After years of infertility and IVF, we've finally seen light from the other side. I knew it could happen, but certainly didn't think it would be us ... our new life with twins. Gulp.

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Sticky Situations

There has been a whole lotta talk out there about the ethics of IVF, about limitations on the number of embryos that can, and should, be transferred, the overwhelming increase in multiple births as a result, etc, etc.

I feel like I want to chime in, not because I'm suddenly thinking about this issue just now, but because it is foremost on my mind each and every time someone comments that I now have a "ready-made" family, or asks if I want to have more children. I think about it each time I hear or a friend, acquaintance, or perfect stranger, who is planning to do IVF.


I know, I know, hindsight is 20/20, and each individual is guided by his or her own very strong desires. And at the risk of being completely redundant to
Emmie's post (as my thoughts practically mirror hers), I just want to share my feelings on the matter.

We planned to transfer two embryos, knowing that twins were a possibility, but not a certainty. I know full well that I didn't care. I am young, healthy, and we believed the root of our problems to be male-factor. We fully expected to retrieve lots of eggs, do ICSI, have plenty of embryos to "save for later" to try again if it didn't work. We only retrieved nine eggs, and only six (I think. I'd have to check to be sure) were fertilized.

I think the top three were graded A, B, and B-. Our RE didn't feel that transferring two would bring success, and presented us with his opinion as I was laying half-naked on the table, ready for the transfer, having popped my Valium an hour before. Not the optimal time to be making a decision like this. Of course, I said to go for it. I wanted a baby, damnit.

It probably wasn't necessary. Probably two embryos would've sufficed and at least one would have implanted. I wish we'd been able to track which embryo didn't make it.

None of our leftover embryos survived to be frozen, and this only strengthened my resolve in our decision to transfer three.

Just as Emmie has said, I would not trade my precious children for anything. I would not take any of this back. I could not choose one over the other, and I am full aware of how lucky I am to have them both. But I would have preferred to have them one at a time.

I went into labor at 29 weeks, and again at 31, when they were born. They spent five weeks in the NICU. As I am aware, the cost of their stay was well into the six-digits. And they were pretty healthy, as far as preemies go. And I can't imagine how much my two weeks (one at 29 weeks, one after delivery) of hospitalization cost. I'm lucky I have decent insurance. Now add the bi-weekly doctors visits that happened for the first weeks home. Even more.

It's not just about the money. It's about having to make a decision of monumental importance, with minimal information, at one of the highest emotional levels possible. With hormones in flux. With desires raging.

I'm a researcher by nature. I read everything I could about infertility, IUIs, IVF, ICSI. In all that information, I never found much about the serious issues surrounding multiple births. Everyone I knew with twins seemed just fine! My RE, in our initial consultation, said "You know, the risk of multiple births does go up with IVF" (gestures to stack of photos of twins on his desk.) I smile enormously ... that doesn't seem so bad. That was it. Period.

I don't neglect the fact that there is some personal responsibility tied up in all this. It was my choice. And I chose to go for it. But I didn't really know all that much. And if I, who did a lot of information-seeking, didn't really know about the risks of multiple birth, what about the couple who does no research or real thinking about it, and just wants a child?

I vacillate back and forth when thinking about trying for another child. Which will not be happening soon, mind you. Could I really go through another IVF cycle, and transfer only one embryo? Knowing full well that it might not work? I'm lucky, I only had failed IUIs; my first IVF worked. And worked well.

And while I may want to try for another child, I can tell you point-blank, I do not want twins again. I don't want to compromise the health of more children, I don't want to compromise my own health. And I look forward to regular sleep. Sometime in my future.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

God Bless You, Sweet Beer Wench

J. and I went out to dinner with another couple last night, eating at one of ten or so select restaurants that offers a price fixe menu in support of our area food bank. It was a great chance to try a restaurant that we don't normally go to, and to get a great meal for a very reasonable price. Pretty much, the cost of our two dinners was equivilent to the fee we paid the babysitter so that we could have the opportunity to dine out, sans babies.

All in all, a great, if early evening. When J and I discovered that we'd only be out for two hours, and we'd told the sitter it would be three or four, we decided to go to a great hole-in-the-wall beer joint, right around the corner from our house. We used to go there with much more frequency, back in the day, and it's still one of my favorites for unpretentious atmosphere, and damn good beer.

We sat, ordered our beers, and commensed an intense discussion of the previous night's episode of HERO's, during which I had fallen asleep, much to my chagrin. When all of a sudden, bless her heart, the waitress comes back with a big smile on her face, and says to me, "You know, you look so young, I thought I should come check your ID."

This is so not the kind of place that checks IDs, unless you appear to be able to order off the children's menu (which does not exist, of course). The waitress, appearing quite young, seemed surprised when I told her I didn't have my license. I didn't even bring a wallet. It's been that long since I've been carded.

I gave her my most gracious smile, and told her that I really needed my beer, this was a big "night out" for me, I have six-month twins at home, I swear I live around the corner, I swear I'm 31, recite my SSN, etc. "Do you know any 20-year olds who would admit to having twins just to get a beer?" I asked.

