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

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Fertilty-Free Holidays

Here it is, the dreaded holiday season, and I am...ok! This has been an incredibly difficult year, and usually the holidays are the capper on the crap cake. But not this year. Why? Let me tell you.

- I am not in any kind of cycle right now. I absolutely refuse to do holiday cycles anymore. I tried not to last year but ended up having at test right smack in the middle of Christmas for our first ever frozen, the first attempt after the tragic ectopic business. And it did not result in good news. And the holidays were spent drinking champagne out of a can and weeping over songs that feature a VIRGIN MOTHER and a MIRACLE BABY and I could relate to neither. Although, I will be closer to being a virgin mother through this process, since there is absolutely no sex involved in our particular brand of procreation... But getting back to the point, no more holiday cycles for me. They are too difficult.

- Instead of crying over the fact that YET AGAIN there is nary a baby or bump to be seen on our holiday greetings, we made a fun, irreverent photo card featuring us dressed up and being goofy, our hearth with two stockings and a little kitty stocking full of catnip mice (and a tiny Christmas tree with a bird on it), and our cats. In bowties. It is the gateway to cats in onesies, people. If there is no baby in any way shape or form on our card next time I can't guarantee that I won't cross over into cats dressed up like babies territory...

- I am determined, DETERMINED to enjoy December. After losing our last babyling in early August, pretty much every month after that has been difficult. I have been an emotional wreck. I have not dealt well with the cumulative loss that is slowly hacking away at my capacity to hope. I have been pretty functional at work, but at home...not so much. A lot of crying. A lot of just epic sadness. A lot of mourning. But, as a wise woman once told me, "you can throw youself a pity party but don't stay long because no one else will join you." Time to brush off and stop sitting in the sadness so completely. Time to enjoy this month with no evil needles and no possible reproductive heartbreak, and try to be a normal person before once again I am shooting up with drugs that turn me into a faux-menopausal freakshow. So far, it's working pretty well. I got a nasty virus in December, but because I am not in any treatment I didn't feel bad taking some sick time to try to get over it. I am pretty much a normal human this December.

- We are escaping for Christmas! We are leaving town and going on a fabulous, romantic getaway in Vermont. The same place we went in February for a few nights, only this time we're in one room the whole time and we are staying five nights. Including Christmas. Which is FABULOUS. There is nothing in Vermont that reminds me of being pregnant or trying to get pregnant. I have never brought a sharps container to Vermont. I have never been waiting for news in Vermont. When I go to get a towel, I won't be staring at medication and bags of needles, like I do at home when I open the linen/aka Injection Closet. There will just be books, and games, and wine, and delicious food RIGHT DOWNSTAIRS in the Tavern restaurant. I am SO EXCITED. We decided that we needed this. We didn't get to go to Maine over the summer, and that was a huge mistake. We need to get away. We need to unplug and have no chores to do, no schedule, no work hanging over our heads. We need to recharge and renew ourselves so that we can undo some of the harm this past year of incredible loss and frustration has done to us. We need to get ready for our next go-round in 2013, which is coming up lightning fast. But not so fast that we have to think about it while drinking our Welcome-to-Grafton champagne or soaking in a hot tub after a long day of snowshoeing. This is the best Christmas present we could have given each other. (Except for a baby. A baby would have been better, but a Vermont getaway is a close second.)

So there it is--a truly happy holiday even though there's no tiny people to share it with in our home, just cozy cats ever so slightly pissed off at having been collared with jingle-belled bowties. A romantic, decadent week of holiday bliss to slowly melt away some of the stresses of 2012 and start 2013 fresh, strong, and ready to put a baby (or two) in this fertility-fat belly already. Come on, 2013, be our year of miracles! (Not to get all crazy or anything, but this year coming up is the Year of the Snake, and snakes are my favorite animal EVER, so maybe that means something? Nope, nope, just me being crazy. If the Year of the Rabbit (super fertile critter!) and the Year of the Dragon (my birth year and supposedly super strong juju) didn't do it, then I can't really count on that Snake. But I can dream, right?)

A very happy holidays to everyone, and may all your dreams come true this coming year.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Good TV, Bad TV

Infertility is insidious...it filters into every aspect of your life. Maybe it's because I'm hyper-sensitive, but it seems like lately all matters reproductive are ALL OVER the TV show subplots. My list of shows has been dwindling, because I usually drop them once they begin a fertility-related subplot (that means you, Gray's An.atomy!). Even if it is decently portrayed, I don't watch TV to see people injecting themselves and enduring heartbreak over the inability to get pregnant. I can see that in my kitchen on a regular basis, thankyouverymuch. But lately, it seems like there is a thread of smugness out there in TVland about how it is you go about getting pregnant. So, not so much an infertility piece, but a total disregard for how 1 in 8 (or is it 6 now?) couples have difficulty getting pregnant "the old fashioned way."

Let's start with Modern Fam.ily. I love this show. I love how it shows different kinds of families. I love how those families are funny and warts-and-all. I loved their honest portrayal of how the adoption process can be difficult and heartbreaking, and how it is NOT easy to "just adopt." I can tell you, I do NOT love the blase treatment of pregnancy and babymaking that is rife in this season where Gloria is the recipient of a 40+ whoopsie pregnancy. (Fun fact: apparently women heading into the end years of their reproductive life are just as susceptible to unplanned pregnancies as teenagers, since their cycles go a little nutty and unpredictable. That part is true.) I nearly threw my dinner at the TV when, in one of those lovely ending interviews that shows the lesson of that particular episode, Gloria makes the statement, "Making the child is easy. It's what comes after that's hard." OH REALLY, IMPOSSIBLY HOT GLORIA. Because that sure as hell doesn't feel the case to me. And while many people like to tell Bryce and me that "Just you wait, it's so hard and expensive once that baby comes"--um, I think we get it. And, quite frankly, I think that it will be LESS expensive once that baby comes than the oodles of dough that it has taken to come close to bringing a baby home. And I'm pretty sure the uncertainty of not knowing when this ghastly hell of reproductive gauntlet-running will end is way worse than the overflowing poopie explosions and night after night of colic and fear and expense once you have that child. Because, not to state the obvious, YOU HAVE THAT CHILD. And all the joy that goes with the poop-up-the-back and vomit-in-the-night. Right now we have all the sadness and loss and financial stress and emotional stress and physical distress without the payoff. So, um, NO. Making the child is not the "easy" part. Not for us, and not for other couples like us.

I will give them a smidgen of credit, though--when Jay and Gloria go to the baby class at the hospital and make their jokes about how she gets pregnant just sneezing on her (haHAhaha. ha. haaaaa.) to a couple who's been trying for years and finally hit the jackpot, I relished in their dagger stare. I loved that they showcased, if for only 5 seconds, how incredibly insensitive and idiotic Jay and Gloria were being to brag at being able to get pregnant by accident. At 40. That was one 20-watt shining moment.

And then it was eclipsed by an episode about Phil's vasectomy. Which we never saw, even though supposedly it was very funny. Because the beginning interview had Phil and Claire talking about how they wanted to make sure they didn't have an oopsie like Gloria (because that's so common), and how they wanted to be sure they could live a life like people without kids, now that their kids are getting older. Like these neighbors of theirs, who travel all the time and have such an awesome lifestyle because they were never able to have kids. OH HOLY JEEZUM, IS THAT WHAT MY LIFE IS??? I totally forgot. If I would just be ok with not being able to have children at this point, I could totally just give myself up to a life of less responsibility and going off to Bali at a moment's notice. All the time. The way they talked about it was so incredibly blase and disrespectful and insensitive to me AND Bryce that we turned the TV off and yelled at it for a good 5 minutes before choosing something else to watch. That one really bothered me. And again, maybe I'm hypersensitive because I don't see my infertility as a ticket to a responsibility-free, college-tuition-free, vacation-filled-permanent-adolescence type of life. (I don't think my friends who choose not to have children see it this way, either...) And I am resentful of people who make the assumption that "you should be traveling! You don't have kids!" and say it enviously as they think of the chaos filling their homes. Beautiful, heartwarming chaos that we would snatch up in an instant.

Another show that ticked us off was The Offic.e. I haven't been the biggest fan of this season anyway, without Steve Care.ll and Mindy Ka.ling it's just not the same. But man, did they go fertility-offensive with an episode a while ago centering on Dwight being upset that he didn't father Angela's child. (Oops, spoiler alert too late for those who are a season or two behind. Sorry.) Jim has pranked Dwight that there is a radiation issue in the building by having a half-popped bag of microwave popcorn in Dwight's desk (or somewhere near his crotchular region), so that they can get some time off and he can take his wife away for a few days. Funny concept, nice enough idea to do something nice for your wife and mother of your children. (Pregnancies that created subplots that made this show difficult to watch for a while, but not awful.) What made us downright mad was that Dwight disappears to the roof of the work bus he's rented to thwart the free vacation plan, and he is upset. He is upset because he didn't father Angela's child and the radiation is probably further proof that he is sterile and can't father children. At first he seems to be having an honest conversation with Jim about fears of infertility, and I was like Wow, The Of.fice is really evolved! and then that was short-lived. Because it was totally irreverent (I know, comedy show, but still). He asks Jim how long it took them to conceive (answer: instantaneous and largely unplanned), and then mourns his loss of children to pass along the Schrute name. And Jim's answer? But you have us! You have BuildingKinder, since you are our building superintendent. We are all your children. And somehow this appeases Dwight. This trite, ridiculous argument that if you don't have children, there are substitutes that are just fine. Like your dysfunctional, on average age 40 year old coworkers. Or like when my yearbook salesperson called to see if I wanted a high school update book and asked for my updates, and confused that I was 35 and married and childless, said to me "Well, you're a teacher, I guess your students are like your children to you." NO. NONONONONONO. I love children, and I love teaching, and I care very deeply about my students (who by the way are 13-15 years in age, just what you want to snuggle into a onesie), but I am NOT childless because my students are "enough." I do NOT want your children, especially grown adult children. (So help me, at least three people offer me their annoying preteen/adolescent/young adult children every freaking year. That is SO offensive. I want my child, I want a baby, I want the experience of pregnancy. I'm pretty sure you wanted that too. STOP OFFERING ME YOUR CHILDREN WHEN THEY ANNOY YOU. It's not cute, funny, or remotely helpful.) The whole concept of this episode had me horribly offended, especially since Dwight falls for it hook, line, and sinker. Yes, you are all my BuildingKinder. My urge for fatherhood is abated of course. You are so wise, Fertile Jim. UGH.

