Saturday, April 28, 2012

Don't Ignore That Infertility Alters Your Dreams

Lying in my bed this morning, I had an idea for another post for RESOLVE's National Infertility Awareness Week challenge, "don't ignore." I realize that my last post was about changing needs. But it really stuck with me that not only do your needs change as you continue to pursue parenthood despite tremendous obstacles, your dreams change, too. Infertility is actually all about change. Change in mindset, change in treatment, change in coping mechanisms, and change in what you dreamt your journey to parenthood would look like.

When I was younger, I had a specific trajectory in my head of how my life was going to go. A "life plan." I was too young and naive to know that life plans are ill-advised because they assume that you have the ability to control the chaos around you, that you can actually make career, marriage, and family occur when you want (apparently you know some things at 35 that aren't obvious at 20). To some extent, though, you can control those life events--if you are mostly focused on the timeline and aren't thinking about the quality of what you seek. I wanted to be married at 24, establish my career, and have two babies by the time I was 30 (for two reasons: I had read somewhere that having babies and breastfeeding before 30 lessened your chances of breast cancer, and babies in your mid-to-late 20s seemed ideal in terms of young-but-not-too-young parenting). I cared more about those things I deemed important life events than what they actually looked like. I'm not saying that I didn't love my ex-husband, of course I did. I'm just saying that when bad things happened (all the freaking time) I would overlook them because if I broke up with my boyfriend at 22, how the hell was I supposed to get married at 24? It was scary. I was rigid. I spent a lot of time in my 20s trying to make my reality fit the white picket fence dream I had set up for myself that wasn't working because it wasn't right. I established a career in a marketing facet of children's publishing, an area that I was proud of and enjoyed immensely. But on the marriage front my ex-husband wanted to move away from the NYC area and up to the Rochester area, where a cluster of friends were. I was hesitant (um, there's no children's publishing in Rochester, helloooo....), but also couldn't ignore that the Life Plan Believer in me thought, oooooh, if we move to Rochester then we can buy a house sooner, and it will be cheaper to live, and we can start a family in a very family-friendly area, and maybe we can even afford for me to be a stay-at-home mom for a little while. Even though it meant moving away from my family and my best friend and my work, I flipped the switch and made the change and found a job in Rochester. Because I thought it might get me closer to that life plan. Because I was 25, and the time to have two babies by 30 was starting to close in. Over the next few years I had several jobs, all editorial in some way but varying in focus (curriculum coordination! yellow pages advertising! human resources specialist (my favorite of the three)!), as I figured out that I definitely wanted to go back to school to be a teacher. This was the first blip of my life plan, the first time that I actively sought to change something. I was 27 and we hadn't started trying to have a family yet. I had brought it up, but there was always an excuse, always a reason, until there was no reason and my ex-husband said "I just don't know if I want kids right now." Wow. Dealbreaker. Suckerpunch. NOT what I wanted to hear. (Turns out he didn't want to have kids because he was too busy having multi-year relationships with other women during our marriage, and I was an unwitting sister wife of sorts, but whatever.) So I changed the plan. For the first time, I changed my vision of the future. I tossed out an ultimatum: either we try to have a baby, or I go back to school to get my Master's in Education. I had zero support for either option, but luckily (I thank my lucky stars EVERY DAY that I had planned and that I stuck by education over baby with Voldemort) I had socked away enough money freelancing as a writer and an editor to pay for my whole first year of graduate school in cash. Can't really argue with that. Although someone, a passive-aggressive individual who shall not be named, left the message congratulating me on my acceptance into the program on the answering machine for days without telling me and then said, "Well, we haven't decided you can go yet." So, so many reasons to change that life plan and find a partner in life who was supportive and not a total asshole, but again, I was scared of the big open space of no plan. Even though I had already changed my expectations, and moved the babymaking a little past 30 (I would graduate halfway through my 30th year), it wasn't dawning on me that I wanted to procreate with someone who didn't want to commit to a happy healthy life with me, and me alone. If I got a divorce in my late 20s then who knew when the babymaking could happen? Too scary. Better to stay put. At least until the lid blew off the extracurricular nonsense, the Christmas I was 29, and suddenly my plan was shattered. My ultimately self-destructive plan that had whispered (loudly) in my ear that I needed these set milestones but not quality of life within them, that I was undeserving of true happiness and a household free of yelling and pushing and projectile objects (and gross sex in my marital bed with other people).

