Transfer day: at long last.

Well, today was the big day. I had my frozen embryo transfer around midday. I kept checking my phone this morning to make sure the clinic didn’t call me… because if they did, it would have been bad news. Two percent of embryos do not survive the thaw. Luckily, mine was okay.

When I checked in upon arrival at the clinic, the front desk assistant (my favorite) was there. She asked me what music I wanted played during the procedure. I thought I misheard her. “Did you just ask me what music I want played?” I asked her, confused. She smiled and confirmed I heard right. I told her I wanted Lady Gaga playing, so she went to set that up for me. That’s a nice touch.

While waiting to be called in, my favorite sonographer came out to greet and hug me. “Yvonne! GOOD LUCK TODAY! I’m rooting for you!” she said, embracing me. “I’m praying for you. You will do great.” I got a little teary eyed when she said this. I didn’t realize how much pent up emotion I had in myself until she said this to me. There are some really good humans who work at this clinic. She is one of them.

They make you come in with a semi-full bladder for this procedure, which happens in the operating room. The semi-full bladder helps them better visualize where to best place the embryo along the uterine lining. And of course, the doctor was running late with another patient. I was not super thrilled, lying on the table with my feet up in stir-ups. They even made me change into an operating room gown, booties, and a hair net given it’s a sterile environment. The room has a tiny window with a curtain that opens up into the embryology lab, where they hand over the embryo in a vial to the doctor to insert.

When the doctor finally arrived after the nurse buzzed him multiple times, I was pretty much ready to pee all over him (remember how I said above that there are some really good humans who work at this clinic? This doctor may or may not be on that list). Luckily for him and me, I have some level of self respect and did not pee on him, as I was able to hold it all in despite his being 25 minutes late. However, if I had peed on him, he definitely would have deserved it. During the procedure, they show you the embryo on the screen before they insert it. They even give you a picture of the embryo as a little souvenir of the event.

Once the transfer was complete, I rested for about five minutes on the table before getting dressed, checking out, and leaving. I also said a little prayer to myself, hoping this would be the very last time I’d leave the operating room here.

I went home, finished the work day, made and ate dinner, and rested and read in the evening. They told me to do nothing strenuous, no exercise other than walking, and no heavy lifting for today. I felt some little twinges and what felt like tightness or pressure down there throughout the day. I hope that’s a good sign of implantation. I can only hope now for the best.

In nine days, I return to the clinic for my b-HCG, progesterone, and TSH tests. The b-HCG is the test that detects the pregnancy hormone in your blood. Pleeeeease be positive.

Self administering injections

Before starting fertility treatment, the idea of injecting myself with a needle was completely horrifying. I can barely look at the nurse when I have to get blood drawn at annual physicals or during gynecologist appointments. I’ve always turned away when they insert the needle into my vein and only look down when the needle has been taken out. Once I realized I was actually going to go through this journey, I realized I had to suck it up and deal with it. You have it so good, I thought to myself. I am a relatively young, healthy woman with no known illnesses, diseases, or conditions that would make me a bad candidate for this. I have generous health insurance coverage that actually covers the vast majority of these costs (and sadly, am also painfully cognizant of how few people have this luxury. I’ve read in many fertility support groups that some women, even those in the medical professions, have such poor coverage that they have taken up a part-time job at Starbucks once or twice a week *just* to get fertility coverage). I have a good AMH level (that’s the test that determines whether you have diminished ovarian reserve or not. In plain speak, that means I have a good quantity of eggs remaining in my ovaries). I also have normal hormone levels across the board. I should feel lucky, I told myself. So if the worst thing I have to do is self-administer injections, I got this! So many other women do this with zero medical background, so if they can do it, so can I, right?

I watched the videos for each medication at least 5 times. I read through the illustrated instructions a few times, also going through all the potential side effects I could experience so that I was well aware of what I could feel or experience. I mentally prepared myself for this. And oddly enough, it really wasn’t so bad. The first time, the second time, the 10th time… it all became relatively normal after the first prick. Occasionally I’d bruise a little. But this was all nowhere as awful as I imagined in my head. And lucky for me (again, I am counting my blessings here), the worst side effect I’ve felt was a little bruising as well as some tiny bloating post injection.

