Saturday, December 22, 2012

Fertilty-Free Holidays

Here it is, the dreaded holiday season, and I am...ok! This has been an incredibly difficult year, and usually the holidays are the capper on the crap cake. But not this year. Why? Let me tell you.

- I am not in any kind of cycle right now. I absolutely refuse to do holiday cycles anymore. I tried not to last year but ended up having at test right smack in the middle of Christmas for our first ever frozen, the first attempt after the tragic ectopic business. And it did not result in good news. And the holidays were spent drinking champagne out of a can and weeping over songs that feature a VIRGIN MOTHER and a MIRACLE BABY and I could relate to neither. Although, I will be closer to being a virgin mother through this process, since there is absolutely no sex involved in our particular brand of procreation... But getting back to the point, no more holiday cycles for me. They are too difficult.

- Instead of crying over the fact that YET AGAIN there is nary a baby or bump to be seen on our holiday greetings, we made a fun, irreverent photo card featuring us dressed up and being goofy, our hearth with two stockings and a little kitty stocking full of catnip mice (and a tiny Christmas tree with a bird on it), and our cats. In bowties. It is the gateway to cats in onesies, people. If there is no baby in any way shape or form on our card next time I can't guarantee that I won't cross over into cats dressed up like babies territory...

- I am determined, DETERMINED to enjoy December. After losing our last babyling in early August, pretty much every month after that has been difficult. I have been an emotional wreck. I have not dealt well with the cumulative loss that is slowly hacking away at my capacity to hope. I have been pretty functional at work, but at home...not so much. A lot of crying. A lot of just epic sadness. A lot of mourning. But, as a wise woman once told me, "you can throw youself a pity party but don't stay long because no one else will join you." Time to brush off and stop sitting in the sadness so completely. Time to enjoy this month with no evil needles and no possible reproductive heartbreak, and try to be a normal person before once again I am shooting up with drugs that turn me into a faux-menopausal freakshow. So far, it's working pretty well. I got a nasty virus in December, but because I am not in any treatment I didn't feel bad taking some sick time to try to get over it. I am pretty much a normal human this December.

- We are escaping for Christmas! We are leaving town and going on a fabulous, romantic getaway in Vermont. The same place we went in February for a few nights, only this time we're in one room the whole time and we are staying five nights. Including Christmas. Which is FABULOUS. There is nothing in Vermont that reminds me of being pregnant or trying to get pregnant. I have never brought a sharps container to Vermont. I have never been waiting for news in Vermont. When I go to get a towel, I won't be staring at medication and bags of needles, like I do at home when I open the linen/aka Injection Closet. There will just be books, and games, and wine, and delicious food RIGHT DOWNSTAIRS in the Tavern restaurant. I am SO EXCITED. We decided that we needed this. We didn't get to go to Maine over the summer, and that was a huge mistake. We need to get away. We need to unplug and have no chores to do, no schedule, no work hanging over our heads. We need to recharge and renew ourselves so that we can undo some of the harm this past year of incredible loss and frustration has done to us. We need to get ready for our next go-round in 2013, which is coming up lightning fast. But not so fast that we have to think about it while drinking our Welcome-to-Grafton champagne or soaking in a hot tub after a long day of snowshoeing. This is the best Christmas present we could have given each other. (Except for a baby. A baby would have been better, but a Vermont getaway is a close second.)

So there it is--a truly happy holiday even though there's no tiny people to share it with in our home, just cozy cats ever so slightly pissed off at having been collared with jingle-belled bowties. A romantic, decadent week of holiday bliss to slowly melt away some of the stresses of 2012 and start 2013 fresh, strong, and ready to put a baby (or two) in this fertility-fat belly already. Come on, 2013, be our year of miracles! (Not to get all crazy or anything, but this year coming up is the Year of the Snake, and snakes are my favorite animal EVER, so maybe that means something? Nope, nope, just me being crazy. If the Year of the Rabbit (super fertile critter!) and the Year of the Dragon (my birth year and supposedly super strong juju) didn't do it, then I can't really count on that Snake. But I can dream, right?)

