Both of my children were conceived via in vitro fertilization. This is not a secret and I have written about it before. What I have not written about is our Leo Lion’s conception. I have known what my beauties looked like from 3 days post conception. Amazing! This is our lion’s story.
The transfer process is less clinical than the egg retrieval process. The embryo(s) is/are unfrozen and sometimes they need to give them a bit of time to acclimate. For whatever reason, my precious embryos often did not make it after unfreezing. I said a prayer for each one. I mourned each one.Then I had to move on because there was always (thank you God) another one/baby waiting for its mama to be there. Just like our sweet Teddy, Leo Lion was the last embryo we had. Leo was different. When you are in the advanced maternal age group of at least 35, your embryos go through “assisted hatching” where the embryologist helps the shell open to release the embryo. Quickly after unthawing, Leo Lion was bursting through his shell ALL on his own. We all laughed at the eagerness of this tiny, precious embryo ready to go. He was moved into my womb and the waiting game began.
Have you waited to take a pregnancy test after disappointing months? I have. It is awful. This time, I skipped to the bathroom to take the test, 3 days early. I had a secret. I knew I was pregnant. I knew the day after the transfer. I KNEW. I FELT that tiny and blessed embryo burrowing deep into his home. He made it.
A few days later, the blood test confirmed my intuition and the home pregnancy test. I was VERY pregnant.
Skip forward to the delivery room…..Leo Lion came roaring out of the womb. He roared and roared and roared. I actually started to panic because I knew I was in for a much, much wilder ride than Teeny gave me.
He wanted to nurse immediately and with great intent. He fought going to sleep at night. He roared letting me know he wanted to be held. His pediatrician said he was “very alert.” Leo does not do anything halfway. Even when he is just observing, his little limbs are moving as though he can move himself into the middle of the action. He is vocal about what he wants and does not want. There is nothing casual about Leo Lion. He has been this way since conception.
I find it fascinating that from 6 days past creation he has exhibited very clear personality traits. We did not choose his name based on its meaning, but it is very apt. While IVF is considered a liberal choice, viewing and participating in the process of scientifically creating life has made me very conservative. I have known my child since conception, and I have seen his fierce determination since his cluster of embryonic cells forcefully left their shell. This is a gift and significantly cemented my view on when life begins. My child’s personality began at conception. I know this.
I love you madly Leo Lion. May you always live life fully and fiercely. I will roar behind you, my darling.
The Tiny One is 3. He is marvelous and a total stink pot these days. We have been talking about rhyming words. He has also been watching Charlie Brown. I finally deleted the Great Pumpkin episode when I could not take it even one more time. Lovely Rudolph and feisty Frosty have been recorded, but he will have none of it. I think it is because of all the naughtiness in Charlie Brown. How scandalous they speak to his little ears. I told him I would delete all of them if I heard him using the bad words he hears. If he needs to say the words, he can do so alone in his room. Who am I to judge? I love bad words. Anyhoo, he is a clever stink pot. Instead of using the word blockhead, he uses frockhead. There is that rhyming lesson. Lately it has been shortened to frock, than fock. On my honor, the only time I have said the F bomb in front of him was at 4 in the morning when he refused to sleep and he was only 50% awake. It comes from bloody Charlie Brown. My husband was unaware of the rhyming and called out from his home office/nursery, “Are you hearing this?” I yelled back from the other room while Tiny 2 was attached to my tribal breasts for the 18th hour of the day, “Yes. He’s saying frockhead. He thinks he’s fooling us.” To which husband corrected me that it was now fock. Well, fock. I do not have the energy to deal with this one. I am too tired. All I want is to magically win the lottery without playing it and for my children to sleep for 10 hours. Neither one appears to be a possibility.
I am surviving on coffee and cosmetics these days. I wear a splint due to post pregnancy diastasis recti and I use a topical treatment in effort to prevent the post natal hair loss that is most likely coming. This is my appearance reality. Needless to say, I am not at my finest. A dear friend passes along treats from her Birch Box to me. One of the goodies was an spf 15 primer by IPKN New York and it is a life saver. It is the Flash Cream Radiant Primer. I have tried most of the big name primers and have not loved any of them. Either they are too shiny, sparkly or heavy. This gives you the glow I was supposed to have during my pregnancy. It gives me a fresh face with a subtle, healthy looking sheen. It has entered the limited arsenal of I-don’t-want-to-live-without-it. If I cannot commit to wearing makeup during the day, I can always at least commit to this primer. I love it. In my current sleep deprived and outnumbered state, this has made me at least look like a version of my former self.