I’d read of some pretty awful side effects, from intense nausea, massive bloating, constant headaches, vomiting, and noticeable mood swings. I was really preparing myself for the worst. A few people who posted in groups I am in said they were crying nearly every single day during their shots. Some people truly had the worst experiences of their life using these medications. I was also concerned about medication mixing, but these pharmaceutical companies have dummy proofed these pretty well to the point that pretty much anyone could self-administer these shots after reading through the instructions. They have so many checks in place to make sure you DO NOT overdose and that you do NOT mess up.

When I called with a question for a nurse on one of the injection pens and she gave me the answer, I exclaimed immediately, “Wow! These things are incredible! They really are mistake-proofed, aren’t they?!” She laughed in response. “Well, that’s the first time I’ve ever heard anyone say that about these meds, but I’m happy you feel that way!”

This isn’t so awful, I kept telling myself. This isn’t so awful. I can do this. I’m getting through this, and I’m nearly done. And this will all be worth it in the end. I just need to keep meditating, keep calm, and keep positive thoughts. I’m going to get through this, and I’m going to have the successful outcome I want. I have the grit to get through this. I am mentally and physically tough enough for this.

Pleaaaaase. Please, be true.

Virtual escape room

For our end of year team event this year, my team and I broke into two groups and did a “prison break” virtual escape room. As someone who has done a real-life escape room four years in Little Rock, I really had no idea what this experience would be like, but our host and informant from the company we worked with did a really great job in facilitating, planting clues, and making this a fun and enjoyable event for all of us. And, I’ll definitely say this escape room experience was NOT easy at all. My group was able to escape with about six minutes to spare (you get 60 minutes).

It’s amazing how nimble companies like escape rooms have been in evolving with changing times and the pandemic. I’d definitely recommend this experience for a team building event. I feel like our team was extremely open and communicative. It was definitely a good way to “build the team.”

Treats from Oz

Since the pandemic began, Chris has been getting antsy about a lot of things. He’s upset that he cannot do work or personal travel. He’s not happy he is unable to see theater and comedy. He’s not enthused at all that he’s not able to travel back to Australia for his annual summer Christmas. And with international travel basically being blocked, his parents were unable to visit us this spring, which meant that his usual Aussie treats delivery did not happen as per schedule. The treats they intended to bring him have been sitting in their garage and and second refrigerator, waiting to be eaten by someone at some time.

One package after another, he sadly saw his Aussie treats stash being depleted. Arnott’s biscuits like Tim Tams and Teddy Bears? One by one, they were gone. Arnott’s Shapes? Oh, those were gone long ago. The All-Naturals Fruit Confectionary fruit snacks, made with real fruit and sugar, NO high fructose corn syrup in sight? Those are his favorites, and he lamented not having easy access to them as he plowed through one bag after the next. So of course, being resourceful, Chris found a solution to all his maddening snacking problems: He discovered Treats from Oz, the company that ships all these glorious treats around the world… as long as you are willing to pay for the high shipping costs. Because, as well all know, homesickness has no real cost, right? This company lovingly and carefully packs Aussie treats and even accepts requests for specific items when you have them (and Chris definitely had these to offer!). We had a box arrive today that was over 36 pounds, filled with everything from special flavors of Tim Tams, chocolate scotch fingers, all naturals fruit snacks, to even plum pudding and Lamington desserts!

This should satiate my Australian baby… at least, for now.

