Sunday, January 27, 2013

The Best, Hardest Present Ever

January has been incredibly busy. I have been getting back into the swing of school after an amazingly rejuvenating vacation in Vermont over the holidays, and I have been getting back into the swing of being a fertility patient again. I am exhausted and tired and cranky. But, I really wanted to go back to a moment in Vermont that was really important. Beautiful. And so, so hard.

We had our Christmas in Vermont--packed up all of our presents that had been shipped to us by out-of-town family and our few presents to each other. We had a cap on the presents since, really, the awesome trip to the tavern was the biggest present and everything else was like a stocking gift. Not a jewelry-store version of a stocking gift (It's small but precious! Buy your wife these sparkly diamond earrings or she will hate you forever!), but small gifts that were meaningful but not expensive. I took the small part very literally, gifting Bryce with neat things that could actually fit in a real stocking. A little wine trivia game, a guitar pick punch (turn any gift card or expired credit card into a guitar pick!), things like that. Bryce had a few small things and one ginormo box for me. I was so curious about that big box.

We opened our presents on Christmas morning after breakfast--drawing out the process well into the early afternoon. We like to spend a little time with each present--admiring it, exploring it. One at a time. Make it last, be sure you appreciate the gift and the sentiments behind it. It was really, really weird not to have a Christmas tree (and I'm sure the hotel appreciated us NOT bringing our presents down around their real tree that was decked out in the "living room" by the fireplace), but it worked ok. We had Christmas music on the radio and there was snow on the ground. We were in Vermont, far away from all things fertility, and it was actually an amazingly relaxing and romantic holiday.

We made our way through the presents, carefully picking which one the other person should open next. The big box was near the end. Bryce seemed a little nervous about it. We're always nervous about the presents we get each other, always worried that what seemed meaningful and sweet while shopping becomes trite and crappy upon opening. It's super neurotic. And it's never the case--the presents are always sweet and meaningful and well appreciated. One year Bryce got me a set of stainless steel kitchen accessories from Crate and Barrel--a paper towel holder, a canister for utensils, a salad fork-and-spoon set, and measuring cups and spoons. Hefty, substantial, grown-up kitchen accessories from my favorite homegoods store. We didn't register when we got married because we had so much home crap from our assorted previous weddings (ice cream makers in closets! three coffee makers!) and from living alone however briefly that it seemed silly. So these gifts were awesome to me. His best friend thought differently, freaking out when Bryce told him what he'd gotten me. "She's gonna kill you! A paper towel holder? That's not a Christmas present! What the hell are you doing? You need to go back out shopping immediately before this is the worst Christmas ever!" Now, I get it--to some this would be the equivalent of the birthday vacuum. "I celebrate you with a tool to make my house cleaner all the time. Here you go, 1950s wife." But to me those stainless steel kitchen items were the most thoughtful present because I had always wanted really nice, quality things for the kitchen and now I had them. It represented to me an appreciation for the things that I enjoyed doing and for the fact that we were truly grown-ups, in our home together, finally in a secure place where salad forks could be a beautiful gift. I use them all the time. These things are part of my daily life, which is the way a good gift should be. Useful and beautiful and seen often.

So anyway, here I was with this mystery box, wondering what could fit our price cap criteria and still be in this mongo box along with the earrings (silver g-clef) and books (of the picture variety) and cds (country Christmas, sweet simply because Bryce HATES country music and it just isn't the holidays without Dolly Parton for me...) and other sweet things I had been given. I started to open it. And had a feeling of both dread and incredible love when I spotted something left on the box that gave a clue to what was inside.

The label said, "BABY BUDDHA."

It looks like it's in jail,
but really it's safely in
the baker's rack right now.
I opened the box the rest of the way and inside was this. This beautiful, well-crafted, devastingly meaningful buddha statue for the garden.

It was perfect. It was incredibly touching. And it made me so happy, yet at the same time incredibly, deeply sad.

