Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Good JuJu

In all the cycles that I have done so far, I have had my rituals to keep me company. It seems to be a cumulative process--with each cycle I gather more rituals and just can't seem to abandon any of the previous ones in case they just needed time to work. This cycle has been no different--I kept many of my previous efforts to control the uncontrollable and cajole the universe into gifting us with a child. But I added on this time. Significantly. I added rituals, and I added symbols into my daily life. Sometimes I feel like a crazy person for all that I do on a daily basis, but I have found that by no means am I all alone here. Some of my rituals have been adapted from others who also find the need to bring some ceremony into all this infertility hoo-ha. To bring some extra good luck. To, even if they are normally completely logical people, invite a little magic into their lives in hopes it makes a difference.

My rituals were pretty similar this time--I burn red candles every day, I bought onesies, I display the onesies in our bedroom, I listen to Circle + Bloom meditations every night, I write in my IVF journal every night before I go to bed. I switched out my red candles to tealights so I could burn them down each day, and burn two at a time to convey my openness to (or lust for) twins. When I do burn a bigger red candle it's a double-wick (again with the twins). I didn't stuff baby clothes in pillowcases this time, but I did decide to display the onesies in our bedroom instead of in the guest/FutureBaby room, for a change of pace. We even got a surprise ritual--my doctor had a fertility statue that was gifted by a successful patient. I was definitely not expecting to have a fertility statue waved over us at our baseline appointment in our highly clinical setting, but I was all for it! I tried to figure out where she's from, and it looks like she's most similar to a fertility image from Ghana. Here she is:

Starting with the fertility statue, the symbols I invited into our process were different than before. I love owls, and owls have been my good luck charm, but I thought maybe it was time to mix it up a bit. They haven't exactly been the magical totem creature I had hoped so far, so maybe they just needed some friends. The owl itself wasn't a fertility symbol, it was a critter I felt drawn to (something that is apparently contagious...owls are very "hot" right now and, snob that I am, it makes me irritable). I have received some beautiful owls that I love in the course of this cycle, and I definitely think they still hold some luck. But maybe I needed to do some research on actual fertility symbols. Get some hard-core fertility juju in this house.

Oddly, I started with my earrings. I have a ton of earrings, which most of the time I forget to wear. But, over the years I have been given quite a few interesting earrings and I have kept them all, even if they weren't something I would wear at the time they were gifted. I have earrings all the way back from high school. I thought I'd look through and see if there were any fertility symbols lurking in my jewelry. I did an internet search, and found that I had not one but FOUR pairs of hefty-fertility-symbol earrings!

I have a pair of Kokopelli earrings that I'm pretty sure were a birthday present from my Mom many years ago. I had no idea that this hunchbacked flute player was actually a powerful fertility deity in the belief system of Native Americans in the American SouthWest! I knew he had something to do with music, and he was a trickster figure, but no clue on the fertility piece. Apparently that hump is full of fertile prizes. According to two different legends, the hump is a sack full of seeds for the spring harvest, OR it is a sack full of unborn children that are disseminated to maidens. The seeds make for a prettier picture (otherwise, taken literally, that sack is a horror show), but I like the idea that this flute playing trickster is running around delivering babies to the ladies. He's a slightly more attractive stork. Apparently Kokopelli's flute brings the spring and melts the snows. Another legend said that villages would celebrate all night when they heard the spring flute of Kokopelli, dancing and singing and making merry. In the morning all the maidens would be pregnant. Now that is a powerful fertility god! Kokopelli has also apparently been censored in the versions that show up in jewelry and wall art and tattoos. The original Kokopelli had a ginormous, um, attribute, also signifying his role in the fertility arena. Now he just has a huge flute. Maybe that flute is an ancient insemination blowgun. Who knows? The Kokopelli earrings went into heavy rotation.

The lotus flower is a fertility symbol and a symbol of rebirth, among other things. It is found in Ancient Egyptian, Hindu, and Buddhist traditions. The cool thing about the lotus flower is that it rises from the muck and mire to bloom, pure and beautiful, at the top of the water. It apparently sinks each night and rises back up each morning, in a cycle. It's a flower that's tied closely to creation stories in several cultures--the sun god rose from a lotus, the world unfurled from a lotus in the universal sea, the Brahman was found sitting in the center of a lotus at creation. It's a beautiful flower, with a beautiful backstory. And I just happened to have beautiful silver and amethyst earrings that Bryce bought me in Bar Harbor, on our annual beautiful vacation. They are handcrafted in Tibet, and I was drawn to them. I didn't notice until later that the silver diamonds held lotus flowers. It was kismet! 

