Saturday, December 31, 2011

Oh, 2011...You Were a Stinker

I remember New Year's Eve 2010. I remember sitting with Bryce, saying "Good riddance, 2010! You can go away and leave us with a much better year!" See, 2010 had us losing our beloved greyhound, Doc, to organ failure. It had failed IUIs and a failed IVF that had been touted as our silver bullet, but wasn't. My job at the time was not the steadiest thing in the world. We were stressed out and full of disappointments. 2011 had to be better.

Hmmm. Now 2011 is coming to a close and I can't honestly say it was a better year. It started with our second failed IVF, with worse quality than our first and a raging case of OHSS. I spent the first three weeks of 2011 recuperating (first from egg retrieval, then from OHSS, then from the tapping procedure to remove fluid from my abdomen from the OHSS). I didn't go back to school until after Martin Luther King Day. And I wasn't pregnant. We did another injectible IUI as a stopgap before our third IVF over the summer. I stimmed for a maddening 20 days (that's a lot). I not-so-secretly hoped my ovaries would take off and we'd be converted to IVF. It didn't happen, of course. We had our best sperm sample ever, almost "normal" perameters for IUI. But we didn't have a miracle.

We got ready for our third IVF. We switched doctors and had a new protocol. I didn't work over the summer so we'd have a better chance. I transferred to a new teaching job. I spent time over the summer boning up on Earth Science and Integrated Algebra to prepare. We had our best cycle ever--best egg haul, best quality, best fertilization rate, best embryos. We transferred three. We got pregnant. Our numbers were low. We were the miracle for a short time--numbers that shouldn't have gone up did. But it wasn't time for our miracle. The pregnancy was ectopic and surgery, same-day surgery, was scheduled. I lost my tube. I lost my pregnancy that wasn't mine to keep anyway. I lost my belief that we could truly be the miracle. I missed the first week of school. I started my new job a little broken and behind the curve.

Meanwhile, our dog became a bit destructive and a lot anxiety-ridden. My ability to handle anything went out the window. We realized that we had made a mistake--our loving greyhound that we'd adopted in 2010 needed more than we could offer, given our current situation. He needed more space to run, more time with owners who weren't single-mindedly pursuing parenthood, a better family match altogether. I needed a household free of additional anxiety and responsibility so that I could handle everything else on my plate. We both saw re-adopting Kayak to a better family for him as heart-wrenching, but it was a particularly hard failure and loss for Bryce. It was absolutely the right thing for everyone (he's very happy in his new home, even though he's been renamed Ranger, which I don't particularly like but he's not my dog anymore so whatever). But it was more loss, more sacrifice. Not too long after we lost Kayak my cat started to lose hind quarter control and strength, mysteriously. I started meds for our bonus frozen cycle. As transfer day grew nearer, my beloved cat declined inexplicably. I had a beautiful transfer, smooth and seamless. The next day I had to euthanize my cat. I spent days sobbing. I think it was before blood contact and so it's unlikely that my emotional state influenced the outcome of our cycle, at least from a logical standpoint. Still, it was a negative. No dog, no cat, no baby. No miracle.

2011 was not stellar. There are definite positives, though, and it wouldn't be fair not to acknowledge them. Bryce's job is steady and he excels at it. My new job is fulfilling, challenging, and while no teaching job is particularly steady in this climate, I feel decently secure. We did get pregnant for the first time and we did enter into an upswing on our fertility trajectory. We have a great rapport and trust with our doctor. We have strangely more reason to hope than ever. We have a new cat who is infusing energy and coziness back into our home. We have happiness, and health, and prosperity. We are not looking to make a life-altering decision regarding treatment; we are still in a place of possibility.

Despite the positives, it still feels like 2011 had an inordinate amount of loss and suffering. I can only hope that 2012 is more cooperative. Maybe our miracle will come just in time for the Mayan Apocalypse. Ha. Ha. Ha. We can only hope. I don't think it's too much to ask that our lives stop resembling a horrible country song where all is lost, slowly and with a thousand cuts. It's time for a change in direction. Are you listening, 2012?

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Losing Control

I am a control freak. This should not come as a surprise, as I have been pretty open about my need to try to control the things I can't for, oh, forever. So many people who I've met on the infertility journey--either in person, online, or through books--have said virtually the same thing when it comes to control issues and fertility. Infertility is this maddening entity that refuses to acknowledge hard work and perseverance. You can put amazing amounts of effort into your treatment to try to impact the results, but in the end you could do everything possible and infertility will still laugh in your face and refuse to give up that baby. But still, you do things to try to alter your odds in some way. It's a compulsion, an obsession.

I have been a ritual person throughout our (many) attempts. My best friend has said, "You're sounding pretty witchy, don't you think?" Yup. Some stuff has been one step shy of casting spells. I have good luck charms, things that make me feel like in some small way I can influence and appease the cosmos. I have my elephants, my owls, my red candles that must be snuffed, my vision board, my orange underwear, my good omens. This last frozen cycle was, in theory, a spectacular good-fortune magnet. It snowed the morning of our transfer (frosty goodness for my frosty babies!), it was a full moon (super fecundity!), it's still The Year of the Rabbit (good cosmic alignment for reproduction!), and when I took the baby elephant lid to my elephant teapot out of the freezer the morning of transfer, it survived the thaw crack-free (effigy intact!). Everything was lined up just so. I couldn't have planned it better.

But, oddly enough, it didn't work. I did all those things, I had the happy coincidences of snow and full moon. I wore my orange underwear and my orange shirt (giving the owls a rest). Did it matter? No.

I feel like I'm losing control (control I never had in the first place, blah blah blah). It makes me wonder if any of this makes any difference. It actually makes me wonder if some of my adherence to these rituals, to these good-luck charms, is harmful in a way. At first I thought it gave me something to focus on besides my follicles and my lining. Somewhere to put my energies and make me feel as though I have some level of control. But I don't. I did all kinds of stuff when we were pregnant with the ectopic and I wanted a miracle so badly--but whether I lit candles or not, that baby was still rooted in my tube. Nothing I did or didn't do would have changed that, as much as I desperately hoped it could. And for this last cycle I tried to loosen up a bit, to have my charms and rituals but not get too bent out of shape if a candle was blown out instead of snuffed, or I forgot to wear my orange underwear. Looser was better, but it still ultimately mattered not.

So maybe this loss of "control" is a good thing. Maybe if I let go of this notion that I can influence the process I can be truly relaxed and give in to the possibility that my pregnancy will happen in its own time. Regardless of my efforts. It's hard, because my fear is that all this stuff does help and letting go of it will result in total disaster. That's pretty conceited of me, actually. So far the rituals haven't worked out so well for me, so maybe this is the change I need. The fear is also that I really can't improve my chances--that making a baby, even in a lab, is purely chance. So many variables go into success--the right genetic material, the ultimate uterine lining, the environment and blood consistency for implantation. The hormone cocktail and balance. The emotional component. It all has to be just right, which makes it miraculous that anyone ever gets pregnant. But maybe that's it--just the perfect mix of variables, independent of everything else. I focus so much on making everything perfect, when so many of the successful cycles I hear about were anything but (like a single-embryo transfer that was 4 cells on day three that is now a third-trimester pregnancy).

I'm ready to give letting go of any semblance of control a try. I'm ready to let go and let nature (with a hefty dose of medical assistance) do its thing. Screw the candles and the orange panties. I'm going to attempt to put my faith in the process, and the process alone. Can I make it through a cycle without bringing the elephant into the surgical room and buying more onesies for a phantom baby? I think so. (No promises on the onesies.) I'm going to see where that takes us on this leg of the journey.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Liebster Blog Award

This award is given to bloggers who have less than 200 followers, all in the spirit of fostering new connections. Liebster is German & means ‘dearest’ or ‘beloved’ but it can also mean ‘favorite’. The idea of the Liebster award is to bring attention to blogs with less than 200 followers.

Thank you to Mel from Believe In Miracles for nominating me for this award!

Here's how to spread the Liebster Love:

  • Copy and paste the award on your blog
  • Thank the giver and link back to the blogger who gave it to you
  • Reveal your top 5 picks and let them know by leaving a comment on their blog
  • Hope that your followers will spread the love to other bloggers

The blogs that I nominate for this award are:
Write, Baby, Repeat
Mommy Mahem
Que Sera Sera
The Princess and the Pee Stick

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

No Good Reason

Well, another cycle has come and gone and left us empty handed. Empty-womb-ded. I found out earlier this week that our frozen bonus cycle, our last-ditch 2011 attempt, our supposed Christmas miracle cycle, was not to be. Negative, negative, negative.

Let's do some math. That's 4 transfers without a viable pregnancy. That's 10 embryos that have gone into my lovely plush-lined uterus and not stayed to become babies. Well, to be fair, we did have one embryo that stayed in the wrong place for a few weeks and left not via the septic system but via laparoscopic surgery. So 9 embryos that have completely rejected me and one little lost one. And now I am definitely not convinced that little nugget didn't crawl up my tube to escape what seems like my completely unwelcoming uterus.