Let me explain. When we lost the little almost-miracle but totally-ectopic pregnancy that fooled us with low numbers that shouldn't have continued and then numbers that doubled but weirdly, giving us hope and then dashing it with the scary tubal implantation that had to be surgically removed, forever leaving my belly decorated with scars that will always remind me of that loss every time I get out of the shower, we had a ceremony to commemorate that loss. We had an event and said goodbye, within a couple weeks of that tragic experience. I wrote about it here. But we hadn't done anything yet to honor the brief presence of our last loss, the one that in my mind was more tragic because while not as dramatic as seeing a misplaced pregnancy on a high-definition ultrasound and being whisked into surgery within hours, it just seemed cruel and senseless. I am having a hard time getting over this loss. Bryce is having a hard time getting over this loss. Everything was going so well and then BOOM. Gone. But we hadn't yet done anything to put something resembling closure onto the experience. I wanted to do something, buy something for the garden. Some people plant a tree or a plant or something, but what if we moved? I couldn't leave that symbolic representation of the baby that could have been behind. So I wanted a statue for the garden, that we could take with us wherever we went and keep safe in the wintertime. I wanted something peaceful that could both clearly represent our poor lost baby (really, babies--both of them) but not be totally morbid to others. And, that could bring a sense of peace. I wanted a Buddha statue that we could put in our side secret garden, that could go near the prayer bells we added a year or so ago. But I couldn't find just the right one. I looked half-heartedly, but just couldn't bring myself to pick one out.

So the fact that Bryce took it upon himself to find this beautiful, perfect statue that captured everything I wanted was amazing. There is so much emotion in this little boy face. He is holding an open book, which is perfect. The stone is beautiful and I can just see exactly where this memorial can go when it's warmer and there's life once again in the garden.

But man, it was a tough present to open. I held it and just welled up and didn't know what to say. It was beautiful. It was perfect. It was heartbreaking. I lost it. And then Bryce lost it. He was so worried. Maybe this wasn't the right time...maybe it would put a shadow over Christmas. It took that thin layer of healing and opened it up so that we were hugging and crying and holding this little statue and just feeling the loss all over again. But it wasn't a bad time. It was perfect. I wanted to have the ceremony or memorial item in hand before we started our next cycle. I wanted closure to a year that once again held a lot of sadness for us and loss of hope that we keep regenerating, although never quite as strongly as we were once capable of. I'm not going to lie, the statue made me feel incredibly sad. I was in a bit of a funk for hours. But I was so grateful to Bryce for having the strength to do what I just couldn't. He found the perfect statue. He combed internet sites and catalogs until just the right one came to be. It can't have been easy. To find it, to receive it in the mail, to wrap it, unsure if this was the right time to give this incredibly gorgeous but extremely hard gift to your wife. But it was. That took some strength that I deeply appreciate.

And now, we have that closure in a sense. I see the Buddha every day and see it not only as a memory of loss but a peaceful reminder of the hope to come. We were so close, and the changes we have made will bring us even closer. Even though we have suffered what seems incredibly disproportionately on this journey to the ever elusive expanded family, one that has talking family members, not just meowing ones, we can keep looking forward to what we have to gain. Appreciate the loss, and hope for the future...for the baby that stays. 

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Magazine Intervention

My magazine problem knows no bounds. I am a magazine junkie. I have subscriptions to Glamour, PEOPLE, Better Homes & Gardens, Martha Stewart Living, Country Gardens, Whole Living (although I've let that one expire)... and Parents magazine. Yup, Parents. I used to have that awful subscription to American Baby but due to a marketing ploy and a small lie on my part about due date that could have been but wasn't (not an actual successful cycle, so it's not as awful as it sounds) it went away. I graduated to their partner (and not free) magazine, Parents when my "baby" was 6 months old or so. It was just as well, because this was for my vision board and my Baby Binder. The vision board is now facing inwards in the closet in our back office/junk room because it is just too painful to look at at this point. So much hope went into that board, and I put three cycles worth of embryo pictures on it with the caption "We Love You and We Welcome You!" on the orange cardstock frame. And then we lost you. Every one. So the board became less a beacon of hope and a wondrous imagining of what world lay ahead for us and more a reminder of all we kept losing. So I didn't really need pictures for that anymore (although I can't bring myself to dismantle it and I kind of want to just rearrange it a bit to "freshen" it up and put it in the little room during our next cycle...). The Baby Binder still exists at the bottom of a drawer in our coffee table, next to the drawer that holds all my medical crap and plans from all of our cycles, including several beautiful pictures of my rosy, perfectly fine little uterus (inside and out) from various surgeries. The Baby Binder is another beacon of hope, but one that I can stuff to the bottom of a drawer when I can't bear to read articles about an experience that I am worried I may never have. It is a beautiful book, but I haven't taken it out since our last doomed cycle.

