Follow me on the crazy, hopeful, discouraging, funny, and ultimately successful (one way or another) path to parenthood while facing infertility.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Finally Ready For Some Positives

Ok, so I realize I have been particularly gloom-and-doom and woe-is-me lately. I don't apologize for it (it's where I am and where I've been, and it's probably where anyone in this situation would be too...), but I feel badly subjecting people to my pure, unadulterated sorrow. Time for a little pick-me-up.

At the time that everything was going down the tubes (or up...ha. ha. ha.), when people would tell me that "hey! there's a lot of positives here you can take from this!," I did not want to hear it. I knew there were a lot of good things to be grateful for and look forward to, but at the time when your world goes topsy-turvy and what could have been your greatest joy turns into your greatest sorrow, you just don't want to even entertain the good stuff. My choice was to acknowledge it and then turn right back to grieving all that was lost. I wasn't ready to look forward to what we had gained along the way.

But now, a bit over a month later, I am ready to think about and be thankful for everything GOOD that came out of this cycle, from the obvious to the not-so-obvious.
  • We actually got pregnant. I was feeling snarky at first about this, like "yeah, I can get pregnant in my tube, but does that mean anything really?" Apparently it does. Getting pregnant in your tube does indicate that you can get pregnant in your uterus. (And not what I thought it might be, that my uterus was so inhospitable that my poor embryo clawed its way up my tube to escape it.)
  • We got to experience being pregnant. I felt nauseous and was happy thrilled about it. I could feel a connection to that ill-fated being, even as early as it was. It was beautiful as much as it was sad, and I so look forward to having that feeling again. Hopefully relatively soon. 
  • We had a kick-ass cycle. Even though it ended poorly, everything leading up to that low positive was phenomenal. We had our best quality ever, our best fertilization ever, our most robust embryos yet. I wrote a thank-you note to my doctor about how awesome the cycle was, because even though there was a bad ending (or a lucky ending, if you think about it in terms that my tube was stretched incredibly taut and a day or two more and who knows what could have happened!), everything leading up to the end and the way the end was handled was just stellar. We couldn't be happier. (Actually, we could, but that just didn't happen this time.)
  • We have frozens! I can't highlight this enough. In the beginning I was devastated when we didn't have frozens--I thought they were a given and felt cheated that we had none. The second time the fact that we had no frozens was not surprising. So to have frozens this third time is amazing. We get a second shot sooner than we could do a fresh cycle and for way less money. We got a bonus this time! (And, since we did get pregnant with the embryos from the fresh, we have a better chance of getting pregnant with the frozens, per some research I've read.)
  • We have discovered that we can suffer a horrible turn of events, a traumatizing loss and physical setback, and still bounce back enough to want to do this again. We are resilient. Sometimes I don't feel so resilient and just want to hide under the covers all day and not face any of this. But then I buck up and realize if I want to be a mom, I can't hide away in the dark forever. We are fighters. We have our eyes on the prize, even if we're bloodied and broken and bruised all over. 
  • I now take my asthma medication very, very seriously. The funny thing about taking a medication that truly controls your asthma is that you get lulled into a false sense of security. You think you don't really need it. Your lungs are clear every time a doctor listens. So when you forget one day and your HCG numbers go up significantly, you have a very misguided hypothesis...you should totally go off your meds to sustain your pregnancy. You don't need 'em. Oops. That kind of thinking left me feeling like I was drowning after coming out of anesthesia, coughing and gasping for air and needing nebulizer treatments. Oh, and coughing right after three abdominal incisions are closed? Not such a hot idea. So I learned my lesson. If you have asthma and your doctor prescribes medicine and it works, for Pete's sake take it!!! I will never miss a dose again. It turns out babies need oxygen, and so do I.
  • I have amazing friends and family. I was so, so touched by every single card, phone call, coffee run, text, email, flower delivery, special prize packet, visit, baked good, etc. etc. etc. that we received during our time of loss. I felt so loved and so supported and it was totally overwhelming. I cried a lot when I received kindness and sympathy, because it was just so beautiful to receive so much love from so many people. It made a tremendous difference. Thank you.
  • My relationship got stronger. It is incredibly hard to go through this process and care for your relationship. The emotional swings are wicked and sometimes it is easy to lash out at the person closest to you when you are so filled with sorrow and anger that you just need to release something. And it is just so hard to feel so beaten down and unlucky all the time. But instead of fighting like crazy (which would be totally unsurprising), we have found new ways to talk through why we are angry, or sad, or just really bitchy (guess who that is?). We can be irritable with each other, but we remain a united front. We make plans. We talk about what was really sad, and what we didn't understand about the others' reactions. We are still a team, which is awesome. I don't know what I'd do if we weren't so solid. I feel incredibly lucky to have found a love that can sustain this kind of trauma and stay intact. I wish that we didn't have to go through all this, but since we do, I'm incredibly thankful that I have such an amazing husband to share the pain and the joy with. 
As sad, upsetting, and painful in every possible way as this experience has been, I can finally feel grateful that we have so much good to take from it. We have an optimistic future. We have learned things from this past attempt. We came so close this time, and I have reserved some strength and hope to rise out of this dark hole of sadness and temporary defeat to finally vanquish the horrid Infertility Beast.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Wednesdays

Wednesdays are hard. I was born on a Wednesday (Wednesday's child is full of woe, how pleasant is that old poem? I'd like a rewrite, please), but that's not why. Wednesday is the day I had my surgery that removed my dysfunctional ectopic pregnancy. Four Wednesdays ago at this time I was still pregnant. Four Wednesdays ago, about an hour from now, I was under anesthesia and becoming not-pregnant.

