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

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

It's Too Soon For That

We spent over five years trying to get pregnant with medical help. It started with getting the referral to the fertility clinic at my annual gynecological exam in April 2009 after showing paperwork previous to me that revealed our male factor issues, then our consult September 1, 2009 that led to every IUI, IVF, uterine surgery, donor profile, injection, transvaginal ultrasound, polyp, failure, miscarriage, ectopic, cancellation and everything else that happened between our hopeful beginning in 2009 and the point where our dream of pregnancy ended in late January 2015.

And by the time it ended, we were exhausted.

We had put so much energy, time, and money into a process that ultimately failed us. Everyone tried so hard -- we did experimental protocols, our teams researched new approaches, and everyone kept thinking this time it's going to work.

But then we had a long stretch from August 2012 onwards where I never got pregnant again, not once. And we faced the fact over sushi on a Sunday afternoon in December 2014 that it wasn't really likely that that was going to happen again, and that we were tired. So, so, so tired. We weren't going to become parents this way, even though there wasn't a clear-cut reason given as to why that was. Why 27 embryos came and went and none of them actually became anything sustainable. And so we attempted to transfer our final frozen embryos two more times, and both times were cancelled due to poor lining and mystery fluid in the uterus...and in the space between January 31st and February 2nd we went from IVF failures to registered prospective adoptive parents.

From devastation to hope.

From the most frustrating of ends to a brand-new beginning.

But we were tired. It was hard to be the ones to end the possibility of pregnancy, a possibility that turned out to have been so very minute and fleeting.

During the infertility journey, we were met with two camps when it came to the longevity of our fight.

CAMP UNBELIEVABLY POSITIVE
The first were the Positive Thinking Brigade, the "hang in there and it WILL happen," the "your successful cycle could be RIGHT AROUND THE CORNER!" and the "This one's THE ONE, I just KNOW it." This was helpful at first, when things did seem positive. I was the worst in this regard, because I wanted so badly for the next cycle to be THE cycle, to fly off the lonely merry-go-round of despair and failure into the mobs of moms at the playground, hanging out with their miracle babies. I could have a miracle, right? And these were people who cheered us on, tirelessly, with chants of "never give up!" and tales of people who did one last cycle with a crappy quality embryo and THAT was when the miracle happened. It could happen. I knew people it had happened to. I was a miracle believer.

For a while, anyway. Then it became increasingly difficult to believe that our miracle was going to come this way, and I actually started hating the world "miracle" with regards to children. I still do. It makes you feel pretty shitty to continuously NOT be the recipient of the miracle, whether it comes via a team of doctors, an amazing spontaneous pregnancy, or through a 3 inch binder of paperwork involving social workers, lawyers, and a family created out of someone else's loss. Especially hard to say miracle there, where your joy is someone else's tragedy and your child will feel that loss in one way or another for the rest of their life (obviously not every minute of every day, but it will lurk).

I digress. There was another camp that became more and more crowded as our IVF cycles reached double digits.

CAMP WHEN THE FUCK ARE YOU GOING TO STOP THIS MADNESS?
This camp was more numerous than it was vocal. Although, when it was vocal, largely in the last two years of our experience with IVF, it was VOCAL. I had a friend ask me point blank how much longer I was planning to put my body through this for nothing. An uncle gently asked my husband in the hall of my grandmother's nursing home, "How much longer will you do this? When will you stop?" What started as a question rooted in caring but also curiosity became an urgent plea of, "At what point do YOU decide you're done, when no one medical seems to be pulling the plug for you?" It was also a camp of converts, with some of the Positivity Brigade jumping ship and joining this one.

It's much harder to listen to the camp that is questioning your choices than the one that tells you miracles happen every day, but the fact of the matter was MIRACLES WEREN'T HAPPENING HERE.

I had a stomach covered in deep purple lovenox bruises, a car that I was putting serious mileage on driving to Buffalo in the snow every other day from November through January (not every every other day but it sure as hell seemed that way), a protocol at one point that had me taking 5 Benadryl per day to tame my histamines (ironic given the recent hive extravaganza) but still driving to Buffalo in whiteout conditions including one memorable 2.5 hour drive when the regular highway was closed due to the freak SEVEN FEET OF SNOW that dumped itself on the southern side of Buffalo. I had a uterus that was systematically giving me the finger on the daily. I had a lot of things, actually. What I didn't have anymore was hope.