Sometimes, though, there is a good show. A respectful show. A show that treats fertility accurately and doesn't reinforce stereotypes or gloss over the processes of medical treatment or adoption and doesn't continue to put it out there that it's common and normal to get pregnant in your 40s unaided. This show, recently, for me is The New G.irl. I love this show. It's zany, it's ridiculous, it makes me laugh, and I want to be Jess's best friend. I could totally hang out with Jess. But wait, this show is about a single girl living with three single guys! She's on the relatively young side! What could this possibly have to do with fertility, since no one seems to be getting ready to reproduce? I was home sick this week and backlogged on the show, so I watched a couple episodes while my lungs tried to kill me. My Roku box brought up the next episode, which was titled Eggs. Oh, boy. This could be an annoying episode. I watched it anyway. And I was so glad I did! In this episode, Jess has a dinner party where her friend, an OB/GYN who is also a lesbian, announces that she is pregnant. She and her wife are super excited, and then the doctor says, "I really feel like I got this one under the wire." Jess is so confused, I mean, you can get pregnant always, right? She explains that after 30, 90% of your eggs are gone. (I'm not 100% sure on the accuracy of this statement, but believe it since you have a gazillion eggs from the time you are in utero yourself, and they die off throughout your lifetime. 10% of your eggs is still a lot of eggs, but there is now an expiration date on your reproductive years...) But, that there's a test that can tell you about how many eggs you have left. (They didn't go into detail on this, but I'm guessing since they referenced hormone levels that it was some kind of FSH/AmH testing for ovarian reserve. I am SUCH a fertility nerd that I immediately wondered what hormones they were testing and needed to feel like this was accurate.) So she and her wife took it and she was the better bet, since her wife states, "I'm 32 but my eggs are 48." This sends Jess into a tailspin. She's 30, single, and wants a family someday, but is now panicked that her eggs are numbered. I CAN TOTALLY RELATE TO THIS!!! I was once also 30 and newly single, terrified that my fertility was dwindling. (Little did I know there was more than a nugget of truth to this fear, sadly.) Jess starts talking about dust in her uterus and eggs dying left and right--I used to joke all the time about my kamikaze eggs! (not so funny now...) She gets on fertility websites and starts removing anything toxic from the apartment. I have gone this bonkers, too! She takes the test and is terrified, but she ends up ok. Someone else is not, but I feel like it was handled sensitively. I felt like even though this was a fertility-related episode, it was AWESOME. Thank you, thank you, for talking honestly about declining fertility. It is not an old wive's tale. It is true. Thank you, thank you for giving such an adorable voice to the fears so many women have about not making it in under the wire before those eggs expire. It did make me feel a little sad, and I did want to also throw out there that you can also have infertility that is entirely NOT age related. You can be 32 and have your ovarian reserve peter out early. You can be 25 and suffer from hormonal imbalances that prevent you from getting pregnant unaided. And, like me, you can be 36 and have FANTABULOUS numbers when it comes to FSH and AmH--I have a reserve like a champ (or at least I did last it was checked this past year), but that reserve is full of duds. You can't tell if your eggs are necessarily good quality from those numbers, and I am proof of that. Lots of eggs in your basket doesn't guarantee that they'll hatch little chickens in your uterus. Ew, gross metaphor. I do not want little chickens pecking around my uterus. I do, however, want a baby or two growing strong and healthy and then welcoming itself into the world through my body. Regardless, I was proud of that show for not sweeping fertility under the rug and addressing the issue that Hollywood obscures all the time--fertility is not something you can take for granted.

It is hard finding TV that is an escape and doesn't touch on my personal tragedy in one way or another. If this is your life, if you struggle with building your family and finding the right way for you to do it, it is definitely hard not to be sensitive to anything in the media that seems to be poking fun or portraying this situation dishonestly or making one choice look easier or more morally ethical than another. So I really, really appreciate it when there are not only shows that don't touch this issue (I love 666 Park A.venue for this reason... there are ghostly children, not the urge for children), but shows that handle it with sensitivity, reality, and grace. And humor that doesn't make me want to hurl my gluten free pasta at my TV.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

What Good Planners, These Royals

All week there has been soooo much news. Well, sooo much reported that's not really NEWS, per se, but seeing as how we live in an incredibly baby-crazy society, and we have a weird obsession with royalty even though politically they don't really hold any power, just lots of money, and they're not even OUR royalty, the airwaves and print and internet media is all over this royal pregnancy. Oh, Will and Kate, you "finally" sealed the deal. Really? "Finally?" That was splashed on a checkout tabloid (thankfully not my beloved PEOPLE magazine), over a smiling picture of the royal parents-to-be and next to a picture of Jennifer Aniston, who was reportedly also pregnant. I don't trust this particular magazine though, and feel intensely badly for Jennifer, because the media is always examining her midsection and calling her desperate for baby and plotting for baby and, my least favorite, "is it TOO LATE for baby?!?" Leave these people alone! Stop printing pictures that could just be overindulgence at dinner or a poorly tailored dress and calling it "Bumpwatch!" Gargh. The "finally" makes me mad directed to anyone, but with Will and Kate it's obnoxious--they've been married a year. They said openly that they wanted to enjoy marriage a bit before having a family. There is no FINALLY about it.

Anyway, I had written a blog post earlier about how it must suck to be a newly minted Royal Family member, the kind that is expected to be an instant breeder. See here for that post, "I'm Glad I'm Not a Royal." Again I wrote about my conflicted relationship with PEOPLE magazine. I devour it almost instantaneously, and it kicks off my weekend usually, but it almost always makes me sad with baby announcement after baby announcement, and detailed spreads on things like Snooki's nursery. Ugh. This time, my PEOPLE magazine pissed me off for a different reason. I'll admit, I read every word of the multiple-spread bonanza that was Royal Fetus coverage. I wanted to see if Kate was looking pregnant, and what cute maternity clothes she was wearing. I was disappointed, because even though she is incredibly slender and you would think a fetus the size of a sesame seed let alone a strawberry would show on her, she is purportedly only nine weeks along. Part of me was sad that she isn't granted any privacy at all and the world has to know about her pregnancy when it is so early and tenuous--she might have kept it a secret longer if she hadn't had to be hospitalized for a very serious condition where you can lose 5% of your body weight from excessive vomiting (a very REAL condition that is being treated pretty poorly in the media, I might add--she is not a wuss, it is not "just bad" morning sickness, it is a scary and pervasive medical condition that many women suffer). Part of me felt like this is the new thing, sharing your pregnancy in the first trimester, having everything work out just fine, and then sailing into your somewhat safer second trimester. I do realize I'm being sensitive and she didn't have a choice, plus what do I care really as this isn't a friend of mine, it's a freaking Duchess in another country who I don't know from Adam... But still. I was a little irked to find that she is still in single-digit weeks.

The part that really upset me was how the pregnancy's origin was discussed. First point of contention: "The baby news makes a very nice endpiece to the year. It couldn't be better planned." Enter more discussion on how the royal couple were very careful not to overshadow the Queen's Jubilee with baby announcements. What? People can actually plan this stuff??? I thought maybe the press was just being stupid and not realizing that conception is actually NOT an exact science and it's kind of rare to say "I want to get pregnant...NOW" and have it happen, like some magic wand is waved and POOF! Fertilization, implantation, and all that good stuff happens. When you know as much about how babies are made (or not) as I do, it is a freaking miracle that anyone can plan a pregnancy. Normal, fertile couples have only a 20% chance any given month of conceiving with all the incredibly intricate timings that have to happen between ovulation and sperm getting where they need to go and the egg being exactly where it needs to be in order to be fertilized and travel to the uterus to implant in just the right spot and then stay there. I do know people who said "I'm going to try this" and immediately hit the jackpot, and while I am happy for their success I won't lie. I resent them like people who buy a lottery ticket for the first time and hit the Powerball megamillions right off the bat. And now here are these people, who are under tremendous pressure to conceive, as it's pretty much their biggest job to produce an heir, and they turn out to be conception cyborgs who are genetically programmed to seal the deal on command. More quotes of fury... "[she is] around nine weeks or so, according to some estimates, given that the ever-cautious princess likely would not have become pregnant until after the couple headed home from their tour of Asia on Sept. 20th and stopped taking their antimalarial medication." The preciseness of this conception is mind-boggling. The short window and immediate success is impressive if infuriating to a woman who, with an entire medical team and precisely planned medications and procedures at her disposal, has yet to produce a non-royal baby. Of course, maybe they just got lucky. No one would make a 10 page article about a Royal Whoopsie, so maybe they made it seem well planned when really it was a romantic night of incredibly expensive wine that created this royal baby-to-be. But the images in my mind are a roomful of people, setting this up like racehorse studding, taking basal temperatures and testing royal spunk and telling the royal couple that they must have utilitarian conception whoopie at precisely the 8th bong of Big Ben on Thursday next in order to conceive in a well-timed and considerate manner.