They're trying to hold hands...
I don't even know where I got my frog earrings...I think I bought them myself in college. They are silver and dangly and I don't wear them hardly ever...until now. Because, as it turns out, frogs are also a fertility symbol. In multiple cultures, too. In Ancient Egypt, frogs were the symbol of the midwife goddess, Heqit, who oversaw conception and birth. Each spring when the Nile flooded and receded and the crops could grow, millions of frogs came out of the mud. So frogs were also a signal of spring and the bountiful harvest to come, thanks to that muddy fertile soil. Similarly, in ancient South America (very fancily called "pre-Columbian Meso-America" in one article I read), frogs were a symbol of spring and coming rains. Tribes in ancient Peru and Bolivia would put out little frog statues on the hillsides to bring on the rain and the fertile conditions needed for harvest. In a nice parallel to the  Ancient Egyptians, Ceneotl, the goddess of childbirth and fertility, was also represented by frogs (odd looking frogs with many teats. Which is weird because frogs don't nurse, but whatever). Who knew that frogs were so closely tied to fertility legend?

The Ankh, a cross with a loop at the top, is an Ancient Egyptian symbol for life. But it is also a fertility symbol (not a stretch, from life to fertility). And, it just happens that my stepfather, on his travels to Egypt maybe 10 years ago, brought me back some Ankh earrings straight from...Egypt. That is some serious authenticity! The actual symbol is a melding of female and male representations--the loop at the top representing the womb, and the bar of the cross hanging below representing a phallus. Combine the two together and BAM! You've got the union of both which hopefully results in fertility and the beginnings of life. I was excited to find another meaningful way to wear the Ankh earrings...the last time I wore them for an extended period of time was when I co-taught a unit on Ancient Egypt in sixth grade. Call me Ms. Frizzle.


That was it for the earrings, but I actually found one more symbol that was meaningful, again across cultures. Apparently, the elephant is a powerful symbol for fertility. In India, some people give gifts of little clay elephants to the bride and groom for fertility encouragement. I actually found a website while trolling for more information today that said that for fertility feng shui, you should put an elephant figurine in your bedroom for better baby luck. Holy guacamole, this was a great find! Because earlier in my cycle, I had read something about elephants when looking up my earrings, and I had borrowed a small ceramic elephant from my mom to put in our bedroom.  I had unwittingly practiced some powerful feng shui. I'm sure it helps that this particular elephant is a teapot, so it is a vessel meant to hold something (much like myself) AND the lid of the teapot is a little baby elephant. TWO elephants for the price of one! Seriously, seriously good juju.

So, with all of this madness going through my brain, what I can take from it is that I feel like I have done everything I can to make this work. I know that frog earrings are just frog earrings, but if there is some ancient hoodoo lurking in them (doubtful, since I probably bought them in Santa Monica) I will take the help! This is a time when so much is out of my hands. I may not be able to guarantee that my eggs will fertilize or embryos will implant, but I can put an elephant in my bedroom.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Garden Therapy

There's something about getting your hands dirty--not a little smudged, but serious caked-on layers of mud and soil--that is incredibly calming. When I garden, I like to do it without gloves on so that I can feel the warmth of the soil and really grab hold of the root ends of pesky weeds. I like my hands to come in contact with the earth.

The sunny side garden now.
I have always been interested in gardening, but I was always a dabbler. Until about 4 or so years ago, when it became an obsession and I developed and designed my own beds. I researched plants, pored over catalogs, made plans and started a gardening binder. My first project was a side garden at Bryce's house, which when I was dating him was just a fence with a burning bush and a ton of pachysandra. I HATE pachysandra. I offered to pull it all up and plant a perennial bed in the shady spot, even though I didn't live there yet. (My thought was, if it works out as I suspected it would, then I would enjoy the fruits of my labors daily. If it didn't work out, then Bryce would have a daily reminder of the horrible mistake he'd made in letting me go. Nice thoughts, hmmm?) I got the garden started and it enjoyed a year of first-year-sparse-perennial status. I tried to be patient, since it typically takes three years for a perennial bed to fill in and bush out. But then the neighbor cut down her big tree and my full shade garden became a full sun garden. The fun really began! I transplanted truly shady plants and went a little nuts buying full-sun plants, which are slightly more fun than shade varieties. The transplants started another bed in the backyard. And then we decided to get married in the backyard, and so sodded where our greyhound had destroyed the lawn. Which meant to "save money" I planned three more beds around the border of our woodland property so that we could sod less. It was tremendous fun.

