This Is Not Your Mother's Ovary
The less-than-stellar FSH results this past week really threw me for a loop. One of the main reasons is that I have always harbored an ill-founded belief that I was unlikely to have trouble with my eggs because my mom got pregnant twice after age 40. I never had any illusions about other aspects of my fertility and would not have been at all surprised to have trouble with endo, PCOS, tubal issues, repeat miscarriages (especially since one of my mom's two pregnancies over 40 did end in a miscarriage, her second), or almost any other problem on the road to biological parenthood.* Intellectually, I knew that my mother's fertility was no guarantee of my own, but at that subconscious, gut level, I always assumed somewhat glibly that conception wouldn't be particularly difficult for me. I wasn't stupid, and I knew that the likelihood of conception would diminish with age, but I never expected to be ahead of the curve. The ease with which I conceived the first two pregnancies would seem to have borne out this belief (and the chemical pregnancies and the mole bolstered the correlary that I might have other problems).
Listening to my voicemail and hearing the nurse say my FSH was over 11 was a sucker-punch to the solar plexus and literally took my breath away. From friends' experiences and my general fact-filing I knew it was potentially bad, but I was uncertain as to the amount of doom portended. My hands shook on and off for the remainder of the afternoon and my ability to concentrate during the meeting I was attending was utterly shot. As a librarian and an inveterate data-hound it was utterly frustrating to be trapped in a meeting for hours after receiving the call, without access to the support and information available on the Internet. I was able to call Cait a few times and we have both been online as much as possible since Wednesday.
Our responses to the FSH results are the most divergent they've ever been in the four years of our fertility pursuits. Cait is inclined to believe that this is one bad number, possibly due to general post-partum, extended breastfeeding hormonal factors, and that the rest of my signs and statistics still look good, giving us no overwhelming reason to think we'll have huge difficulty conceiving. She is still very much interested in inseminating this cycle. By contrast, I have been pretty gloomy, contemplating taking a month off to get more testing done, and (as I am wont) attempting to devise plans and strategies to address the issue while at the same time panicking and worrying that Natalie is the only biological child I will have.** I think our differing perspectives are a direct result of the biology factor. It's my body that is misbehaving, and I am having trouble being objective or optimistic. Cait, on the outside, is more able to maintain an even keel and look at the whole picture.
Either one of us could be right. The undesirable FSH level could be explained by something as simple as lab error or odd hormonal interplay from nursing. It may be that we simply have too much information - perhaps my FSH (and my mother's, for that matter) tends to run high but I still ovulate good eggs with some regularity and will get pregnant sometime in the next several cycles. It's also still quite likely that my ovarian reserve is diminishing somewhat prematurely but that I will still conceive, with or without intervention.
The compounding factor is, of course, that we are using donor sperm, unlike my mother***. We have only eight vials left of our current donor. Neither of us has a huge attachment to biology, particularly given our own higgledy-piggledy families full of halves, steps, adopted and other sisters/cousins/aunts, but we like the way Natalie turned out. More seriously, we would like to provide as much genetic connection as possible for our kids given that they are/will be donor-conceived and at some future point may want to know more about their donor heritage. With an unknown donor, siblings or half siblings can help mitigate feelings of disconnection or loss. If we run through these 8 vials without success, we may have to switch donors. It won't be the end of the world, but it's another hurdle we'd like to avoid if we can. Not to mention the financial aspect of acquiring more sperm.
At any rate, four days after receiving the test results we have not acquired much in the way of hard information, but it has forced us to think through some of the hazy questions at the edges of our fertility plans. It's become quite clear to us that it is really important to me to try for one more biological child and even with possible fertility problems on my part, Cait is no more inclined to try than she was before this information. Our conversations this week have reinforced our belief that full biological siblinghood is not essential but it is something we do value. Cait's desire to have a child sooner rather than later has been made even stronger, so we will go ahead with an insemination this month, although in a twist MOST maddening, it appears that we do indeed have an appointment on Wednesday with Dr. Smiley but it turns out to be Wednesday Nov. 28!! So there is NO possibility of a detailed conversation with the doctor prior to ovulation at this point.
At least we've definitely gotten some NaBloPoMoFo(dder) out of the matter.
*I was also caught off guard by a molar pregnancy because they're SO goddamn rare I'd barely heard of them, but that's different.
**I would be thrilled to have another child by any method (me pregnant, Cait pregnant, adoption) but each option is a different experience and presents logistical and emotional repercussions that I am entitled to work through.
***And stepfather, of course, but even typing that is skirting too close to that about which I would rather not think.