A very happy holidays to everyone, and may all your dreams come true this coming year.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Good TV, Bad TV

Infertility is filters into every aspect of your life. Maybe it's because I'm hyper-sensitive, but it seems like lately all matters reproductive are ALL OVER the TV show subplots. My list of shows has been dwindling, because I usually drop them once they begin a fertility-related subplot (that means you, Gray's An.atomy!). Even if it is decently portrayed, I don't watch TV to see people injecting themselves and enduring heartbreak over the inability to get pregnant. I can see that in my kitchen on a regular basis, thankyouverymuch. But lately, it seems like there is a thread of smugness out there in TVland about how it is you go about getting pregnant. So, not so much an infertility piece, but a total disregard for how 1 in 8 (or is it 6 now?) couples have difficulty getting pregnant "the old fashioned way."

Let's start with Modern Fam.ily. I love this show. I love how it shows different kinds of families. I love how those families are funny and warts-and-all. I loved their honest portrayal of how the adoption process can be difficult and heartbreaking, and how it is NOT easy to "just adopt." I can tell you, I do NOT love the blase treatment of pregnancy and babymaking that is rife in this season where Gloria is the recipient of a 40+ whoopsie pregnancy. (Fun fact: apparently women heading into the end years of their reproductive life are just as susceptible to unplanned pregnancies as teenagers, since their cycles go a little nutty and unpredictable. That part is true.) I nearly threw my dinner at the TV when, in one of those lovely ending interviews that shows the lesson of that particular episode, Gloria makes the statement, "Making the child is easy. It's what comes after that's hard." OH REALLY, IMPOSSIBLY HOT GLORIA. Because that sure as hell doesn't feel the case to me. And while many people like to tell Bryce and me that "Just you wait, it's so hard and expensive once that baby comes"--um, I think we get it. And, quite frankly, I think that it will be LESS expensive once that baby comes than the oodles of dough that it has taken to come close to bringing a baby home. And I'm pretty sure the uncertainty of not knowing when this ghastly hell of reproductive gauntlet-running will end is way worse than the overflowing poopie explosions and night after night of colic and fear and expense once you have that child. Because, not to state the obvious, YOU HAVE THAT CHILD. And all the joy that goes with the poop-up-the-back and vomit-in-the-night. Right now we have all the sadness and loss and financial stress and emotional stress and physical distress without the payoff. So, um, NO. Making the child is not the "easy" part. Not for us, and not for other couples like us.

I will give them a smidgen of credit, though--when Jay and Gloria go to the baby class at the hospital and make their jokes about how she gets pregnant just sneezing on her (haHAhaha. ha. haaaaa.) to a couple who's been trying for years and finally hit the jackpot, I relished in their dagger stare. I loved that they showcased, if for only 5 seconds, how incredibly insensitive and idiotic Jay and Gloria were being to brag at being able to get pregnant by accident. At 40. That was one 20-watt shining moment.

And then it was eclipsed by an episode about Phil's vasectomy. Which we never saw, even though supposedly it was very funny. Because the beginning interview had Phil and Claire talking about how they wanted to make sure they didn't have an oopsie like Gloria (because that's so common), and how they wanted to be sure they could live a life like people without kids, now that their kids are getting older. Like these neighbors of theirs, who travel all the time and have such an awesome lifestyle because they were never able to have kids. OH HOLY JEEZUM, IS THAT WHAT MY LIFE IS??? I totally forgot. If I would just be ok with not being able to have children at this point, I could totally just give myself up to a life of less responsibility and going off to Bali at a moment's notice. All the time. The way they talked about it was so incredibly blase and disrespectful and insensitive to me AND Bryce that we turned the TV off and yelled at it for a good 5 minutes before choosing something else to watch. That one really bothered me. And again, maybe I'm hypersensitive because I don't see my infertility as a ticket to a responsibility-free, college-tuition-free, vacation-filled-permanent-adolescence type of life. (I don't think my friends who choose not to have children see it this way, either...) And I am resentful of people who make the assumption that "you should be traveling! You don't have kids!" and say it enviously as they think of the chaos filling their homes. Beautiful, heartwarming chaos that we would snatch up in an instant.

