Saturday, October 19, 2013

Medical History Meltdown

Why must fertility clinic forms be so aggravating?

We have decided to get a second opinion via phone consult with CCRM in Colorado. Supposedly they are the best clinic in the nation, and they have an entire section of their website dedicated to out-of-state patients. We have those 6 2PN embryos in the freezer and don't want to do anything with them until we get second opinions. So, we have a phone consult with CCRM scheduled for early November.

HOWEVER, before that consult, we have to fill out a dizzying array of forms detailing every last bit of information about our medical history, infertility history, puberty history, you name it. I had to call my mom to find out when exactly I got hair in funny places. Because no normal human being remembers when that happens. Boob development, sure. First period I had the month right but was confused about the year, because I had a lovely "January cake" baked by my mom when that momentous occasion arrived. A white cake with vanilla frosting (pushing virginity much?), although red velvet would have been more hilarious. Kind of like the armadillo groom's cake in Steel Magnolias, only more disturbing.

Once I got all that puberty stuff out of the way, it then became apparent that I would need to document every single cycle we've ever done and the outcome. I'm pretty sure this is what sending my medical records over is for, so why I have to also document it all is beyond me. Especially since I had to break out all my folders and notebooks from my obsessive documenting (thank goodness I had that), and then on page 12/13, when I'd hit the radio buttons for NOT PREGNANT, ECTOPIC PREGNANCY, and MISCARRIAGE more times than I cared to, each little mouse click cutting deeper into my heart, feeling the pain of each failure over and over again, IT KICKED ME OUT. I had a massive freakout. Screaming, crying, medical records and notebooks flying. I had to log in again and it had said it wouldn't save, but I had done EVERYTHING the website told me to do. For some reason, despite spending an hour and a half inputting information, I had gotten a pop-up warning me that my session was about to end, so I dutifully clicked on "Extend My Session." It didn't matter. I got kicked out anyway. Luckily, it brought me right back to page 12. UNluckily, I had to fill in every last cycle again. All the failures. All the losses. Again again again. I got almost to the bottom of the page when my wrist hit my mouse's scroll button. IT KICKED ME OUT AGAIN. I pretty much just turned into a puddle at this point. Crying heaving sobs that left flecks of salt water on my glasses. WHY, CCRM? WHY is your website so FRAGILE? Don't you understand that your would-be patients need a robust website that can handle anything so that we don't have to fill in all this pain AGAIN and AGAIN? There was a section for emotional wellbeing, where you were supposed to fill out the stress level from infertility and related pressures on a 1-10 scale, 10 being the worst. The first time through I said 7 (perhaps a little optimistically). The second time through I wanted to write 12, ASSHOLES!!! TWELVE! Thanks to your little website and the detritus of my personal tragedy littering the office floor! I was a seven before but now I am near stroke level! Instead, I wrote 8.  Eight because I am not suicidal, I am able to function at my job on a daily basis, I am not a catatonic zombie on the couch. I'd kind of like to be, but I'm not. So I think my ability to not be a childless zombie on the couch earns me an 8 instead of the 10 Bryce was pushing for. I filled everything out again. I had some dates memorized at this point. It got tricky at the end, because I just got to the point where I could not document anymore. I just can't do it. It makes no difference. Although, had I documented the last two cycles, it would have been a little easier to fill out this godforsaken form.

The form is in. The family history is in. The one where I got to chronicle that yes, other women in my family have had trouble conceiving, but that they all have at least one child. NOT ME, though. Still slogging.

Moments like this really make me realize that when these lovely 6 2PNs are gone, whether there is (hopefully) a pregnancy that results in a baby or there is nothing yet again, I AM DONE with this. As of this moment, I don't think that I have it in me to keep going down the medical treatment path after this last frozen. We are seriously needing to reevaluate ourselves and what we truly want. Because I am not willing to sacrifice my well being in every sense of the word for the dwindling hope that I might get pregnant, when pregnancy is such a short part of parenthood overall. I want a baby. I am grappling with the fact that how this baby comes to me is really quite the mystery, but we need to start looking down other roads. So we have the CCRM consult, I am scheduling a consult with another local clinic, and I have requested information on domestic infant adoption. Which will, of course, entail filling out many, many forms of every type of history there is.

For now, though, I am glad that the CCRM paperwork is, for the most part, done. Now I can go and drink a well-deserved margarita. And apologize to Bryce for the infertile banshee I became while buried in the documentation of all my failures. I so wish that all of this could be just a little bit easier.

