Friday, March 29, 2013

40 Weeks Ago

Today I want to remember a beautiful moment. Not the horrifying and devastating loss that came after, but the beauty of a cycle that seemed so wonderful and promising. And it was, for a short time. I have a lot of pictures from last summer of the beautiful moments, and since technically my due date would have been around today or tomorrow from that cycle that proved I CAN get pregnant, in the RIGHT place, I think today is a perfect day to celebrate the joy and happiness that came from my last frozen cycle. I'm going to do it through pictures--pictures that are precious to me and I think capture just how these brief days of joy felt. Those days were important and sustain us to keep moving forward in our journey.

This is me, in the Magic Room. If you are an IVF patient, this is the room where it all happens. Not exactly romantic, eh? Note the ultrasound and scary wand to the left of my smiling, excited face. You actually get to see when your embryos are loaded into your uterus--there is a bright white flash and you know they are home. Hopefully to stay. Also note how freaking high those stirrups are and just how much you have to throw modesty to the wind. Good practice for birth, so I hear.

Despite this being my 6th time in this room, I actually was genuinely super excited and ready to have my next best chance at motherhood begin.

 This next picture is a beauty. This is during the waiting period, after the embryos are loaded, and
before you are cleared to go home, rest, and let those embryos settle in for the long haul. We felt so positive--despite everything that led up to this last frozen transfer, we were filled with hope. Three embryos were settling into my Mother Ship and at least one of them looked really, really good. After we took this picture I thought, Wow, this really looks like a hospital picture--like our baby is right below our smiling faces or in the bassinette thingie next to us. I feel like this is a peek into our future!


This is a super silly photo. We had taken a day trip to Sodus Point, NY (that's the lighthouse behind me) to take our minds off the wait. That dreaded two week wait where you read meaning into every twinge, every hunger pang, every tiny spot of blood you look for as evidence of implantation bleeding. Which, incidentally, I had this time and when I had the ectopic pregnancy. The wait is an exercise in torture, but for some reason it wasn't quite as stressful this time. Which is weird, because if this cycle didn't work out we really weren't sure what we would do next. One reason why this wait was easier was because it was shorter--frozen transfers are 5 day embryos, so the wait is almost half. Incidentally, my boobs look HUGE in this photo. An unfortunate cutoff point in the photo, but also thanks to the PIO and the early pregnancy hormones that I didn't know were already building up in my system, I was more buxom than usual. Something more to look forward to when I have breasts that are functional in the future! (Note high levels of sarcasm)

I have seen these photos on Facebook before--people's "We're Pregnant!" photos, where both parties are just oozing joy. This is ours. I never got to share it because it ended too soon, but I'd like to share it now. This is what two people look like who have fought so hard for that good news. I thought my face was going to bust from smiling so much. We had received the call from our actual doctor just an hour or so before this stroll through trails in a field chock full of butterflies, and were just floating on the high. We had our first REAL pregnancy test that was positive without caveat--no low numbers (although in retrospect 61 was just over the threshold of "viable"), no "it's positive BUT," just pure joy. We had made it. We could hardly believe it, and yet it was true. And we couldn't bring ourselves to be overly cautious because we didn't want to miss a moment of this joy. Every day of this pregnancy was spent just marveling at the fact that we had made it to this point and it seemed real. We celebrated, we laughed, we planned. I actually don't feel sad anymore when I look at this picture. I feel such a strong sense of hope that we can have a picture like this again, and this time it will be followed by pictures of my growing belly. We'll have more than one ultrasound with a sac in it to prove that we can do this, we just need a little more help than we thought.