Wednesdays tend to be a day of wound re-opening. I am ok during the day, when I am busy with my new teaching job. But in the evening, I can't help but still dwell on the fact that just four weeks ago I was pregnant (albeit knowingly on my way to a surgical miscarriage of sorts, and so aware that it was short-lived). I cry a lot on Wednesdays.

Physically, four weeks later, I am 95% ok. I am still sore a bit at my site where the tube and pregnancy left my body. My muscles are still a little pissed off at the trauma from the surgery and my not-so-stellar recovery. But I can walk normally now and I can even go up stairs at a brisk, bouncy pace. I am not in pain and can almost forget that just a few weeks ago I was on heavy painkillers and stuck in bed.

Emotionally, four weeks later, I am barely passing. I would put my emotional grade at a 68%. I can hold it together at work for the most part (except for after school today, when the guidance staff put out an email of grief resources for students going through family tragedies, and it hit a little too close to home to my own grief for the baby that wasn't meant to be). But when I get home and have space to think, it's hard. I think about how I have de-pregnified my existence. How I took the baggie of pretzels out of my purse because I don't need a snack to not feel nauseous anymore. How when I find the little box of ginger candies in my purse it makes me want to cry because they aren't necessary for daily living anymore. How when I cleaned out a tote bag for bringing my stuff to school I came across the pregnancy book I bought when on the business trip with Bryce outside of Boston--I wanted so badly to have something new and mine and related to my pregnancy, as though it would somehow be a magical talisman to keep my ill-fated pregnancy afloat. It went into the little room, the mythical baby's room, where all my pregnancy books, and picture books, and board books that we used to read to my belly during our short period of being pregnant reside for the moment. Our house is pretty much pregnancy-free. I am enjoying the last of my glass of wine right now, and even that makes me sad--four weeks ago I wasn't drinking wine because I was pregnant. While I enjoy my wine and my margaritas on Friday nights, even that pleasurable vice comes with a twinge of grief. I wish I wasn't drinking right now. I wish I was actually going to be 11 weeks on Saturday, instead of expecting my period. (I'm holding onto the hope that maybe the fact that I was pregnant, no matter how briefly, might reset my dysfunctional menstrual cycle. Maybe I'll ovulate this month. Ha.) It's amazing how many little reminders I find that I once had it in me to believe I was a miracle and that, for a short time, I was the miracle. I think they're mostly removed and displaced though.

At some point, all of these things will come back out as we plan for our next attempt with our frozen embryos. But right now I am not ready. I am still in a state of mourning for my brief pregnancy that felt much longer than it actually was. I enjoy my wine but taste the bitterness that is knowing I can drink wine because we didn't quite make it to our miracle. I can't help but wonder, when will Wednesday just be Hump Day, a celebration of the weekend that is almost here? When will it not be a painful reminder of the Wednesday when our hopes of being an exception in a good way were excised along with our ill-fated pregnancy and my tube? Soon, I hope. It gets a little less jagged every week. But this week, this fourth weekly anniversary of the end of something that had already gone wrong, I can still feel the stabbing pain of loss. I guess I can look forward to the transition from stab wound to blunt object.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Out of Space?

One thing that we have noticed about infertility is that it puts you in a state of temporary(ish) paralysis. Ordinarily, in the fertile world, you might be able to actually plan for the expansion of your family. If you don't have enough space, you make the decision to move or stay put and add on, or buy new furniture that fits your needs. Because you know for sure that your family is expanding, and it costs you money for the pregnancy (prenatal care, maternity clothes, nursery outfitting etc.) and for the baby's needs (bottles, diapers, formula, clothes, etc.) but the pregnancy itself was free and took some working with a calendar but not much extracurricular planning and medicating. So while it can be overwhelming to realize how much a baby costs once it's on it's way and/or arrived with all the equipment and gear that needs to be fit into your home somehow, the pregnancy itself didn't cost anything to achieve.

Enter infertility. I hate to keep harping on the fact that it costs so much for us to have a baby, I really do. I do not see our future progeny as one big dollar sign/money suck. However, it is incredibly frustrating to realize that our child is costing us their college fund before they even exist (sorry, kiddo(s), it's loans and scholarships for you unless we hit it big). And even more frustrating to realize that we have NO IDEA when this crazy rollercoaster of treatment will end, and if it will even actually end in a biological child. If it doesn't, and we decide to go another route, it's not like people are handing out babies to adopt on the corner for free, like surplus kittens. It costs a lot of money to adopt a child. And adoption is not exactly an easy process. I know of an awful lot of people who have had domestic adoptions fall through because the birth parent decided they wanted to parent after all (the length of time after you bring that baby home that you may have to turn around and hand that baby back depends on the laws in your state), or who have had difficulty adopting internationally because different countries have different rules on how long you must be married first, or how old you can be to adopt a younger child, or who close the door on international adoptions temporarily or permanently. There is no such thing as "just adopt." It is its own pricey, time-consuming, emotionally draining pathway to parenthood. Both pathways are beautiful and there's no "right" way to go about it--it's what works for you. For my husband and me, we want to exhaust the pregnancy pathway (biological or not) before we consider the adoption pathway. And, from what we've been told, a biological child is within the realm of realistic possibility. We have just been ridiculously unlucky so far.

So back to the topic at hand--we are stuck at the moment. We have no idea how much money we will have to spend overall. We have been very fortunate to have received financial assistance from programs and family, and so aren't eye-deep in debt for our three fresh cycles so far. However, it's not just the actual medical costs that add up. It's the organic eating; the Maya massage to prep the uterus; the vitamins and supplements to improve egg quality, thicken the uterine lining, and reduce possible birth defects; the counseling (I found an amazing counselor that I connect with and work very well with, but she is not affiliated with the free counseling offered by my clinic--an added expense but totally worth it); the yoga... All of it adds up to hundreds of dollars per month spent outside of actual doctor's appointments, procedures, and ridiculously expensive medication. So, even though we are fortunate to be in a good place with our income and to have people helping us out, it makes things very tight. We are not able to plan ahead.