What does this have to do with infertility? Quite a bit, actually.

4  tomato types, 5 pepper varieties, herbs, salad, cucumbers

Our fertility journey began the month before our wedding. My gardens went from being a pretty addition to our home to being therapeutic time in nature. I have continued to expand the beds, transplanting and replacing and filling in with annuals. I have delved into vegetable gardening this year--Bryce built me raised beds for my birthday and I received gifts of gardening supplies, seeds, and plants to start off my Farmer Jess project. It's going pretty well--my tomatoes are taller than Bryce (quite a feat since he's 6'3"), I have a zillion cucumbers maturing on the vines, and my peppers are off to a great start. Unfortunately my bell peppers are being shaded by the gargantuan tomatoes, so I'm not sure how they will turn out, but you live and you learn. I'll switch them next year.

Gardening is terrific therapy for infertility for a multitude of reasons:
A new, fun rudbeckia.
  • Being out in nature tending to plants and coaxing life out of green things is a fairly fertile thing to do. I like to think that surrounding myself with fertility will help bestow me with some.
  • Weeding, transplanting, pruning, trimming, edging--all these things are a way of attempting to control nature. It gives me a sense of being able to tame natural chaos, even when I can't seem to make heads or tails of my own biology. 
  • Nature always returns to that chaotic state--there is always weeding to do. Weeding is actually the most relaxing thing to me about gardening. You go out and your garden is a mess, filled with unwelcome weedies that want to squelch your beautiful specimens. A few hours later of methodical, repetitive pulling and you have a clean slate once again--visible evidence of your hard work. I go into a trancelike state when weeding and have no time for thoughts of any kind. It's lovely. 
  • Gardening gives you something else to focus on besides your follicles, or your estrogen counts, or how many cycles you have left should this one fail. You can focus on the deadheading, or what to put in the holes that always appear in the garden (squirrels move stuff, plants run their course and die or reseed themselves in alternate locations). 
  • Gardens are flexible and somewhat unpredictable--you can move stuff around, and thanks to the wildlife stuff can get moved around for you. You can leave spaces to fill in with interesting annuals and change things up year to year. You can try to structure the garden, but I prefer to follow the cottage garden look--go with nature. It can be freeing to see where a garden will go and work with the chaos of nature. It can inspire you to attempt to apply that same philosophy to your cycle--let go and stop trying to control/predict things with such a tight fist. Treat your reproductive system like a cottage garden.
  • Gardening is a creative outlet and a relatively low-risk way to try new things. I am trying to be more flexible in my gardens. I used to ban all red and yellow from my color schemes. I haven't embraced red, but I am inviting yellow daylilies and butterfly daisies into my front bed. I have orange echinacea that may be my favorite now. I am not a fan of cleome (spider flower), but bought an annual version that is more compactly flowered and purple. I am stepping outside my comfort zone. I even have actual impatiens, not just New Guinea ones (the only ones I like) in a hanging basket in a dark corner of the backyard. I hate impatiens. But they sure are pretty in that corner. Gardening helps me to be less rigid. Which helps me be less stressed in cycles where going with the flow and trying unknown things could be just the ticket to my success. I can warm up to  overcoming fear of the unknown by embracing pink impatiens and yellow flowers in my previously purple-blue-pink-and-white-only beds. Baby steps, little green baby steps.
  • Gardening is tending to life. I thought it was really ironic that for my 35th birthday what I wanted most was the means to propagate fruits and vegetables (basically plant ovaries) and more flowers. My beds are an impressive array of functioning sex organs. We may not be able to get our gonads to function properly, but man, are my chorophylly progeny successful. It's an irony that didn't escape me, but I like the fact that when I'm out there, I'm getting things to grow and develop and cooperate.  Maybe our reproductive systems will follow suit.
  • From a strictly practical standpoint, I will be my own farm stand later this season. I will have fresh, uber-local, organically-grown produce at my disposal. I have will have tomatoes until the apocalypse, apparently. I've already eaten some of my mesclun mix and it was yummy. I can't wait to taste all my hard work and know exactly where that healthful nutrition came from.
Those are just some of many reasons why gardening is good therapy for my infertile self. I love working in my garden. I love planning for my garden. I love sitting back and enjoying my garden. I love the sense of calm and accomplishment it gives me in a time that is fraught with tension and frustration. Gardening helps me to find my inner peace and a small, consistent patch of beauty in these difficult times.
A daylily from my backyard.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Infertility, You Suck