Do I sound like I'm taking this personally? I am. How could I not? How could I not feel like it is a very personal rejection when the last two embryo transfers have been absolutely textbook-perfect in quality, and my lining has looked perfectly good on the ultrasound, but still they run screaming away? Still they don't burrow? Why do they just wither up and drift away instead of doing what they are genetically programmed to do?
There is no good reason. I wish there was. In a sick way I wish there could be an aha! moment, something easy and fixable that could be the reason. But there's not. It appears we are just colossally, horribly unlucky. There is no other explanation, at least not that I know about.

And so I am left with a horrible feeling. This time when I got the call, and I heard the hesitation and the downward tone to the nurse's voice, I was totally calm. Oh. It didn't work? I had two beautiful blasts in my well-prepared uterus and they didn't take? Awesome. Literally, verbatim, that is what I said. Two cycles ago I was incoherent with sobs and snot. I couldn't even breathe, let alone have an intelligent conversation regarding my failure. Sorry, failed cycle. Hard not to refer to it as my failure. Old habits are hard to break. I was devastated that it hadn't worked as second time in a row. But now, with our fourth disappointment, I am sadly getting used to rejection. I can just absorb it and thank the nurse and then slowly leak tears less of abject sorrow and more of frustration and anger.

Because I am pissed. More than being very sad this time, I am just pissed at the unfairness. I am pissed that people have unplanned pregnancies all the time and I could not plan this more. I am pissed that I have to buy more feminine supplies. I am pissed that we have to stay in a holding pattern, saving up the money to throw at another chance when we know full well we could come up tails again. I am pissed that I have to take time off later this school year for the procedures I was so hoping I was finished with. I am pissed I have to reorder medications for my Injection Closet for another fresh round of IVF. I am pissed that 2012 could come and go and I could very likely still NOT have a baby in my arms. Likely it will be 2013 before we have a chance to welcome a new life into this world. Yet again we will have a Christmas card with no baby, with just self-indulgent pictures of us because we have no one else to be into (and I refuse to go the way of the cats in Santa hats card). It makes me want to throw something that shatters against the wall.

How many times will this take? We don't know. Because there is no good reason for our repeated failure, because we are still being told that this is absolutely possible and probable for us, we will keep on going. I will pick up the pieces, the angry, angry detritus scattered on the ground, and throw my energy into my next cycle. I will figure out how to approach this next cycle so that I don't lose my mind in the process. We will mourn the loss of this dream and look forward to the promise of another. It just gets harder and harder to do it without an increasing bitterness in our mouths. I can still hope, I haven't lost that yet. But my ability to hope indiscriminately has been damaged. My ability to believe that this will actually happen sooner than later is damaged. My faith in my body is irreparably damaged. But not totally destroyed, as I trust it enough to attempt this again. Fifth time's the charm? Let's hope so.

Monday, December 12, 2011

A Tribute to Rocky

Rocky, snuggling in a basket. He was an awesome snuggler.
I lost my cat on Saturday. More than that, I lost my friend, my companion, my baby. Losing a pet is always hard. But when your furbabies are the ONLY babies you have, losing a pet is devastating. And Rocky was special. All kitties are special, but Rocky truly was an amazing cat. He survived a lot, and he helped me to survive just as much. I like to think that as much as I rescued Rocky when he was a tiny, 4-day old kitten, he rescued me. I would like to tell Rocky's story, to honor his life.

Rocky came into my household while I was married to He Who Must Not Be Named. In fact, in a sick way I can thank that person because it was he who had decided that we would foster cats and he who brought Rocky and his mom and two sisters into our house. (What I didn't know then was that the person who had inspired him to want to foster kitties, as I had wanted a cat and pleaded to no avail up until this point, was his "Friend." His "friend" he had a three and half long affair with during our hideous marriage. But I digress.) Rocky was unsteady, he was a little scrawny. He had to fight to get a spot at Mom's buffet. But he was a fighter. I immediately fell in love with this little black and white bruiser. He was named Rocky (not by me of course) because of this trait. Later I liked to think of him as Rocky Raccoon, like in the B.eatles song.

Rocky grew to be my buddy, coming up to bed before Voldemort and snuggling with me before he was kicked out. And then he would cry at the door wanting to be let in afterwards. He was so sweet with me, but when he had to go to Adoption Days at the petstore he changed completely. He sat in his crate and yowled and hissed and growled and swatted and was a devilcat. It was like he didn't want to be adopted. It was like he knew that he was already home with me, and he was going to do everything in his power to stay. Which worked, because the nonprofit that sponsored the fostering labeled him "unadoptable" and said that we could do home visits with potential owners but that he was no longer welcome at the Adoption Days. Score one for Rocky and me. I wanted desperately to keep him, but He Who Must Not Be Named was not on board. He kept him on the online site for people to choose a cat. And then one beautiful day he agreed--Rocky could stay. I was so happy.

But then, probably months before all the infidelities were revealed and I (finally!) decided that a husband who will cheat on you in addition to treating you in abhorrent ways needed to go, I got a nasty surprise. Rocky had not been removed from the online cat adoption site. And a woman was interested in him. My ex-husband told me that she would be coming to see Rocky and might leave with him. I was devastated. I cried, I screamed, I felt so betrayed. It was a definite dick move. Rocky was MY cat, it was obvious. It was incredibly hurtful. So, when the lady came over, I was sniffling and sobbing quietly the whole time. I pet him and he came over and sat in my lap. The lady asked, "Why are you adopting this cat out? He's obviously your cat." And I quickly (and with much venom) said, "I'm not looking to adopt him out." Needless to say, she left. Probably thinking my husband at the time was a big fat asshole from the looks she gave him. Rocky was mine again!

Fastforward to the demise of my marriage. I found out that in addition to the three and a half long affair, which I had suspected and accused him of but was told NO NO NO and so buried my untrusting badwife thoughts, he had been sleeping with a married friend he worked with for three months or so. I confronted him with the evidence (there were many, many disgusting emails) and kicked him out until I could figure things out. And when he decided that he was coming back to the house and I couldn't do anything about it, I moved out. And took Rocky and my other cat (who now lives with my mom due to an unfortunate ability to get along with Bryce's cat, Abner) with me. And contacted the nonprofit cat adoption agency. And my fears were confirmed--my cats had never been adopted officially, even though I was told Rocky was. I immediately set up plans to go adopt them officially as Rocky was still on that freaking website. When I went, as Voldemort's wife (I was trying to avoid drama, haha), the people there were so confused. Apparently they had no clue he was married and thought he was going to propose to the "friend" any day. They had no idea I existed. So much so that they congratulated me on my "New" 5-year-and-change marriage. Argh. But, the silver lining was I had my Rocky, safe and sound and away from that horrible situation.

While I was living at my mom's house, Rocky suffered another setback. While I was student teaching (awesome timing for a divorce, by the way, while you're paying to work with no guarantee of employment in your future that's not $80/day with no insurance...), Rocky was up on the loft bedroom ledge and fell. Twelve feet. He shattered his right forearm in 17 places but still managed to drag himself to the bathroom to curl up in front of the shower. Which is where I found him when I got home. He was unresponsive and yowled when I tried to pick him up, but I had no idea he was so badly hurt. I rushed him to the emergency vet after calling Bryce, who I was dating (but for mere months) at this point. They took him out of the carrier and his front leg just dangled. It was horrible. They showed me an x-ray and let me know that he would need either reconstructive surgery or amputation. I was horrified that my cat was so hurt, and horrified that with negative income and bills out the wazoo for my divorce I was faced with a significant vet bill. I found a vet who assured me that cats do very well with amputation, and I bit the bullet and had the surgery done. I had to help my friend, and he was suffering. Rocky bounced back amazingly well from the amputation. He could jump up (the first thing he did when he wasn't high on meds was jump right back on that ledge, yikes!), he could catch flies with one paw, he could beat the crap out of my other cat. He was SuperCat! He walked like Quasimoto, but who cares? He was better, he was healthy, he was fine.

Rocky did well acclimating to my new house when I moved in with Bryce. Unfortunately, previously being around someone with a horrible temper who liked to yell and throw things seemed to make Rocky skittish around men. And Bryce is an unusually tall man, but a very gentle man, but it meant to difference to Rocky. He did not like Bryce. He would run and hide. He would hiss and swat. We did everything we could to try to fix the situation, and we did discover that Rocky could tolerate Bryce better when he was sitting (I guess his shadow made him feel like a predator was swooping over him?). While this bothered Bryce, he loved Rocky. Rocky was a part of our family. He was still a snuggler, jumping up on our bed and snuggling with me before bed. Because he still cried at night he was always (gently) removed and put downstairs at bedtime, but we had lots of snuggles. He let me hold him like a teddy bear when I napped on the couch. He came and deposited himself on my stomach for love and comfort when I experienced every single one of my disappointments and losses related to fertility. Over the summer he stayed next to me when I was on bedrest from my surgery to remove my ectopic surgery. He loved going outdoors for supervised time in the sun, and was the only animal of ours to figure out that if he pushed on the back screen door that he could get it partially open (if he'd had a second front leg he'd totally have escaped outdoors). He loved watching birds. He was a catnip addict--he went crazy for the stuff, rolling in it and eating it and hallucinating along the patterns of our oriental carpeting. He had a whole vocal range--I'm convinced he was part Siamese. He yowled, he meowed when he was looking for you, he meow-purred when he found you and was content. He had a lot to say.