Case in point--we spent almost our entire weekend trying to figure out how we can make our house work for us. We have a lovely house, a 1930's cape on a quiet cul-de-sac that backs to a wooded ravine. It's private, and also close to civilization. It's a 3 minute commute for my husband and a 15-20 minute commute for me. We are very lucky. Except for one thing--the house itself is not laid out well. It's rabbit-warren-y. And we have a major storage problem. We are constantly running out of room to put things and it's hard to assign useful function to different rooms. And there's only the two of us, our dog, and the two cats. No baby and thus none of the myriad gadgets/equipment that accompany the precious bundle. So we are, of course, freaking out. How are we going to find space for everything? We can't even keep everything we've got under control! We have gone back and forth--do we sacrifice our awesome location and killer outdoor space and move to a house that better suits our needs that might not be in the neighborhood that we like? Or do we love where we are so much that we need to bite the bullet and add on a two-story addition when the time is right? We honestly don't know. And the key phrase here is when the time is right. When is that, exactly? When we are finally at the end of our second trimester and can hope that we aren't such magnets for misfortune that we could still lose a baby late in the game? When we have squeezed twins into the tiny room that will be the baby's room? I don't even know if that's possible. If we have one baby, we could probably make things work until 12 months. Giving us about two years. Assuming that our next attempt works, which unfortunately, as much as we'd really like to, we just can't assume. So we're stuck. We are frustrated by our lack of space, but any major renovation or moving project is going to cost money, money we need to earmark for the babymaking itself. Even organizational solutions to make our space work cost money that is hard to part with when we have impending cycles to consider. And, honestly, we don't need the extra space, not really and truly, until we do accomplish what seems so elusive and nearly impossible--having an expanded family. It sucks. It is robbing us of the ability to plan for our family and to dream about what we can do to give this precious, incredibly desired baby the space he/she needs. It has us feeling cramped only because in our heads, we can already see the high chair, and the pack-n-play, and the exersaucer, and the basket of toys in the living room. But it's not really there. And it won't be, at least for another year or so, if we're extraordinarily lucky.

So, we have decided to try to make what we have work for us, for the time being, and to try to not even entertain all the other options until that's something we need to do. Because it is so depressing to realize that everything hinges on treatment working, and we have no guarantees. We can make our house work for the two of us (and if we can't, then we really have a problem!). We just so want to be able to plan ahead for the future that we can both see and almost taste, but just can't quite make reality yet.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Compartmentalizing

It's been three weeks now since the surgery that ended my doomed pregnancy. That seems like not that long ago at all and a lifetime ago, all at the same time. On Monday I had to buck up and go back to school, go back to work, go back to at least appearing like a normal human being and not a walking sad sack of a tragic story. It's been four days of Teacher Me--which actually feels like a lifetime. Every day takes so much out of me in every respect, and I am ridiculously hard on myself. Tuesday I had a difficult day and felt very ineffective and like I didn't know what I'm doing (because I'm new and...I don't, not really)--and I went home and cried on the couch to my husband. He was like, "You're right. You've been at this what, two days? You should totally be an expert by now." Sometimes perspective from someone else is really helpful when you have apparently lost all of yours. Because I have to put so much energy into learning all of my kids; learning two different buildings in terms of staff, curriculum, politics, etc.; and setting up plans for a program I have never done before, I have zero energy to put into my own baggage from this past experience. So I have to compartmentalize.

I have found that the best way to make it through my days at work without being the weird new teacher who runs to the bathroom to cry, or is constantly quiver-lipped, is to leave the traumatized part of me at home. I don't talk about it at school. I really don't have time to think about it at school. And if I find myself thinking about it, I have to shut that down quick because I can't afford to be messy at school. I know no one there, not really. Everyone has been great and supportive, but these are people that I met for the first time in June and have spent only hours with when it comes down to it. So I don't have to talk about it, even though it does linger in the ether a bit simply by the fact that I missed the first week of school and so missed being introduced at faculty meetings--so there are a lot of people who I meet in hallways or who stop by and who innocently ask why I was out (or just matter-of-factly comment on it, "Ah yes, I didn't meet you last week because you were out."). Not that many people have asked, and when they do I simply say "I had emergency surgery." Because I'm pretty sure going in for ultrasound at 2:00 and going under the knife 9 hours later after phone finagling by your doctor to get an OR the same day counts as an emergency. If I'm asked what kind of surgery, I say "the emergency kind." People who simply comment and don't ask just get a confirmation--Yes, I was out, but I'm back now and excited to be teaching in the building.

It's weird, because I have always been so open. Although sometimes I question that decision, like when I have so many people to update when things go horribly wrong. If I didn't tell quite so many people, I wouldn't have to go through the torture of explaining my story, over and over and over again. This year I think I can be a little sneaky--my morning building is super supportive. Most of my appointments are in the morning, so if I miss there, they will know why and it won't travel to my afternoon building. (I say "afternoon" but it's really 10:20 that I move buildings...my sense of time is skewed. That tends to happen when you eat lunch at 10:30 in the morning!) So I can compartmentalize myself that way, too--I can have a building where I have fewer students and a shorter timeframe for being there where people know (because they'll sort of have to if I need coverage for monitoring appointments), and my more challenging afternoon building where I am at full capacity and teaching straight through the last three periods of the day, where I am responsible for reviewing everything from Algebra to German to Earth Science and my head is spinning by the end of the day, where almost no one knows. There is no room for infertility at that building whatsoever. There is room for infertility in my car, crying as I drive home. There is room for infertility when I walk the dog. I think I may be the crazy lady on the street--I was the shuffling post-op walker in my pjs, and now I'm the sad-looking teary-eyed dog walker after school. But at least I'm not the sad-looking, teary-eyed new teacher.