Teddie peanut butter dash

This past week, I was reading an article that discussed the best rated peanut butter brands in the U.S. Comments following the article mentioned a certain New England brand that I loved when I was in Boston: Teddie Peanut Butter. A former boyfriend got me hooked on this, as it was a local Massachusetts brand that seems to only distribute in the New England area, as I have yet to see it anywhere outside of a Massachusetts grocery store. Teddie is famous for making all natural peanut butter — in other words, no added oil or sugar. The only addition that IS allowed — salt! And if you ask me, that’s the only addition that is needed or should ever be added. Mainstream brands like Skippy and Jif, while temporarily satisfying, have extra palm or vegetable oil added to make it easier to spread the peanut butter, and the extra sugar is really, really unnecessary and borderline too sweet. Peanuts have a natural sweetness that comes out especially after you roast them, so why is there a need to make this glorious nutty spread even sweeter?! All peanut butter needs is a little savory balance from some salt, and then, it becomes pure magic. And I don’t know what makes these specific peanuts so good that they use…. I’ve tried other all-natural brands from Whole Foods or Trader Joe’s that are organic and have nothing else added to the peanuts other than salt, and for some reason, they just don’t compare to the special combination of Teddie peanuts and salt. This peanut butter has the perfect balance of sweetness and saltiness that just makes it peanut butter sent down from the peanut gods… if they exist.

I was telling my Boston-based colleague about how much I loved this peanut butter, and she so generously and graciously presented a brand new jar of Teddie organic all natural peanut butter (with salt) to me when she showed up at the office earlier this week. I was ecstatic — it was the biggest highlight of the entire week. And when we got notified we had to work from home beginning today due to COVID-19, the very first thing I thought about was... I left my Teddie’s in the office fridge.

So, naturally, I went to the office at midday today to retrieve it. I mean.. I had to, right? I hadn’t had this peanut butter since 2011! I told some colleagues that I did this… and they found the entire thing hysterical.

It certainly was not beyond me to do something like this, but hey… I travel for food. And what’s the worst that could seriously have happened, anyway?

A decade in personal review

As the 2010s decade comes to an end, many articles are being posted on a recap or reflection of the major events/milestones of the last ten years. On social media, influencers are posting summaries of their most popular posts or products they’ve advocated for, while Facebook and Instagram posts are about a highlight of each year of their life of this last decade, and what the biggest takeaways have been for them personally. 

My life today is quite different than what it was like in 2010. Today, I have a very different job at a very different company. My perspectives have changed on people and travel; I travel very differently (and much more often) than I did then. I have a life partner now who complements me and pushes me to be better and do more, and a slightly different attitude on life and the future in general. But at my core, I’m still the same person: just trying to find as much meaning (and as many laughs) as possible wherever I can find it and attempting to learn as much as I possibly can about things I think are important to the world. 

If a theme exists to the last decade of my life, I’d likely say that each year, it’s been an attempt to go out of my comfort zone and do something “different” for me. I used to think that being “comfortable” was good enough. I wasn’t much of a risk taker at all and became way too comfortable and used to doing things the way I always did them without realizing how bored I could actually get; it was as though my life was passing me by and I wasn’t discovering anything new. I spent too much time with people who didn’t have very strong opinions and didn’t have much conviction about anything, not to mention people I didn’t really care about because I was so concerned with being “nice” and accommodating to everyone. You are what you surround yourself with; if you choose to spend time with people who aren’t ambitious, you will likely become lazy and accomplish less. If you are around people who lack strong stances, you will likely become indifferent yourself. 

I started this decade with an older brother; I ended it with a dead one and a new big brother by marriage. Losing Ed was the biggest tragedy I’ve ever experienced in my life. It was the worst pain I’d ever known and the most powerless period of my life. His death forced me to reconsider so much, everything from work and career to the way I interact with my parents and wider family, to how I prioritize my life and goals. Experiencing this major loss also gave me better insight into the people in my life who truly cared vs. those who did not; as such, my circle of friends has gotten smaller, not to mention the circle I actually confide in regarding the most personal topics. I’m at peace with that today, though it can still be a struggle. I was never going to be the person with dozens of friends and a packed social calendar, nor did I ever want to be because for decades I have found that empty, superficial, and downright exhausting. Since high school, I realized I rather have a few really close friends I truly trust and can talk to as opposed to dozens of friends who just want to discuss celebrity gossip and someone to do activities from their “bucket list” with.  

Getting out of one’s “comfort zone” obviously varies quite widely depending on the person; my list is never going to be like yours or your friend’s or your friends’ friends. 