Infertility sucks for so, so many reasons. But yesterday it sucked because it robbed me of enjoying one of my closest friends' beautiful wedding to its fullest. The day was beautiful, the ceremony was touching, the bride was gorgeous and the groom was dashing. The ceremony was at 5:30, and I had to get there by 4:50ish as I was the violinist for the ceremony (did I mention the music was lovely?). I figured that with the ceremony at 5:30, the cocktail hour would go until about 6:30, dinner at 7, and maybe I could get a little dancing in by the time we had to leave. Which was early. Because I have to give myself shots between 9 and 10 in the evening, I wanted to be home somewhere between 9:30 and 10:00 for consistency's sake (9:40 seems to be a pretty consistent shoot-em-up time once I've got all the mixing and dosing and needle-swapping figured out).  So, we were to turn into sad little withered infertile pumpkins at 9:15.

The problem was that the day was so beautiful and the dinner was so lovely that pictures and dinner went until about 8:30. And then the sun was setting and it was gorgeous in the vineyards so the newlyweds stole off for some pictures (which I cannot wait to see since the backdrop was just stunning, not to mention the people in them). But it meant that while I was having a wonderful time at my table, talking to close friends and a friend I haven't seen in years (but it felt like a smooth continuation of conversations with a 10-year gap), I lost track of the time. Bryce leaned over and said "it's just about 9:00, we had better start the goodbyes" and I just felt stunned, dejected, and a more than a little angry. We were just getting started! I had to find the bride and groom to say goodbye, which meant stealing the matron of honor, Sara, away from conversation on the deck to go on a hunt. I couldn't help it, I cried when I told Sara that I had to find the bride, Sarah (yes, two Sara(h)s, sorry for the confusion) and say goodbye so that I could go shoot up. I was just so pissed--I was missing the cake cutting, the father-daughter dance, the mother-son dance, and ALL of the dancefloor action. Sarah is my dance party buddy, and there would be no rocking out to Lady Gaga, Britney Spears, FloRida, none of it. Sara consoled me and said I was doing what I had to do, but it just stunk. I found my friend and her husband (!) and said a tearful goodbye. She was having none of it--"Don't cry for me, Argentina!" she exclaimed--"you've got to do what you've got to do!". Despite the rally cry, I cried the whole way home.

It just sucks so much that infertility affects everything, absolutely everything. I can't have a social calendar of any kind because of these very situations--now it's a wedding that I have to leave woefully early due to shot administration, later I am missing a bachelorette day because it is at the end of my two-week wait and out of town, and that is just not a good combination. I don't like to go out to dinner because a) it's expensive and b) I have to time it around my shots and c) I don't feel very well during this time. I am stuck having to explain to people that I can't go to their baby shower/welcoming party/graduation party/general get-together/birthday party/etc. etc. etc. And I just have to hope that everyone understands that this just is what I have to do right now. I am not happy about it, either, but it is what it is. When you are extending this kind of money and time and physical stress to have a baby, something that the vast majority of the population does for free and with relative ease, you have to do whatever it takes to protect your investment. Because thanks to the high-tech route we have to take at this point, we can try a grand total of twice per year between taking time off and accumulating the funds and medication. We do not have unlimited tries ahead of us. The road will end at some juncture, we just hope it's a nice cul-de-sac with tricycles and strollers littering the driveway. So I feel very badly about missing these important events in part or entirety, but I can't be sorry about it. I'm not. As one of my wise support group people has said, this time is about what we need to do for our family first. I may hate disappointing my friends and feeling like I am missing out on all the fun, but it's because I am trying to have the opportunity to be the excellent mother I know I will be. I am protecting that nugget from the time it is a maturing egg (one of many swelling up my ovaries) so that hopefully this will be the time our baby comes into our lives. My support group friend said, "I know you will be a rock star mom, because you have what it takes already--moms have to make sacrifices for the good of their children, and you are already doing that because it's what you need to do for your family right now." It makes me feel better, but I still feel the bitter sting of disappointment when I'm driving home while it's barely dark without any boogie-blisters on my feet.