My compartmentalizing plan occasionally has hiccups--like when I ran into a teacher from the high school who also moved to the 9th grade academy. It was a fire drill, with my most challenging group of students. She had known about what I was going through and knew what had happened in the summer, and she gave me a wonderful hug and expressed her sympathy. And I was rendered a near puddle. I couldn't even talk because had I opened my mouth I probably would have been wracked with sobs or outright bawling, and that would not be good in front of my students. This woman knew all of my hopes for this cycle and how devastating the loss was. And her knowing that opened me up to knowing that at school, which was not so great. She understood and didn't say more, but I felt badly--here was someone who was offering me condolences and support, but I just couldn't accept it in that setting. It was putting major cracks in the box I had put all that sadness into for the school day. I couldn't handle it. It's like my tears have welled up to about my nose-level, and if I see someone who knows to offer sympathy it starts the waterworks going. I'm not quite at the verge of tears but as close to the verge as I can get. I'm on the verge of the verge of tears.

Overall, this compartmentalizing strategy is working out pretty well for me, despite the occasional near-misses. I have yet to cry in school. I have come close, but I haven't spilled over.

I discovered that I also compartmentalize in a different way. Today we had our follow-up appointment with our doctor to discuss both the surgery (while I am not doped up and likely to forget everything) and our plan to move on to our frozen cycle. We talked at length about what actually happened during my surgery, and I saw the entire series of pictures of my innards. I have one set, and I was going to post them here, but I thought it's possible they may be a bit traumatizing for those who aren't insanely interested in the inner workings of the body and who don't think it's cool to see what a uterus looks like from the inside. But I saw all of the pictures today. And I found out that I compartmentalize differently in my doctor's office. I feel almost a responsibility to be positive and good-natured and humorous about the whole thing there. I feel badly because we are STILL there, working towards our goal. My clinic is awesome and everyone is very caring and friendly and genuinely enjoys seeing us come in, although they'd rather see us leave pregnant. It's another case where kindness and sympathy can open up the floodgates and leave me a puddle, and if I'm a puddle then I can't focus on all the information I need to have about what happened to me and what is going to happen to me with the frozen. I need to turn off the sad, traumatized part of me so that I can be as informed as possible. So I am overly gregarious, instead. It's not like I'm not normally an animated, enthusiastic, silly person. (I actually had a company that I no longer work for tell me in a warning that I was "excessively goofy," which is hilarious since I went on to work for one of the most conservative workplaces in my area with no personality issues. I can be goofy, yes, but I'm always professional in the right context.) I would say that today I bordered on "excessively goofy" at my clinic, making lots of silly references and jokes and trying desperately to keep the mood light. Which took a hell of a lot of effort when seeing the photos of my surgery that I didn't see before. The ones of my tube and pregnancy excised from my body and on a surgical tray, specifically. My tear factory was threatening to go into overdrive. Because seeing it like that was incredibly sad to me. It was neat to see exactly how they removed my tube and the pregnancy, and all of the endometriosis that was removed (thankfully Stage One, so not extensive, but still another piece in our infertile puzzle), and how the surgery was performed with little instruments. But it was completely and totally devastating to see the blue-purple bulge of tissue that was what could have been my baby, trapped in a thin membrane of tube, looking like a tumor. Seeing that made it real again. So immediately I went right into a barrage of questions and jokes about how I can't focus on anything. Because at that moment, I really couldn't focus on what was in front of me. Because it made me so incredibly sad and I was in danger of completely and totally losing my shit in front of my doctor and the student that was sitting in. Poor student, witnessing our complete silliness and odd sense of humor about the whole thing (I wasn't alone...Bryce was also a total goofball at today's appointment). Part of it is real--if you can't laugh about this stuff, you really have no choice other than to lock yourself in a dark room and cry for days. But part of it was a diversionary tactic. A compartmentalizing away my sad self and displaying my happy-go-lucky self.

I'm not burying my feelings, which would be unhealthy. I'm just squirreling them away to another place so that I can safely feel all the sadness and anger and loss in the privacy of my home, or my car. And so that I can put it all here in writing, instead of verbally vomiting it onto unsuspecting coworkers. So that I can be the well-adjusted (if wacky) patient, and not the hot mess I really am on the inside, within my sad, angry little box.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Getting Back in the Swing of Things

Tomorrow is a big day. It's a true return to "normal," a term I use loosely because I don't think I know what normal is anymore. But, it's my time to go back to being a productive member of society. Tomorrow is my first day of school.

I was given an amazing gift--a compassionate administration that saw through my efforts to look okay last Monday when I went in with my husband to attempt to split the getting-ready process between my two new schools and saw that I needed more time. More time to heal physically and not be in constant pain, more time to start the emotional healing process that I hadn't yet had much oomph to put into since the physical part was so consuming. It was a beautiful thing and, after an initial freak out and an Opening Day spent at home frantically emailing everyone and trying to make sure that my bases were truly covered at both schools, I surrendered to the time I was given. I spent many hours in bed, resting and not attempting to train for getting back on my feet. I did some preparatory work during the week but decided to spend most of my time to truly relax--I read and made counseling appointments and called the nurses to make sure that I wasn't missing some vital piece of recovery information. That was nice, it confirmed that I was prescribed laziness and quality time with the couch and/or bed. As I healed physically, the emotional side of things washed over me and I was so, SO grateful to have the private space to deal with the sudden crying bursts and feelings of overwhelming loss and sadness. This past Wednesday it was only the two-week mark since everything went horribly awry (or what had already gone horribly awry came to light). Unbelievable to me that it's only been two weeks--what was I thinking when I thought I could be okay to come back to work after only a week and a half???Thank goodness I was given the option I didn't think I had. The realization on Wednesday afternoon that only two weeks ago I had been pregnant and that now I'm not, missing a part of my body, and missing the first week of school was a trigger point for days of waterworks and anxiety and self-doubt. Did I handle it the right way? Was I somehow too optimistic? Did I set myself up for a devastation? (The answers are yes, no, no. I would have been devastated no matter what and optimism is just who I am. I had to get excited about my pregnancy, there was no way to see it as doomed from the start and ignore it. I worked too hard to dismiss it despite knowing deep down that we were totally screwed on this one.)

