Monday, September 2, 2013
I waited nervously outside the security check at the airport anxiously eying every exiting passenger. Nope. Not that one. Nope. Not not that one either. Wait! I think I see...nope. What felt like days dragged on until I finally laid eyes on the carefully curled blonde hair and dimpled smile. "That's her!" I announced to my mom as I sped off toward the woman who would be implanted with my babies only one day later. Hugs were exchanged and introductions were made, "Hi! I'm Suzanne and this is my mom, Eileen," I said to Lyndsay's mom who responded, "Nice to meet you. I'm Sharon." And the four of us headed out of the airport and into New York City for a Girls' Day.
"Have you ever been to New York?" I asked Sharon as we drove off in my mom's car. "Never," she replied, clearly excited about the new adventure. My mom purposely followed the route that would take us around the back of the Statue of Liberty, and I pointed the landmark out each time there was a break in the trees that were blocking her. "I think we'll take the ferry over," my mom thought out loud. "It's a holiday weekend so traffic in the tunnel might be backed up getting out of The City later." She parked the car at NY Waterway, right on the Hudson River, and walked into the terminal to purchase tickets for the the 5 minute ride over the water. A short while later we were sitting outside on top of the boat staring at the famous New York Skyline as we sailed by. Sharon was busy snapping pictures to send to her husband and Facebook and Lyndsay and I were chatting about the plan for the day. "I think this time we'll head over to Rockefeller Center and you can see where they put up the huge tree at Christmastime. Then we can walk by Radio City Music Hall and go over to Fifth Avenue so you hit the American Girl store for Hallie," I said, referring to Lyndsay's 3 year-old daughter.
When the ferry docked the four of us got into a yellow taxicab, "Get ready for your first New York City cab ride. It can be quite an experience!" My mom asked the driver to take us to Rockefeller Center and, after fighting a bit of traffic, we were standing in the exact location of the future Christmas tree pointing out where the ice-skaters will be once the weather gets cold. They took some photos then we showed them where the crowd forms outside the NBC building when The Today Show is filming. After a quick stroll by Radio City Music Hall we ended up on Fifth Avenue, one of my favorite streets in The City. I'd been to the American Girl Store twice before that day, but I'd never actually seen all of the ridiculous departments inside. As we walked through the first floor, endless choices of base model dolls were displayed behind plexiglass cases. There were blonde dolls and brunette dolls, some with curls, others with bangs. Freckles adorned some of their faces while others had dimples. Blue-eyed, brown-eyed and hazel-eyed dolls were offered. The combination of possibilities seemed overwhelming, and that was just for the doll itself! Then she needed clothes! Winter clothes and summer clothes and dressy clothes and casual clothes and sleeping clothes and shoes and boots and hats and coats and underwear! They even had clothes for little girls to wear to match what their dolls were wearing! My head was spinning as I sorted through doll earrings and glasses and braces and rollerblades and ice-skates and musical instruments and dogs and cats and horses and hot dog carts and dental chairs. We ascended to Level 2 where a doll-sized Volkswagen Beetle caught my eye, so I stopped to check it out for my future daughter since Jimmi is a VW aficionado. "Three-hundred and fifty dollars?!" I blurted out as I checked the price of the baby-blue convertible. "That's almost as much as a REAL Volkswagen!" I chuckled, wishing Jimmi was there to yell at me for my latest dig at the brand he loves so much. Then I turned the corner and saw the line of impatient girls holding their dolls and whining to their mothers about how long it was taking. What are they waiting for? I thought to myself. My eyes moved to the front of the line where there was a counter with American Girl employees working diligently on their tasks. In front of each of them was a doll sitting in a stylist's chair having her hair done. Yes, you did read that correctly. The dolls were having their hair professionally styled by people who were clearly being paid actual money to do this job. "Seriously?" I asked Lyndsay and her mom as we watched. "How much does that cost?" None of us knew the answer and I think we were all scared to ask. I shook my head and we continued up to the third level of madness. Around the corner stood a nurse, or an employee in a white nurse's coat, under a sign that read, "Hospital." There was a sign-in sheet and a poor little doll with a cast on her leg, sitting in a wheelchair on the counter. "You've GOT to be kidding me!" The dollar signs added up in my head as I imagined myself five years later, attempting to tell my daughter she's nuts as I shell out the cash to have her dolly's dog-chewed leg fixed right before her flowing locks are braided by a fake-hair specialist. "Well, I'm ready to go!" I announced and we headed out of the store where entire mortgage payments can be spent and back onto Fifth Avenue...actually, still a place where entire mortgage payments can be spent.
