Tuesday, December 30, 2014

"Let Go Or Be Dragged"

We're home from our last stretched-out Christmas family event, having spent a few beautiful days in southern Vermont with my husband's mom and stepdad. Ironically there wasn't much snow there, where the skiing is king, but we came home to enough snow on the ground that our driveway was plowed.

The thing about drives in the car is that you have this time where you can have conversations and the other person can't escape: there's no walking away, or suddenly developing a burning interest in doing laundry or vacuuming, or deciding now's the perfect time to go for a run. It's really a hostage situation. This can make for some interesting conversations, and is kind of the perfect time to really delve into difficult subjects. Plus, it's hard to make sustained eye contact with the other person (safely, at least), so if something hard has to be said it can make it a little bit easier...even though you are stuck there and can't run away.

I am not succeeding at making this not sound like a fight. Today was not a fight, not at all, but it was some hard-truth-discussing, that's for darn sure.

Over the vacation we kind of felt out how my husband's parents felt about adoption. They thought it was a great idea. Which led to questions about why we can't just move forward with that and put the rest behind us, why we can't drop the infertility treatment piece cold turkey and throw ourselves straight into adoption. Out of love, out of concern for my health, out of concern for time.

I am going to be completely and utterly honest in this post, and it may not be easy to hear/read, but I have been feeling so very conflicted and I need to kind of sort it out and get it out of my head a bit.

In having these discussions, I was a little in awe about how much I've already learned about domestic infant adoption and the process and the players and the pitfalls of explaining what adoption looks like today versus thirty or twenty years ago. I was also a little in awe about how excited we are, how much passion goes into explaining and talking about this as a possible (and probable) future. There is nothing like talking about a pathway with others who have a stake in it to make you realize that you really are on board with taking this step. That as afraid as I've been to start this process while finishing the other process, it is absolutely the right decision for us.


I am finding that I am in a funny place. I don't have a whole lot of hope that we'll end up pregnant. I'd love for that to happen, but honestly what makes me think this could happen for us at this point? This journey has been nothing but cruel to us. We have done 9 cycles, transferred 25 embryos, and only two of those cycles and two of those embryos ever did anything remotely exciting. To sit there and look at the fact that it has been YEARS since my one uterine pregnancy is incredibly discouraging. To feel like perhaps it would be nice to be put in some sort of stasis for transfer (and maybe even the wait) so that I don't feel horribly sad as we put these little bundles of potential life inside my uterus, because really I feel that they are going to their death. That is not a good feeling. I try to be positive, but when the odds seem so utterly stacked against you, how can you not feel like this is a lost cause?  Especially when we've had TWO cancellations in the past year when that's never happened to us before? Especially with our brand-new issues of polyps and uterine scarring? This is where, I feel, people stop understanding me.


No one yells this at me, but I kind of hear it that way. People, including my husband, including our respective parents, including our closest friends, are concerned. And I am moving on, I am. I would like some credit for that. Originally we had another fresh cycle in our package. We 100% are NOT doing that. No more fresh cycles. Our frozens are all we have left, and I would like to finish it out. I would like to give them a chance. Even though, I realize, I just said putting them in my uterus makes me feel like it's NO chance.

Here's the thing...no one is telling us this is not going to happen, even when it feels to us that everyone on our team is completely delusional. The scarring is at the tippy top of my uterus, and the belief is that it won't impact a pregnancy. But it sounds awfully scary. And how do they know?

The fears people around us have:
- We won't get pregnant and we'll have wasted time.
- We will get pregnant and we'll experience another miscarriage.
- We will get pregnant and we'll have complications on my end that are life threatening or compromise my health either short term or long term.
- We will get pregnant and there will be complications that result in premature birth and complications that come with that.
- We will get pregnant and we'll have a late stage loss.

I have these fears, too, but I don't necessarily think they're founded. I do not want to end this journey in more tragedy than we've already experienced, but who has said that these things are any more of a possibility than they are for the average 38 year old pregnant woman? And, if we start the application process and gather our documents and paperwork and all that assorted work for adoption while we're finishing this out, then have we really wasted any time?

Why is it so bad for me to want to use these embryos and close out our process? It seems somehow wrong not to. To me. Please understand this is my thought process and my situation, so if your situation is different, I am in NO WAY judging you and your decisions. However, there is embryo donation. But for me, I feel like we don't have embryos from a successful cohort, so who would want them? Can I donate embryos to someone else that don't have a good track record from the buddies who came before them? This has been asked. The answer-and-question-all-at-once, WHAT IF THEY WORK IN SOMEONE ELSE? has come up. That one hurts. It hurts because then it's really my uterus and my ability to carry that's the problem, ultimately, and that would really make me feel terrible. It is definitely not my fault, and it is nothing whatsoever that I've done, but it would feel that way. It would feel like I was the ultimate failure in the equation, and even though I would be so mad at anyone who would say the same to themselves, I'd be all "it's not your fault!" and "stop blaming yourself, crazypants!" I can't take my own advice. It is hard for me to think that these embryos would work for someone else. Gestational carrier is so tricky in NY and is a path that comes with its own difficulties, so we probably wouldn't do that as tempting as it is to me to figure out if it's my uterus that's the culprit. I know people who have done that and it STILL didn't work out. Better to move on to a process that is no longer medical in nature, no longer a treatment, something that separates us from all that. Why can't I let these embryos go?

Would life be easier, be simpler in some way if I could?

Is the only thing keeping me from diving into adoption these frozen embryos?


Is it that I believe these are our last chances at pregnancy, at an experience that otherwise we need to let go of?

Sort of.

In talking in the car today, it is painfully apparent that while I hope that we experience that, I just can't see it anymore. I want to, but that version of a future reality has been stripped away, layer by layer, by every negative, every loss, every cancellation, every surgery that reveals some new hideous hurdle. I have friends who tell me they still see that for me. Good for them, because I can't. It actually hurts to imagine it, because it has hurt so much to lose that hope and that dream every time it is not our reality to hold. But can I see us with a baby in our arms? Absolutely.

It is so hard to put this to paper, to make it real in a sense. Not to crap it up with an example from my ugly past life, but it is almost like when I suspected my ex-husband was cheating on me but had no concrete proof, and while it hurt so much to have that betrayal exposed to me, it was also a relief. Because there was this truth that was lurking beneath this glass, and I didn't want to face it, but I could move on with my life and have a MUCH BETTER existence if only I faced it. It took someone else exposing disgusting emails and telling me things in a way I couldn't deny for me to finally be like, yes, I guess I knew this in some way, okay, this sucks and it hurts, but now I can let that go and move on to a new chapter. And if I could go back to my previous self and tell her what amazingly wonderful things await her, even when the loss of what I thought I had was so fresh and raw, I don't even know if Old Me would believe it. It would be like a fairy tale of sorts, because my life now is SO DIFFERENT. And so much better, even with all this infertility horrificness.

I have heard that couples who end treatment and go down the adoption path feel this way too. They want to go back and tell their Old Selves what awaits them on the other side of that loss, that it's so worth it, and that they wish they'd discovered this earlier. It seems so similar, except in this case there's no one else to break the glass and let this truth out, it has to be me who comes to grip with the fact that I can't have the happiness without accepting the truth that pregnancy is just not our way to a baby. That if I can just make it through the howling and the finality of realizing that IVF DID NOT WORK FOR US, THAT WE WILL NEVER BE PREGNANT, then I can move forward and start a beautiful new chapter that has its own challenges and is not, by any stretch of the imagination, easy...but we can have a child. I can be a mom. We can be parents. We can have that dream of holding our infant come into focus and become a beautiful reality.

It is a big loss for me to come to grips with. In the grand scheme of things, pregnancy is such a tiny part of parenthood. But it's a part I wanted. It's a part you never think won't be for you. I feel small and materialistic in a way, admitting this, but it is hard for me to let go of telling people I'm pregnant, of my maternity photo shoot, of shopping for my baby shower with a beautiful bump in front of me, of holding up tiny clothes at my baby shower and resting them on my ginormous belly, of hearing a heartbeat, of birthing our baby in whatever way and meeting him or her on the outside after bonding on the inside. So many things can still be had, just not how I imagined. And that imagined life, the one that plays out daily on facebook and Christmas letters and whatnot...it's hard to surrender. But surrendered it must be to move on and greet the beautiful life that is waiting for us.

I am not 100% of the way there. While the thought of sticking myself with another goddamn needle makes me want to puke, and even tomorrow I have to go, on New Year's Eve, for a midcycle ultrasound at my OB/GYN to gather data for our February cycle, and that makes me feel icky, I have a hard time not finishing this out. We have a consultation, a post-cancelled-cycle consult appointment in person that I set up because we wanted to see our doctor face to face and have a difficult conversation before getting started on this next go-round, our last one with ready-made blasts and maybe the last one ever if those 2PNs fail to grow out to Day 5. It's next week. I am testing out the idea of letting it go. Why should this next cycle turn out any different than the cancelled one? Why should my lining cooperate this time? Why should we have any hope that this will work? Seriously, why?