We had been super vocal that saying "why don't you just adopt?" was incredibly stupid. That we had considered adoption, that adoption was on the table, but it wasn't a "just" by any means and it would mean a whole new process with its own consummate exhaustion, just not bodily. So, thankfully, most people didn't say that to us. (For some reason, though, people had no problem telling us that we should do gestational carrier, or offhandedly offering to be our uterus-for-rent without either the qualifications to do so or the actual ability or desire to sign on for real, not that that option was actually ever on the table for more than a hot second.)

There were a lot of happy people when we announced that we were pulling the plug ourselves on IVF, that we had circled down the drain slowly enough over time to just end it and be okay with that. Happy is relative. I guess maybe not happy, but relieved. Thank goodness you're giving your poor body a rest. Your body has been telling you it just can't do this. Okay, that one hurt, because why my body decided to suck at getting and staying pregnant was beyond me, but I got the point behind it. And yes, I was thrilled to take my body out of the running.

Five and a half years of fertility treatments that never worked for us, not really, and people really started losing steam in supporting us as we banged our heads against a very hard and stubborn wall after about three and a half years, maybe four. When we started trying donor and then THAT still didn't work, and we weren't even getting pregnant anymore.


NOW, we are in a new process, and we are a year and five months into our adoption adventure. I'm counting from the moment we filled out the ginormous application and started the paperwork rolling, although we have now updated our homestudy for another year, having had a whole year go by without a match. Profile opportunities, yes. Match...no.

I feel the murmurs are starting early on us. It's a whole new process; we should get a restart on the empathy stores. It doesn't seem to work like that, though.

When it came time to redo our homestudy, we found ourselves facing several comments, such as, "So you're going to sign on for another year with this agency, huh?" or "What's causing the delay? Is there something they can tell you about why you're not getting matched? Shouldn't you be matched by now?" or "How long are you going to do this?"

Ouch.

I mean, it is hard for all those who are watching us go through this quest for parenthood, including my dad who said, "You guys just have had the worst luck in all this parenthood thing. It just isn't coming together for you easily at all." True, true. But as exhausting as it is as a caring bystander, JUST IMAGINE WHAT IT IS LIKE TO LIVE IT. To be completely exhausted every day with the sheer effort of every kind it takes to still believe that parenthood is possible, even when nothing is clear cut or simple or easy or moving at the pace or timeline we'd have preferred (that timeline has us with two kids already, joining in on the endless conversations about kids going into kindergarten and how fast they grow...or maybe with a toddler...or with a couple-month-old baby that we adopted in the spring...I guess none of those worked out so much, and saying goodbye to each and every one of those dreams is just so tiring).

And even though it is exhausting for us...IT IS TOO SOON TO BE ASKING US "HOW LONG."

It just is.

We have these conversations privately, because we do know that you can't do this indefinitely. Hats off to you if you can, but seven years of limbo and effort and absolutely no success takes a toll on a body and soul. We wonder sometimes, "what would it be like, to not be trying to have a family anymore...to just LIVE?" and it's true that once that sounded so scary and sad, and now it has a tinge of RELIEF to it.

It's just a tinge, though...not to the point where we are ready to stop, but it is out there, lurking, that it's possible to hit a point where we just can't do this anymore. I feel guilty for even thinking that it would be a relief to have this whole thing be over, as our entire married life has been spent trying to become parents, knowing that we would be amazing parents, and we have an actual nursery upstairs for a hypothetical future baby, and there are so many people who have supported us and continue to support us through everything that I can't help but feel that we'd disappoint mightily on so many fronts if we decided to end our quest for parenthood. If we hit the point where we decided to stop. Again.

BUT, THAT POINT IS NOT NOW. Even though our agency originally touted an average timeframe of 7-9 months from homestudy completion to placement at the time of our classes, and we are past that and it is disappointing (although the math of averages still makes it possible to be 100% true), we are within normal timeframes for adoption as a whole. It takes most people more than a year, I am finding when I talk to real people. This is normal. We have had profile opportunities, which is helpful because it makes us feel that we are profileable and eventually it will be the right match...there is progress in some shape or form.

We are hanging in there, even though it's hard. We are NOT adding on or switching to a different agency, because that would mean a boatload of new fees and I am tired enough keeping up on the paperwork for ONE agency, let alone two. And, quite frankly, I LOVE our agency. I think they do a great job, even though we're still waiting (they were very upfront that there are no guarantees with adoption, and that the data changes a lot dependent on all the factors inherent in women choosing to place their unborn babies...it doesn't reflect on the agency in my mind that we are waiting longer than we thought we might). A topic for another post, but we are NOT taking on private adoption at this time for our own very good reasons. We are NOT ready to entertain the idea of letting this whole thing go, of saying, "Well, that royally sucked, but here we are."

