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

Thursday, November 27, 2014

A Quiet Day of Thanks and Thought

Happy Thanksgiving to everyone, if this is a holiday that you celebrate.

Our Thanksgiving proper is so very quiet. Low-key. Not in a bad way, per se, but it contrasts so heavily with most Thanksgivings happening out there, and with the Thanksgiving we keep hoping to have but still haven't quite made it to.

We woke late, had a simple breakfast of cereal followed up by a delicious, miraculously gluten-free cheese danish that Bryce slaved over all day yesterday. Seriously, I have not been able to find a gluten free cheese danish, although I have been able to find cinnamon rolls and coffee cake, but not that flaky, buttery, sweet cheese-filled confection that I loved (probably too much) before I discovered such delicious things attacked my intestinal lining. Bryce found a pastry dough recipe that is incredible, buttery, flaky, croissant-like...and has brought cheese danish back into my life. God I love that man.

Since breakfast, we've just kind of relaxed, chilled, hung out. I'm reading Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty (so, so, good, if a bit difficult to read at times for personal reasons, but dead on and super suspenseful), Bryce is reading A Mathematical Introduction to Compressive Sensing, for FUN, and gleefully taking notes on index cards and filing them into his little organizer pouch. I took a break to vacuum the first floor including all the baseboards, very exciting, and we've just been sipping tea (me) and coffee (Bryce) and reading and listening to classical music while big fluffy flakes of snow fall outside.

It is a lovely way to spend the day.

But, it's SO QUIET.

We have our family Thanksgiving at my mom's tomorrow, when my sister, her husband, and one of her stepsons come down from northern NY. That will be more bustle-y, busier, but still on a small scale. We'd hoped to have my grandmother for part of the day, but her nursing home is experiencing a quarantine for respiratory viral infections and so no one is allowed out or in. Which is horribly disappointing, but for the better health of the residents, so I get it. Tomorrow is the celebration with other people, today is just us chickens.

Or ducks, because we decided to make a fancy duck breast thingamajig for dinner since it's just the two of us. Duck is fancier than chicken and they just don't make tiny turkeys. :)

It's fine, it's lovely, it's a beautiful cozy day. We're going to go for a snowy walk and then come back and start assembling our duck dinner complete with GF cranberry sage stuffing and bourbon sweet potatoes and roasted brussels sprouts. It's just so quiet.

Lately that quiet has been weighing on me. If there's not music playing I feel veritably suffocated by the silence. I just want little voices, even the wailing and whining but really the giggles and silly songs and chatter. I want our tiny Thanksgiving to be just a little bit...bigger. Louder. Fuller.

Not that I'm not grateful for the Thanksgiving we have. I have a lot, WE have a lot to be thankful for.

There's our house, which while seemingly hobbit-sized after our visit to The House two weeks ago is cozy and just right for the two of us, as is. It shelters us from the weather and feels like home. There's our health, which minus the hideous infertility and a smidgen of well-controlled asthma, is blissfully good. There's our friends and family, who support us and make us feel loved and happy. There's our careers, which are both wonderfully fulfilling and a bit exciting, if at times exhausting. There's our marriage, which I am forever grateful for, because it's the kind of marriage where we can just be and it's wonderful (even if I resent the silence and what it stands for), and we can laugh and play with each other and support each other and handle each other's bad days and handle the adversity we keep on facing with relative grace. I am so grateful for this love. I am so grateful for this life we share.

So I feel a little tad ungrateful when I have that voice in my head saying, "Yeah, you have all that, but it's so unfair that you don't have that ONE THING." And it's true, it's easy to list my blessings and feel amazingly fortunate, but that gaping hole in the middle makes it hard to concentrate on the things we do have instead of the essential element to our family that is missing. Still.

Maybe it's magnified by the drug cocktail I'm on, for I have taken my last dose of letrozole/Femara and am now onto the Follistim/Lovenox/Solution X combination. I am a little weepier in the face, a little stabbier in the ovaries, and a lot tireder in my body and soul.

I'm trying, I'm trying to be thankful for that beautiful list of things to be grateful for in our lives. I'm trying to do that at the same time I honor the loss of a high chair at our table, the ghosts of tiny voices ringing through our hobbit house. At the same time I feel a little pang when I see the tiny rocking chair that once was mine in the guest room, with the stuffed elephant sitting in it that was given to me by my mother when we were pregnant over two years ago and everything seemed so full of hope and fulfilled wishes. We are closer to that chair and elephant being appropriate than ever before -- we are in the middle of our crazy protocol that could very well end this hell for us, but if it doesn't, we have our plans in place. We are deep in Operation Make Us Parents and are hopeful that we will be well on our way in 2015, through maybe a different path than we started on, but headed towards that family we long for so deeply.

We are thankful, so thankful for the life we have while still feeling sadness for that life that remains a mystery to us. It helps in the quiet to reflect on what we have, because it's not insignificant. I just really, really hope that this is the last Thanksgiving that we're haunted by what we're missing.

Happy Thanksgiving to you, wherever you are in all this. I hope that today is a good day for you. I hope that you have much to be thankful for. I hope there is balance between the gratitude and the pain of loss, and that you have space to feel it all today.

Monday, November 24, 2014

#Microblog Mondays: Stick Stocking


My husband needed to spend the remainder of his FSA money and needed a little help. We went through the list of approved items that we could stock up on: liquid bandaids, regular bandaids, allergy eye drops, mundane stuff like that.

Guess what else is on the approved list?

I have a box of three pink-dye tests sitting in the cabinet, just waiting for December. (Yes, I know previously I have been staunchly anti-pee-stick, but at this point I feel giving myself a heads up to the call is in my best interest, either way it could go, and despite the confusion last time.)

But I had Bryce buy THREE.

I suppose I have a little more hope for this cycle than I thought.

Want to read more #Microblog Mondays? Go here.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Shuffling Off to... Buffalo (Baseline Adventures)

So, unless you've been living under a rock, you know that Buffalo lately has been in the news. As in, buried under seven feet of snow and with a wall of lake-effect nastiness just settled on the south side of the city in particular. The photos are extraordinary. The news coming out of the area is insane -- collapsing roofs, travel bans, the NY State Thruway closed from Rochester to the Pennsylvania state line.

My clinic is in Buffalo. I live in Rochester.

My baseline was this week -- I was waiting for my period to come after stopping the Pill on Sunday, and then I was to call in to schedule baseline for Day 2 or Day 3. It HAS to be Day 2 or Day 3, because Day 3 starts my regimen of Femara that precedes a three-shot cocktail of Follistim, Solution X (yes, it sounds like I should transform into Spiderman after taking this, but really it's just low-dose HCG), and Lovenox later this week. The IVF nurse I spoke to last week felt that I should get my period by Wednesday (but I knew it would likely be Thursday), and so baseline would be Thursday or Friday (but I knew it would be Friday or Saturday).

