December 16, 2013

Good Riddance

The great news about being on a longish break from infertility treatments is that I don't obsessively think about infertility while waiting to fall asleep, when I wake up at night, and in the morning when I am trying to pretend I don't have to get up to pee.  Not having that feedback stress loop going has been relaxing to me.  You almost cannot fathom how stressful those thoughts are until they relent for a few weeks.  I don't know what day of my cycle it is!  I am not waiting to see how my follicles are responding!  I am not injecting myself!  I am not inserting anything into myself or having a camera jammed up in there either!  If I feel rage or sorrow, it is not the hormone shots!  When snow is forecast, it doesn't affect my office appointments!  In this case, absence does not make the heart grow fonder.  It makes me long for the days when I will be done with all of these things forever.

I am so glad we just bagged this cycle.  With Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year's, new insurance (still fighting to get enrolled), my husband's job stress this time of year, and regular life stuff, we made the best decision to take some time off and regroup for IVF in 2014.  I LOVE being off the hamster wheel!

December 5, 2013

Stop Whining!

Did anyone else ever carelessly ask for a flu shot on the eve of Thanksgiving while being treated for a urinary tract infection?  Yes, it did occur to me for a microsecond that maybe I shouldn't get the shot right before the holiday "just in case," but honestly I was just happy to cross it of my Overdue List.  For the first time ever after all these years, I realize why some people refuse to get the flu shot because it "gave them the flu."  Yikes.  It's been a rough week.  Yes, week.  Fever, chills, soreness, headache.  At this point I don't know if it was just the shot or maybe I caught something at the clinic or caught something at Thanksgiving in addition to the shot reaction.  My therapist has noted that I am obsessed with knowing exactly what things are so that I can label them and put them in their proper compartments, but I am finally releasing this as a I don't know WTF happened.  I am just happy to be finally emerging on the other side of this sickness.  I am slightly bitter that my time off from fertility treatments has been encroached upon with two illnesses. I so wanted to start feeling "normal," not having to wonder what was me and what was hormone related. 

Thanksgiving wasn't all it was cracked up to be, but that is pretty usual.  How old do I have to be before I will stop imagining my family will ever be what I'd like it to be as opposed to what it is?  I think I did slightly better on the family stress front, mostly because I was sick and didn't have as much obsessive energies in reserve, so maybe that was a good thing.  My husband and I have also come to the realization that we need to make our own Thanksgiving dinner for ourselves from here on out.  The food we remember from childhood seems to have vanished at our respective parents' houses.  It's all about instant potatoes, casseroles from Sam's Club and other "abominations."  Not sure why, but this year confirmed it.  Is this the start of us becoming the primary generation and our parents being taken care of instead of the opposite?  Just makes me feel old and a little sad.

Sometimes I feel sorry for anyone who reads my complaining ramblings, but venting them in a controlled way helps me to release the toxins.  I have a ton to be grateful for even though I just feel blah and depressed at the moment.  My husband took such great care of me, and I was a crybaby patient bordering on hostile at times.  Being sick is always a good exercise in letting someone help me without feeling upset about being helped.  I have improved on that front, but I still get this slightly vulnerable, scared feeling when I accept too much help.  Yes, I have some trust issues.

I am trying to resist the feeling of "let me just get through the holidays" without crashing into a funk.  These holiday times really slap you with images of family over and over.  It's either "every kiss begins with Kay" OR beautiful family with adorable children.  If you don't fall into one of those, you don't exist, or at least it feels that way.  

I wish I could create a formula to calculate the degree to which the weather shapes my feelings about life at the moment.  Currently, it is gray and rainy.  There has been so little sunshine over the past week!  Come back, sunshine.  I am waiting.

November 23, 2013

Resolved

Fool me once, shame on you.  Fool me 36 or 37 times, shame on you.  No luck again this month.  It was easier having not had any false feelings of maybe it worked, but I can't honestly call it easy to see and accept.  My husband has been taking it harder lately, too.  I think his understanding of and faith in statistics has enabled him to be a little less fatalistic in the past, but the accumulation of monthly dashed dreams and an overriding sense of powerlessness weighed heavy this month.  The husbands get such little sympathy in the infertility and miscarriage domain.  True, they are not the ones physically undergoing treatments, but it has to be almost more difficult having even less to control and to do, all the while having to absorb the hormone rage storms without taking it personally.  I have a wonderful partner in my husband.  It may just end up being the two of us in this family of ours, and we have enough love and friendship to make that work if we end up there, but the flip side of our great relationship is wanting to have this man's baby--our baby--more than anything.  I know he will be the best father a child could have.  I so wonder what genetic combination and personality we could create, but I can't let myself go there anymore.

Having some time to process things, I am feeling so over fertility treatments right now.  With Thanksgiving next week, and the prospect of treatments interfering directly with that, along with getting the results (another negative?) right at Christmas, I just don't think I can take it.  Add to these concerns an insurance plan hiccup of having to go to a new plan December 1 and then the national plan January 1, and I just don't have the emotional and physical strength to endure additional hurdle jumping related to coverage on top of the regular stress.  Still pondering this, but I feel pretty much like taking the next cycle off will help me recover and build some strength to approach IVF.  What the f*#$?  I simply can't believe it's come down to IVF.  It shouldn't be a shock, but it is!  As of January 1, I will have the new insurance that covers IVF, and I will have to start jumping through the necessary hoops to get all that lined up and started.  Nothing to do but try to absorb that reality and control all the things I can control:

1) Lose the last ten pounds I've been battling the past six months.  Not doing treatments will allow me to focus on getting into a regular sleep pattern and back to regular exercise.  If IVF if the last frontier, I want to have no regrets about doing what I can do to help it along.

2) Try to embrace the holidays.  It is exceedingly difficult to accept that for yet another holiday season, we are still childless.  Every year I try to push through the sadness over this fact and ponder how next year it might different.  I can still say that.  Maybe next Christmas we will actually have a baby or a pregnancy.  We are not out of the running yet.  Plus I love Christmas.  I already have my cookie recipes lined up---some old and some new.  Can't wait to bake.  (Yes, incompatible with goal #1.)

3) Focus on just being a normal person in a normal marriage.  Without the drain of undergoing treatment, I can build up my emotional stores and be a more supportive wife.  I have had to focus on just handling myself so much, I can't say I've been supportive enough of the things my husband is going through lately.  My major depression the past few weeks hasn't helped, but I am doing better this past week.  Having a clear direction makes me feel more normal and less out of control.

4) Be grateful for all the wonderful things I do have.  I lose sight of this too much.

5) Keep making soups because this is my new wonder-talent.  The Thai soup broth turned out complex, spicy, and yummy.  I need some sort of sense of accomplishment, and if it must be in the domain of soups, I am ok with that. 


November 21, 2013

Anniversaries

Anniversaries usually carry positive connotations.  We mark our loving relationships and marriages as they progress, stopping to cherish a shared history of experiences and a mutual commitment.  Other dates carry more morbid connections.  My mom has always marked people's death dates on her annual calendar, as in "grandma died 2002" and such.  I often told her how depressing that was when I was younger.  Why do you want to keep track of bad things?  Weren't they bad enough already?  As I have gotten older, I can better understand her impulse to record not only birthdays and wedding dates but passings as well. 

November poses an emotional threat each year since both of my miscarried pregnancies were to be due in November around today's date (two years apart).  I can't help thinking about that today, but I do feel more calm about it than I do the "anniversaries" of the actual miscarriages: two dates I also carry around in my mental calendar despite not really wanting them there.

