Saturday, February 26, 2011

The Perils of Sharing

Sharing your fertility journey is a very personal decision. I know people who keep it all to themselves and a very select few, people whose families know but no one else, people (like me) who blab everywhere, and people who share but not specifics. It's a very personal decision that evolves over time. There is no right or wrong--but there are pluses and minuses for each way you can go.

Keeping it mostly to yourself can be isolating--you are going through this major ordeal and have to pretend like everything's ok. If you start dropping hints, like saying that you have a medical condition and leaving it at that, people will wonder but most won't pry past that. The deeper you get into infertility the harder it is to keep it a secret--the appointments expand exponentially, the physical toll on your body becomes apparent, your mood is a scary landscape that gets harder to paint over with rainbows and sunshine. You may have to go in for surgery or procedures and take a lot of time off work. But telling people at work is especially scary--who wants, especially in this economy, to give an employer heads up that you will hopefully be taking maternity leave soon? Not sharing means a sort of double life. The fertility-central life you lead in private, and the "hey, everything's fine" public life where people are constantly recommending vitamin C to you because of the excuses you give for not drinking at work or friend functions (lingering stomach bug, have a cold, on antibiotics, or the not-often-used-because-friends-will-suggest-AA "I can't think of drinking, boy was I trashed last night" excuse). People may say really insensitive things to you and not realize it's insensitive because they have no idea what you're going through -- a friend from yoga had someone bring in their baby to work, and while she was playing with the child they said, "See? Doesn't this make you WANT to have kids?" Ouch. It's exhausting to keep up with the not telling and not lose it on someone. But, it's also protective--you don't have people constantly asking you if you're pregnant yet, or when your test is, or whether you've considered surrogacy. (Thanks so much, Nicole Kidman, for bringing that front-and-center as now people think it is the next step if treatments aren't working out for you. Newsflash--surrogacy is difficult and prohibitively expensive for most normal people. Congratulations to you on your new baby, but oy.) You are isolated from the support people can give you, but you are also mostly isolated from the constant examination of your very personal journey.

On the other hand, if you are completely and totally open, as I have decided to be, it's not quite as freeing as it might seem. I don't have to live a double life. Someone asks why I'm not drinking and I'll say because I'm in the middle of a cycle. Most people I hang out with know and so I don't even have to mention it. Which is a relief. Sort of. The periphery people who know that I'm going through this journey but don't know the details can sometimes take me not drinking the wrong way--winks and raised eyebrows, like me not drinking is the equivalent of a joyous announcement. Nope, it's not. Telling people opens up a world of support that you didn't know was even possible--I have received notes and emails and messages of all kinds from people who I never knew would be so supportive and comforting during this time. People I haven't seen in years and years. People that I wasn't even super close with when I knew them back when. In a way, the more people that know are more people that can be thinking of you and sending you good energy. If I'm sad I don't necessarily have to explain it, because so many people know that I have the right to be sad. Having more people know what we are going through is great when we have good news, when we are ramping up for a new cycle, when we're reporting out developments in our treatment--but there is a flip side. More people knowing means that there are more people you have to tell when things don't go the way you'd hoped. It means that when you get a negative test, you have to repeat that news over. And over. And over. And it lasts for a really long time. Just this past week I went to get my hair cut and I forgot that I hadn't seen my hairstylist since before my last IVF cycle. In general most people talk to their hairstylists, and I am definitely no exception. She was super sweet about it, she didn't want to pry but asked how things were going, how they had turned out. I was a little caught off-guard because I thought my time of saying "No, nope, it didn't work out, AGAIN." was over. Now I had to sit there and explain that it didn't go well, that we had a very similar turnout from the last time despite a more aggressive protocol, and that we are doing another cycle but that it is getting harder to be optimistic. I love when people are interested--I can talk about it at length when someone seems genuinely interested in the topic. It makes me feel like less of a freakshow/sad sap when there is genuine interest. But I wasn't expecting to have this discussion a month later and while I am still so raw and to end up crying in the chair at Scott Miller. So, telling everyone can prolong your pain to an extent because you will always run into someone who knows what you are going through but not where you are, and it will catch you totally off guard and maybe send you into a new wave of deep blue funk.