Here it is. My second ever positive pee stick. It doesn't stay saying "pregnant" -- they fade after 10 minutes. I did get this picture though to remind me that I wasn't nuts, it wasn't a dream, I really was pregnant in my uterus last year. It can happen. We know more now and so we have our new plan to make this a lasting reality. Sadly, this picture of the pee stick isn't the happy one I peed on after getting that call. (I do NOT pee on sticks until after I have numbers that will show up -- I am not an early tester. I did that for a little while and it only added uncertainty and early heartache, so I stick to the bloodwork and pee on that stick when I KNOW it will give me the news I want to see!) This was after things had gone south, I was on bedrest, and I had found out that my numbers had dropped dramatically from several thousand to several hundred. I had actually called the folks at Clearblue Easy to see what their threshold was for HCG (it's 25, FYI), and so I peed on the stick to see if I still at least registered as pregnant. I just didn't want to believe it was over. I refused to go off my progesterone until they could prove to me that there was nothing in my uterus anymore. Stubborn? Crazy? Maybe. But when you are at this point in things and you thought that your happy ending was in your grasp and even your medical professionals are a little confused about how your numbers could drop like that so fast, you need proof. This stick was my proof that I WAS pregnant, that I could be pregnant, that some day I will have pee sticks that aren't showing that HCG is still coursing through my veins after a loss but showing that I am gloriously, sustainably pregnant. This picture, although steeped in sadness (and pee), is actually a photo of hope. It proves that we haven't lost it. We have been through so much on this journey and it seems just completely and utterly neverending, but somehow we have not lost hope.
These pictures are my proof that that joy is attainable. They are bittersweet reminders of the best days of our lives before that was inexplicably snatched away. We grasped the dream once, we can do it again. I cannot wait to share the pictures of our next happiest days. Thank you, short-lived embryo, for giving us this gift.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Infertility Feet

Yup, feet. As in my feet, which really have nothing to do with infertility, but the items I cloak them in do. I swear this will make sense shortly.

I have these black shoes:

See? They're still reasonably
cute on, despite their age.
Battered shoes by themselves
I love these shoes. I actually have them in brown suede, too, which are less beaten up looking (probably because they are suede and so I don't wear them in inclement weather, and I live in Rochester, NY, so that is pretty much NEVER).

Here's the problem with these shoes. Take a close look. They are obviously well-loved and well-worn. The insoles are totally cracked and offer zero support. The stitching is frayed and fuzzy looking. The toes are turning white and no amount of Payless black shoe polish will keep them shiny and black again for more than a day or two. And, they are Aerosoles, which used to be wildly popular (I think, I have never really been much of a fashion hound), but now I'm not sure that they exist.

That's because these shoes are easily 10 years old. I bought them and their brown counterparts at a DSW when I first moved to Rochester (I've been here 12 years now, so 10 years is a guess) and my friend Lynn bought the same ones. They are like getting away with wearing bedroom slippers at work. They have seen me through several moves, two marriages (one bad, one for keeps), and the lovely transformation of my feet as I age. I should thank them and scoot them into the garbage, since they aren't even remotely supportive anymore, and this lady needs arch support and shock absorbency. Because I'm moving into my late 30s with my next stupid birthday (hello, 37) and my feet are fairly abused. But I just can't get rid of them.

Why? I can't justify buying new shoes. Isn't that dumb? Your feet are super important (I know this because my mom has had horrific issues with her feet in the past few years, including several reconstructive surgeries, and so I know not to take feet for granted!). I am on them all day long as a teacher, and the halls I walk are a very hard, unforgiving linoleum. I should spring for the more supportive and yet attractive shoes. But I just can't.

This goes along with my pants conundrum. Why don't I buy new pants unless mine are tattered beyond repair? Because I want the next pants I buy to be maternity pants. I have been hoping for that shopping excursion for years. Ugh, it hurts just to say it...YEARS. I've been close twice, and I am the proud owner of two belly bands (which I mostly used when stimming and bloated beyond belief, and wore when bloated from PIO and early pregnancy, and may possibly wear on days when my pants won't button thanks to infertility fat), but still no stretchy waisted maternity pants in sight. So why no shoes? Because, in addition to the fact that nice, supportive, grown-up shoes are pretty freaking expensive, I don't want to buy shoes right before my feet change. That's right, I've had enough friends and exposure to pregnancy magazines and American Baby and Parents and everything like that to know that when you are pregnant, your feet swell and change. And they often don't go back to their pre-pregnancy size. So why should I buy new shoes?