In addition, I hate confrontation – this is one of the worst things for me and makes me so uncomfortable. I get sick (literally, in my stomach) thinking about, leading up to it, doing it. But in the last decade, I’ve probably done the most confrontation I’ve ever done in my life, ranging from colleagues, my parents, relatives, friends. It is never fun, but sometimes, things that need to be said are never said, and problems continue to linger and boil over, and that’s just not healthy or right. I unfortunately in many cases need to continue being the bigger person, but if I am the reason that conflict ends, then I’ll be satisfied and relieved. If you want to think I am an aggressive person, that’s totally fine, but realize that this likely says more about you than it does about me because I am NOT an inherently aggressive person AT ALL. I just don’t like lingering problems, plus I hate bullshit. 

Over the last decade, I’ve realized that perceptions mean a LOT. Sometimes, it doesn’t matter what you do or how you evolve, but people’s perceptions of you will continue to stick just because they don’t want you to change, their minds are stuck on a certain time they interacted with you in a certain place, or they want to judge you by a particular interaction that was completely dated and should have been forgotten. That’s not necessarily something you can control, and that’s okay. Again, that says more about other people than me. 

The Mark Manson article on “the subtle art of not giving a fuck” really resonated with me this decade. Periodically, I re-read it to remind myself to stop worrying about things that are inconsequential to me and my well-being. 

In the next decade, I hope to expand my creative outlet with my YouTube channel and video shooting and editing, continue my meditation and yoga journey, and make sure that I am having meaningful conversations and confrontations when needed. I also hope to surround myself with more creative, opinionated people who can help me expand my own views. A motto I picked up through my Aaptiv fitness app that I keep repeating to myself is something I am trying to live by: if it doesn’t challenge you, then it won’t change you. 

I’ve learned a lot over the last ten years, and I hope to learn even more in the next ten. More fun and excitement await. 

Our diverse and cultured Christmas tree

Since we’re away for the week of Thanksgiving, most of December, and the first week of January, our tradition has been to either take our our Christmas tree and decorate it the weekend we have our early Thanksgiving meal or the first weekend of November to maximize our ROI on it and get use out of it. I’ve collected an extensive collection of Christmas tree ornaments in my life, and it’s the one time of the year when I can pull them all out and get really excited about them.

We took the tree out and decorated it today, and after finishing putting all the ornaments on, I looked at it and thought, wow, what a beauty. Chris said that beauty is in the eye of the beholder, but I’m not quite sure how you could look at this tree and *not* think it was a beauty given how cultured, worldly, and diverse all of the ornaments are that are hanging from it. It’s got ornaments from places ranging from Seattle to New York, Prince Edward Island to Japan to Australia and China. It has Austrian glass blown round balls, Tibetan hand-stitched reindeer, and hand-painted wooden trains and Christmas markets from Germany. It even has ornaments on it that I’ve made with oddball seashells I’ve collected over the years, as well as ornaments my friends have made me dating back to my high school years. This tree is representative of everything I love about the world and life. It makes me really proud and happy every time I look at it.

AFSP 2019 Out of the Darkness Manhattan walk

This year, the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention Manhattan chapter had over 2,000 participants register to fundraise for our annual Out of the Darkness community walk. Each year I have participated since 2014, the walk fundraisers and crowds have only gotten bigger and bigger. Suicides in this country are only increasing as terrible as that sounds, and unless people start acknowledging it as an issue, the numbers will only increase. I was chatting with the director of the New York City walks this morning when I arrived at South Street Seaport for the opening ceremony, and she said that it was a bit of a mixed feeling for her every year: on the one hand, she’s so excited by the increased involvement and crowds we draw each year; at the same time, it makes her feel so distraught to think that more and more people are being affected by suicide, which is what is prompting them to show up and support. “It’s encouraging and depressing at the very same time,” she said to me with a half smile.

I don’t really know anyone who walks every year. I recognize the director and a few members of the board, but I don’t really talk to any of them other than the director. I’m not even sure what to say to them. It’s become a bit generic like most social gatherings. “Thanks for coming!” “Thanks for participating!” And although we are all there to support the same cause, as much as we say that people should be more open, a lot of these people are not open at all; they instead put generic fundraising messages on their fundraising pages to ask for donations. While it’s great that they are raising money with their canned messages, and while it’s amazing they are fundraising period, it doesn’t really inspire me. It doesn’t inspire people to be open and honest and real. So I don’t really have any desire to associate with them more.