"Have you heard of St. Patrick's Cathedral?" I asked as the famous church greeted our view. The look on Sharon's face told me she'd be interested in a quick walkthrough, so we entered the building and walked down the long, pew-lined aisle, staring up and the intricately detailed architecture and colorfully decorated stained-glass windows. I'm not a religious person but something about the old, beautiful cathedrals always overwhelms me with a need to pray. I silently asked for a healthy baby and continued on my way. After a full lap around the church we exited back onto Fifth Avenue to make one more quick stop before my mom and I walked Lyndsay and Sharon into the heart of New York City: Times Square.
The area, which was normally gridlocked with tourists, seemed unusually quiet and I was surprised at how easily we were able to move around without being bumped by skyscraper gawkers. "It's so empty," I said. Sharon's face told me she didn't agree and her words confirmed it, "This is empty?" she exclaimed. Ah, good old perspective slapped me right in the face. Clearly an empty New York City is much more crowded than a busy Minneapolis any day. When we stopped to allow Sharon to take some pictures I pointed up to the top of a building a few blocks away, "See the ball of lights with the big two-thousand thirteen under it? That's the ball that drops on New Year's Eve." Just as all of our eyes looked at the glittering orb of lights, the giant screen underneath it was showing a pregnant woman having an ultrasound. Two seconds later the picture changed to a full-screen shot of the fetus moving around in utero. A few more seconds later the picture switched to a newborn baby. We all stared for a minute until I spoke, "Think that's a sign?" I asked. "Definitely," Sharon answered with a smile.
By the time we got to the restaurant I was starving. Big difference from the last time when I was so sick I could barely eat the rice I'd ordered! After we'd sat down Lyndsay took a ziplock bag full of prescription bottles out of her purse and chugged down a few pills. I think the reality of everything this woman had to do to have MY baby started sinking in. I knew she had to give herself daily shots and I knew there was a lovely vaginal cream waiting for her at the hotel that she would need to insert that night, but I never knew she had to take so many pills on top of all of that. As someone who doesn't even like to take Tylenol for a headache, this was just amazing to me. I mean, let's be honest here, the entire process of what Lyndsay is doing for us just goes beyond what any normal person would do for another person, let alone a complete stranger. And that's what we were to each other just a few short months ago, right? Total strangers. Now this woman was bruised from injections, choking down a million pills and sticking things up her hoo-ha for us and I just couldn't think of a way to thank her enough.
We all scarfed down fresh mozzarella (I made Lyndsay's mom try it this time!), pasta and the best tartufo we'd ever eaten, then we hurried off to the theater. We made it to our seats with just two minutes to spare before the lights went down and we became engrossed in the story of how the Wicked Witch of the West became Wicked. Even though it was my fourth time seeing the show I still got goosebumps at the end of the first act when Elphaba defies gravity. As the second act began, I could tell Lyndsay was exhausted and I felt badly that she wouldn't be back to the hotel before midnight. And she still needed to take her shot and insert the nasty cream into her nether region! When the final curtain came down we joined the sea of people flowing down the theater steps and pouring out into the street. One more cab ride and another sailing over the Hudson brought us back to my mom's car and on our way to the hotel. We arrived at 12:05 AM and I walked Lyndsay and Sharon inside to make sure the vag cream had been delivered as promised, which it had. "I'll pick you up at five forty-five," I said to Lyndsay as we both groaned at the thought of having to be awake and ready to go less than six hours later. But the clinic needed her there at 6:00 AM for a pre-transfer checkup to make sure her blood levels and uterus are ready for our babies. After that they'll send us home, start defrosting the embryos and call us back with a time to return for Project: Bun in the Oven.