Of course maybe it's only my twisted brain that thinks this way. Maybe I'm just as bad as all the magazines and talk shows for examining this poor woman's very public pregnancy so closely. But then again, I can't feel too badly for her because she IS living in a castle and the Royal Pram DOES cost a disgusting $3995, and the cost of my next cycle is probably contained in a few hangers in her closet. You can't marry a prince and not expect some scrutiny. So, I am by turns disgusted by the military precision of this planned pregnancy and also kind of want to give Kate a standing ovation. Under tremendous pressure she conceived pretty much on demand after age 30, and she and her husband in a weird sort of way did it under their terms (not within a year of marriage, like every other royal before her), honoring their royal marriage first. Brava, Royal Gestator. Brava.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Being Thankful

Bryce, Jess, and the Thanksgiving spread (all GF!)...
and not a small selection of booze behind us.
Happy belated Thanksgiving to everyone! The holidays are upon us and it is a mixed bag. I have been lax in my bloggy duties (both posting and commenting, but I am trying to catch up) because I hosted a family Thanksgiving and had family in from out of town, which required a lot of preparation and very little downtime. But I've had this post brewing in my head for days if not more, and I need to release it from my subconscious.

My mom is taking the picture. It's a nice full table,
just no kids running around.
The holidays are a funny time for me as an infertile woman, for us as an infertile couple. It is a time to be thankful for all that we have, but it is also a time when the baby-sized hole in our lives is painfully present. There is no kids table at our Thanksgiving. We do not have grandchildren to help entertain visiting parents or add that extra layer of joy and laughter to our home. We have cats, who are very snuggly and affectionate but just not quite the same as a cooing baby or a giggling toddler. I can make a kick-ass Thanksgiving spread and have food to feed many more people than actually were in our home, but I can't make a baby (yet). It's a lot to take in.

This is made even more bittersweet by my emotionally abusive relationship with Facebook. Facebook, you bring me flowers when you catch me up with friends I haven't seen in a while, but then you call me barren and empty when you scroll me through page after page of baby photos and ultrasound photos and bump photos and evidence of everything everyone else is so thankful for that we can only dream of at this point. I am happy for the new and burgeoning families out there, happy for Christmas crafts and milestone onesies and first cupcakes and first turkey and hospital photos and family portraits that will no doubt decorate the onslaught of baby-splattered Christmas cards we are about to receive. Your joy is palpable and I am happy for those who have this--either easily or hard-won through battles like mine. Many of the babies and small children I see online were born not of candlelit evenings or liquor-induced whoopsies but of injections and waiting for nurse calls. They are families born through birth mother sacrifice and joyous airplane days, not joyous pee stick bathroom moments that are immediately shared as though tragedy is something you hear about, not something you experience. I don't begrudge anyone their family, but I especially don't begrudge the ones that are happy endings to arduous journeys. It's just incredibly hard to see everyone's miracles when ours are so short-lived. It leaves us feeling very alone.

But we're not alone--we have each other. We share a relationship made stronger through all this unfairness. We have families who fill our table at Thanksgiving. We have friends who care about us and cheer us on. We know this, but it is hard not to feel sorry for ourselves when evidence that we have been left behind (sometimes two or three times over) when it comes to extending our family is all around us--on Facebook, via email updates, via the families (with mommies and daddies 10 years younger than us) that inevitably sit at the tables next to us at the diner...everywhere. Everywhere but car seats in the back of our cars or cribs in the little room that will someday have small people rifling through the picture books, not a sad 36 year old lady with no one to read bedtime stories to. (Again, unless you count the cats, and I haven't quite traveled down that road yet.)

So while a holiday entirely centered on giving thanks and sharing with family can be difficult for us as we mourn the chances that ended poorly and our continued childless state, it is nice to reflect on what we are thankful for. There is actually a lot, even though there is a gaping chasm of nothingness where what we would love to be most thankful for is missing. But there is a lot to be thankful for.

- Each other. I am lucky to have the love I share with my husband. We are truly a team, and a kickass family of two.
- Our families. They show their support in different ways, but they are incredibly supportive and want to see us happy.
- Our friends. We are grateful for the people who cheer us on when we're ramping up, who ask us how we're doing, and who mourn with us when the tide turns tragic. People who will see silly movies and go for walks and listen.
- That we have the ability to pay for fertility treatment without a huge amount of sacrifice. Don't get me wrong, it's hard to shell out the tens of thousands of dollars and see no return, and we have sacrificed a lot and feel financially shackled to the sharps containers, but we aren't racking up debt in this quest and we aren't facing really, really tough decisions when it comes to what we must give up in order to pay for the opportunity to expand our family. We have worked very hard to be in this spot, and we do stress about coming up with the large sums of money all at once, but we are grateful that we can afford treatment. Others are not as fortunate.
- That I can make an (if I do say so myself) amazing Thanksgiving dinner and share it with others. I am thankful for my gorgeous turkey, which was my best yet this year.
- That somehow I can keep trudging through this incredibly difficult time in our lives and not totally lose it. I am definitely at a breaking point, but I am not broken. I am sad almost all of the time but am able to function and do well at my job and separate that out. Infertility has not quite destroyed my spirit, and I will keep fighting to keep it from doing that. It's trying incredibly hard, but we still have enough hope to stave off the attacks and keep them from doing permanent damage.
- Our kitties. They are not children, but they are part of our family and they bring us so much joy. You can't be sad for long when a soft, fuzzy kitty nuzzles your neck and settles into your lap for a purry snooze.

There. I am sad, and I am frustrated by the fact that we are still on this ride with a ways to go before we have the chance to photograph our own "My First Thanksgiving" bundle, but we have a lot to be grateful for. And a lot to look forward to. Someday.

Me, my mom, and my grandma. I would love to add a fourth
generation to this picture next year...

Sunday, November 4, 2012

The Power of a Song

I had absolutely no idea how powerful a song could be. I know that music speaks to your soul, and can bring you to tears. I just didn't expect the reaction I had last night.

It was a cozy day--rainy and sleety and cold. We had slept in and gotten a late start on the day. We ran errands, we went to some neat little shops, we cleaned and organized around the house. While on our errands, we received beautiful compliments on our relationship from virtual strangers. While at the bank, there were these robot wind-up toys on the counter. Bryce said, "That girl one reminds me of something, I can't put a finger on it..." I looked at it and immediately knew what it reminded him of. "It reminds you of Joan Ri.vers' character in Space.balls!" He started laughing--that was EXACTLY what he was thinking! The teller thought it was great--she said, "Well, you're certainly with the right girl." It was such a small thing, but so amazing to realize how in sync we are. Then, at one of my favorite shops for home decorating, we got into a conversation while checking out with way too many candles (I have a seasonal candle addiction, luckily so does Bryce). The ladies at the counter asked how long we'd been married, and that we seem so happy and in love. That we always come in as such a complement to each other, and how lovely that is to see. Then, actually, Friday night at our weekly Mexican food date night, we sat across from this lovely Scottish couple who were a few beverages in and very friendly--they also talked to us about their daughter's traditional Scottish wedding but then said we looked like such a loving couple, such a wonderful pair. It was a weekend of post-anniversary affirmations that we have such an awesome relationship, even through all this shit, that we ooze happiness and compatibility. It was a beautiful, ongoing compliment.

We topped off the night at home, with a bottle of Saint Estephe bordeaux, candles making our house smell like oranges and spice, leftovers (not so fancy) and roasted Delicata squash (so super yummy). We decided to play a trivia game, Foodie Fight. (It's all about food preparation, serving, wine pairings, restaurants, famous chefs, etc. etc.-- yes, we know we're total food/wine snots and nerds to boot.) The game is a lot of fun and we're pretty even with it--I have a creepy memory that retains all kinds of random facts, but Bryce is incredibly well-versed in food, food science, and restauranteurs. I had put on a mix of music--some torchy jazz, some torchy Tom Wa.itts, what I thought was going to be mostly Antonio Bada.lamente jazz but was more creepy movie score (thanks a lot, Blue Vel.vet), and a sprinkling of Barry W.hite. What could go wrong?

Well, there was a song listed in our music server (yes, nerds, I know) as Barry Whi.te, but it so wasn't. It came on towards the end of the night. I love this song, but it had a reaction totally unexpected and visceral.

The song is Sexy Thing by Hot Cho.colate.

Why, why on earth would a song that's basically a "hey baby" come-on to some sexy lady make me cry?