Wow, that was a very long tangent, but I promise it is related. My mind wants a life plan. It is very hard for me to be flexible, as the saga of my 20s has illustrated. But, when push came to shove, I was capable of throwing that plan away. I got a divorce at 30 while student teaching and broke and starting completely over. And then I met my husband, the one I was meant to have, the one I had to walk through Hell to get to. And I started a new career, that I love and that I truly feel is what I was meant to do, as hard as it is. And I had to try to squash that voice in my head that kept formulating a new plan. I can't stop trying to control my life. I had timelines in my head of when Bryce and I should move in together, when we should get married, when we could start trying to have children. But this time I relegated those thoughts to the far back recesses of my mind, to let things be more organic. To account for changes, such as when, a month and a half into dating this mystery man that I met through purely by chance but who turned out to be the perfect husband for me, we sat around a firepit in his backyard and he let me know that he'd had difficulty with fertility in his previous marriage and couldn't have children. A little overly dramatic, there's a difference between male factor infertility and complete sterility, but still, it was a bit of a shock to my system. I waited for The Plan alarms to go off. Instead, I realized that I wanted what was now, that I wanted this amazing man in my life, that I was falling in love with him and children were somewhere in the future but what was most important to me was this man, now. We could figure that other part out later. I wasn't going to base my decisions on The Plan anymore.

But now, after discovering that on top of male factor infertility we are faced with female factor infertility (thank you, PCOS), we seem to be up against a dash of unexplained infertility, too. Because both of our challenges are overcome by the process of IVF, and we end up with embryos, pretty embryos, and then no one can figure out why they never stay in my apparently beautiful uterus and make a baby. Very frustrating to the planner in me. I can't control it. And, to get back to the title of this post, this whole process of infertility has altered my dreams. I did not ever envision myself at 36 (my birthday is a week from today, hip. hip. hooray.) with no baby, no pregnancy, and no good reason for why that is. While my 30s have been a Figuring Out Time (figuring out what I want and deserve in a relationship, what my career should be, what our plan for overcoming infertility is), I can't figure out how to make sense of how we got to this particular point: five IVF transfers, thirteen embryos come and gone, one destructive, life-threatening and short-lived pregnancy, a few brief years before we hit our forties, and no idea where to go from here.

Infertility has altered my vision of what the path to parenthood would look like in countless ways. It prompts us to make hard decisions. We have many options and weigh them, constantly. We research everything. But it doesn't change the fact that we have had to take our (my) plan and throw it out the window. As we adjust and readjust and realize that there can be no life plan surrounding this experience, we have to decide or at least mull over different very hard questions, questions that a lot of people on this journey have to consider:
  • At what point, if there is still no answer other than poor gambling skills, do we move on to something else? It's so hard to even think about moving on when we have no idea if the next time is THE time, if the stars will all align and they mystery will be solved. We can't give that up quite yet, not when we don't have data telling us it's not going to happen for us.
  • What is most important to us? Is it genetic material, the experience of pregnancy, having a baby, or having a child? (I am attached to my uterus until someone can prove it's truly malicious and defunct. I am not nearly as attached to my eggs.)
  • Do we need to get a second opinion? (We love our medical team. We love, love, love our doctor. But, if our sixth transfer doesn't work out, if we have transferred 16 embryos without success, would we be stupid to not seek the opinion of other doctors, even if they are not in our local area? We are super loyal people so this is a hard one to ponder.)
  • How long do we keep at medical intervention? Even if we are excellent (although not feeling the excellence so much anymore) candidates for this process, if we wait too long will we no longer be able to put emotional and financial wherewithal behind the adoption process if we choose that route? Will we still be eligible? Or will we be too exhausted to enter into another process? With our current situation undefined and unresolved, we just can't enter into the hard realities of adoption yet.
  • Do I need to come to grips with the fact that at this point, my only chance at two children is to conceive twins? That if we succeed and have a baby, that I will have to embrace my role as a mother of an only child? That was not my plan, I wanted siblings running around my house, but has infertility made that out of our reach if it's taking so much just to try to get viably pregnant once? I would be thrilled, THRILLED to be the mother of one child if it meant that I could be a mother at all. But it's an adjustment.
  • Do I need to accept, that in my push to try to give us the best chances ever, that I could go the other way and become a mother of triplets? Unlikely, given that thirteen embryos have cycled through, often three at a time, with no more than one waylaid implantation taking place, but it's an increasing risk the older I get and with the number of embryos I push for, but is taking this risk for the chance at ONE fetus worth the risk of having three? (Yes. The answer is yes, for me.)
  • When this is all over, because I do truly believe (although it gets harder each time to sustain this belief) that we will be successful, will we have the financial stability left to parent the way we envisioned? Will I be able to take full advantage of my maternity leave benefits, or will our bank accounts be too depleted to justify living on one income for any period of time? Will our love be enough to make up for the lack of sleepaway camps and expensive family vacations and all the techno-gadgets that I desperately do not want in my house but fear we won't be able to avoid? I think so. Looking back at my own childhood, I had a lot of love and quality (often free) experiences, and not a lot of expensive "stuff." I think that was highly valuable. I think expensive doesn't equal happy. But I don't know what the world will look like by the time we can bring a baby into it--I don't know what opportunities I will have to turn down for my child because we simply can't afford it after everything we've been through to conceive.
  • Did we ever truly know how much we wanted to be parents when we entered this process? I had no idea that we would have this level of strength, of resilience, of motivation to make this work. I always, always wanted to be a mom but now I know how very badly I want it and just how far I am willing to go to have that experience. How we do it may change over time and with new information on our situation, but I had no idea going into this how far we'd be willing to go to fight for our right to reproduce. To see what a little Bryce and Jess combined together would look like. To add to our already happy household, our relationship that has stood the tests of this cruel and grueling process. 
Our dreams may have altered thanks to infertility, but at the same time they have been strengthened by the hurdles thrown in our way. We are running a gauntlet of setbacks but that central dream, the dream of parenthood, has not changed. What's altered is the vision of the pathway, not the end.