She looked me over, up and down, in a very funny sort of way, and smiled as I told her she had just made my day. The beer arrived momentarily, and she told me that she was 33, and just starting to think about having kids. I told her to think good and hard, and she had all kinds of questions ... so sweet.

Of course, we only lasted for one beer. The prospect of a warm, cozy bed beckoned us homeward, where we found a slightly flustered sitter, and two babies quite unhappy because they'd only eaten two freaking ounces for dinner.

As we sat on the floor in the darkened nursery, the babies finishing off their bottles so far past their bedtime, I silently blessed that wonderful woman for making me feel like I might, just might, be someone other than who I think I am.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Delight and Fear

I used to make fun of my mother when she'd be overwhelmed by something we did, something we said, or just an emotion she had. I didn't get it. Now i'm overwhelmed. I realize I am so, so lucky, and the feeling of delight, pride in having this opportunity, and the fear it will somehow change, wash over me in waves.

I went over to another twin-mom's house a few months ago to pick up some extra formula (the low-birthweight, preemie stuff ... it gets expensive!) she no longer needed. A relative kept the kids at home during the day, and while I never asked questions or inquired any further, it was clear that one of the twins was quite developmentally delayed. His brother was toddling around while he laid on the floor, seemingly unable to do the same.

That morning, I'd had a serious breakdown. Sheer exhaustion, frustration, probably some PPD and uncertainty at how to live a life with two very needy babies, just home from the NICU, had me in hysterics. That morning, I threw myself on the bed, sobbing and moaning that I simply could not do this. I didn't want these babies, I wanted someone to take them away, I wanted my life back.

J., fed up with me and simply not understanding, told me to leave the house. Go out and get myself together, while he took care of the children. I decided to go to this woman's house to pick up the formula. Feeling sorry for myself when I arrived, I left with a completly different attitiude. One of gratitude and thankfulness for the healthy children I had been given.

Months have passed, the frustration and sleeplessness has ceased, but new challenges arise each and every day. Challenges with taking care of the babies, challenges with my new "mommy" identity (or lack there of), challenges with family, with fitting it all in. And some days, I feel down. Not the complete desperation of weeks and months past, but a general sadness and muted fear of the future.

Tonight I turned on Extreme Home Makeover. This show is always a tearjearker for me, no matter the situation. But tonight featured a family with a son with cerebral palsy. I don't know much about the disease, and I'm making some generalizations here, but he seemed so very disabled, and the family appeared as weary and exhausted as any I've seen. I watched this boy, his limbs disfigured, his body confined to a highly mechanized chair, and the parents that love him no matter. His face lit up when he was happy, the smile big, and some of the noises not unlike those that my babies make.

I thought about how my heart skips a beat when MyGirl or MyBoy makes a sweet sound, or how my body turns to mush when they turn to my voice and a wide smile spreads across their faces. When they master a new skill, I am filled with an overwhelming pride, as if I had just taught them.

I have years to look forward to with them, I have the anticipation of not only watching them sit up for the first time, eat food, and learn to crawl, but I will also help them with homework, talk to them about their boy/girlfriends, send them off to college, and hopefully, help them with their own children.

This family will never be able to do these things with their son. Quite possibly, those infant-like smiles and coos will be all they ever experience.

I feel simply overflowing with gratiude for this incredible chance to get to know my children. And I live in daily fear that something bad will happen to change our future. How do you get over the fear?

Freak Out

Off the pill, my body has been somewhat sporadic about regular periods, etc. On the pill, I'm clockwork. It ususally takes a crazy stressful situation to keep my from getting my period while on the pill.

Of course, I find it hilarious that I'm even on the pill, what with all the male-factor infertility that is going on in our lives. But I am, just in case. Because stranger things have happened before.

Last month was my first cycle back on the regular pill, and my period showed up on Tuesday like clockwork. This is a different month, and a week past my last pill. I'm on to the new pack with no period having made an appearance.

I'm sure it's nothing. Really, what are the odds? I did miss a pill this month, but quickly took two when I realized the mistake. More than anything, it's gotten me thinking What if?

If for some bewildering reason, the powers that be decide that I should have another baby, soon, I'll deal with it, and be happy. But to be honest, the timing would kind of suck. I'm just now feeling like my head is finally above water, and I'm excited about the good times to come. More importantly, I'm enjoying my full night's sleep, finally.

I'm feeling some resolution with the IF and all the treatments, and with my failing to hold onto the babies for more than 31 weeks. I kind of don't want to to open up old wounds again.

I have a friend who did IVF and conceived boy/girl twins (just like me). Her doctor told her "Don't even think about it, those ovaries are kaput. They'll never make a baby on their own."

Yep, guess what lady, with five month old twins, found herself pregnant? I don't think she's recovered yet (and it's two years later).

I just keep thinking how the babes are just over five months now ... what if? What if the previously-sluggish and uninterested sperm made an executive decision to kick it up a notch? What if they gathered the troops and said "Hey guys, this couple is starting to slow it down. Let's throw their lives into some real chaos!"

Don't get me wrong. I am grateful. I am beyond grateful ... I am bow-down-to-the-heavens--and-pledge-my-dying-alliegance-to-whatever-made-these-babies-possible kind of grateful. My babes have changed my life in the most positive and awe-inspiring way. Period.

But wow. Wouldn't that be a trip?