Actually, the crazy in me thinks maybe I should buy the new shoes. Maybe, if I buy the new shoes, the Universe will laugh and say, "HA! She bought nice new shoes! Now we'll change her feet because she'll be pregnant, pronto, haha!" and little will the Universe know that that's what I really wanted. So I will trick it. (Sound crazy? It should...) Except I've tried tricks before. And really, there is no logical correlation between the purchase of shoes and the possibility of pregnancy. I would be buying shoes like mad if that was the case. Nope, I just don't want to retire these shoes until I am going to need to retire them in favor of a slightly bigger size. And honestly, they're a little stretched out and would accommodate swollen pregnancy feet pretty nicely. So I really shouldn't get rid of them anyway.

Do you see how exhausting it is to live life this way, always hoping for that event to occur and keeping things on hold in the meantime? That shoes could be such a complex issue? Everyone says you should just live your life at this point in the game and if you need new shoes, well hell, you'd be thrilled to have shoes you can't wear anymore! But I just don't work that way. I've tried, and it is just not me. I want to live my life, but this infertility nonsense is like a shadow I can't get rid of, tinting all my decisions and thoughts with but, what if what if what if what if this works out finally? which doesn't seem all that insidious, but those what ifs just keep going and going and they take over my thought processes completely. Especially since at the moment we are in what seems like a never ending holding pattern, waiting for all the pieces to come together so that we can even just get started on our next attempt. I am surrendering a lot of control (control I never really had, but at least I thought I had some) in this next process. So, I guess it's not so crazy that I want to control my shoes. My beat up, worn out, faded, but comfortable old constant friend shoes. Maybe it's like not changing your socks during playoffs or something. I have let go of so much, it's not so weird to hold on to this one little thing.
Lucky wanted to get in on the
photo shoot. Isn't he cute?
Then I realized I was wearing these socks.
Those are hospital socks that they give you
during retrievals and unfortunate tappings for
OHSS. I love these stupid socks, too... and
apparently Lucky is a little too interested.
So, shoes, you get to live another day. Just hopefully not for too much longer.

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Living in a Lonely Space

Sometimes it feels like the world is an incredibly fertile place.

Sometimes, despite the fact that infertility affects 1 in 8 couples, it feels like I live in an island of inability to conceivedness, and no one else in my day to day life is infertile.

Not that I wish infertility on anyone, JEEZUM that is not what I meant. And I know quite a few ladies who share my struggle through support group connections, but that is a bubble where EVERYONE is infertile. I'm talking about every day life, where it seems like 1 in 800 couples are affected by an inability to conceive/carry.

I am a teacher, and so I work at a school. Two schools, actually. And schools are fairly family-friendly places. And teachers, you know, LOVE kids. So it's no surprise that schools are hotbeds of fertility. People are always getting pregnant and having kids. Talking about their kids. And why not? I mean, that's where life is! And there are so many people to talk about pregnancy and kids with, because just about everyone is in that same boat. Except me. I am off in a sad little raft made of a door that refuses to open, listening to these conversations but I just can't get on that raft. That beautiful, fun, join-the-club raft.

I am sure I am extra sensitive to all this because my fake cycle to test out my new meds is over and I am just waiting for the go-ahead to get started. I am in this limbo where I am sort of on my way, but also stagnant. I feel like my new beginning could be right around the corner, or it could be months away, and I don't know PLUS I have no control over it. Which is incredibly hard for me. So I am super sensitive to talking with people at school in the hall or in meetings or at lunch and having all of the conversations be about having children. I smile and nod and laugh at the funny stories (because there are a lot) but inside I feel like crying because I am incredibly left out of the reality of all these things. Several times this week I had conversations with teachers who share students with me either in the hall or in their classrooms and "because I have kids..." and then a launch into a wonderful story about living with toddlers came up, and it was like being the freaking Little Match Girl, standing outside in the freezing cold, holding my little blue fingers up to a frosted windowpane, watching someone else's warm life with golden light play out in front of me, but on the other side of that glass. I can't get to the warm side of that glass.