My mom and I left the hotel and drove the 15 minutes back to her house where I'd stay that night since I live much farther away. I got ready for bed, called Jimmi to say goodnight and tried to sleep. Impossible. What if I oversleep? What if her uterus isn't ready? What if the embryos don't make it through the thaw and they have to defrost more? What if the lab screwed up and it's not actually my egg and Jimmi's sperm? Why can't I shut off my brain for five minutes and sleep?! The next thing I knew I was waking up in a dark room because I had to go to the bathroom. I must've fallen asleep for a few minutes. I checked the clock. 5:05 AM?! It was only ten minutes before my alarm was set to go off and I felt like I'd just closed my eyes. Ugh! I got out of bed, threw my hair into a ponytail (hooray for having long hair again!), brushed my teeth and pulled on some sweatpants. There would be no makeup at 5 AM. I had to draw the line somewhere! I walked out into the kitchen and was surprised to see both of my parents awake and waiting to see me off. I felt like I was back high school again. I kissed them both, they wished me luck, I shot an "on my way" text to Lyndsay and I was out the door.
When I arrived at the hotel about 12 minutes later I was thrilled to see Lyndsay in the same ponytail and makeup-free face I was sporting. We made our way to the clinic and walked in with a few couples who were probably there for some form of testing or another. "Everyone probably thinks we're a lesbian couple," I joked when I noticed we were the only pair in the building not made up of a man and a woman. We pushed open the glass doors on the second floor and both of us immediately noticed the name of the doctor on duty. It was Dr. K. Shit. Lyndsay met with Dr. K the first time she came here for her preliminary testing and she didn't like his bedside manner at all. I had also met him during my egg retrieval process two years ago and I'd felt exactly the same way. We had both specifically requested that he not be the one to perform the transfer and I needed to get some answers. Lyndsay found the sign-in sheet and wrote in her name. "Ok, I see you're having your embryo transfer this afternoon," the receptionist confirmed, "so why are you here now?" Both of our faces must've shown the same combination of confusion and anger as I responded, "We were told she needed to be here for testing at six AM the morning of the transfer." The receptionist looked lost as she banged away at the computer keyboard as if it would clear things up for her. "I'm new," she finally explained and proceeded to find someone who would be able to help us. A few minutes later we were relieved to find out Lyndsay did, in fact, need to be there at that ungodly hour, and she was taken back for her blood test and ultrasound very quickly. Barley ten minutes later she came back out, "All done?" I asked. She nodded. "Was it Dr. K?" I questioned hoping for a different answer than I received. She nodded again, "Well, maybe since he's up here now he'll be off duty later. Or maybe he's only doing testing today and not transfers. We'll double check when we come back. Did he say everything was ok?" She responded, "Yup. He says my uterus is ready to go. They'll call us in a few hours so we know when to come back but it'll probably be between twelve-thirty and one." I dropped Lyndsay back at the hotel for a nap and a shower and headed back home to do the same.
I woke up slightly more rested at about 9:30 and started to get myself prepared for the day. Neither Lyndsay nor I had heard from the clinic with a definitive return time yet, but we had a tentative plan that I'd pick her up at about 11:30 for an early lunch then we'd head to the clinic when we were done. In the meantime, Jimmi would bring our puppy to daycare - yes, puppy daycare - at 11, then meet us all for lunch and continue on with us. I finished getting dressed, picked up Dylan and Justin from their dad's house and brought them to my friend's house where they'd stay for the day, then I finally got a call from the nurse. "You need to be back at one-thirty," she said. "Lyndsay will have to drink a bunch of water and wait forty-five minutes for her bladder to fill before we can do the transfer. After we do it she'll lie flat for about a half an hour and then you can go. And make sure no one is wearing any fragrances. No perfumes or colognes or strong deodorants." That was a really odd request but it didn't matter to me since I generally don't wear any...shit! I quickly called Jimmi to make sure he hadn't yet doused himself in his daily bottle of woman-attractor. "Are you wearing cologne?" I asked him when he picked up. "Yeah, why?" he asked. "You need to go back home and take a shower and put on different clothes," I ordered. There goes the plan to meet us for lunch. "Grab something to eat on your way back to the clinic," I instructed.
I was too nervous to eat as Lyndsay, Sharon and I sat in the Foodcourt at the mall. Then I remembered the gift I'd brought and reached into my bag to find the little gold box. As I handed it to Lyndsay I said, "I wore this when I was pregnant with both of my kids." She opened it to reveal a white gold bracelet with a St. Gerard medal attached to it. "It's St. Gerard," I explained, "the protector of pregnant woman and babies." I helped her put it on and she promised to wear it while she carried our little munchkin(s).