So imagine my surprise when all of a sudden, Buffalo is being buried, LITERALLY BURIED in feet upon feet of snow, very quickly, and it is shutting everything down. The storm started Monday, later in the day, and just sat all week, through Thursday. I wasn't so nervous, because I thought it would be okay by the end of the week, but then things just didn't stop. And the Thruway, really the only way I knew how to get to Buffalo, remained closed. I had been worried about the winter and traveling to Buffalo because the Thruway frequently closes due to blowing and drifting snow, but I had no idea this would be so bad, so early, and for so long.

Just to get a sense of how to get there without the trusty boring expanse of highway that is the I-90, I called my office on Wednesday. AND THEY WERE CLOSED.

How does an IVF clinic flat out close, unexpectedly? What if there were transfers or retrievals scheduled, things that are timed ridiculously carefully? What happens to your cycle if Snowpocalypse happens right on top of it? Of course, conversely, what happens if you literally cannot get anyone into the office because the city's in lockdown, in part due to orders from the government and in (larger) part due to the sheer force of nature?

I'm not gonna lie. I was a little terrified. And I felt horribly selfish, because here all these people are stuck in houses with snow up over their doors (seriously, google "Buffalo Door" and see all the insanity that's out there), trapped in their houses, unable to leave, worried their houses are going to collapse, and all I could think is... WHAT HAPPENS TO MY BASELINE??? The thought of cancelling due to snow and doing the cycle a month later made me nauseous. And then I made me nauseous for not being more compassionate and thinking all about us and our reproductive woes.

Well, the office wasn't really closed. There were a handful of people there, and my doctor was in surgery with a battery-drained phone, which is why he didn't answer my panicked text right away. (Just so you don't think I'm a completely terrible person, I did start it by inquiring if he and his family were okay and safe before making it all about us and our cycle...) There were staff members who lived on the north and east side of Buffalo, which has been largely unaffected. Lake effect snow is THAT crazy -- my office area got 6-8 inches, while just a few miles south and west, there's literally SEVEN feet, not including the drifts that are much, much higher. Living in Rochester we see the weirdness that is lake effect -- bands of heavy snow less than a mile from sunshine, but never to this extent.

Thursday, the phone lines were back up, and more staff had been able to make it in from all around the area. Which was good, because Thursday was Day One. Due to the weather and other considerations, they wanted me to come in Friday, so that if for whatever reason Friday didn't work out I could still make it Saturday. A Day Two baseline is preferable to Day Three, I guess. But there was still the problem of getting out there. The nurse I spoke to said that 104 to 78 would be best--it was all north, and I'd avoid all the snow. The Thruway was still closed until 3:00 on Friday, and even then all Buffalo exits were closed to traffic, it was just to clear the hundreds of truckers stuck in the area and to clear vehicles from the roads so they could clear snow. So, I would have a new adventure. Apparently my doctor's wife made it just fine the day before, in about an hour and 45 minutes.

I gave myself 2 hours, planned to leave at 6:50 a.m. and hurriedly set up sub plans Thursday evening. I would have to take a full day, because a half day is four periods and I'd have to be back in my 5th period class by 10:44. HA HA HA, I seriously doubted with an 8:50 appointment that was going to happen. So, full day for me. (I felt kind of guilty about this as I basically got a three day weekend the week before Thanksgiving, but spending 5 hours in my car and getting accosted by The Wand ON DAY TWO when things are a horrorshow made me feel far less guilty.)

Let me tell you, it did not take me any hour and 45 minutes. I don't know if the time I left had anything to do with it, or the fact that this is the most reliable corridor to Buffalo from Rochester right now, but the traffic was awful. And it's a local highway with stoplights and frequent drops from 55 to 45 and even 35 miles per hour, which is no fun. I knew the two routes I needed (well, three, as it's 104 to 78 to 5, and my clinic is on 5), but had no sense of time or distance. Incredibly, there was very little snow. A dusting along 104, and then it got to be more as I headed into Lockport--at one point it was snowing and there was maybe a 1/2 inch across the roads, but that was a tiny snippet of the drive and lasted maybe 10 minutes. It took me, however, 2 hours and 20 minutes to get there.

I was late. Which was scary because bloodwork is supposed to be done before 9 so that the STAT order can go to Lab Corps and they can get same-day results. Of course, it turned out Lab Corps had no way of picking up blood samples due to their location, so it was fine and couriered to Sisters Hospital, where I enjoy my hysteroscopy and HSG experiences. I had my baseline, despite feeling rushed and stressed and late (and having the receptionist tell me as I was 5 minutes away that she'd check to see if I should still come, and I was like, "UM, I'M COMING, I'm just giving you a heads up...").

My ovaries were quiet and had lots of nice tiny antral follicles, which we sort of need for stimulating but don't need for the cycle other than to create that fabulous lining. My uterus looked good -- thin lining, even lining, no clots. I have had the worst cramping I've had since I can remember this time, and was scared that had something to do with the scarring or some other abnormality that I'm developing, because why not? But, our doc said he didn't see anything untoward and then gave my uterus a bunch of ego-boosting compliments. "I'm encouraging your uterus! I'm trying to get her to continue behaving nicely!" he said, which was hilarious. Humor is needed when you're having a baseline ultrasound and you know you are bleeding all over the place and can do nothing about it. It is the most awkward ultrasound ever.

The drive back was uneventful, and took a little less time -- 2 hours and 10 minutes. I don't know where this hour and 45 minute estimate came from, but it must have been from the very westerly edge of Rochester because that was SO not my experience. I was home by 12:20, and had the afternoon to take a short nap, eat a leisurely lunch, and go visit my grandma. My estrogen call came in on my way to the nursing home, and it was a lovely, low, 22. I was so relieved, because last time my baseline was inexplicably all messed up when it came to the estrogen level and I really didn't want any odd delays this time. Git 'er done. Whew, first hurdle cleared.

First hurdle cleared despite a catastrophic weather event, interesting travel arrangements, missing a whole day of school, having epic cramps and bleeding all over the table (gross), and an office that was partially staffed. Not bad, not bad. I was terrified it was going to be bad and I wouldn't get there, and the worst did not happen. I need to chill a little bit, expect more good things, I think. (Or, maybe it was good to have low expectations and then be pleasantly surprised at every turn...)

We're off. I take the Femara tonight, I get started on this next piece of things. I prepare for our last blasts that we know are blasts. (Those 2PNs make me nervous as we have no idea what they could turn out to be.) I am hoping for a change in our horrible luck. I am trying to accept things for what they are in this process and attempting to not stress too much about missing school or anything else. At this point, it is what it is. I give in to the process.

Also, I am hoping for relief for those in Buffalo who don't live where it's 8 inches of snow, who are still buried in monster drifts, hostage in their homes, and hoping their homes' structural integrity holds up through the heavy snow now and the melting and flooding that is expected. I can't imagine what it must be like for those in the areas most affected. It gives a little perspective to my own worries for this week.