Right now the plan is to execute these two FETs and do the application. To focus on the application and not the FETs. Hard to do when the FETs require so much time off from school to drive to Buffalo and rest and all the needles and the side effects and the feeling of hope that dwindles and then surges and then dwindles and then surges and, historically, then leaves us feeling bereft and lost. But maybe, if we are focusing on this new door, this new route, then a negative would feel more like a step towards resolution, towards reaching our path.

I struggle so much. Can I let go of the embryos now? Can I embrace the new path 100% and leave this medical disaster behind, unfinished, unresolved by anyone but us? Would those embryos haunt us? Bryce asked if I'd consider saving them for later and adopting now, then trying for a sibling with these embryos later. Interesting idea. But will my uterus continue to deteriorate? Will that just force the issue and make it moot?

There is a Buddhist saying that I first read, ironically, in a women's magazine (quoted by a famous actress who recently went through her own personal uprooting). "Let go or be dragged." It is so simple. It is so powerful. It spoke to me. It's haunted me. Every time I dig my heels in and want to keep going with our FETs, it whispers in the back of my consciousness. "You're being dragged." There is another quote attributed to Buddha (but apparently is REALLY from a book by a guy named Jack Kornfield, called Buddha's Little Instruction Book, so I guess it's in the spirit of Buddha) that raises my hackles, but speaks to me and I hate it but also understand it more every day... "In the end, only three things matter: how much you loved, how gently you lived, and how gracefully you let go of things not meant for you." Can you see why this raises my hackles? The idea that something can be NOT MEANT FOR YOU is deeply offensive to me, like someone somewhere is making a judgment, especially when this thing is granted to people who don't want it ALL THE TIME. But really, the reason why I think it bothers me so much? It's a hard truth. It lurks beneath glass and needs to be let out. It bothers me because it may be true but hard to face, that pregnancy is just not meant for me, not now, at this point in my life, maybe not ever. As of this moment it has not been our lasting reality, and I feel a little foolish for pursuing it still when there is SO MUCH HISTORY telling us that we are chasing a dream of epic proportions.

So can I let go? Can I face this truth? Is there a smidgen of hope left that I could have the hands on a big belly that belongs to me and see this dream fulfilled? Or is the true dream, the best dream, holding a baby that we have loved since we first committed to trying to have a child, a baby that grew in someone else's tummy but is meant for us to love and raise and complete our family? Chase and grasp or let go and find joy? Accept that our path is truly ending on the medical side and embrace a different reality than we originally imagined but one that is far more joyful than our current reality?

"Let go or be dragged." It is so much easier to read it than to live it.

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Christmas Past, Christmas Present, Christmas Future

Since being married, the closest we've had to a "normal" Christmas was our first. We'd only just started Clomid IUIs in October/November, and had no real high hopes for that to bring us our baby. There was no expectation of a pregnant Christmas, or a baby to share in our joy. We were able to have our tree, our Christmas Day by ourselves, our Christmas Eve with my family in town, and make ourselves some kind of gorgeous dinner. I wish I could remember what it was, but I don't. It was a good Christmas, and our card was pictures from our wedding that October. Nothing but joy.

The following year we had Clomid IUIs and injectible IUIs behind us, and had completed one wildly unsuccessful IVF. It was a sadder Christmas, but we still felt that this next year was OUR YEAR, so much so that we did the dreaded Holiday Cycle and had a transfer in early January. Our card was still joyful, less Christmas-themed but pictures from our trip to Downeast Maine in a light blue background, lots of hiking and dinghies in the harbor and joy in being surrounded by so much natural beauty. No baby, though, and that year started the cards with other peoples' babies that began to sting a bit. We had 2010 Christmas at home, with a tree and red candles that seemed festive but were baby voodoo and owl ornaments blanketing our house. 

2011 was rough. We were home, broken from our third IVF that resulted in a pregnancy but an ectopic one, and I had spent the fall recuperating physically and emotionally from that cruel twist of fate combined with starting a new job split between two buildings and two grade levels (8th and 9th, not an easy time for the young peoples). That was a sad Christmas for sure, and we struggled through it, but made sure that we had presents beneath the tree and cards on display of babies and second babies and third babies and older children. Our card featured pictures from a photo shoot we did ourselves in November near the Erie Canal, really self-indulgent photos but they made us feel better about the distinct lack of baby on our card. 

2012 marked a turning point. I love Christmas, and we were starting to feel incredibly sad every Christmas, because each year we had no one tiny to put on the cards was a crushing squeeze to our hearts. Each year it was the same made it hurt worse. And this year we had more IVF failures, but then a beautiful positive test and a uterine pregnancy that seemed so promising but ended in a cruel bleed and loss of that baby before school started. I felt like summer was meant for grieving. Bryce took matters into his own hands and booked us a trip to Grafton, Vermont for Christmas. We would have a beautiful Christmas tradition all our own, we would stay for nearly a week and enjoy romantic time together and not be surrounded by sameness and reminders that our life had stood still while everyone else's moved on down the trajectory. We needed it. Our families understood. That was the Christmas of the Buddha statue meant for the garden to memorialize our little baby who didn't stay, but who has lived in our dining room because we want to be able to see it every day and we don't want anything to happen to it. It was the year we put the cats on the Christmas card, in bowties, and we wore 1950s style clothing and had cheeky photos of us under silver mistletoe. Sense of humor, saved by vacation. 

2013 we went to Vermont for Christmas again, but it was a little tinged with the sadness. We stayed in the suite we loved, and played board games and read and sat by the fire and snow-tubed and snow-shoed and hiked and ate really, really good food. And drank really, really good wine. But we had that feeling of same-ness...of families we'd seen the year before, of children another year older, of "here we are again and STILL no baby" that had followed us from home. Don't get me wrong, it was a magical, beautiful holiday--but it didn't quite erase the pain of our continued loss the way we'd hoped it would. This year I refused to send out Christmas cards. Instead, I made up New Year's cards, filled with pictures from the year--pictures of our house, our gardens, our fun times together, and a silly of each of us (Bryce sniffing a lilac like a fine wine, me wearing my shamrock deelie-boppers from St. Patrick's Day). It was different. Different is good. 

This year... this year is hard for its own reasons. 

We didn't book a trip to Vermont, because the fall was busy and we weren't sure it was the right thing, and our plans were to do Christmas in Maine with Bryce's mom and stepfather, since we have yet to do that. We were going to go to Vermont after, on our way home, but it just got away from us for a variety of reasons. It is the third Christmas without a tree--I didn't mind so much the past two years because we were traveling, and we're STILL traveling now so it doesn't make sense to have one, but to be home and have no tree is kind of depressing. The trip to Maine got cancelled when my grandmother passed away, because last weekend was a huge family trip to Chillicothe, Ohio where my grandmother's funeral service, calling hours, reception, and family dinner was. My school vacation started a day early, since we had to leave Friday morning, but it honestly didn't feel like vacation until Monday after we'd returned. There's a shadow over Christmas, because I don't have a grandmother to visit anymore. I don't have a reason to go to the Episcopal Church Home anymore, I don't have someone to bring lemon cake to, I don't have anyone to read to about the women journalists of WWII. While some think that my grandmother somewhat planned her time so that it would be before Christmas and we would be able to spend some time as a whole family together (nearly everyone was able to make it to the funeral), I can't help but be sad. I'm sad I don't get another Christmas with my grandma. I'm sad she's missed the opportunity to meet my children. I'm just sad, period. 

So, because driving 8 hours to Chillicothe and back and then driving the 9-12 hours to Maine shortly after was a bit OVERWHELMING, the trip to Maine was cancelled. Which is unfortunate. What's good is that we're meeting Bryce's mom and stepfather in Vermont, not far from Grafton, for a few days after Christmas, so we get both a family visit and the chance to be somewhere different for the holiday. I get to go to the Northshire Bookstore, which always makes my heart happy. We get to have Christmas several times -- by ourselves tomorrow, with my family on Friday, and then after with my Maine family. It's a beautiful thing. 

Due to all the craziness, this year's Christmas feels...not so much. The cards never got made, let alone sent out. We don't have a tree, but we have evergreens on the mantel, lit by battery-powered fairy lights intertwined. We'll put our presents for each other on either side of the fireplace and try not to set them on fire. I get really, really excited for Christmas--not for my own presents (although getting prizes is always lovely), but to watch people open the ones I've chosen for them. I'm really excited for Bryce's Christmas. Everything is wrapped and hidden in the downstairs room closet, and I am thrilled to put it all out tonight. 

A tradition that I've stolen from my childhood is the one present on Christmas Eve rule. You get to open one small present before bed on the Night Before Christmas... chosen by the other person. Then the rest are for the morning, opened slowly, one at a time, and alternating. Our kids are going to be so frustrated with us, because we can stretch presents out for HOURS. It's important to feel the gratitude for each present, and to slow it down because once the presents are gone, the moment's over. Stretching it out is like a magic slowing of time. Joy is hard to come by lately, so we have to make it last while we can. 