But now, on this Sunday afternoon, I am feeling incredibly anxious. And also strangely at peace. I know that coming in tomorrow is the right decision, because:
  • I can walk around the 1 mile circle in my development and feel ok.
  • I vacuumed today.
  • I can pass the vision board in the kitchen and look at it and not feel like my heart is breaking into a million tiny pieces.
  • I am wearing my fat jeans today, zipped and buttoned with nary a belly band in sight. I haven't, however, tried on my work pants yet.
  • At this point, if I stay out any longer I will just feel more overwhelmed and behind when I go back. Which won't be helpful.
  • I need a regular routine and schedule. I need for things to appear normal. I need to not walk my dog in the middle of the day and have people look at me funny who know I am a teacher.
But, at the same time, I am terrified because:
  • I have not exactly been keeping a normal sleep schedule. 6 am comes incredibly early. (However, I can take a nap when I get home.)
  • I have not had to be "on" for 7 straight hours, either physically or emotionally. I know that I can just do my best and fake the rest, but it is a little scary to think of how that performance is going to be so completely exhausting.
  • I don't know how many people actually know what really happened. So I guess I'll just go with "I had emergent surgery" and leave it at that, and I'll find out real quick who knows the whole tragic story.
  • I am afraid of too much sympathy. Kindness and sympathy are beautiful things, but when you are trying desperately to look and act like a normal person who did not have a traumatic event occur less than 3 weeks ago, it puts major cracks in your facade. I feel like tomorrow I will be a veneer of calm and collectedness, and I need to keep that thin coating intact somehow.
  • I did not have the chance whatsoever to set up my space fully in one building, and at all at another. August was a blur of amazing highs and the lowest lows we've ever experienced. It was not possible to focus on anything else for a time and then my time expired and I was in the hospital and completely unable to get myself into school physically. So I feel behind the 8-ball just from my own personal organizational standpoint. I am supposed to be a model of organization and time management and I feel slightly hypocritical at the moment, albeit for a pretty good freaking reason. Hopefully everyone will have patience while I sort things out this week and can be all set up for the third week of school.
  • I have been wearing cozy pants all week and am not accustomed to work attire. I am not even sure if my work attire fully fits me, I haven't done the dress rehearsal yet tonight. I am literally laying out my clothes for tomorrow so that I have nothing to decide first thing in the morning. And I want to look very professional and together tomorrow, for both adults and students alike. It's my first impression day.
  • I just have the first day jitters in general--amplified by the fact that someone else started my kids off last week and I have to jump into something that's already started. I know the first week isn't necessarily academic-heavy, but the second week is. I missed my relaxed acclimation window.
  • I have no idea how exhausted I will be by the end of the school day tomorrow. I have very high expectations for myself and I have to dial it back so that I can just survive the day, because by 2:45 I may be barely able to hold my shit together and in a lot of pain. I may not have the luxury of staying after for hours to get everything set up the way I'd like until later in the week. Which is unfortunate because I have an open house with parents at one building Wednesday night. Not terrifying at all. "Oh, you're the teacher who had a sub the first week of school!" That should be not awkward at all.
I am confident that it will not be a disaster. I am a professional, and I have spent a large portion of the weekend going over IEPs, brushing up on my personal professional development library full of strategies (organizational! study! memory! compensatory! comprehension! writing!) and information on particular classifications to refresh myself, since the last three years have been rather specific. I have a ton of information on autism spectrum disorders but it's been three years since I worked with a more diverse group of students. I know how to do it, I am trained and certified to do it, and I have done it successfully before. I actually have walked into a situation where I felt way over my head and it turned into three years of making a difference in a young man's life and creating opportunities that didn't exist before I finagled them. So I know tomorrow will be ok. It's just scary on so many levels. I think my first day would have been frightening without all this other personal devastation added into the mix. I am learning to be just a normal human being again, and so it's a little intimidating to add "and resource room teacher in two buildings with not entirely similar policies and curricula" to my list of things to accomplish. I feel like puking, actually. But at least hopefully I can do that tonight, and not all over my lovely new students.

I can do this. I can pretend to be completely normal. I can start the transition back to actual normality. It has to happen sometime, may as well be tomorrow.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Saying Goodbye

Saying goodbye to our run as expectant parents and the tiny lost babyling reason for that run is a gradual process. It is probably also an ongoing process--I will most likely never forget that my due date was April 13th (according to an IVF calculator where you plug in your retrieval date and they give you your due date), or I would be 8 weeks now had it not been ill-fated, or that by our second wedding anniversary we would have made it into the second trimester. It's amazing to me that it's only our second wedding anniversary--we have certainly packed a lot in over these two years. It seems crazy that I'm sad it's the second time we'll have an anniversary and no pregnancy, no baby--but I can count on both hands the number of people I know who have celebrated or will celebrate their first anniversary with a baby in their arms, and I was really hoping that by getting a jump on things a little earlier than our wedding day that we would have a similar experience. We aren't exactly spring chickens and it was our dream to add to our family as soon as possible (I say add to, because we consider the two of us a family, children or not). It just wasn't meant to be our path.