Always an adventure, one way or another. Never a boring moment.

Monday, November 17, 2014

#Microblog Mondays: The House


Yesterday we were on our way to a late lunch out when we stopped by an open house. We are not buying a house; not with a realtor; have been agonizing over whether or not to put an addition on or move to a new house...but all of that has been dependent on infertility. So we haven't tried to find a house very seriously, but then stumbled upon The House, just by chance. It's nearly perfect: a 1925-built but recently-renovated colonial with a boatload of character, four bedrooms, the kitchen I salivate over, an office for me and an office for him, a room for exercise equipment, a mudroom, built-ins galore, and they even had a room for their WINE FRIDGES, plural. (Negatives: inground pool, ginormous size, ginormous lot, a bit pricey for our comfort, double-yellow-line street). This house was very nearly made for us...but it's just not the right time. I am headed into our tenth IVF cycle, our second-to-last if we hold tight to the No More After The Frozens Are Gone decision, and we will need the adoption money at the ready if the frozens prove to be failures (plus it's the holidays, and our house is not even remotely on the market or market-ready). The kicker was the couple with the baby carrier who walked in after us, who will probably have the children to fill a house that size, who probably (but maybe not) didn't have to pay a sizeable down payment to try for their baby, and who will, in all probability, be buying what should be OUR HOUSE. Oh, infertility, your sting reaches so far beyond the immediate disappointment of reproductive failure.

Want to read more Microblog Mondays? Follow the link! Stirrup Queens #Microblog Mondays

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Adoption Book Reviews Part I

When we were leaving the hospital in Buffalo from our HSG that, while not entirely clear, was clear enough to proceed with our next cycle, I showed my awesome doctor the book that was stashed in my purse. Yes, I stash books in my purse. A requirement for a purse before I will purchase it is that it be large enough to stow a paperback, if not a hardcover. A fashionista I am not, although some of those big fancypants bags could carry a veritable library of books. I like to have a book with me at all times. Who knows when you might have a moment where you are stuck and stagnant and could get some surprise reading time in? Especially when you are CONSTANTLY in a doctor's office? We had been talking about the upcoming cycle, and I felt it was important to let Dr. Fabulous know that we were also beginning to open the door on domestic infant adoption. That it wasn't some amorphous "someday, if we need to" situation anymore, but that we have reached that point where we feel so little hope in our medical path to parenthood that we need to start moving down a path that, while also very difficult for different reasons, feels far more full of hope than what we've been doing. We're not hopeLESS, per se. We just feel drained and a little disenchanted since every great "new thing" that comes down the medical pike just hasn't panned out for us for whatever dastardly reason.

So I felt it necessary to inform our doctor that I had switched my reading habits, and brought out one of the two adoption books I have read at this point. He kind of looked a little sad, possibly because he is really hoping to clinch this for us (or possibly because that's what we WANT to see), but also was very supportive -- "Yes, of course it makes sense to look into other options." I felt a little guilty, but that's all on me. Of course he wants to solve this puzzle. We're just running out of stamina to keep going down this well-worn path.

This post is titled "Part I" because the books I am going to share with you are two of what I suspect are many books about adoption that I will be reading over the next few months. I have a third sitting on my coffee table, but I needed a little break as parallel reading two very useful and informative books on adoption kind of saturated me for the moment. But, since I have been very disappointed and appalled at Barnes and Noble's lack of adoption books in physical stores, and the internet is fairly overwhelming, I thought it might be helpful to share the two books I ultimately bought and have felt are incredibly helpful to someone starting out on the decision-making process. The fact that I finished the two books so quickly was a sign to me that this is a pathway that I can become passionate about. My shelf next to my bed is full of infertility books, and when starting out on this insane journey I just consumed books that would share different perspectives and paths and experiences with infertility, whether global, highly personal, medically informational, and/or emotionally speaking. I'm finding the same categories apply to adoption books. These two are my personal favorites so far. These are my personal thoughts on the books, I'm sure you could find a zillion other reviews online, but these are mine, from the perspective of someone who wants information and wants to feel hope and is completely exhausted by medical infertility treatments but not yet resolved to let that path go. I hope they're helpful.

You Can Adopt: An AdoptiveFamilies Guide by Susan Caughman and Isolde Motley
This book appealed to me because it was written by staff members of Adoptive Families magazine, which held some clout for me. Also, the format was very appealing. It is broken into three parts: Part I is Thinking About Adopting; Part II is Working on Adoption; and Part III is Parenting Your Adopted Child. In addition, there were blue sidebars peppered throughout the book that featured real-person stories from AdoptiveFamilies readers on various parts of the adoption process, from deciding to adopt to parenting. They were honest, and real, and not always wholly complimentary to the person sharing--but I love knowing that other people have thoughts and worries that aren't necessarily PC but in sharing, reassure the reader that thinking this way (even briefly) is normal. Also, every chapter in every part featured full-length essays written by adoptive parents on their experiences with various stages of the adoption process. The book was informative, broken out into chunks that weren't overwhelming, and covered all possible adoption pathways. It covered international, domestic, and foster adoption. We are really only interested in domestic infant adoption, so I could skim some of the other pieces but also learn a bit about those other pathways. International Adoption is not among our choices because, quite frankly, we want to start parenting as early as possible and often, with international adoption, you are welcoming a toddler home. There are often country requirements as well that are more restrictive. There are travel considerations. It is not the path for us. Foster adoption is incredible and I so admire the people who follow this path. Given the loss we have sustained from infertility, I just don't think we have the ability to go this route that is rife with loss and potential loss. It would not go well. Reading about these other options was helpful in solidifying our decisions that domestic infant adoption is really the way we want to go. There were surprising things in the book -- I discovered that some people feel that when adopting domestically they should be able to specify a sex as a compensatory benefit to having gone through infertility. That was actually shocking to me, and while I think I can see where those people are coming from, it was bizarre to me. You don't get to pick any other way -- it just seemed like a prospect that hadn't ever entered our minds and was a little off-putting. To each their own though, although for us this was a little on the crazy-pants side. Other pieces were very reassuring -- stories of partners not quite in sync on the decision making process but who came together eventually; stories of nervous adoptive parents-to-be prepping the house for a homestudy ("Should I bake cookies or bread to make the house smell welcoming and domestic?" one woman wondered aloud to her husband); reassuring tales of initial fears that proved unfounded; sad stories of failed adoptions and losses but that ended in a successful adoption afterwards. It's not all Pollyanna, but it's not all doom and gloom, either. There are helpful exercises-- the homestudy chapter explains in detail what could be required (but that it varies by agency or state), but includes helpful questions for you and your partner to explore and discuss beforehand that will likely be included in the social worker's homestudy process. They recommend that you answer them separately and then compare notes, to see where you land before discussing, so that you can figure out where there may be conflicts or just pieces to discuss further about your families of origin, your parenting philosophy, your background, your thoughts on adoption and open adoption. That was a really helpful section, as the homestudy is, to be honest, incredibly intimidating. From where we stand in the process, anyway. I'm sure it will change. The book seems like one that will become a well-worn reference, and a book you could turn to for advice or reassurance during various points in the process. It is a nuts-to-bolts, comprehensive guide with a personal touch.