Below are links from RESOLVE to help further the understanding of infertility and awareness:
  • For more information on the disease of infertility, please click here.
  • For more information on National Infertility Awareness Week (NIAW), please click here. 

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Don't Ignore That What You Need May Change

The theme of this year's National Infertility Awareness Week Blog Challenge, sponsored by RESOLVE, is "Don't Ignore." I decided focus on the importance of recognizing that as your journey to parenthood evolves, your needs evolve too. It's so important not to ignore what you need in order to cope with infertility.

I used to be a support group junkie. Going to support groups used to make me feel better, less alone. It was awesome to meet other women who were also going through this evil process and could offer suggestions on how to deal with anything from medications to nosy people to well-meaning but not-so-helpful suggestions from others. I enjoyed helping people by sharing the information and resource that I had collected in my arsenal against infertility. I met amazing women through support groups and developed relationships outside that circle of sharing. I think that support is a wonderful thing.

But, over time, I started to struggle with it. Groups of women would come and go--trains of positive pregnancy tests and "graduations" from the group. This started out to be a good thing, a hopeful thing--proof that pregnancy was possible and that even the most difficult cases could end in dreams come true. But then, as time went by and I was still in the group, waving success on while I stayed rooted in place, it got harder to see the hope. It got harder to keep saying goodbye while keeping my spot on the couch. As people came into their journeys and added support to their arsenal, they would come in with so much hope and positivity. And it's not like I've totally lost that myself, but I definitely find it harder to believe that it's DEFINITELY my time any given cycle and that I'M DUE or OWED for a positive pregnancy test and that I can somehow THINK IT TRUE. All things I myself have said earlier in my journey, before realizing that if the power of positive thinking could get you pregnant all on its own, I would have a full house right now. It's hard not to feel like you're squashing other people's need to stay in that place of sunshine and rainbows when an evil leprechaun has just shat on your pee stick again and you are feeling pretty squirrelly about the whole thing.

I need to realize that as my journey has changed, so have my needs. And what worked for me in the past does not necessarily work for me now. It's not that I'm isolating myself. It's not that I don't believe that support is helpful and useful. I am benefiting immensely from individual counseling. It's that group support has become more painful than helpful to me most of the time. I leave feeling worse about my situation, not uplifted. In a room full of people I feel horribly alone. That can't be good for my well-being. And it's totally me--it's not that people are mean to me or cross themselves against my bad luck when they come sit on that couch. I need to accept that my needs have changed, and while it is hard to duck out of a community that has been so helpful in so many ways, I think that at this point in my fertility journey I need to not surround myself with experiences that serve to remind me of just how infertile and unsuccesful I am at the moment.

Finding what works for you in this process is so important to coping with the considerable emotional stress that this process hands out like candy. Realizing that you are an individual and what works for others may not be the best option for you at your particular phase of infertility can be painful and hard. Ultimately, though, that realization can really make a difference in how you can handle all the crap that can be piled on when cycles are unsuccessful or not viable (and all the times in between). In the beginning of my process, I read tons of books on infertility. The ones I still reference are books that account for different choices and needs, and are based in research. The ones I got rid of recommend very specific things for all people. Fertility diet books in particular. Some suggestions I took and continue with because they are simply good health decisions--less chemicals in my home, more organic produce and meat, eating lots of fruits and vegetables, microwaving less, replacing all my plastic food containers with glass or aluminum. These are useful and universally sound pieces of advice, whether you are trying to get pregnant or just trying to live a healthier lifestyle in a world full of chemicals and poisons. It is really scary to think of how many scary chemicals are in our daily lives now. I just threw out a big buttery box of microwave popcorn because I read in multiple sources that there's some compound in the bag lining that when heated in the microwave is a known carcinogen, or something along those lines that was equally ominous. Convenient popcorn is just not worth it.