Tonight we're having roast duck and some accompaniments that Bryce has finagled...he's newly into cooking and I welcome it with open arms. He makes really, really delicious stuff. Good wine will be part of the evening, because there's no reason NOT to be drinking and enjoying the merriment of the season. Gather ye rosebuds while we may, I guess. Tomorrow, tradition pops up again. They have to start somewhere, right? We have citrus salad (ruby grapefruit, cara cara navels, and clementines) and coffee, then a full breakfast after presents are opened. Actually, I can't remember if we open one present after citrus salad and then the rest after the full breakfast, or maybe it's stockings with citrus salad and then presents after full breakfast? Pardon me, we haven't been home for years and I have my traditions all wonky. I think it's citrus salad, stockings, full breakfast, presents. That sounds about right. I think pancakes are in our future. 

Then, family phone calls, enjoying of gifts, and a delicious dinner of Chicken Marbella, which I hope is as delicious as it sounds (I read about it in a book recently, and looked it up on Pinterest, so it is a mystery...). Christmas carols. Christmas movies. Snuggling with cats. Trying to enjoy the love we have for each other and the joys we can bring each other instead of dwelling on what's not there, snuggled up with us. 

We feel both a sense of sadness and a sense of excitement for this coming year. We have our FET in February, and we are going to start up the paperwork for our adoption agency in January. I didn't want to do both at once, but a wise friend clinched it for me... paperwork is paperwork, and to have it done is a tremendous load off. It can make another failure, should things come to that, less sharp and pointy. It can give us hope in the midst of our sense of loss and failure and exhaustion that we're still at this over five years later. I find myself getting more and more excited at the prospect of all that's involved in getting things together for domestic infant adoption, instead of feeling weighted beneath piles of paper, which is how I've seen it in my head. The holidays mark the end of this year, which has been difficult (but any more difficult than previous years? Hard to say...), but which also spur off a new focus for 2015, a changing of the guard, a transformation of despair into hope. However things turn out, it will be better than the stagnancy we've been sitting in.

I can almost see what Christmas will look like in the future (I can't bring myself to say next year, because I always say next year and am always denied that reality)... our baby/babies joining us in opening presents and sitting around the fire and the incredible happiness that we will feel. We will feel so full, so bursting with joy, so incredibly grateful for the life we've wanted so badly that has been eluding us for so long. I wonder how our traditions will change and morph as we add new little personalities into the mix. I welcome the chaos. I welcome the change. I can't wait for us to be mom and dad, to move forward in our lives to this next great adventure.

Happy holidays to you -- may the holidays be kind to you wherever you are in this journey. May your families be understanding if you need time to yourselves to soothe your wounds. May you find traditions for yourself that help you to bring joy to a season that can seem so happy and yet also so desperately sad. May there be hope and light to guide you through into a new year. 

Monday, December 22, 2014

#Microblog Mondays: Casual Genes

This weekend was my grandmother's Ohio funeral, where extended family and local friends all gathered to celebrate a life well lived and find comfort for our loss in sharing stories of an amazing woman. It is always hard to be reminded that we don't have kids, that I am the oldest grandchild and live in house with "just us two" (really four, because we have to count our cats) -- but that's just where we continue to be.

Friday night, over wine in the sitting room, there were many jokey stories told about how short the women in our family tend to be -- both when they first start out and then as they shrink, as older ladies tend to do. My mom said that it was interesting that I am the tallest in our family (at 5'6" I am two inches taller than even my stepfather), and then said, "Well, both my girls married very tall men," which then prompted a murmur of, "ah, tall genes!"


My sister has tall stepsons, but no plans to use those tall genes for any biological children. And we would love to use those tall genes, but with donor sperm we have SOMEONE ELSE'S tall genes, the DE 2PNs give us a shot at Bryce's tall genes but then we lose my shorter genes, and if we move forward with adoption we have no idea what kind of height will grace our child(ren).

"Fat lot of good that does both of us..." I said, completely unsnarkily, and there were nervous laughs for those that heard.

If we can talk about passing genes along so casually, then we should be able to talk about NOT passing those genes on equally as casually, no?

Want to read more #Microblog Mondays? Go here and enjoy!

Monday, December 15, 2014

#Microblog Mondays: Wedding Band

By my own design, I have one ring on my wedding finger. I had two the first time around, including a high profile diamond engagement ring that frequently got caught on stuff and, while not a giant stone (truthfully I didn't want a giant stone, even in my misguided obsessive young thoughts of what weddings and marriages and the things that go with them should look like), impractical enough that I had to take it off for some activities. That and the fact that every last one of my girlfriends stopped wearing their (large) engagement rings once they had babies made me feel that I wanted something simpler, lower profile, but still sparkly.  If we were going to join the babymakers (and our plans were to start cycling as soon as we married) then I wanted a ring that fit that lifestyle, that was maybe a little unusual and beautiful and sparkly all at once.

Bryce gave me exactly what I wanted--an anniversary band with five diamonds across the front, tension set, very sparkly, and looks way bigger than the actual carat count (I don't actually care about carat count), and did I mention the sparkle?

I don't have to take it off for gardening, or washing dishes, or really for anything; it's low profile and smooth and catches on nothing. It will never have to come off when those babies (or, at this point, baby?) finally arrive, it will never get in the way of the life we planned for that just hasn't come to be yet...and its simple, symbolic, practical beauty fits just perfectly inside the life we have in this moment.

Want to read more #Microblog Mondays? Go here.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Delay, Delay, Delay

It's been a whirlwind two weeks, and it will continue to be a whirlwind through the holidays. December has not been kind to us, from our cycle cancellation the first week to my grandmother's passing the second week, her first small memorial yesterday and preparation for the larger family memorial service/calling hours/reception/family dinner in Ohio next weekend. I have to say, as disappointed and saddened as I was to have my cycle cancelled, it was quickly overshadowed by the greater loss of my amazing grandmother. And, not that I love the "Everything happens for a reason" trope that goes through me like a freaking railroad nail, but if my cycle had continued on as normal I would have found myself in a tricky position with all the funeral preparations. I would have had to travel with needles at best, and my transfer could have interfered with going to the Ohio funeral at worst. I would have had to play my violin at my grandmother's memorial service and speak to her memory under the influence of hormone shots, a task that would be near impossible, and I would have worried that my grief would influence the outcome. Illogical, I know, but it would have been my thought process. I would have loved the possibility of creating new life as my grandmother's life left us, but it wasn't to be. Although, I like the thought that several of my good friends have said, "your grandmother is going to send you your babies, the perfect babies that are meant for you."

Note they didn't say HOW those babies are to come.

This week, I was waiting for a call or email from my doctor's office, because the big powwow meeting about our case was to be this week, and a plan was to be created and then communicated to us. Up until Friday morning, I had nothing.

But then, my little blue light flashed on my phone as I checked it at lunch. A missed call from a restricted number. A voicemail. I opened it with 7 minutes of my lunch left, while stuffing my face with leftover BBQ beef shoulder from takeout the night before (my eating habits have been horrid this week with all the prep and stress and holiday hoo-ha).

The message said to call the nurse back to discuss further, but summed up the plan. I am to go on The Pill with my next period, whenever the hell that comes. Probably in the middle of the memorial service in Ohio, so I'd better pack a pillpack. I was expecting that I would start a protocol after that pill pack, in January.


I am to go on The Pill for two months, to try and suppress my body into submission so that it can be more expertly manipulated and maybe actually do what it's supposed to do. Then in the third month, I start the stimming protocol again for my FET, with a little tweak I'm supposing. So that puts us into February, with a test likely at the end of February. Assuming everything goes well. And during a Pill cycle, I'm to go get a midcycle ultrasound at my OB/GYN's to see what my lining is doing (and I suspect to check for that fluid, whatever the hell that is).

That seems like a really long time.

At this point, we are in "Get it done" mode. For those of you who may not understand why we continue down this path, trust me--we are feeling that we need to move on, too. However, WE CAN'T until our embryos are gone. When we did our first frozen in September and it failed, we thought that we could get through all our frozens by January and then BE DONE, if it wasn't to be. We could then mourn for a few months and then get started on the lengthy and involved adoption process. The paperwork seems staggering, just for the application, let alone the homestudy. And I didn't want to do anything that involved talking to a social worker until we were resolved with the fertility piece. Which seemed like a possibility for the end of 2014.

Except now, NOW, we're delayed into 2015, and to finish everything out it could be MAY. I will be honest, I really, really do not want to be still cycling come my birthday and the dreaded Mother's Day. I really, really, want this whole devastating situation to shit or get off the pot, to be crass but incredibly accurate. If it's going to happen with our embryos, then I need us to be able to push through and get them used. Because if it's not going to happen, then we need to get this parenthood show on the road.

I feel this tremendous delay weighing on us. I feel an overwhelming sense of frustration. I understand that this delay is to give us the best possible chance, and that if we're going to use these embryos, these little bundles of fertilized and dividing life (and ethically we feel strongly that we must), then we need to give them the best chance of succeeding. It just all feels so far away. And to push these cycles out feels even further away, like a cruel drawing out of the process.