The Parents magazine was supposed to be for Baby Bindering in the absence of American Baby. I ordered it when I could get 12 issues for just $1 and I was pregnant. Shortly after I ordered it I was placed on bedrest (but it was too late), but I still hung on to the thought that things could work and it would be fun to receive in my mailbox. Nope, not the case. But then I thought about it, and I wrote about it, and I said, "I can read it and razor it for the Baby Binder when I'm in a good place, and I can stuff it in a drawer when I'm not. It will be fine." Needless to say I have not added any pages to the Baby Binder anytime recently, or rather anytime since I was last filled so completely with hope in the face of possible (and then certain) tragedy. They have been stuffed in the drawer, too painful to even be out on the coffee table. I have about 4-5 months of largely unexplored Parents magazines waiting to be cracked open when I feel like this experience is in my very near future. The one thing I do check for every once in a while is recipes. This magazine is a crazy treasure trove of deliciousness. Roasted Broccoli is a favorite in our parent-free home, as are the Cider-Roasted Carrots and Parsnips. If you want tasty veggie recipes, apparently Parents is the place to go. The other stuff is great, too, I'm sure. I will gorge on it when I am actually in that place. Past the first trimester this time, probably.

Although maybe not. Because I DON'T LEARN FROM MY MISTAKES. I have this crazy selective memory and shiny optimism that overcomes all logic and sense. Today I received a SPECIAL OFFER in the mail--from Family Fun magazine! Oh, holy jeezum, THREE WHOLE YEARS of Family Fun for only $11.99!!! Strangely, as I wasn't even trying to have a family at that point, I used to subscribe to Family Fun years and years ago. I was a Big Sister mentor, and it has awesome craft activities that I used with both my Little Sister and my next door neighbor, and I made a Craft Ideas Binder that has become neglected and dusty in the basement craft area because I have no one to craft with at the moment. But again, this stuff does not go bad. These crafts won't go out of style when I finally have little people to craft with again. This is a wonderful magazine with great activities and tips and again, photos that worked well for that vision board. So I spent a lot of time looking over the awesome direct mail marketing materials--so glossy! So inviting! So persuasive! So many great ideas for an expanded family I DON'T HAVE!!! I started talking out loud about it. I started admiring the crafts and thinking loudly about how this could be a fun magazine to have--hey, we're headed into a new and exciting cycle that could be our best chance yet! Why not? I think the thinking out loud was a subconscious cry for help. Because Bryce, wonderful Bryce, paused chopping jalapenos for the slow-cooker chili and very carefully looked at me and said, "Is this such a good idea? Maybe you hang on to this offer for a little while. Do we need another magazine like this? Maybe having something to look forward to isn't such a bad idea." He is so wise! But of course, my first reaction was to say in a slightly whiny tone that means I know he's right but I'm not ready to give up, "BUT IT SAYS I ONLY HAVE 10 DAYS FOR THIS SPECIAL OFFER!!!!" First he said, "How about you wait until the 11th day to make your decision?" I gave him the evil eye. And then he just looked at me. And I knew just what he was thinking. How do I save my wife from more heartbreak at the mailbox? Family Fun came from the Parents subscription, if she signs up for this one we will officially be on parenting mailing lists and the mailbox will become a veritable minefield of sadness. And we are coming up on LUPRON here, so this is NOT GOOD. Please realize this is a horrible idea without me saying any more. Realize it! Realize it! Realize it...  And so I looked over at the pile of Parents magazines that I had just hauled out from the drawer, searching for that stupid Cider-Roasted Carrots recipe, and I looked at the shiny happy families and small children that are years in the making for us, and I teared up and realized. THIS WAS A VERY BAD IDEA. I don't need one more thing in my mailbox to remind me that we are a unwillingly childless household. I don't need to keep confusing my mail carrier who can probably tell by looking at our house and our carseatless vehicles in the driveway that I am a big fat poser. I need to wait this one out, as tempting as it is to have a shiny glimpse into the world we haven't quite entered yet. Today was a kind of good day, a hopeful day, but it is true that the evil Lupron days are coming sooner than later and this is the kind of thing that sets off the waterworks and the crazypants funks.