It's on my stupid playlist. The song's chorus is "I believe in miracles...since you came along! You sexy thing!" and includes phrases like "How did you know, I needed you so badly? How did you know, I'd give my heart gladly?" Again, seems a little creepy. Embryos are not, um, sexy. But I love the whole believing in miracles thing, and I love how it's celebrating this miracle that's arrived, even if for the singer it's some hot ticket he wants to spend sexytimes with, and for me it is an implanted embryo. Because this song is a song that I played throughout my ectopic pregnancy (before I knew that's what it was) and a song I played during my last pregnancy, which was even shorter. It was a song I played during the two week wait to encourage my miracle to happen. It's a song that for some reason, last night, jettisoned me back to a time when I was full of hope and happiness and we thought we had finally made it... and then again to how it felt as I was losing both those miracles. This does not make for a very romantic end to a lovely evening. This makes for a sobbing, crumply wife blowing snot into her husband's t-shirt (totally unintentionally) and feeling like a total, complete, utter failure. We can do this relationship thing with flair and talent, but we just can't seem to seal the deal on that next step.

Earlier on Saturday, when we were eating our late and horribly unhealthy lunch (burgers and fries), there was a two year old girl peeking around chairs in the restaurant. She was adorable. She kept making eyes at us. She giggled. It was a beautiful sound. Bryce stared at her (in a totally non-creeper way of course), and then turned to me. "It's really going to be fun when we nail this" he said.  I was already a little on the quiet side, but I thought and thought and turned that over in my mind. A bit later Bryce was concerned that his comment had upset me. Actually, it made me incredibly happy. We spend so much time getting stomped on in this process that Bryce's protection mechanism is to say things like "It's so hard to believe this is ever going to happen for us" or "I just can't see parenthood in my future." Things that help him cope but drive me batty because they are so devoid of hope and don't exactly put positive, welcoming energy into the universe. So this one statement, "It's really GOING to be fun WHEN we nail this," was a beautiful ray of sunshine. It was a feeling that if Bryce can believe this is actually going to happen, if he can be hopeful and put that WHEN, not IF out there, then maybe we're actually headed down a path that will result in our own little miracle. I loved his statement. And I thought about his statement after I pulled the pieces of my broken heart together after that stupid R&B song catapulted me down a very dark, very sad memory lane. Because part of that trip wasn't sad. Part of it was the incredible feeling of hope and joy that I felt each time I had life growing inside me. The fact that I can't stop myself from getting excited when that positive comes around, no matter how tenuous it is. Even though my track record is horrible, I need to still believe in miracles. And I am so glad to have a husband who is also capable of believing that the miracle isn't pie-in-the-sky. That we will add a miracle or two to our happy household.

And hopefully the croonings of Hot Chocolate will convert back into a sexy song, and not a weird anthem for hope in the midst of loss... once that miracle happens for keeps.

Love That Liebster!

Many, many thanks to Amanda at Growing Griswolds for nominating me for the Liebster Award! This is a blog award given by bloggers, to bloggers with less than 200 followers. You must answer 11 questions given by the blogger who nominated you (great questions, Amanda!) and then ask 11 questions to the 11 fabulous bloggers that you nominate in turn. Liebster is a German word that means all kinds of warm and fuzzy things: sweetest, kindest, nicest, dearest, beloved, lovely, kind, pleasant, valued, cute, endearing and welcome. It's a beautiful thing to be recognized and then be able to recognize others, and spread the love around!

Here are the questions Amanda posed...

1) If you were a pickle in a jar, where would you want to be and why?
Hmmm. I would want to be in a mini-fridge in an Airstream trailer somewhere in Acadia National Park, because that is the most gorgeous place a pickle could be. I would be a very happy bread-and-butter pickle.
2) What is your favorite holiday?
Halloween. It's edged out Christmas because a) Halloween is my wedding anniversary, b) Halloween encourages you to go around demanding candy from strangers, c) the weather is gorgeous, and d) selfishly, it is not a family holiday that you have to worry about traveling or gift-giving or making a giant meal for the masses. It is totally stress-free, gluttonous, and silly.
3) If you have a bucket list, what is the most ridiculous thing on it? (Thanks Bree for the question)
I don't actually have a bucket list! But if I did, now that I think of it, I'm sure there would be something ridiculous on it. Nothing crazy like skydiving or deep sea SCUBA, because that could send you off to the bucket and I am a chicken. Probably something like riding a horse on a beach. Because I love the beach but am terrified of horses, but that seems like a really romantic thing everyone should do at some point or another.
4) If you could only watch one disney movie for the rest of your life, which one would it be and why?
Great question! I would say The Little Mermaid. It was a high school favorite that I saw in the theater and then watched with my girlfriends at sleepovers (Yes, party girls we were not). It has a good story even though it's not remotely true to the Hans Christian Anderson original, the songs are great (Les Poisson being my favorite to sing in a ridiculous Frenchy voice), and it makes me cry.
5) What is your favorite nursery rhyme?
I don't really have one, but I have a favorite nursery rhyme book. It's that Mother Goose picture book with the checkerboard border around the edge. Loved the pictures in that one when I was little and I need to find it for when I read it to someone tiny in my house.
6) Do you have any pets? If no, why not?
Two kitties--Abner (black and white kitty) and Lucky (black kitty). They are super snuggly, although Lucky has been pretty destructive lately and Abner is a little gross.
7) Is your current hair color your natural hair color?
No, not exactly... it's close to my natural hair color but better (and with less gray). My natural hair color is brown, but this one is "Coffee."
8) What do you like to do in your spare time?
Spare time? What's that? During the school year I feel like this is a mythical concept... But when it does exist, I like to go hiking, read, play my violin, and garden. I also like to cook delicious gluten-free food.
9) If you could be any crayon color, which would you choose to be? (Thanks April for the question)
I would be Blue Violet. It's my favorite Crayola purple.
10) What is the furthest you have been away from home and where was it?
I think it was Hawaii... that's further from NY than England, right? A vacation after college graduation that was beautiful, even if it was wasted on He Who Must Not Be Named.
11) How old were you when you got your first cell phone?
20-something... I didn't have one in college. I don't remember if I had one when I lived near NYC, or if I got it when I moved to Rochester (which would have been 25). I think it was in Rochester, I don't remember having a 914 number. There were so many times before that when it would have been helpful to have one. It's weird that so many people don't remember a time before cell phones.

OK, here are my fabulous nominees. I apparently follow a lot of blogs with lots of followers, and spent a week (A WEEK!) feeling guilty about not nominating more. Every additional awesome blog I found that I could nominate was... already nominated. So here are my five lovely ladies, and I apologize for not following the rules...:

Tippy at Tippy & Tidy's Tumultuous Trip to (Twin) Toddlers
Suzy at Our Journey to the School Bus
Princess Wahna Bea Mama at The Princess and the Pee Stick
Kelly at Mommy Mayhem
Peg at Que Sera Sera
 
Here are your questions:

1) What did you want to be when you grew up, and did you end up doing something even remotely close to that original thought?

2) What was your favorite romantic vacation, and why?

3) What meal is so good that you could eat it every day for the rest of your life?

4) What is something surprising and pleasant that you have learned about your relationship through this process of family-building?

5) Which season is your favorite, and why?

6) What was the last movie that you watched that you were embarrassed to admit you liked?

7) What was the last album you bought (physical or MP3)?

8) What book has really resonated with you recently?

9) What is your most ridiculous fear?

10) What is something that you are super proud of?

11) Do you have a strange/unusual/silly talent? If so, please share!

Enjoy the questions. I feel like I'm setting up an online dating profile for you, but it will be fun to see your answers! :)

Have a wonderful Saturday, thank you to Amanda, and congratulations to the five awesome bloggers above!

Sunday, October 21, 2012

I'm Glad I'm Not a Salmon


Wait, what? What on earth does a salmon have to do with infertility? Today, EVERYTHING.

Today was a lovely fall day. Despite a really hot and really dry (and then at times really wet) summer, we have the most vibrant fall colors I've seen in a long time. It's gorgeous. So Bryce and I went for a walk today in a nearby nature park to enjoy the foliage and warmish fall day and get some exercise. We are lucky to have trails with waterfalls and marshes and woods within walking distance to our house. It was good to get out, because I have been (if you haven't guessed it already from recent posts) having a bit of a hard time lately, emotionally speaking. This nature park is, however, a magnet for the stroller set. So I braced myself and hoped that since it was 5, most baby-toting woods-enjoyers would be heading home for a feeding and bedtime. Little did I know the thing that would make me sad was not adorable babies in carriers, bouncing along the trails. It was a freaking fish.

The fish in question is in the photo above, bravely taken by Bryce as he balanced on a slippery, leaf-strewn rock in the middle of the Irondequoit Creek by Postcard Falls. This is a salmon. The salmon are running. For those of you who fly-fish, the salmon are running practically in my backyard. I don't fish so this does nothing for me, but apparently this sets the fisherpeople salivating. Anyway, apparently the salmon run when they are getting set to spawn. As in lay their eggs. As in procreate.

This particular salmon was stuck. It had chosen its path unwisely, and ended up in a shallow section of the brook where it was having a devil of a time launching itself up over the rock and into the deeper water. Of course once it gets to the deeper water, it has a set of little waterfalls to get over which were much more daunting than the one rock it couldn't leap over here, but I guess in deeper water the salmon can get more of a running start. This salmon was screwed in the shallow water.

We came up on it when there was quite the audience. The question was, do you help the salmon or not? Bryce valiantly took his shoes and socks off and started rolling his jeans up. He was going to be a hero to this little stuck salmon! He was going to try to snatch that salmon up like a bear, and instead of ripping it to shreds for dinner, toss it into the deeper water and give it a fighting chance for survival. Until this one guy started talking.