Tomorrow we plan to take a HPT to see if the past month's treatment may have worked.  I don't feel any real symptoms like I am pregnant.  That's actually a good thing because the supposed symptoms are always symptomatic of NOTHING.  So my week has been less fraught with desperation "to know" than other months.  I've managed to string together some fairly productive, positive days--a whole five in a row.  Today, not so much, but it was easier to be gentle on myself after I've at least been functioning on some improved level recently.  

One area I have thrived in since fall is soups!  I am sure there is some kind of nurturing meaning behind my obsession with making soups.  I've truly mastered French Onion Soup.  I don't give myself cooking compliments lightly, either.  Last week I made the perfect pot of it, and I kept saying, "man, this is freakin' awesome" as I devoured it.  I have all the ingredients for a Potato Parsnip soup for later this week, but tonight I am trying an Asian Thai soup recipe.  All day I've felt cold and in particular need of soothing.  The sun was nowhere to be seen in the sky today, and the temps are cold.  Mastering recipes feels like one miniscule thing I can control with enough effort and research.

Tonight is the last night before two paths diverge yet again--one line or two?  If two, well, I don't want to even go there.  If one, a recipe for homemade holiday sangria awaits on Pinterest.  Sad consolation, but I'll take what I can get.

November 17, 2013

MIA

Here comes the obligatory "sorry I've been gone so long" post :)  I've been in a major funk the last few weeks, and I've been using my limited bursts of energy to do more basic life functions like showering, feeding us, etc.  Well, not sure there is much in the way of etc. some of the time.  Been so so lethargic and tired in my legs and body.  We had to put our cat Zachary down a little over a week ago after the last three months of making him comfortable with a terminal illness.  Finally, we knew it was time, and we had to let him go.  I feel at peace with the decision but miss him so much.  He was a cat who converted me (dog person central) into being a cat person.  He would let me hold him like a baby in my arms and rock him and snuggle him!  Maybe it sounds lame, but with all the infertility stuff over these years, it was nice to have a warm, furry baby to rock.  I lack the words to eulogize him adequately.

We previously had two cats and two dogs, and now we are down to one of each.  I always thought Zachary would be the last pet standing in our elderly pet brigade, and I often imagined him as being the perfect cat for a baby.  I am incredibly sad he will not be around to welcome our imaginary future baby as I had always envisioned.  I am grateful for the almost five years I had with him as his adopted mom.  He welcomed me into his dad's life the first date I had at my husband's house way back when.  He came right over and crept into my heart almost right away.  It's just not the same without him here.


In the midst of finding out about his illness progressing, I was undergoing this month's treatment cycle.  Same shots of Bravelle, and my body seemed to respond slowly and steadily.  I had one fully mature follicle and two smaller almost full sized follicles the day I triggered.  Can't ask for more than that, really.  Also, because the insurance did not come through on the IUI for this month, we got a break from that part of the process, and what a nice feeling not to bother with that.  Both times we got pregnant before were the "old fashioned" way, actually, so it doesn't concern me to have missed out this month. 

I am getting to the last five days before I find out if anything worked, the days in the cycle I cannot seem to bear with grace and positivity, but I am feeling so numb about everything that I don't even know how I feel.  My hopes are not up.  The hormones have been affecting me more and more over the last weeks as far as mood swings and bursts of anger.  I am already stressing about what to do when this cycle fails.  Take one last stab at the injectibles/IUI while they are covered with insurance since we are past our deductible or just take a nice holiday sabbatical and prep for getting the IVF going in January once the new insurance kicks in?  I can't decide if I will feel relieved and happy with a month off or like I wasted a last, less invasive chance.  Of course there is no way to know if that chance is worth taking or not.  And the circular debate continues!  It's bizarre how much time you spend analyzing various scenarios that will never come to pass as an infertile. 

I've had a slightly more productive, less depressed weekend, hence this blog post.  I am feeling positive about getting a few things done, and I am hoping this will be a productive, less numb week for me.  Just taking it day by day, and today has been ok.

October 28, 2013

One Plain Old Line

Another negative pregnancy test this weekend.  I am handling it surprisingly well, considering how optimistic I had been feeling.  I am somehow compartmentalizing the news, ignoring it, and staying numb-ish.  No tears, no real surge of anger.  Not sure why.

Enjoyed the family Halloween gathering, even if the inside out caramel apple recipe was a major bust.  Don't make those ahead of time!!  My first ever broccoli soup turned out to be majorly delicious.  Thank you, smoked bacon Gouda.  My house is cleaner than it was last week by a huge margin thanks to pre-company nonstop cleaning.  If I didn't have company, who knows how big the dust bunnies might grow to become at times. 

Mostly I'm feeling tired, crampy, and numb, which is okay for today.  I was going non-stop all weekend, including Friday afternoon and evening, and I am just spent.  Tomorrow is another day.  Next month is another cycle.  Inhale.  Exhale.  Repeat.  Enjoy not crying and not feeling like a basket case.  Appreciate having no obligations to meet today.  Watch backlog of DVR'd shows.  Take nap, if needed.  Inhale.  Exhale.  Repeat. 

October 24, 2013

Picking Scabs

It's not something I am proud of, but I have a compulsion to pick anything that can be picked.  I usually can't stop myself from pulling hangnails, squeezing pimples, biting loose skin on my lip, or messing with almost healed scabs.  It takes a concerted effort to stop myself from pulling and scraping at things until I bleed.  I've always been this way.  This propensity extends beyond how I deal with my body.  I frequently must pick at things in my mind, revisiting negative thoughts and fears over and over again until I wear myself down to a state of depression.  I have really tried to work my way out of this mental habit, and I have had some success with improving things, but during the two week wait, my psyche relapses into negative picking.  Just like last month, around eight days after my IUI (yesterday), I started to feel so out of control.  The first six days seem to go so much more smoothly, but as I move into the second phase of waiting, my ability to talk myself off the ledge just disappears.  Well, I still try to talk to myself in a positive way and stop obsessing, but it just doesn't take.  On months when I feel "possible symptoms," I feel slightly insane. 

Alfred Tennyson said, "Hope/Smiles from the threshold of years to come,/Whispering 'it will be happier'..."

Again with the hoping!  Having success with more eggs this cycle has reignited my naive hope from years past.  I actually googled a few baby name meanings and looked at clearance baby clothes while shopping this week.  Somehow, hope's "whispering" is falling on receptive ears this month.  I keep envisioning taking a positive pregnancy test, the sigh of relief, the possible due dates (July 8), etc.  I so just want to leave this infertility nightmare dance behind and start a new phase of my life.  Logically, I know that there is like an 80% chance nothing happened.  I know in my mind that sore boobs and light cramping probably mean nothing as far as conception.  I inevitably suffer a major crash after fantasizing about things working out, picturing all of the opposites of what I want to happen.  It is easy to picture a negative test, the numb shock, the anger, the crying.

The rage rolls in as all of this mental battling unfolds YET AGAIN.  I am so tired of this feedback loop.  So tired of hearing my own whining.  So tired of not being able to live my real life in a more embracing way while going through this waiting.  I just want to know the answer now and be able to deal with it and move on to whatever reality is.  

In the meanwhile, I am trying unsuccessfully to distract myself with a Halloween gathering this weekend for my family.  My initial enthusiasm has waned to a sort of numb feeling due to my anxiety over whether this treatment worked, but I am hoping, at the very least, the weekend activities will help me cope with a negative pregnancy test, if that happens.  I have my Pinterest recipes all lined up to try and pumpkins at the ready for carving.  I just need to stop picking scabs long enough to get into the spirit of things.

October 15, 2013

Made It

Another cycle in the record books.  I feel such a sense of relief to be done with the first phase of this month.  No more shots, blood draws, ultrasounds, and office visits.  Had my IUI today after triggering on Sunday.  I am feeling more hopeful than I have in months.  There were actually two ripe follicles, so I am calling that "doubled chances."  Whatever small chance we have, at least it's doubled!  

