Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Vermont is for Lovers

We had such a wonderful time on our mini-vacation to Vermont. We relaxed, we did outdoors stuff, we enjoyed some actual snow (some real, some man-made), we ate well, drank good wine, and read a lot. It was a perfect little getaway.

Very, very white people on a covered bridge.
We look relaxed, but not the smiliest.
The other, more smiley pictures had far
too many chins and nostrils to post.
I think one of the things that made it so amazing was that (for the most part) we gave fertility a rest. Even though our next cycle is weeks away, I gave myself a pass. I ate what I wanted and drank what I wanted (coffee! wine! port!) and didn't think once, "oh my freaking god, I am destroying my egg production right now. I am poisoning my womb with this delicious glass of vacation wine. I should flog myself and take a scalding shower and wear a hair shirt immediately."  I did not let the guilt seep in. I let myself have fun. I enjoyed this time away, and, apart from a few fertility-related conversations, we left it behind.

We learned a few things on this trip. First, if you don't have to, don't leave on a Friday afternoon. It sucks up a whole day of your vacation and makes the drive incredibly stressful. Especially when most of it is in the dark and during hypnotic-in-the-headlights Syracuse-to-Amsterdam snow squalls. Do yourself a favor and leave on Saturday morning. Second, double check what Goo.gleMaps tells you is the fastest and best route. The route it took us on to Grafton, Vermont was probably the fastest if it is daylight and you are driving a mudding truck. For us, in Bryce's car with 4-wheel drive but a sports suspension, it made our trip 7 hours and 45 minutes instead of the 5 hours 30 minutes it was supposed to be. You can't go 45-50 on a very steep, very dirt, very potholed road that takes you down a mountain with no houses and nothing but a ditch and a stream and lots of woods on either side. Which was the last 10 miles of our 10:00 at night going 20 miles an hour with Bryce freaking out that we had taken a wrong turn and were headed into Deliverance territory. Funny now, not so much then. Third--if you have to eat gluten-free, pack a meal if you're driving to Vermont. I can't eat anything on the Thruway and then we ended up in backwoods central NY, unfortunately eating at a horribly managed Wendy's at 8:30 at night because there were no other options for me. That was some major poor planning!

But those are the only negatives--once we got to Grafton it was a blast. We went hiking and snowshoeing (a wine and cheese snowshoe tour up the "mountain" at Grafton Ponds Outdoor Center--you got to the top of the trails and there were multiple kinds of delicious Grafton cheddar, a case of wine, and paper cups waiting for you. Excellent idea...). We went to Manchester for the day and shopped outlets and went to an unusual wine store. We walked around an old cemetery and went to the Northshire Book Store, a wonderful independent book store that I could have spent an entire day in. We found two independent book stores--the other, Misty Valley Books, was a tiny gem in a tiny town and the selection was phenomenal. It was the "risk-taking" bookstore that a good literary friend of mine would probably love. Not one book club book was prominently displayed. I think I came home with more books than I left with.

Enjoying pre-dinner wine and the end
of a book in our private living area...
We played Room Roulette--I had gotten a really good deal on our 4-night stay because there was a wedding on Sunday and so there was only one room available Saturday night--not the nicest room and definitely the most seizure-inducing wallpaper. So, we were given a nice room on Friday for the same price as the not-so-nice room, and then an amazing suite for Sunday and Monday nights. That was the best because we had our own living room area--the only thing missing was a fireplace. We spent a lot of time in the room because it was just too nice not to! Maybe a little too much time. At some point early in the stay I said, "It's so nice that we have the tavern for dinner right across the road. We could have too much to drink at dinner and then just stumble back to bed, no problem!" On our third night, we had a nice bottle in the room and were planning to just have a glass at dinner. Unexpectedly, we received a free bottle with dinner compliments of the management due to a little cleaning snafu (busy with the wedding, cleaning staff did everything but clear the sinks of other peoples' whiskers...lovely), which was much appreciated but resulted in me making good on my promise and giggling my way back to the room on Bryce's supporting arm. What the heck, we were on vacation. Why not overindulge once? It was so much fun to just be a normal, somewhat freshly-married couple, out having a good time.