Prime the face, rhyme with mommy mouth bass
Sleep, don’t make a peep
Tiny, please not whiny
Baby, someday sleep maybe
Love, all the above
Does time sneak away from you? This post has been on my mind for over a YEAR. How does that happen? I can give a million reasons all relating to one giant belly, I mean event, but shame on me for not sharing something of such great importance.
I attended a reunion last year, and in preparation for seeing certain people only once every 10 years, I set goals for myself. Obviously to look as thin, tan and visually put together were goals, but I had a more subtle goal as well. I decided that I would be an avid listener and speak with poise. You know ‘those people’ who always make you feel good and say exactly the right thing? I wanted to be one of them. I promised I would not tell embarrassing stories about my husband or myself (I tend to not have an uncomfortable-for-other-people filter), I would only pepper a bad word in when it was ironic or endearing and I would focus on the feminine and ladylike aspect of my personality. Cue the first night and a very fun informal party….I found myself in the middle of two men who were once truly adorable high school boys, discussing armpit odor. I volunteered my own concern of smelling bad. Seriously, Katie??? I had run a million miles, paid too much money for a fake tan and I discuss body odor at the first opportunity—with enthusiasm I might add. There goes the feminine.
Despite my complete lack of the feminine mystique, I will share my most important non stink helper I have gathered, EVER. I have tried every deodorant and have stolen my dad’s French spray deodorant, but at some point they have all disappointed me. The natural deodorants do not work and make me think of scratchy fabrics and patchouli. No offense if you like either of those, but those are visions of hell for me; just like a stinky body. I stumbled upon an article that talked about the anti-stink properties of a lemon. A. Simple. Lemon. I am at home with a toddler who thinks I am perfect no matter what, so I thought I would try it out. It is brilliant. It is simple. It is a 36 hour smell repellent. A few juicy swipes of a lemon slice is the best damn deodorant I have ever used. (Perfectly peppered bad word, no?) Try it. Just do not try it right after shaving. Find me at the next ladylike event and I will tell you why in great detail.
I could not sleep Saturday night. I had decided I was going to take an at-home pregnancy test Sunday morning and the waiting was getting to me. We had our FET (frozen embryo transfer) October 17th, and like this entire process has been this time around, it did not go off without a hitch. Our first embryo did not make it through the defrost, so we had to thaw a second, leaving us with only 2 precious embryos left. The day after the transfer, I caught a particularly vicious and humbling stomach virus that left me 8 pounds lighter of water. How in the world is a tiny embryo supposed to implant in a water free, roller coaster ridden body? I was heartbroken. It felt as though we had taken every dollar spent and flushed it down the toilet along with all the water I was heaving.
Despite all of this, I had hope. Isn’t it amazing that the basic human response to a situation is still hope for the best? I did not verbalize this, I remained outwardly cautious, but inside I was glowing with hope. This WOULD work. We have been through so much, the month was ideal to start a pregnancy and I am strong enough to handle this. I felt twinges in my body like I did when the Tiny One was busy burrowing into his first home. I rested my hand over my belly in hopes that the precious, growing human would feel my warmth and presence and know all was all right. When the Tiny One would wrestle and accidentally kick my belly, I wondered if that was the beginning of the sibling relationship and it made me smile. I was sure it was going to be a girl.
Sunday brought a negative test. Today has brought a negative test as well. I am waiting for the Tiny One to arise and start his day so we can go confirm this with a blood result. I am aching with sadness, but the funny thing is, even in the reality of what I know to be true, I still have a tiny shred of hope waiting for the final results.
I like to be well groomed in public. When I am home with my family, it may be a completely different story, but if you catch me in public with the tiny one, it is safe to say that I put at least a C+ effort into my personal hygiene and appearance. Briefly, after the tiny one was born I became acquainted with my real hair color and naked toenails, but I am born again in my high maintenance ways. I thought it quite romantic and clearly creative the other night when my husband told me that the hipsters were copying me in my nighttime granny panty ways with their high-waisted and unflattering shorts, jeans, and bathing attire. Perhaps I should be appalled? No. The underpants I discovered post C section were like manna to a starving man and I cannot give them up. I can only support flirty underpants during the daytime now that I am in my 30’s.