Also a major positive today was the actual procedure.  After enduring three IUI's over the past months that ranged from very uncomfortable to last month's very painful, I did some investigating on Mr. Google about the catheter not going in easily.  Lo and behold, I easily find a plethora of sites with recommendations to go into the IUI with an almost full bladder.  The crap peddlers at my clinic have never once mentioned this to me, even after the difficult times I've had.  I usually pee right before I go in so that I don't have to go after (fearing illogically that all the stuff that just went in might roll out if I go after).  Today I loaded up on fluids and crossed my fingers.  The insertion was a snap!!!!  Only normal pap smear like pain and done in seconds.  I literally did a double take, and said "is it over already?"  What a nice change up over last month.

My left ovary where the two larger follicles are is sore right now, and I am envisioning the release of two lovely, healthy eggs about to happen.  Please let one of them be the one.  Please let the next two weeks pass surprisingly quickly.  Please let the people who are installing our wood stove that we bought over a year ago actually show up tomorrow and install it.  I will take it as another good sign if the saga of the wood stove can be over and done with finally.  Maybe a toasty fire will make the two week wait fly by.

October 12, 2013

Cycle Day 10

Went in for my fourth cycle monitoring visit this am.  Well, first I overslept my alarm, shot out of bed 30 minutes before my appointment, freaked out dropping stuff and running in circles, left all disheveled, and made it there 10 minutes late.  Of course, we were packed in for the daily cattle call (worse on the weekends since fewer offices are open), so I ended up waiting quite a while to be seen, all the while with my horribly humpy and falling apart pony tail and bed sheet wrinkled, make-up free face on full display.  It was a good exercise in practicing not giving a crap what people thought about me.  Apparently I set my alarm for 7:45 p.m. instead of a.m.  Classic me lately.  On the plus side, I got an extra half hour of sleep and the blood technician mentioned that I look like I've lost a lot of weight since my picture was taken a few years ago at the office.  Yay!  

Also good to find out was that my ovaries did grow more follicles this cycle with the higher dosage of Bravelle.  It is nice to see more than one, even though most of them are still immature and not viable.  I have a large one at 19+ and a second one at 15+.  Since I am not surging on my own, I am not going to trigger tonight in the hopes that the second follicle will grow some more.  Maybe we can get two eggs out there this month.  I also had like two 10's, a 9, and three smaller others.  I am very grateful to see more responsiveness.  I have been worrying that if/when we go to IVF, my ovaries will not be capable of growing more than one egg.  This development takes the edge off that fear a little.

As usual, the security people at the front desk of the building make my day a little brighter.  The weekend guy (whom I seem to know pretty well these days) saw me all flustered, asked if I was running late, and then waved me straight through to the elevators without making me sign in.  It's so nice to encounter some humanity.  Then, of course, the blood tech Heather noticed my improved weight and managed to not hurt me one bit with her needle.  Awesome.  As a supreme bonus, the doctor on call today was the Physician's Assistant at the office, and she is, by far, the best person to see.  She doesn't do the morning monitoring too often, and she is SO much nicer than the actual doctors.  (Mini-rant: On Thursday when I was at the office and mentioned to my actual doctor that my left side/ovary was tender and throbbing, he basically intimated that it was all in my head!)  The PA is more leisurely, more personable, and just plain nicer.  Whenever I have her for a procedure, I leave the office feeling like I have a real doctor I trust and I like.  Today I interacted with real human beings!!!  I am grateful.

Even though I have to be there tomorrow at 7:45 (ugh), I am feeling positive today.  It feels so wonderful to have better results and deal with positive, nice people.  Sometimes I realize that I give all these people too much power over my feelings and mood, but I can't seem to let stuff slide off me.  At least on a good day like today, the opposite is also true.  I'll take it.

October 7, 2013

Bravelle Go #2

"We dream to give ourselves hope.  To stop dreaming-well, that's like saying you can never change your fate."

Amy Tan, The Hundred Secret Senses
 
 
In retrospect, I think I was feeling much more hopeful as I started treatment last month than I realized.  Having a new protocol to follow with unknown possibilities was stressful, but it was also a little exciting.  The quoted odds were initially better and, whether logical or not, something about doing something different makes you feel like, 'hey, maybe this time I will get a different result.'  Now that I am restarting with the injections to stimulate my follicles as of two days ago, I feel like I am back to my regular, ho hum mentality.  We are upping the dosage of Bravelle slightly, so there could be more that happens, but I feel resignation that my body can only do what it can do.  I go back tomorrow for a check in to see what the follicles are doing.  
 
I feel numb, actually.  This whole process has changed me in little and big ways.  I told my husband the other night, "now that we can get health insurance for the IVF, maybe one of these IUI's will finally take."  However, even as I said it, my mind immediately cancelled out the thought as totally unrealistic and ridiculous.  I don't believe in signs and quotable ironies anymore.  I've made up too many stories in my head over these years that never come true. Reality has beaten away my propensity to look for meaning.
 
Maybe I am just bummed out because it has been rainy and gray all day.  Maybe I am getting hormonal from...the hormones.  Maybe I am protecting myself emotionally by staying flat and trying to keep my hopes down.  Who knows, and does it matter why? 

October 3, 2013

A Light in the Distance

We got some good news on the infertility front!  As I am sure you are aware, unless you are living under a rock, a new little something called the Affordable Health Care Act (aka Obamacare) was passed some time ago.  October 1 was the day the information became available in my home state regarding the plans under this act.  (We currently have no IVF coverage under our insurance plan and no way to obtain that coverage due to the size of my husband's employer.)  Today we finally found out that we will be able to purchase an insurance plan for me through the new exchanges with IVF coverage (3 tries) and with 90% of IVF medicines coverage. 

WHAT. A. RELIEF.  Seriously!  Having been told a year ago that IVF was our best hope, we have been pondering how to reconcile mortgaging our financial stability for the MERE CHANCE of a pregnancy through IVF.  Not even a 50/50 chance, really.  I mean, how does one decide to throw $15,000 out into the universe for a chance?  (Obviously, I mean how do non wealthy people?)  It's like the biggest raffle ticket you ever bought, only your whole future and family is on the line.  Sure, it's worth it if it works.  If not, you are double whammied and then possibly face the same decision again.

I am literally breathing easier right this minute.  What a load off of my mind and psyche.  We've been dragging our feet on moving to IVF because we were hoping we could get more chances for the same or less than one chance would cost us out of pocket, and now it seems our patience is being rewarded.  Even with the monthly cost and deductible, the money we've been setting aside will be enough.  I can sign up for this coverage and have it go into effect January 1st as long as the nut jobs in Congress who don't care about regular, productive, middle-class citizens like me and my husband don't somehow screw this up for our family.  

Of course I still hope that we won't need to go to IVF.  We will give the IUI another go this month and possibly November/December.  If those don't work, though, I don't have to panic over anything other than the normal, horrible stress of IVF as a medical treatment.  That feels awesome to me right now.


October 2, 2013

Five Stages

Well, the at home pregnancy test told me Monday morning what my body seemed to be telling me all weekend--a whole lot of big fat nothing was growing.  Another month down with nothing to show for it.  Today my period confirmed reality.

I am kind of just cycling through the infamous stages of grief--denial, anger, bargaining, depression, acceptance.  I would probably substitute a combination of numbness/avoidance in place of denial, but otherwise, it all fits.  My very logical husband says the anger isn't productive, because who do we have to be angry at, really?  I say, well it doesn't matter if it's productive, you can't talk yourself out of feeling what it is you feel.  As the years have gone by, the denial and bargaining are less predominant.  The anger and depression phases seem to strengthen.  The moments of acceptance are where my peace and sanity lie.  "It is what it is."  I hear that rolling around inside my head as a quiet chant.  Even just accepting the feelings of anger and depression feels more peaceful.