Some books and people can make you feel like you're not doing enough, like the problem is actually you. You didn't eat the right things. You didn't take the right supplements. You didn't deprive yourself of enough joyful experiences to deserve getting pregnant. All of these things are done in a well-meaning way, but it is awfully hard for me to do something like eliminate dairy and think that my dairy-eating ways are responsible for my lack of motherhood when a) there are many studies that show that full fat dairy is actually helpful to fertility and b) I have freaking celiac disease, which means that I can't eat any gluten (read: wheat, barley, rye, including malt, which is in EVERYTHING DELICIOUS) and so my diet is already limited. I live for my dairy. Take cheese away and you have a very, very unhappy Jess. Now, as it's been suggested indirectly to me in the past, do I want my cheese more than I want a baby? OF COURSE NOT. But is cheese really the missing link in my infertility? I highly doubt it.

I have to realize that I am an individual, and what works for others may not work for me. Like the dairy. And all the candle burning and smudging and pineapple and sticky buns on transfer days and orange underwear and elephant feng shui and my fertility earrings. NONE of those things have ultimately done the trick. And by doing these things, while at the time they were helpful, after a while they became...heavy. A responsibility rather than a lightening of the burden. Something that I could screw up somehow and then subsequently cement my childlessness. Because my uterus knows if I snuffed a candle rather than blowing it out and so rejects or embraces embryos as a result. Uh-huh. The reverse is true too--what works (someday) for me may not work out for others, and in the group setting I have to be careful not to fall into this trap myself. If I jump up and down 6 times while eating papaya and listening to Bob Mar.ley and then subsequently get pregnant, I'm thinking it may just be coincidence that I got pregnant when doing those things. Just a thought.

I have to realize that my needs on this journey have changed, and they may continue to change. My thoughts on treatment and alternatives may change. My thoughts on whether or not we need a break from things may change. I may want to keep going nonstop or I may want to take a significant break. I don't know. All that I know is that I have come to peace with what I need right now. And that is a powerful realization--I have taken power back to decide when I want to seek support or change my diet or lifestyle. It's based on my needs, on my journey. I am only 10 days past the loss of my most recent opportunity for motherhood, and I am still trying to figure out what that means to me. What we need to do together to make this journey work for us. I am preparing for another followup and the hard questions that I have to ask. But I can remind myself that I have at least a little smidgen of control in this vastly unfair, vastly uncontrollable chaos that is infertility. I can decide what does and does not work for me and then implement my own plan for personal sanity and well-being. I can accept and embrace the fact that I am not the same person I was when this process was started in September 2009. It's not ideal that we're still toiling away, but it's ok. We will keep fighting, and maybe we will change the terms of our fight at some point. But we won't stop until we are parents. And, by adjusting what we need to survive this fight, we will win with all our marbles. Most of them, anyway.

Below are links from RESOLVE to help further the understanding of infertility and awareness:
  • For more information on the disease of infertility, please click here.
  • For more information on National Infertility Awareness Week (NIAW), please click here.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Positives and Negatives

The fifth time is not the charm.  At this point 13 embryos have been inside my purportedly superhealthy uterus (I have pictures of inside and out to prove just how rosy and healthy that organ is) and not one of them has stayed. I have that one short-lived positive pee stick from an embryo that implanted but NOT in my super healthy super inviting uterus. I am starting to believe that my uterus is a faker. I am starting to believe that it is like some kind of insidious predatory creature that lures embryos in and fools everyone into thinking it's great, but then it rejects those embryos at the crucial timing. My conspiracy theories are running high because this JUST DOESN'T MAKE ANY KIND OF SENSE. It is getting harder and harder to believe that there is nothing wrong and we are just super unlucky. How could we possibly be this freaking unlucky so many times?

In an effort to not lose my mind, I came up with a list of positives and a list of negatives of our current situation. Actually, a list of negatives and a list of positives. Ever the freaking optimist I like to end on a high note, even though I certainly don't feel much in the way of positivity right now. I kind of feel like all the "positive thinking" crap can take a flying leap at the moment, but that's because I am raw and on the verge of tears and slightly hungover from my experience yesterday of "Screw you body, you're going to fuck me over? Well take this! Five Guys burgers and fries, a martini, several cans of champagne (yes! they make champagne in a can with a little bendy sippy straw! Where was this when I was in college???), some wine and some port!" (Of course responsibly spread over a 10 hour period.) Sometimes it does make you feel better to punish that uncooperative body and add to the numbness. But sometimes you just end up sitting around a firepit, listening to the 80's Genre Station on Pandora with your husband and sobbing uncontrollably because a) life is not fair and b) holy cow we are getting OLD and we are STILL not parents yet. Thank you, nostalgic music from my long-ago youth.