None of this pertains to my thoughts for today, but like any good play from a bygone era, you need the background information for the story. Today we talk nail color. It has been on my mind since the surgeries last month, as has personal hygiene. I have now had 5 fertility related surgeries where the work being performed was below the waist. Surgery is an equal feminine playing field because you cannot show off the cutest outfit or accessory because all you get is a hospital gown, and dammit, they won’t even let you belt it. All I had to work with were my toenails. They were the only way I could communicate that I had an opinion about my appearance since clothing, jewelry (wouldn’t a statement piece at least bring beauty and color to the sterile operating room?), fingernail polish and makeup were not allowed. They even put a shower cap over my hair, so freshly painted highlights just didn’t matter. I had my toes alone to communicate.
I have been stuck in my ways ever since Chanel introduced the color Vamp. I love a blood red, purple or almost black color on my toes. My favorite for the past few years is OPI’s Black Cherry Chutney.
As morbid as the color is in the bottle, it makes me giddy when it is on my toes. Summertime does beg for a little more flirt and a lot more vibrancy. I have been too wimpy to try blue for 3 summers now, and the preparation for the egg retrieval was just the push I needed. I would make a strong fashion statement with my toes alone. I bought my bright blue Essie nail polish and, I must say, I rocked it with my hospital gown. I may have spent 3 days in the hospital without showering, and they may have been weighing me in the hospital bed without my permission, but at least my toes looked good.
Here are 2 summertime musts for your toes, both available at Ulta.com:
Essie Butter Please
Essie Peach Daquiri
It is common knowledge that teenagers have no sense of mortality. What I learned last week is that not all adults do either. I know that I will age. I know that I will not live forever. I thank God for my strong and imperfect thighs when I run past someone who is struggling to simply walk. I knew these things but I had not viscerally felt them until last week.
Our in vitro fertilization journey has been very different from the first journey when we had the tiny one. The drugs are different; the time line is a different. The medication made me sicker than I could have imagined. I sobbed uncontrollably from the hormones. I saw the needles being prepared and would sit, shake, and sob all the while knowing they were not that bad. My husband would apologize as he shoved 1 of 3 needles into my belly. I was awake most nights trying to breathe shallowly so I would not vomit. It was not like that last time….
Like last time, I produced a gazillion eggs. I am a hen. I was ridiculously proud of this. They cut short my injections and scheduled my surgery. I bought an US Magazine and looked forward to being in bed because, at my core, I am lazy. They retrieved 24 eggs during surgery. 16 were mature and I happily went to bed. I remembered the last recovery being palatable, so I forced my husband to take our tiny toddler to run at the park after his long and boring morning. They left and I read. I started to not feel great, so I went to get my anti nausea pills, which were no more than 15 feet away. I fell. I could not get up. Please Lord, do not let me vomit. The only thing worse than vomiting would be pooping my pants in public. Ok, let me vomit if it means never pooping my pants in public. I crawled back to bed and called Pat. It got worse.
I never know when it is appropriate to call the doctor so I waited. I could no longer stand up without dizziness and nausea, and pain started spreading all over my torso. I could not sit down, lay on my back, or on my right side. I knew it did not make any sense, but wondered if it was a heart attack. Ok, perhaps now it is ok to call the doctor. My doctor said I needed to come back to his office. I had to kneel in the back of the car because I could not sit and I said things that were not nice at all whenever my husband hit a bump in the road. Really.Not.Nice. The doctor sent me across the street to the hospital where we waited for 7 HOURS to be admitted. This entire time was spent on my left side. They were unable to do a cat scan because I could not lie on my back, even after 3 rounds of intravenous pain meds. I waited 6 more hours to be told that I had fluid and most likely blood in my abdomen from an ovary follicle that failed to clot during my egg retrieval surgery, and now I needed more surgery to fix it. They thought the surgery would take 15 minutes. It took 2 hours. My sweet, precious husband was in a full panic mode waiting to find out anything. He said he was so desperate he asked a maintenance worker if he could find out what was going on in surgery. They removed 2 liters of blood from my abdomen. I could finally rest on my back and sit. It was glorious until a few hours later I was too weak to move at all. I am not sure which situation scared me more. I needed to decide if I would accept a blood transfusion. The people in my life who know me deeply know I am terrified of this. I have irrational fears of diseases and am also a control freak. I had to let go and trust because otherwise I would not be leaving the hospital anytime soon. The beautiful view out my hospital room window of the foothills, bright blue skies, and wide lanes where I could walk and run convinced me just as much as my father’s voice over the phone to embrace the transfusion. I left the next day.