The other thing about sharing is sharing at work. It is tricky, since you are always leaving for appointments and blood draws and you are hopped up on hormones and not acting like yourself, and you are sometimes just horribly withdrawn and teary. You don't want your coworkers to think that you are slowly losing your sanity. (You are, just for good reason.) You don't want people to start questioning your ability to do your job effectively. But you also don't want everyone to know at work. For me, work was the last to know because I needed it to be a place apart from all this. I needed to be able to compartmentalize. If you just suffered a loss and everyone at work is asking you "how are you?" it's very nice but it makes it extraordinarily difficult to keep it together and do your job. And when you work in a school, you have to be able to hold it together and you can't necessarily just take off early because you are emotionally spent. At least not all the time. But it's hard--people notice that you're not the same. People notice when you're out for days at a time for "medical procedures." People notice when you start gaining weight and in a school environment, if you got married recently and you're putting on a little weight around your middle people tend to think you're pregnant and waiting to announce. So is it better to keep it to yourself and endure the hinting questions so that work is a fertility-free zone, or is it better to spill the beans so that people don't ask you if you're pregnant or think you're a nutcase? Honestly, once you get deep into the meat of infertility treatments, there is no such thing as a fertility-free zone. For me it was easier just to tell the people I saw on a regular basis and tell school leadership on an as-needed basis. But I have to be specific--there are times when I just don't want to talk about it. And for the most part, everyone has been really great about understanding that. So should you tell people at work? It depends on what you need work to be. It depends on the people you work with. It depends on if you need to tell to protect yourself, or if you need to keep it secret to protect yourself. It is a really hard call to make.

Another thing I've found about sharing openly--you can fling that door wide open but getting it to close a bit is much, much harder. I've made the decision to share everything--to answer every question, to educate and hopefully help other people navigating through this swamp.  But that doesn't necessarily mean that I want to talk about it all the time. It also doesn't mean that I don't want to talk about it, either. For as much as I've opened myself up (and by proxy opened up Bryce), there are times when I just want to talk about anything else. And there are times when I need to hash it out, again. I am lucky to have great friends who are not afraid to ask me how to talk to me at any given moment. Because it's different all the time. I don't make it easy. Some days I can talk babies and nurseries and expecting people and hopeful stuff. And some days having children chattering in the background of a telephone call makes me incredibly sad. All I can do is say what I can and can't handle at that point in time. And make it clear--when I say I can handle something, I mean it. If I want to see a picture of your baby or look at children's books or see a cute baby bump, I will ask or do it when I'm ready. I will tell you. And I will need you to believe that I know what's best for me at that time.

For me, sharing is a way to connect with others--to get as much support as I can and educate people on what this process means physically and emotionally. It's a way to avoid having to make up excuses or add the stress of pretending to my already stressed existence. The sharing comes with parameters and I do my best to make it clear what I can and can't handle at any given time. It fluctuates. I found that it was harder to not share than to share openly, but that is not true for everyone. Everyone's journey is very different--work situations are different, family situations are different, and comfort levels with talking about the process at all are different. I think for me, the decision to be so open and take that openness with all its positives and negatives came with accepting that I was fully in this process and I would need a lot of support to get through. Accepting that IVF was our pathway and that it would not be easy and that likely I would not be a miracle story. I accepted the idea of sharing openly and I accept the consequences that go with it. And I thank you for being there, listening and sharing your own stories and offering advice and comfort and love. I am stronger because of it.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Trying (and Failing) to Cope

Ok, so it's been a month. One whole month or only a month, depending on how you look at time following a personal tragedy. I really don't feel like I'm being melodramatic here. I feel more lost at every missed shot at our dream, a dream that so many people don't even have to think about achieving, a dream that seems further and further away each time we fail at what should be a natural process. Yes, we've only done IVF twice and there are people who have done it 4 or more times. But we've had 5 embryos decide not to stay for whatever reason, and I can't help but take that personally and hard. I am functional on a day to day basis but feeling like this process is changing me. I am more often than not sad, angry, irritable, and just plain lost feeling. I feel so badly for Bryce, who on top of being the recipient of my irrational displaced anger, has to stand there and watch me feeling so low. I thought by now I would feel a little better. But I don't. And I have to find some way to turn it around, because I can't go into another IVF cycle with dead eyes. It's just not sending the right message to the Universe.