"You can't mess with Mother Nature," the guy said. "That fish has to get up those falls, and it probably has a bellyful of eggs. They're stronger than you think, these salmon. But, if it can't get over that rock, it probably is best to let Nature take its course." Enter an ENTIRE CONVERSATION about how if it's not smart enough (or able) to get over that rock and get unstuck, it's probably best for those multitudes of eggs to die with the salmon so that it doesn't pass on weaker offspring. Oh, and salmon do this to spawn, and it's fun to watch, and when a lady salmon can't spawn anymore, SHE DIES.

Can you imagine why this got me both pissed off and depressed at the same time? I mean, GIVE THE FREAKING SALMON A BREAK!!! Just because it took a wrong turn doesn't mean that it doesn't deserve to lay its eggs, especially if once it can't do the egg thing, its purpose in life is over. I hope that guy is wrong and the lady salmon have the chance to do some living after they reproduce. I thought about what it would be like to be a salmon and then teared up. Because man, I would make a shitty salmon. All I could think was, screw this "let nature take its course" crap! Help a salmon sister out! But I guess this is why it's good that I'm not a salmon. We left it alone, even though I thought maybe Bryce could be the equivalent of the salmon's reproductive endocrinologist by tossing it over the rock. And Bryce gave me a hug once I told him how pissed I was about the stupid fish, and said, "you are NOT a salmon." Somehow, that made me feel better.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Why I Won't Get Pregnant "On My Own"

Yup, I know how negative this post title sounds. This is the dream, right? To strive and strive for a pregnancy only to miraculously find yourself pregnant, on your own, when you least expect it. Everyone knows someone this has happened to -- usually someone who was told it wasn't possible to get pregnant on her own, ever. I suspect everyone knows the same handful of people, or has read the same magazine article or seen the same daytime talk show about this phenomenon.

A phenomenon that gives credence to the "just relax" people -- "See--they'd totally given up, and THAT'S when it happened!" A phenomenon that backs up the asinine "adoption-as-fertility-treatment" theory--that once you put your stress over getting pregnant to bed and start the adoption process, BAM! Pregnant. Because you weren't thinking thing about it. Even though I actually know people who experienced this mythical miracle, I know a hell of lot more people who did NOT get pregnant on ther own. Or after adopting. Because that is NOT the norm.

It's difficult to respond to incredibly well-meaning people who assure me that now, in the break time, I could get pregnant. "You never know! Stranger things have happened!" Sometimes all I can do is just smile and weakly nod and say, "Yup, it's not impossible..." instead of explaining how UNBELIEVABLY IMPROBABLE that is. From multiple standpoints. I guess part of me doesn't want to burst that bubble of magical thinking. They have more hope than I do on this front.

Here are the factual reasons why it's highly, HIGHLY unlikely that I will find myself magically knocked up:

  • I have PCOS with ovulatory dysfunction. I rarely ovulate without drugs. No eggs, no baby.
  • Even if I did ovulate, the ectopic pregnancy left me with only one tube--so 50% of the time that egg that would go nowhere fertilizable.
  • We have significant male factor--those swimmers are scant in numbers and floundering in inflatable swim aids. THe chances of a rogue sperm making it to an actual traveling egg are miniscule.
  • In all our attempts, our fertilization rate WHEN THEY INJECT A SPERM DIRECTLY INTO MY EGGS is anywhere from 50-70%. Not looking good for that poor swimmer and floating mystery egg on their own.
  • I typically use assisted hatching with IVF, which means my poor, sad, defective little eggs have a crusty shell and can't hatch and attach without help. Even with this modification, my embryos haven't done well implanting.
  • In 7 IUIs, 4 fresh IVFs and 2 frozen transfers, we have had 16 confirmed embryos and 2 implantations. One in my tube (less than 1% chance of that with IVF! Go team on hitting THAT improbability!) and one in my uterus that crapped out shy of 6 weeks. Not great odds.
  • My miscarriage and poor implantation rate suggest a high probability of chromosomal abnormality. Which means if I did get pregnant on my own, it wouldn't likely last long.
So, between my faulty eggs, Bryce's faulty sperm, my missing tube, my disagreeable ovarian function, and embryos that can't get their shit together despite lots of help, I think it's probably not looking so hot for a miracle. Even though a miracle is technically success in SPITE of all of these overwhelming odds against us.

Which is why, as unbelievable as it is for some to understand, the biggest reason why I won't get pregnant on my own is because I choose to be on the Pill during my break. WHY deny yourself even a chance to have a miracle during your off time? is a cry I've received more than once. It seems counterintuitive, but here's why.

I am an incurable optimist when it comes to my dsyfunctional body. Because I don't ovulate, it takes me forever (if ever) to get a period. In the meantime, if I feel remotely tired, nauseous, sensitive to passing cigarette smoke, sore-boobed, etc. -- I WILL THINK IT'S POSSIBLE I'M PREGNANT. I will mull over it for a day or two, I will worry that I had margaritas or too much wine, and imagine my poor Fetal Alcohol Syndrom baby miracle who will hate me forever for being so irresponsible. Then I will turn and imagine how I will joyfully tell people that YES, I AM A MIRACLE. I will be tempted to pee on a stick and agonize over whether it's worth the money to buy a test (it's not). I will then call the clinic and request Provera to bring on a period, since at this point I have to call and say I haven't gotten it by day 35 or 40 or something equally ridiculous, and they will send me for a pregnancy blood test. And I will be actually upset when it is inevitably negative. It is ALWAYS negative. I have literally cried over a possible pregnancy that WAS NOT POSSIBLE. It's torture. The last time I put myself through this was particularly nasty, because I stayed off the Pill for weeks and weeks after my miscarriage and had spotting, then nothing. IT'S IMPLANTATION SPOTTING!!! I thought, with more hope than was healthy. Who knows, maybe my body became normal after a short-lived uterine pregnancy and it was actually a dress rehearsal for my REAL pregnancy! Um, no, crazypants. My system just sucks. And raging PMS is pretty damn close to early pregnancy symptoms, I just forget what PMS feels like because...my system sucks. And so, my silver lining outlook is ultimately cruel to me. Although I did actually get my period, on my own, two weeks later, no Provera necessary--which is actually an ironic miracle all its own.

Therefore, I go on the Pill. In part so I get a regular period I can plan on like a normal person, but also so I can keep the miracle pregnancy fantasy tamped down. I need my break to be a real break, where I drink coffee and wine and tequila and eat processed Halloween candy and don't worry that I'm damaging my fragile fetal (nonexistent) miracle baby. Where I can get my body into decent shape with exercise that makes me sweat and raises my pulse and my core body temperature...again, without worrying that I'm damaging a fantasy fetus.

It keeps me sane, not "trying on my own." It gives me a rest from all this brou-ha-ha. Which in turn, I hope, gives me a better shot at actually getting pregnant under the expert direction of our fertility team, when it's time to go back into battle again.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

This Break Thing

I am having a little bit of difficulty with this break concept. I am trying to truly be on a break, but I am finding that incredibly difficult to do. How do you take a break from something as monumental as infertility? I can take a break from treatment, I can take a break from filling my days with infertility-focused things. But I can't take a break from myself. Infertility has been a journey filled with loss, sadness, loneliness, occasional spurts of hope and happiness followed up by crushing grief... and I don't think you can take a break from grief. It sneaks up on you. It seeps out the cracks. I don't have enough fingers to plug the holes.

See, even if you are physically taking a break, you never stop being infertile. You never stop feeling sorry for yourself when the pregnancy or birth announcements come through and you and your husband are still a household of cats, with no baby in sight. I can be happy I don't have to stick myself with needles right now, I can be happy that I can enjoy margaritas and wine. I can relish in sleeping in on Saturdays because I don't have to get up for a) a butt shot or b) a very tiny someone who needs something. The butt shot I can do without. The very tiny someone is a giant hole in our house and our hearts.

Here are the good things about being on a break:
- I can enjoy evening drinks
- I can drink pumpkin coffee (sadly not the pumpkin spice latte, the syrup isn't GF, but I've had luck with DD pumpkin coffee)
- I am not planning my schedule around doctor's appointments
- While I am carefully thinking about what foods I eat, I don't have to be militant about it. Soft cheeses are my friends.
- Bryce and I can plan little driving getaways--a fancy night away for our third anniversary, a Christmas vacation that's romantic and old-timey.
- We can save up the money we'll need for our next steps
- We have enough time that we can save up the money without feeling completely under the thumb of infertility

And here are the things that stink:
- This break is pretty long, by design but also by necessity. I am so jealous of people who can try to get pregnant on a monthly basis. For us it is now a yearly event.
- I am seemingly incapable of not thinking about our longing for a baby during this break. We are technically only a month in (I cannot count August, since we miscarried at the beginning of August and so that month was spent in thought and planning next steps and a whole lot of soul crushing grief), and I am failing miserably at not walking around with my scarlet IF on my chest all the time. I can't stop thinking about it. And I have nothing concrete to look forward to until 2013 in terms of ending this neverending process.
- Because, while I can enjoy the life that we have now, and I am grateful for everything that we share and the miracle that is our relationship and marriage together...I want this part of our life to be over. I want the "getting there" part that seems never ending (THREE YEARS of effort and disappointment and devastation with virtually no payoff) to get to that grand finale, so that we can enjoy our life without all this horrific uncertainty. We can go to dinner without feeling bitter about the family sitting behind us with the baby and the parents are easily 10 years younger than us (those parents will still be young in comparison when we're parents, we'll just have the "parenthood" part to ease the bitterness). Or overhearing people say things like "She gets pregnant if I sneeze on her" that in some other world are funny but to me is an amazingly foreign concept and a reason for incredible unfairness over why this is so easy for others and so, so hard for us.
- I don't know how to do this on a break thing. I don't know what to leave and what to keep. And I feel pretty lost about it.