So I ripped up my special offer and recycled the direct mail pamphlet and burst into tears. I just want so badly to be ready to order freaking Family Fun. But it is absolutely the right decision to wait. It's not going anywhere. I need to remember my promise to myself to not buy or sign up for anything pregnancy or child related until I am absolutely viably pregnant, as much as that can be assumed. It's better that way. And I can trust that Bryce will keep me in check, for his sanity as much as mine. It's a wonderful thing to want something so much and be so optimistic about it. However, I am grateful to have had a mini-intervention tonight to save me from my Pollyanna tendencies that would cause my mailbox to, yet again, become a black box of torture. Well done, Bryce. Well done.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Happy New Year

Well, 2012 has come and gone. Gooooodbye, 2012. I hate that I seem like a party pooper, because it seems every year the New Year celebration comes and every year I'm like, "Adios, stupid year! You were a stinker! Next year will SOOOO be better!" And, so far, this is a repeating chorus. I am getting mighty tired of this song.

Now, I can't say 2012 was a total stinker. In the baby department it sure didn't meet expectations, to put it mildly. But there were many things that were good, if relatively good. Let's start with the bad stuff, so we can end with the positive.

Good Riddance, 2012 Things:
- A Christmas frozen transfer that was negative. First frozen blastocysts in my uterus, way to start the New Year horribly disappointed that even awesome quality frozen beauties wouldn't stay put.
- A fresh cycle with our best ever egg retrieval--something like 26 eggs (I count it as a good thing that I don't remember the exact number), and 6 usable embryos, 3 of which were frozen and 3 of which went into my uterus. Those 3 fresh day-3 embryos didn't stay, either. Cue 36th birthday hot on the heels of another failure, the fourth fresh transfer and fifth transfer, and 13th embryos to go in and decide it wasn't a good home. Good times, good times. Not my best birthday.
- A summer where we couldn't go to camp in Maine because the week we normally go wasn't available and we couldn't reschedule because we didn't know how the frozen cycle with our three last frosty hopes was going to go. Which meant a summer of stepping into the L.L. Bean and stepping right out because it made us cry.
- A frozen cycle with three blasts of varying quality (one beautiful, one that had better have had a good personality because it wasn't going to win any beauty contests, and one ugly duckling), that resulted in our first real BFP ever. A starting number of 60 something (again, so proud of myself that off the top of my head I can't remember the number) that doubled and doubled like it was supposed to, no mind games and no life-threatening tubebaby. A call from the doctor that we'd waited for for so long that lead to one of the best days of my life so far, where Bryce and I were full of so much joy and hope that we were truly on our way out of this reproductive hell. A beautiful dream that ended in a cruel, drawn-out way with a crazy bleed (that still has me trying to avoid my Grandma's bathroom like the plague and hyperventilating when I can't wait to go somewhere else), bed rest, rapidly dropping numbers, and an ultrasound that a week earlier showed a sac trying to hang on in the bleed but now only showed debris. By far the low point of the year.
- A delayed trip to Cape May, NJ with my best friend and her mom, aunt, and cousins that has been an every 2-4 year experience since we graduated high school, that became a trip I could not go on at all. At first because I was freshly pregnant and perhaps with all the close monitoring we infertile ladies get once we hit the jackpot, a trip down the shore wasn't such a good idea, even if one lady was a nurse who wouldn't flinch at giving me the PIO butt shots. Then it became a canceled trip because I did not care to miscarry all over the Jersey shore and be the ultimate shark protector, the sacrificial swimmer who lures the sharks away from her friends. (Usually this person is the furthest out, which actually doesn't matter to sharks but makes us feel better anyway, or the reckless person wearing sparkly nail polish which apparently does attracts sharks, or the person with their period, haphazardly swimming in sharky waters anyway, like a tampon is going to deter a bloodthirsty shark.) That trip that never happened was part of my loss because I was so looking forward to my time on the beach, a vacation in a vacationless summer full of needles. Oh well.