I had wanted us to start the application to the adoption agency we've selected in January, so we could get all the paperwork together and then start the homestudy process when we were done, assuming that this wasn't going to work physically. We could start the part that doesn't involve anyone else but us and a copy machine and a computer, without worrying about involving a birthfamily or a social worker or starting a timer on the homestudy. But now, now that we're looking at not even doing the blast frozen cycle until mid February, does that make sense? Do we wait until late January or early February to start the application? I don't want time to run out. I don't know what to do. I suppose I could call the agency and ask their opinion on the timing given our situation, they have wonderful people to answer any questions you may have, but I have this small niggling worry...will that somehow get recorded in our file? I do feel, even after reading the books I've read, that everything is examined very closely, and what if asking about when to start the application is some indication of wishy-washy-ness? What if then your commitment is questioned? Please tell me I'm crazy for wondering this. Please tell me that instead it would be considered thoughtful that we're trying to manage the timing so that it is the least disruptive to agency staff if we were to be somehow miraculously successful and not go down the adoption path at this time.

All of this thinking is exhausting. All of this constant delay and drawing out of these decisions make me incredibly sad. I feel like it is pushing parenthood out, out, out into the far reaches of what I can see in my mind. The fact that we are entering 2015 without a baby or a baby on the way is incredibly upsetting to me, since when we started this in 2009 my husband said, "I don't think we'll be successful until 2012" and I could have slapped him. How could he think it would be that far out? I would give my eyeteeth and any number of other precious things to have had his prediction be right. To have a child in our house RIGHT NOW and marvel at our luck and blessings.

We are going to set up some kind of consult, because we want a little more information on this change to our plan, but I don't think it will shorten the timeframe. February, here we come.

Monday, December 8, 2014

A Bright Light Has Gone Out On This Earth

It really doesn't matter if a death is unsurprising, or a life is very long and incredibly well lived. The loss of someone you love is unbearable. Especially if it is not surprising, yet very much unexpected.

My grandmother, Rosemary, passed away very suddenly yesterday evening. She was 96.

I was lucky enough to enjoy a very close relationship with her. Over two years ago, in March 2012, she moved to an assisted living apartment with a full suite of services here in Rochester. She had lived in Chillicothe, Ohio for over 70 of her 90+ years and Ohio for all of it. My mother was retiring and could spend a considerable amount of time taking care of all the administrative matters required but, equally if not more importantly, spend a considerable amount of time with my Grandma. It also meant that I could spend a lot of time with Grandma, as she was a mere 30 minutes away at most and, since March of 2014, had been only 15-20 minutes away at the nursing home facility of the organization that took care of her. I visited her as frequently as I could--aiming for once a week, but more in the summers when I had more free time and when my mother was out of town. I was like a built-in backup, but I treasured all of the time I spent with my grandmother and thoroughly enjoyed the conversations and stories that we shared.

Towards the end of your life, stories come pouring out. There wasn't a visit to my grandmother that didn't result in some kind of story, sometimes a repeat, but I always marveled at how consistent her details were, how clear the memories were even though they were decades and decades behind her. My grandmother did not suffer in her mind. Her body failed her in every possible way -- she developed Parkinson's in her early 90s and it robbed her of her ability to read, to dress herself, to hold things reliably in her hands. She also had macular degeneration and hearing loss, which made seeing and listening difficult, but not impossible. The reading was a huge loss. My grandmother had been a journalist and then a middle school English teacher, and books were very important to her. It was a tremendous loss to lose the ability to read for pleasure. The Parkinson's was largely responsible for that--large print books might have been an option but she had difficulty tracking. I did some research into it and tried all kinds of things to help her track better and even looked into getting her software such as BookShare that works well for my students with dyslexia...but none of it worked. She appreciated the efforts, but listening ended with her asleep in her chair, and holding the books had become difficult (especially if she was also holding a construction paper mask or colored transparency). When she moved to the nursing home after a fall that broke the top of her femur last fall and an ultimately failed experiment in continued moderate independence in her assisted living apartment (it was just too much), my mother bought her a book to be read out loud. It was, The Women Who Wrote the War by Nancy Caldwell Sorel, a dense, ginormous hardcover but something that would interest my grandmother, as she lived through World War II on the homefront as a journalist and the wife of a Marine. It was a beautiful, loving gift that my grandmother treasured.

I read the book to her every time I visited by myself (because who else would want to hear me read out loud?). We made it to page 155 before she passed away yesterday. I read in chunks of 5-10 pages. Occasionally she would stop me and say, "Okay, now tell me that part again but the Jessica way." I loved reading the book out loud, despite the challenging place names and people names and the sometimes awkward, nonfiction-y prose. I had to sit close and read loudly and slowly so that she could hear it all. I liked to pretend that I was Sylvia Poggioli, international correspondent for NPR.  There were so many names and so many aspects of what led to the war--and, according to my grandmother, "an awful lot of bed-hopping, isn't there?" She loved the raunchy details of extramarital affairs and heady romances and lesbian couples and scandalous divorces and all of that. There was quite a lot of chortling that came from her green velvet chair. There were things neither of us knew--such as the lit up mini cities floated on lakes near Berlin to fool the Allied bombers. But, the best part was how the book sparked Grandma's own memories of this incredible time, and led to stories about the war but also just stories about her and my grandfather and trips she had taken to see some of the places mentioned in the book.

Most recently, we had gotten to the chapter titled, "Facing the War That Is Our War Now," which detailed how all the international correspondents in Europe and the Philippines dealt with the news that Pearl Harbor had been bombed. It doesn't escape me that my grandmother's last day on this earth was actually Pearl Harbor Day.

She told me that she had been at my grandfather, Bem's, parents' house having dinner. They were listening to the radio when the news came over that Pearl Harbor had been bombed. She said that it didn't really sink in right there, it seemed so far away, but that she knew things would change. Two days later, they went to West Virginia to see an opera and when they crossed the bridge at the state line, there were soldiers standing guard at each end. My grandmother said, "I thought, well we're at war for sure."  My grandfather, Popie to me and my cousins, was in the Marines Reserves. He was in college at the University of Michigan and had spent summers in Officer's Training. He had a feeling he might get called up, and so he didn't sign up for Spring semester classes. Instead, he went hunting with his Dad in January. It was then that he received the telegram informing him that he was to report for duty. He went off, I think to West Virginia, for training and started his career as a Second Lieutenant. He and Grandma were married in April, and he shipped off to war overseas shortly after. While he was at war, he became a hero. He was at Guadalcanal when he rescued a downed pilot. My grandmother, since she was covering the homefront in Ohio for the paper, was offered the chance to write about what had happened to him. She told me that it was one of her greatest regrets that she turned down the opportunity: "I just couldn't do it, it was too emotional for me and I couldn't stop thinking that he could have died that day."

I heard many other stories, such as the teacher tour of Europe that she took where she went to the Coventry Cathedral in the 1970s after it had been rebuilt from the Blitzkrieg, where it was pretty much destroyed. A portion of the cathedral stood standing, battered and broken, and there was a cross made of nails on the wall. "Forgive us" was written underneath--a gift from Germany. So much destruction in that war. Grandma said that she was just so moved by the sight. And unrelated stories, such as when she and Popie were living in forest ranger's quarters after the war, when my Marine grandfather turned to forestry. My uncle, I think it was Tom (I could just kick myself for not writing these things down with more consistency and fidelity), was very young and my Uncle Jim was a baby. Uncle Tom got stung by a bee, and it turned out he had an allergic reaction to it. I think Popie stayed home with baby Uncle Jim while my grandma took my Uncle Tom to the doctor's, and she made it just in the nick of time. This was before EpiPens, and she was told that another few minutes and my uncle would have died. This story weighed heavily on my grandmother, as she told it more than once (so you would think I'd remember the details better), and after she told it a second or third time she'd look at me funny and say, "I told you this before, didn't I?" and I would say, "Yes, but I never tire of hearing your stories and sometimes you add more to it." She was very concerned that she would be looked at as confused or losing her marbles, and marbles she had in droves.