Beautiful flowers of love and friendship.
But, for this event last night with my friend, she and her matron of honor were so amazingly understanding and supportive that they even dropped off my table centerpiece on my doorstep last night--it greeted my husband this morning when he went to walk the dog. Before I left the bride's mom came and talked to Sara and me and said that she wanted each of us to have one, and she was sure we'd be there until the end so be sure to grab one (stab stab stab in the heart on that one, nope, sorry, I'm leaving now. Yup, before the cake...sorry, have to try to make a baby through kitchen countertop chemistry experiments.). Sara said that she would drop one off at my house, no worries. People say nice things all the time, but Sara actually did it. Those flowers made me cry again this morning--in part tears of grief for the fun times I missed, but mostly tears of gratitude for such an amazing act of kindness and empathy. The flowers are beautiful but the gesture behind them is what truly shines for me.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Yay! A Blog Award for Me!

Thank you, Willow, for bestowing me with this blogger-to-blogger award! I am relatively new to the blogosphere and not so technically savvy (still trying to figure out how to get a list of other people's blogs with current posts up as a sidebar thingie), but I love to write and share about turmoil that is the infertility process, so thank you for the acknowledgement! I love Willow's story--she has a beautiful and unique family-building process that I admire, and a writing voice that kicks ass. 

Here's how this Versatile Blogger Award works:
  1. Winners grab the image and put it in your blog.
  2. Link back to the person who gave you it.
  3. Tell 10 things about yourself
  4. Award 15 recently discovered bloggers.
  5. Contact the bloggers you have awarded to let them know they have won.
Here are my 10 random things (I am an oversharer, so they may not be all that new): 

1. Like Willow, I am living where I swore I never would. I went to college at SUNY Geneseo, and while there found Rochester a horribly depressed, sad little city. Fast forward to 2001 and I had moved here with He Who Must Not Be Named, and I have never left! 
2. I have played location leap-frog with my mom and stepfather since 1998--A few years after I graduated from Geneseo and moved back downstate, my mom moved to Rochester to complete her coursework for her Ph.D. at Eastman. I moved up here for a brief time while she still lived here, then she moved back downstate. Then they bought a house up here to "retire" to, about 4 months before I desperately needed a place to live. I lived in the house for a year when my mom got a job up here and their primary residence has been Rochester ever since. 
3. I have played the violin for 26 years. I play for myself at this point mostly, but I do weddings and occasionally get paid for it by people who are not my friends or family. I just had to learn Beatles songs for a wedding for my chiropractor, which was fun (and stressful--when the guests start singing along you REALLY can't screw up unnoticed!). 
4. I am a special education teacher, but I haven't always been. My path to my passion has been twisty turny and a little circuitous... When I was at Geneseo I was English/secondary ed. Junior year I panicked and decided that teaching was not for me, but that as an English major/music minor my chances of poverty were high. I ended up going into children's publishing, did that for 3 years, moved to Rochester and got a job at a degree-completion curriculum house (got laid off when they went out of business 6 months later), freelanced as a writer and editor for almost a year (not for me), got a job at a yellow pages advertising agency (worst. job. ever.), when that ended badly I got a job at an HR corporation as an employee handbook specialist (soulsucking corporate climate, but I really liked my job--you would interview companies & organizations for their policies and try to dissuade them from, say, a Sexual Purity policy...), student taught, discovered that subbing puts you at poverty level and so supplemented with waitressing at a wedding hall and listening to calls for that same yellow pages agency, and then finally got into a district as a special education teacher and have been one since. Ironically, at the secondary level which meant that I finished my English/students with disabilities certification a few years ago. Full circle! 
5. I have a high-maintenance but very lovable greyhound, a pudgy little black-and-white cat who plays fetch with the foil caps on wine corks, and a three-legged cat (who unfortunately became that way under my care) who recently made a full recovery from a psychotic break. 
6. I am incredibly accident-prone. I get tons of bruises from walking into stuff. The first thing I did the first night of vacation in Maine this year was give myself a severe burn on the pad of my right middle finger while plugging in a toaster. I touched a bare lightbulb on the way and just seared my poor finger. Although it was fun to say "See my burn?" and hold up my finger... :) This morning I set the microwave on fire because I didn't realize that the butter wrapper (Maine butter) had foil hidden in it. On the plus side I found out that baking soda paste cleans out a dirty microwave really, really well. 
7. I proposed to my husband, via a letter that was really an essay on why marriage would be awesome for us despite our checkered pasts. I figured we had both been married before, but I had never proposed and Bryce had never accepted a proposal, so it made the second (and way better) time around fresh and new! 
8. I have celiac disease, which means I can't eat wheat, barley, rye or their derivatives or I get very sick and it damages the lining of my intestines. I just found out 2 years ago (although it runs in my family), which is good because there is a link between celiac and infertility. I have been gluten free the entire time we've been trying. I love, love, love to cook and so I was very depressed when I first adopted the gluten-free diet. But it has been a challenge and actually fun to try out new recipes. My turkey gravy (using sweet rice flour as a thickener) was the best ever this Thanksgiving!
9. I also love to garden. This year for my birthday I got gardening supplies/seeds/plants as gifts, and my tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, lettuce, carrots, and herbs are all taking off like crazy. I can't wait to eat them all! I also have several perennial beds around my house that I am very proud of. Gardening is good therapy. 
10. A good friend has diagnosed me as a "Mindchamp." I am very, very smart (if I do say so myself) but can be incredibly, incredibly daft sometimes. I got this designation around 1999 while working in publishing, and it has really stuck. A few good examples--getting frustrated that I couldn't open Bryce's front door on our way back from somewhere only to realize I was using my housekey (I didn't have his yet); having a conversation towards the end of a grocery shopping trip in Maine and then stalking off with an empty cart, not our full cart, and not realizing it until a full aisle later; telling my best friend who informed me I was 2 minutes late for an appointment while I was talking to her that it was a little earlier here because I'm further west than she is... (That's the worst one. The sun may set later here but we're all on standard time, sheesh!). 