Then, yesterday was an oddball Friday faculty meeting, and there was time for announcements. Anytime there are announcements I steel myself for the inevitable pregnancy announcement. Yesterday there were several, most of them second babies. There were so many announcements about babies coming in August/September that someone behind me said jokingly, "Must be something in the water!" Ha ha HA ha ha. I have to stop bringing in my water from home because maybe THAT's my problem. I hold myself together for the most part at school, but yesterday between that and some very confusing information about APPR, I was in tears on my way home and not the most pleasant sight for Bryce to come home to later in the afternoon. It's just so hard to continually be the odd one out. I am left out and a passive observer in so many conversations because people with kids love to talk about kids (I will too someday, this is not a criticism in the least), and when we have meetings everyone asks "How are your kids?" or something along those lines. No one asks, "How are your cats?" because that would just be weird. And for some reason, I don't get a lot of small talk that starts with "How is your husband?" I am in a no-man's land. A no-baby-land. I have a core group of people who know about my situation and they will ask me how I'm doing with things, which is nice. But then there are other people who kind of sort of know my situation and it sort of feels like they have given up on asking how things are going because the answers are just always so depressing, or at this point it's obvious that I'm not pregnant, so why bother asking because the answer won't be good. It hurts just a little bit. I just hold on and keep telling myself, someday this will be you... someday this will be you... someday this will be you... but it feels like someday is just so far away, even though we're on the cusp a new opportunity, because someday keeps sneaking up on us and then passing us by. Someday keeps almost coming, but just missing us.

I haven't been too active on Facebook lately, partly because it is IEP-writing season and so my life is not my own, but also because it is like a freaking time bomb. Pregnancy announcements run rampant. Pregnancy posts run rampant. Bump pictures and nursery pictures and hospital pictures and first weeks home pictures and all those super cute month birthday pictures with the round stickers on the onesies... they are everywhere. It's great, for those people immersed in the happiness of their new and exciting lives. But it seems like it is everyone, EVERYONE but me. I know this isn't really true. I know I'm being hyperbolic. But there has been a rash of second babies that are being born to people who got pregnant with their first baby when I was already heavy into fertility treatment. That hurts. That really brings it home to me how long we have been struggling and how easily life goes on all around us. I do not begrudge people their pregnancies. I live in awe of people who get pregnant easily or even relatively easily. I just don't understand how the Baby Fairy has so completely skipped over my house. I feel horrible, but I find myself dreading engagement announcements too, because at this point some of those people have passed me by on the road to parenthood and I start wondering if this newly minted couple will be among the lucky who get pregnant immediately and whose pregnancy announcement I will be reading long before I share my own. So when I log in to Facebook, looking for, oh, I don't know, funny things my friends say or memes about how Friday is your second favorite F word or videos of a loving relationship between a barn owl and a cat, and I am instead barraged by evidence that fertility is everywhere but here, it hurts. I feel horribly left behind. I want to be writing about when our baby is arriving. I want to be writing about the funny things my firstborn wants to name my secondborn. I want to be writing about the trials and tribulations of stroller/crib/glider assembly. But I'm not. I just watch it all scroll by.