A few things happened these past few weeks that have showcased how I am just barely hanging on, and how this emptiness in our otherwise fabulous life is eating away at my well-being:

The Crying Baby
Two weeks ago I decided that I needed a massage. It was the day where I am observed at close range for the entire day by a parent and consultant, and on this particular day there wasn't anyone available to support me from the school community. I knew it was going to be a rough day, so I scheduled a 4:00 massage at the place that does my fertility yoga classes. I was so proud of myself for caring for my well-being in this way--knowing that it would be a pretty awful day and preparing some pampering for right after. I showed up and went through the screened in outdoor waiting area. An older woman was waiting for her daughter to come out and was bouncing a completely adorable, but "fresh" 3-month oldish baby on her lap. I smiled and passed her to go in to reception, and inwardly congratulated myself on not feeling sad when passing the baby. I went into the waiting area and settled in with a magazine when it started. The baby started crying. That heartrending, wracking baby cry that goes through me and leaves a raw aching wound because I am not a mom who can soothe that cry. It was far away, but started to sound like it was coming closer. I focused on the magazine. I breathed deeply. And then the lady brought that sobbing baby to the couch opposite mine to try to comfort him. I just couldn't take it anymore. I went into the reception area and said "Can I please move to the other waiting area upstairs? Because I just, I just, I just can't." And I started sobbing myself. How horribly sad and embarrassing. The receptionist, who knew that I just failed a cycle, came over and hugged me and said she was sorry and of course--but then I felt worse. Other than a commiserating "I'm sorry," there was no need for an apology--this place has a fertility clinic in it but it is also a wellness center, a spa, a yoga studio...people are allowed to bring their babies there. It just was too much for me to handle. I enjoyed my massage but it took 15 minutes for the hot, silent tears to stop soaking into the face pillow.

The Knuffle Bunny Incident
The same week as the massage incident, the Early Childhood class that is killing me slowly had a fun assignment. We were to choose an age range (I chose 3-5) and select 10 picture books that would support children's self esteem, developmental progress, and navigating life's challenges. I was excited. I love picture books, and love picking out books for children. So I headed to the library. I was determined--I can go and look at children's books, in the children's library, and be a totally normal person about it. I can celebrate children's literature without any bitterness or sadness. And it started out that way--honest. I picked books about new siblings, books about being different, books about working mommies coming home, books about sharing and not hitting. I picked up The Adoption Book and started to get teary eyed and so put it back and chose It's Okay to be Different instead. I was doing this! I was passing young families reading to their little tiny children and not overwhelmed with sadness that this wasn't my afterschool activity! I was strong and coping like a champ! Or... not. I picked up Knuffle Bunny because I love it and what child hasn't lost their lovey? And then I noticed the new Knuffle Bunny book-- Knuffle Bunny Free. I haven't read it yet, and so sat down and got to business. Big mistake. Warning--I'm totally going to spoil the ending here. In the third Knuffle Bunny book, Trixie is older and she is taking Knuffle Bunny on a trip to Holland to visit grandparents. As you can guess, she leaves the bunny on the plane. There's no recovering that bunny now, and so Trixie has to cope with losing her lovey and imagining life without it. No choice. She has this beautiful dream of Knuffle Bunny visiting all the children of the world on that plane and bringing them the happiness and comfort that it brought her. She decides maybe she is a big girl and doesn't need the bunny anymore. They get on the plane to go home and wouldn't you know it, that freaking bunny is in the pocket right in front of Trixie (eye rolling here, like that would ever happen). But, there is a crying baby on the plane and Trixie decides to be a big girl and be generous and she gives that baby Knuffle Bunny because he needs it more than she does. Now, up to this point I am fine. It is the end-end that got me. Trixie gets her first letter from the boy's parents, but then the last spread is a letter from her dad about how proud he is of her. And pictures and a timeline of how he hopes that when she grows up, and goes to school, and gets married, and has her own baby, that her baby is just like her. And....meltdown. Because you look at that progression--education/career to marriage to baby--and it seems so natural and so easy. No daddy writes to his daughter and says, "When you go to school, and after a 10-year detour through hell meet the person you were meant for and marry him, and then go through infertility treatments, maybe you will have a baby and she will be just like you. Or maybe not." I barely held it together in the library and made it out to the car and sobbed for half an hour in the car, and then for another half an hour when I got home. It's just so unfair that we can't have the easy timeline.