Bryce, exploring the covered bridge.
This long weekend away was just what we needed. It was was an opportunity to reconnect after all this awfulness; it was a way to get away from my closet full of needles and medication and the sharps containers that lurk around every corner. There was nothing to remind us of infertility, not really. The only thing was my gallon-plastic bag of supplements and vitamins (can't miss those prenatals I've been on for almost THREE YEARS, that would be terrible). That was the only reminder. There weren't even really a lot of small children or pregnant people--not that I don't like small children or pregnant people, but an ill-timed run-in can dissolve that vacation mindset. Nope, it was just us, the snow, our books, our wine, and delicious Grafton cheddar cheese. It was a reminder of how lucky we are to have each other--that all we need is some snow and a cozy place to sit together to be happy and relaxed. Now the countdown to our next cycle can truly start. We are ready to face our next challenge, refreshed and rejuvenated. Let the games begin.

Thursday, February 16, 2012


Sometimes the smallest thing can set me off into a tailspin of tears and sorrow. And sometimes I feel ashamed, because my pain comes with someone else's joy. Yesterday I went to my support group, and towards the end of the time, I found myself completely surprised by my (frequently tamped-down, shoved to the back of my consciousness) grief. A friend, one who I am so excited and hopeful for, had had her transfer earlier this week. She shared pictures of her gorgeous, textbook-perfect blasts. The pictures went around, and it was awesome--this is a wonderful time of hope and optimism. Sharing pictures is a great way to both show off your pre-babies that you so hope will come to fruition and to share what this looks like to new people who may have never seen an embryo before. I share my pictures all the time (or all four times I've had pictures) at group, because it's so super cool to be able to see something so amazing and so new and so full of potential. So it wasn't the picture that upset me.

What threw me for a loop was when someone said, "How amazing--just think, if you're successful then you have actual pictures of your child--you can show them this little blob of cells and say 'that was you!'" It was weird, because I have said this very thing to people. It is ridiculously cool that your baby book can start with a picture 3-5 days after fertilization. Slightly creepy, but super cool. It wasn't the statement itself that upset me. It wasn't even the amazement and hope that filled the room as the pictures were passed around.

What happened was that I heard that statement and all I could think of was my box. I have a box under my coffee table that houses all my fertility stuff--paperwork, ultrasounds, previous protocol calendars. And pictures of 10 embryos that will never be the subject of a "this was YOU!" mother-child conversation. Four shiny, black-and-white photo print out sets of 2-3 embryos that will never be a human being. Photos that aren't a beacon of hope for the possibility of what could be, but instead are a painful reminder of all we've lost. I spiraled down into a dark, tear-filled black hole of self-pity and grief. I made it through the last 10 minutes of group without giving away my personal pain and then went to my car. And cried the whole way home. And then cried some more when I saw my husband.

It is so true that those pictures are amazing. When I get mine, I take a photo on my phone so I can keep the photo safe but still be able to share my miracles with the scant few people who get to see them. The original goes in a little cardstock frame on my vision board that says, "We welcome you and we love you!" I do not share the pictures of my embryos on this blog. I have a weird superstition about it. They are intensely private in that sense. I don't like to share them even after they are no more, even though it would be cool to show what embryos look like. It's almost like they are my Victorian death photos -- those creepy pictures people took of loved ones who died, propped up and looking not at all alive. They are sacred to me. I can't get rid of them--they are the only proof that my husband and I have that we can combine our genetic material and there is potential that we can actually conceive a baby. Depending on how you look at it, we've conceived 10 children, if you count from fertilization. Which I struggle with, given all this Personhood crap that would not only endanger birth control but also the IVF process, as who would want to take on the risk of losing embryos when they are all considered "people?" In my mind, potential people yes. People in need of legal rights? No. But I digress and get political.

It made me feel very sad, very alone, and very bitter to have this reaction. I don't like it. I absolutely could have said "Or you could end up with a drawer full of embryos that are no more," but what purpose would that have possibly served at such a time of hope? I didn't want to rain on the parade. I was hurting but I didn't want to infringe on the hope and happiness of my friend who desperately deserves so much hope and happiness. I want her embryo photo to be THE embryo photo. I just had a hard time being reminded of just how many deceased embryo photos I have locked away, hidden in plain view in my living room. It made me so sad to think of all the potential that was lost either before it had a chance to implant or because it implanted incorrectly. It made me feel that intense NOT FAIR feeling that wells up and seeps out from time to time. I felt this overwhelming sense of "how did I get here? How is it that I'm going into my fourth fresh IVF and fifth transfer? Why is this not going the way we'd hoped?"