On a positive note, going through these cycles of emotions and ups and downs has benefited me in one way--I am getting better at seeing the impermanence of any given feeling.  I can note that the sadness will pass.  I may feel totally different tomorrow than today, or in five minutes from now.  This realization does not come easily to me.  Sometimes it feels like "bad" feelings will never end while "good" ones are doomed to evaporate before I can even relax and enjoy them--not just infertility stuff, but in the rest of my life.  Coping with my feelings about infertility, I hope, is giving me some better resilience to accept myself.  I feel what I feel.  It isn't healthy at all to tell myself I "should" feel more positive, or I "should" be able to handle things better.  I keep working to accept myself and accept my feelings instead of fighting them and judging them so harshly.  I feel proud of myself for being gentler on myself.  I keep learning to parent myself, in an odd way, telling myself what I might tell a beloved child whose flaws I'd never magnify in the way I magnify my own.  

For now, this is where I am.  I am resolved to climb aboard the hamster wheel for a 35th attempt at getting pregnant.  I accept that the previous 34 failures in no way guarantee or earn me anything this time.  I accept that I control so very little of all of this whole process and its result.  It is what it is.

September 26, 2013

8 Days Down

Every month the two week wait challenges.  How can I not think about what may or may not be going on in my body?  How, after the two weeks of medicines, doctor's visits, and procedures, can I be expected to just sit still and not obsessively wonder "what if"?  I feel like it's a test I fail every month.  I try to distract myself with other stuff, but it is very difficult to distract myself when I am simultaneously treating myself as though I might be pregnant as far as what I eat and what I do.  It's impossible to pretend everything is "normal" while monitoring caffeine and not popping an Advil when I have a pounding headache.

After about six days, the hyper-vigilant body monitoring starts to assert itself.  Do I feel more tired? Do I feel any cramping?  Are my boobs sore?  Why am I starving when I just ate?  I hate how I have no inkling whatsoever as to what is going on in my body.  You hear of people who "just know" they are pregnant, and I can't trust anything about my perception of my body.  Is it because I want to feel these things so badly that I have no objectivity?  Is it because I don't really pay attention to these same symptoms the other times in my cycle?  In actuality, I am often starving and tired, so those are completely unreliable.  One month I sat on the couch and started to feel so groggy that I just lay my head down for a second and woke up 1.5 hours later.  I SO thought that was a sign, but it wasn't a sign of anything other than my being tired.  Last month I had excessive saliva (TMI and gross, I know), which I can't say I usually have ever had except when I was actually pregnant for 10 weeks.  NOT A SIGN.  Sore boobs--with all the progesterone and other hormones, these are not reliable bellwethers of anything other than being female.  Having no reliable signs forces me to vacillate between 1) telling myself there is a 99% chance this didn't work in an effort to keep my hopes and expectations low and 2) berating myself for noting every hunger pain and symptom even though I've told myself they don't matter.  Ugh.  I just can't stop it.

Waiting in limbo every month is full of mind games.  You face ahead of you two imagined paths.  In the first, you will take a pregnancy test, find that it is negative (again), and need to hop back on the hamster wheel within a few days to start more medical treatments.  In the second, you imagine taking the test and finally getting the elusive positive.  Just typing that sends a palpable sensation of RELIEF across my body.  What would it be like to just be able to breath and escape this frustrating cycle of failure and unknowns?  Yes, I would be trading it for something I know first hand is riddled with dangers and worries, but at least they'd be different worries and a step closer to where I want to be.  I have done a pretty good job this month of not imagining what the due date for this fantasy baby would be and when we would tell people and a million other delusional fantasies that play out without much conscious effort on my part.  I am grateful for that.  I am also happy that within the next five days, I will have a certain answer--something I can deal with either way.  

Today I feel very tired of going through this loop.  I feel angry that my age has me backed into a corner where I can't take six months off from fertility and "be normal" with my husband and within my own fragile psyche.  I am resentful of having to keep dealing with this crap.  I know I do have a choice, but it feels like no choice, since I feel certain I will regret stopping now because I am burned out.  I do so long to take an "infertility vacation" to regather my sanity and normalcy and identity beyond the scarlet I.  I am not going to end this by trying to sugar coat these negative feelings and force myself to be positive.  I am where I am, and I am doing better at just accepting the ebb and flow of pain, hope, fear, resolve, anger, strength, denial, and loss.  I feel physically and emotionally spent.  I can't mother my nonexistent baby, so today I am mothering myself by letting myself feel what I am feeling and being gentle on myself (my therapy mantra).  I made a huge pot of french onion soup last night, and today I am making lemon chicken soup.  I am nurturing myself as best I can as I wait, wait, wait for the path ahead to reveal itself.

September 19, 2013

Now We Wait

I made it through this month's treatment cycle, but all my positivity on how much better it was than I thought it would be evaporated yesterday during a very, very painful insemination procedure.  This IUI was my fourth, and it was by far the worst.  My cervix apparently doesn't always "straighten out" or something, so they can't get the catheter to slide through it easily.  Usually they have me lying there, legs spread, coughing and trying to get it to cooperate.  Well yesterday they had to pull out some tool to manually move around to get the cervix in position.  OUCHIE.  The doctor idiotically asks me does it hurt as I am flinching and whimpering while he seems to scrape my innards.  Yeah, it does hurt, moron.  It all seemed to take forever, but finally he got it to work.  There was a lot of pain and bleeding from irritating the cervix.  I felt myself sinking into victim mode, asking "Why does this have to happen to me?  Why can't one thing freaking cooperate?"  The tears started bubbling up while he was finishing and holding some giant Q-tip on the cervix to staunch the bleeding.  Silent, uncontrollable tears of stress, pain, fear, anger. 

 I managed to get through it all and pull myself together.  The positive side of my brain was telling me to think what a great story this will be if it works!  The negative side interprets the events as a bad omen.  Lately I've felt sort of fatalistic, like I have no control over 99% of this, and it will work when it is pre-ordained to work by a good egg meeting a good sperm.  Most of what I do is irrelevant.  I can only control the tiny fraction of controllable things like health and diet, but these are more to prevent bad things than to influence a good outcome.  It sounds kind of sad and depressing typing it out, but that is where I am right now. 

One thing I can try to control is how I let all of this beat me down mentally and emotionally.  I do feel I coped well given the circumstances.  Yes, my coping involved treating myself to an Auntie Ann's pretzel and an iced decaf caramel latte--with REAL sugar in the syrup dang it--but those treats did help, and I felt no guilt for letting them help numb my stress and pain.  It also involved still going to my weekly therapy appointment even though I felt like cancelling and just lying around feeling sad.  

Today I feel better.  I dread this 36th two week wait and all of the mind games it brings, but I am pushing that aside and just heading out to run some errands.  Staying busy and getting some things done in my "real life" is just what I am craving right now.

September 16, 2013

Enviable Position

We all take things for granted.  We do it all the time every day.  We try not to, but it seems to be impossible to appreciate all we have going for us in the moment.  Maybe it's just me, but I don't think it is.

Every time I get sick or injured, I am reminded of how little attention I give to feeling healthy.  It is only after you have a terrible cold that you can fully appreciate being able to swallow without pain or being able to breath in and out an unobstructed nose.  Even a tweaked muscle makes you realize how your previous pain-free mobility was taken for granted.  

And so it is with every aspect of life.  Nothing can be fully felt without feeling its lack.  Do we appreciate all we have--our health, our relationships, our pets, our experiences?  It's sad how greatly we can value these things once they are threatened or taken away.  Why is this?  I don't have a real explanation, but it feels related to the power of being able to truly live in the moment rather than in the past or in the future.  