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Bad Timing for Book Club

I joined a book club this past year. I have unsuccessfully joined book clubs at least three times, but for this particular book club, I have returned and participated in multiple meetings. Which is a record for me. And it's ironic, because the only link I have to the people in this book club is my next door neighbor, who I don't actually know all that well, and the people in it are all people who have met through working at Xerox. Some still do, many don't anymore, but that is the common thread. On a surface level, I have very little in common with the group, but it works. Most members are older than me by at least 10-15 years, and so most children are either in grade school or even college, and there is very little "New Parent Talk" to be had. Which is lovely.

The other reason why I love this book club is that THEY ACTUALLY READ AND MAKE A POINT TO DISCUSS THE BOOK. At length. They bring questions. They go around the room. The point of the club is not first food and wine and then a little book talk and call it good, it's the book discussion with food and wine as a close second, but definitely a second. It's lovely. I can be as book nerdy as I want and it is welcomed. Plus it makes me read books I wouldn't otherwise pick out myself.

Except that this past choice came at a really bad time.

The last book club was in July, and it was decided we needed to read some nonfiction. Choices were thrown out, and while I really wanted to read the "Who Is Murdering Long Island Call Girls and Why Do So Few People Care" book choice, the consensus landed on In the Garden of Beasts, an Erik Larson book about an American family that moved to Berlin as the ambassador to the US at the time that Hitler was rising to power and people were still turning a blind eye to his atrocities but it was getting harder and harder to ignore what was happening to Jews in particular but also other groups. It is a good book, although an incredibly dense book, not that I finished it. The book club was October 8th, so I could spend both the end of summer and the beginning of the school year reading about Hitler.

Except, when you are trying desperately to conceive a baby through incredibly taxing means, and you are starting a new school year, but mostly you are TRYING TO BREW A BABY, you don't really feel like reading about Hitler's rise to power in 1930s Berlin.

And then, when you fail that cycle, and embryos #19 and 20 flee your supposedly welcoming womb, you want to read about Hitler even less. And you really don't want to discuss it.

Add to that a seriously ailing grandmother and the stresses of going to visit and not being entirely sure which sunken and possibly unresponsive grandma you will be seeing, and the lure of both reading and discussing Hitler has really gone by.

Oh, and October 8th was my consult, where we sat in a new conference room we hadn't ever been in before (new to us, I wondered if it was the "Come To Jesus Meeting" Room), and basically came to the conclusion that these precious 6 2PN embryos we have hanging out in the freezer are likely our last chance before we have to seriously weigh our options on family building and decide where to put our resources where we can, you know, ACTUALLY HAVE A FREAKING FAMILY already, and I REALLY didn't want to go to book club.

Especially because the one member of book club who is my age or possibly even a bit younger was due in October or November, I can't remember which, but she was either going to be a) ginormously hugely pregnant or b) toting a newborn or talking incessantly about pumping and sleeping and the adjustment for her 2 year old son or c) not there because she is either due any second or has just birthed her baby and everyone else would be talking beatifically about how wonderful new motherhood is. I could not handle any of it. Especially since two book clubs ago the pregnancy announcement was a "funny story, I wasn't feeling well but I thought nothing of it and then I had a glass or two of wine and felt horrible so I thought 'hey, maybe I should pee on a stick or something' and it was POSITIVE! I was like 11 weeks pregnant! How weird!" OH HOLY JEEZUM, yes. WEIRD. Because THAT WILL NEVER EVER HAPPEN TO ME. I will never "accidentally" discover that I am nearly through my first trimester. I have no mystery. I will (likely) never be surprised with a sneak attack pregnancy. So, while this woman is incredibly sweet and kind and all of that, I just could not be around a birth story from a whoopsie baby right now.

I have never shared with these people that I am hideously infertile. But when I canceled via email to this time's host, I just said this week had been awful and I couldn't make it. And when she responded "I hope everything is ok," I just couldn't not send a message. It may have read, "Yeah, what with the start of the school year, my grandmother going into a steady decline, and failing my 8th IVF, I just can't bring myself to be social and chat about Hitler. :-)" Too much? It wasn't meant to be mean, just informative. Maybe a bit pithy. I didn't get a response.