We need encouragement -- not the keep-positive-brigade type that is endlessly sunshiny and ignores all the pitfalls and emotional drops inherent in adoption -- but just "How are you doing?" or "We're here for you as you wait," or "The wait really sucks, huh? How are you coping?"

Because the waiting really, really sucks. I knew it would, but I thought it would be easier because I'd been through infertility hell and what's more waiting on top of what we'd already done, especially when it no longer meant a failure of my body to do a basic human function. But it's exhausting. We can't truly just live life as is until we get the call, because we have to have the adoption funds ready at a moment's notice, which fortunately for us isn't a terrible hardship but it does mean that we are stuck. We tried to take a vacation involving a plane and found that we had a profile opportunity that stymied that...and by the time we knew we weren't chosen it was too late to set that plan into motion again. We can't move because we'd have to redo our homestudy, and how awful would it be to spend the money to move and then be short adoption money? I am growing cavalier with my phone, which used to be attached to me at all times at the highest volume, and now I feel like if it rings it's probably a telemarketer. One day it will hopefully be a profile opportunity that will be ours in the truest sense, but right now my phone mocks me. At least with IVF I knew when a call was coming...between certain times on a certain date. Now it's all amorphous. The wait is cruel, because you're expecting a baby to materialize, with very little warning, so you have to be ready for that...but you have to be ready indefinitely, without a true timeframe to get used to the idea and you have to be okay with waiting for that mythical baby for years. Hopefully not years. But yeah, maybe years. And you are encouraged to "live your life" in that timeframe. Which I am finding extraordinarily difficult to do with fidelity.

So I really wish that people wouldn't start setting nails into this particular coffin. This is it. If we don't become parents through adoption, we are not going to become parents. The end. So we need people to hang in there with us until we (hopefully don't) have to decide again if we are circling down a drain, slowly. We don't need to hear horror stories of other adoptions gone wrong. We know that can happen. It's like telling an 8-month pregnant woman about someone you know who had a stillbirth at 9 months. What the fuck is the point of that? Bad things happen, everyone knows this. We are actually very familiar with the fact that bad things happen. What we need now is to have our bystanders strengthen our armor, not put tiny chinks in it. To trust that we are in this process, and that we have a plan, and that asking us how long we're going to pursue adoption like it's already too tiring, too long is the same as asking us when we'll be okay with not becoming parents. It might not seem like the same thing, but it is.

It must be hard, because it probably feels to people outside the infertility/loss/adoption sphere like there is no good thing to say to us anymore. And I admit, it's tricky. However, I would far rather people say the wrong thing than nothing at all, because I can work with the wrong thing and not be mad at the person (for long anyway) who said it for not knowing that it's not stellar, or accurate, or sensitive. I am sensitive to comments in general about IVF being a sure thing (it isn't); about adoption being easy or too hard or too birth-mother-dependent or too few because of sex ed and abortions; about moms being better than non-moms, because I've wanted to be one and just haven't been able to make that happen for as long as a second-grader's been alive, and I'm not so sure that I am less strong or less able to love deeply because I'm not a mom; about parenting being the ultimate experience when it is possible that that might not happen; and also about parenting being so, so hard, because even though I'm sure that's the case, I cannot fathom it being so much harder than desperately WANTING a family for seven years and being thwarted at every turn, watching everyone else's lives move on and their kids grow up and we're still waiting in the wings for our cue. It sucks.

I do believe it will happen. I do still believe positively, but the veins of realism are running thicker than they used to. We are living in this exhausted, frustrated space, and we just need people to let us know that there's here for us in this limbo, no matter how it turns out, and to have patience that it may take a while and that's hard, but it's okay. We are learning how to live in this space, and we can teach others how to live there, with us to some extent, too, so we can all come out of this in one (battered and bruised but resolved) piece.

21 comments:

  1. I'm bookmarking this post and passing it on to those who need it. There is so much wisdom here Jess. And others will benefit from this. Thank you.

    I'm sorry you are dealing with people asking these questions about stopping. That plain sucks. You're absolutely right, you're well within the time frame and, more importantly, you're not ready to do so. I just wish people would hear that. Stop being the one to offer the advice and instead listen.

    Sending love. And still cheering you on.

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    1. Thank you so much...it has been percolating for a couple of weeks and I had to step away from it and rewrite because initially I felt defensive, or like I was explaining away my feelings too much, or like I was addressing one person. I'm not...these comments have come casually and without malice from a variety of people, it just set off a feeling of "reset your empathy, people!" in me. No one has said, "When are you going to stop?" they have just said, "How long will you do this?" which to me sounds similar.