It seems every day there's something else that reminds me. It's so hard because life goes on, and I have to find some way to deal. There will be babies in waiting rooms and stores. Babies cry all the time in Wegmans and I just have to figure out how to ignore the heartbreak so I can buy my organic milk without looking like a lost soul, a crazy depressed lady. There will be pregnancy announcements and birth announcements and a parade of babies on Facebook. I will, at some point, maybe need to hold a baby. I will try not to freak that baby out by quietly sobbing onto its new-baby-smelling head. I can try to avoid things that will make me sad but it's not always possible. Unfortunately I can avoid going into Pottery Barn Kids but all the strollers in the mall aren't quarantined to Build-A-Bear and Carter's...they tend to roam free and all I can do is put my dead eyes on and pretend not to see them. Pretend not to see how young the parents look who are pushing these strollers around and pretend not to calculate in my head how old I will be when my kids are 5, 10, 16. (I did this in Robotics last night and was horrified to think that if we are successful this next time I will be 51 when my child is 16 and possibly on a Robotics Team. Very depressing.) I need to not let the bitterness swallow me up and change who I am, on a permanent basis. It is ok for me to feel angry and bitter and jealous, and it is ok for me to tell people that I just can't cope with certain events right now. It is not ok to stay that way all the time. I don't want to turn into one of those creepy dried apple faces, squinty and pinched and bitter. I just have to hope that I will go back to me sooner than later, so that I can handle the crying babies and depressing children's book montages and swarms of fertile people in the mall. And do it with a smile and maybe even a sarcastic joke, like I used to be able to.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Creating a Vision

After finding out that our second IVF failed, I had a hard time thinking positively. I felt a little suffocated by all the baby things I had scattered so hopefully around our house (bibs in the pillowcases! A onesie on the guest bed! Pregnancy/Conception magazines next to the bed! Baby name books on the table!). Bryce, wonderful man that he is, packed up the tiny bits of baby-bringing paraphernalia and hid them where I couldn't see them anymore. It was really only a handful of items I had allowed myself to bring into the house to let that baby know he/she was welcome and anxiously awaited, but after she/he failed to show up in any small way it seemed like the house was littered with baby crap. After Bryce hid everything, there was a sense of relief. But then I got a crazy idea.

I decided, after hearing about it from friends at a clinic that weaves holistic and spiritual practices into their fertility treatments, that Bryce and I should make a Vision Board. The clincher was an email from a yoga friend, who said that she made a Vision Board after her divorce and everything she put on it found its way to her, one way or another. The idea is that you get a posterboard or cork board (or both) and put a picture of yourself in the middle. Then you surround yourself with pictures and words that embody the things you would like to see in your future--it could be a new career, finding peace with yourself, the partnership you envision in your future that hasn't happened yet, or just what you would like your life to look like moving forward. Or, in our case, what we would like our family to become. You apparently have to be careful--you are feasibly putting out a wish list to the Universe and inviting these things to come to you--so you have to watch to make sure that there aren't hidden mixed messages lurking on the images you choose. If you don't want a dog, you are going to want to cut the dog out of the cute picture of a family having a picnic together. Or else the Universe could bless you with that unwanted dog, I guess. It's a little New Age-y and fruity, but I like it. I like it because it's a bit teacher-y. You have to think about what you want to put on that board, and it opens all kinds of interesting discussions and revelations about what your subconscious is doing. Or you can read into nothing at all, because reading into everything can make you crazy.

So, we have a big piece of foamboard that I thought was ugly so I covered it in pretty fabric. We have a wedding picture in the middle:

The fabric made the blank slate a little less empty and stark. I started on the project with a vengeance. When I start a project, I go a little nuts. I had all the pregnancy/conceiving magazines out on the table and I hacked away at them. (Was I punishing them a little for their poor baby-bringing performance with my scissors? Maybe a little.) If they wouldn't help our baby come to us just by being in the house, I was going to put them to work. I cut out pictures of cute babies that looked like they could be a mix of me and Bryce. I cut out lots of pictures of daddies and little girls, and even scored a picture of a daddy coloring with his twin girls (hello, Universe... I am totally ok with twins...) I found pictures of kids out in the woods, even one really spooky picture from an LL Bean catalog that features two school-age boys hiking at what could be Jordan Pond in Acadia that look creepily like mini-Bryces at that age. I found a picture from a Land of Nod catalog of a nursery that I liked. I started positioning the images around the board.