Another show that ticked us off was The Offic.e. I haven't been the biggest fan of this season anyway, without Steve Care.ll and Mindy Ka.ling it's just not the same. But man, did they go fertility-offensive with an episode a while ago centering on Dwight being upset that he didn't father Angela's child. (Oops, spoiler alert too late for those who are a season or two behind. Sorry.) Jim has pranked Dwight that there is a radiation issue in the building by having a half-popped bag of microwave popcorn in Dwight's desk (or somewhere near his crotchular region), so that they can get some time off and he can take his wife away for a few days. Funny concept, nice enough idea to do something nice for your wife and mother of your children. (Pregnancies that created subplots that made this show difficult to watch for a while, but not awful.) What made us downright mad was that Dwight disappears to the roof of the work bus he's rented to thwart the free vacation plan, and he is upset. He is upset because he didn't father Angela's child and the radiation is probably further proof that he is sterile and can't father children. At first he seems to be having an honest conversation with Jim about fears of infertility, and I was like Wow, The Of.fice is really evolved! and then that was short-lived. Because it was totally irreverent (I know, comedy show, but still). He asks Jim how long it took them to conceive (answer: instantaneous and largely unplanned), and then mourns his loss of children to pass along the Schrute name. And Jim's answer? But you have us! You have BuildingKinder, since you are our building superintendent. We are all your children. And somehow this appeases Dwight. This trite, ridiculous argument that if you don't have children, there are substitutes that are just fine. Like your dysfunctional, on average age 40 year old coworkers. Or like when my yearbook salesperson called to see if I wanted a high school update book and asked for my updates, and confused that I was 35 and married and childless, said to me "Well, you're a teacher, I guess your students are like your children to you." NO. NONONONONONO. I love children, and I love teaching, and I care very deeply about my students (who by the way are 13-15 years in age, just what you want to snuggle into a onesie), but I am NOT childless because my students are "enough." I do NOT want your children, especially grown adult children. (So help me, at least three people offer me their annoying preteen/adolescent/young adult children every freaking year. That is SO offensive. I want my child, I want a baby, I want the experience of pregnancy. I'm pretty sure you wanted that too. STOP OFFERING ME YOUR CHILDREN WHEN THEY ANNOY YOU. It's not cute, funny, or remotely helpful.) The whole concept of this episode had me horribly offended, especially since Dwight falls for it hook, line, and sinker. Yes, you are all my BuildingKinder. My urge for fatherhood is abated of course. You are so wise, Fertile Jim. UGH.