Secrets to Your Successful Domestic Adoption: Insider Advice to Create Your Forever Family Faster by Jennifer Joyce Pedley
This book appealed to me because the author is both a social worker who helps both birthmothers and adoptive families through the process, and is also a birthmother herself. She gives a very interesting and comprehensive perspective on the birthmother's view of adoption. As an adoption newbie, before getting any information, birthmothers seem a bit...scary. I repeat, this is from our uninformed viewpoint. This book was incredible for providing a dual perspective but always keeping birthmother/expectant mother thoughts on the process close to heart. I appreciated the author's honesty and her detailed information on all parts of the process, especially if you choose to go a more independent, attorney-driven, private route. It was a bit overwhelming at times, but it was also well-organized into five parts. I was incredibly nervous when I cracked the book open and saw that the first part is titled, "Second Choice/Second Best." I felt it was judgy, and I was about to be judged for not choosing adoption first, for wanting to experience pregnancy myself, for pouring energy and money into infertility treatments. I WAS SO WRONG. It was an incredible chapter grouping that brought me to tears, frequently. It was about how adoption is not the birthmother's first choice, either. That very few people grow up and are like, "I want to build my family through adoption!," but also very few people say, "I want to get pregnant at a time that is awful for me and place my baby for adoption!" She has a very eye-opening chart that shows the parallels between the birthmother's feelings and the adoptive mother's feelings -- there are a LOT! Examples: Both feel that their reproductive systems have betrayed them, but oppositely. Both are likely to be uncomfortable around pregnant people and newborns. Both have worries that their child will hate them. I found this book incredibly helpful for exploring my fears of open adoption (that have been broken up pretty significantly) and my picture of birthmothers. It was highly educational. I have to give a caveat, though. The author made me incredibly angry at the end, when she related a story that she thought was funny and yet was in incredibly poor taste. She talks about her son's adoptive parents, and that they had a very odd circumstance. Each were identical twins, and then their identical twins actually married each other, too. So they had identical DNA, and somehow their sibling/inlaws were able to conceive but they weren't. So they had bizarro children in the family that could really be their children in terms of looks and whatnot. Strange, right? And so far an okay story. But it goes horribly wrong when she jokingly says to Sybil, the adoptive mother, that she doesn't understand why she didn't just sleep with her brother-in-law, because no one would ever find out from DNA tests. Ha HA ha ha. And then she says the adoptive father, Ron, laughed a bit but that Sybil didn't seem to find it funny. NO SHIT, SHERLOCK. That's so not funny I can't even believe an editor approved putting that little anecdote in the final chapters. It made me so angry I was almost ready to write the whole book off, but it's such a small piece to what is otherwise a very helpful book from a perspective most adoption books aren't coming from, that I forgave her the anecdote transgression and continue to recommend the book. Just be warned that that piece is in there at the end of the book and it will probably make your blood boil if you are coming to adoption after any kind of infertility struggle.


Both books were incredibly helpful to making me feel far more comfortable and more informed about the adoption process. I am nowhere near done with research, as research is how I come to grips with situations I never thought I'd be in but yet must come to peace with, for they are my new reality. Infertility was definitely one of those experiences, and now the process of adoption is another one. There is much hope in the process though, because if we can survive IVF in its many iterations and come out all in one piece (if worn very, very thin in places), we can survive all the emotional trials that adoption holds. Because both books were clear-- this is not easy. You will end with a baby in your arms if you stick it out, and both were clear that you should expect at least one false start or mismatch. Both made me feel really, really confident that our agency is a good choice, as they are very adamant that birthmother counseling is key, and that is emphasized bigtime by the agency we've identified. I am confident that this could be a pathway that leads us to the family we've dreamed of, should our last efforts fail us as all the other cycles have, already. It's possible we could find success before we commit to the process, but it is so comforting to have this information at my fingertips, to feel more informed, to try to feel hope again in an unfamiliar process that is slowly materializing on our horizon.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Facebook Parents, You Confuse Me

Just the other day, students in the English class where I am a consultant teacher had to read an article on the pros and cons of social media. It was interesting to see the thoughts of 8th graders on this subject. For one, almost none of them use Facebook or Twitter -- they thought that those sites were totally old news. They are all about Instagram and Snapchat and other sites I'd never heard of (which made me feel a bit old and out of touch). When writing about advantages and disadvantages, some said it was nice to connect with people far away, and some said that you had to be careful what you said on social media because it could come back to haunt you, but a lot of them seemed to feel that social media was a waste of time, and, quote, "who cares about selfies?" That warmed the cockles of my heart, because sometimes I look at Facebook and see, in progress, the death of our civilization.

For instance: Why must people take selfies while in the car? Is there something so vital about capturing THAT moment, on your way somewhere, that you need a picture of yourself with a seat belt diagonally bisecting your torso? (If you do this, no offense meant, but please explain...why?)

I realize that, like anything, you can take or leave the parts of Facebook that bug you. I don't HAVE to read a family members' political  and/or religious rant that raises my hackles like no one's business. I don't HAVE to click on every mommy blog or article from a variety of online sources (HuffPost, Slate, etc) that comes across my feed. And holy jeezum, do they come across my feed. Sometimes it's hard not to click and read.

My friend list is home to a large number of mommies. And daddies. Mostly in their early to mid thirties, from all walks of life, some working, some stay-at-home, some active in the Mommy Movement, some online once a quarter or so to post a few pictures of their kids from various events. For the most part, this does not bother me anymore, because SO MANY of them have kids that are no longer even remotely babies. Everyone's kids are toddlers to school-age. There's a sprinkling of newer mommies, or mommies with a second or third child, and the occasional second or third pregnancy announcement does throw me for a loop.

But, the thing that is confusing to me is the constant barrage of memes and articles and reposted blog posts that seem to have incredibly conflicting messages about parenthood.

Stance #1: Parenthood is so amazing, that nothing even remotely compares to it, and you are an empty shell of a person if you have not experienced the love that is looking into the eyes of the child you created. You may be lumpy and exhausted and worse for wear physically and often emotionally, but parenthood is a sacred gift that no one truly understands until they've been there themselves. Your heart grew five sizes the day you gave birth and you wouldn't trade your unshowered existence for all the restaurant meals out in the world. MOTHERS ARE THE BEST. MOTHERHOOD IS THE BEST. HAVING A BABY IS THE SINGLE MOST IMPORTANT THING YOU COULD EVER DO. Subtext: I feel incredibly sorry for you if this is not your experience, because it is just magical, and you have to be a part of the "club" to experience it.