Then came some of the revelations... Bryce noticed that there were a lot of daddies and babies or kids, and a lot of babies, a few pregnant ladies, but not a whole lot of mommies and babies. I panicked. What if my subconscious skipped pictures of moms and babies because somehow I'm not ready or have some spiritual block against it? What if this is all my fault? And then I stopped being a psycho. I realized that I hadn't put pictures of mommies and babies because I hadn't found pictures where the mommies looked like me (lots of blonde moms in the magazines, and lots of fancy looking brunettes, but no casually dressed, low-maintenance, goofy-looking brunettes. I am underrepresented in these magazines!). So I widened my scope. I looked at what the mommies and babies were doing and focused less on hair color. I went to Barnes and Noble and bought parenting magazines without crying in the car on the way home. Now there's lots more mommies and babies, and family units together that don't physically look like us but are doing the things we want our family to do. It's funny to see what we each choose--I like parents reading books to their children, being goofy at the table, going outdoors and hiking in the woods. I have inquisitive kids out in nature, and a few goofy-looking toddlers making faces because no kid of mine is NOT going to be a goof! Bryce has outdoorsy kids, families sitting together with books, kids loading the dishwasher and cleaning, pictures of toys put neatly away in bins. Organized, happy, inquisitive, bookish, responsible, goofy, outdoorsy kids grace our vision board from all sides. Except apparently I like filling the space from the edges in--nothing is touching our picture yet. Which set off another round of crazypants behavior. "Oh no! I am holding the babies at a distance! We have a moat of emptiness around us!" Luckily Bryce keeps his wits about him when I'm nuts and rearranged some tacked up pictures so some are touching us. Most of the pictures are tacked, so they are not permanently placed. So now the moat has a few bridges around it to babyland.

It's funny that having these pictures of babies doesn't make me sad. It's not a depressing exercise--it's fun, and hopeful, and forward-looking. It's a way to jumpstart our conversations about what we want our family to look like and be, when we finally get to that point where it's more than just two plates around the dining room table. And it's kind of funny to look through all those magazines and find the supremely bizarre stuff that's out there. On an ironic but not quite bizarre note, Kourtney Kardashian graces the vision board not once but twice because she happened to be featured in Parenting magazine and, while I will never wear her crazy shoes or be as vapid as she appears to be, I think she does great things with her baby son that I would like to do. Well, at least in a photo shoot. On the creepy side there are some seriously odd-looking children. Case in point, this ad with a Benjamin-Button-esque baby filling the page--
Maybe he's cute. But to me, this is one creepy prematurely-elderly-adult looking baby. And I can look at the ad and laugh and not cry. Which is progress. The downside to working on this project over time is that it sits on our dining room table or entryway desk while we're working on it--which is convenient for us but probably really bizarre for our teenage neighbor who comes to feed the dog on days we don't get home until 7 or so. I can only imagine what he must think of the bizarre bulletin board covered in babies, tastefully naked pregnant women, and young families with our wedding picture in the middle. He must think we are a bunch of weirdos. But soon it will be done and we can hang it in an easily accessible, but out of public view, place so that we can reflect on it daily. I am excited for when we finish our Vision Board--not because I think it's some mainline to a magical genie who will grant our baby wish, but because it is a positive way for us to plan for the future and envision the family we will have, sometime soon.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Chip, Chip, Chippin' Away

I never love infertility. But today, I absolutely hate it. I hate its insidious grasp on every aspect of our lives. Someone recently asked, "Does everything you do have to do with fertility? You should find a way to escape from it." Excellent question. Yes, fertility touches absolutely everything. And escaping it? A beautiful idea, but incredibly difficult to execute. Infertility just chip, chip, chips away at everything in your life.

I mean, we're trying to ignore fertility, at least a little bit. We are on a bit of a break. By this I mean that since getting my second negative pregnancy test after IVF, I have backed off slightly. My schedule doesn't revolve around going to fertility yoga, fertility support groups, going to acupuncture and Maya Massage and checking message boards all the time. For two weeks I stopped taking my prenatal vitamins and my fertility-friendly supplements. I wanted a period of time where everything I did wasn't with the wellbeing of a nonexistent fetus in mind. We've been drinking wine and margaritas with abandon because we can. I even ate leftovers out of a microwaved plastic container (the horror!). Part of this is because I needed a break from the all day every day things I did to improve my chances of conceiving that obviously didn't do one lick of good either time. I am pissed off at my body. I am pissed off at the money and time that I've spent doing all of these good things and increasing my chances and creating a nice warm sustaining healthy home for a baby that's so far being incredibly obstinate and refusing to grace us with his/her presence. I will go back to these activities and rituals (sooner than later) but right now I need my schedule to not revolve around infertility. We don't even have doctor's appointments, other than the follow-up.