I don't have answers. I won't have answers. It's just how the cookie crumbles (disintegrates). It doesn't mean that I begrudge others their happy hopeful times, or even their success. I want others to succeed because my path sucks. I don't want more company on this road, it's horrible. Having a drawer of the photographic evidence of my loss is not fun. Sometimes it catches up to me. And all I can think is please, please, please, let my next shiny photo of potential babies be THE picture. Let this be the end of my road. Please, please, please, let my hope finally be rewarded with success.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Zen and the Art of Knitting

Part of my plan to do something different this time around the IVF block was to take up a hobby. I wanted to learn how to knit. I've had the needles, and yarn, and a book (Stitch 'N Bitch: The Knitter's Handbook by Debbie Stoller) for years, but never tried it. I am sometimes afraid of trying new things. I don't like failing. I don't like to suck at something. And knitting, while it sounded like a fun and crafty thing to do, sounded like something that I could easily suck at. But, in the spirit of my new attitude and plan for keeping my mind on other things while coming up on and participating in my fourth fresh IVF cycle, I broke out the yarn, the needles, and the book.

My Stockinette stitch square. So proud...
It turns out knitting is a fantastic outlet for me, especially the infertile me. It is strangely hypnotic and meditative. It forces me to focus completely on a task and get into a rhythm where my mind is quieted (or sometimes not so quieted, but I can think things through in a relatively calm and rational way when I knit). It is tremendously soothing. And I don't suck at it. At least not anymore. If I make a mistake, I can just unravel and start over again. Every practice square that I have made is the product of at least 10 unravellings. I was frustrated at first. But really, what's my hurry? What's the big deal if I have to unravel and start again? I'm not knitting an actual project, not yet. I'm just doing practice squares to perfect my stitches and get them to work for me. So if I mess up, no big deal. I can unravel and start over. I get another chance. I can go with it. The yarn is amazingly can be stitched up and unraveled and stitched up again, over and over, and it still works just fine. (The only time it doesn't work fine is when my cat, Lucky, gets ahold of it. Then I need to sacrifice some yarn, cut it, and start again with some fresh yarn.)

I've actually found that knitting is a good meditative practice and an oddly accurate metaphor for what I'm trying to accomplish as far as my state of mind moving forward. (Maybe I should stop saying "try." As Yoda said, "There is no try, only do." I am accomplishing a new state of mind.) When I knit, I have to accept that things won't always go smoothly. There will be missed stitches and holes. But I can start over. I can be flexible. I can go with the flow instead of trying to swim upstream all the time. I have found that I am a very tight knitter (big surprise). I have to literally make an effort to be looser, because it's a lot easier to knit smoothly when your stitches are on the looser side and not strangling the needles. Just like my mindset is on the path to looseness--I have to go with the flow and not be so tied to rituals and to mind tricks that tell me that I haven't done enough or something I've done or haven't done will have a negative impact on my chances to conceive. I can do what I can do and no more...the rest is up to what will be. I think about this when I make a concerted effort to loosen my stitches. I'm still tight but way looser than I used to be...without even thinking about it. It's becoming inherent in how I loop the yarn around the needles. I have to think about it less and less. When I knit, I get excited to see how something is shaping up. If it's not absolutely perfect, so what? Am I a professional knitter? No. Am I a knitting machine for perfect mass production? Nope. I am letting go of my expectations and just letting the knitting happen to me. I am systematic about the knitting--I am practicing each stitch over and over and moving on to a new stitch when I feel confident with the ones I've done before. I'm in no rush, but I don't want to start an actual project until I feel confident that I know what I'm doing.

I love my new crafty hobby. I am excited to try rib stitch and excited to make something more than the little yarn coasters I've got floating around the house in each stitch I've learned so far. I'm happy I don't suck--I'm not proficient yet. How do people knit without looking? I think I can get there eventually but it astounds me that people can do that as I have to see what I'm doing every stitch or else I royally screw up. That level of auto-knit-mastery will come with time and with practice. Even when I am proficient, I don't think I'll be making any baby items anytime soon. This hobby has to be something independent of the fertility quest. If I use it to make baby stuff for my FutureBaby, then it loses its meditative quality. I want it to be an outlet away from fertility. (Could I knit a baby blanket when it's time? I bet I could. Will I do it ahead of time? No, no, no.) Scarves are great, dishcloths are good, and maybe if I can figure out how to piece it together I can try a hat. My husband wants me to make him a sweater but I think he has to wait. Unless he wants some kind of busted wacky sweater that I do without a pattern, as I haven't given one of those a go yet.