Infertility World
I almost feel like this one is a little taboo to talk about. I feel horribly left behind by so much of the infertility community, too. I am pleased as punch for all of the long-awaited, battled-for babies out there. But it is a little startling to go to your blogroll for your infertility blog and find that almost everyone you follow is either pregnant or has had a baby recently. Again, PLEASED AS PUNCH, but when you start a search to find some people who are still fighting the good fight in your particular area of treatment and are really struggling to find someone who isn't pregnant, who is feeling similar things that you are feeling on the journey, that is hard. But, don't get me wrong, this situation is also incredibly hopeful--because if they are all pregnant that means, eventually, THIS WORKS. But for the love of all that is good and holy in this world, could it please work for me at some point before our world collapses around us? So many of those facebook babies are fertility babies, and that makes me happy. But then there are some tricky associations. For instance, I read an email from a fellow infertility fighter recently and she mentioned that she is 35 weeks and anxiously awaiting the arrival of her baby. On the one hand, this is awesome news--she is so close to having that baby in her arms! She's almost made it! Hurrah for the third trimester in a world where the first trimester and even the second hold no guarantees whatsoever despite all you've done to get there! On the other, slightly bitter hand... I felt punched in the gut when I read it. Because this fabulous mom-to-be got pregnant two days after I did in July. And she is almost ready to give birth, and I am...not. To realize that it could have been me sitting on a couch with my hand on my giant belly, maybe feeling some movement while typing this message of incredible hope, was really hard. I am not a mean-spirited person. I don't wish ill will on anyone. But I just don't understand why we BOTH couldn't have been in a position to bring babies home in late March/early April. Why did the stars align for her and not me? This is not a pretty side to infertility, but it exists.

I have a lot of joy in my life. I am so fortunate to have so many things in life that others struggle for. I have a good job in a highly competitive field that is relatively secure-ish. I have a wonderful husband who loves me and treats me spectacularly well and is supportive in a way I didn't know existed in another life. I have a beautiful home and the means to take care of it. I have wonderful family who supports us in every way imaginable and awesome friends who are the best cheerleaders ever, and when we finally do make it to babyland they will be so ecstatic. I don't want to imply that I live this dark life in the shadows, lurking around other people's happiness like an infertile Gollum. But it is incredibly, heartbreakingly true that my wonderful life has a giant hole in it. A hole that we have tried to fill for 3 1/2 years of medical treatments with very little success but always great hope for the future. A hole that feels like it increasingly sets us apart from...almost everyone else. I know that even though my 37th birthday is looming in the not-so-distant future I am "still young." But I don't feel it. I was upset to find that a teacher that I work with was several years younger than me a month or so ago--not because he was younger than me (and not by much, so who cares?) but because he has multiple small children and so I thought that he had to be at least my age. I forget that people have children in their late 20s/early 30s. That not everyone gets started later only to find that this journey will be incredibly long and arduous with no foreseeable end that is trustworthy. I would love to believe that this next opportunity is going to do the trick, and I will be on the other side of the glass. But I just can't trust it anymore. I will feel differently once we are truly on our way. I always do, because I am an optimistic sucker. But until we are headed towards our transfer, I am kind of living in this gray limboland. And, despite my awesome support network, it is incredibly, incredibly lonely.

I also want to put out this caveat--I am sharing how I feel because I think a lot of people in this situation feel the same way, and aren't sure that it's "OK" because it's dark and/or less than the positive thinking that infertility patients are encouraged to display ad nauseum because somehow having a negative thought could make you less likely to get/stay pregnant. Which is crap. I think that validating ALL of the feelings that come with infertility, pretty or not, is super important to mental health. Get positive again when you are ready, but great jehosaphat, if you've gotten to this point in your journey to have a child and are still unsuccessful I think it's ok to have dark days, sad days, gray days. Even weeks. However, sharing this honesty does not include an expectation that I want people to change their behavior around me--at times I have written honest posts about how certain situations feel only to have people take it completely to heart and feel awkward or distant around me afterwards. I want to hear your stories about your kids. I am happy for your pregnancy announcements/births/milestones (I just might "Like" it on Facebook rather than commenting, because if I comment then my notifications are bombed with comments congratulating people on their baby which turns my phone into a torture device). Please don't leave me out of those moments because you don't want to make me feel sad. I am GOING to feel sad, but I WANT to share your joy. I don't want those things to change. I want my situation to change so that I don't feel this way on the inside every day. I want to join you. I want to leave this lonely space and move on, leave this stagnant period of my life behind and go forward to the world of parenthood.