But, despite this break, we cannot escape the fine, sticky filaments of despair and uncertainty that have deeply entrenched themselves in our daily life. I get out of the shower and see the bruising from my progesterone shots on my hips and wonder just why it is that I'm not still taking those shots to sustain a healthy pregnancy. I am wondering what next school year is going to look like since I am not going out on maternity leave in mid-September and the earliest we could feasibly have a baby is now spring 2012--and with the frightening school budget situation and talks of layoffs  floating about in the ether, I can add employment uncertainty to my stresses. I am taking an early childhood education class to help bolster my marketability, but the timing of this class is horrible. I had to speak to my professor after the first class to let her know that I may have to leave abruptly (and of course come back) or I might be visibly upset but it's because I just failed my second IVF and I had no idea that this class would be so baby centric. Here I was thinking it would be mainly focused on 3-5 year olds, which I can totally handle. Every time I go, discussion inevitably turns to everyone's parenting of their own little ones, to how incredibly fulfilling it is to be a mommy. Which would be fine except I want to raise my hand when the class is asked, "how many of you are parents?" and say "I'm not a parent yet but I desperately want to be and just can't seem to accomplish that, so I can share what I want for my children but they don't exactly exist despite everything we've done to make that happen." But that would make me the freakshow of the class. I already feel like a freakshow for feeling that I had to share my struggle with my professor because her class makes me feel like crying half the time. Luckily, she was very understanding, and not in a "oh jeez, this lady's crazy" kind of way. But, I have to move on and push those feelings of inadequacy and desperation and emptiness to the side so that I can be certified to teach PreK and K and do early intervention, and keep my career moving forward in these uncertain times.

Infertility isn't just a process you go through. It's a state of mind. I cannot go through a day and NOT think about how I'm not pregnant. There is not a day that goes by that Bryce and I don't talk about our future plans or what we can do better next time, or get frustrated over how infertility makes it impossible to live any sort of carefree life at all. We have to be super careful of our finances, because who knows how many more cycles we have to pay for and what additional costs could eventually become a part of our process. We can't run off and go for a 4 day cruise to "get away from it all" because the whole time we'd be worrying if we're spending baby money to do it. And probably the ship would be full of pregnant people or young families. We'd have to pick either a singles ship or a geriatric ship to truly escape from it all. Future planning is part of our daily life, even though we're not in a cycle now and won't be for a while.  I've been talking with the clinic to get us on the schedule for the summer. I don't want to find out my results when I'm in school in September. So we work backwards, and it affects us even now. I don't want to work this summer because I want to be totally stress-free for this next cycle and not be working without a break in 95 degree classrooms with poor ventilation for 6 hours each day. Seems reasonable to ask. But, again, in these uncertain times it's not going to go over easily.  This timing also means that I may be taking some medication when we're on our annual Maine vacation. This means our Maine vacation will be within 3 months before retrieval and we should be cutting back if not eliminating wine and cocktails. This means our Maine vacation won't be what it usually is--as total an escape as we can manage, with really good bottles of wine every night on the deck of camp or out at fancy restaurants and the occasional French rose in the afternoon over a book, after a busy morning of kayaking on the lake. Yeah, yeah, it's all for the greater good but it is so infuriating.  And it causes arguments. My argument was, "Well, if we'd been successful I would have been in my second trimester and looking pretty damn cute if I do say so myself, and unable to drink anyway so it would be cut back or eliminated on the vacation." To which the counterargument was, "That's HAPPY elimination. That's CELEBRATORY elimination. This is just further punishing us for not being able to do what countless couples can do without thinking about it, while drunk! It's punishment for something totally out of our control." So, we're not even close to our relaxing awesome vacation that we look forward to every year and already it's tainted. We're not alcoholics or anything--we can go on vacation and not drink. But when you are wine people and the tasting and enjoying and pairing with food is such a big part of your experience on vacation, it just seems unfair. And it is.