      I love "Stop being the one to offer the advice and instead listen." Such wise words.

      Thanks for the love and the cheers!

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  2. I've been sitting here for a few minutes trying to come up with the right words. As we enter our 8th year of trying to become a family I don't know that I even know how to put it into words most of the time how this journey has affected us and how to use that to help others.

    Women like us, women who are used to the hard road, the ones who are used to heartache followed by more waiting and followed by more heartache. We just figure it out I think.

    You are a strong wonderful woman and I keep you close in my thoughts as you endure more waiting. I'm here if you ever need a listening ear or shoulder to cry on. (HUGS)

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    1. Yes...we just figure it out. We do what needs to be done. But it sucks that it's always such an uphill battle. Thank you for your kind words! I find you to be a strong woman as well and I so hope that your current hope is going so, so well. You are close in my thoughts, too.

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  3. I'm sorry that people are asking you about quitting. That is not helpful and like Cristy said, why are they offering advice about something they don't know anything about and instead just listening to you?

    The internet is still behind you and supporting you. Come on FutureBaby!

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    1. Thank you -- too funny, "the internet is still behind you." Yes, yes you are! I think people just don't know what to say, and what seems like a perfectly innocent question is to me loaded with undertones shouting QUIT! QUIT ALREADY! NEVER GONNA HAPPEN! ACCEPT THAT YOU ARE NOT GOING TO BE A PARENT ALREADY! Sometimes I wonder how much of it is that nasty inner voice in the back of the head that whispers mean things when you catch your reflection in a car window. Thank you for your support!

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  4. This is SO SO good. I don't even know what to write, because I just want to "like" every sentence (I mean, I don't like it, but I relate!).

    We have had a similar trajectory and every new path or option seems to lead to more frustration and waiting. And I feel like the people in our lives have no idea what to say... and I understand. But, like you said: IMAGINE LIVING IT.

    We are 13 months into our adoption journey and have finally been matched. But, we have strong reasons to believe it might fall through and so are guarding our hearts closely.

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    1. Thank you so much...I am both glad and sorry that you relate so closely. I will think of you and your match, and hope for the best. It is so hard to wait and wait and then not feel free to be excited for a potential match because everything else has gone so poorly. I hope that things turn around on that trajectory, for the both of us. Thank you for your thoughts!

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  5. I am here to support you whatever happens and whatever twists in the road. None of us can predict what those will be. Sadly we all live in an imperfect world that doesn't always align with our desires. But I hope events in the bigger world do finally align so that you are able to have a family. Waiting sucks.

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    1. Thank you, so much. It was interesting, I had someone at the end of the school year ask me, "Did you ever imagine that this would be where you were in trying to have a family?" And I was like "NO! ABSOLUTELY NOT! Why on earth would I have imagined all the twists and turns that have led me here? Does anyone imagine exactly the way their life is going to turn out?" Obviously I didn't say all that, but it was so strange to me. We don't get to know what's going to happen, or why the things that happen, happen. Waiting totally sucks. I hope alignment is working its way as we speak. (Ever the optimist...) Thanks for your thoughts and support!

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  6. That really, really, really sucks and I'm sorry you're getting those questions. Very frustrating, upsetting and unhelpful. The not-knowing/waiting/hoping/wondering when aspect of infertility is very hard to explain to people who haven't been through some part of the thing.

    I hope things will come together soon for you - and wish fervently that there was something to say that would somehow make the wait easier. And like others, here to support and cheer you on in this journey.





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    1. Thank you, so much. It is one of those things where people who haven't experienced this can't truly understand it. They can try, but that concept of waiting and waiting and not knowing for very long periods of time is hard to wrap your head around. Thanks for your support and cheers!

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  7. You put a lot of heart into this post. Not that you don't in your others, but this one really breaks it down on many levels. I am sorry that you are in a perpetual waiting mode. Limboland sucks. I am especially sad that you are already getting questions about IF it is time to quit with the adoption route. That is heartbreaking, even more so with having mustered through getting all of the paperwork updated. That process alone must a reminder of the time that has passed. You definitely need your cheerleaders now, tempered cheerleaders. I'm here, and I'm reading along. Big squishy hugs!