I'm getting off topic though. I think it is hard to say goodbye because I put so much energy into believing this pregnancy into existence. I really worked hard at being positive and refusing to entertain the idea that it would fail in any way, in hopes that that enthusiasm would rub off on my babyling and we could will our miracle into being. So even going into our second ultrasound, after being told our chances were close to zero of a good outcome after viewing the void in my uterus in my first ultrasound, I still held onto a kernel of hope that this was all a big mistake, a cosmic ha-ha. I could have started to say goodbye when our initial HCG number was 12, or when a conversation with my doctor at five weeks revealed our dismal odds at a healthy go of it this time. I could have started to say goodbye at the first ultrasound. I might have started the process a little when I started having pain Tuesday night, and when I started spotting on Wednesday morning. But even then I kept telling myself, "this is a fluke--it's probably just my twingey ovaries from stimulation, and lots of pregnant women spot early or even full-out bleed and have healthy babies later. This is simply not happening to us." Even seeing the sac in my tube on the screen and discussing treatment options and surgery details and how many incisions I should have (a hilarious conversation involving cosmetic concerns--like my tummy area is EVER a cosmetic concern! Ha!), and when I last ate so I don't have a higher risk of anesthesia complication...even all of those things did not make the impending loss seem real to me. Technically speaking this was doomed from the start and it has been a loss waiting to happen since I got my positive pregnancy test. But I didn't want to see it that way.

The first time I truly started to say goodbye was sitting on my gurney in the Emergency Department, waiting to be wheeled down to the OR. I have a journal that I wrote in every day of my cycle, starting with the baseline appointment, and I continued writing in it throughout the pregnancy. It has an orchid on it and I have always thought of orchids as a fertile flower, since they always look vaguely obscene to me. It was a gift from my best friend for Christmas and I was planning on saving it for a pregnancy journal. But, my previous journal that I had used for my last two IVF cycles had run out of sufficient pages for this third cycle. I needed a new one and I thought, "why not be positive? Why not make it a cycle AND a pregnancy journal?" And it was, for a time. I wrote in it for the last time on that gurney, with chaos around me and Bryce dozing off on the end of the bed. Since getting my call that I was tenuously pregnant, I had written about the day, and what I was feeling physically and emotionally, but always ended with a little letter to the babyling--encouraging it, thanking it for the good work, telling it how very loved it was already. This day was no different--I just had to put some stamp of finality to it. I thanked it and blessed it and released it. And then I cried, and cried, and cried. And of course then my wonderful (and ridiculously good-looking) doctor appeared at that moment when I was a sniveling mess, to let us know that we had been cleared for surgery and we were probably going to be wheeled down within the hour or sooner. So I didn't have much time to process the initial grief. But it was important, that first real goodbye. It was followed by a cry on the way into the operating room when I realized a) I was actually a little scared at the gravity of this not-so-small surgery what with the tubes that were to be inserted all over my body and b) I was entering the room pregnant and would be leaving it... not. Two will enter, one will leave. But then I was out and everything was blurry for a long time.

Since then, we hadn't really said an official goodbye. There had been a lot of tears, but also a lot of physical pain and I really concentrated on that. As long as I had the physical pain and the numbing pain killers to distract me, I could avoid almost completely the fact that I had lost something and was completely devastated by it, but could somehow talk about it as though it had happened to someone else. Because it still sort of felt like that--like this didn't happen to me, this couldn't possibly have happened to us after everything else we've been through to get to this point. This was supposed to be our time, it was supposed to be our turn to be a miracle story. But we weren't and it wasn't right and we have to come to some sort of peace with this cycle before we can move on to our next opportunity.

A friend who is an OB nurse at a hospital (coincidentally the hospital that my current OB/GYN is affiliated with and I will, one day, deliver in) gave me a gift on Thursday that helped me to realize that this did actually happen to us, and it is very sad, and I am going to have to deal with this not as an observer but as the actual person it happened to. It was a little dimpled clay star on a rope--such a simple little thing, but it was the letter that accompanied it that really started the floodgates going. She has seen beautiful babies born healthy, and she has seen premature deliveries, babies that have died, moms that have died. There is no sense to be made of the tragedies. But, with regards to the loss of a pregnancy at whatever stage, she felt that it was helpful to think of that baby as a star, an angel in heaven, watching out for the brothers and/or sisters to come. I have greatly simplified the letter because it was so meaningful that I want to keep much of it to myself, but it was just such a beautiful thought. We are not religious people, but I have a strong sense of order in the Universe and a natural order--cycles of life and death and energy that has to go somewhere. Maybe I'm a Jedi, who knows. But this made sense to me and was beautiful--my little babyling wasn't meant to stay with us because he (I'm with my friend on this one, I believe for whatever reason that this was a boy--we will never know for sure but that's what I think) was meant to clear the way for the babies that will come through unharmed, a protective spirit and shining light to guide my second and third children home.