Last winter I wrote about how Rocky had a psychotic break of sorts. I think this is related to what finally did him in. It came on with no warning--all of a sudden he was running and hiding in the basement, and it was like he didn't realize he had lost his leg years before. He acted like he was being hunted. He acted weird and aggressive. We took him to multiple vets and nothing physical was wrong with him. We made him a little rehabilitation ward in my back office, with a fancy new cat tree and cat beds and space all to himself (this was after the Pro.zac experiment failed miserably. Abner is a great cat on Pro.zac. Rocky got so stressed with the pill-taking that we never could tell if it would have worked on him, so we ditched it.). Slowly, over months, he came out from under the desk and could be found on the cat tree, watching the birds. Eventually I could bring him out and he wouldn't hide in the basement. By spring he was back to normal. It was weird, but over. I didn't think about it again.

Until, about 5-6 weeks ago, he started acting weird again. He started licking the air or the floor or whatever he was on where his leg used to be. He started seeming increasingly unsteady on his back legs. And he lost nearly 2 pounds in two weeks. Bryce went on a business trip and when he came back he was very concerned--Rocky looked awful to him. I was terrified--what was happening to my cat? I took him into the vet again. He had nothing physical wrong with him other than a slight UTI (I think from being too unsteady to confidently get into the litterbox). He got an antibiotic shot and I said I'd take him back in two weeks for x-rays if he didn't improve, since those could show a tumor possibly. A week and a half later Rocky was so unstable and starting to flop over and not support himself so well. He was still skinny, but he was still able to do stairs (although very, very carefully) and jump up on his favorite chair. I brought him in early for the x-rays. They showed nothing. I was told that a neurological problem or brain tumor wouldn't be visible on anything but an MRI, which would cost at minimum $1700. And not actually help Rocky, just tell us what was wrong. Maybe. They told me to try a second opinion. I decided to see how he did over the next week. Rocky declined further. He would wait at the bottom of the stairs and yowl until I came down to help him in and out of the litterbox, because he would fall on top of his own mess otherwise. He was falling off his chair. It was time to get a second opinion. A friend of mine who is a vet came over and observed him, and found a spot on his spine that was painful. Rocky's reflexes were really off on his back legs. He had one leg that had no sense of place in space. Something was terribly wrong, but again nothing but an MRI would show what. And with all of the medical bills we have and are facing if our frozen is unsuccessful, we just can't afford an MRI for our cat. She suggested that we put him on crate rest, keep him from jumping and moving around so much. She was worried that Rocky would further injure himself, and if it was a disk issue then maybe it would get better with rest. I tried it. But, like everything else, it couldn't help Rocky get over whatever mysterious ailment was robbing him of mobility. He lost control over his back legs. He fell over more and more, and needed to be washed off regularly because he would either not make it into the litterbox or fall into his mess and drag himself through it. He would come out for snuggletime on a towel on the couch with me, and never once try to get off. I would put him on the floor to see if he could support himself, and he would stay upright for a second and then flop. Twice I found him sitting in his crate, which was encouraging, but then he couldn't move from that position. It was awful. And a week into the crate rest he lost his mobility and independence so much that he would just lay on his side and meow, and even with me carrying him to the litterbox and supporting him he couldn't go.

I sobbed for a week between calling my friend for a veterinary favor and making the decision to let Rocky go. I knew it was coming. I just couldn't believe it. How could this be happening to us? How could my amazing little baby, my beloved cat, be leaving me so suddenly and with no explanation? His quality of life was pretty awful. I had to let him go. But I was so angry. I'm still angry. Why can't we catch a break here? Why must 2011 be the WORST year yet? Why must I lose a pregnancy, a dog, and a cat all the span of months? I cried tears of sorrow for the loss of my cat. I cried angry tears at the unfairness of it all. I brought him into the vet for euthanasia. I took pictures of Rocky snuggling on the couch, and I took pictures of him outside because Bryce thought he would like one last sit in the sun. It was cold, but he watched some birds and seemed to be happy out there. Rocky hated the car, so I decided to hold him and put him in the carrier when we got to the clinic. He was so cozy. The vet agreed with our decision and they catheterized him. Unfortunately, Rocky was a fighter to the end. It broke my heart, because he had spurt of energy and was clear-eyed--his body was broken but his mind was sound, and he did not like what was happening. I felt like I betrayed him. In the process of things he bit me, and miraculously kicked the leg with the catheter so that the medication didn't all go in. Which was horrific because he needed a second shot. They had to take him back to catheterize another leg because his veins are terrible (like mine!), and said to prevent it happening again they'd give him the shot in the back room and then bring him out so we could say goodbye before it was over. But because he already had some medication in him he went much faster and was gone when they carried him back in. It was so awful. I wanted to hold him as he passed, I wanted it to be gentle and loving. And it wasn't. It was clinical and he was alone. And when he came in he looked nothing like he did when he was alive. And that haunts me. I am trying very hard to not see his dead eyes anymore. And the timing--there is never good timing to put your cat down, but in this case the timing was particularly horrible in our cycle. And I felt guilty for that being a factor in things.

I am comforted by knowing that I did the right thing, that he had no kind of life at all and was in steady decline with no hope of recovery. He likely had a spinal tumor or a brain tumor. An MRI probably wouldn't have done anything but confirm that he was going to die and there was nothing we could do. I set him free, to the big catnip mound in the sky. I hope he knew how much I loved him. He was so special to me. And now I have a giant hole where my kitty, my precious furbaby once was. Abner is a great cat and he is working hard to be snuggly, but he's lonely. Sometime in the near future we will get a friend for him. We were talking about getting a third cat before Rocky was as sick as he got, so I don't feel like it would be a betrayal to get one so soon. I want another cat who has the spirit of Rocky. A fighter, a lover. A cat who wasn't taught to hate men. A cat that will be a friend to Abner. A cat that will be a friend to our new baby, when he/she arrives hopefully sometime in 2012.

Goodbye, Rocky, you were amazing. Your spirit lives on in some kitten out there, and we will find it. Thank you for everything you were to me. I honor your life now and always. 

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Trusting in the Process

Doing a frozen cycle is an exercise in trust. It is definitely a more convenient way to (hopefully) make a baby in the lab--there is close to zero monitoring. As opposed to a fresh IVF cycle, where you are in the doctor's office for bloodwork and ultrasounds starting with a baseline and then repeated every 3-5 days, then every 2 days, then every day until retrieval, a frozen cycle has just two appointments besides the initial consult--a lining check, and then the transfer itself. There's no surgical procedure. There's only one blood draw before transfer. You aren't constantly checking to see how your ovaries are brewing up potential eggs for potential embryos.

This is kind of relaxing, because you get to skip out on feeling like you live at the clinic. I haven't watched my mileage on my car climb higher and higher because I'm driving all over the place for early morning blood draws and hot dates with the intravaginal ultrasound wand. I can, other than the lovely injections in the morning, pretend that I am a relatively normal person, living a relatively normal life. It's a nice way to do a cycle, for the most part.

What's driving me batty (and working against my attempts for zen acceptance) is I have no data. This is probably a good thing, as I tend to obsess over my estrogen levels and my follicular growth (how many have I got? how big are they getting? what might my retrieval haul be this time?). I have a notebook that I bring to all my appointments and use to keep track of my progress. It's really helpful, because I can go back and compare my cycles to each other and where I was and how I'm doing this time. It's also a little unhelpful, because I can go back and compare my cycles to each other and where I was and how I'm doing this time (because that doesn't necessarily mean anything as every cycle is very different, sometimes because of the medication protocol and sometimes because the human body is a freaking mystery of inconsistency). So, for this frozen cycle, it's good that I can let go of all that a little bit. That I can eliminate my driving need to feverishly jot down everything on the ultrasound screen before the screensaver kicks in. That I can stop obsessing on my data, as there's really and truly nothing I can do to control any of it (as much as I try).

The problem though is that I have NOTHING to go on, and so I am trying hard not to obsess about my lack of data. Once I have my lining check, I have one piece of information--my endometrial thickness. It should be apparently around 7+ mm at the check and be trilinear--three lovely stripes of beautiful, plushy lining. Oh, and an estrogen level that is cryptic because it's not based on the number of follicles that are developing. Other than that one appointment, there's no inkling of how it's going. Injections go on for a month before the actual transfer, and to have no way to measure the progress except for that one dinky lining check is really activating my trust issues. Can I trust that everything is going fine in there? Can I trust once I've had my lining check that everything will continue to be fine? With frequent ultrasounds I could see growth, I could see estrogen levels climbing. I had something to be grateful for each doctor's appointment. I could really follow my new philosophy of celebrating each day for whatever positive thing I could find--even if it was just I have follicles developing. I am in the dark here. I have to trust that my lining is getting more and more inviting each day that big, fat, 1.5 inch long intramuscular needles go into my increasingly fatter behind. I have to trust that the embryos, when they are loaded back into the Mother Ship, are going to see my hot new lining and want to stick around. IN MY LINING. But, until the transfer comes, it's blind trust. I can visualize my uterus getting cushier and rosy with excellent bloodflow. But I don't have something concrete to hang on to. It's surprisingly hard to get over.