I am not great at living in the moment.  That makes it hard to appreciate things fully.  I do feel gratitude for all I have, just inconsistently.  The little annoyances of life, the worries over what is ahead, and the desire to reach other goals all compete against the joy of feeling the now.  I get sidetracked.  I work on this in myself with mixed results.  

I think about this today because recently I was watching an NFL football game, and the announcers were talking about how the star quarterback's wife had given birth to the couple's baby a mere hour before the game started.  He got a phone call during warm ups that the baby was born.  This shocked the hell out of me.  On one level, I get it. The man is paid millions of dollars to play football for 16 games a season.  Missing just one week's game would be a catastrophe for the team.  Yet, with my fertility struggles I couldn't fathom how being present for the birth of one's child was not the most important thing going on in a person's life on any given day.  

I don't judge this football player.  His life is bizarre compared to most of the real world.  Going through infertility has given me a greater appreciation for a wider scale of what comprises "normal."  Who am I to judge?  This is a young man who probably has no concept that trying to have a baby can be an incredible uphill journey that may or may not result in what seems to be so easy and natural.  Perhaps a cancer patient might read my infertility blog and ponder how little I truly know about the failure of one's body to perform as expected.  

It's all in your perspective.  What you take for granted, another person wishes for each day.  What you covet, someone else gives only a passing thought of thanks, if that.  We certainly don't always pause to reflect on those we envy: would we really swap our whole life for the entirety of his/her life, or are we only looking at that one little piece of their lives, the piece we don't have?  Every time the answer would probably be no.  

I strive to avoid the envy booby trap.  Living in the moment and not comparing myself to others are my avoidance strategies.  I am working on trying to default to these states as much as possible, and when I can remember to do these things (not always!), I feel more grounded and at peace with my own situation. 

Go Time

Since my first office visit last Tuesday, I've been doing my daily injections and trying not to obsess over what is going on in my ovaries.  The second office visit on Friday revealed one follicle growing.  I was disappointed, as that is pretty much the same old same old for us, and I was hoping the new medicine might generate two or more follicles.  I tried to channel my disappointment into being grateful that there is something going on since I know some people are desperate just to get one egg in the first place.  I also reminded myself that other follicles could mature by the next visit.  They did not up my dosage of Bravelle after the first visit, so I guess one follicle was adequate for the doctor.

The third visit on Sunday revealed the same follicle, growing to close to trigger size.  Today at my final monitoring appointment, the follicle was matured, so I trigger tonight and proceed with the IUI on Wednesday.  I am surprised, as It's only like day ten in my cycle, which is WAY early for me to trigger. I guess if the egg's ready, it's ready.  

The bad news from this cycle:

  • The doctor confirmed today that our odds are not any higher than our last IUI since there was only one egg.  I think that leaves us at around 7%.  I was hoping to be in double digits, but c'est la vie.

The good news on this cycle:

  • We have one good sized follicle.   I am not sure I even ovulated last month when we took off from treatment, so one is better than none or not knowing.
  • My uterine lining thickened nicely (unlike last month, which is why we abandoned Clomid).  No estrogen suppositories!!
  • "Only" four monitoring appointments prior to IUI.  I was told this treatment protocol would likely involve more visits, so I feel lucky it was four.  There have been Clomid months when I had four anyway.  
  • The stim shots were not bad really.  I don't rate them in the top three worst things about this treatment cylce.  Getting blood taken every time I go get monitored is way worse with my somewhat non-cooperative one viable vein.
  • Per my own feelings and my husband's assessment, the Bravelle seems to have impacted me less than the Clomid.  Next month might be different, but so far it was okay.  Fewer headaches and less emotional fragility are good things.
  • Since we met our insurance deductible, this whole cycle is astoundingly "cheap" compared to the prior IUI's.  It reduces the stress overall.  Is this what having good insurance feels like???
  • Triggering so early means fewer shots, fewer visits, less money, and a shorter month of treatment-all positives :) 
  • An enjoyable book on CD has made the morning drives bearable.  Yay murder mysteries.
  • The clinic actually had a reasonable time slot available for the IUI stuff on Wednesday.  I actually could choose a time!!  Sometimes, especially on the weekend, they just tell you your one option--take it or leave it, and it is usually ridiculously early.

When we decided to pursue this treatment cycle, I wasn't sure how demanding and overwhelming it would ultimately prove to be.  I would say it went well given how it could have played out.  Fingers crossed!

September 15, 2013

When You Hate Your Fertility Doctors

Top Ten List: You know you hate your fertility clinic when...

 

10) You refer to your morning monitoring appointment as the "cattle call."  It's clearly a big line up to maximize profits by herding all the patients in during a one hour morning window.

9) Your doctor(s) introduce themselves to you repeatedly during said visits even though you've met them many times before.  They don't review your file ahead of time, but rather walk into the room and glance at the computer to sort of figure out what cycle day it is and which protocol you are currently using.

8) You are asked about your existing account balance every time you check in at the front desk, even though you make your monthly payments on time. You have received numerous phone calls to follow up on your account balance (always due to their incompetence or error), but never once received a call from your actual doctor.

7) You take any advice the doctor gives you with a very large grain of salt, always wondering if he has really reviewed your personal information or is just speaking generically.

6) They mention IVF the first time you come in for a testing/consult even though there is no real reason for it to be mentioned at such a preliminary time.  They subsequently "market" IVF and donor eggs in all email correspondences to the near exclusion of any other treatments or advice.

5) They actually enhance charts for their statistics in a suspicious way, slanting the graphic to appear worse than the data suggests.  You can only assume it is to scare you into jumping on the IVF bandwagon.  Accountant husband's hypothesis: they make the most profit off of this procedure, as it is frequently not covered by insurance.

4) You express a serious concern about a procedure, and the doctor makes a lame joke.  Is he covering for some previous lab error or just socially awkward?  You can't tell.  Inquiries regarding switching doctors within the practice receive a curt "that is against procedures" from the scheduling office.

3) You know that if you just stopped contacting them or coming for treatments, nobody would notice or care (other than the business office).

2) You and your husband never refer to the clinic by its given name, but rather by one of any number  of negative, often crass nicknames you have generated for them over the years.  (Currently in use: those shady bastards.)

1) Your favorite person to see during your visits is the security lady who signs you in to the building before you even get in the elevator to go to the actual clinic.

Okay...just needed to get my bitter ranting out of me for a moment.  Release the toxins, so to speak.  You may wonder why I even keep going to this clinic. I live in kind of a rural area, and this one company has bought up all the fertility clinics in the vicinity.  They sort of have a monopoly on care.  Their success rates for IVF are the best, though.  There was one other doctor's office I saw that could be a possibility, but they were very small potatoes with much worse rates than the clinic where I go.  For now, we have decided to just suck it up and endure.  I fantasize over what it might be like to have a doctor who truly seemed invested in helping my husband and I as an individual couple.  This whole thing would still stink, but at least we could feel as though our own doctor was working on our behalf and doing everything in his power to assist us.   We wouldn't have to research and second-guess everything to the level we do now.  That said, they seem to be our best chance for getting pregnant, so hopefully this little rant will allow me to accept what cannot be changed for the moment.

September 12, 2013

The Club

Well, it finally happened.  I received my first surprise baby shower invite in the mail the other day.  And by surprise, I don't mean the mom-to-be was being surprised.  I mean that I had no idea this friend was giving birth in six weeks.  As the Brits like to say, I was completely gobsmacked.