Just to elaborate on that last one, I have been a terrible blogger. I have a million posts in my head, but I sit down to write them and I freeze up. I'm supposed to be on a BREAK! How can I keep writing about infertility if I'm supposed to be away from that? (Because it's impossible to leave it be, that's why.) I keep getting stuck. And because writing these blogs is a huge part of how I process all this, I am feeling emotionally constipated. I am stopped up but don't know how to fix it while still trying to be a "normal" person for a while.

Also, I started going to Fertility Yoga again. I went three times. I don't know if I can go back anytime soon. The yoga itself is very relaxing, and I like feeling like I'm preparing my body. But do I need to prepare my body months and months in advance when I am surrounded by reminders of just how infertile I am? The first time I went was surprisingly hard. Probably because the last time before that I got to share that I was pregnant and everything was looking great, and I was looking forward to my first ultrasound. So coming back with my tail between my legs, UN-pregnant and devastated, was not easy. So, at the beginning of class when everyone goes around and says something about where they are and what they need out of the practice that evening, I kept thinking "What am I going to say?" And then it was my turn. And I couldn't say anything. I said "My name is Jess, and..." I burst into tears. I was not expecting that. It took me a minute to get it together and then I sobbed, "I'm sorry, last time I was here I was pregnant and now I'm not and I'm on a break, on a break, on a break, and it will be good and I will get better and we will try again next year since 4 fresh and 2 frozen IVF cycles have not exactly worked out for us so far. I need shoulder-opening poses, please." It was interesting, because while I felt bad about exposing the raw grief of years of losses and doing everything I can to make this work and having it not result in a happy ending because there were so many first-timer Clomid IUI ladies joining up, at the same time I felt kind of like it wasn't so bad to let people know that there is the possibility that the path will be long and arduous regardless of effort. I feel like a jerk saying that, and it's not that I wish that on anyone at all, but I know that I am not alone in having a trip to the baby aisle in Target that has one hell of a gauntlet involved. And it's not a bad thing for people to know that.

I did have a good practice that night after the tears, and I did see a few people I hadn't seen in a while which was nice. So I decided to go back again. The next time I just said "I'm Jess and I'm on a break" and left it at that. Which was a little liberating. But then, someone announced a pregnancy (very exciting--it's wonderful when that happens, especially for someone who's had a very rough go of it herself), and it was fine during class but after class all these people were asking about ultrasounds and when you see the heartbeat and when you see the fetal pole and what to expect from the first weeks of pregnancy and I booked out of there like the place was on fire. Because I know what early pregnancy feels like and I know how exciting it is to go to your first ultrasound. And there it stops for me. Because my ultrasound experiences have been "Hmmm, there's nothing in your uterus, OH SHIT it's in your tube, let's get you into surgery tonight!" or "Let's do an ultrasound and see a sac but a few days earlier than your scheduled viability ultrasound because you are BLEEDING--oh look there's a sac! [go on bedrest, try to keep said sac from leaving, several days later...] Hmmm, I'm so sorry, there's nothing but debris in there." NO HEARTBEATS. No joy in either viewing. So listening to everyone talking hopefully about what their first ultrasounds would be like was very painful for me because I have never had an ultrasound that didn't result in horror.

Still, I tried again this week. And it was the first time that there was no one from the first three waves of people that I have gone to yoga with--there were people I've met very recently, but no other "veterans." I thought I would feel better somehow if it turned over completely. I didn't. I felt worse. I felt like a dinosaur, I felt very alone, and I cried all evening when I got back. I don't think I can do Fertility Yoga anymore, not when I'm on break. There's a waiting list, so maybe I shouldn't be going anyway since my procedures aren't for a while. But ultimately when I go the yoga part is great, but before and after makes me feel awful. And doesn't make me feel like I'm on a break. It keeps me in it.

So instead I'm going to go to regular yoga classes. I'm going to a crazy Yoga Sculpt class on Saturday mornings that is NOT fertility related at all and incredibly challenging. The only disadvantage is I am a chubber in that class and some poses make my hips hurt. Because, believe it or not, my progesterone butt shot sites STILL HURT. Amazing. My body doesn't want me to forget, apparently, either. But, I am trying to beat it into submission with weighted balance poses and side planks and pilates moves.

I am going to try my best to be on a break for the next couple of months. I may not always talk about my infertility during this time, but it is always there, lurking not far under the surface. I can do a better job of dealing with things that while in treatment would send me into a tailspin, but don't forget--I am still infertile. I am still grieving the loss of a baby that should have been. I am grieving the loss of years of treatment that has failed us, and coming to grips with our next steps. I may have a drink in my hand and be able to hold other people's babies at family functions, but inside I am still hurting. It doesn't go away. And so when I remove myself from conversations that can be painful (announcements, baby name conversations, etc.) please know I'm not rude, I'm just still infertile. And not superhuman. I will do what I need to to protect myself. And I will try my best to enjoy this break and not perseverate on the grief, but it is definitely there. Sometimes I need to sit in it. But sometimes I can just sit back and have a glass of Bordeaux and a dry aged steak with my husband on a Saturday night and be truly happy where I am, right now, despite all the mess we trudge through to get to this elusive goal of parenthood.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Weekend Blues

Holy cow, I seem to always forget how the first weeks of school take every ounce of everything a body has. This year was exciting, because I actually got to start the year at the start. Novel idea. But it has been stressful, because I'm teaching two new classes (new to me) and the structure of how the classes are taught are different than how they've been in the past (no pressure), and teaching self-contained English and Reading is a LOT of lesson plans and coordination and isn't easy when you're a traveling teacher between two schools. But I feel like I have a plan and I'm feeling a little more into a groove, and I am feeling more sane at the start of this second full week of school. Always a plus.

I always feel like I have to fix everything all at once, like I have to plan everything all at once, like things have to be mapped out. This is good in a sense, but it leaves no room for flexibility, and then I get stressed out when plans change. But, good teaching is planning but also reflecting and having the flexibility to adapt your plan to the changing needs of your students. It's kind of like life that way...if you create a life plan and you feel you have to stick to it, you will be incredibly disappointed when needs change and things don't go the way you envision. You have to roll with the punches. Or roll with the happiness? I guess I just always think of punches because that's what it feels like so much of the time. One rolling wave of suckerpunches to the gut after another.

But now, it's school, and I'm officially "on my break" from fertility. Which is a laugh a minute, because the break is physical only. I cannot for the life of me ever stop thinking about it and coming to grips with it and planning our next steps and dealing with our next steps. I just am doing it on my own time, away from the constant injections and doctor's appointments and the trusty dildocam. Honestly, school has been so busy and so stressful that I haven't had much time to think about things. I compartmentalize really well at work--school is school and I try really hard to keep all this fertility crap out of it. I can't be an effective teacher if I'm crying all the time. So at school I'm Teacher Jess, not Sad Sap Infertile Jess. They are very, very separate and I'm trying to make it even more separate this year so that when we do start up again in 2013 I can try to have a little more space between school and treatment. It's impossible to be completely divorced from all this when in the midst of things, but I think I do pretty well keeping infertility from totally infiltrating my professional self. And right now, it's so very busy I couldn't think about infertility whatsoever. With one caveat.

Weekends.

Even though I am still pretty busy and doing school work in evenings and weekends, there's a little more space on Saturday and Sunday. Things slow down a bit and I have space to breathe. Which means I have space to think. Which apparently means I have space to grieve. Both Sundays since school has started have been messy. The first one was a combination of anger and stress over feeling so overwhelmed at school and feeling like I couldn't get myself in order, and then spilled over to sadness which then manifested itself as a massive bitchfest. I was hideous. My awesome counselor is always reminding me "It's easier to be angry than sad, but you have to sit in the sad, really sit in the sad, to get over that hump." And boy, was I avoiding the sad and sitting in the mad. And taking it out on anything, animate or not, around me. The stress just brought out the worst in me and then I went from pissy and yelling and even throwing my 36-year-old self on the bed like a classic toddler tantrum to outright sobbing on the floor and feeling completely desolate in my loss. But then I had to get right back to work, so it couldn't last long.

This past Sunday was a beautiful autumn day. I was far less stressed and felt much more in control of the school situation. I was determined to enjoy my freaking weekend, dammit. It was all working out pretty well--Saturday came and went with no tears, and Sunday was off to a great start. We slept in (or Bryce slept in and I got up and ate some fruit and went for a walk and then Bryce got up...), went to our favorite diner for our favorite breakfast, and then went to Lowe's to get the first wave of fall mums and maybe a pumpkin for my garden chair. I think the funk started at breakfast, because we were talking a little about how long we've been at this and how many people have expanded their families around us since we've started our journey. I feel like a broken record with this image, but we really do feel like the stationary object in a print with time lapse photography...the two lone pine trees in a field of rotating stars. (Earth science friends, I know that the stars actually aren't moving and it's us who are rotating while the stars stay relatively stationary, but it sure doesn't feel that way. Gaaaah! 9th grade curriculum is messing up my metaphor!!!) Earth science aside, our incredibly depressing stationary status started the funk.