Sometimes, though, there is a good show. A respectful show. A show that treats fertility accurately and doesn't reinforce stereotypes or gloss over the processes of medical treatment or adoption and doesn't continue to put it out there that it's common and normal to get pregnant in your 40s unaided. This show, recently, for me is The New G.irl. I love this show. It's zany, it's ridiculous, it makes me laugh, and I want to be Jess's best friend. I could totally hang out with Jess. But wait, this show is about a single girl living with three single guys! She's on the relatively young side! What could this possibly have to do with fertility, since no one seems to be getting ready to reproduce? I was home sick this week and backlogged on the show, so I watched a couple episodes while my lungs tried to kill me. My Roku box brought up the next episode, which was titled Eggs. Oh, boy. This could be an annoying episode. I watched it anyway. And I was so glad I did! In this episode, Jess has a dinner party where her friend, an OB/GYN who is also a lesbian, announces that she is pregnant. She and her wife are super excited, and then the doctor says, "I really feel like I got this one under the wire." Jess is so confused, I mean, you can get pregnant always, right? She explains that after 30, 90% of your eggs are gone. (I'm not 100% sure on the accuracy of this statement, but believe it since you have a gazillion eggs from the time you are in utero yourself, and they die off throughout your lifetime. 10% of your eggs is still a lot of eggs, but there is now an expiration date on your reproductive years...) But, that there's a test that can tell you about how many eggs you have left. (They didn't go into detail on this, but I'm guessing since they referenced hormone levels that it was some kind of FSH/AmH testing for ovarian reserve. I am SUCH a fertility nerd that I immediately wondered what hormones they were testing and needed to feel like this was accurate.) So she and her wife took it and she was the better bet, since her wife states, "I'm 32 but my eggs are 48." This sends Jess into a tailspin. She's 30, single, and wants a family someday, but is now panicked that her eggs are numbered. I CAN TOTALLY RELATE TO THIS!!! I was once also 30 and newly single, terrified that my fertility was dwindling. (Little did I know there was more than a nugget of truth to this fear, sadly.) Jess starts talking about dust in her uterus and eggs dying left and right--I used to joke all the time about my kamikaze eggs! (not so funny now...) She gets on fertility websites and starts removing anything toxic from the apartment. I have gone this bonkers, too! She takes the test and is terrified, but she ends up ok. Someone else is not, but I feel like it was handled sensitively. I felt like even though this was a fertility-related episode, it was AWESOME. Thank you, thank you, for talking honestly about declining fertility. It is not an old wive's tale. It is true. Thank you, thank you for giving such an adorable voice to the fears so many women have about not making it in under the wire before those eggs expire. It did make me feel a little sad, and I did want to also throw out there that you can also have infertility that is entirely NOT age related. You can be 32 and have your ovarian reserve peter out early. You can be 25 and suffer from hormonal imbalances that prevent you from getting pregnant unaided. And, like me, you can be 36 and have FANTABULOUS numbers when it comes to FSH and AmH--I have a reserve like a champ (or at least I did last it was checked this past year), but that reserve is full of duds. You can't tell if your eggs are necessarily good quality from those numbers, and I am proof of that. Lots of eggs in your basket doesn't guarantee that they'll hatch little chickens in your uterus. Ew, gross metaphor. I do not want little chickens pecking around my uterus. I do, however, want a baby or two growing strong and healthy and then welcoming itself into the world through my body. Regardless, I was proud of that show for not sweeping fertility under the rug and addressing the issue that Hollywood obscures all the time--fertility is not something you can take for granted.

It is hard finding TV that is an escape and doesn't touch on my personal tragedy in one way or another. If this is your life, if you struggle with building your family and finding the right way for you to do it, it is definitely hard not to be sensitive to anything in the media that seems to be poking fun or portraying this situation dishonestly or making one choice look easier or more morally ethical than another. So I really, really appreciate it when there are not only shows that don't touch this issue (I love 666 Park A.venue for this reason... there are ghostly children, not the urge for children), but shows that handle it with sensitivity, reality, and grace. And humor that doesn't make me want to hurl my gluten free pasta at my TV.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

What Good Planners, These Royals

All week there has been soooo much news. Well, sooo much reported that's not really NEWS, per se, but seeing as how we live in an incredibly baby-crazy society, and we have a weird obsession with royalty even though politically they don't really hold any power, just lots of money, and they're not even OUR royalty, the airwaves and print and internet media is all over this royal pregnancy. Oh, Will and Kate, you "finally" sealed the deal. Really? "Finally?" That was splashed on a checkout tabloid (thankfully not my beloved PEOPLE magazine), over a smiling picture of the royal parents-to-be and next to a picture of Jennifer Aniston, who was reportedly also pregnant. I don't trust this particular magazine though, and feel intensely badly for Jennifer, because the media is always examining her midsection and calling her desperate for baby and plotting for baby and, my least favorite, "is it TOO LATE for baby?!?" Leave these people alone! Stop printing pictures that could just be overindulgence at dinner or a poorly tailored dress and calling it "Bumpwatch!" Gargh. The "finally" makes me mad directed to anyone, but with Will and Kate it's obnoxious--they've been married a year. They said openly that they wanted to enjoy marriage a bit before having a family. There is no FINALLY about it.

