Saturday, November 16, 2013

Pretty Sure My Relationship With IVF Is An Abusive One

I am not really doing so well these days. My head is spinning with all the information we are sifting through, and my attempts at reining all this in with a multipoint "plan" have not really served to make me feel better. Today, while attempting to have breakfast over "The Daily Show" and instead having a nearly two-hour powwow over dippy eggs and bacon, I came to a realization. I am in an abusive relationship with infertility treatments.

Unfortunately, I know what it's like to be in an abusive relationship. Mostly emotional and verbal abuse, but with the occasional dash of physical thrown in. My first marriage was a disaster of epic proportions where there were pockets of really good stuff (I married the man after all, it couldn't have been all bad...) mixed in with a lot of "you stupid fat bitch," shoes kept by the door so I could run out at any given moment, a hollow core door that had a gaping hole in it from where I ran into my office to hide from my ranting other half and he was so pissed I locked it that he tried to kick it in, Nicole Kidman's smudged face on my living room wall from where a Glamour magazine was thrown at my head so hard that it left a transfer print on the wall behind me (lucky me he had shitty aim), and various threats to snap my neck whilst fighting. It was a pretty awful existence, not one that had me running for the abused women's shelter (I had very few bruises and no out-and-out "beatings," so I had a hard time considering it "abuse," but I think you will agree with me that it absolutely was), but one that had me occasionally debating with my damaged subconscious about the merits of divorce. I always tamped it away. I'd made my bed, yada yada yada. It could get better. To leave was scary, unknown. To stay was pretty close to scarier, but not quite. I could survive it. I didn't think it was bad enough to leave even when I left our apartment in Yonkers at 10:00 pm, hysterical and frantic, walked to the Mount Vernon West train station in a completely unobservant state and then, after taking the train up to White Plains, walked the 2 miles or so through not the best neighborhood, crying all the way, to my best friend's house. The sad thing was, after spending time sorting through the fight that I had fled from, I was upset mostly because I was afraid I was the one who would be left. Abusive relationships are horrible because of the fear and the physical and emotional pain, but also because they completely strip you of your dignity and sense of self. But they make you into one hell of an actress, capable of convincing (if not entirely) family and friends that you are ok when you are DEFINITELY NOT OK, and most of all, convincing yourself that you are ok and maybe you deserved the things that were said or hurled and everyone has their burdens to bear and some people are just fiery and any number of lame excuses that you hear coming out of your mouth as a tiny shred of your former self screams from the back of your subconscious, YOU HAVE BECOME A FREAKING LIFETIME MOVIE. THIS IS RIDICULOUS. YOU DESERVE MORE. But I didn't think I did. I needed something concrete to hold on to, that couldn't possibly be construed as me deserving what I got in any way, and that gift came as a realization of years of cheating on top of the screaming and insults and indignities and shakes and punches and hurling of objects in my general direction. Finally, something I could hold on to that definitively said, YOU MUST LEAVE THIS HORRID SITUATION. And I did, but years after I really should have. 

Why am I sharing this with you? I don't really like talking about it so much, because it seems like a completely different life. Thank god, everything is so different now in most arenas that this seems like a bad dream that happened to someone else. But occasionally it hits me just how much I went through, and how much you can convince yourself that things aren't really that bad when they absolutely are. And this morning I made the realization that my relationship with IVF is really not that different from my relationship with a person who stripped me of self-respect, insulted me daily, and made me feel like I could do nothing right or well; yet somehow I was compelled to make a nice dinner and try my hardest to make the best of a less than ideal situation. 