My husband asked me if I thought God was punishing us for being greedy and wanting another child. That probably saddened me the most of anything we had gone through during this procedure. I do not think we were being punished. I, too, lost faith briefly, but looking back, I think a small gift was being in that room with the beautiful view. That was a small nudge to remind me what waited for me outside those walls. Life. Running. Hiking. My family. More time to depend on my body while I am young. And just maybe in a year or so, another baby. Maybe. Hopefully.
My brothers and I fought, a lot, as small siblings. My mom had a friend who was a psychologist and she told her to simply remove herself as an option the next time we were fighting. She followed the professional suggestion and locked herself in her room while the 3 of us argued over something. Apparently we knocked on her door asking for a referee and she told us to work it out ourselves. As the story goes, we stopped arguing, she heard a chair being dragged across the room, a phone being picked up and dialed and then a self righteous voice speaking. This is what she heard. “Hello Operator? My name is Katie Goeschel. My dad works at the hospital and I need you to call him. My mom locked herself in her room and won’t come out.” Enter sprinting mother and CLICK.
The tiny one needs a sibling. He needs a confidant who doesn’t have to go to his own house at night or follow a different set of rules. He needs a last option when no one else is available to play. He needs someone to teach him how to deal with confrontation and to side with him when parents are being unreasonable in his child mind. He needs a best friend and a best enemy (at times.) I may have fought with my brothers, but I cannot imagine a better life without them in it. I may or may not have been convinced one of them was a serial killer while he was going through puberty, but I am entertained and proud of the man he became.
We cannot make our own child without the help of science. We committed emotionally a while back to try in vitro fertilization again, and finally pulled the financial trigger last week. I thought I would share with anyone pondering this way of baby making, and anyone else who is curious, what the process entails as we go along. To anyone who has been told to “just relax” or “go on vacation and it will happen,” this is for you. There is nothing visually sexy or spontaneous about this. Oddly, I find it very sexy to watch my husband prepare my subcutaneous injections, but perhaps this is just me.
We ordered over $4000 worth of medications from one of the few labs who are able to provide. Everything shown in the picture is the medication that covers only 1 cycle of treatment.
Yes, it is that expensive, and yes it is mind blowing and kind of painful to stomach when most people just buy a good bottle of wine before making a baby, but it is worth it and I am grateful that there is an option that provides the lifelong joy of a child. They have to overnight the medications because some must be refrigerated. We met with our reproductive endocrinologist for an ultrasound to make sure I was physically sound to start the process this morning. Our doctor was very excited about my ovaries and I was absurdly peacocking around today because of it. It took about 30 minutes to review the medications and reteach us how to administer all of the medicine that will stimulate my ovaries into making LOTS of eggs. We have to inject the medication at the same time each day, and we chose 9:00 pm as our shot time because my husband thought he could be home by that time to administer the shots.
I choose not to give myself the shots for 2 reasons: I feel very connected to my husband when he gives me the shots, and they burn and make me queasy, so it is best if he does them. As the medication kicks in and the days continue, I will bloat as the eggs push against my abdomen, run out of non-used injection spots and bruise because of it and possibly become somewhat emotionally irrational as I have excess hormones running wild in my body. The emotional part did not happen last time, but I will no doubt blame any moodiness on it. I think this is fair. We have 1 day down and about 11 more to go before I undergo surgery to retrieve the eggs in hope of creating beautiful little embryos. Maybe it will work and our tiny T will have his own brother or sister, but maybe it will not.
Our doctor feels good about our chance of success and gave us a 50/50 chance. This is high in the world of ivf. It is not in our hands and we have accepted that whatever happens in this next year is ok. Our small boy is enough, but 1 more would make our cup overflow with joy.
I think back on my 4 short years in New York and marvel at what I considered a normal day. I very seriously and diligently pursued the opportunity to dress up like a giant flower and persuade people to call their mothers in Time Square for Mother’s Day one year. I had to drop off my head shot and wait like every other actor, but I felt like I had an in because the guy hiring worked out at the club where I had my part-time job. It paid $75 for one day. They cancelled the promotion and I was saddened by the loss of potential income. Another time, I auditioned for a regional production of “The Sound of Music” for the role of Maria. I was called back over and over until it came down to me and another girl. She got the part. During the process of auditioning, I was reading the script on a city bus when a man interrupted me and asked if I was an actor. I said yes. He asked if he could give me advice and I said yes again. (My naiveté will pay off in a moment.) He told me I needed to grow my hair out and have a normal color or I wouldn’t work. I was shocked. Could they not just wig me? He said that there was too much talent in the city and directors hire the easiest choice. He was currently working on Broadway in “Kiss Me Kate.” I sent flowers to him at the theater and made a hair appointment to at least color my inch long, white hair.