It's hard to trust that something good is happening, and that something good can happen with our transfer. I want to believe that this is our time, that this is it for us. I want to believe that it is possible to get a "You're pregnant!" call without it being "I'm so sorry, you're pregnant but..." I want to believe that the miracle can happen to us, and that our long and painful journey is finally over. But I know that's not necessarily the case. This isn't something I can "earn" through doing all the right things. If it was I'd have a baby on my Christmas card. I work hard for everything I do, and infertility is just one of those things where that does not matter at all. I can eat all the right things and do all the wacky things that I do to make my body as ready as possible, and it can STILL not happen. But, at the same time, it could. And maybe, just maybe, because I don't have anything to obsess about, because I don't have the stress of finagling constant appointments around my teaching schedule, and I don't have the stress of having to take time off to recover from the surgical removal of my eggs, maybe this will work. Maybe a different approach will be the jolt my system needs to accept an embryo properly and for keeps. All I can do is trust in this unforthcoming cycle process, and be grateful that we have this opportunity to give it a go with two beautiful frozen blasts.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Holiday Cards

The holidays are kind of a rough time for this infertile lady. It is a very child-centric, family-centric time. Christmas celebrates a virgin birth, a miracle baby--and when you have been toiling and suffering for your own very hard-earned pregnancy and that work is not paying off, it can be a little hard to take (so many songs about beloved babies!). The holidays start the annual influx of holiday cards, as well. I love getting everyone's cards. I love going to my mailbox and having it full of good wishes and glitter. I love displaying all this cheer in my home. I love seeing photos of my friends and family. It has gotten rather hard the last couple of Christmases to see card after card after card of everyone's new babies, everyone's expanding family. It's a bit like evidence that the world keeps on turning for what seems like everyone else, while Bryce and I are stuck in neutral, watching everyone else's families expand while we debate whether or not to add our pets to our card to flesh it out. It's all good and I do enjoy receiving these cards, it just means that the babies go on the bottom of my display so that they don't stare at me while I eat my dinner. I think the slightly more depressing thing is that there are fewer and fewer actual babies and more and more small children, which makes us feel more and more behind.

But, this post isn't about receiving holiday cards. It's about selecting them.

When we got married, we did the photo cards with pictures of our wedding on them. Why should the babymakers be the only ones to enjoy easy cards that you have printed, sign on the back, and mail out? But then the next year we couldn't really do wedding photos again, and we didn't have that baby yet or even a cute belly to display (tastefully). So our card was pictures of our Maine vacation, and we realized that we didn't have any pictures of the two of us that weren't those awful many-chinned-arm-held-out attempts, so there was just one tiny picture of the two of us together and the rest are us apart or scenic pictures. It worked, it was a little artsy, and I got my easy cards. And watched more baby cards pour in. I was so hoping that this year would have some kind of difference, but I found us once again looking to use our Maine pictures. We just have the one vacation, and we don't really have time, energy, or moolah to go anywhere else fun throughout the year. And we always forget our camera whenever we are gussied up (which isn't very frequently). I thought about having a photo shoot done, but then rethought it. I would love to pay for portraits by a talented friend when we are a little more celebratory, when we have a family event going on. I wanted to be extravagant and do a "just because" shoot as a treat, but then couldn't justify the cost (especially since I'm a bit bloated and doped up at the moment, and not feeling particularly attractive). We'll save that for bump-and-baby shoots. Then I thought, we'll just use a beautiful photo we have from three Maine trips ago, this one:
I love this picture because it's beautiful. Bryce captured the light perfectly. And I thought (somewhat morbidly) that it was a perfect representation of us at the moment. In darkness there is light. Despite all of our bad experiences and suffering, there is still hope that we can become parents. That little barren, weatherbeaten tree is lit up so beautifully and even takes focus away from the fertile, abundant sea. I even found a card that just said "We believe" (although I'm pretty sure the sentiment is supposed to mean something else). It just seemed a bit depressing, even thought the card came out beautifully on my preview screen.

One of the reasons why it seemed depressing was because selecting cards from an online photo website is a special kind of torture when you are trying desperately to have a baby and that's eluding you. Almost every card is filled with babies, or families with three or four children (I hear three is the new two). People who are ridiculously fertile and have Top Ten lists about the tooth fairy and getting a new brother and loving first grade. Which is great, when that is your experience. When I read those options, all I could think was what we could put in for our top ten:  Finally got that embryo quality under control! Got pregnant, but not robustly enough to truly enjoy it! Have extremely fertile tubes! Lost some weight when they removed that part of my body along with the pregnancy! Jess got a new job, thank goodness they are super compassionate because she needed the first week of school off to recuperate from surgery! Found our dog a new home, just didn't work out with everything else going on! And so on. And so forth. I even thought about putting a picture of our embryos up there (not seriously, but we did actually conceive 8 potentially viable embryos this year...too bad 6 of them so far have moved on to to the big petri dish in the sky instead of sticking to me...). While I consider our one lucky (and then massively unlucky) embryo that made it a few weeks into development our first, I don't think others would get my sense of humor on that front. Oh, and did I mention that the there are tons of options of cards meant to showcase your dog? Presumably for people who have furchildren. Couldn't do those either, as we weren't able to give our dog the home he needed in part due to our infertility circumstances. Awesome, no baby AND no dog. I had to give the card shopping a rest last night after I found myself giving the finger to all those lucky bastards flaunting their families, furry and otherwise, on my laptop screen. (Bryce points out that the barren tree actually looks like it's giving you the finger at the top if you look real close, which is awesome and one more reason to love the picture.) It made me want to spell out NOEL on the lawn with all our empty onesies I've collected over the past two years or so and underline the sentiment with sparkly syringes (again, that photo card probably wouldn't be ironically funny to anyone but us and maybe a select few fellow infertile friends...everyone else would probably think we need to seek some professional help).

So today Bryce decided we'd go out and take some pictures of ourselves, using our little digital camera, the gorilla tripod, and hopefully the kindness of a random stranger if needed. If we hated them I'd do the lit up barren tree. If we liked them, we'd have some nice pictures of us looking spiffy in oddly balmy late November and a photo card that doesn't make others uncomfortable. We headed out to Pittsford Village and actually had a blast finding weird places to find interesting backdrops, and met a lovely hippie-esque gentleman with a great sense of humor who volunteered to take a couple shots for us when we were obviously struggling with putting the camera on the gorilla tripod in a shrub to take our bench shots. Our Christmas cards are ordered and on their way to me to be addressed and sent out. They do not feature a single swaddled cat in a onesie. They are simple, and classy, and just show that we have fun together. We are a family of two. And while that can seem a little empty when we compare ourselves to those who have what we desperately want, it's not. We are happy. We are joyful. We are whole as we are, we just want to add to that joy in our household, not fill some hole where it doesn't exist. Maybe we are lucky bastards too, just minus the bundle. For now.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Giving Thanks

Today is a wonderful day to stop and reflect and take stock of all the things I have to be thankful for. Sometimes (oftentimes) when embroiled in my arduous fertility journey, it can be hard to step back from the unfairness of everything we are going through to recognize the wonderful things that we do have. And even to take a look at the challenges that we have and find little things (sometimes big things) to be grateful for, even within the process of getting pregnant (or not) via a complicated, exhausting, expensive medical process. I have spent time writing about things that I am grateful for before, but I think it's important, even if it's redundant, to keep thinking about those things that can still buouy me up. To make these little moments of gratitude a mantra to keep me going in the dark times, the times when if someone else were to say to me "think of all you have to be thankful for!" I would have to employ serious restraint to keep myself from losing it.