Anyway, I had written a blog post earlier about how it must suck to be a newly minted Royal Family member, the kind that is expected to be an instant breeder. See here for that post, "I'm Glad I'm Not a Royal." Again I wrote about my conflicted relationship with PEOPLE magazine. I devour it almost instantaneously, and it kicks off my weekend usually, but it almost always makes me sad with baby announcement after baby announcement, and detailed spreads on things like Snooki's nursery. Ugh. This time, my PEOPLE magazine pissed me off for a different reason. I'll admit, I read every word of the multiple-spread bonanza that was Royal Fetus coverage. I wanted to see if Kate was looking pregnant, and what cute maternity clothes she was wearing. I was disappointed, because even though she is incredibly slender and you would think a fetus the size of a sesame seed let alone a strawberry would show on her, she is purportedly only nine weeks along. Part of me was sad that she isn't granted any privacy at all and the world has to know about her pregnancy when it is so early and tenuous--she might have kept it a secret longer if she hadn't had to be hospitalized for a very serious condition where you can lose 5% of your body weight from excessive vomiting (a very REAL condition that is being treated pretty poorly in the media, I might add--she is not a wuss, it is not "just bad" morning sickness, it is a scary and pervasive medical condition that many women suffer). Part of me felt like this is the new thing, sharing your pregnancy in the first trimester, having everything work out just fine, and then sailing into your somewhat safer second trimester. I do realize I'm being sensitive and she didn't have a choice, plus what do I care really as this isn't a friend of mine, it's a freaking Duchess in another country who I don't know from Adam... But still. I was a little irked to find that she is still in single-digit weeks.

The part that really upset me was how the pregnancy's origin was discussed. First point of contention: "The baby news makes a very nice endpiece to the year. It couldn't be better planned." Enter more discussion on how the royal couple were very careful not to overshadow the Queen's Jubilee with baby announcements. What? People can actually plan this stuff??? I thought maybe the press was just being stupid and not realizing that conception is actually NOT an exact science and it's kind of rare to say "I want to get pregnant...NOW" and have it happen, like some magic wand is waved and POOF! Fertilization, implantation, and all that good stuff happens. When you know as much about how babies are made (or not) as I do, it is a freaking miracle that anyone can plan a pregnancy. Normal, fertile couples have only a 20% chance any given month of conceiving with all the incredibly intricate timings that have to happen between ovulation and sperm getting where they need to go and the egg being exactly where it needs to be in order to be fertilized and travel to the uterus to implant in just the right spot and then stay there. I do know people who said "I'm going to try this" and immediately hit the jackpot, and while I am happy for their success I won't lie. I resent them like people who buy a lottery ticket for the first time and hit the Powerball megamillions right off the bat. And now here are these people, who are under tremendous pressure to conceive, as it's pretty much their biggest job to produce an heir, and they turn out to be conception cyborgs who are genetically programmed to seal the deal on command. More quotes of fury... "[she is] around nine weeks or so, according to some estimates, given that the ever-cautious princess likely would not have become pregnant until after the couple headed home from their tour of Asia on Sept. 20th and stopped taking their antimalarial medication." The preciseness of this conception is mind-boggling. The short window and immediate success is impressive if infuriating to a woman who, with an entire medical team and precisely planned medications and procedures at her disposal, has yet to produce a non-royal baby. Of course, maybe they just got lucky. No one would make a 10 page article about a Royal Whoopsie, so maybe they made it seem well planned when really it was a romantic night of incredibly expensive wine that created this royal baby-to-be. But the images in my mind are a roomful of people, setting this up like racehorse studding, taking basal temperatures and testing royal spunk and telling the royal couple that they must have utilitarian conception whoopie at precisely the 8th bong of Big Ben on Thursday next in order to conceive in a well-timed and considerate manner.

Of course maybe it's only my twisted brain that thinks this way. Maybe I'm just as bad as all the magazines and talk shows for examining this poor woman's very public pregnancy so closely. But then again, I can't feel too badly for her because she IS living in a castle and the Royal Pram DOES cost a disgusting $3995, and the cost of my next cycle is probably contained in a few hangers in her closet. You can't marry a prince and not expect some scrutiny. So, I am by turns disgusted by the military precision of this planned pregnancy and also kind of want to give Kate a standing ovation. Under tremendous pressure she conceived pretty much on demand after age 30, and she and her husband in a weird sort of way did it under their terms (not within a year of marriage, like every other royal before her), honoring their royal marriage first. Brava, Royal Gestator. Brava.