We finally did our own goodbye ceremony yesterday. I wasn't ready before then, but yesterday seemed like a good time--I hadn't taken any percoset all day and so was clear of mind, and I was in pain but not so much that I couldn't concentrate on the emotional side of things. I could cry without feeling like my stomach was being ripped apart. Just my heart. Throughout the pregnancy we had used these Flying Wish Papers to send letters to our babyling and encourage him and help him to feel loved and maybe encourage him to keep being so strong and warriorlike. You write your wish (or letter to your unborn embryo) in pencil on a square of thin tissue paper, crumple it up, smooth it out, roll it into a tube, and put it upright on a printed cardboard base. Then you light it, and it burns down to the base and then the embery ash tube floats up to the sky (or ceiling). It was a small ritual that made us feel like we were doing something and communicating with a being that had, at least if it was developmentally appropriate, fingernails but no ears yet. Then we would light a double-wick candle (red of course) together and say something inwardly and silently to the babyling. It was a beautiful ritual, and I wanted to extend it for the goodbye. It was so, so much harder writing it as a release than writing it as an encouraging pep talk to stay. There was no way not to cry while writing--writing a thank you for the gift of pregnancy, a thank you for being so strong for so long, a thank you for giving us a glimpse at being Mom and Dad. A love note and a goodbye letter. A reiteration of the belief that this babyling was our first child and will always be our first child, and that he is a shining light to protect and guide those who will come after him. He did get rid of the evil baby-sucking tube, so no other little babylings will mistakenly think that's a good home, and he did make it possible for them to find that endometriosis and remove it so that it can't cause any problems later. He did a great job. It just wasn't his time. When we lit the tubes, on the same square and touching each other, they didn't float up very high at all (we had done it together before and it almost kiss the ceiling, so it wasn't because of how we lit them). They barely cleared the ground. I said "they were just so heavy" and burst into tears. Visceral, wracking sobs. We sobbed and hugged for a long time. I am so lucky to have a husband who will do these things with me, willingly and as an active participant, and who is not afraid to feel this loss as deeply as I do. We then lit our candle, which at this point was almost to the end, and decided to let it burn all the way down and then discard it. I have a new one that I bought during the pregnancy in case we ran out early, but that one will be for our new pregnancy. As we lit the candle, I read from a book that my confirmation sponsor gave me forever ago, Earth Prayers (edited by Elizabeth Roberts and Elias Amidon). It's writings from rabbis and Native Americans and Shakespeare and T.S. Elliot, among others. A lot of it is praise for the Earth, a sense of oneness with nature and gathering strength and healing from the Earth. But there is a section called Cycles of Life and I knew I would find something appropriate in it. And I did:

                 "Life and death,
                  a twisted vine sharing a single root.

                  A water bright green stretching to top a twisted yellow
                  only to wither itself
                  as another green unfolds overhead.

                  One leaf atop another
                  yet under the next,
                  a vibrant tapestry of arcs and falls
                  all in the act of becoming.

                  Death is the passing of life.
                  And life
                  is the stringing together of so many little passings.
                                                                                       - RABBI RAMI M. SHAPIRO"

It was perfect. That's how we see this--one life making way for the life to come. I don't know why we have to have such a difficult road to parenthood, I really don't. But for some reason, we have to go through this in order to get to our happy ending, whatever that looks like. We have to experience the withered leaf in order to have the fresh new green leaf. And we thank that yellow leaf for its service and for its gifts. We know we can get pregnant. Even though I am so cynical, and feel like "ok, yeah, I can get pregnant in my tube. But can I get pregnant in my uterus? Haven't quite managed that one yet!" But our doctor said that getting pregnant anywhere is a good indication that it's not hostile in there, that if I can get pregnant in the wrong spot I can likely get pregnant in the right spot. We are in a better place for our frozen cycle because of this cycle. And as horrible and hard as it was, and continues to be, it was also a beautiful time and a time to be thankful for. Even if we are thankful through a haze of tears and loss and nearly unbearable sadness.

We had to say goodbye, and continue saying goodbye in our own ways. Because if we don't, we can't possibly have the energy to give to our next try. And I want to give those beautiful frozen blasts the best chance possible, knowing full well that just because things were awful this time it doesn't mean that next time is "definitely our time." That is apparently not how it works. Life is not fair, and there is no rhyme or reason to anything. But I would really, really, really like to believe that the next stop on our journey is parenthood--a positive pregnancy test, a relatively uneventful full-term pregnancy, a non-life-threatening birth experience, and a healthy baby or babies at the end. That is my hope as we honor this experience and prepare for the next.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Random Thoughts

Because it is such a struggle to be coherent, I think I'm going with lists for a while to attempt some level of thought organization. So many random but not necessarily connected thoughts and worries and fears are playing pinball in my head, and maybe putting them somewhere outside of my subconscious will help make sense of them. Because really, nothing at all makes sense to me right now.