That was fun! Ok, so now I give the award to other bloggers. I am shamefully not well versed in a lot of blogs out there but am taking time over the summer to improve that situation while I'm off work. So I have wayyyy, way less than 15. But, I would like to give this award to the following blogs:  
4) TTC

Congratulations, ladies! I am in awe of your courage, your design skills, your writing voices, and how you express yourself through challenging times. Go forth and award away! 

Thanks again to Willow, who is expecting her second child via her first pregnancy! See her blog for her wonderfully written story.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

The Ghost Of Infertile Vacations Past

While our vacation in Maine was beautiful, made more so by a distinct lack of infertility paraphernalia, the specter of infertility persistently hovered over us. It was more transparent than usual, but still, we were haunted. We made it through the whole week without tears caused by scads of happy young families (and man, does it seem like they get younger and younger, which just makes us feel older and older and even more dysfunctional than usual) flaunting their happiness before our barren (but very happy) twosome. I shopped for onesies and didn't cry. The lowered weepiness quotient was in part made possible because the Whale Museum in Bar Harbor was torn down -- a horrible and depressing sight for us, because it was such a wonderful place and now it is an empty hole where yet another giant hotel is going. Last year we went to the Whale Museum and thoroughly enjoyed it, but it resulted in a spectacular meltdown on my part (including stumbling down the street, blubbering and sobbing uncontrollably) because it was just the place we could envision taking our children to someday--it was full of science-y books and toys and activities for kids and it was full of families encouraging curiosity in their children. I guess I will never know if it would have had the same effect on me this year, because it was torn down to make way for big business. Which then made us more than a little sad because who knows how many things like that will be gone by the time we manage to have children of our own?

Last Night Toast in Bar Harbor
Anyway, the Ghost of Negative Pregnancy Tests really chose to give us a good haunting on our last night of vacation. Every year we go to Galyn's restaurant, a beautiful, classy, but not ridiculous place right on the main street in Bar Harbor that overlooks Frenchman's Bay and Agamont Park, a nice rolling green space. Every year I get salad, and Sauteed (Lazy Man's) Lobster, and a blueberry martini. Every year Bryce gets the Frenchman's Bay Stew and a muddled old-fashioned. And then we get a bottle of wine. Since this was vacation, after all, and I wasn't on meds yet, we did drink despite the closeness to our cycle. We have been cutting back/abstaining for three months now, but I thought it was important for our vacation to be our VACATION. Nothing too crazy, but some booze was totally appropriate. So this year was like the other two years we have gone to Acadia--we got cocktails to start and then Bryce ordered a surprise bottle of wine.