My grandmother was smart. She was funny. She told dirty jokes. She told clean jokes. She loved her family. She loved reading and books. She had kept a list of the books she read from 1984 to 2010, until she started having difficulty with reading and could no longer handwrite comfortably. I put it into a spreadsheet -- you can learn a lot about someone by the books they've read and when -- it was 453 titles long. She inspired me to start keeping lists of how many books I've read and when. She was a writer. I have manilla envelopes full of pieces she wrote from plays to poetry. She was an appreciator of fine music--she loved to hear her favorite hymn, "Be Thou My Vision," and "In the Garden," and when she still lived at the assisted living apartment she had asked me to play a Christmas violin concert two years ago, and added a few requests for some additional music. "Nothing fancy," she said, "Just a little Grieg, you know, the Peer Gynt Suites? Something from that." Oh yeah, nothing fancy. Just a little Anitra's Dance (look it up, it's beautiful but also a beast, but I did it for her). Two days before the recital of sorts she asked me if I could just tell a little bit about each carol I played and each piece, just research a bit and give a little background. Ever the teacher, ever the educator. I learned so much about the carols we both loved, and it was fun to share that information. I cried my way through "Amazing Grace," as it always reminds me of my Popie and his funeral. He died right before Christmas, as well, but many years ago. My grandma was up on current events and was amazed at the techonology that had developed in her lifetime. When telling me about Popie and his time at Guadalcanal, we were able to look up where that was on my iPhone in the Maps app and see how close it was to Australia and how far it was from Indonesia, which is where I thought it was closest to in proximity. "Isn't this amazing," she said, "that we can be sitting here in 2014, talking about your grandfather and where he was 70 years ago, and you can with a touch of a button see just where that is and have that connection." It was a marvel. She loved lemon poke cake, and Junior Mints, and always tried to have something on hand that was gluten free that I could eat (and was disappointed when she couldn't). She loved all her children and her grandchildren dearly and loved being caught up via facebook on everyone's goings-on. She wasn't super demonstrative, but she told me frequently how much she appreciated everything my mother did to take care of her in every possible way.

She touched everyone who met her. There were so many tears at her nursing home yesterday, tears and stories that just erupted from all of the nurses and aides who were there, there when she passed away. I had spoken with her at 1:30 in the afternoon, and she was just fine -- I was still feeling sick from this awful virus I can't seem to shake and had spent most of the day in bed, so I called to let her know I'd come Monday or Tuesday instead. I didn't want to get her sick... she said, "You sound terrible. Please don't share!" and then comforted me with the fact that in my mom's absence (my mom and stepfather were on a Christmas cruise down the Danube they'd planned for a year) there were people just lined up to visit her each day, because my mom takes care of those kinds of things and is highly organized. She sounded fine, jokey, even chipper.

At 4:22 I was up in my bed trying to nap when my phone rang with an unfamiliar number. I don't usually pick those up, but something told me it could be Grandma's nursing home. It was. They told me that she had had some chest pains, that they were quite severe and they had to give her nitro. Being who she is, she both informed them despite her pain that she couldn't have more than one, because nitro drops her blood pressure significantly, and she was right. Luckily that wasn't a bad thing as her blood pressure had spiked considerably and could use a drop. She was stable, although still having pain, when they called me. She actually didn't want them to call me, they said she said, "Don't bother her; she's sick!" and was adamant that we not call my mom in Vienna, that she didn't want to ruin her vacation. The nurse walked me through what was certainly a cardiac event, and that my grandmother had been clear that she'd had a triple bypass open heart surgery 22 years ago but that she was also told that it would only be good for 15 years, so she was doing pretty well with it so far but was on borrowed time. She was lucid enough to tell all these vital pieces of information to the head nurse on the floor. They said I shouldn't come, that because I was sick I should stay home, especially because she was stable. At 5:02 I received a second phone call telling me that the pain had come back at the severe level again and, midsentence the nurse interrupted herself and said, "You need to come now." I got dressed as fast as I could, kicking myself for not having gotten dressed with the first call, but knowing that my grandma was strong as an ox and had beaten close calls before. I sped all the way there and we went up the elevator and as soon as we passed the kitchen, I knew. A circle of nurses was standing there, looking sad, and one put her hand over her mouth as she saw me. I knew she was gone. Bryce asked because I couldn't, and the head nurse confirmed it. My grandmother had passed away at 5:05, not three minutes after my call to come, and there was no possible way I could have made it in time. I was devastated. I am devastated.

In her room, the nurse on duty who had taken such good care of my grandma was in tears and came to hug me, sobbing herself. I ugly cried into her hair, letting out bellowing honking coughs and apologizing for spreading my germs. My grandma was in her bed, looking very peaceful, but also definitively a shell of herself. Her beautiful, loving, stubborn, brilliant soul was gone. I sobbed and sobbed and sobbed. One by one all the nurses told me about how they'd stayed with her, they'd held her hand, they'd caressed her face, that she was not alone. That she knew she was so loved. That she was worried most about my mom, who she knew would be devastated that she wasn't here when she left this world. They told me there was nothing I could have done to get there sooner, that she hadn't shown any signs of dying until right before, that it was a shock to them all. I hadn't seen my grandma since the Sunday before Thanksgiving, because a quarantine had made taking residents out and visiting residents not possible (or at the very least very much discouraged for the health of the residents) due to a nasty respiratory virus. Which EVERY SINGLE PERSON ON THE FLOOR got to some degree EXCEPT for my strong, stubborn grandma. After the quarantine was lifted I was hacking away and disgustingly sick myself, and did not want to share. So I did not see her. I spoke with her on the day she passed, and for that I will be forever grateful, but it hurts so much that I didn't see her and I was supposed to.

Each of the nurses and aides told me how much they loved my grandmother. That they weren't supposed to have favorites, but by golly she was most definitely their favorite. One said, "What am I supposed to do now that she's gone? She was the bright spot in my day." Another, who my grandmother had nicknamed The Admiral, said that she had sat with my grandma as she was feeling better and offered to get her dinner. She said, "Well, if it's anything like lunch I don't want it." The Admiral laughed and a few moments later Grandma said, "If there's pudding I'd like that--Jello I can't swallow as well but pudding would be nice." The Admiral kissed her on her cheek, and my grandma kissed her back. When she came back, the other nurses were there and my grandmother was gone. She opened the window, "for the the traveling," she told us. "She doesn't want to be stuck in here. She needs to go find your Mama and go on home." It was so incredibly touching to see how many of these people who took such intimate care of my grandmother over the past 9 months or so were truly touched by her presence, in awe of her sharp intellect and wicked sense of humor, and genuinely devastated by her loss. What an amazing gift to be loved by so many.

The last 24 hours have been a blur. My parents are on nearly their last leg of the trip back from Europe, and since I am the agent in my mom's absence I spent last night and today on the phone and meeting with various funeral homes and attorneys and the home. I cleaned out my grandmother's room (with the amazing help of a dear friend) and brought everything up to my mom's house, which I thought I'd be more of a mess through but it just wasn't her home anymore. I was glad to do this unpleasant task and take it off my mother's plate, as she will have funeral arrangements to finagle in Ohio when she gets back.

One of the things that makes me saddest is that my grandmother never got to see me become a mother. She knew how much I wanted it, she knew all about what we were going through. She didn't always understand it all (smartphones are one thing, frozen embryos and the medical babymaking craziness is another), but she understood our longing. Or rather she sympathized with it, as her babies came easily to her and she'd never had any of that struggle in any form. When getting her biographical information for the death certificate today, I found the obituary/biography she herself wrote in 2007 "in case we'd need it, which no doubt you will" in the preface. She had handwritten a list of her great-grandchildren (and then my mom kept adding to the list as more arrived), and it physically pained me not to have anyone of my own on that list. I always hoped that we could have been successful in her lifetime. I remember the short-lived joy on her face when I told her I was pregnant two years ago, when I was visiting in her apartment and unfortunately had to go because I had discovered I was bleeding and would ultimately lose that baby. I wanted to see that again, for keeps, and for her to know that joy and meet our son or daughter (or sons and daughters, however it will work out). I am completely devastated that this is not to be.

However...she saw me marry an amazing man. She saw me have a marriage I never dreamed I could have, with a man who she dearly loved and who she respected as a grandson, the husband of her eldest granddaughter. A man who made the difficult calls I could not as I wept next to my grandmother's body and tried to figure out what I needed to do in those hours just after our loss. Who told my mother, my sister, and my eldest uncle horribly sad and sudden news. Who executed this duty with with grace and compassion. She would have been so proud of him. She saw me become a teacher in a similar niche to what she had taught, and to have a career that I love and could talk with her about and she could share her own stories of life in the trenches of middle school ELA, if not the special education bit of it. I was blessed to have so much time to spend with her, to see her weekly and at special events and to bake her birthday cakes. I can let go of the cruel slashing disappointment that she didn't see us become not only wonderful partners to each other but parents as well. It's just going to be hard when the whole family is together, as it will remind me of my absence of babies, of children, of little ones who would have known her even the tiniest bit.

But they will know her, because she lives on in me, and in everyone whose lives she touched. Her light on this earth has gone out and it is a horrific loss to so many, but she shines on in our hearts and our souls. I love you, Grandma, and I miss you so much already.

Grandma in her apartment 2 1/2 years ago, playing Scrabble.
She was the Scrabble Queen and I only beat her once! I thought
she looked beautiful and happy in this picture, but when she saw
it she only said, "Who's that aardvark? Well, I guess this is as
good as it gets now." 

Thanksgiving 2012, at our house.

My stepfather Rob's birthday BBQ, wearing a chenille sweater
when it's 88. Bryce is listening to a story about why the 1940s
were her favorite decade.

Grandma's birthday get-together this past October, for 96.
My sister serenading her with the guitar, my mom sitting by
the hammered dulcimer.

Me serenading my Grandma with "My Pretty Irish Girl," a little
Irish jig that she liked (although typically she wasn't so much of
an Irish music fan) at her birthday celebration.