Stance #2: Parenthood will ruin your life, parenthood steals your body and your free time, even in the bathroom, parenthood steals your sex life and it's amazing anyone has any second or third children at all given the INCREDIBLE PERSONAL HELL that parenthood causes. It is expensive. It is time-consuming. It is crusted in vomit and poop. BUT, as AWFUL as this is, it is LORDED over the "childless people" in all kinds of articles and memes and internets-what-have-you in compare-contrast charts and narratives about the amazing, privileged, free-moneyed, clean-housed, well-rested lives of PEOPLE WITHOUT KIDS versus the difficult, sleep-deprived, bankrupted, good-moms-have-messy-houses, what?-restaurant?-once-I-knew-what-that-was life of the parentally inclined. Oh, and then the kicker is that at the end, it's revealed that the seemingly awesome life of the childless is EMPTY and the seemingly horrific life of the parent is FULL, SO FULL OF LOVE AND THE GIFT OF CHILDREN.

Confusing, no? Especially when the same people post things from both stances, sometimes in the same day or week.

Stance #1 would be fine if not for the over-the-top and condescending feeling that without children, my life is completely worthless and selfish and I should just drown myself in the toilet. Not to mention, if you are childless NOT by choice this is particularly rankling. (I'm sure it raises the hackles of the childless-by-choice, no-infertility-piece-to-it, I'm not saying that that condescension doesn't impact you if that is your life choice, but I choose to focus on the situation when childlessness has been handed to you like a cosmic whoopie cushion, a gift you most certainly did not want and do not embrace.) If you are doing everything in your power to become a mother and to feel this mythical love-above-all-loves, and it is still failing, these memes make you feel EVEN MORE incompetent. Especially when the focus is on biological children that you birthed yourself, as this option in family building seems further and further away.

BUT, To me, Stance #1 is not nearly as aggravating as Stance #2. This is because, for most of Stance #2's diatribe, I am silently (or not-so-silently) screaming, "THEN WHY DID YOU HAVE CHILDREN??? IF IT IS SO GODDAMN MISERABLE, WHY DID YOU HAVE THEM AND THEN CONTINUE TO HAVE MORE OF THEM???" It blows my mind. It seems that it's become cool and hip to describe your children as monsters, as time sucks,  as drains on the bank account, but then to turn around like a psychopath and snap, "But you should BE so lucky to have little monsters at home!" and then make people who aren't parents feel like Marie Antoinette in comparison, flitting around eating cake that no tiny hands have coated in lord-knows-what. It's the comparison, actually, that bothers me the most. Especially, again, when you are doing everything possible to make the dream of 2 a.m. poopy blowout diapers a reality and you would love to be spending your hard earned money on daycare. Then the comparisons are laughable. Because, to counter some of the statements made in Stance #2, all the time:

- I can't sleep in all the time because I have to wake up and give myself shots, or have my husband give me an inch and a half long needle in my ass. SO LUXURIOUS!
- Other reasons I can't sleep in -- doctor's appointments in Buffalo at 7:30, which mean leaving the house at 6 a.m. to drive a deer-infested thruway that is the most boring highway ever and hope I can stay awake, since I can't drink coffee when cycling.
- Dinners out are awesome, and once treatment is in full cycle, are often cut short by the fact that my evening shots are carefully timed and I refuse to shoot myself up in a public restroom like a heroin addict. The dinners out are a nice consolation prize for trying to have a baby for FIVE YEARS and having a nursery barely disguised as a guest room haunting us for years while it remains empty and coated in thin layer of dust and grief.
- Yeah, it's awesome not having to spend money on kids every day. Except we've spent tens upon tens of thousands of dollars over the years just TRYING to have kids with no real success, and while we are thankfully financially quite stable, we have to keep a considerable chunk of money in the bank to finance adoption, which will be a lump sum of tens of thousands of dollars, paid out pretty much all at once. We are ROLLING in our child-free cash monies.
- Then, just to sum up, how about I just put it out there that I would love nothing more than to be done with this hell of uncertainty and pain in trying to have a family, and actually put my money into feeding and clothing an actual human instead of a mythical one, put my time into actually loving and caring and cleaning up after a baby even if it means tiny hands touching me all day and no escape even in the shower, because then I WILL HAVE BEEN SUCCESSFUL.

I realize I sound a little bitter. I realize that everyone has the right to vent, and when specific mommies vent about a bad day or night where everything that could go wrong, did go wrong, I have absolutely no problem with that. It's more these universal, "Oh yes, I GET that!" shares on Facebook that paint motherhood/parenthood as either a beatific existence that no one understands until they're there, or paints it as the worst pit of despair you could find yourself in and dear lord think twice before having those little monsters because they will RUIN YOUR LIFE but then again, I'm still better than you because I have the BEST JOB IN THE WORLD, and I am raising the future. Both rub me the wrong way as an infertile person. Both make me feel both inadequate and infuriated, and wonder seriously where the gratitude is. Because I can see the gratitude in the moments that we have, in between cycles and while we are in this neverending cycle of waiting for our baby to come, and that even though it sucks to shoot myself up and disrupt my day with doctor's appointments and receive calls that lately always end in tears and receive bad news after bad news after bad news, we do have good things because we don't yet have children. We have a nice house uncluttered by primary-color plastic. We can go out to dinner at a moment's notice and not worry about babysitters. We can go on a somewhat fancy vacation and sleep in. We can enjoy Fall Back because we don't have a baby that doesn't realize there was an extra hour added in the night. There are perks. But I would never make a meme saying how AWESOME it is to be infertile and NOT have children, and how much better of a parent I will be because I have suffered so. I'd like to believe that's true, but it's probably not. And it's probably better if I keep that thought to myself rather than sharing it with the world to make those who DIDN'T work so hard to get their babies feel inadequate.

I am begging you, people who post things that compare parents and people-without-children, to consider for one moment that there are an AWFUL LOT of people, (1 in 8 couples, actually), who are childless but desperately long not to be. Those memes and posts are a double whack to the heart and the ute. They mock our pain. When you call your kids devil spawn and monsters, remember that there are people out there who are willing to do anything and everything to have what you have, often gained easily with no difficulty. When you complain about how expensive it is to have children, remember that for some, it is far more expensive to TRY to have children. I am not trying to rob you of your experience. I know that one day I will have a night soaked in vomit and shit and feel that my life as I know it has ended, and I also know that one day I will look into the face of my child and feel amazing love and wonderment that I am responsible for this life. But I sincerely hope that I will not generalize and hold that over other people, will not make my life seem somehow more significant or more martyr-y for it, will not make others feel less-so because they are not also parents. For both the infertile and the people who choose a child-free life from the get-go.

Let's try make the internet a friendlier place for everyone, with less judgment on who has the better or worse life, and whose life has more meaning. Let's try to celebrate what we have without making others feel inadequate. Let's not disparage other people's choices (or not-choices). Let's just all be a little kinder, even though it seems the Internet thrives on just the opposite.