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    1. Thank you...it took several days to get it all together. I was afraid it might come across as whiny, but at the same time I want to give people a window into what it feels like to be where we are. You are so right -- just the homestudy update itself was difficult, because it meant a year had passed and we were truly no closer to actually having a baby in arms. Thank you for being one of the best tempered cheerleaders! I love squishy hugs. :)

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  8. I'm sorry people are already questioning you when it's none of their business exactly how long you guys plan to wait. I would imagine it's one of those things that you don't exactly know the answer to anyway until the time comes. I actually know someone who decided after a year to stop waiting and live child-free. Their home study with their agency was up and they came to the decision and we're making plans and excited about traveling and the future. Turned out, their state kept their home study for two years, not one like their agency, so they were eligible at the state level and didn't realize it. And they got a call from the state. They actually had to think about taking the placement or not. It wasn't an easy decision for them to go back on. So one never really knows what's in their path and what the future might bring.
    I really like how you say "I can work with the wrong thing and not stay mad for long". So many times (and not just in regard to ALI issues, but to anything hard that I don't understand) I stay silent because I don't know what to say or don't want to say the wrong, terrible thing. Sometimes I just admit "wow, I don't know what to say". And I know that's unhelpful. It will definitely make me think twice about not saying anything the next time a situation comes up.
    I appreciate that you can see the other side of it, that it must be hard for other people to think there is nothing good to say to you guys. It really shows your character to not be mad at other people's reactions to a situation difficult for many to understand, and that you GET that. So many people don't think that way, and it makes supporting them so much harder.
    Always, always in your corner with prayers!!

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    1. Thank you so much, Charlotte. You just never know where this whole journey is going to take you, right? Thank you so much for your kind words, especially about saying the right thing/wrong thing/nothing. I can say that the most hurtful thing is when people are silent around your situation, never asking or bringing up your situation. It makes a body feel invalidated. I appreciate though how difficult it is to approach people going through something hard to understand, and I feel the same way about other situations not infertility related. Thank you so much for your thoughts and prayers!

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  9. A number of things I'd like to comment on here. First, the tinge of relief and then the guilt. Oh, I know that guilt well. It doesn't belong anywhere near you, but it sneaks in and sets about making you feel rotten.

    You said, "imagine how it feels to live it?" I suspect that's what is behind some of the comments you're getting. Friends and family hate to see their loved ones in pain, or stressed. Even if you don't appear stressed, they're probably imagining what it is like to go through this. They often think that the solution is to shut down the thing causing the stress. When that's not what you need. But it is certainly done, I believe, with the best intentions. Educating them about what you need is hard, but might help? And yes, it sucks that you have to be the ones who do the educating.

    And I agree on the silence issue - if there's one thing I have learned out of all this it's not to be silent. If only we could have this taught in schools!

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    1. Thank you so much for your thoughts! I can do the educating, no problem...it just is hard when you feel like you are educating on essentially the same topic for so long. It was so interesting, when I sent out the end-of-year update to my school, I had a ZILLION people come up to me and tell me that I'm always in their thoughts, but they just never knew if it was okay to ask me about adoption. I feel like I yell from the rooftops "Please ask me about adoption!" but I feel like I have to keep repeating the same things for people to get that I really mean it. Also, in some ways, putting the relief/guilt piece out there is a way to out myself slowly, to let people gradually get used to the idea that there might be a terminus to this in the future, and as much as we'd love for it to be us parenting a baby, there's also a chance that that might not happen. And that that's obviously not the outcome we'd hoped for, but it would be okay, eventually. I definitely feel that the comments made were made out of love, and not out of malice at all. It's just hard to realize how tired everyone else is just watching us fight this fight. I think you were the one who said that you wanted people to have the stamina to be excited for us when we were flagging, and it's like you were psychic! Lastly, yes, I think there is more empathy being taught in schools thanks to the devil internet for teens, but the best message is to ALWAYS say something to someone who is going through a difficult time and/or a lengthy process. Thank you so much for your comments!

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  10. I love what you wrote about the tinge of relief. If donor sperm results in yet another miscarriage for us, we will pull the plug on pregnancy and move on to adoption. For me that's the option that when I think of it is a tinge of relief, but I'm not ready to go there yet. I wish I knew what to say to bring comfort. I am rooting for you guys way too often for being strangers. I still truly believe you will be matched, and get THE call. I also know the wait must be so so awful. That limbo sucks. It's okay to admit it sucks and admitting it sucks doesn't mean you should/want to give up.

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  11. I am sorry that people are already voicing doubts. I suspect it is partially that people don't know what to say and it's always a toss up between being enthusiastic or realistic, neither of which is ideal.
    Hopefully you will get the call you are waiting for soon and an end to your wait.
    One of the more frustrating parts of the process is how much you tell people or not tell them, and how much their reactions can wear on you. If you choose to keep treatment and adoption processes quiet, people make awkward comments about not having children. When you tell people about it, then they make the kinds of comments you talk about. You can't win!

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  12. I'm thinking of you as you navigate all of this. I love you.

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