Today I am thankful...
  • ...that these options are open to me--that in these awful and uncertain economic times we can afford treatment, that we have an amazing clinic that is closeby and constantly working to improve protocols and procedures, that I have a place to go for holistic treatments that is also nearby.
  • ...for the help we have received from family--whether it was financial help to make three fresh cycles so far possible, being there for or after procedures, visits during difficult recoveries, thoughtful good luck surprises in the mail, emotional support. We appreciate it all and are lucky to receive such support and understanding.
  • ...that we have an amazing doctor--compassionate, knowledgeable, flexibile, responsive, talented--who has brought us as close as we've ever been to the magic moment where we are pregnant and can stay that way until there is a baby (or two) in our arms.
  • ...that we have an amazing medical team of nurses, techs, embryologists, receptionists, financial coordinators, counselors, and so on who are all compassionate, talented, relentless cheerleaders for our eventual success. (I'm going with they genuinely want to see us succeed and not that they are sick of our faces by this point and can't wait for us to move on elsewhere, ha!)
  • ...that I have a network of infertile friends at various stages in the process (from just started to new parent after success with infertility) who have been instrumental in getting through this semi-sanely with the knowledge that we are not alone, we can survive this, and we can become parents if we want to, through one channel or another.
  • ...that I have amazing pre-infertility friends who have handled this new hurdle well and have been supportive and responsive to my ever-changing needs during this time of crisis and hope. Friends unafraid to stand by in this time of discomfort and never quite knowing what the right thing is to do or say. Friends who can make me laugh in my darkest times and accept and forgive my mood swings as "Jess-for-now," knowing that eventually I will come out the other side of this (probably not unchanged, but probably not completely broken either).
  • ...that I have a network of friends and family that I am not physically close with but who have been so supportive, especially through this last lovely experience, via virtual channels. As much as I hate the immediacy of our instant-access technological culture, it has made support over the miles and despite a lack of real-time connection possible and beautiful.
  • ...that I have a workplace that is flexible, caring, and supportive that was able to accommodate my needs at the start of the school year and hopefully will be able to accommodate any other challenges that may come our way. And may those challenges be related to late-term pregnancy.
  • ...that I have a wonderful husband, a man who embodies patience and flexibility and love. A man who is a support for me and together for us, who does everything possible to help us be successful. A true partner in love, life, and hardships. I am so, so lucky to have found someone who not only can handle this challenge, but handle it with grace and a sense of humor. And the best hugs ever.
And I am thankful...
  • ...that we did get pregnant, so it is possible.
  • ...that my ectopic pregnancy was caught before it ruptured and so I could have scheduled (albeit same-day) scary surgery but not collapse-and-ride-in-an-ambulance scary surgery.
  • ...that we have frozen embryos, and they are beautiful. That we have the opportunity for this bonus round of putting little Bryce-and-Jess hybrids in my uterus and hoping that they take.
  • ...that I have the resilience to keep doing this over and over and over again. That as hard as it can get, I still have the ability to scrape myself off the floor and put a genuine smile on my face and put that sharps container on my kitchen counter again. That I have the capacity to hope for success, despite getting continually stomped on.
  • ...that Bryce and I are truly in this together, on the same page, and working as a team to make our dreams come true.
I could go on and on, but I have to make the gluten free piecrust for my pumpkin meringue pie and I just can't procrastinate any longer. I hope that everyone is having a wonderful Thanksgiving with their families--families of two, families of three or four or giant tables of extended family galore. What a wonderful holiday based on thankfulness and gratitude (and food).

Saturday, November 19, 2011


Smudging. A few years ago this word would have had me laughing, conjuring up images of hippie-dippy people walking about their houses doing weird incantations and banishing evil from the premises. I thought it was a New Age-y thing that was great for other people, but, like drum circles, decidedly not my thing.

Fast forward to 2011, more than two years into a fruitless babymaking quest using every possible advantage we can. At this point, not only does smudging look like a great idea, so does keeping a ceramic elephant in the bedroom, wearing orange underwear everyday, having a stash of fertility earrings handy, talking to my spirit babies and welcoming them to join us in physicality, steaming my hoo-hoo with ancient Mayan herbs, lighting flying wish papers to communicate with our unborn progeny, lighting red candles every night, and outfitting a phantom baby with a veritable trousseau of onesies each time we attempt to....attempt. None of those things sound ridiculous to me anymore. I am a woman obsessed. I am a woman determined. I am, perhaps, a woman positively crazed with babylust.

After our last fairly disastrous attempt, an empathetic friend (no stranger to this horrible process herself) brought me a care package while I was recuperating from surgery. This care package was beautiful. It included a light, funny, trashy novel; a beaded bookmark; a terracotta angel from Guatemala; and...a smudge stick. A funny little bundle of white sage with instructions on smoldering it safely and banishing negative energy from your person or home or both. I thought this was awesome. I had just been thinking, I think we should smudge after this horrific outcome. We have some MAJOR bad juju that red candles just can't overcome, apparently. I think I am ready to eat my mocking words and seriously break out a smudge stick. And look what happens--my friend gifts me with a smudge stick. That Universe. Such a sense of humor.

We decided to smudge as we readied for our next attempt (or rather, I decided to smudge and Bryce gamely obliged my latest fertility-enhancing request). But somehow I had lost the instruction paper. Bryce thought we should go on YouTube for instructional videos. I, justifiably, was a little nervous I might lose his willing participation in this new ritual depending on the videos that we found. And boy did we find some doozies. The first featured a redheaded girl with questionable eyeshadow talking about how smudging takes her a whole day, because first she must clean her house. She will do her dishes, the laundry, straighten up, and all that while saying to herself (and the dirty laundry) "I cleanse you of any negative energy" in a soft southern twang. This is all before the smoking sage comes into play. She talked for over five minutes and never got to how to actually light the thing, so we switched videos. The next one also mentioned cleaning your house and your body first, and then the guy who slightly resembled Bob Marley smudged himself on his porch, all the while saying you can't smoke the stick like other more illicit herbs. We liked that guy, but he was smudging his body and not his house, so we moved on. The next one was a guy who smudged his living room of evil because his doorknob rattled for no reason in the middle of the night. Funny (although he was entirely serious), but not helpful. The last one was a very calm lady with a beautiful house who talked pretty normally about smudging (or saging, as she referred to it) and offered good advice (again with the cleaning first), so we watched her whole video. At least until she started saying you shouldn't let the smoke get to the dangerous point where you can't see anymore (that takes one huge smudge stick or serious pyrotechnic talent), and at that point we shut off the videos and decided to just do it our way.

Bryce holding the smudge stick like
a cigar, mid-smudge.We used up the
whole thing!
I cleaned the house first. I vacuumed, and straightened up, and scrubbed bathrooms, and steam mopped the kitchen floor. And thanks to that red-headed lady, I found myself saying "I cleanse you of negative energy" even though I totally mocked her when we watched her video. It couldn't hurt, right? Once the house was clean, and we were clean, we went to SmudgeTown. First we smudged our bodies. Then we smudged each room of the house, from basement to upstairs crawlspaces. Then we smudged the perimeter of the house and the yard. And the cars. And we spent extra time on anything that could have extra negative energy, like items that have seen other lives we've led, or my lower belly where my scars and the void my tube left behind are. It was strangely cathartic. And it smelled...not bad, not good. Vaguely like the other herb you smell at Dave Matthews concerts. Which had me worried the smell would linger and my fellow teachers would wonder exactly what I do in my free time.

We smudged and took it seriously, but not too seriously. We had fun with it, but were careful to be respectful of the ritual. Because we wouldn't have done it if we didn't think that maybe, just maybe it could make a difference. Our house is cleansed of negative energy. Our bodies are cleansed of negative energy. Maybe a little too much, as right after the smudging I got the worst stomach bug I've had in years. All I could think was that all the negative energy must have concentrated itself in my GI tract. It's gone now... And what we are left with is a slightly smoky, slightly pungent, but definitely positive house. And neighbors who must think we've lost it, as we walked around our front yard and house perimeter with a smoking bundle of herbs, fanning the smoke around. But I feel good about chasing away that pesky negative energy. It feels good to do something physical and symbolic to clear away all the negatives, all the loss, all the disappointments we've endured so far so that we can make way for the best joy we could ever hope to have.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Sitting Down to Tea With My Demons (Lupron, Specifically)

I love, love, love my therapist. I think that she has been instrumental in preventing me from being a complete lunatic throughout this past year. She is insightful, she keeps things raw and gritty (I love me a professional who convincingly drops F bombs in appropriate contexts). She pushes me to see when I am my own worst enemy. Which is, unfortunately, on a frequent basis. She is highly accessible. She was amazing when I went through my latest tragedy--coming to my home for sessions because I was too doped up on percoset to go to her, texting and calling to make sure I was ok. But (and there's always a but), there's a complication for this next cycle. My therapist is on maternity leave. And that maternity leave goes pretty much through most of my cycle. I had my last session before I was even scheduled to take my first dose of Lupron.

So, that last session was based on how I will deal, with the cycle in general (because getting started again is exciting, but also incredibly terrifying after our last experience), but specifically with Lupron. I hate that drug. It doesn't affect everyone the same way, but for me it is a torment from hell. I hate it worse than Clomid, the little white pill of evil. Lupron works by dropping your estrogen through the floor so that your system can be totally manipulated by your medical team. It shuts your system down, but effectively puts you into a menopausal state until you start stimming, or estrogen support, or whatever your cycle demands. (Stimming drugs up your estrogen as your follicles grow and mature...estrogen support tricks your body into thinking that your ovaries are doing something when really they are not, so that you can have a nice thick lining for your frozen or donor transfer even though your ovaries did not produce a single egg. Weird but effective.) I am very sorry in advance for Bryce for when I go through actual menopause. Because the Lupron makes me easily irritated and frustrated, very quick to cry, tired, bloated, suffer hot flashes, suffer migraines caused by my estrogen taking a jump off a cliff, and I get stupid. I can't remember things. I can't remember what the end of my sentence was supposed to be when I start it. I forget words. It's bad.

I thought my Lupron days were over since I had such a good response to a cycle that used Ganarelix for suppression instead--but apparently for someone like me whose hormones are so wacky, Lupron is my only choice for a frozen. Yayyyyyyyy.

