens for overpriced ovulation predictor kits
- the time I've spent dealing with insurance companies

When I started this process in November 2005, I envisioned myself spending a year and about $10,000 to get pregnant. That, I thought, was about what I was willing to handle. I'd hear about friends doing IVF, feel horrified at the cost ($12K-15K a try), and vow that I'd never do that. Now, a year later and $10,000 in the hole, with no intentions of stopping, I'm surprised that I didn't realize back then what a slippery slope this would be.

Thursday, December 14, 2006


When you're trying to conceive -- or TTC, as the message boards call it -- you live your life in two-week increments. At the beginning of your cycle, when you've just received the disappointing news that is your period, you can do what you want -- eat raw fish, unpasteurized cheeses, drink what you like, etc. But once you've ovulated, you're told to behave like a pregnant lady: no sushi, alcohol, brie, etc.

It's hard enough to wait two weeks to find out if you're pregnant without omitting wine from your diet. Plus, it's just that much more time that you aren't drinking and aren't truthfully explaining why. (I'm not much of a drinker anyway, but for some reason, my co-workers always seem to question why I don't drink at every opportunity.)

The truth is, a glass of wine probably won't affect whatever might have been conceived at this point (I'll know whether I'm pregnant in about a week). The UK's health guidelines recommend: "Excess alcohol can harm your unborn baby. If you do drink while you are pregnant, it is better to limit yourself to one standard unit of alcohol a day (roughly the equivalent of a small glass of wine, a half pint of beer, cider or lager, or a single measure of spirits)." The US, by contrast, essentially tells expectant ladies that no amount of alcohol has been shown to be safe during pregnancy.

Let's recap: many women in the US who are of child-bearing age probably drink. A lot of them get pregnant accidentally (perhaps -- here's a novel concept -- as a result of drinking), which means they don't spend the two weeks after they ovulate in fear of yellowtail maki and cosmos. When they find out they're pregnant and decide to keep the baby, most of them probably stop drinking. Yet we don't have an epidemic of newborns with fetal alcohol syndrome because women who didn't know they were pregnant didn't stop having a glass of wine with dinner.

It's holiday party season now, a time when lots of folks look forward to getting ripped on the company dime. Time for me to decide whether I'll throw caution to the wind and have a cocktail, whether I'll order a decoy drink (decoy drink (noun): a beverage designed to look alcoholic but isn't, so as to avoid the questioning glances from insecure colleagues who hate it when others don't drink with them), or whether to stick with water. This may sound bizarre, but you would be amazed at the number of very smart people who look at a person at a party with a glass of water and say, with genuine concern, "you're not drinking?"

If it's a woman in her mid-30s (in my particular demographic/place of employ), not drinking might a sign to the clueful that a reproductive project is underway. When you're a lesbian among a bunch of straight people -- even relatively evolved straight people -- this doesn't come up. I'll take that, and perhaps a pinot noir, for now.

Monday, December 11, 2006

The red cloth

Yesterday I attended a ceremony for children who have died from abortion, miscarriage, stillbirth, etc. I’m not religious, but when I miscarried I found it frustrating that there weren’t any ceremonies to help me cope. But it turns out that Buddhism has one, and a friend who lost one of her twins during her pregnancy last year heard about the event and asked me to join her.

It was held in a beautiful Buddhist monastery in Berkeley. We were instructed to bring red cloth, a needle and thread, and scissors. We spent the first hour making something, an offering, and then had a brief ceremony where we each placed our items on a figure in the temple. I sacrificed a too-big Old Navy tank top and made a little hat out of it, with red grosgrain ribbon around the rim. (Turns out I don’t have a future as a seamstress.) It was odd to sit on a mat on the floor of a freezing cold temple on a Sunday afternoon, sewing in intense silence with 17 other people, some quietly weeping.

The priest said the act of making the offering was designed to help us release the being we were doing the ceremony for, and that was hard for me. I’ve held on to my pregnancy as a life raft in the trying-to-conceive process; it tells me my body is capable, that there's a possibility. Since our society doesn’t have a way of recognizing miscarriage, it’s been important for me to hold onto it, to tell people, to be visible. But I realized yesterday that perhaps the act of releasing my failed pregnancy could help make room for a new one. Here’s hoping.

Thursday, December 7, 2006


Let’s get caught up:

Last November I began the Bun Project: an attempt to get myself pregnant at age 35. The ingredients: a basal body thermometer, donor sperm, copies of The Essential Guide to Lesbian Conception, Pregnancy, and Birth and Taking Charge of Your Fertility, an overpriced and underperforming ClearBlue Easy fertility monitor, and a body that was in reasonably decent shape and showed no signs of reproductive inability.

If you think lesbians conceive their kids by either picking up a guy in a bar or sterilizing a kitchen implement most commonly used on Thanksgiving, your horizons could use some broadening. Yes, you could do either of the above. But the professionals would advise something called an intrauterine insemination, or IUI: first the sperm is treated in a lab to remove all that nasty semen, which your uterus doesn’t like (under other circumstances, this job is done by your cervix and something called cervical mucus – having fun yet?). Then the sperm is injected into the uterus with a very thin catheter. Some women find this procedure to be uncomfortable, but aside from the whole speculum/stirrups/lamp shining onto your private parts thing, I don't mind.

From there, you wait two weeks, constantly monitoring your body for signs of success – tender breasts, nausea, crankiness, the absence of blood. Pregnancy tests typically don’t go positive until shortly before your period is due, but if you are pregnant, they can still register a false negative if you take them too early.

A year later, my list of ingredients has expanded to include approximately 12 packs of ovulation predictor kits, two OB-GYNs, one reproductive endocrinologist, two acupuncturists, 21 IUIs, seven blood tests, one hysterosalpingogram, ten doses of Clomid, two estrogen patches, two HCG trigger shots, 12 unwelcome period arrivals, and one miscarriage. This is my story.