Friday I had my third ultrasound and blood draw as part of a ridiculous experiment with a natural cycle (monitoring only) for the purpose of seeing what my hormone levels and lining look like without meds. The answer: not much. I went in before school and knew that I would get in late but in time to teach 2nd period, but I had started bleeding again like a full period even though a normal person would be ovulating now and my estrogen really wasn't moving, which wasn't surprising since I had been spotting since my period started in late October and so this heavier bleeding was throwing me for a loop and pissing me off. I went in having decided that I was going to pull the plug on the whole thing and that no information on my levels was worth this torture since obviously I am dysfunctional (oh, I'm sorry, my REPRODUCTIVE ORGANS are dysfunctional) and obviously I need meds and we weren't going to do an IUI if I did miraculously make a follicle because we still aren't sure if my eggs are kosher or if Bryce's sperm is kosher and maybe my uterine lining is missing that protein and not implantation-friendly anyway. I was already on thin emotional ice. But then the blood draw was a bit of a disaster. My veins suck. They are tiny and reluctant and, probably, tired. My good vein was still bruised from Monday. So another vein was tried, but it was not producing anything and then I felt a stabby pain that was sharp and breathtaking, and the tears started rolling silently down my face. Another vein was tried in my forearm, one I was terrified of because I just KNEW it was going to be painful. It was. More tears. I was having a hard time keeping them back full force, and after my other arm was stabbed and it produced enough blood...I lost it. I kept thinking WHAT ARE YOU DOING? WHAT ARE YOU DOING? WHAT ARE YOU DOING? I can't take this anymore. At this moment in time, I felt such a complete and total sense of THIS IS WAY, WAY TOO MUCH FOR ME. And the tears kept coming. And then the sobs. And then I couldn't breathe and I was wracked with silent, squeaky, convulsive sobs. I was escorted to an exam room so that I could fall spectacularly apart in semi-privacy (I am pretty sure more than one patient witnessed this breakdown). A very supportive nurse practitioner stayed with me while I tried to pull my shit together. It took at least 20 minutes.

One of the things that threw me for a loop was a stupid Facebook meme. Someone had posted it the day before and it resonated with me and made me feel horribly lost and sad. It was "When one door closes another opens, but sometimes we spend so much time staring at the closed door that we do not notice the open one in front of us." I feel like IVF is not a closed door, but it's slowly creaking shut. My capacity to keep doing this is pretty freaking impaired. I am feeling like it is slowly killing me. But I don't yet have that AHA! revelation that lets me shut the door. I have to be the one to shut it. I have a partially open door in front of me, but I can't deal with two doors that are ajar. I need, NEED one to close. I need the in-person confession from the cheater and the pile of printed out emails that detail the affair. I'm too scared to make the leap myself.

It's not quite the same thing. I never sat in my old house and wondered, "What if all of a sudden my asshole husband becomes Prince Charming someday?" But I do sit here and wonder, "What if there is an answer for us, medically, and it is possible after all for me to become pregnant and birth our baby?" It's not impossible, supposedly. The question is, how many times do I need to keep my shoes by the door before I come to the conclusion that perhaps the medical route is not the best way for us to build our family?

I have invested so much into the medical path. I have overturned a lot of stones, only to come up empty, in every sense of the word. I have to be ok with the fact that I may never get the answer and the fix I so desperately seek. It's possible that next time could be THE time that gets us pregnant. There is always hope that things will get better, that we will have an answer. And then that hope is dashed, over and OVER and OVER again. For seemingly no reason.

In a way, I feel like infertility gives us just enough hope to be the flowers and nice treatment after a whopper of a fight that has left us bruised and shattered inside. I'm not quite ready to get a divorce, to shut that door myself. I am pretty freaking close, though. It is so hard to admit this, not because I think it is a failing, but because I feel failed. Robbed, really. Why should this be so hard when it is supposed to be just the way things work out? We want a family, and we want it sooner than later. It is so, so, so hard to realize that this medical business may not be the way to do that when we've been so gung-ho about it and had so much reasonable hope that this would not be the way things turned out. I don't want to prolong my childless home out of a sliver of hope that we might find the answer. If the answer means a lot more poking and prodding and blood draws like Friday's, I'm not sure I have anything left. As Bryce said this morning over our eggs that had grown a bit cold from all the heavy discussion, infertility has sucked so much away. It's all we talk about. It's all we know how to do anymore. It has become imbalanced, and we are so much more than blood draws and treatment options and possible silver bullets that turn out to be just more disappointment.

Where does this leave us? I honestly don't know. I know I don't know how much more I can take, physically or emotionally. I did manage to get back to school and go to the last 15 minutes of 2nd period and the teach the whole rest of the day. People are very understanding and it wasn't a problem, and if I had needed to go home and spend the rest of the day in bed I think I could have made that work. But I didn't want to. 8th graders are a strange balm for a shattered soul. I wasn't myself on Friday, that's for sure. But I did it. I made it through the day. I was kind of a good actress. As I told the teacher I share a room with, totally stealing from Clueless, I am a Monet today. From far away I look just fine, but get too close and I'm just a blurry mess. I had someone tell me I was incredibly strong. I agree, I am a strong person. I have to be. But at this point, is that more a blessing or a curse? Is my determination to make this work keeping me stuck in one door and when the other door may bring us the joy and love we long to give and share? It's entirely possible.