So, given that I have no choice, my only choice is in how I deal with this dastardly drug. My therapist said I should sit down to tea with my demons. This is based on a Buddhist story about a monk who was plagued by demons. He tried all sorts of things to get rid of them--fighting them with different weapons, yelling at them, tricking them. But they only got bigger and more ferocious. Finally, he decided he would just invite them to tea. The demons sat down with the monk, he understood the nature of the demons, and they disappeared (mostly). I am probably butchering this story, but it made sense to me. Instead of fighting Lupron and dreading it, I should sit down to tea with it and figure out a strategy for dealing.

And so here it is...I have done everything possible to make sure that in the time that I am on Lupron only (the worst time! The no estrogen time!), I take the best possible care of myself. I scheduled my observation at school for the earliest possible time (it's done) so that there was no chance I could be observed while on Lupron. Which is not horrible but not pretty, and more stress than I need when I'm altered in that way. I am giving myself permission to be...sufficient at school. I am giving myself the same permission at home. So what if the vacuuming doesn't get done at the regular intervals it's supposed to? So what if I don't make fancypants dinners and rely on frozen food, not leftovers, for lunch during this time? Bryce is super helpful and he's planning on picking up some slack. He's even doing the Thanksgiving cooking. I remember several cycles ago, trying to make something complicated while on Lupron and ending up on the floor, covered in rice flour, sobbing hysterically. So thank you, Bryce, for saving me (and us!) that nonsense again. If I need to nap when I come home from school, I will do it without guilt. If I need to be a total lump on the couch, ditto. No guilt. I will not be doing anything that causes me stress (at least not on purpose). I am going to cut myself a big, fat, break as much as I can.

So there, Lupron, you have no reduced power over me! Actually, I thank you, because you are the first step in hopefully making this frozen cycle a success. Without you, I can't possibly get pregnant with those two beautiful blasts in the freezer. There. I hope you liked your tea.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Keeping My Mouth Shut

I have a big mouth. I can keep other people's secrets just fine, but I can't keep my own to save my life. Part of this big-mouth-ness led to this blog, which I enjoy writing very much and love hearing when it touches people or helps someone else out. However, I am trying a new tack with this next cycle. I am going to try to keep some information to myself.

At some point by the holidays, we will have completed our frozen transfer. I've already let that slip. But I am thinking that this time, for this very different cycle experience, for this fourth transfer of embryos into my uterus, I'm going to be more vague about when exactly that's all happening.

Sharing all the details of your cycle with a lot of people has a lot of benefits--you get cheered on, you have lots of people sending you positive thoughts and warm energy, and it offers a high level of support. But there is a downside to sharing each test result, each date of importance, each date that it happens. And I learned that last cycle.

I had a giant list of people to call on my pregnancy test day, and to update on what was happening via text messages and email. Before this cycle, I've only ever had to say "Nope, not pregnant." But with this last go-round, I got stuck with a "Yup, pregnant, but don't get too excited because it's likely not viable." So making all those calls got tricky--I had to temper the conversation with, "Ok, listen to my WHOLE STORY before you react." This was so people didn't immediately start shrieking with joy when the words "I'm pregnant" came over the line before the "but" could follow. Now, pregnancy test days are stressful to begin with. You wait all day for that call after you get your blood drawn. It could be as early as 11:30 and as late as 2 or 3. Every time your phone makes a peep your heart is in your throat and you just want to puke it up. Once you pick up, it's too late--you have to hear what the nurse has to say. And then you process it and start the phone call marathon. Or, as in the last cycle, a family member actually called me first, dying of curiosity but not realizing that I had literally just gotten my call. That got me thinking. I should NOT tell people when my pregnancy test is. Because it is an awful lot of pressure to feel like not just you, but your closest friends and family members are on tenterhooks. And sometimes, you want to spend some time with your news before you notify people. It's very private news. It can be very difficult news to grapple with--as in this last time, where I couldn't have imagined how it would feel to get a positive that I couldn't shout to the rooftops.

So, lesson #1: I am not sharing my exact pregnancy test date. It's just too much pressure. I have decided to share my news when I am ready and at peace with my news. After all, most people who just pee on sticks after having hot babymaking sex don't call their friends and family immediately--they savor that moment with their husband and then tell when they feel it's relatively safe. I probably won't wait until 12 weeks to tell my family and closest friends, but I reserve the right to wait a day or two if I need to. The tricky thing is that our process is pretty public. And we've made it that way. And we know things about conception and implantation that the average prego simply doesn't (like for instance, our two embryos are already conceived, and just chilling out until they implant months later). A positive is a major accomplishment--but as I learned from my last cycle, it's easier to think that I could share that joy so publicly so early than to actually do it.  I need and deserve this space.

The other thing that I am taking from my last cycle is that I don't need to update everyone with a blow-by-blow when I take my repeated tests. Even if I have a nice, high HCG number that indicates that I'm pregnant and it's hopefully for keeps, I will have to retest at least 2 times before my early ultrasound (thank you, ectopic pregnancy, for guaranteeing me a Week 6 ultrasound! That will be nice visual confirmation should we luck out.). In our last nightmare situation, I updated everyone with every bloodtest result. Information that not everyone fully understood--how is the average person to know that going from 12 to 488 in a week and a half isn't particularly good unless you're in this situation or work in the field? Having to explain "Yes, yes, it went up, but we're still not out of the woods" over and over again was painful. And, I actually had to clear out my voicemailbox and found that half of the messages were wonderful encouraging messages about each of my numbers. Which was a great support at the time but now just made me incredibly sad. The excitement over 26, 74, 144, 488--all the numbers over 12 that I will never forget as long as I live--it was very, very difficult to listen to. (I did save some, I don't know why. Maybe to remind myself that it is possible for me to get pregnant.)

The constant updates also add a lot of pressure--I felt like I had a certain amount of time after a call to soak it in and then I had to get on the computer and on the phone and let everyone know the update. It was very stressful. And each time the news wasn't so great, I felt like I was disappointing everyone else who was so hoping for good news. I was hoping for good news, too, but somehow it felt worse to have to break hopeful-but-still-not-encouraging news to the masses.

I'm not saying that I'm not going to share anything. I just want to change the terms a bit. I almost said "On my own terms," but there was no one who said "You must share THIS way!" last time. It was all self-imposed. So, I am changing my own rules. I am releasing myself of this overwhelming sense of responsibility that I feel to be conscientious and update everyone minute-by-minute. It feels like something I need to apologize for, but it's not, not really. I really and truly appreciated every card, every email, every text and call of encouragement throughout the two and a half weeks of tenuous pregnancy that I got to have. But this time, I want to keep it a little closer. I want to try to dial back my verbal vomit. I have no idea how successful I will be (like I said, I can't keep my big fat mouth shut to save my life), but I'd like to try. And I so appreciate in advance how this decision will be received--with understanding and knowing that (especially because of who I am), you won't be in the dark for long.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

The Ups and Downs of Support Groups

I am a support group whore. A junkie of groups both physical and electronic. I figure, if you're in this messy boat, you may as well get as much support as possible. I like support groups because you meet others who are in similar circumstances. You meet women who have different ways of coping, different suggestions, and can share those with you. It's great to be in a room (or online) with women who really and truly "get it." Who understand all your acronyms and crazy medical terms. Who laugh and cry and get angry with you, and on your behalf. It's powerful stuff.

The benefits are huge--you can make new friendships with women in the same crappy predicament. You have a safe place to rage about someone's insensitivity without fear of being thought of as crazy (most of the time). Everyone's experiences pooled together equates to a lot of medical knowledge, tips on giving yourself injections in the most painless way, alternative supplements or medications to ask your doctor about, recommendations for new things to try. I was introduced to Circle + Bloom meditations through a support group, and it has helped my cycles tremendously. Through joining a support group I learned the benefits of acupuncture, Maya massage, and yoga on my treatment as a whole. Support groups relieve stress. You can make crude jokes about the internal ultrasounds and laugh about the things that excite us now (who knew estrogen levels could be so enthralling? who knew getting your period at the right time could be cause for celebration, not just devastation?). It's a wonderful community to be a part of. And you can feel like you're helping others, if you happen to be able to offer advice or resources or things that you've learned through your (extensive) journey. It can be a real feel-good experience. And supposedly it ups your chances of getting pregnant, per some study I heard about but can't verify whatsoever.

But there is a flip side. What happens when you are still in the support group, and so many of the people you started with have moved on, either to other options or life as a pregnant person? What happens when you see whole groups of people cycle in and cycle out and you are left behind? I can tell you about that. It's hard. I haven't been going to the group at my clinic, in part because I took some time off going to that location, and in part because every time I go it's new people since my friend graduated with a twin pregnancy. At my yoga group, I am part of an ever-shrinking cohort of women that have been there since I started (or before). But week after week, sometimes I am the only person there from the first group that was there when I first started coming. And then the second group came through and many of them have gotten pregnant or moved on. And now there's a third group. I am starting to feel like a dinosaur. And worse than that--at both groups I feel like a horror story. Like my story to people new to infertility or new to the transition from IUI to IVF is a cautionary tale. In my head, if not in real life, eyes widen and hearts constrict when I tell my sad tale. I hear, "Oh my, you can be going at it for that long and have so many things go wrong and STILL not have a baby?" whispered inside heads when I talk. Mostly mine. But that's what it feels like--I don't feel uplifting. I feel like a depressing tale of terror. (That's another caveat of the support group--you hear everyone's awful experiences and learn new things to be terrified of.) And while I am happy, SO happy for all my friends who have moved on and gotten pregnant and left the group, I am getting to the point where I am insanely jealous. I want to be one of the lucky ones. I want to leave and wave to people when I come in for my prenatal massage. I don't want to be a Support Group Elder.