When you've been trying to have a baby for over three years, you can guarantee that a LOT of people you know will procreate.  While you may very well be perfectly over the moon happy for them on one level, there is also an increasing feeling of pure rejection that bubbles up alongside that joy.  In a book called When You're Not Expecting, the author, Dr. Constance Shapiro, calls pregnancy and motherhood "the club."  That term resonated with me so deeply.  It seems, even when you process it as logically as possible, that EVERYONE you know is joining the club.  People you expected to be moms the same time as join the club.  People who hadn't even met their partners when you got married join the club.  People who weren't planning to have a baby join the club.  People who you were pregnant with before you miscarried join the club.  People who have no means of supporting their baby join the club.  People who will truly make great parents join the club.  People you taught (and not recently) join the club.  People on various types of birth control join the club.

However, no matter how much you try, you cannot join the club.  The club feels like some prissy sorority that rejects your somehow inadequate pledge.  People in the club have an aligned point of view, a special connection, and many shared war stories and experiences--of getting pregnant, of being pregnant, of giving birth, of bringing home baby, of nursing, of baby growing cuter by the day.  Talking to these people who have all the very things you've made the central goal of your life for the moment is not always easy.  You can't help feeling like an outsider whose been rejected by the selection committee.  For some reason, the people who join the club unexpectedly give you the greatest pang of rejection.  The ones you anticipated becoming club members, well you knew it was coming.  When people surprisingly, accidentally, or unintentionally join the club, it feels more like a direct gut shot.  It's nothing I am proud to feel, but it is there.

Dr. Shapiro notes, "The Club is a source of such mixed emotions.  You resent its existence, but you also wish that you could join and show off photos of your ultrasound or your chosen child, accept baby gifts and hand-me-downs, and revel in the adoration that will be heaped upon your baby after not just months, but years, of waiting to welcome this new family member."  Getting the invite brought up emotions, for sure.  I felt horrible that I had fallen out of touch with this friend-always very busy anyway-to the degree I didn't know she was pregnant.  Then I wondered if she hadn't mentioned anything to me earlier out of fear of upsetting me since she knew of my last miscarriage and my treatments.  Then, of course, I felt paranoid and uncharitable for thinking that about her.  Overall, I was just sort of shell shocked to find out via mail.  After the initial surprise wore off, I can say I was truly happy for her.  On days like that, though, I can't help feeling like motherhood is passing me by and that my club membership will never be granted.

September 11, 2013

Really Real

Last night I began my daily injections!  I was nervous all day and afternoon waiting for my 6 p.m.-9 p.m. window to arrive.  I read a book most of the day, which helped me stay a little calmer, but I couldn't stop thinking about preparing the injection.  I have given myself six trigger shots prior to this, but those shots arrive pre-prepared and just need to be injected.  This new drug (Bravelle) involves preparing the injection from powder form, using multiple needles in the preparation, and did I mention DAILY injections?  Anyway, the needle was pretty small and didn't hurt going in...YAY.  It was less painful and smaller than the trigger shots. The whole time I figured the shot wouldn't be that bad, and now I feel like I can manage this every night.  It's so surreal what becomes perfectly normal with a little time.

The other thing I was dreading, and this part did not disappoint me, was the traffic driving down to the doctor's office.  The first drive yesterday took 55 minutes.  Everyone is back to school and back to work, and the traffic reflected that.  There wasn't even an accident.  With no hold ups, the drive is 35 minutes.  I did okay keeping calm as I realized I was going to be a few minutes late.  I am picking up a zen cd at the library tomorrow to listen to during the many upcoming drives to try to be proactive.  I guess I will leave a little earlier, too.  Luckily, instead of having to come back Thursday, they said come back Friday, so I got an extra day off.  (Trying to stay positive, here.)  Now I inject myself again tonight and tomorrow, and we see what the follicles are doing Friday.  I suspect not much by then, but I guess they want to get a blood test and see where my hormone levels are as well.  I am just going to go with the flow here and try to keep my expectations low, which is truly difficult. 

Every month on clomid, I would always end up with exactly one egg that matured to the desired size.  Since I was supposedly ovulating one egg on my own anyway, this never felt like a huge accomplishment, so I would be lying if I said I wasn't hoping for more than one mature egg at the end of this stimulating to up our odds of one getting fertilized.  It's all a big unknown, and still weeks away.  I keep repeating that I can't control the outcome.  All I can do is control the things I can control: taking the shots, going to the appointments, eating well, exercising, trying to stay calm and positive.  Today I am having a good day, and I feel hopeful.  Instead of talking myself out of that hope, I am going to just let it be and enjoy it. 

September 8, 2013

The F Word

I've officially passed what I tend to think of in my own mind as "zero barrier."  I love the movie Armageddon, and in the movie a huge asteroid is hurtling toward Earth, about to end all life on the planet.  The NASA folks refer to zero barrier as a point the asteroid passes as it approaches, after which there is no escaping the asteroid.  My personal zero barrier occurred in July as we attempted our final month of clomid/IUI.  After that month's efforts failed, I passed the barrier of having a baby before I turn 40.  FORTY.  It has begun to feel like such an "F word" to me.

Logically I recognize that having a baby at 39 11/12 is not very much different than 40 1/12, but something inside me just doesn't like it.  It just shocks me somehow.  I didn't plan it this way, I haven't been able to control it, but here it is.  My mom had me when she was 20.  When she was my age, I was already in college.  It's all just so bizarre to me.  It's a total mental block.  I feel so out of step with everyone I know.  Sometimes I feel like time has passed me by and wonder if I am being ridiculous chasing motherhood.  Maybe I just feel old because I haven't been able to succeed in the one thing a young female "should" be able to do.  Maybe it is all societal brainwashing.  I think tangoing with infertility exacerbates every sign of getting a little older--aches and pains, sleep issues, wrinkles, gray hairs, etc.  I didn't bat an eye at 30, but 40 feels like a cliff, even if it is a cliff only in my own mind.

I keep working on trying not to feel a sense of dread over the f word.  My parents and in-laws are all around 60 and still doing great, so there is no reason to think I can't be an active part of any future child's life for a very long time.  People are always saying things like "40 is the new 30," but I am not sure I am buying it.  I guess it's just not what I wanted.  I feel like a giant hourglass running dangerously low on sand, the sand being my youth, my reproductive capacity, my chance at children.  The grains are running along, and I have no idea how many there are or what the future holds, which is perhaps why this arbitrary marker of forty gives me some sort of focus for my fears.  Everything seems to be unknowable, but every stat the fertility clinic barrages you with categorizes over forty as the last horizon, and the numbers look markedly unbecoming in that bracket.  

I'm probably going through a little depression and focusing on some negative things these last days following another month elapsing with no pregnancy.  As I await my dreaded period and the start of the next cycle on the hamster wheel, this one with tons of shots, blood tests, and unmentionable probing, my mind obsessively calculates that I would be giving birth at 40 years and 2 months old if it works this time.  Will I really care if that actually comes to pass?  Of course not.  I know I will just feel grateful.  It's the not knowing and worrying in the abstract that makes passing zero barrier so yucky.  Today I am just going to let myself have my continued feelings of mourning another failed month and prepare to muster the strength to overcome my grudge against an innocent number on the calendar.


September 4, 2013

Hope Sucks


Success is counted sweetest
By those who ne'er succeed.
To comprehend a nectar
Requires sorest need.

                                                                                                           Emily Dickinson

33


Thirty-three is the number of BIG FAT NEGATIVES we've experienced in trying to have a baby.  Thirty-three months of trying only to have your body respond, "Yeah, thanks for playing, but nope."  Having just got the thirty-third rejection this past weekend, the irritation is pretty close to the surface.  It was one of those months where I had phony "maybe I'm pregnant" sore boobs and excess saliva.  It got my hope up a little despite my efforts to stay realistic that trying to get pregnant for us with no intervention has something like a 3-4% chance of success, which, for pessimistic types like me (or like I have now become) is a 97% chance that it won't work.  Still, it's that damned hope.  That tiny chance that is could happen.  The hope is what messes with your mind and makes every cycle so painful.  If you could truly believe it wasn't going to happen, then your failure would be a foregone conclusion.  

