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.