So thanks a freaking lot, infertility, for putting your stink on everything. Thank you for rubbing it in our noses that we are totally incapable of planning anything without considering your impact on our daily lives. Thank you for giving us this state of mind that will never go away--infertility impacts you far after you build your family in whatever way you eventually succeed. And I guess, thank you for making us stronger people, blah blah blah, for going through this with bravery and spunk. Nope, I take it back. I'm tired of being a stronger person. I'm not grateful. I hope we kick your ass.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

A Flood of Kindness and Rising Hope

Thank you. Thank you to everyone who has shown sympathy, said comforting words, called or texted or facebook-messaged me and Bryce during this really difficult week and a half. It has meant so much to see how many people come out of the woodwork to support you during a difficult time--I feel very lucky. I have had people I haven't seen or spoken to since high school send me wonderful notes of encouragement. I have had cards and goodies sent through the mail or personally delivered. I have had daily phone calls from friends and family to make sure I'm not sinking into a no-baby blues pit of despair. And thank you to those who specifically asked how Bryce was doing--he is as frustrated and upset and angry about our failure as I am and can be forgotten in the physical drama of everything that happens to me. We are a team! (A bit of a sad team at the moment, but still a team through everything.) Thank you to everyone who risked saying the wrong thing (don't worry, didn't happen) so that they could express their support, concern, and encouragement for a difficult and uncomfortable situation. Saying the wrong thing is infinitely better than saying nothing at all.

Every email, every text, every message, every in-person "I'm so sorry" has just been this tremendous wave of kindness. And at first, all the love hurt a little bit--every time I checked an electronic device there was another reminder that I wasn't pregnant, again. I cried a little every time my phone alerted me that there was a new message of any kind. But I can tell you--I feel so loved and supported for all the encouragement and sympathy and offers to take me out drinking (now that I can for a short while). Even the doctors, nurses, and staff at our clinic have just surprised the daylights out of me by the personal messages, emails, and hugs I've gotten since going back this week for both the free counseling they offer (huge bonus) and the followup appointment with our doctor. I would love to get those hugs for congratulatory purposes, but was overwhelmed by how caring my medical team was when I saw them recently.

I am feeling much better--still angry and sad, but much more functional. I can hear children in the background of telephone conversations again and not be so sad I have to get off the phone. I can be in the same room with the "Babies of 2010" special newspaper insert that is, no joke, about 40 pages of baby pictures and sits on the lunch table in my department office. I do still have a flight response when I see a hugely pregnant teacher coming down the hall or into the library when I'm there and if I can, I go the other way (and, working in a school, there is a neverending supply of hugely pregnant teachers). But I am not on the verge of tears every moment of every day, and for that I am grateful. It comes and goes, but I am mostly okay now. I think a lot of the reason behind being okay is that we have a new plan.

Yes, yes, I am not supposed to plan anything because infertility usually finds some way to screw over your plans. But, I feel so much hope when I have a plan to cling to--an approximate date and timing for our next cycle, an idea of what that cycle might look like, and possible procedures that might improve my response in the meantime. It's February, so the summer is not too far away. It will be here before we know it. I am also feeling hopeful because when we went to make our plan we weren't told this was an impossible quest. We definitely have some embryo quality issues going on. We definitely have an issue with the difference in my initial response to the drugs (buttloads of follicles!) versus my mature egg haul (still very respectable, but a fraction of the number of follicles I start with). We thought maybe there would be less enthusiasm for our case, but that didn't happen. It just might take us 3 or 4 IVF attempts instead of the 1 or 2 we were hoping for. We have other discussions to have in the event that we outright fail the next two attempts, but we are not there yet. We don't have to have the alternate route conversation, yet. Everyone is still rooting for us, rooting for our possibilities, and feeling positive that a next attempt could be the one for us. I am shoring up my hope and resiliency stores and getting ready for the next round. I am thinking I will approach this next cycle differently. The battle has been scheduled, we just have to adjust our strategies this time. I am still feeling good about 2011--but now I am calling it "The Year of the Pregnancy" and not "The Year of the Baby." An adjustment that felt huge and desolate last week but now is just feeling like a little detour on this twisty turny journey that will result in a baby (or two!) in our household. We are already a family, but we will expand and grow, physically and emotionally. We will hold a tiny human in our arms and marvel at everything it took to get to that amazing moment.