The funk just kept going when we were in Lowe's and finding some (really really awesome) Halloween stuff for the house, and looking at all the autumn displays, and picking out pumpkins and mums. Just the first splash of the season, as I like to get our actual pumpkins and mums at a farm stand and not a national chain store, but still festive all the same. I started to feel panicky in the mum section, as Bryce was looking for some post and beam materials to rebuild our fence. I started to feel tight in the chest and claustrophobic. We finished our business in the store and checked out, and I honestly didn't think I was going to make it out of the store before dissolving. I made it just to the car, and then burst into hysterical sobs. Wrenching sobs. It was like all my sadness and loss had been fermenting and finally was bubbling up to the surface and erupting out, like a shaken bottle of champagne. Sad champagne, not celebratory bubbles. I was just overwhelmed by the pure UNFAIRNESS of everything that has happened to us. How, HOW can it be almost October and we're not pregnant? How is it that we have been at this for THREE YEARS and have nothing but loss, disappointment, extra pounds, and a lot of receipts to show for it? WHAT THE HELL???? It just washed over me in wave after wave of OH MY GOD WE ARE STILL JUST THE TWO OF US, EVEN AFTER EVERYTHING, EVERYTHING we have done. And then realizing that our next steps are our last shot at carrying, a dream that I am not ready to lay down yet. A dream I've had for seemingly ever, a thing that you're warned left right and sideways as a teen and young adult could happen at ANY TIME and yet is incredibly elusive to me. It was a horrible moment of just abject loss. Loss of our pregnancy, loss of how we imagined we'd have children, loss of all our efforts to date to just do what so many people can do without even really thinking about it. WHY IS IT ALL SO FREAKING HARD? Poor Bryce, he didn't know what to do. I was completely inconsolable. It lasted a full hour. My face was puffy the whole rest of the day. But it needed to happen. It just sucks that it only happens on the weekend.

I'm hoping that I can uncork most of this sadness so that I have a slow trickle, instead of these great geysers of loss that take me by surprise on my time off from work, when I have time to think about everything that's happened. I'm hoping that I can actually enjoy my break from infertility from an emotional standpoint, too, instead of just playing things over and over and constantly trying to plan and fit things into a schedule for our 2013 adventures. My brain just can't stop churning. It's why we can't take a longer break...I think I would truly lose my marbles. I feel like we'll hit a balance here soon. I have to remember, this last loss happened only about 7 weeks ago. Maybe that's another reason why it's bubbling over now. Around now I'd be hitting my second trimester, and feeling like I could start sharing our exciting news. That seems like such a foreign concept, sharing unadulterated good news. I have to believe it's in our future. I have to believe that it's possible and this next leg of the journey will bring us the incredible experience of bringing life into the world that we yearn for. I also have to believe it's possible that I can go and buy pumpkins and mums without hysterics in the car. This is our favorite season, dammit! I need tear-free autumn activities. Maybe next weekend.

Monday, September 3, 2012

Back to School

Here we go again...tomorrow is the first day of school. A new school year, some new assignments, and no maternity leave in sight. I was so hoping this year would be my year to be able to stand up in a faculty meeting when they say, "Does anyone have any announcements they'd like to make?" and say, "Yes! I'm expecting my first child!" I feel like a jerk, but I am dreading the announcements that will inevitably crop up this year. Life goes on, just not for me. It's hard not to feel a little bitter about that.

Going back to school is a good thing for me. I could use the routine and regular schedule that school provides. I compartmentalize better when I am in school, and can (for the most part) be a normal human in that role. I am the teacher, I have students who depend on me, there is no time to cry into my plan book and woe-is-me myself at school. That's what my car is for. Ha, ha. Seriously, I have bigger fish to fry traveling between two schools with two new classes in the morning. I have tried to be prepared and have spent a lot of time either in school or on my laptop over the past few weeks. I just can't wait for the year to start and the momentum to get going. I'm excited for this year. I am good at being a teacher. It distracts me from being really awful at reproducing.

In one of my schools, teachers create and display collages to show a glimpse into their life and interests. It's a great way for students to get to know you. Last year I did not do a collage, because I started the school year at a disadvantage (a week late, thanks to the ectopic experience). I could have done one retroactively, but I just did not feel like it. I had other more pressing things to take care of. This year, although my summer was tainted with loss again, it was not the kind that hospitalizes a body, and so I had time to do a collage. I may have gone a little overboard. I may have done one for both buildings, since I had already bought the materials and had plenty of photos. I may have made this a kickass, scrapbook-y collage. See, most collages have the wedding photos, the vacation photos, and then A SLEW OF BABIES AND/OR SMALL CHILDREN. The halls are lined with family portraits. My collage is missing those, unless I add some embryo pictures (I do realize this would be incredibly ill-advised, no need to worry). So, I decided that my collage was going to be pretty and highlight all the ways that we have a very full life without all those adorable photos of babies or siblings holding hands at Christmastime. Kind of like our Christmas card last year, which, since it was still missing a baby, was full of pseudo glamour shots of the two of us to show just how awesome it is to be just the two of us. (It is pretty awesome, minus the CRUSHING sense of failure in the family-building department, financial stress, and feeling that we are stationary objects while the rest of the world moves on to the next stages of their lives...but still we are awesome just the two of us.)

Here it is, my creation that took up the larger part of our dining room table for several days:


I have shots of Maine, wedding shots, both kitties (which were not labeled as "furbabies..." because...ew.), glittery fall leaves, owls, snakes, my gardens, reading stuff, and some tasty vittles that I cooked up. Not bad... For those family members out there, I decided it was easier to just keep it to me and Bryce. To include even just nuclear family would require a much bigger piece of paper (two sets of divorced parents means four sets of paired parentals plus siblings and their families=a collage in itself). I had fun picking out stickers (Dimensional pumpkins! Snakes! Music notes! Glitter leaves!) and putting the whole thing together. The other one is a little different because I didn't have doubles of all my photos, but it basically shows the same thing. We have fun and I am an interesting person, even though I do not have children. The only thing that was a little sad was looking through all the pictures of Maine. We really, really missed our annual vacation there this year. The week we normally go was not available, and we couldn't book another week because we had no clue how things were going to go with the FET. Next year we will go no matter what--it was way too sad to miss all of our favorite places and the ultimate relaxation that is camp. Going through the pictures I could almost feel the sea breezes on my face and feel the gentle rocking of the kayak on the lake. We have lots of great memories, but it was sad to realize that we hadn't made any new ones this year.

So, I started thinking--what should I say when people say "How was your summer?" I know that this is not meant to be a soul-searching question, just a conversation opener at most and nicety at least. I decided to think of all the GOOD things that happened this summer, completely separated from fertility. I'm taking fertility out of the mix because other than realizing what a completely kick ass team we have for our medical needs, it all pretty much sucked. Here is the good stuff:

- I was nominated for a national blog award.
- I read 17 books (and half of two more books that I had to abandon for upsetting subplots)
- I designed and planted a butterfly garden.
- I spent a lot of time with my Grandma and realized I am still a Scrabble whiz.
- I cooked a lot of really good food with Bryce at the grill helm.
- I spent time with new friends and old friends.
- I picked 5.5 pounds of blueberries.
- I grew a ton of tasty cherry tomatoes. (Trying to focus on that and not that my big tomato varieties all rotted from the bottom up this year...)
- I was a 4-H Evaluator at the NY State Fair for record books, scrapbooks, and creative writing.
- I am still smiling, despite having the second horrible August in a row (couldn't resist, but it's a major accomplishment).

I did pretty well, given all the bad things that happened this summer. I think I can pull something pleasant out of my hat when people ask what I did this summer. And now I have a collage that makes me smile and reminds me of all the good that I have. I am ready to focus on that for the time being, and not all that we lost and are having a devil of a time trying to gain. Despite our loss, it was a good summer. I am somewhat recharged and refreshed. I am ready to go back to school.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Basements, Dark Woods, and...the Bathroom

Some places are inherently scary. Horror-movie scary. Basements, for example. Classic place of terror. I want a first floor laundry room because the basement, no matter how clean or well-lit, is a place where the killer always hides. The woods in the dark--another scary place. My husband is always making fun of me because normal animal sounds that come from the ravine behind our house (definitely not deep woods by any stretch, but woods with wildlife nonetheless) scare the pants off me, often. Foxes that sound like a maniac screaming or a small child being killed. Owls or some other night creature that make creepy tittering sounds that follow you or seem to get closer and closer. Deer that crash through the woods and make it sound like a killer is coming to get you. (I may have an obsession with a vague "killer" who lurks in all kinds of environments and sadly has me afraid of tent camping.)

The bathroom has just made the cut of places that freak me out.

Well, to be fair, bathrooms have always creeped me out for other reasons. Prepare yourself to be introduced to some of my more embarrassing, bizarre fears. I have that fear that when I'm washing my face with my eyes closed (always a good idea), I will open my eyes to see something scary in the medicine cabinet mirror. Or someone will be behind me and smash my face into the sink. It never happens, and I don't know what combination of movies or urban legend has put this fear into my head, but I am always creeped out when washing my face in the bathroom. I'm not afraid of the shower, but when in the bathtub with bubbles there's always a completely illogical fear that something will come up the drain. Or, if you submerge your head (which I NEVER EVER do) a killer will get you. Thank you, creepy tub movie scenes (Fatal Attraction, Black Swan...). The toilet has been a source of terror since early childhood--I'm not sure if I was potty trained too early or what, but when I was a child (and possibly into adulthood) I used to be terrified to use the bathroom at night--I had to be back in bed before the toilet stopped "singing" (oh, old homes and their eccentric plumbing), so that if some evil spirit came flying out of the toilet it wouldn't know who had used it last. Later into adulthood the fear wasn't the mythical Toilet Beast, it was that the flushing toilet could alert the killers that someone was awake in the house. I really have to figure out what this killer business is all about!