I don't know why, but that bottle of wine (which turned out to be Moet Chandon Imperial Champagne, ooh la la) sent me over the edge into a sea of self-pity. Here we were, toasting the last night of an utterly relaxing vacation, where the infertility-talk was present but not overwhelming, where we could truly get away from it all. And I was sad. I felt like a bit of an asshole because here was Bryce, so excited with his unusual wine choice and "big shebang" end to the trip, and here was me, mopey and teary eyed. Part of the problem was that my seat faced out towards Agamont Park. And Agamont Park was full of young families, baby carriages, ripe-bellied pregnant women...everything we want and haven't yet managed to secure for ourselves. It was like a torture parade and I couldn't quite tune it out. Another part of the problem was that end of vacation meant the start of our cycle. And shouldn't I be excited about that? Shouldn't I be just totally thrilled to be having another chance at pregnancy? Yup, mostly--but part of me is scared shitless. We aren't going into our first, super hopeful cycle like we did last year. We know that a negative test is a distinct possibility and we know what that feels like. And so for as hopeful and excited as I am leading up to a cycle, once I'm in it I start feeling anxious about where we are going. It is hard to "live in the moment" when you have lived through these moments before and had them end badly. I can't help thinking of each hurdle we must cross before we get to transfer of healthy embryos and then can wait for the ultimate hurdle that we have tripped over and lain sprawled, broken on the ground beside. So, the end of vacation was sad to me, because the carefreeness of being in Maine, pretending that we are just a normal married couple who have chosen not to have kids yet and just enjoy each other because we can, was coming to a close. Reality waited at home.

But the number one reason why I was sad was that last year, at that exact time, we were sitting in Galyn's, at a different table with the same view. And last year, we sat there talking about how next year at this time we would probably have our vacation with a brand new baby. We were a little sad looking out the picture window at the seemingly perfect lives of those families (maybe even some of the same families), but we were so hopeful that we would be joining them. We never in a million years thought that we would come back, just the two of us again, with two IVFs under our belt and no baby, no pregnancy. So for me, it really hit home that here we were again, toasting the end of another lovely vacation, heading into yet another IVF cycle. As hopeful as we can be but with the bitter taste of the previous failures tainting our slightly sweet, yeasty champagne.

The majority of our feelings are positive towards this next cycle. We have a lot going for us this third time on the cruel merry-go-round that we just can't seem to get off of. Maybe we'll nab us a baby (or two) and slide effortlessly off that ride. But, with everything we've already been through, it is impossible not to think about the possibility that we could face another defeat. The trick is to somehow balance the two--the upbeat optimism of YES! THIS IS OUR TIME! and the cynical, more realistic IT COULD STILL FAIL. "THIRD TIME'S THE CHARM" ISN'T ALWAYS THE CASE. WHY SHOULD THIS BE ANY DIFFERENT? Unlike last cycle, to protect myself from utter devastation, I have to let the fear of failure be a little more than a back-of-the-brain nugget. But I also want to be positive. I think the tricky part is to go into it hoping for the best, but prepared for what comes next if it's the worst. Somehow to think that it will all be okay either way and let go a bit. Which is way easier said than done. It probably just takes some practice and time--kind of like how by the third glass of champagne I was a little less saddened by the whole thing and could, at least for a little while, be happy that we were still on vacation and heading towards hope.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Cycle Gifts

Every IVF cycle that I have done (this makes three) I have made a point to give myself a gift. In part it's a gift to me, and in part it's a gift for the baby/babies that have yet to grace us with their presence. An IVF cycle is tough--it's demanding on your physical body, it's challenging for your emotional state to say the least, it's relatively unpredictable (we have a roughly 3-day span for when retrieval might be, and then transfer is 3-5 days after that, and then testing two weeks after retrieval--which makes planning for anything in that span of time very, very difficult). Social obligations are difficult to fulfill when you have a) very little expendable cash and b) you have to rush home for an injection that has you c) feeling like total crap. So, as a bit of a reward for putting myself through this, and as a recommendation from Elizabeth Swire Falker in her book, I decided to purchase a present each cycle.

My first present was my owl purse. I was feeling the owls and thought that the purse (which I spied at the Park Avenue Festival) would be the perfect present for me. Little did I know that that purse would bring me to my yoga group. The woman who makes the purses did so to fund her own treatment, which came out when I picked up my goody. She introduced me to the healing center where I go for fertility yoga, maya massage, acupuncture, and a support group. Shortly after joining the group, my friend the Purse Lady had a successful frozen transfer and her little girl was born this month. Pretty amazing stuff! I have loved my purse to death, but it wasn't quite the magic present for me. Instead of bringing me a baby, it brought me a community of amazing women and ways to increase my chances of success. When the time is right I will probably order a diaper bag in the same fabric.