Here are the negatives:
  • No baby in 2012. We are definitely looking at 2013 if we are lucky someday in the near future.
  • No baby on the Christmas card. You can look forward to more self-indulgent pictures of us, alone, or possibly pictures that don't include us because it is getting very sad to have a collection of just-us pictures where I am chubbier and chubbier thanks to all these drugs. And our eyes are crinklier and crinklier. I promise, though--no cats dressed up in baby clothes. For now.
  • I get to celebrate my 36th birthday NOT pregnant. Another year where I get older and have not managed to reproduce. We march towards 40, unsuccessful in the family department. Not depressing at all.
  • Oh boy oh boy oh boy! ANOTHER Mother's Day that I am not even remotely a mother, expectant or otherwise. Unless I bring out the pictures of all 13 of our embryos that we've created and eat cake while admiring them. Which is creepy and sad, so instead I will hide in the house and probably enjoy some champagne cocktails while watching movies that have nothing to do with motherhood and/or dancing poorly to Britney Spears.
  • Countless congratulations to other people whose life trajectories continue to move as Bryce and I are stuck, yet again stationary while everyone else whizzes past.
  • Realizing that the older we get, the more likely it is that our friends' kids will be our kids' babysitters, not their playmates. (This may be slightly dramatic but I think I'm allowed that right now.)
  • Having to have conversations with people who are very well-meaning but who will ask us if we have considered alternatives at this point, because what kind of people beat a seemingly dead horse for this long? The inevitable donor material/surrogacy/adoption conversations, some of which have already taken place. We understand where these thoughts are coming from. And actually we have had all of these very personal conversations and researched all kinds of alternatives. We just don't have a reason yet to call it quits on this front. We have hope. We have evidence that we are better off for now continuing to pursue our current pathway, as hopeless and probably futile-seeming as it may look from outside viewpoints.  We appreciate when people have thoughts on what we could do differently. But quite frankly, we have already thought of, discussed, and/or tried so many things that there's not much left to consider short of choosing another pathway. And that is not our choice given our variables, which are not always apparent to those not in our specific painful shoes. But this is what happens when you are totally open about your journey--you invite input to some extent. We just have to politely manage that input or decide to close the door on our journey to others.
  • We are still stuck. Still can't make any long-term plans, still have to weigh any decisions involving money (home improvement! vacations! visiting out of town family!) against how much money we need to have for future treatment or alternatives. Because everything is more expensive in the alternatives category, and our current path, however it may be tweaked to try to increase our chances, is not exactly cheap either. We are in Infertility Purgatory. Seemingly forever. We are Prometheus, getting our uterus pecked out by an eagle every day only to wake up and have it grow back for a fresh pecking. And I'm not sure what we've done to deserve it. (Nothing. The answer is nothing.)
Ok, that's enough of the negatives for now. I am getting depressed just reviewing the list. Let's move on to the positives, because there are some although they are pretty paltry in comparison.
  • We slept in today. Because we can. Because I no longer have to get up at around the same early time to receive a giant 1.5 inch intramuscular needle injection in my ass anymore. There is no pregnancy to sustain with progesterone in oil, so I am so lucky to be able to sleep in.
  • I don't have to have a 1.5 inch needle violate my tender tissue anymore. That is actually quite nice.
  • I can have a drink. My Screw You Stupid Body bender is over, so now I can once again responsibly enjoy the pleasures of a nice bottle of wine with my husband.
  • I can have caffeine again. I am not a huge coffee drinker, but it is nice to drink a hot morning beverage that does not taste like wet cardboard. I hate decaf.
  • I can take a nice hot soaky bath again without fear of parboiling my potential progeny.
  • I can exercise again and try to fit a little better into my pants so that I can stay in the pants I have had for years now because I refuse to buy new clothes until my clothes are falling apart in some way because I want to save my wardrobe money for supercute maternity clothes. Crap, that's a negative, no supercute maternity clothes.
  • But, I don't have to buy a maternity bathing suit. I just have to buy a retro one-piece number, but I won't have to spend money on a pregnant person bathing suit. Which is sort of a positive.
  • We are free to continue going out to dinner and doing fun couple things unfettered by small humans that need babysitters.
  • Now for a real, not-even-remotely-sarcastic positive. We are still a happy couple. We are unhappy about our situation and our apparent inability at the moment to conceive and sustain a pregnancy, but we are happy with each other. We are lucky. We have a great relationship that is standing the test of this hideous hurdle. We are on the same page. We are supportive of each other. We still have fun even though there is this massive dark shadow casting dinge on our lives. We pick ourselves up and manage to piece our hope and strength back together and keep trying to extend our family past the two of us. We can find things to laugh about. We can cry together. We have such a great foundation for this elusive family we seek to expand. Infertility has not broken us (just roughed us up a bit).
So there it is. Some negatives and positives regarding this shitty situation we have found ourselves in, again. Inexplicably. Some day I am confident that we will receive good news. I really thought this was it--we both thought we had finally made it to the other side this time. But it wasn't our time and that sucks. However, it's not NO. It's NOT YET. The fat lady isn't singing, and hopefully she's not warming up. As hard at it is to keep doing this over and over again, I do truly believe that we are not delusional and that this is a WHEN, not IF. We just have to keep on swimming, even if we are exhausted and infuriated. We will become parents. We still believe.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Anniversary of a Date That Never Was