The plan continues, in the meantime. Another second opinion consult on Wednesday. The orientation with the adoption agency on Monday. Bloodwork is in progress to see if we are dealing with a translocation on Bryce's end. I'm not sure what to hope for here. I'm not sure what to do next. I do know that there is a definite limit on what I can do moving forward in terms of IVF. I am getting awfully close to being able to let go, to fling the other door wide open and leave this dysfunctional but ever appealing hope of success, no matter how slivery it may be at this point, behind. 


  1. I am so sorry Jess. This just sucks. It just sucks and is unfair and sucks more.
    If it is any help, I can share a bit about how I gave up trying with OE IVF. Like you, I had a glimmer of hope. I had just turned 36 at the time. I had DOR, but still there was hope that if I kept trying it would eventually work. But, I ended up stopping all OE treatment and moving on to DE and this was so incredibly difficult. And everything you wrote about so echos with my choice. This feeling that if I was just a bit stronger, a bit tougher, if I went through one more treatment, tried one more doctor, was willing to sacrifice one more bit of my sanity, then maybe it would work. And I think reading message boards sometimes makes it so difficult as the women who do succeed often talk about how they persevered against long odds and succeeded. You feel like a quitter if you walk away. I don’t know what is right for you, but for me, what helped me to reach a decision was to focus on the question: “Do I want one more year with a future child even if it means building my family through a path that was not my first choice?” I really wanted OE IVF to work. But I also really want every single possible day with my future child. Maybe that extra year will be the year the child gets married or has their own children. I want to be there.
    And I am sorry if this seems insensitive as I know you have already made the jump from OE to DE and now you are going on more uncertain paths. You have already agreed to pursue a non-traditional family building approach and you shouldn’t be asked to sacrifice more. But, I just heard so much of my struggle to give up on OE IVF in your post, I felt the need to comment.
    You are not a quitter if you walk away from treatments. In fact, I think it shows a lot of strength. It is always easiest to follow on the current path but hard to face the unknown. You are being strong if you walk away from the path where you have more control to the greater unknown. I wish you the best of luck with whatever path you end up pursuing.

  2. Jess, you know that I think you are amazing and can't thank you enough for all that you say that is always in my mind too. And Hope, thank you for what you said.... that means a lot to me too. xoxo

  3. Thank you so much, ladies! Hope, I really appreciate your point of view. "Do I want one more year with a future child even if it means building my family through a path that was not my first choice?" -- That really resonated with me. I feel so torn right now... I feel like I don't necessarily feel like I would be a "quitter," but I do feel like for me, I need to know that I pursued every avenue. It is a little shocking to find, 4 years in and 8 transfers later, that maybe we've been after the wrong culprits. It would be so much easier if I had a definitive "it's not going to happen" from the medical standpoint. Devastating, but freeing. We'll muddle through somehow! Thanks for stopping by. And Bethie, thank you -- I can't say enough how sorry I am that we share the same brain. :) If I have to go through all this nonsense, it helps so much to know that I am so well supported! Thank you.

  4. Wow. This is such a powerful post. I am here with you, whatever you decide, and may be soon leaving the abusive relationship with you. It's such a powerful and apt metaphor--thank you for it.

    1. You are welcome...and I'm sorry. If that makes any sense... So difficult to be in this space.

  5. What a perfect analogy. I wish fewer of us (you included) could identify with the "battered wife syndrome" that comes with repeat IVF failure and prolonged infertility. I too need the photos and emails to shut the door forever because walking away in favor of the other door comes with its own host of losses and the terrifying unknown of uncharted territory.

    1. Thank you...I wish it wasn't a perfect analogy. I wish that it could be the fairy tale everyone hopes for, the fairy godmother pressing her magic wand against the belly and POOF! Baby. It is really scary to be staring at these two doors and doing a triage of sorts. I will say that we did go to an orientation for a local adoption agency and it was incredibly hopeful. But again, not the baby godmother. Sometimes, at this point, you just stare at the doors and wonder, "How did we GET here?" Peace to you...thanks for sharing your thoughts!

  6. Your family knew about the abuse in the first horrible marriage, Jess, and and were powerless to do anything about it. We celebrate your now-wonderful marriage, because you deserve the very best. You ARE the very best. We love you and will support you in any way you would like us to...all a mother ever wants is what is best for her child...XOXO