But now, the bathroom is terrifying for entirely different reasons.

When going through infertility, the bathroom is a place of potential tragedy or potential for good. It can signal the start of your period (bad if you were hoping you were pregnant, good if you need it to start to get into a cycle). It can signal bleeding that is a bad, bad sign. It can also signal bleeding that means something good--implantation spotting. It's where you go to pee on a stick (I hope). That stick can be your best friend or your worst enemy. And it all happens while you're sitting on the toilet.

Now however, having experienced a miscarriage, the bathroom is definitely a place of terror. And of sadness. I have had two losses, but they were totally different. With the ectopic, I started spotting the day before the ectopic was confirmed visually on a fancypants ultrasound. Things were already not looking so hot, so it wasn't exactly a surprise. Upsetting, but not shocking. With this last pregnancy, everything was looking so good. Although, I wasn't feeling good the day I apparently lost the vital part of the pregnancy. I was a little crampier than normal, and downplaying it because when you are pregnant, sharp cramps are a very bad sign. And if I ignored that very bad sign, maybe it wasn't really happening. But then I definitely felt like something was up to no good in my nethers, so when I got to my Grandma's apartment I had to go to the bathroom and check things out. And it was bad. After the teary call to the nurses, I checked again on my way out. It was worse. It was like a horrible nightmare. This was no spotting, this was a horror show. It was terrifying. But at least it wasn't MY bathroom. After crashing the fertility clinic and seeing things on the ultrasound screen, everything slowed down to a stop within hours. My own bathroom didn't betray me in the same way. Soon it was normal. But then it was apparent through my bloodwork that everything was not normal and I would probably start bleeding soon. But I didn't start bleeding again until 10 days after the initial bleed. So every single day I would go to the bathroom and there would be nothing. I would steel myself for the horror show, and nothing would be there. I went through a lot of feminine products unnecessarily. My heart would be in my throat as I went into this room that everyone uses multiple times per day. And I was still using it a fair amount more than usual, because it also took some time for my numbers to totally drop. For a horrible week or so I still felt totally pregnant even though I knew the important part, the sac, was gone. By the time I finally bled for real it was actually a relief. This horrible suspense was over. It could conclude and resolve and at least leave me, if devastated, absolutely sure of where I stood. Because while I wasn't bleeding yet a very, very small part of me was hanging on to the hope that maybe it was all a big mistake.

So now I am left with a problem. This miscarriage has given me something new to be afraid of. I never really thought that this would happen to us--I know so many women who had a hell of a time getting pregnant with IVF, had negative after negative, and when it finally stuck--it stuck for good. They didn't experience a pregnancy loss. So why should I? I had a loss before, but an ectopic isn't the same as a miscarriage. I didn't reject the embryo. The embryo just chose its home location unwisely. For all we know, that embryo may have been completely and totally normal. But this one, this one could not stay for other reasons. Who knows what those are, but most likely it was flawed in some way and missing the code it needed to continue developing. And so it left. Seemingly reluctantly, but it went. And now I know that I can get pregnant in my uterus, but I also know that I can miscarry. This was Bryce's biggest fear. I was deathly afraid of ectopic pregnancy, so rare and improbable especially with IVF. Bryce was afraid of miscarriage, fairly common but really, why would we have that experience? We got both. Two Augusts in a row, filled with loss and fears realized. Miscarriage is pretty common, though. Most people know someone who's had at least one. Just because I had one doesn't mean I'm more likely to have another.

That's the logical take on things. I, however, am now concerned that I am going to need a xanax before going into the bathroom during our next round. I don't quite know how that's going to go, now that I know what it feels like to miscarry. I feel like if we can ever get to 7 weeks it will be party-worthy...I want a cupcake to commemorate each week after 6 that we make it to without incident. I want to believe that this is possible, that we can move on to our next steps in our dream to experience pregnancy together and welcome a child into our lives through a birth. My birth. I want to believe that this was a fluke, that I don't have to be terrified of the bathroom.  I want to feel safe in my body and believe that it will actually sustain life instead of systematically rejecting it. Someday this will be possible, I truly believe that. Someday I will go back to being scared only of the killer in the mirror and the killer-alerting midnight flush.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Okay

Social norms are a funny thing. There are certain interactions that are supposed to be pretty rote, and it really screws people up when you don't give the expected response. Case in point: last week during a (probably ill-advised) foray into public to get some food at Wegmans for dinner, I ran into a teacher from my district. We exchanged hellos and how are yous and then he asked me, "Are you having a good summer?" Easy question. And the socially acceptable answer is YES, HOW'S YOURS and then change the subject if inside you are screaming NO NO NO. But I couldn't do it. My answer was an emphatic, "No, not really." And then I realized I had no followup and he looked uncomfortable and so I followed up my gaffe with, "How's YOUR summer?" since explaining that this is the Summer Of Miscarriage for me probably wasn't the way to move the conversation into a better, less horribly awkward direction. And that poor teacher couldn't move on to grocery shopping, far, far away from me, fast enough. But this exchange got me thinking. How many times to we answer questions with the acceptable response rather than how we're really feeling? The answer: ALL THE TIME.

For instance, "How are you?" is a fairly innocuous question. You're supposed to say "I'm good, I'm fine, I'm okay" with "I'm okay" being the most negative of answers. Think about the last time you had something sad or disappointing happen and someone said, "Hi, how are you?" You can't stop yourself! You say "Fine/Good/Okay" even if you're SO not. It's the polite thing to do. Except lately I'm having a problem with this. Because I can't answer in the positive. And I feel like there's an expectation for me to do so, because if you answer "Not great, actually" too many days in a row people get concerned. But why is it so uncomfortable to hear someone answer "How are you" honestly? At what point, really, am I supposed to be okay? Okay is relative. Is the definition of okay that I got up and showered today? Or that I made it through a day without gut-wrenching sobbing at one point or another? Is it that I'm no longer sitting on the couch, unable to concentrate on books or magazines and just sitting in my disbelief that this pregnancy didn't stay? All last week I could not say "okay." I played around with honest answers, because I believe in being honest even if it makes people feel a little uncomfortable. You asked (and, by the way, THANK YOU for asking), and I assume you really want to know. I am not going to paste a frozen smile on my face and pretend everything is okay because somehow I'm supposed to be well on my way to healing from this loss, and my obvious pain is a little hard to observe. So I've said, "Not good," I've said "oh, I'm just awesome," (don't recommend this one so much, as even though I adore sarcasm it tends to be alienating, since asking "How are you?" is as rote as the glib answers we typically give) and lately I have been using "I'm as good as I can be right now." That's my favorite, because I am a little better each day, but it sets the expectation that I am going through something that will stay with me for some time. The physical effects of this miscarriage alone are nowhere near completion, and the loss of what we thought was our hard-won forever baby is incredibly hard to take. So no, I'm not okay.

And, while we're at it, it's not okay. That's another horrible rote response that I'm working hard to train myself away from. Whenever faced with a loss or personal tragedy of whatever proportion, people say "I'm so sorry." Which is a lovely response. This experience is hideous, and frankly it is something to feel badly about and empathetic about and when people express this to me it is so appreciated. I'm sorry too. But the rote response to "I'm sorry" is "It's okay." And it's not. It's decidedly, 100% NOT okay! But it's so hard not to say that. Bryce's response to this one is "It's not your fault/You didn't do anything," which is a little on the humorous side but also not my favorite. Because when I say "I'm sorry" to someone, I'm not assuming blame for their troubles, I'm expressing that I feel a sadness for their pain. It's a different kind of "I'm sorry" than if I were to accidentally back my car into your light post, for example. So my response, that I actually have to think about so that I don't slip out a "It's okay," is just "thank you." I want to thank you for expressing that you feel for my loss. It's not okay, I don't think somehow you caused this, but I appreciate so much you telling me that you're sorry this happened. Because that's what "I'm sorry" in this context really means--not "My bad," but "I'm sorry this is happening to you."

I don't know why loss makes people so uncomfortable. Maybe it's a reminder that these horrible things could also happen to you. Maybe you honestly just want the person to be better, and when they're not and you can't control that or make it better it puts you at a loss for what to say or do. But I can honestly say that this loss that we are experiencing is the most difficult loss we've had to deal with so far. It's not disappointing, it's downright devastating. It shattered a dream of what the next year was supposed to look like. I keep waiting for the landscape of our lives to shift and change and evolve to this next step we desperately want, and we keep getting little tremors but nothing lasting. And it's hard. I may not be crying all the time anymore, I may not be staying in bed or on the couch, unable to face a world where I'm not pregnant anymore, but I'm pretty firmly entrenched in my grief and my loss. I'm sad and angry. I am crossing into more hopeful territory as we discuss our next steps and what we'll be doing after we take our break. I am finally feeling like a semi-functional human being. But I am still not "good." I am, however, better. I am on my way to okay. And that's...just fine. Thank you for asking.