We pulled into the parking lot of the clinic at 1:25, just as my phone began to ring on the car's bluetooth system. I didn't recognize the number, but I figured it wouldn't be anything my car guests couldn't hear. "Hello?" I spoke into the speaker. "Hi Suzanne, I'm calling from doggie daycare. Chloe has been having sever diarrhea and vomiting and we need you to pick her up as soon as you can." Not. Happening. "Ummm..." Think, Suzanne! Think! "We're kind of in the middle of the embryo transfer I told you about. There's literally no way we can pick her up for at least two hours." The voice on the other end told me they'd keep my puppy as comfortable as possible until we could get there but she really wasn't feeling well. After hanging up with her I dialed my mom. She's gonna love this! "Can you pick Chloe up and bring her to the vet?" I asked as I actually saw my mom's jaw dropping at the request through the phone. "What? I'm getting ready to have everyone over the house for dinner when you're done there. I don't know if I can do that." There was some silence and she spoke again, "I'll call the vet. Give me the phone number and address of doggie daycare." My mom to the rescue...AGAIN!
Sharon, Lyndsay and I got out of my car just as Jimmi was parking his. "Hello!" he called out as he walked toward us. He hugged Lyndsay, I introduced him to Sharon, I told him about his beloved puppy's tummy troubles then I looked at the time on my phone and realized we needed to get inside immediately. We headed back to the second floor to check in and were told to wait there because Lyndsay needed to insert yet another medication into her vajayjay before the transfer. I noticed the board still showed that Dr. K was on the schedule so I asked, "Which doctor will be doing the transfer?" The receptionist looked at our paperwork, "I'm not sure," she said, which didn't put Lyndsay's or my mind at ease. "I see that Dr. K is here. We need to make sure it's not him," I said sternly. The ditz at the desk said, "Well, I know he's in the building so it shouldn't be a problem. I'll just send an e-mail and let them know you asked for him." Wait, what? "No, wait!" I exclaimed. "We aren't requesting Dr. K! We want to make sure we DON'T have Dr. K!" She smiled, "Oh! No, it says Dr. F will be doing the transfer." Am I going nuts? Didn't I just ask that question?! "Lyndsay B?" called a nurse holding a small bag with a plastic-wrapped suppository in her hand. I turned to watch her hand the package to our carrier and point her in the direction of the bathroom where she could insert it. When the deed was done the four of us took the elevator back downstairs to the IVF Retrieval and Transfer Suite to start baking babies!
"Which one of you is Lyndsay?" asked the nurse who entered the waiting room a short while after we'd sat down. I pointed and Lyndsay raised her hand, "Then you must be Suzanne," she smiled at me and I nodded. "Ok, I'm just gonna take Lyndsay back to get changed. You can take one person with you for now and everyone else can come back when it's time." Jimmi and I stayed behind and let Sharon go in with Lyndsay. I knew she'd feel more comfortable that way. We watched as other couples came in and out of the suite and I couldn't believe today was actually the day! "We're making babies!" I squealed as quietly as I could manage. Jimmi rolled his eyes playfully and let out a, "Grrrrrrr!" Then I remembered a few questions I needed to ask and, as if on cue, the nurse came out into the waiting room to get some water from the cooler for Lyndsay. "Excuse me?" I got her attention, "Do you know if the first two embryos made the thaw or if they had to use more?" She thought for a second, "All they told me is that we're good to go so I think it was the first two they took out." Not really a definitive response but I'll take it, "And they're both girls, right?" Another unsure answer, "If that's what was in your paperwork, that's what they should be." She headed back to her work and Sharon returned a minute later, "You two can come back. We're just sitting there so there's no reason you can't be there too." We followed Sharon down the hall as scrub-clad nurses walked by us wheeling incubators carrying vials of pink liquid with microscopic babies in them. My stomach started to flutter and my heart started to pound in my head. We entered the transfer room where Lyndsay was sitting up on the edge of a gynecology table wearing a blue bathrobe, blue elastic "slippers" and holding a paper cup of water. "I told them my bladder fills quickly. I already have to pee!" she announced. Just then a nurse came in with an ultrasound machine and Jimmi and I stepped out to give her privacy. The nurse confirmed what Lyndsay had just told us and asked her to pee just a little since her bladder was actually too full.