Saturday, November 8, 2014

HSG Results: The Plan Is In

Thursday went pretty well, all things considered. Even though the valium script was for the lowest dose, 5mg, it did its job and I felt my edges filed to a decently smooth surface, which is hard when you're naked from the waist down climbing up on a cold hard metal table to have catheters threaded through your cervix and x-rays taken in real time of your uterus being slowly filled with dye. In hopes that your uterus is a similarly smooth surface, devoid of sharp scarry edges.

It hurt, of course it hurt. But our doctor took it slow and deflated the balloon a bit at the end to relieve pressure. The worst part for me is when the catheter goes into my uterus, because it pretty much clamps down and screams: "INTRUDER ALERT! GET OUT OUT OUT!" which I guess is a good reflex to have, as usually little flexible tubes with balloons (which feels vaguely to me like fishing equipment) aren't supposed to be in your uterus. I just hope it's not doing the same thing with all our embryos. The valium helped, and the advil helped, and then after, some percocet helped. I felt pretty fine afterwards, once I was sitting in the car and everything kicked in.

During the test, I saw nice smooth uterus at the bottom. Bryce was actually able to be in there with me, in a little room with a radiation shield and its own screen for viewing my innards. He made the joke, "What, are you afraid I'll become sterile?" which I thought was kinda funny but no one else did. A little infertility humor never hurt anyone (as long as it's an infertile person doing the joking of course). As the dye made its way up to the top of my uterus, the controversial part, things looked less smooth. Not asteroid-surface (when picturing what this would look like, all I could see in my head were scenes from Armageddon), but more like pleasant scalloping, like on country curtains. Which is lovely and decorative when not in your womb. I hoped it was just the gentle dye release causing that effect, but I knew the truth.

Two things: The scar tissue is still there, in some form. That scalloped edge is caused by areas where the dye isn't, because of the surface being all wonky. However, the area was relatively small and it is not where embryos typically implant. They typically implant in the front and back of the uterus, and that's just fine. The second thing...the dye didn't spill over. I only have one tube, so that's to be expected on one side. Somehow I expected that to create more spillage out the other one since there's only one exit point, so it would be like a geyser with the pressure, but that didn't happen. Nothing happened. Which means my left tube is blocked. Hmmmm, what could be blocking the tube? SCAR TISSUE. I don't need no stinking fallopian tubes with IVF, so this is not tragic (although it definitely puts the final nail in the coffin of our supposed "miracle baby when we're not thinking about it" that will happen on our own some romantic evening...how people can still say this to me after everything we've been through is just astonishing). However, it worries me because it's further evidence that scar tissue remains and it's the same as it was before the last hysteroscopy. My doctor half joked, half seriously stated, "Well, we know you can't have a recurrence of an ectopic pregnancy, so that's kind of like a good insurance." Which was funny, but also true, since thanks to my first freakshow IVF ectopic I am more likely to have a second one, but NO MORE since there is a shut and locked door covering that hole. I guess the scar tissue can be somewhat benevolent.

I asked about risks, and with my amount of scarring they are minimal, as long as the embryo implants in the right place. If the embryo implanted at the top it would be problematic anyway, so we are not so worried. I asked about expansion, and was returned with, "Great question. Nope, not a concern. The adhesions are not so severe that they wouldn't easily break up during normal uterine expansion to accommodate a pregnancy." Which is great news, but also sounds just a tad painful, doesn't it?

So on we go. My plan is in, and it makes me a bit nervous with the timing. The timing is pretty awful, actually. On a couple of counts.

One is logistical. The clinic closes its embryology lab for two weeks around the holidays (right around Christmas) for cleaning and further fancy-pants-ing. My cycle, without finagling, lands us right in that period, and there are absolutely NO transfers or retrievals during that time. But, they want to strike while the HSG/hysteroscopy is hot, and before there's a chance abnormalities could a) return or b) worsen. Why, uterus, why do you hate me so? SO, I have a shortened Pill duration. Down to two weeks. Then I call with my period, have a baseline on Day 2 or Day 3, and start the Femara on Day 3 and continue through Day 7. This brings us to Thanksgiving. I start the Follistim on Day 8 (which, according to the anticipated timeline, puts us right ON Thanksgiving), and I can be thankful for injections. The Follistim goes for 8-10 days, which seems crazy to me given that this is not at all for eggs but for good lining, but whatever, I'm not the expert here. Supposedly the Femara limits egg recruitment and then the Follistim takes that handful of eggs and develops them to maturity, while giving me a lovely Goldilocks level of estrogen and a plush, thick, naturally derived (if derived by shots can be considered natural) lining. Then trigger, then a week later, transfer. Which sounds a little squished to me, because I thought we'd be doing transfer ten days later to mimic the timing of a 5-day transfer, but I think I remember something that was said about finagling the timing of the transfer for optimal lining and moving it earlier. The embryos honestly won't know. Maybe my lining will hold nicely for implantation this way. WHO KNOWS.

If you have a calendar out and have been counting, you'll see that this puts monitoring around Thanksgiving, and transfer the week of December 8th. So now count 14 days from December 8th. Or from any day that week. When does our test likely fall? Care to make a guess?

CHRISTMAS.

Which could make for an awesome Christmas, except for the fact that we've had two positives before and a positive test does happy us make, but also brings a level of anxiety... WILL IT DOUBLE APPROPRIATELY? Will everything look great until one day, inexplicably, I START TO BLEED, DURING THE HOLIDAYS? So, while it would be excellent and amazing to have a positive pregnancy test, not to sound ungrateful in advance, but it would come with a fair amount of fear. And a negative test? It's a little tempered by our plan to start adoption as soon as we are done with both FETs we have available to us, but it would still be devastating. Especially at that miracle-baby holiday full of family traditions that we share with...our cats.

Also, family functions and travel plans. We were already planning to be home for Thanksgiving and spending the Friday after Thanksgiving with my family here in Rochester and my sister and her family who come in from Potsdam. So when the nurse asked, "Are you traveling for Thanksgiving?" I could honestly say "No," which was good because she let out an incredibly audible sigh of relief. They were apparently holding their breath, since I will most definitely need to come to Buffalo at some point during the holiday. But, we were making Christmas plans. We had planned to go to Maine for Christmas proper, since we've never spent Christmas up there with Bryce's mom and stepdad, and then on our way home hit our favorite holiday/winter vacation spot, Grafton Vermont, between Christmas and New Years. So, fulfilling family visit time, and also taking our relaxing vacation and NOT right on Christmas because last year that made us a little sad. It would be a shorter stay, but special nonetheless.

Now the question is, can we do it? If my test falls before Christmas, we could drive up after and just wait for the results in the car (man that sounds like a crappy way to spend the drive). BUT, if it's positive... how do I get my subsequent beta draws? Do I find a place in Maine to do it and have them send the results to Buffalo? Do I do the same in Vermont (good luck on that one, since there is very little actually near Grafton, which is part of the appeal for us)? Are our travel plans shot?