I rather have real conversations with real people, even if it’s sad and painful, even if it brings up tortuous memories of suffering. We can bond over it. We can create solidarity. Because isn’t that what this walk, this desire to increase awareness, is all about?

I did meet one person who came alone this year. She lost her dad to suicide in this very city 17 years ago. This was her very first year participating and fundraising. I hope that given our conversations, she will come again and be open.

Not coming back

Most of the time when I go home and back to my parents’ house, I always get this vibe that Ed is still there in spirit, that he’s lurking somewhere around the corner and that eventually I will see him. I especially get it in the bedroom where he slept when I go in to dust his old dresser where we keep a large framed photo of him on top. This time, though, when I went up to the dresser, I didn’t feel the same. He didn’t feel the same. It was as though his being gone has been made more permanent now. He’s definitely never coming back, and perhaps he’s at peace with it. Or maybe I’m projecting, and it’s really that I am finally at peace with the fact that I know for sure he will never come back ever again to this house, to this life.

Still can’t believe it’s been over six years now.

Nobel Prize for literature

I’d been on the NYPL digital wait list to read Toni Morrison’s book Beloved for the last month or so, and have finally gotten off the waitlist. I’ve spent the last couple of days reading it on my Kindle and am so regretful that it took me this long to read any of her works. It is no wonder that she won the Nobel Prize for literature in 1993, as it was said that she is someone who “in novels characterized by visionary force and poetic import, gives life to an essential aspect of American reality.” I’m embarrassed to say that her books have been on my reading list since I was 14, but I haven’t gotten to them until now. I’m only 19 years behind, right? She is one of the most famous, well respected African American female writers in the world, and was even given the Presidential Medal of Freedom by then President Barack Obama in 2012.

When Morrison passed away this past August, Obama wrote a tribute to her on his social media, which included: “Time is no match for Toni Morrison. In her writing, she sometimes toyed with it, warping and creasing it, bending it to her masterful will. In her life’s story, too, she treated time nontraditionally.”

As I reflected on Toni Morrison and her legacy and thought about the pages I’ve read of Beloved, I thought about how I’ve always loved reading and used to dream about being a famous, respected fiction writer myself (that dream is dead now, though). And then I had this memory pop up from my college years. I once said in front of friends and their partners during college that having a Nobel Prize in Fiction would be such a great honor, to which a friend’s ignorant and narrow-minded partner once said, “A Nobel Prize in literature is the most useless Nobel Prize. Who cares about literature? It doesn’t do anything for the world.”

I already didn’t like this person. He majored in computer science and was pre-med. He would start medical school the summer after graduating from undergrad, but since he had the summer free, he took on a full time job in computer science just to make money for the summer, and quit at the summer’s end without being transparent about his intentions. He just wanted the money, he said, and it was a lot of money to pass up, even with only three months’ time of work. Everything to him was about money; the idea of learning and growing and trying to do good for the world seemed stupid and naive to him, and he oftentimes said it. He would eventually graduate from medical school and go on to be a plastic or orthopedic surgeon, solely because he noted that these were some of the best paid medical professions to go into.

I look back and realize what a good decision it was to not only stop spending time with that friend, but by default, her chosen partner. If you cannot understand the importance of literature, of good writing, then you probably are a shallow and ignorant person, likely greedy and superficial and not a person of substance that I’d want to spend time with. Literature not only describes reality, but also adds to it, as so many notable writers have stated. Literature is both reality and art at the same time; it forces people to consider other states of being, other mindsets, other lives and situations that are so vastly different from their own. It encourages creativity and imagination, and what would life be without creativity and imagination? If you have been exposed to great literary works, then chances are also high that you have also been privileged to get far above average educational opportunities, as well. Literature is an opportunity for growth, for self-improvement, for viewing the world with a lens that is not like your own. And that is an invaluable thing that cannot necessary be quantified.