Sometimes I fantasize about abstaining from sex for a month so that I would know 100% that I was not pregnant, that I would definitely be getting my period.  No suspense.  No two week wait.  No hopes and dreams.  No pathetic fantasizing about what month the imagined baby would be born, when to tell people, how relieved we'd be, etc. Wouldn't it be awesome?  I really want to do that, but at my age it feels reckless to waste that 3% chance even once. 

I get bitter at times.  I think about the years that those 33 months represent.  It's certainly not healthy, but I can't stop myself.  I think about the many friends and relatives who have had two children within the span of 33 months.  I think about the 33 two week waits, and calculate that I have treated my body as though it were pregnant for 16 months!  That's coming close to what would be two actual pregnancies.  I think of the avoided medicines, the denied sangria, the coveted caffeine and feel angry.  Not so much for missing out on some of life's pleasures, but because I did it out of HOPE.  Hope that turned out to be unwarranted every time.  I could have been chain smoking and popping ambien for all it mattered.  Yes, I acknowledge I am a little bitter.

Emily Dickinson has it so right.  For 33 months, my "sorest need" has built to a level beyond imagining for many.  It's interesting to reflect back on the two months we did succeed in getting pregnant.  The first time was right after we had started trying--the second month.  The second time was two years after that first pregnancy miscarried with 17 or 18 BFN's and fertility testing and treatment thrown into the mix.  Let me say that I am incredibly, incredibly lucky that we've had those two pregnancies, even with the heartache of miscarriage both times.  I don't know if I could even persevere if it had been nonstop negatives.  To those out there who have never seen a single positive test, my heart really goes out to you.

What I do know is that the first time I was very happy and excited, but I didn't have an inkling of a clue of what it would be like for my body to have failed me as I feel it has now.  The second time we got pregnant, I don't think I felt "happy" exactly.  I felt an overwhelming sense of relief.  Just pure relief to have gotten over the hurdle of infertility and to just have a chance to be pregnant.  I constantly said thank you to the universe for letting me relax and just do the "normal" work of being pregnant.  I thought I had "sorest need" then, but after this negative test this weekend, the reality of poking myself with needles every day as soon as the joy of my period comes, and the fear that if this horrible treatment doesn't work it is IVF time, all I can say is what I say every month:  "Please let this work. I hope this works."  Hope.  It sure does suck, but it's the only think that keeps you trying.


September 2, 2013

Maintaining Hope

Transformation. Five years ago I was single, living in a highly populated metropolitan suburb, working as an administrator/teacher at a private high school, and sharing my house with my younger brother. Today I am married, living in what some might politely called a rural locale (and what others, including myself, call the boonies), taking a self-entitled sabbatical, and sharing a newly constructed eco-friendly home with my husband and our three elderly and extremely needy pets.  

If I would have taken a wild guess then as to where I would be in my life today, I would have been WAY off the mark. At that time I had been coming out of my 'oh my God I am divorced' dark period. I was finally on stable ground again after three years of pain, soul searching, emotional reconstruction, and, yes, lots of therapy. I was figuring out who I was as a single person after a very long and unhealthy relationship exploded in fantastic fashion. I felt more stable and fulfilled than ever before in my life.  I even felt courageous enough to dip my toes into the dating waters, which turned out to be pretty fun for me since I had never actually dated anyone as a teenager or in my twenties. (Note: Going on your first real date as a 33 year old woman is an out of body experience!) In retrospect, I saw dating as sort of an experiment in self-growth, like taking up rock climbing or doing some meditation. I was learning a lot about myself, stretching outside my comfort zone, and having fun, but in no way did I truly believe I would ever again allow love the chance to rip out my guts. I actually enjoyed the bad dates, for they provided ample 'you won't believe what happened' stories to share with the girls at work. Plenty of perfectly fine men appeared as well. I would often remark, "He's nice, but he just didn't dazzle me." I dated one or two people for a few months, but couldn't seem to muster the appropriate passion to reciprocate what they were feeling. I wasn't sure what exactly I meant about wanting to be dazzled; I just figured someone would have to be pretty spectacular (a la Mr. Darcy?) to elicit enough confidence in me to even try. I didn't realize at that time (of course), but I was gravitating toward utterly safe choices, men who were very honest and honorable (the opposite of my ex-husband) but who were also very much non-threatening to my control of the relationship.

One of the main reasons I even kept dating, aside from the great storytelling material, was that I had always seen myself as having a family. I had always wanted to be a mom--when I was in high school, when I was in college, after college, into my late twenties, into my early thirties, through my divorce, post divorce--always. My vision of myself in a fulfilled life included children. Being an aunt, playing with my friends' kids, and being a teacher reinforced these feelings. I saw being a mom as such a potential privilege and such a joy. My greatest unhealed sorrow regarding my failed marriage revolved not around the loss of the actual relationship or person I married but around the loss of my potential children and family. I felt like I had wasted 15 years of my life, including my best childbearing years. Of course I had steadfastly refused to start trying for children in that marriage because I somehow knew in my deepest inner heart what a catastrophe that would be. I had been waiting until things improved right up until they dissolved, leaving me, at age 31, traumatized and mourning the children I never thought I would have.

As the cherry on top, I was nowhere close to ready to be in another relationship. I didn't know who I was anymore; I realized in some ways I had never known who I was in my own right. I was forced to invest the time in myself and put potential children out of the equation for three years while I did what I had to do to become whole.  When I (finally) felt stronger than ever, my fear of never having children and a family would constantly surface.  This fear palpably throbbed inside me whenever it popped up in my mind or I allowed myself to think about it.  I'd play the little game that so many 30 something women play, saying to myself: "Even if I met someone this very day, it would be 'x' years before I'd even be ready to try to have children."  For me the number of imagined years was five, putting me at 38.  What if I didn't meet the right person for another year, or two, or three?  What if it took a few years to even get pregnant once all the other impossibilities were somehow overcome?  To put it mildly, I didn't really enjoy playing this mental "what if" game.  The times I did play, it reminded me that meeting said man would require at least going on a few more dates. I often wondered to myself and aloud whether I even wanted a relationship with a man. Did I just want a child? Should I adopt? Should I think about a sperm donor? Should I just settle for an "okay" partner who would be nice to spend time with and make a good father but didn't really dazzle me?  How long would I wait before I decided to act?  Were my ovaries gathering dust bunnies this very minute? I vacillated from one emotion to another, feeling cynical and apathetic some days, optimistic and confident on others.  Going through it then, I had formulated any number of presumptions and speculations I thought to be true, but deep down I was very afraid--afraid of trying (and possibly failing), afraid of not being good enough, afraid of being hurt.

Somehow I did meet MY Mr. Darcy, find love, find my soul mate, find the courage to trust and open my heart.  I think back to that time in my life when things were so uncertain and often dark--several years of struggling and feeling lost--and try to muster strength to endure the current infertility saga that seems to never end.  The fears are there: fear of failing, fear of not making the "right" choices during this process that will result in a baby, fear of making choices based on fear, fear of losing myself to despair, and countless others.  I just keep taking tiny steps every month.  Often, I take one step forward and follow it with a step back, but I recall that my broken heart recovery and dating happened in a similar fashion.  All of the painful experiences then made me appreciate my husband and embrace a second marriage despite my fears.  I never take him for granted.  Likewise, being pregnant and having a child--should that happen--will bring an appreciation I never could have fully had without these years on the infertility battlefield.  At least I hold on to this hope during the darker moments and long days.  I didn't know what the future held for me five years ago, and I don't know what it holds for me today.