Some anxiety is hanging over us. Things like, what if it takes me longer to stim, like it seems always to do? Will we miss our window for transfer? Will we be in any shape to see anyone at Christmastime after this experience, for good or for sad? Will it make for the best Christmas ever, or will it effectively RUIN THE HOLIDAY SEASON?

Tricky tricky. I guess the main thing I should be thinking is that I'm just grateful that our journey didn't end on the X-ray table on Thursday, that we are ok to proceed, just not with optimal conditions. But not cycle-ending conditions, either. I should be grateful that we have this opportunity, that we have another set of two blasts to transfer. Bryce thinks maybe our doctor is trying to give us a baby for Christmas, and while that's an interesting theory I don't think it's true. I actually kind of hope it's not true, because I would like my medical team to be logical and thinking of the best possible way to get us pregnant, not doing crazy calculations to do it for a holiday (which is something I would totally do). I am happy that we have the go ahead, but I am also strangely sad. Or maybe not-so-strangely sad. We feel close to the end, and the sense of hope and wonder that used to overwhelmingly accompany a new cycle is being eclipsed by fear and anxiety and a sense of impending disaster. I will do a better job of feeling more positive once we're in it, but right now, looking at my calendar and counting out days, all I feel is an overwhelming weight hanging over me, a sense of "oh dear, now we have to drive out to Buffalo in potential snowy/windy conditions and what happens if they close the Thruway?" Because that happens, with more regularity than you'd think. It's a tundra in some spots between Rochester and Buffalo. There's white-out conditions. In addition to purchasing more fish oil and Vitamin E, I will need to be sure to have a deluxe emergency kit for my car. We may need to think about watching the weather and staying overnight to try to avoid snow issues possibly. This is all planning way out in advance, but that's kind of what we do. Or what I do. Let the obsessing begin.

Slowly I will make the transition from dread to hope, from a sense of fear of what-could-go-wrong to a sense of hope of what-could-go-right. And I so hope for things to go right, for this new protocol to work, for my ticket off this hellish ride. Because here we go, again, for better or for worse. Or for better. Let's hope better this time. Tenth time's the charm, we hope.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

What Will Thursday Bring?

Thursday...HSG day...scarred or not scarred? Move forward or who the hell knows what?

It all comes down to day after tomorrow. My appointment time is blissfully late, which means I don't need a sub. We need to leave no later than 2:30, and since I don't teach 9th period, I could leave early at 2:00 and get home in plenty of time for the hour and 20 minute drive to Buffalo. I got 5 mg of generic valium, which hopefully is enough to help me and my uterus relax.

The HSG (hysterosalpingogram) is so not my friend. I have had oodles of them. For the uninitiated, it's an X-ray of your uterus and fallopian tubes. Sounds harmless enough, except during this X-ray there is a catheter passed through your cervix with a fun little balloon placed just so IN your cervix, so that the catheter can pass dye into your uterus and there's enough pressure from the balloon "stopper" to let it build up and show the complete outline of your uterine cavity, and then have the dye shoot through your fallopian tubes and out into your gut, assuming those suckers are open. A barrel of laughs. You get two tests in one shot -- a test to make sure your fallopian tubes are open and normally shaped, and a test to see that there's nothing funky (like polyps, fibroids, or scar tissue) hiding out in your uterine cavity. Polyps should show up as little bumps, fibroids as bigger bumps, and scar tissue as jagged asteroid-like surface in profile. Most infertility patients need an HSG or a saline sonohysterogram (similar test, but an ultrasound and it's saline pushed into your uterus) every year, as they are preoperative tests for tubal issues or polyp/fibroid removal.

Mine have always been normal, despite the fact that I have had polyps removed from my uterus not once but twice.

My first HSG was run by a radiologist. I enjoy radiologists, and know one personally. However, if you have a choice when scheduling your HSG, BE ADAMANT THAT YOU HAVE AN RE DO THE PROCEDURE. Radiologists do these tests fairly infrequently. REs do them all the time. Your HSG will be less painful and more sensitive with an RE, if I can be allowed to generalize.

My first HSG resulted in me being told that one of my tubes was closed and not passing dye, and that this must be why I couldn't get pregnant. I was in the middle of one of my last injectible IUIs, and it was NOT THE NEWS I WANTED. Because this would be one more reason I couldn't get pregnant, not THE reason. But, while discussing converting to an IVF cycle, my RE discovered that the balloon hadn't been placed correctly. There wasn't enough pressure for the dye to pass through. They redid the test within 3 days and it was fine.

Except.

Except it HURT, both times. Both times the dye went through my right tube it hurt, a lot. And my uterus was cranky and crampy, but that was to be expected. I just felt it was more than "mild discomfort."

Then, I had a saline sonohysterogram instead the next year. And that hurt, but not as bad as the HSG. Then I had the ectopic and lost my right tube, my painful, apparently defective, baby-sucking right tube.

I had another HSG, this time in the office, which had recently acquired the equipment necessary so they didn't have to rely on radiologists. This time it wasn't too bad at all, and having no right tube made that part a little more bearable.

But now, now I have to go to a new hospital, where I've only ever had hysteroscopies, and find their radiology department. My RE is running the show, which is good. I am nervous that it is going to hurt the way it has in the past, the way anything uterine has hurt lately. I am nervous that that scar tissue and the removal has made my uterus more sensitive. I am nervous that there's scar tissue in my uterus, that has regrown with a fervor I only wish an embryo could match, and Thursday will mark a turning point.

If there's no scar tissue, we continue. We get our new dates for our fancy new protocol and get that show on the road. We get ready to thaw our last remaining DS embryos, our last blasts. We get this train moving, as soon as possible.

And if there is scar tissue?

I honestly don't know. I don't know if we do another surgery to try to eradicate it again (but why, since the last one wouldn't have taken care of that, so the benefits are...?). I don't know if the risks of continuing with Freddy Krueger Uterus far outweigh the pain of stopping now, with embryos in the freezer. I don't know if it means we're done, or just that there's choices to be made and then we accept some risk and move forward. How much risk can I accept at this point? How much more can I take?

The answer: not much more.

I am worried. I am scared. But I also have some level of relief that I have been cracking that adoption door open with my foot while we wait. That we have pretty much decided that another fresh cycle is just not happening. That these frozen embryos, the donor sperm blasts and the donor egg 2PNs, are what we've got left to work with. There will be no more. I can't handle it anymore. We can't handle it anymore. We need to move to a path that has more promise, that will end in a baby eventually, instead of this hideous limbo where we might be successful (but in reality have been wildly unsuccessful over, and over, and over again). A path where my body isn't a punching bag. It is a time of transition. And for as much as I worry and fear and have a sense of loss that I may never go on my maternity clothes shopping spree, never feel a kick, never hear a heartbeat coming from inside my belly, never have a traditional baby shower, never have our own birth story; there is a freedom in knowing that once these frozen embryos are gone, we are done. It's not easy, for sure. But instead of feeling mired in sadness and loss, I have some hope that another path might lead us to our baby(ies). And I am opening myself to that hope in advance of the HSG and these last two cycles.