The second cycle I decided to do things a little differently. I bought three things, all for FutureBaby and not for me. I was in Anthropologie and found this beautiful pop-up book about fairies--each interactive spread was a different kind of fairy house. Well, it was old fashioned and beautiful and something I would have loved as a child. Bryce is convinced we will have girls, so I bought the book as a present to my FutureBaby girl (knowing that if we had a boy and he liked it, cool, but if we had a boy and he didn't at least I would still like the book). I also followed the advice of a yoga group friend who has been successful twice and bought some items for FutureBaby. I bought a onesie and a bib set. The onesie was adorable--white with blue trim and a frog in a lotus pose on the front (the bibs matched). It was feasibly unisex and adorable. I washed it and the bibs and set it out in the room that will be a baby's room in the future but is still firmly a guest room. The bibs I stuffed into each of our pillowcases, for good luck. These items are still here for the FutureBaby, but they are hidden away. They didn't work. Or, as Bryce said, "they didn't have the right magic." (This, coming from ultra-logical Bryce, is pretty amazing. Either my craziness must be rubbing off or he's really good at effortlessly appeasing me.) I don't even know where the baby clothes are--when the cycle failed I was so upset I had Bryce remove the items and hide them somewhere I couldn't see them.

So now, for this third cycle, I need new presents. I can't use the other onesies, so I went on a hunt for new ones. And what better place to hunt for cute, good-juju onesies than Maine? It took days of searching. All the stores in Bar Harbor have decided to sell the same brand of onesie, which can be cute (like Duck Duck Moose) or absolutely horrific (a cute blue whale on the front with "BLOWOUT" printed across the butt. Classy.). The biggest problem was that the cute ones were obviously one sex or the other. When looking for good-juju onesies, it's important to pick out unisex styles. You don't want the Universe to think that you are asking for a particular brand of baby. I wanted to leave all doors open. So much so that I bought not one onesie, but two. I didn't want to discourage the idea of twins (far from discouraging, I encourage the notion). Onesie number one I found in our favorite out-of-state Mexican restaurant--El El Frijoles (get it? Loosely "L.L. Beans?" hahaha). I almost cried, it was so perfect. 
Yup, that's a lobster in a taco.

It was yellow (non-sex-specific), and soft, and commemorates a restaurant we love. And there's a wall of pictures in the restaurant with people and babies wearing the t-shirts/onesies in different cities. We want our baby on that wall next year! (I am resisting the urge to stuff Abner into the onesie and send a picture of that for now.)

But then I was in trouble. I didn't want to buy TWO El El Frijoles onesies, but I needed a second. And I'd already combed through most of the shops in Bar Harbor, only to find more of the same crap. One onesie was awfully close--it was orange and brown stripes with a brown patchwork moose on the front, but it kind of overwhelmingly screamed "boy" to me. So it was a pass. I was feeling discouraged.

On our last night, we found it--a non-crappy onesie, also yellow, from Maine. I'm really not sure what it means, but it will do. I don't know if Moose Rock is an actual place, or if it means "Moose ROCK!," or if it's like a Jailhouse Rock kind of thing. But it's cute and it's tiny and soft and it has a little moose on it, so it spoke to me.

As Bryce said when I bought "Moose Rock," I may have to get another onesie if I see one that speaks to me between now and retrieval (as an extra, not as a ploy for triplets. I'm not crazy). Actually, I don't know why I would need to curb my baby prep at retrieval--I guess I can still dream up until testing. These onesies are special--they are washed and set up in our room to bring good baby juju our way. We are NOT "nesting" or preparing a nursery by doing these small purchases. We are NOT opening ourselves up to gifts of baby stuff. It's a hard distinction to make, but the juju only works if it comes from us, it's the right onesies, and there's a small enough number of them that they won't break my heart if I need to put them in storage again. The last thing I want is a tub full of bad-juju-onesies, but I have a really, really good feeling about these. I have a really good feeling about this cycle, period. Am I nuts for collecting a small trove of baby stuff? Maybe. It seems I just can't dial back the pre-cycle exuberance. I can see a little baby (or babies) stuffed into these adorable yellow outfits. Maybe, with the extra-special magic of Acadia, this will be the extra push we need.