But, all was not terrible. Pretty much everything was fertility-related that was terrible, but there was plenty of non-fertility related stuff that happened in 2012 that was notable and good.

2012, You Weren't Entirely Sucky Things:
- We did not lose any pets this year. This sounds like a depressing positive, but seriously, we have lost a greyhound to organ failure, then lost a greyhound to relocation because the dog needed more attention and space to run than we could offer and frankly fertility had sapped all of my capacity to deal with anything the least bit stressful at home (a very hard but very good decision), then lost my beloved three-legged cat, Rocky, to a mysterious illness that robbed him of the use of his two back legs over a period of weeks and deteriorated further of course, the week of our Christmas frozen transfer, and so I had to put my cat down (which was horribly botched and traumatizing for all involved) two days before Christmas, the day after my transfer, and during a time where I was supposed to rest and relax and avoid stress. I'm sure hours of wracking, heaving sobs covered that. BUT, that was 2011! 2012 started with our rescue cat, Lucky, and while his namesake didn't rub off on our transfer, he has been an excellent addition to our home. He has been playful and cuddly and gets along decently with Abner, and curls up on your lap and purrs when you need some good cat loving. We have lost no one furry in 2012, and that is something to be grateful for.
- Bryce's job was very stable and excellent in 2012--he was pretty happy with all of his projects and he did an amazing job with everything, winning accolades like crazy. Good stuff in an uncertain economy.
- I received tenure in September! I have a somewhat new and, while exhausting, very rewarding and exciting job teaching 8th grade self-contained Reading and English as well as three 9th grade resource room classes. I have more job security (although how much more is questionable in these times where teachers are so villified by the public and budget cuts run rampant, cutting tenured teachers left right and sideways). So if I do get cut, or I do go out on maternity leave, I at least can get called back and have a job waiting for me when I return. Which is a huge relief. And a big accomplishment.
- We received a positive pregnancy test. Even though it ended in a heartbreaking miscarriage that is by far the most difficult of our losses to bear, it was proof that I CAN GET PREGNANT. In my UTERUS. Now we just have nail down the staying pregnant part.
- We have a new plan, something different. Our next cycle isn't like our previous cycles, and I am excited about that. After six cycles that all ended in heartbreak of varying devastating degrees, it is good to know that this next chance has a much higher rate of success and we are changing things up. I have had time in the fall to take a break and get used to this new plan. I am still terrified to put embryos in a place that so far has not hauled out the welcome wagon, but everyone medical believes that I truly do have a perfectly good, welcoming uterus that will seal the deal for us. And so I ended 2012 in a place of hope.
- We celebrated our 3rd wedding anniversary. Sad that there's still no baby or bump in sight, but grateful and happy that we have so much to celebrate in our marriage. We are a team. We are solid. We are awesome together. We can do this. And we will do it with grace under pressure, stronger as a couple through this horrific gauntlet that will one day, so help us, end in a child.
- We celebrated our Christmas in a wonderful, magical vacation in Vermont. A separate post about this vacation will come after, but wow, what a way to cap off the year. We reconnected (not that we had far to go, just this year has been EXHAUSTING). We romanced each other. We spent tons of time laughing and hiking and eating and drinking and acting like newlyweds. It felt like a honeymoon. If we weren't so horribly infertile and I wasn't on the pill, I would say it was the kind of vacation so magical you could totally get pregnant on it. Except that kind of story just doesn't happen for us, but maybe all the relaxation and romanticalness and wondrousness of this vacation set the stage for a terrific cycle in 2013.

So there you have it. The good, the bad, the ugly. No year is every truly all good or all bad, but this year was really a mixed bag. I can hope that 2013 holds the key to our family expansion project. I don't dare say "THIS is THE year for us, baby!" because I've said that too many times. My ability to be completely enthusiastic about a new beginning is...impaired. But not destroyed. I hope that 2013 is our time, and our time for keeps. None of this fakeout shit of 2011 and 2012. As long as our Good list is longer than our Bad list, I will be happy. And if that Good list contains the one item we have been longing and hoping for, for YEARS now, I will be freaking ecstatic. Bring on the ecstasy, 2013.

Lovebirds, ending the year in our room in Vermont.