Do I still hope this will work out medically? Of course I do. But can I see another way? Yes, yes, yes.

I did find some adoption books and they are EXCELLENT. I am planning a book review post in the near future when I finish them (I am parallel reading two right now and 2/3 through both of them, and then I have another I haven't started yet). Reading these books dispels myths and quells my fears, at least some of them. I feel power in information.

I am ready for Thursday, and whatever it may bring. I may be really, really, really disappointed and sad on Thursday, but that sadness could lead to the best chance of parenthood we have had. Or, I could be pleasantly surprised and off on our next adventure with our blasts, trying out this new plan and hoping it leads to success. Either way, emotions run high. I hope for the peace to sift through them and see the best path to our future as parents.

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Five Years

Five years. Five beautiful years of marriage, a marriage I am grateful for every day for the amount of love, respect, support, laughter, passion, and true friendship that graces our lives each day. Five years of loving each other through a process that has proved harder in every possible way than we could have ever imagined. See, on my wedding day, the Hallowedding wedding day, I answered the door in my wedding dress and signed for a FedEx package that contained my first trigger shot. We would do our first Clomid IUI in November, having completed all our prerequisite fertility testing in September and October. 

That seems so, so, so far away. We had hope then, and we were scared. Believe it or not, I was a little nervous that it would work super quickly and we would find ourselves pregnant immediately (ha HA ha ha), which would be great but we'd kind of prepared ourselves for a bit of a long haul since our consult ended with the prognosis that only IVF would lead us to a baby. I was mentally prepared (I thought) for about a year of making it through some IUIs in case they worked, and mostly to learn about what my body did under stimulation. There were "what ifs" in the air that now seem so naive -- "What if it works the first time? What if we get pregnant and I'm not tenured yet? What if?"  So I was both excited and nervous when that trigger shot came, because here we were, getting married in the backyard on Halloween, and simultaneously embarking on a journey to have a baby that we both knew in advance wouldn't be easy. But we could hope. 

Our love story and our infertility story are so entwined that it's hard to think of one without the other. Like many couples that marry in their thirties, it wasn't surprising that we would try to have a baby immediately. What's surprising is that now, five years later, so many fruitless IUIs and then fruitless IVFs and then fruitless donor IVFs of varying materials later, it's still just us and the kitties in this house. 

And it hasn't broken us. We are a bit bruised and battered (okay, fine, maybe more than a bit), but we are intact. We are strong. We have fun, despite the sadness and continual loss. We cry, but we also laugh. We try to have as good a time as we can while we are a childless couple, because this WILL NOT LAST. We are going to make sure of that. But, in the meantime, we can have fun and go out to dinner on a whim and sleep in and do all the things we are told people with kids can't do, because there has to be SOME benefit to being in this hideous limbo. We have limits -- I was invited to a big event yesterday that sounded really fun, but it also sounded like a whole crew of families, and I can handle about two sets of families with young children whose parents are younger than we are, but make it a big family-friendly event where almost EVERYONE has little kiddos running around and the air is ripe with MOMMY MOMMY DADDY DADDY, and I lose it a little a lot. It's too much when we have that gaping, oozing hole in the middle of our awesome love story. So we lose out on some fun, for the time being. But fun just the two of us? We have that down. 

I wrote about our early anniversary night out in September, because we thought we'd be on meds and possibly getting ready for transfer on our actual anniversaries, so we did the nice dinner out with wine and champagne before. But then the Hysteroscopy of Doooooooom happened, and our plans got waylaid. Again. The upside to the apparent cycle of disappointment and delay was that our anniversaries could be celebrated in earnest. On their actual days. 

Instead of simply telling you all about what we did, here are some pictures that do the telling pretty well: 

I bought a half bottle of champagne to start us off, that was ready the second
Bryce walked in the door on October 23rd, our Legal Anniversary (anniversary
of the JOP who accompanied us to our favorite Mexican restaurant a week
before our backyard wedding). Champagne is usually how we christen the first
night of any vacation, and so why not christen our celebration of five years of
legal wedded bliss?
Bryce doing his usual wine tasting logging duty. We are on our
FOURTH  Little Black Journal of Wine, which is either
something to be proud of or a shameful concern (I vote pride).
This one was an Italian given to us by a friend for our wedding,
so we'd saved it for 5 years. Perfect with the Tuscan pork
with cannelini beans, tomatoes, and spinach. Yum yum. 
Enjoying the wine and food, trying not to put my boobs on the table.
Note the art behind my head that's up all year long... crow and moon,
New England cemetery. There's a reason we had our wedding on
Halloween! Our favorite holiday for sure. 
Our wedding skeletons we put out each year, a gift from a friend
that would make an excellent cake topper if a) it wasn't so heavy
and b) didn't have cupcakes instead. I love these guys so much!
On our legal anniversary, 10/23, we give each other actual anniversary cards.
On Hallowedding anniversary day, we give each other romantic Halloween
cards (yes, they exist). This year we DID NOT PLAN this, but we gave each
other mummy cards that seemed to be by a similar artist... spoooooky!
And inside my card was my annual Anniversary Ghoul!
Last year it was a werewolf, and this year I got my very
own zombie. That Bryce, a man of many talents. Scary
talents, but talents nonetheless. A Ghoul of Love.
And there we are, five years ago, super happy (if a little
chilly, the temperature dropped as we were wed). Both
hard and easy to believe that it's been so long! 
On Halloween proper we forgot to take pictures, other than of our creepily similar cards and the Ghoul. I was less than impressed with my Halloween costume for school this year and then was a Halloween-pajama'd witch for trick or treaters, but we plumb forgot to photograph. Before the kids came and before the firepit was set out for fun with neighbors, we had a lovely steak dinner (dry-aged ribeye seared on a cast iron skillet, oh yum yum yum) and a beautiful wine -- a pinot noir from Sineann that tasted like herbal strawberries. So delicious. And so appropriate, since I proposed to Bryce over a bottle of Sineann pinot noir six years ago in January. Then, pumpkin pie by the firepit (gluten free of course) with some neighbors. A perfect way to celebrate! 

It is my hope that five years marks the last year that we are married without children. It is my hope that by next year, we are either a) trick or treating with our baby, b) pregnant, or c) paper pregnant. I think it might be too much to hope for that we could be matched with a birthmother by next October, given that we still have two more frozen cycles to get through before we will start that process, and that process is definitely A PROCESS. But, I can hope that we're closer than ever to our goal, to having an anniversary that isn't just about us, but about our little family that we created together. And our infertility that has twisted and wrapped itself all around our marriage will be absorbed and quit cutting into us and making us bleed. It will still be there; it will ALWAYS be there as a part of our love story, but hopefully it will hurt less and be replaced by our new story of parenthood.