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Canceled Hopes

I have a routine when a cycle is over. I take all the zillion needles and alcohol swabs and medications that have been taking up valuable counter space in our kitchen, and I put them away. Into the injection closet. I try as best I can to erase the evidence that a cycle was just in full swing. This is never fun. But it's even less fun when the cycle has been canceled, ended before it's gotten a chance to be, stalled in the middle.

It's beyond frustrating.

My ultrasound today revealed a multitude of problems. That pesky mystery fluid in my uterus? Still there, although in lesser quantities apparently, so the doctor was briefly hopeful it wasn't a done deal. My lining? Still at 5mm. One of these things was enough to cancel, but both? I knew the end was nigh. The doctor sighed and hemmed and hawed a bit, thinking aloud that maybe two more days might make a difference, but that things were far from ideal. Then he measured my ovaries. My left side was ok, some new follicles around 15mm, doable for two more days of coaxing my lining to get its shit together. But my right ovary? That one had follicles right at the size needed for trigger, a size that wasn't conducive to waiting it out two more days, a size that put the final nail in this cycle's coffin.

"I'm sorry," he said, "I just don't see that this is going to work. This cycle's a no go."

I can't say I was totally surprised, I mean I took the whole day off today just in case there was bad news (plus last time I didn't get back until pretty late), and the bad news cloud kind of hung over me yesterday, threatening to spill bad news rain all over me. And today it came.

The lack of surprise didn't stop me from starting to cry on the table, though. The doctor was nice and said they'd meet on our case and try to come up with a plan, but the tears kept rolling. "I wouldn't cancel if I wasn't sure it wouldn't work in these conditions," he said. This I completely understand. My lining wasn't up to snuff. These being our last frozen blasts, everything needs to be ideal for us to move forward, and this cycle was incredibly disappointing. I understand the why. It just doesn't make it any less sad and frustrating.

I feel like such an utter failure. I feel like my body has just decided to completely stop doing anything it's being asked to do. I feel like the prospect of being pregnant and reaching success this way is speeding far away from me, a teensy speck on the horizon. I can still see it, but barely and out of focus.

So why keep going? Why continue on this path?

I HAVE TO SEE THIS THROUGH. I HAVE TO CLOSE IT OUT. If we have embryos still, and we do, I am not okay with just leaving them in the freezer. Or destroying them. And honestly, I don't know if we could in good conscience donate them, because they haven't been super awesome for us. Although, maybe it's just my uterus after all.

Maybe after all my talk previously of how my uterus is just fine, thankyouverymuch, it's actually not. And the frustrating thing is, all of these abnormalities are relatively NEW. They're all from the last two years of our five year waltz through this shit. I had polyps show up two years ago, and we thought maybe that was why things didn't work out, but they removed them and still nothing. The polyps kept showing up, and so we kept removing them. Then the scarring. Now this fluid nonsense. And then there's the fact that I used to have perfectly good tubes. My ectopic debacle rid me of one, and now that pesky scarring has closed up the other one. I haven't a prayer of a whoopsie, surprise pregnancy. My body feels utterly broken in this regard. I feel utterly broken. It is a horrid feeling to realize that everything, at this point, comes down to your body reacting the way it's supposed to, and it just isn't playing nicely. What can I do? What have I done? Is this preventable? How can this all ultimately come down on my ability to have implantation occur and carry? Are we done? Is this over? Will my body ever do what it's supposed to?

Now, we wait. We wait for the doctors to have their powwow over our sad sap case and then for our doctor to get in touch with us regarding what's next. I'm seriously concerned, because this was the fancy schmancy protocol that was meant to make my lining AWESOME. 5mm is NOT awesome. The wonder protocol did not work for me. And my fear is that none of this, not one single thing they will come up with, will work.

Now we look at January for our next cycle, maybe even February since I need to go on the Pill for a month, whenever I get my period. Yup, I'm pretty sure we're looking at February. Another pet peeve of the infertility process... the lengthy waiting period between each try. Oh to be a normal fertile person and get to try 12 times per year. (Of course, if I was a normal fertile, I wouldn't be in this predicament at all.) We desperately want to move quickly through these cycles, hoping for a miracle, but ultimately, at this point, wanting that closure. All of these setbacks are making that INCREDIBLY DIFFICULT.

Thinking back to yesterday's silver linings, I think I can see through the haze and fog of this unbelievable disappointment and step backwards and further evidence that my body is just refusing to get close to pregnancy to find a few today. I am no longer held to my 6:30 injection time. I don't have to find a non-bruised portion of my stomach to inject more crap into my body. I can get a coffee on my way into work tomorrow. I can have cocktails or wine this weekend. Once all these follicles settle down, I can work out again without fear of ovarian torsion (this terrible twistiness is a serious concern of mine for some reason). I don't have to spend my holiday worried that it's going to be ruined by a negative test while hoping madly for a positive one to end this year on a high note. I can toast the New Year with champagne. I don't have to drive to Buffalo for a little while. Just, you know, right at the height of snow season, January-February. AWESOME. Oops, that's a dark shadow, not a silver lining. Sorry.

I'll feel better once I have a plan, a new plan, some explanation of what the hell happened here. Something to make me feel a little less like my cycle broke up with me via text and left me hanging, devastated and confused and frustrated.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Finding Silver Linings

I am almost to trigger, which is crazy to me that it's snuck up so fast, but here we are.

I took my Femara (and it gave me wicked headaches, anyone else have this reaction to it?), and then started my Follistim, Solution X, and Lovenox loveliness the day before Thanksgiving. I had my first midcycle bloodwork last Saturday, and it was 39. A lowly 39 after my baseline of 22 on 11/21. Not much of a rise. Monday it was 155, and Tuesday they had me come in. Monday night I started feeling pretty crappy, I'd had a sore throat starting Sunday and it seemed to blossom into a flulike thing by Monday night (but not the flu, because no fever, but icky nonetheless). I'd taken a half day off Tuesday to go to Buffalo, but I decided Tuesday morning when I woke up feeling even more horrid than the day before that there was no way I could drive to Buffalo and back and get to school to teach two periods feeling the way I did. It was a good call, since I had a difficult time staying awake WHILE DRIVING, which is a terrible feeling, but obviously I made it through, as I sit here typing this in my office instead of a hospital bed. I ended up sleeping for 5 hours in the afternoon after. I go back tomorrow morning and I just took the whole day off, because I don't want to rush back for two periods and I didn't make it in time yesterday to constitute a half day anyway, and for one more reason.

Yesterday my lining was not even close to where they want it. It was 5-6 mm, and I had one follicle at 15mm and a bunch at 12ish, but apparently they only need one. For most people. I'm assuming I need more since my lining was a bit flimsy. Oh, and one other thing. There was fluid in my uterus.

WTF? Fluid? I've NEVER had fluid in my uterus in a midcycle before. I asked what it meant, and the doctor (not my particular doctor but one I enjoy anyway) said that it could resolve, it could stay, but that it couldn't be there for transfer. It was bad business. "Sooooo, what does that mean?" I asked trepidatiously. "Well, I can't really tell you what it is, and I hope it resolves, because it could mean cancelling the cycle."

SHIT SHIT SHIT. First off, I've never ever ever had fluid before. Second off, I HATE the C-word. I have never been cancelled until 2014. I am trying not to freak out, because as he said, it could resolve itself. It just makes me so mad that my body just hates me THIS much to throw another wrench in things. If I get bad news tomorrow, I so cannot go back to school.

I need some silver linings. I need to find something positive to hang on to.

Silver Lining #1: Even though I am sick, I don't have a fever.
Silver Lining #2: Even if I had a fever, it wouldn't matter much at this point since my eggs are only being used to bring up my lining. So egg quality doesn't matter at all.
Silver Lining #3: Lovenox--I hate it, and it has left silver-dollar-sized hematoma looking bruises on my stomach despite my pressing on it the way I was told would avoid these bruises, BUT, thanks to the bruising and the purple dots where all my other injections go, I now have a complete map of where the needles have already been. No repeating! I can clearly see where NOT to go! Thank you, Lovenox.
Silver Lining #4: Driving to and from Buffalo, I get to listen to NPR for nearly three hours. I am so much more informed on world events!
Silver Lining #5: Taking the whole day off means I can get a little extra down time this week, which is good because I need it what with my ovaries and my uterus being so mean to me.
Silver Lining #6: If for some reason this cycle gets cancelled, then it wasn't the right time. I hate that logic so much, but at the same time, if it is cancelled, I get consolation Christmas cocktails. And coffee. A very very small but gratifying consolation.
Silver Lining #7: Because I have been feeling so icky, Bryce has been giving me excellent back rubs. A good back rub is worth its wait in gold.

I feel a tiny bit better. They bumped my Follistim up 75 units, in hopes it will boost my ovaries and so my lining, so I'm hoping that my lining is up to at least 9 by tomorrow. Is that possible in 2 days? I hope so. If all looks good I could trigger by Friday, making transfer late next week. I really, really would like some good news tomorrow. If you wouldn't mind sending some "fluid begone" thoughts my way, I'd appreciate it.

