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


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.