So, hopefully I haven't killed my participation in this book club over my honesty. But I can't smile through the conversations anymore. I can't handle anything ANYMORE. Yesterday I was in data-analysis meetings for school to see how I can maybe help my students with disabilities be proficient on these state tests, and they let us out early. I was sitting next to a friend who was excited to go home and clean her house without children in it. I said, "that doesn't sound like fun" but then realized it is much like when my best friend has an unexpected hour or two by herself in her house without her three children, and that even vacuuming in peace is exciting when people are always needing you and touching you and there is no downtime ever. A chaos that I would pretty much give a limb for at this point, but I just don't have and at first cannot understand. Another teacher came over and basically said that she couldn't wait to get home for alone time even if it meant cleaning bathrooms, and my friend said, "Yeah, Jess didn't get why that's so exciting." It was a joke. It was harmless. And this other teacher, who knows NOTHING about my situation, said, "Oh, you really just don't get it, you don't understand then." And I just kept highlighting my math standard strands that my student did not understand on the state math test and said loudly, "NO, I really DON'T. I have NO IDEA." Only I got that I was being very snarky. Well, maybe my friend knew. I WOULD GIVE ANYTHING to know what it feels like to want to go home and clean in peace because my life is full of joyful chaos. Even when kids are screaming and you're covered in vomit, that chaos is joyful because it's full of children. I have a quiet, empty house. Bryce and I have a very cozy little house that is welcoming but SO SO QUIET. We are tired of it. We want the chaos. I want to complain that I just want 15 minutes with no one touching me or yelling "Mommy? Mommy? Mommy? MOMMY?" I am terrified that I may never get to long for that peace and quiet, that I will be forever on the outside looking in on that beautiful, frustrating, chaotic world of parenthood.

So it is probably understandable that I could not handle a book club where it is possible I could have lost it and, with a group of women (and a handful of men) who I don't know all that well enough, it could have been incredibly awkward. Or not. I don't know. Right now is about doing what I need to do to not fall spectacularly apart in public, because I do FABULOUSLY well falling apart in private. All the time. More on that later, aren't you so glad you have that to look forward to? Life goes on. Plans go on. I put on my semi-happy mask of a face and pretend to be ok, even though I am one hundred percent NOT ok. But at least I'm ok enough to know that my reading material at the moment cannot include a detailed historical account of Hitler's rise to power, and I can't participate even at the periphery of conversations about the joys and frustrations of motherhood.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

This Week Officially Officially Sucks

A negative test after my 8th IVF, second donor attempt (first donor FET) where my uterus was sparkly and plush and everything looked so good was bad enough. That's a Monday that just sets the WRONG TONE for the week. Luckily I had a half day sick day to accommodate the test uncertainty and possible devastating reaction.Good thing, too. But then all the crying exacerbated a cold I'd had that moved into my chest and I sounded like maybe bronchitis and so took another half day in the morning to go to the doctor.

Funny story. A year ago I switched my asthma medicine from a less pregnancy-friendly but more effective purple diskus to a slightly-less-effective but more pregnancy-friendly orange diskus. Because I was so sure I'd be pregnant soon. Twice over. And now my cold exacerbated my asthma to the point where my lung capacity on Tuesday was 64%. Which is, um, NOT GOOD. So I ended up on a steroid inhaler 2x a day for the next month and... MEDROL. Yup, the same Medrol that did not help me un-reject a beautiful hatching blast is now marginally helping my horribly inflamed lungs. I am on one of those dwindling dose packs and am thrilled to see that you don't have to be on 64mg to experience feelings of overwhelmedness and horrible insomnia. 24 and 20mg does that as well. AWESOME. Oh Medrol, I did not miss you. But I am feeling a bit better and hopefully within a week I won't sound like I have consumption minus the wasting away. Because thanks to all that PIO, I am at the heaviest weight I have ever been. And I don't get to go maternity clothes shopping. So I have to do something about this once my legs aren't freaking numb and needle-y so that I don't just cry every time I try to get dressed in the morning or catch my reflection in a car door. (Which, by the way, is like a funhouse mirror. NEVER look at your reflection in the side of a car. It is HORRIFIC.)