I would love if we could get a little more silver lining and a lot less cloud.

Thursday, November 27, 2014

A Quiet Day of Thanks and Thought

Happy Thanksgiving to everyone, if this is a holiday that you celebrate.

Our Thanksgiving proper is so very quiet. Low-key. Not in a bad way, per se, but it contrasts so heavily with most Thanksgivings happening out there, and with the Thanksgiving we keep hoping to have but still haven't quite made it to.

We woke late, had a simple breakfast of cereal followed up by a delicious, miraculously gluten-free cheese danish that Bryce slaved over all day yesterday. Seriously, I have not been able to find a gluten free cheese danish, although I have been able to find cinnamon rolls and coffee cake, but not that flaky, buttery, sweet cheese-filled confection that I loved (probably too much) before I discovered such delicious things attacked my intestinal lining. Bryce found a pastry dough recipe that is incredible, buttery, flaky, croissant-like...and has brought cheese danish back into my life. God I love that man.

Since breakfast, we've just kind of relaxed, chilled, hung out. I'm reading Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty (so, so, good, if a bit difficult to read at times for personal reasons, but dead on and super suspenseful), Bryce is reading A Mathematical Introduction to Compressive Sensing, for FUN, and gleefully taking notes on index cards and filing them into his little organizer pouch. I took a break to vacuum the first floor including all the baseboards, very exciting, and we've just been sipping tea (me) and coffee (Bryce) and reading and listening to classical music while big fluffy flakes of snow fall outside.

It is a lovely way to spend the day.

But, it's SO QUIET.

We have our family Thanksgiving at my mom's tomorrow, when my sister, her husband, and one of her stepsons come down from northern NY. That will be more bustle-y, busier, but still on a small scale. We'd hoped to have my grandmother for part of the day, but her nursing home is experiencing a quarantine for respiratory viral infections and so no one is allowed out or in. Which is horribly disappointing, but for the better health of the residents, so I get it. Tomorrow is the celebration with other people, today is just us chickens.

Or ducks, because we decided to make a fancy duck breast thingamajig for dinner since it's just the two of us. Duck is fancier than chicken and they just don't make tiny turkeys. :)

It's fine, it's lovely, it's a beautiful cozy day. We're going to go for a snowy walk and then come back and start assembling our duck dinner complete with GF cranberry sage stuffing and bourbon sweet potatoes and roasted brussels sprouts. It's just so quiet.

Lately that quiet has been weighing on me. If there's not music playing I feel veritably suffocated by the silence. I just want little voices, even the wailing and whining but really the giggles and silly songs and chatter. I want our tiny Thanksgiving to be just a little bit...bigger. Louder. Fuller.

Not that I'm not grateful for the Thanksgiving we have. I have a lot, WE have a lot to be thankful for.

There's our house, which while seemingly hobbit-sized after our visit to The House two weeks ago is cozy and just right for the two of us, as is. It shelters us from the weather and feels like home. There's our health, which minus the hideous infertility and a smidgen of well-controlled asthma, is blissfully good. There's our friends and family, who support us and make us feel loved and happy. There's our careers, which are both wonderfully fulfilling and a bit exciting, if at times exhausting. There's our marriage, which I am forever grateful for, because it's the kind of marriage where we can just be and it's wonderful (even if I resent the silence and what it stands for), and we can laugh and play with each other and support each other and handle each other's bad days and handle the adversity we keep on facing with relative grace. I am so grateful for this love. I am so grateful for this life we share.

So I feel a little tad ungrateful when I have that voice in my head saying, "Yeah, you have all that, but it's so unfair that you don't have that ONE THING." And it's true, it's easy to list my blessings and feel amazingly fortunate, but that gaping hole in the middle makes it hard to concentrate on the things we do have instead of the essential element to our family that is missing. Still.

Maybe it's magnified by the drug cocktail I'm on, for I have taken my last dose of letrozole/Femara and am now onto the Follistim/Lovenox/Solution X combination. I am a little weepier in the face, a little stabbier in the ovaries, and a lot tireder in my body and soul.

I'm trying, I'm trying to be thankful for that beautiful list of things to be grateful for in our lives. I'm trying to do that at the same time I honor the loss of a high chair at our table, the ghosts of tiny voices ringing through our hobbit house. At the same time I feel a little pang when I see the tiny rocking chair that once was mine in the guest room, with the stuffed elephant sitting in it that was given to me by my mother when we were pregnant over two years ago and everything seemed so full of hope and fulfilled wishes. We are closer to that chair and elephant being appropriate than ever before -- we are in the middle of our crazy protocol that could very well end this hell for us, but if it doesn't, we have our plans in place. We are deep in Operation Make Us Parents and are hopeful that we will be well on our way in 2015, through maybe a different path than we started on, but headed towards that family we long for so deeply.

We are thankful, so thankful for the life we have while still feeling sadness for that life that remains a mystery to us. It helps in the quiet to reflect on what we have, because it's not insignificant. I just really, really hope that this is the last Thanksgiving that we're haunted by what we're missing.

Happy Thanksgiving to you, wherever you are in all this. I hope that today is a good day for you. I hope that you have much to be thankful for. I hope there is balance between the gratitude and the pain of loss, and that you have space to feel it all today.

Monday, November 24, 2014

#Microblog Mondays: Stick Stocking

My husband needed to spend the remainder of his FSA money and needed a little help. We went through the list of approved items that we could stock up on: liquid bandaids, regular bandaids, allergy eye drops, mundane stuff like that.

Guess what else is on the approved list?

I have a box of three pink-dye tests sitting in the cabinet, just waiting for December. (Yes, I know previously I have been staunchly anti-pee-stick, but at this point I feel giving myself a heads up to the call is in my best interest, either way it could go, and despite the confusion last time.)

But I had Bryce buy THREE.

I suppose I have a little more hope for this cycle than I thought.

Want to read more #Microblog Mondays? Go here.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Shuffling Off to... Buffalo (Baseline Adventures)

So, unless you've been living under a rock, you know that Buffalo lately has been in the news. As in, buried under seven feet of snow and with a wall of lake-effect nastiness just settled on the south side of the city in particular. The photos are extraordinary. The news coming out of the area is insane -- collapsing roofs, travel bans, the NY State Thruway closed from Rochester to the Pennsylvania state line.

My clinic is in Buffalo. I live in Rochester.

My baseline was this week -- I was waiting for my period to come after stopping the Pill on Sunday, and then I was to call in to schedule baseline for Day 2 or Day 3. It HAS to be Day 2 or Day 3, because Day 3 starts my regimen of Femara that precedes a three-shot cocktail of Follistim, Solution X (yes, it sounds like I should transform into Spiderman after taking this, but really it's just low-dose HCG), and Lovenox later this week. The IVF nurse I spoke to last week felt that I should get my period by Wednesday (but I knew it would likely be Thursday), and so baseline would be Thursday or Friday (but I knew it would be Friday or Saturday).

So imagine my surprise when all of a sudden, Buffalo is being buried, LITERALLY BURIED in feet upon feet of snow, very quickly, and it is shutting everything down. The storm started Monday, later in the day, and just sat all week, through Thursday. I wasn't so nervous, because I thought it would be okay by the end of the week, but then things just didn't stop. And the Thruway, really the only way I knew how to get to Buffalo, remained closed. I had been worried about the winter and traveling to Buffalo because the Thruway frequently closes due to blowing and drifting snow, but I had no idea this would be so bad, so early, and for so long.

Just to get a sense of how to get there without the trusty boring expanse of highway that is the I-90, I called my office on Wednesday. AND THEY WERE CLOSED.

How does an IVF clinic flat out close, unexpectedly? What if there were transfers or retrievals scheduled, things that are timed ridiculously carefully? What happens to your cycle if Snowpocalypse happens right on top of it? Of course, conversely, what happens if you literally cannot get anyone into the office because the city's in lockdown, in part due to orders from the government and in (larger) part due to the sheer force of nature?

I'm not gonna lie. I was a little terrified. And I felt horribly selfish, because here all these people are stuck in houses with snow up over their doors (seriously, google "Buffalo Door" and see all the insanity that's out there), trapped in their houses, unable to leave, worried their houses are going to collapse, and all I could think is... WHAT HAPPENS TO MY BASELINE??? The thought of cancelling due to snow and doing the cycle a month later made me nauseous. And then I made me nauseous for not being more compassionate and thinking all about us and our reproductive woes.

Well, the office wasn't really closed. There were a handful of people there, and my doctor was in surgery with a battery-drained phone, which is why he didn't answer my panicked text right away. (Just so you don't think I'm a completely terrible person, I did start it by inquiring if he and his family were okay and safe before making it all about us and our cycle...) There were staff members who lived on the north and east side of Buffalo, which has been largely unaffected. Lake effect snow is THAT crazy -- my office area got 6-8 inches, while just a few miles south and west, there's literally SEVEN feet, not including the drifts that are much, much higher. Living in Rochester we see the weirdness that is lake effect -- bands of heavy snow less than a mile from sunshine, but never to this extent.