Today is April 13th. Friday the 13th. A day that has historically been a good day for me. Good things usually happened on this supposedly bad-luck date (going back to high school, when my girlfriends and I would always run into the boys we had crushes on when trolling the mall on Friday the 13th. I think it's safe to let that one out of the bag nearly 20 years later!). But today is kind of a sad day, too. Some 9 months ago I thought that maybe Friday the 13th in April was going to be the ultimate awesome day--it was my due date from the pregnancy that turned out to be ectopic.

Anniversaries in the IF world are hard. There's the anniversary of your time in treatment (September 1st, 2009). There's anniversaries of failed IVFs, which I never really think about. And then there's anniversaries of losses, which I had never had before and now I do. I thought it wouldn't be a big deal, but I am in a little bit of a funk today.

Even though I was only pregnant for a short time, I really lived every pregnant day to its fullest. I milked that ill-fated pregnancy for every joyous moment I could, including my first ever (and only to date) positive pee stick. Which I did once my numbers got high enough that I was sure it would be positive. My loss was an odd one, because it was a pregnancy that was never going to be viable. Once we knew for sure it was ectopic, I called it my "baby-shaped tumor" instead of a pregnancy because it was a little easier to deal with. It was also an odd loss because I lost it surgically. One moment I was pregnant, and then I passed through the haze of anesthesia and awoke on the other side...not. It was surreal. It was such a short blip in time when you think about it, just two and a half weeks of expectant motherhood, but I think the way I held on to the possibility that my weird little pregnancy could be a miracle made time stand still. For a little while.

And so, today is the day that I would have been 40 weeks, had that little embryo not gotten so horribly lost. Today is a day to be a little sad, but also to be grateful. Because of that little lost embryo, I know that I can get pregnant. It is possible. It just hasn't happened yet (despite a ridiculous amount of medical intervention), but it doesn't mean that it won't happen at some point, hopefully sooner than later. Because of that little lost embryo we have hope that we can have our happy ending. I have a picture of a positive pee stick to prove it. Thank you, little lost embryo that would have been due today but never got the chance to grow properly. We honor your short little existence, we mourn the loss of the opportunity to parent you, and we hope for the future because you paved the way for other little embryos to succeed, minus that defective tube. May your friends have a better sense of direction.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

I'm Glad I'm Not a Royal

I have a subscription to People magazine. It's my guilty pleasure, my mini escape, and the reason why I finally won a game at a shower of any kind (match the celeb baby with hinty blurb to the correct celeb! I scored a 100). Occasionally it can backfire as an escape--when there are pages-long tributes to all the celeb babies born this year, or specials on nursery decorations (why do all these people put chandeliers over cribs? why?), or specials on pregnant celebrities. Especially when it's people who either a) got pregnant accidentally and are so thrilled or b) are the most irresponsible human beings on earth and they can get pregnant while I can't. Sometimes, though, People does a great job illustrating different family-building pathways and celebrities who have struggled with infertility and were open about it. I believe that even when you choose a very public career you should have the right to privacy, but I so deeply respect celebrities who use their access to the media and the public's obsession with babies to inform people that babymaking is not always easy. Celebrities like Marcia Cross (very open about doing IVF and conceiving her twins post-40 through that route), Mariah Carey (also very open about IVF and, I love her for this, how progesterone in oil shots make you chub up like mad), Sarah Jessica Parker (surrogacy), Nicole Kidman (surrogacy) and Guiliana Rancic, who has been incredibly open and honest in her infertility journey and subsequent fight against breast cancer. They, and others I can't recall at the moment, make up for the scads of over-40 (WELL over 40) actresses who miraculously have twins seemingly spontaneously. Not to say that it's not possible for 45 year old women to get pregnant without help, just unlikely in the numbers that you see in Hollywood. And twinning does happen more frequently after 35 naturally, without the aid of drugs that increase your egg output, but again...the large number of twins born to celebrities of a certain age is interesting.  I also love features on celebrities who choose to build their families through adoption--like Kathryn Heigel, Sheryl Crow, Sandra Bullock, Charlize Theron, and the Pitt-Jolies. I especially appreciate when these stories highlight how adoption is a process--Sandra Bullock was very open about the length and breadth of the process she undertook for the domestic adoption of her son. It helps educate people that like infertility treatment, adoption is not instantaneous and it is a long, difficult process. But both pathways can have amazing outcomes and tremendous rewards.