The minutes ticked on as incubator after incubator neared our door then continued by us until, finally, the nurse reappeared, "It's time!" she announced as another nurse with the incubator holding our babies followed. Only two extra people were allowed in the room during the transfer so Sharon headed out to the the waiting area. Jimmi and I were immediately pushed into a corner as three nurses and a doctor filled the tiny space around Lyndsay. "I'm Dr. F," said the quiet and meek man in the blue scrubs. Well, at least it wasn't Dr. K. "Here are some pictures for you," he said as he handed Jimmi and me two pieces of paper that showed what can only be described as blobs, labeled #6 and #13. "Those are your babies," he explained. I smiled as I noticed #6 was still pretty round while #13 was already starting to hatch from her shell. Dr. F and two of the nurses started to prepare the transfer instruments as the last nurse was fiddling around with her hands in the incubator. There was a screen above her that magnified what she was doing and we could see her sucking up and letting out fluid from a thin catheter. Then we saw two little black circles on the screen. Our babies. My gaze turned to the ultrasound machine where a picture of Lyndsay's uterus appeared while a nurse rubbed a magic wand covered in blue goo around her belly. "I'm inserting the speculum now," Dr. F explained and, though she was completely covered, Jimmi and I made sure to keep our eyes on the screen. "Are you ok?" the doctor questioned and Lyndsay nodded. "Ok, it's time," Dr. F told the nurse at the incubator and I looked up at the magnifying screen just in time to see her suck my little baby dots into the catheter and hand them to the doctor. "Here we go," he said. I stared at the ultrasound screen as carefully as I could. It wasn't easy to see, but I caught a glimpse of a thin, white object entering the uterus and releasing a tiny dot. A minute later I saw the other dot drop in and the white tube was removed. "All done!" Dr. F announced as he removed his gloves, shook our hands and wished us luck. Then he was gone. The lights were turned on and the nurse told Lyndsay to lie on her back for 20-30 minutes, then they all left and Sharon returned, "That was fast!" she said. Just then Nurse J, the one we'd seen in the office on our last two visits, came by to congratulate us and give Lyndsay her blood test schedule, "We'll check your levels on Tuesday then you'll have a pregnancy test on the ninth," she said. "Do you know if they had to defrost any more than the two embryos they transferred?" I asked. Nurse J shook her head, "Nope. First two were perfect and you still have ten left!" I couldn't help myself from asking again, "And they're both girls, right?" She replied, "I believe so but let me just go and double check." She left the room and Jimmi followed to run to the bathroom. He came back a few minutes later shaking his head. "I saw the nurse as I was coming back," he said. "She told me they're definitely girls and they're great embryos. Expect twins."
After that announcement Jimmi left to run home and feed our pets and pick up Dylan and Justin before heading back to my parents' house for dinner. Nurse J came back to the room, "Did Jimmi tell you what I said?" I giggled, "Yeah, he ran out to pound a few shots of tequila." She laughed, "Seriously, they're beautiful embryos. One is a 4AA and the other is a 5AA!" I made a mental note to look up exactly what that meant.
After Lyndsay doubled the thirty-minute recommendation of lying flat on her back, we decided it was time to leave the clinic. She got dressed and we headed off to my parents' house for pizza and a movie. Dylan and Justin finally got to meet the woman who would give them a little sister or two and everyone enjoyed the night as a family. When I dropped Lyndsay and Sharon back at the hotel I hugged and thanked them both, then I bent down to speak to my little girls, "Bye babies! I love you!"
And now we wait. I wish I only had pregnancy test results to wait on but the bitch of my life is that, once again, I have scans coming up this week. Not only a do I have my regular three-month CT scan, but I also have a follow-up MRI for what was supposed to be a fractured pelvic bone a few months ago. I wish I could feel confident that everything is fine and healed and wonderful now, but I can't. Each new day brings a new pain in a different part of my pelvic bone. Could it be multiple fractures caused by radiation damage to my bone? Maybe. Could it be new spots of cancer spreading all over my body? Possibly. Will these tests be inconclusive like last time and force me to stress out and wait and have more tests? Probably. I hate cancer. I hate it for ruining what was once such a healthy and strong body. I hate it for ruining my happy thoughts. I hate it for putting a damper on any bit of excitement I'll ever have again. I need a positive pregnancy test and a negative cancer test. Can we do that? Let's send that out to the universe, shall we?
POSITIVE PREGNANCY TEST, NEGATIVE CANCER TEST!
Come on, say it with me! POSITIVE PREGNANCY TEST, NEGATIVE CANCER TEST! POSITIVE PREGNANCY TEST, NEGATIVE CANCER TEST!!!!!