  • I am terrified to go back to school. Not just because my first major outings leaving the house occurred today and I am exhausted, but because I have been so doped up and so focused on the physical pain that I haven't really dealt fully with the emotional pain of everything. It is starting to seep out and I fear that it will seep and seep until it ruptures and then I will be consumed by the emotional heaviness of everything that has happened. Or maybe it will just seep a slow steady bleed and I will slowly acclimate to the realization that we lost our pregnancy in a violent and scary way. Nobody wants a special education teacher in the middle of her own mental breakdown. It is awfully hard to support others with their needs when your own needs are monumental and overflowing like a cresting river over the sandbags of your coping mechanisms.
  • I am afraid that people won't understand that I need to say "I lost my baby." I realize that it was between a lentil and a blueberry, and technically still an embryo, not even a fetus. I realize that I was only six and a half weeks when my pregnancy was surgically removed, like a tumor. It really looked like a tumor in the pictures we have of the laparoscopy, too. I didn't look pregnant. I certainly felt pregnant, and as I've said before I really enjoyed each day of the pregnancy as much as I could. But to someone who didn't know what was happening, I was "barely pregnant." Not that I really and truly care what people who aren't in the know think, but my mind is working in mysterious ways. I feel like saying "I lost my baby" is somehow unfair to people who have lost further along in a pregnancy that actually yielded a sac, or a heartbeat, or a recognizable fetus. Like somehow even though I have gone through hell over and over and over again to get to this point, this squished tumor pregnancy, I don't deserve to say I lost my baby. But I did. I lost my baby and it hurts more than I thought I could. Not that I can really feel all that much thanks to the painkillers and the physical pain I am going through. 
  • I am realizing that I am vain. I hate that I am bloated and that I look fat. That somehow, I have to start school and look presentable and I fear that I have no pants that will fit me. I have skirts, and thankfully am not involved in vocational training in a commercial kitchen this year and so can actually have bare legs and open toed shoes. But I feel like to wear any of my pants I will have to use my belly band. And that makes me horribly sad, because if you wear a belly band and it is visible (as it inevitably becomes in the course of sitting down and standing up), people will assume you are pregnant. And I am wearing it because I'm not anymore but I don't fit in my pants yet because of the bloat from the IVF cycle, the pregnancy, and its subsequent surgical removal. But I will be wearing the band because I refuse to go up a size again. I need to get back to a size ago where my BMI was within a somewhat normal range (not that I believe in the BMI, because in order to truly fit into the middle of my "normal" range I need to be a size 6, and me at a size 6 is actually comical what with my giant ta-tas). And the reason for wanting to get back to a healthier size is totally vain as well. I want to be a cute pregnant lady. And I fear if I keep all of this infertility weight on me I will not be as cute as I could be. I could just be lumpy for a long time until I truly pop. And I am hoping, because I am short-waisted, that I will pop early and look super pregnant super early. I want people to say, "Wow, you are really big!" because I EARNED that big beautiful baby belly. I want to look as pregnant as possible for as long as possible. And I want to wear maternity clothes that accentuate my belly, not clothes that hide it. I am not behind the "baby on board" crap with arrows pointing at your tummy, but you'd better believe I will be enhancing my bump to no end. Assuming I'm not too fat to have a cute bump thanks to all this infertility crap.
  • I feel like this whole experience has taken from me (albeit temporarily) everything that makes me who I am. We went to a gardening center today (one of my first forays into the outside world since my world collapsed on itself), and I was walking, zombie-like, through the plants. I've been wanting to get some sedum that has dark foliage and isn't quite as broccoli-like as regular sedum, and then I found another beautiful blue plant that the bumblebees were in love with. I need to fill our side yard with perennials at some point. But that point is not now, because I can't handle the physical act of planting. So I looked at the plants and imagined where they would go in my beds, and then started to cry because I can't do any of it. I'm sure that by the time it is pumpkin-and-mums-time I will be able to set out the fall display without pain, but it depressed me that I couldn't plant cheap off-season perennials in the ground now and enjoy them for September and then all next year. Cooking is another thing that makes me me, and last night I was finally able to get in the kitchen and make something fun--goat cheese polenta stuffed poblanos with a cinnamon tomato sauce. Yummy, and it took me an hour, and we ate at 10:00, but finally a small sliver of my pre-tragedy self was restored. It's not that Bryce is not a good cook, it just is not his thing and he doesn't enjoy it the way I do. I think food tastes different when the person making it actually loves the act of preparing it. And Bryce was happy to be returned to doing something else during dinner preparation, and being left with nothing but dishes. It was definitely a small return to normalcy. Reading is another thing-- I am still struggling with reading while on the pain meds. I am slowly taking myself off them, because I need to drive and I need to be able to work (things you simply cannot do on Percoset as a responsible person), but until that happens I am not able to read the way I love to. Immersed completely in a story and devouring it like fine chocolate--slow and melty in my brain. I miss that part of me. Compulsively preparing for work is another thing that makes me me. It is killing me that I have been completely unable to focus on work prep while coping with my physical pain and eventually coming to grips with the emotional reality of everything that's happened in the past two horrible weeks. Stacks of work sit untouched next to my bed. It has to be a priority for the next three days straight. Because I do not "wing it." I exhaustively research and organize and want to feel like an expert on day one. And that is just not going to happen. And I have to somehow be ok with it. Maybe part of my inability to get deep into my work prep is because if I go back to work, I have to pretend everything is fine and I am a fully functional human, not a shell going through the motions because of a personal devastation. But maybe if I pretend enough I will actually become a functional person faster. 
  • I need to start looking forward to our next try, but I don't know how to handle it. We have two beautiful frozen embryos waiting for us to be physically and emotionally ready to transfer them into my apparently very healthy uterus. Thankfully the financial aspect is tremendously less daunting with a frozen cycle--it's at least 1/5 the cost of a fresh. We have been told over and over that our frozens are exceptional, very good quality, excellently expanded blasts. We have a good chance with them. But I am terrified to have hope that this is our time, this time. I can't help feeling like we just keep getting the shit end of the stick. Yes, yes, I know, I should be positive. Really, how positive would YOU be if you failed IVFs twice in a row, then finally got pregnant but with a low HCG so you had to relive your test day every two or three days, only to discover that your precious pregnancy was literally lost, stuck in the wrong place, causing you pain and endangering your life if not addressed immediately, and you had to have emergent surgery to remove both your pregnancy and the offending tube, then suffer complications due to an asthma attack and coughing directly after coming out of anesthesia? How positive would you be, REALLY? If you can still be chipper and full of hope and not feel like you seriously built your house on an old cemetery after all that, then kudos to you. You are a far better person than I am. Because I am scared to even find out what else can go wrong. Once it's uttered, it feels like an almost certainty that it will happen to us. And I just don't understand it. I need my doctor to write a paper on how rare a twin pregnancy is with a two-blast transfer, just so that it can be a possibility for us. I realize this is crazypants logic, but I think you can see how I got there. 
So that's it for now, all the junk in my head that I can release for the time being. I thank everyone who reads this for bearing with my pain and incoherent ramblings while I sort out how to at least categorize all this, if not make sense of it.