About 6 months later I went to a big regional casting call and ran into the director from the production of “Sound of Music.” She pulled me aside and said how glad she was that I was growing my hair out because it was the only reason why I did not get the part. Mental devastation ensued, but I did get multiple job offers from the audition.
My hair and I have been at war since puberty. It never was smooth, bouncy, and shiny like my high school friends. I have tried a million hair styles and products, convinced each one would change my hair to that perfect look for me. Nope. I have had multiple stylists tell me that the Brazilian blow out would change my dry, frizzy hair world, but I’m terrified it would flatten the 12 strands on my head. Also, you have to wear special gear so you aren’t poisoned during the process, so I pass on this option.
My quest of 20 years has led me to my perfect product, Flawless Macadamia Natural Oil Cleansing Conditioner. This is a 6-in-1 product that cleanses, moisturizes, and keeps your volume all in 1 product. I have been using it for 6 weeks now and my love affair is going strong. My hair is far less dry, but my natural volume is the best it has ever been. Day 2 hair is even better. I can boldly say that I like my hair. I have received numerous compliments since I started using this product. I may never have perfect, shiny, bouncy hair, but I now have a bounce in my step while I toss my locks around. It costs about half as much as I would have made dressed as a giant flower, but worth every penny!
I read an article last week, and many accompanying comments, about the moral wrongness of in vitro fertilization. There are topics so personal that you will not be able to change a person’s mind, and this is probably one of them. I cried while personalizing the comments, envisioning the tiny one while thinking about each word, but then realized that it bears no weight in my small world. I thought about it again today while watching my child, who was conceived in a scientific yet completely loving union, squeal with delight when he first saw the moon appear in the late afternoon. The love that overflowed from my heart for him took away any anger I felt reading those words. Seeing his innocence and pure joy in so many moments of his day made me feel silly for even spending a minute in anger over words written by a faceless stranger. I am not patient. I am not always open-minded. I judge. The only difference this time was my view point and its gentler stance, in that moment, in that situation. I am not different than “those people.” But right now, my child is different, is kind, is gentle. Let me see from the view of that sweet child.
I take videos of Teeny all day long. When he naps, I watch them. After he goes to bed, I watch them again. I email them to my mother and father and expect responses so I can revel in his wonderfulness over and over. There is probably not a full 60 seconds that I do not think about him. He is 16.5 months and I still cry once per day thinking about how much I love him.
This is not an activism post, but something I have been thinking about for a while and simply wanted to say aloud. I am generally socially liberal, and I used to be pro-choice. I do not like government butting into peoples’ lives and this seemed more of a personal matter than governmental. I believe in the right for all humans to be able to marry and I believe in kindness for animals raised for food consumption, but I no longer believe in the idea of pro-choice. I remember discussing this with my best friend’s husband saying, “Who am I to tell someone else what they can do with their body?” Do you know what changed this? I could not have a baby.
If you know me or have read my blog, you know that we could not have a baby naturally. Every step we took up that giant mountain of infertility treatments changed my opinion. If one woman who was not ready to have her child would just let me have that baby…. Rational or irrational, suddenly all potential babies seemed like my potential child and the idea of someone not wanting that child, not knowing that I would travel and do anything to have that child was unbearable to think about.
We finally did get pregnant, and pregnancy through in vitro fertilization is a very different process than regular pregnancy. Everything is monitored from the moment the embryo is placed in your body. When we lost one of the embryos, we did an ultrasound at 6 weeks. Guess what, we saw a little fighter with a strong heartbeat. The doctor did not think he would make it, but he fought. I was barely pregnant in terms of time, but I was already a mother. That little heartbeat in a yolk sac has grown into my entire world. It is an unrealistic fantasy, but I would like a whole brood of them running around (provided they all slept at night.) I can think of nothing better than just being at home with a whole team of tiny Szurpickis; breaking things, running experiments in my brand new bathroom, locking each other out of the house. These small people are so much fun! Seeing him at 6 weeks, intent on making it to full life solidified my earlier belief that I am 100% pro-baby growth. Pro-life is a rotten term. We are all pro-life.
This change in mindset came from my own experience. It is just personal. This is my general opinion, knowing that each situation is different and shouldn’t be judged. It is simply something to think about.