The Exciting Intersection of IVF and Body Dysmorphia

An IVF cycle consists of these main steps:  suppression (tamping down the ovaries to coordinate their response later); ovarian stimulation with hormones; egg retrieval; and embryo transfer.

Friday we had egg retrieval, a procedure under conscious sedation in an OR.  The husband and I arrived at the hospital about 7:30 a.m., and by 10:45 (that wait wasn't nerve-wracking or anything) I was in the sub waiting room with another woman ahead of me.

We watched as the OR techs wheeled out women ahead of both of us, post-retrieval, dead to the world, completely unaware and completely vulnerable.  Even knowing it's a 10-15 minute procedure, not even under general anesthesia, that was unsettling to see, to say the least.

When I got to the OR and they had me settle down on the table, I looked up at the lights and started crying.  (Just a little, more like the errant tear rolling out of one eye, then the other.)  It just hit me so hard in that moment: I don't get to make a baby the old-fashioned way, probably ever. I have to have an entire team of medical professionals extracting pieces of my body to even have a shot at it.

They were all incredibly sweet about it, and the embryologist offered to wipe my eyes for me.  It's the little things.

In the recovery room the nurse told me, "Well, you're the big winner today. They retrieved 23 eggs." This is a moderately high number, related to my PCOS. Thanks to that, I developed moderate OHSS (now downgraded to mild, as of today), which, if you Google it, feels every bit as pleasant as it sounds.

The OHSS is where this all ties into this blog's overall focus.  I had to head in for a very early ultrasound today to assess the free fluid in my abdominal cavity (again: every bit as fun as it sounds), and part of that exam entailed weighing me.

I was expecting to step on the scale and see perhaps an 8% increase over my weight at the baseline appointment for our IVF cycle.  I mean, I haven't been running, I had to stop exercising completely a week ago, and I've been eating more full-fat foods... and just generally eating more of whatever the hell I want, as long as it's healthy-ish.  Or not.  Bison burgers, real ice cream, broccoli sautéed with a bit of butter instead of steamed (and since Saturday bacon and sausage, because one surefire way to keep OHSS from getting worse is to eat plenty of protein and salt).

Instead of an 8% increase, I saw I'd gained .8 lbs, much of which is presumably free fluid in my abdominal cavity.  It was an excellent reality check because while there's no denying my abdomen is distended right now, there's also no denying I was walking around seeing the rest of my body as enlarged, too.  Clearly that's not the case, unless I'm packing air in there, or something?

It's a good reminder that no matter how far I get from disordered eating, some piece of the disorder might always be there.  (Every Harry Potter devotee reading this just said, "Constant vigilance!" to themselves, quietly.)

With any luck we'll be able to do a 5-day transfer on Wednesday, and then we go from there. In the meantime, wish me luck hobbling around like a 90-year-old (at least I can breathe normally again), and not getting too in my head about looking vaguely 4 months pregnant when I'm actually not.


Coming Out: Operation Human Pincushion

You may notice I showed back up after a loooong stretch of time, then disappeared again. (Albeit for a distinctly shorter stretch.)

As previously established, the first absence was due to wanting to get my mental ducks in a row, and then to being unsure how to talk about our struggle with infertility here.

More recently, the second, shorter absence has mostly been related to one thing: how do I come out about IVF on my blog? 

Anyway, I suppose I just came out about IVF on my blog.  (We're doing IVF.  Lovingly nicknamed Operation: Human Pincushion.)

I was prompted to finally put words to digital paper when the Siamese Prince, for the third time this evening, plopped squarely down on my latest injection sites.  Ow.

But I was also goaded into finally writing about this because we're going to a Super Bowl party.  The Super Bowl, we are to understand, takes place around and during the hours of 7-8:00pm EST.  My IVF injections, we are further to understand, take place within this same timeframe. 

I am left with a dilemma.  The party is at my brother-in-law's.  How to peace out gracefully, since I have to get home at a certain time to take my Gonal-F out of the fridge 30 minutes ahead of use, in order to prepare that medicine (along with the others) within the one-hour window for dose delivery?  

For me it's further complicated because this party will be populated by family members who haven't seen me in a while, but who have all seen me very, very thin.  And very thin.  And thin.  And now see me... normal.  

No matter how far I get away from eating disordered behaviors, I'm really unconvinced that this feeling will ever leave me: the dyspeptic feeling that arises when I see someone for the first time in a long time, and it's someone who's commented on my weight in the past ("You're so skinny!").  I can't pretend that if someone notices the weight loss, they don't also notice the weight gain.  And try as I might, I can't yet move myself to not care that people notice.

Did I also mention that IVF meds cause a pretty impressive amount of lower abdominal bloat the more days you take them?  (Sunday is day 10. Average length of use is 8-12 days.)    In other words, you guys, I look vaguely pregnant.  And I don't fit into my pants. 

Here's the skinny.  (Ha.  See what I did there?)  I hesitated to talk about IVF here because I have many Catholic friends and family, and other friends and acquaintances who believe pretty strongly in the "when sperm meets egg" starting point for human life.  

I don't share that viewpoint, but I understand it.  And my guess is that the impulse that gives me agita about people noticing my weight gain is related to the feeling of not wanting my differently-believing friends and family to think poorly of me. 

But there you have it.  We're at IVF, the end of the reproductive road.  I've gained weight since seeing the RE, and people have noticed/will notice.  And I care what people think.  Hi, I'm Cynical Nymph, and I'm an approval-aholic.