August 30, 2013

A Dream Deferred

What happens to a dream deferred?

Does it dry up
like a raisin in the sun?
Or fester like a sore--
And then run?
Does it stink like rotten meat?
Or crust and sugar over--
like a syrupy sweet?


Maybe it just sags
like a heavy load.


Or does it explode?
                                                            
                                                              Langston Hughes


I thought I understood this poem when I read it sophomore year in American literature class.  I thought I understood this poem when I taught it numerous times to hundreds of students.  I did understand it.  But understanding something on an intellectual, sympathetic level and living the subject matter one's self differ substantially.

I could never appreciate Hughes' genius in illuminating the complex psychology of having an unfulfilled dream until I was lying in bed a few nights ago pondering my own struggles with having a baby.  The roller coaster of the past three and a half years--well, the roller coaster metaphor just isn't articulate enough to express what it feels like to keep dreaming of something only to have it elude you time and time again in various ways.  Thank you Langston Hughes!  Thank you for having the understanding, the imagination, and the very words to evoke something so complicated and multifaceted through a series of seemingly simple comparisons.  

I remember debating in class both as a teacher and as a student, arguing over which of the poem's six main images best encapsulates the pain of a deferred dream.  Hughes seems to set up the debate himself by using 'or' to connect many of the comparisons.  As I lay in bed making the connection between this poem (seemingly long forgotten) and my own life, I was startled by the realization that these aren't either/or images for me.  Sometimes (most times?) I feel like I am carrying a heavy load.  Sometimes I feel the sore festering.  Other times the stink spoils things beyond imagining.  Don't get me started on the drying up!  What a horrible image for an older woman struggling with infertility.  

Things do crust over from time to time, though I'd say it's more like a scab you feel certain will reopen than a syrupy sweet.  Aspects of the dream have crusted over and dried up for certain.  Gone is the notion of having as many kids as I decide I want, for example.  Two kids sounds good, but the option of more was there at some point in the distant past.  Maybe it's a possibility that would never have been selected, but that possibility is gone.  Now we have firmly joined the "we will be lucky to get one" faction.  Good bye to the dream of being a young mother, as I always thought I would be.  Not too young, of course, but just the "right" age to merge the energy of youth and the stability and wisdom of being a little bit older and settled.  You spend so much time worrying about an unwanted pregnancy when you are not ready to be a mom: one of the great ironies of infertility, as each one of us struggling with this diagnosis knows.  You plan things out as though you and you alone will dictate exactly when--down to having a baby during school's summer vacation perhaps--that you really never seriously consider that your dream won't accommodate your whims and fancies.  These and other aspects of the dream have been put to rest simply because you have no choice in the matter.  Time is like that; it will decide things for you.

This poem's brilliance lies in the way it depicts a real life struggle.  I may have worried in a general way that my dream would not be easy to achieve, but what happens when you carry your dream for so long that you actually believe for certain it may not come to be?  The final haunting line evokes terror in me.  My dream has not exploded, but could it really?  (It does often feel like a ticking bomb.)  The dream has already morphed and changed and adapted as it has had to wait for my readiness to be able to fully embrace it.  Altering the dream is one thing, but letting it go is altogether different.  Of course I am not there yet, though some days it feels oddly liberating to wonder what would happen if the dream did explode in some definitive way, freeing me from the not knowing and allowing me to settle at last into the next phase of my life.  Part of the pain of the deferred dream is the interminable struggle--the weight of it; the pain of it; the uncertainty; the hours, days, months, and years.  The struggle makes you question the dream itself.  Is the dream the problem?  Is it the dreaming?  You are simultaneously living your life and living in limbo all at the same time.  You ask yourself if the limbo is all your life is anymore.

I'm sure I'm not alone in holding a deferred dream.  Perhaps you have had one or two of your own, some gone and buried and others still just out of reach.  Hughes doesn't ponder what happens when a dream deferred becomes a dream achieved, but I can only hang on to the hope that all the desiccation, the soreness, the scarring, the stink, and the heavy lifting will enable me to never undervalue or take for granted becoming a mother, when and if that event comes to pass.  I again look to the words of another man I studied in American Literature, Thomas Paine, to express this hope of mine far more eloquently than I could:


What we obtain too cheap, we esteem too lightly
it is dearness only that gives every thing its value.




August 29, 2013

The Scarlet Letter

If you have ever read Nathaniel Hawthorne's The Scarlet Letter, likely you were forced to as part of your schooling:)  If you haven't read it or have banished it from your mind, the gist of the story is that Hester, a Puritan woman, turns up pregnant while her husband has been away and missing.  That's kind of a big no-no, so the town punishes her by having her wear the letter "A" on her clothing at all times, marking her has an adulteress worthy of shame and scorn.  Her identity becomes her letter, her sin/error.

I often feel like I am wearing a big fat scarlet "I" on my chest.  I basically threw all of my eggs into this start a family basket when I got married, left my career, moved off into the country, and prepared for what I was anticipating would be the best phase of my whole life.  When people asked whether I would be working, I replied that we were going to start a family and that I would be taking some time off to focus on and enjoy that.  Now that the years have continued to go by, I have felt more and more like my identity IS my infertility.  Maybe I am paranoid, but I imagine people seeing my "I" instead of seeing me at various gatherings and holidays.  People do seem reluctant to ask you about that big old fat letter blinking on your chest.  They don't ask for all the kindest of reasons--not sure what to say or not say, not sure whether it will upset me, not wanting to be nosy, etc.  I get that, but the fact that they don't ask when clearly it's happening imparts this feeling that infertility is something to be ashamed of on some level.  It's not "normal" conversation even though it's my personal norm right now.  If I had a baby or child, I am sure people would ask me about motherhood and my children, but my "lack" of motherhood seems taboo.  At times I do feel a little shunned like Hester.  I feel like an outsider who sees everything differently than those around me.  The experience of infertility marks you.  It changes you, maybe forever.  It colors your thoughts, your reactions, your worldview, and your self view.  Every plan you start to make is affected by your infertility treatment and/or your hoped pregnancy achievement.  Your life of monthly cycles, frustrations, and failures seems to be on endless repeat, or as I say each month after not getting pregnant: "guess it's time to get right back on the hamster wheel."

And yet, the flip side of this obvious alienation is the private torment of infertility.  In the book, the "baby daddy" is spared condemnation because Hester won't name him publicly.  However, when the father's identity is revealed at the end of the novel, he removes his shirt and seems to have his own version of the scarlet "A" marked on his chest.  (Yes, that is creepy, and it is unclear whether his A is self-inflicted, a curse, or some sort of physical symptom manifested from his inner guilt.)  Whereas Hester gradually overcame her shunning and maintained her dignity over the years since her affair, the hidden shame and guilt have devastated her lover.  He has suffered more in silence, it seems, than she ever did, perhaps because he was holding on to his 'unmarred' identity at all costs.  I have heard somewhere that people "are only as sick as their secrets."  For me, being open about my infertility and starting to embrace it as part of my identity helps me to cope with it.  I don't want to carry a secret burden.

Reading other infertility blogs has been a life altering, life affirming experience for me, helping me survive this mess by realizing that I am not alone and that I am normal.  I am hoping that writing will help me come to grips with the many issues of infertility and keep me sane.  I am hoping that putting my own experiences out into the (sadly) very crowded infertility blogosphere will help me escape the irrational shame feelings that creep in despite my best intellectual defenses.  I hope to connect with others who can relate to my journey and the ever changing way I have been marked by infertility.