AND THEN, my grandmother, who had fallen and fractured her femur last week and got transferred from the hospital to the rehab unit of her assisted living facility organization, took a sudden turn for the worse yesterday. We had seen her on Saturday for an early 95th birthday party because my parents were headed to England to visit family for a bit over a week. The timing wasn't great but Grandma looked pretty well and seemed in good spirits, like her usual self in some pain but not anything horribly concerning. There was a schedule my mom set up with various family members to be sure there was someone with her in and out each day, and everything seemed just fine. Not great, but fine. Grandma enjoyed her lemon cake and the company of my sister and her husband and youngest stepson, my mom and my stepfather, and me (and eventually Bryce who unfortunately had to work until the last 15 minutes because things at his job are icky at the moment). My mom asked me to bring my violin, and given that my test was two days away and I'd been having the numbness and my thighs were so sore I was limping and school had been busy and I hadn't practiced in forever, I was hesitant. But I brought it anyway and it was actually really nice. We played a bunch of hymns with my mom on the hammered dulcimer and my sister on a travel guitar and then my sister sang a song she wrote herself. It was a regular Von Trapp family moment, but Grandma enjoyed it and that was important. Because when I came back to visit on Wednesday, I almost could not recognize her. She had requested more pain medication because she was hurting a lot, but she had crossed over into incoherent. She wasn't fully aware of who was in the room. She was hallucinating. She was having conversations with people who had been dead for years and even her beloved dog, Snickers, made a return from the other side to keep her company in her hallucinatory state. She looked sunken. She looked frailer than frail. Her breathing was labored. I left in hysterical sobs and my uncle brushed tears from his face throughout the time I was there. We thought it was the beginning of the end. It was possibly related to the massive doses of oxycodone she was on, but it seemed like just so much decline in such a short span of time. So, I had to go and call my mom in England to just give her the information about how her mother looked so that I didn't feel like I missed an opportunity to let her make her decision of whether or not to come home early in case my grandmother didn't make it. That was so awesome. I can't say how many times I said it could be a medication issue but that the way she looked and sounded and acted I was worried she wouldn't make it a week, but again she could pull through. My entire family is coming into town this weekend. Today she was better. Which is great, and no one ever regrets more time with a 95 year old powerhouse of a matriarch.

But, yesterday was a low low low point. Because it was so devastating to see her so weak and mentally out of it. Like at times not even in this decade. And part of my devastation was entirely selfish. Part of my devastation was compounded by walking in to the room, realizing my uncle was in the room and so that tiny writhing woman really was my grandmother, and seeing an iPad on the counter with a picture of my cousin's newborn on it. I am super excited for this baby because she had struggles of her own and she is a hard-won baby that took five years to get here. But to know in that moment that I was supposed to tell my grandmother my good news and to feel that I may never ever get to tell her that I am pregnant was an overwhelmingly gaping hole of a loss. I could not believe it. I mourned it. And even now I mourn it, because I don't know how long my grandmother will be with us. And I don't know if this will ever come to pass. I want to believe it. I am doing everything I can to make it happen and it just won't. She has intimated multiple times in a very roundabout way that adoption would be a great option for us. And believe me, I am considering it more and more BUT I AM NOT THERE YET and it is not something that I can rush or go into simultaneously. I know myself well enough to know that I cannot pursue both options fully at once. And for the love of all that is holy, we are doing everything we can to make the right decisions for ourselves and it is not an easy thing to do. It doesn't come without forethought and research. It may not always be fully understood, but we are not ready to move on to something else. We still have six opportunities (well, probably less than that once they are grown out to three days) still waiting, we just have to decide how to best do that before we are at the true crossroads. And I don't know how long this will take. And the thought of never ever getting to share joyful news with my grandmother that I finally made it and I will be a mother is heartbreaking. Especially yesterday when it seemed to both me and my uncle that that moment of finality was imminent.

And, in a moment that was both hilarious and heartbreaking, I peed on a stick yesterday. I actually went out and bought a two-pack (I could not resist) and peed on a stick even though my beta on MONDAY was undeniably 100% ZERO. Because my body was still tricking me with the PIO side effects and I wasn't convinced. In part because it was so hard to believe that THIS MUCH CRAP could fall from the sky at once. Maybe it was all a mistake. Maybe I was really pregnant and it wasn't too late to save it with an evening shot of PIO. But it was no miracle. Everything could be that sucky. Bryce was worried that I would be more upset with the negative pee stick. It just made me feel like, phew, now I can have a glass of chardonnay and not worry that I am killing my miracle baby. Because somehow in all of this I am still a Pollyanna who believes that miracles like that are possible despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary. On the other hand of things, now I have a spare pee stick haunting my cabinet. Maybe this is a magical pee stick. Maybe I am meant to have this lone pee stick for a future cycle that will actually result in a double line that stays. Or maybe I just had a moment of psychotic weakness where I thought that there is some limit to the series of unfortunate events that one person can trudge through in a short period of time and so this must all be a big mistake. Oh well.

So, this week has sucked. It's an understatement. And I am really really jealous of celebrities right now who can check themselves into rehab facilities under the "mental exhaustion" category. Because I am MENTALLY FREAKING EXHAUSTED. I wish some magic lottery ticket would make our next attempt AND a weeklong stay at some tropical spa where I could lounge with cucumber slices on my eyes and a fruity drink in my hand and forget that I am grieving in every possible way...possible. But this is real life and it is hard right now. And unfair. And I am sorry that I don't have a more positive spin! But I will end with a lovely picture of me with my grandmother, on Saturday, when she was doing well. Happy birthday, Grandma. I'm glad today was a better day.