But back to my People Magazine. They, like any other tabloid-type publication, have constant Bump Watches. Constant stalking pictures of celebrity midsections. "Is she pregnant?" is often a burst or a caption on these stories. I feel for the celebrities in question--not everyone wants to announce a pregnancy the second you pee on a stick. Celebrities are not immune to miscarriage. But at the same time, sometimes these celebrites ARE NOT PREGNANT. This happened to one actress, who responded to tabloid pictures of a slightly puffed out belly and allegations that she was knocked up and trying to keep it secret with the comment, "I'm not pregnant. Just fat." I have been the subject of the belly glance (although no one posts pictures of my tummy on unflattering days and speculates if I am pregnant), and it's not fun as a normal person. Unfortunately a lot of the drugs that I take make me look a little pregnant, as my midsection puffs up and my boobs swell up a bit (always fun, as I am not exactly petite in the bustular area). People who don't know what we are going through know that we've been married for a few years now and we're not exactly spring chickens and so...shouldn't there be a bump there by now? People who do know what we are going through but not exactly where we are with things sometimes do the quick tummy glance to see if I am holding out on information (this happened a few weeks ago when I ran into a former coworker at a restaurant). It's fairly innocent, it's only super upsetting if I've just experienced a negative or a loss of some kind, and it's human nature to want to know if you should be congratulating someone or offering water retention prevention and/or wardrobe advice, politely of course.

What's got me all worked up is my cover of my recent People. It's a picture of William and Kate, with "IS SHE PREGNANT?" smeared across the front. Their one year anniversary is coming up, and everyone has been buzzing as to whether or not they are expecting or planning to be expecting. This isn't the first article on this topic. They are constantly under reproductive scrutiny. It was even mentioned in the article that it's common for royals to birth their children before their first wedding anniversary, like Princess Diana and Queen Elizabeth did. Somehow these crazy kids are behind the eight ball when it comes to popping heirs out. I feel so bad for Kate. Now, granted, she married a royal, and as the Prince's wife her number one duty is to produce some heirs, pronto. It's not a secret, it's a tradition that goes back centuries. So you can't go into that not knowing that every time you put a purse in front of your tummy in a photo shoot or order ginger ale instead of stout, people are going to talk. And there was a 6-page spread of talk--she's skiing, so she can't be expecting, she wore something camouflage-y, so maybe she is, but then she had a glass of wine, so she probably isn't... blah blah blah.

All this makes me wonder... what happens if the newest hot royal couple struggles with infertility? Would it be hushed up? Would they use their fame and public following to forward the cause of infertility treatment and research? (Somehow, I doubt it.) The conspiracy theorist in me wonders if before you marry a royal they do a Clomid challenge test or something to determine your ovarian reserve and/or test you for other issues like PCOS. Would that disqualify you as a royal mate in these more enlightened times? And what if there's male factor? There's a long history of women being blamed for the lack of progeny when most likely it was male factor at fault. I don't know if any of that actually happens, but I can't imagine that the royal family would be publicizing trips to the Crown Reproductive Endocrinologist. I don't wish infertility on anyone, and I certainly have no idea if that would even remotely be the case here, but it's interesting to think about how that would be handled.

The other possiblility is that, like so many other couples in their late 20s/early 30s, they don't want to have kids quite yet. They are enjoying their marriage sans babies for now and  don't feel the need to immediately reproduce. It's not like there's a rush. It's not like there's some other royal family aiming for the throne--Queen Elizabeth is still going strong and I think next up is Prince Charles, so this hypothetical heir isn't even second or third to the throne. And does the throne really even matter that much anymore? The thing that gets under my skin here is that when contemplating this possibility, that the royal couple just aren't ready for kids yet, the overwhelming attitude that the media takes is, "When they are ready, they will make their decision and everyone will know." Like somehow as a royal you say "I would like a baby now" and BOOM! You are pregnant, pronto. This feeds into the common misconception that even as a reproductively healthy adult pregnancy happens instantaneously. For some lucky bastards it does, for sure. But the average timeframe for conception is approximately within 6 months for couples under 30, then a year for over 30, and up to a year and a half for over 35 (although most medical professionals suggest that if you haven't conceived naturally within a year under 35 and within 6 months over 35, you should hightail it to a fertility specialist for testing to make sure nothing's amiss). But even so, it can take time even when your ovaries and testicles and uterus are perfectly pristine and free of any defect. So the assumption that somehow royal conception is different than everyday conception irritates me, and puts out misinformation that makes the general public think that conception should happen instantaneously to them, too.