Last week I went to yoga, and the group was huge. HUGE. More new faces than familiar ones, it felt. I felt really out of place. After support we did a (very crowded) class, and during poses I closed my eyes and the weirdest thing happened. I could see the ladies that were part of the group when I first started coming, who came to yoga all the time. I could see the small group around me. And it made me feel happy that most of them have moved on and out because now they're mommies (or almost there, waiting patiently for the baby/babies to arrive). But it also made me feel sad. They were like friendly ghosts, shimmering shadows of Infertile Friends Past. And all I could think was, I want to be someone else's yoga ghost! I want to be a fond memory and a story to look to with hope, not with a cringe and sign of the cross to ward off my horrible baby luck. I want to leave everyone behind and be a benevolent presence from the other side, telling people that yes, yes, it's all so worth it, while bouncing my baby on my lap or beatifically rubbing my big, swollen belly.

I am so hoping that we are headed in that direction. I am ready, so ready to be done with this process, to move on to the pregnant stage of infertility (because once you're pregnant you can celebrate but be faced with all new fear and crazypants behavior because of everything it took to get there, so I've heard from The Other Side). I want to be an inspirational story, because I am a success story and not because of how I handle my failures. Which apparently is not very well lately, as I seem to be hitting my limit of what I can handle and stay sane and fully functioning. I think I'm doing pretty well for everything we've been through, but there are definitely huge cracks in my foundation at this point. Cracks that would be sealed up nicely, for the most part, if only I could cross over. But, for now, I will just try to concentrate on the good side of support groups, the positive side, and not worry about whether or not I should turn off the lights and hold a flashlight to my chin when talking about my journey. There's one bittersweet thing--because I am almost always at the yoga support group, I have become the person who adds new people to the email group list. This person has changed over time. I never, ever wanted to be this person. But now I am, for now at least. Why is this bittersweet? Because every person who has been the List Maintenance person has left because they got pregnant. So maybe this is something that I need to do in order to become a yoga ghost, a rite of passage. When I feel bitter about it, I try to remember that sweet little nugget. I will get pregnant and I will move on to the prenatal group...hopefully sanity intact.

Sunday, October 30, 2011


We love October. It's a beautiful month: it can be warm during the day and crisp at night. You can get your sweaters out from storage and actually wear them, and be happy about finally bundling up a bit. The leaves are beautiful, the light is beautiful, it's just a gorgeous time of year. And, it's Halloween. I have always liked Halloween but it is Bryce's absolutely favorite holiday. So for October, we watch scary or spooky movies (I am a wuss, much to Bryce's chagrin), try to do at least a couple events that are spooky (hikes in Mt Hope cemetery! Dracula at the GEVA theater!), and, for the past two years, celebrate our wedding anniversary.

We got married twice, which suited our purposes in 2009 but now makes things a little complicated. Which anniversary do we celebrate? For now, at least, we celebrate both. October is our completely selfish month, where we do what we want to do. And now that we have been embroiled in this infertility crap for the entirety of our newlywed-dom plus a bit, we really, really don't feel badly about being selfish during this month. October is special. It's when we celebrate the joy of us and the reasons why we want so badly to have a baby and add to our family and the love that we share.

This October it's been particularly important to celebrate all the things that we have in each other, because we've had such a rough time with everything this year. Just the other night Bryce and I were talking, and he said, "Didn't we think 2010 was a terrible year? Didn't we say GOOD RIDDANCE, 2010 on New Year's? I hate to say it, but I think 2011 has been worse." And in terms of the crap that rains down on us seemingly constantly, yup, I'd agree. 2011 was (and is) a rough, rough year. But, looking at our second year of marriage, we have a lot to be grateful for too. Despite all the horrible things that we have had to endure, we have a lot to be grateful for.
  • While it's not always easy, we still have a solid, strong relationship. We have had to deal with more crap in the first two years of our marriage than a lot of people deal with in a lifetime. And we are stronger for it, ultimately--so we are so lucky for the love that we have for each other.
  • We did get pregnant this year. We are moving up a trajectory, not stuck in place or looking at even harder choices than we've currently got regarding family building. We have frozens. Hopefully my body remembers what it's like to pregnant and adjusts to make it happen in the RIGHT place this time. As hard as August and September were, we are actually on an upswing. (That is some serious positive thinking to regard our experiences as an upswing!)
  • We are both healthy, employed, and in all other respects besides the babymaking ride have a pretty nice life. We have had to make hard decisions this year to maintain a sane household, but we are able to pay our bills, pay for treatment, and have a little fun, too. That's not a small accomplishment in this economy. We are grateful.
  • We are still filled with hope. I still believe that it's WHEN we get pregnant, not IF. I believe that "our time" is coming. (The concept that we are "due" a happy ending is bizarre to me--why wouldn't we have been "due" earlier if that's the case? Why wouldn't last time have been "our time?" But whatever, in a weird way I feel like we are close. Very close to being at the end, at least for now.) Going through everything we've experienced and still having hope is a significant accomplishment in itself!
  • I believe that we can celebrate our 3rd anniversary with a baby, or at least pregnant. I have to believe that to stay sane.

Back from fancypants dinner, wine-stained teeth,
time for a horror movie. Now that's true love...
So, looking back at our second year of marriage, I think that we have more happy than sad. We still have romantic moments despite the drudgery of doctor's appointments and sharps containers and finagling schedules to accommodate morning intramuscular butt shots. We can go out for a surprise fancy dinner at Richardson's Canal House and barely talk about infertility, truly enjoy each other's company, drink a killer bottle of Spanish wine (Alto Moncayo, smoky and delicious grenacha), and then come home to watch Christine. We can smile like newlywed dorks the whole night through, because while we can certainly feel inordinately unlucky, really we are the luckiest people ever. Happy second anniversary to us.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Saying Goodbye (always with the goodbyes...)

Last August we adopted a beautiful greyhound, Kayak. We had lost our previous greyhound in February and the house was empty and quiet. We were ready to get another dog, another greyhound. We went back and forth on it--with everything going on, could we handle another big dog? We thought about other, smaller breeds more suited to our house, yard, and lifestyle. But we went to a meet and greet for greyhounds and left in tears--they are such sweet, wonderful dogs. And so, on August 28th, Kayak came home to us.

The problem was that we had discussed how maybe we might not be able to be as present for Kayak as we had for Doc, our beloved greyhound who had passed on. We discussed how with all the infertility treatment that we might not want to be tied down to the responsibilities of a dog (and a big, energetic dog at that). But we ultimately decided that we needed to have another greyhound--a companion to love, to play with, to take for walks. But we didn't realize what a long, painful, arduous journey we were truly on. August 28th was my first transfer date--I went in to have our first pair of embryos transferred to my uterus in the morning and then we went to pick up Kayak when his transport arrived from the track in Florida just hours later. We were so sure we were going to get pregnant and it would all be memories of needle sticks and sharps containers. But we didn't.

And we didn't in December, either, despite my hyperstimulating and despite having to be out of work for an extra week because of that. And we did in August, but only to have that end in surgery and loss and more time off work from a new job this time. Each time it got harder. Each time I was involved in more and more appointments to support my body and mind. Each time we had less and less energy and time to devote to our dog. And he suffered--he became very anxious, had gastrointestinal issues that couldn't be remedied with changes in diet, probiotics, anti-anxiety medication. Not to be gross, but he took maybe 4 solid craps the entire time we had him--over a year. When we decided to try a trial with another family, one with a bigger fenced in yard and a bigger house and more to give to our wonderful (but very emotionally needy) dog, he was solid the whole week through. He was a totally different, non-anxious, non-obsessive-butt-licking, non-destructive dog. He was happy. He was getting what he needed. And that was just not happening with us.

And so tonight, we brought our dog to another family to stay. We transferred our ownership over to a family with a five-year old daughter, a house with a nice big fenced in yard, a family farm where they let dogs run, and frequent hiking and camping trips. They had a greyhound who passed recently and wanted a new one and ours happened to come available when no others were. It was serendipitous. But is is one of the hardest things we have done. We love our dog. We wanted so badly to make it work, to be the family he needed us to be. But we just couldn't. I have nothing left to give a dog right now, when I'm dealing with so much physically and emotionally. I can keep it together for my job, and I can handle my home (sort of), but with other stressors it was just overwhelming and unmanageable. And I held a little irrational resentment against the dog because I thought maybe if I hadn't gone to pick him up and I wasn't unable to rest because I was watching him in his first days during our wait, that maybe the transfer would have worked and we would have been pregnant. It wasn't good for me stresswise, and Kayak was also stressed and not getting everything he needed. We made a decision for the better well-being of our dog, and that decision meant relinquishing him to another, better-suited family. It's heartbreaking.