I'm so happy that I have found a way to create something and practice a kind of meditation at the same time. When I knit, I am not putting pressure on myself. I had to learn that (it started to become not enjoyable when I felt that everything had to be perfect all the time, before I decided unravelling was just fine and it wouldn't kill me to just start over). Soon I can fix mistakes without unravelling everything (thanks to a book my mother-in-law sent me, The Knitting Answer Book by Margaret Radcliffe). I don't feel quite competent enough to try the fixes yet, but I am ok with the occasional hole in my practice square. I am ok with mistakes and the option I have to just start over. How wonderful that teaching myself a new craft is resulting in learning new ways to deal with the pitfalls of fertility and my coping mechanisms. I feel a little more at peace every row I knit or purl.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Making Progress, Sort Of

Taking a break from my "magical thinking" is hard. Really hard. It's like trying to reprogram the way I think about everything. But, I am doing pretty well. I didn't get all excited about Chinese New Year--last year I was all about the Year of the Rabbit. I was all about how it's supposed to be a super fertile year, and how that was a good omen. It didn't quite pan out for me. This year is the Year of the Dragon--another powerful year, as it's the year I was born. It's the reason I have a giant dragon tattoo on my lower back that extends from my outer right hip to my spine (well, that and it covers up the ridiculous monkey tattoo I had in honor of my ex-husband when he was not an ex). I could have gone crazypants preparing for this New Year and making sure all my juju was in order. But I didn't. I did what made sense, and then I stopped the second it became more of an obligation than what I wanted to do. (For me that meant clean laundry put away, clean sheets, clean entryway, vacuumed rugs.) The second I started thinking "If I don't have fruit on the table I won't get pregnant this year!" I quit cleaning.

I have been doing things to prepare my body but not going overboard. I have been taking my prenatals and fish oil and calcium/vitamin D and baby aspirin and CoQ10. For some bizarre reason there is no L-Arginine anywhere to be found in any of my grocery stores that I normally buy it. Ordinarily I might make it my mission to find L-Arginine. I might do research on why it's out of stock and why it's been that way for so long. I might take it as a sign that things aren't meshing well for this upcoming cycle. But instead I just check for it each week, and when it's not there I shrug and move on. I am not going to obsess about it. Well, not much anyway. I can do what I can do and that's it.

I have been going for relaxation massages, which has been fantastic. I can escape, I can get away from the fertility mindset, and I can truly help reduce stress in my body. I am not thinking about my lining when my neck and shoulders are being kneaded into blissful putty. I am not thinking about my ovaries or my egg quality. I am just thinking about how relaxing it is to have all the tension dissolve from my trigger points.

But my spring decorating is causing me to crack up just a little bit again. I am trying not to be all juju-y in my house, I am trying not to be optimistic that because my new IVF cycle is scheduled for spring that somehow that gives us a better chance. If it works for the bunnies and the birds, why can't it work for me? (Because it hasn't previously...because whether or not I have a positive test has zero to do with the season, says the logical me.) But, I have done a little decorating on my mantel. I have pretty little hyacinths in eggs. And I have birds (yes...birds...they are obviously not real so I am trying to like them) looking over a nest. Because I had these little robin eggs last year, I got the birds and the nest and was going to put eggs in the nest. But then I couldn't find them. Then I had a pair of lovebirds over an empty nest on my mantel. And while I am trying not to say that putting eggs all over my house is some kind of fertility good luck thing, I am so subconsciously (or totally consciously) thinking about those eggs as a positive feng shui type thing. I know that I'm not more likely to get pregnant because there are eggs on my mantel. I'm not totally crazy. But the crazy lurks and waits for an opportunity to strike and so I'm trying to tamp it down just a little bit. Trying to discourage this egg-induced-insanity.

So anyway, here I am with my lovebirds and empty nest. And I couldn't tamp the crazy down. We had to find those eggs! I can't have lovebirds with a empty, infertile nest on my mantel! What message does that send? It's slightly ironic and funny, but horrible at the same time. I can't have it stay that way. If I was really crazy I could leave the nest empty until we start stimming, and then add eggs as I know how many follicles I have. But I am NOT that crazy (although I just admitted that's in my mind as a thought...). Even just looking at this picture gives me anxiety.

Luckily for my sanity, and Bryce's perception of my sanity, he found the eggs this morning. And now my little lovebirds have little potential birds to look after. Which is great in a metaphorical sense and horrifying in a bird sense (do I really want more birds in my house?). But now my mantel is just right--springy, eggy, and positive. No empty nests. Now I can relax and just look at it as decoration again, not some horrible omen. Now I can go back to thinking like a normal person. For now.

Ahhhhh, eggs in the nest for the little lovebirds.