The upshot is, I am so glad I am not a royal. This poor girl has so much concern surrounding her reproductive tract. There are people actively betting on when their baby will arrive (apparently bets are slowing for 2012, because there's pretty much days left to get that December baby underway). She probably goes to the grocery store and is assaulted by both people's actual roving eyes to her midsection and her face on the newsstands, slathered with conjectures of her possible pregnancy. There is no escape. Talk about pressure. I guess I should be grateful to only receive the belly glance occasionally, from past acquaintances and neighbors only.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

An Awful Commercial

Bryce and I don't have cable anymore. What we have is a Roku box, which streams Hulu Plus and allows us to watch all of our favorite shows (which isn't actually that many, since we don't watch that much TV) at our convenience. It's even better than DVR, because you don't have to remember to program anything. It's just there for you, the day after it airs.

With cable, you get all kinds of commercials. With Hulu, you get just a few commercials, targeted for the demographics of the shows (supposedly) and run over and over. And over. So, if you have a particularly heinous ad that is in rotation, you get to see it a lot. It gets burned in your brain.

The commercial that is haunting us currently is a Slate Blueprint credit card ad. It sucks for many reasons, the least of which is the catchy song it uses, "One-two-three..." In this lovely commercial, a woman who looks to be in her third trimester of pregnancy has gone shopping. She tells her husband not to worry, because she used this new credit card so that they can pay for monthly small stuff like diapers outright, and pay down interest faster on bigger items ("Bigger?" the husband says, "Bigger" the wife says as she opens the door to the nursery). Here's the punchline... she went to the doctor and now she had to go out and buy three cribs because...surprise...they are having triplets! Dad passes out on the floor and then wakes up to a plush pig being dangled in front of his face by his endearing wife, and then he sighs "triplets" with a dreamy smile while the voiceover idiot says "Slate Blueprint. For life's...little surprises."

So many things about this commercial piss me off. First of all, I am pretty sure that triplets don't hide out until your third trimester. What kind of a shoddy OB do these people have? Admittedly, my perspective on ultrasounds is skewed. As a fertility patient, I get one as early as 6 weeks for confirmation of a sac/yolk (sadly from experience this is in part to make sure it's really in your uterus), and then you get at least one more before graduating from fertility clinic to regular OB so that you can hear the heartbeat (or, so that you can make sure there really is a heartbeat in there and you are still good to go to your regular OB). Then you might not get another ultrasound until 20 weeks for the anatomical scan. However, I'm pretty sure that the heartbeat ultrasound or the 20 week scan would ferret out THREE heartbeats instead of one. And if that woman is supposed to be 20 weeks, then the fact that she looks like she's well int her third trimester should be a big tipoff that she's carrying multiples. Argh. Did no doctor vet this commercial at all?

Then there's the "for life's little surprises" tagline. Which is the most asinine thing I have heard (or at least among the asinine things I have heard). I'm sure what they meant was either a) babies are little or b) we're cutely sarcastic. However, as someone who would give my eyeteeth and someone else's to have one surprise, having two extra surprises (especially when according to the paragraph above THIS SHOULD NOT BE A FREAKING SURPRISE) is not little. Having three babies instead of one is not little. And everyone being so smiley and giddy about it? I don't think that's how that would actually go down. Unless these are independently wealthy people (and they might be, as those look like fancypants cribs and so there's at minimum $2400 in just the sleeping furniture alone), suddenly finding out when your wife is waddling already that there are two more tiny humans to care for would be stressful. Because that's 3x the diaper cost, 3x the baby stuff, 3x the childcare expenses. And let's extrapolate... 3x the college tuitions. Even a little plush pig dancing in your face would not be enough to take that terror away. But I guess that's why this is a credit card commercial and not a pregnancy product commercial. Maybe the power of this particular credit card gives you so much control over your financial stability that a suckerpunch to the uterus like surprise triplets in your 8th month when you've already had your shower is nothing to you because you can make your own plan to avoid interest. Uh-huh.

Maybe I'm a little rough on the copywriters/ad execs who created and approved this concept. But this commercial rubs me the wrong way. And it's on all the time. Even during Grimm, which I totally would not peg as targeting the "new parent" demographic. I guess I'll just grit my teeth, leave the room when I hear that "One-two-three" jingle, and hope that maybe we can be graced with at least one of life's "little" surprises, which won't be a surprise at all but a carefully orchestrated event akin to a miracle.