Seeing his new home tonight made us feel much better. But then as we left, Kayak was so confused. He kept rushing to the door. He kept trying to leave with us. He didn't understand. It was absolutely horrible. We know, just know that he will have a better home with these people. He can run, and hang out with other dogs, and have a little girl who will grow up loving him and adoring him and going everywhere with him. (Bryce's smart-aleck remark was, "It's not fair--Kayak gets a kid before we do!" Ha ha.) It was just so hard to feel like we were abandoning him, even if we were "abandoning" him in the best possible place. We feel like it's yet another thing we just can't succeed at. We aren't able to sustain a pregnancy yet but we just keep losing other things, too. It just seems so unfair. It's like our lives have turned into a horrible country song where everything is lost.

The thing that makes us feel ok with all this is that we know it is the right thing to do. It is infinitely harder to do the right thing for Kayak and let him go to another home that it would have been to be bad dog parents and keep him in a situation that wasn't good for him and wasn't good for us. It's not like when we actually do get pregnant and sustain it that things would get better for Kayak. You don't get more attention as a dog when there's a new baby in the house. It's going to be hard to explain to neighbors that Kayak went elsewhere once they catch on that he's not with us anymore. But we cannot feel guilty about it. We did what was right. It just feels like one more way that infertility is chipping away at our lives, and we can't help but be resentful about it.

Sunday, October 23, 2011


I have two visible scars from my surgery to remove my ectopic pregnancy in August. One teensy tiny one on my left side that is healing normally and looks like a tiny comma. And one angry, inflamed, crusty scar on my right side that just refuses to cooperate. It's bigger, because it's where everything came out. The tools used were bigger, the cut was bigger, so it's reasonable to think that the scar would be bigger. But I just don't understand why it won't heal.

I went to the doctor a few weeks ago because it was gross and irritated, and there is nothing wrong under the surface. No abcess, so bowel issues, no fluid of any kind lurking in the recesses of my subcutaneous. So it is just skin-level. But now it's a few weeks later and it still won't settle down. So I am on antibiotics to try to clear the stupid thing up.

This scar thing is really making me upset. I am not exactly thrilled that I have a permanent, physical reminder that I lost a doomed pregnancy surgically. It is what it is, though. What's irritating is that my scar is not disappearing to red and then shiny pink, leaving a barely perceptible reminder of what almost was. It's not cooperating. It's leaving me with an angry, irritated, constant reminder that my body is not healing as fast as I'd like it to.

I feel almost like my physical scar is a representation of my emotional state of things as well. I thought that I should be ok emotionally by now. It's been a few months, I'm back to work, I'm looking forward to our next step. I should be totally over things, right? I should be healed emotionally by now. Apparently not. This has been one of the hardest weeks for me since everything went horribly south in August. I can't explain it. I have been wretchedly angry, just a seething ball of venom about the stupidest things. I have picked fights. I have had what can only be described as stompy, slammy, three-year-old temper tantrums. I have been like a living and breathing representation of fury. And underneath it all, I have been just drowning in feelings of being overwhelmed, and an utter, all-consuming sadness. But, as my amazing therapist brought to my attention, anger is easy. Working through the sad is hard. Because you have to sit in it. You can't just have a burst that temporarily makes you feel better (while really making you and everyone around you feel much, much worse), you have to really wade through the loss and the feelings of hopelessness and unfairness to come out the other side. And it's not like it's realistic to think that you can come out the other side with no lingering anger or sadness left. It sticks with you. So, on Thursday, when I had hit my absolute breaking point and had been on the verge of tears for days and the most horrible snappish shrew at home, I saw my therapist and was hit with what I knew deep down was true. I am not even remotely through my grieving process for our little lost embryo. I have this bizarre, overwhelming  pressure on myself to be ok, to be over it, but I'm not. So I'm angry. When really I am desperately sad. It's taking a toll on everything--my well-being, my relationship, the climate at home. And so I sat in that sadness Thursday and cried for about 4 hours straight. And while that was hard, I felt better. It's not like I'm not able to feel some hope for our frozen opportunity that's coming down the road. I am. But it's so hard to be truly hopeful and excited when I am so sad about what happened and so terrified that something similar (or worse!) could happen this time. I am scared. And I am grieving. I have scars, inside and out.

I have this weird, kooky feeling like once I've made some progress working through my feelings of loss, of self-blame and guilt, of colossal unfairness (Why, WHY can't we catch a break? Why does everything have to be so freaking hard?), that my outward scar will start to look normal. Or maybe the antibiotics will just kick in and it will look like any other shiny fresh scar destined to fade out of noticeability, and by that time I will feel a little better. It's just so hard to feel the angriness of my body under my clothes, and to see it when I step out of the shower. It slaps me in the face with something I'd like to forget, sort of. But maybe I need a reminder for now, to remind me that it was awfully recent and it is something that I need work out, emotionally. That I can't hide from it and cover it up, because then my sadness seeps out as ugly anger and malice. I don't need to be totally through it by the time we do our frozen cycle, I think that would be unrealistic. But I need to get a grip on things before my scars take over and make me feel like I am not the person I used to be. Clarification. I'm not the person I used to be (how could I be after everything that's happened?), but I still want to be the same kind of person: a well-adjusted person, a balanced person, a reasonably happy person who can laugh in the face of all this adversity. I think I can get back to being that person. Maybe when my scars fade. Maybe when they are blended in with beautiful stretchmarks on my round pregnant belly. I can only hope that's where those scars are headed.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

And My Lie Catches Up With Me

So, a little while ago I wrote a post on how I told a little white lie to the fine people of American Baby magazine. I really enjoy their magazine, it's free, it helps me with my Baby Binder and my vision board, but there's just one little problem. I'm not actually pregnant. So, last March when I was doing an IUI for kicks and giggles to kill time between IVFs, I signed up and put down the due date that would be roughly when I would have been due from the IUI. November 11th or something like that. And then I just didn't think about it--I got my magazine, I got pregnant and for a brief moment thought that finally I wasn't a liar anymore, and then, almost as quickly, was right back to square one.

It may seem like torture to subscribe to a magazine for pregnant women/new mommies of new babies when you are in my situation. I gave it a lot of thought before actually signing up. The way I see it, if it comes at an inopportune time (like the day it came the day before Mother's Day, or right as I was recuperating from the ectopic surgery), I can just stuff it under the coffee table until I am ready to go through it, razor it to death, and put its eviscerated husk in my recycling bin to possibly cause speculation among my neighbors. It's worked out well--I look at it when I feel like I can handle it, and if it's too much, it goes back into hiding until another moment of well-adjusted-ness. And my Baby Binder is really filling up with all kinds of great developmental tips for pregnancy and newborns alike, cool new gear, nursery design tips,  maternity clothes ideas, etc. etc. etc.

But then October's issue came in the mail a few weeks ago, with a giant burst that said "A NEW SECTION JUST FOR YOU!" I looked at it and was so confused. How on earth could they have something just for me? I flipped through it and still couldn't figure it out. So, on the day when I felt mentally ok to read the thing, I got to the end and realized. There was a whole section on being 8 months pregnant. Just for me. Because, if I was actually due in November, I would be 8 months pregnant. (Coincidentally, just like my therapist is actually 8 months pregnant and due right around my fake-but-at-the-time-totally-possible due date. Hilarious.) I laughed. And laughed and laughed and laughed.

I can laugh about this one because it's not tied to something real. It's tied to a lie. If I had actually gotten pregnant from that IUI and then subsequently lost it, it would be a different story. If it was tied to my due date from our last IVF that ended poorly (April 13th), I would have been an unholy mess. Kind of like when someone announced their pregnancy in a faculty meeting and said they were due mid-April, and I was in a funk for a long time because that was when I would have been due had my embryo had a better sense of direction. Or, how that godawful facebook meme for Breast Cancer month came out less than a week after my surgery and my status would have been "I'm six weeks and craving tomatoes" -- cruel on two parts because I was six and a half weeks when I lost my ill-fated pregnancy and because I was overrun by mutant tomatoes in my garden. The tomato part wasn't so very sad, but I cried for a good hour anyway.

But, the 8 months section is just funny. But it poses a problem. Apparently this is a recurrent feature. Next month I will get the 9-months birthing section. And then I will get sections based on how old my mythical baby is, for as long as they do this Just For You! marketing stint. So I'm not really sure how to proceed. Do I call up the fine folks at American Baby and 'fess up in my own way? Say that I've had some loss (true, but not for the November date, so then I feel like bad karma would be headed my way) and the section isn't accurate? Or wait and see if I get actually pregnant and THEN change my date by calling? Either way it's a little embarrassing. And it makes me feel slightly like a bad person. Because I was dishonest, but only because technically I've been expecting for over 2 years. We've been in this babymaking limbo for a long time. So it's like I'm an elephant or something, gestating for a ridiculously long period of time. There, that makes me feel better. Excellent rationalizing. I think I'll just let the magazine slide until I can call with an actual, viable pregnancy update. Which is hopefully soon, very soon.