Thursday, the phone lines were back up, and more staff had been able to make it in from all around the area. Which was good, because Thursday was Day One. Due to the weather and other considerations, they wanted me to come in Friday, so that if for whatever reason Friday didn't work out I could still make it Saturday. A Day Two baseline is preferable to Day Three, I guess. But there was still the problem of getting out there. The nurse I spoke to said that 104 to 78 would be best--it was all north, and I'd avoid all the snow. The Thruway was still closed until 3:00 on Friday, and even then all Buffalo exits were closed to traffic, it was just to clear the hundreds of truckers stuck in the area and to clear vehicles from the roads so they could clear snow. So, I would have a new adventure. Apparently my doctor's wife made it just fine the day before, in about an hour and 45 minutes.

I gave myself 2 hours, planned to leave at 6:50 a.m. and hurriedly set up sub plans Thursday evening. I would have to take a full day, because a half day is four periods and I'd have to be back in my 5th period class by 10:44. HA HA HA, I seriously doubted with an 8:50 appointment that was going to happen. So, full day for me. (I felt kind of guilty about this as I basically got a three day weekend the week before Thanksgiving, but spending 5 hours in my car and getting accosted by The Wand ON DAY TWO when things are a horrorshow made me feel far less guilty.)

Let me tell you, it did not take me any hour and 45 minutes. I don't know if the time I left had anything to do with it, or the fact that this is the most reliable corridor to Buffalo from Rochester right now, but the traffic was awful. And it's a local highway with stoplights and frequent drops from 55 to 45 and even 35 miles per hour, which is no fun. I knew the two routes I needed (well, three, as it's 104 to 78 to 5, and my clinic is on 5), but had no sense of time or distance. Incredibly, there was very little snow. A dusting along 104, and then it got to be more as I headed into Lockport--at one point it was snowing and there was maybe a 1/2 inch across the roads, but that was a tiny snippet of the drive and lasted maybe 10 minutes. It took me, however, 2 hours and 20 minutes to get there.

I was late. Which was scary because bloodwork is supposed to be done before 9 so that the STAT order can go to Lab Corps and they can get same-day results. Of course, it turned out Lab Corps had no way of picking up blood samples due to their location, so it was fine and couriered to Sisters Hospital, where I enjoy my hysteroscopy and HSG experiences. I had my baseline, despite feeling rushed and stressed and late (and having the receptionist tell me as I was 5 minutes away that she'd check to see if I should still come, and I was like, "UM, I'M COMING, I'm just giving you a heads up...").

My ovaries were quiet and had lots of nice tiny antral follicles, which we sort of need for stimulating but don't need for the cycle other than to create that fabulous lining. My uterus looked good -- thin lining, even lining, no clots. I have had the worst cramping I've had since I can remember this time, and was scared that had something to do with the scarring or some other abnormality that I'm developing, because why not? But, our doc said he didn't see anything untoward and then gave my uterus a bunch of ego-boosting compliments. "I'm encouraging your uterus! I'm trying to get her to continue behaving nicely!" he said, which was hilarious. Humor is needed when you're having a baseline ultrasound and you know you are bleeding all over the place and can do nothing about it. It is the most awkward ultrasound ever.

The drive back was uneventful, and took a little less time -- 2 hours and 10 minutes. I don't know where this hour and 45 minute estimate came from, but it must have been from the very westerly edge of Rochester because that was SO not my experience. I was home by 12:20, and had the afternoon to take a short nap, eat a leisurely lunch, and go visit my grandma. My estrogen call came in on my way to the nursing home, and it was a lovely, low, 22. I was so relieved, because last time my baseline was inexplicably all messed up when it came to the estrogen level and I really didn't want any odd delays this time. Git 'er done. Whew, first hurdle cleared.

First hurdle cleared despite a catastrophic weather event, interesting travel arrangements, missing a whole day of school, having epic cramps and bleeding all over the table (gross), and an office that was partially staffed. Not bad, not bad. I was terrified it was going to be bad and I wouldn't get there, and the worst did not happen. I need to chill a little bit, expect more good things, I think. (Or, maybe it was good to have low expectations and then be pleasantly surprised at every turn...)

We're off. I take the Femara tonight, I get started on this next piece of things. I prepare for our last blasts that we know are blasts. (Those 2PNs make me nervous as we have no idea what they could turn out to be.) I am hoping for a change in our horrible luck. I am trying to accept things for what they are in this process and attempting to not stress too much about missing school or anything else. At this point, it is what it is. I give in to the process.

Also, I am hoping for relief for those in Buffalo who don't live where it's 8 inches of snow, who are still buried in monster drifts, hostage in their homes, and hoping their homes' structural integrity holds up through the heavy snow now and the melting and flooding that is expected. I can't imagine what it must be like for those in the areas most affected. It gives a little perspective to my own worries for this week.

Always an adventure, one way or another. Never a boring moment.

Monday, November 17, 2014

#Microblog Mondays: The House

Yesterday we were on our way to a late lunch out when we stopped by an open house. We are not buying a house; not with a realtor; have been agonizing over whether or not to put an addition on or move to a new house...but all of that has been dependent on infertility. So we haven't tried to find a house very seriously, but then stumbled upon The House, just by chance. It's nearly perfect: a 1925-built but recently-renovated colonial with a boatload of character, four bedrooms, the kitchen I salivate over, an office for me and an office for him, a room for exercise equipment, a mudroom, built-ins galore, and they even had a room for their WINE FRIDGES, plural. (Negatives: inground pool, ginormous size, ginormous lot, a bit pricey for our comfort, double-yellow-line street). This house was very nearly made for us...but it's just not the right time. I am headed into our tenth IVF cycle, our second-to-last if we hold tight to the No More After The Frozens Are Gone decision, and we will need the adoption money at the ready if the frozens prove to be failures (plus it's the holidays, and our house is not even remotely on the market or market-ready). The kicker was the couple with the baby carrier who walked in after us, who will probably have the children to fill a house that size, who probably (but maybe not) didn't have to pay a sizeable down payment to try for their baby, and who will, in all probability, be buying what should be OUR HOUSE. Oh, infertility, your sting reaches so far beyond the immediate disappointment of reproductive failure.

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Saturday, November 15, 2014

Adoption Book Reviews Part I

When we were leaving the hospital in Buffalo from our HSG that, while not entirely clear, was clear enough to proceed with our next cycle, I showed my awesome doctor the book that was stashed in my purse. Yes, I stash books in my purse. A requirement for a purse before I will purchase it is that it be large enough to stow a paperback, if not a hardcover. A fashionista I am not, although some of those big fancypants bags could carry a veritable library of books. I like to have a book with me at all times. Who knows when you might have a moment where you are stuck and stagnant and could get some surprise reading time in? Especially when you are CONSTANTLY in a doctor's office? We had been talking about the upcoming cycle, and I felt it was important to let Dr. Fabulous know that we were also beginning to open the door on domestic infant adoption. That it wasn't some amorphous "someday, if we need to" situation anymore, but that we have reached that point where we feel so little hope in our medical path to parenthood that we need to start moving down a path that, while also very difficult for different reasons, feels far more full of hope than what we've been doing. We're not hopeLESS, per se. We just feel drained and a little disenchanted since every great "new thing" that comes down the medical pike just hasn't panned out for us for whatever dastardly reason.

So I felt it necessary to inform our doctor that I had switched my reading habits, and brought out one of the two adoption books I have read at this point. He kind of looked a little sad, possibly because he is really hoping to clinch this for us (or possibly because that's what we WANT to see), but also was very supportive -- "Yes, of course it makes sense to look into other options." I felt a little guilty, but that's all on me. Of course he wants to solve this puzzle. We're just running out of stamina to keep going down this well-worn path.

This post is titled "Part I" because the books I am going to share with you are two of what I suspect are many books about adoption that I will be reading over the next few months. I have a third sitting on my coffee table, but I needed a little break as parallel reading two very useful and informative books on adoption kind of saturated me for the moment. But, since I have been very disappointed and appalled at Barnes and Noble's lack of adoption books in physical stores, and the internet is fairly overwhelming, I thought it might be helpful to share the two books I ultimately bought and have felt are incredibly helpful to someone starting out on the decision-making process. The fact that I finished the two books so quickly was a sign to me that this is a pathway that I can become passionate about. My shelf next to my bed is full of infertility books, and when starting out on this insane journey I just consumed books that would share different perspectives and paths and experiences with infertility, whether global, highly personal, medically informational, and/or emotionally speaking. I'm finding the same categories apply to adoption books. These two are my personal favorites so far. These are my personal thoughts on the books, I'm sure you could find a zillion other reviews online, but these are mine, from the perspective of someone who wants information and wants to feel hope and is completely exhausted by medical infertility treatments but not yet resolved to let that path go. I hope they're helpful.

You Can Adopt: An AdoptiveFamilies Guide by Susan Caughman and Isolde Motley
This book appealed to me because it was written by staff members of Adoptive Families magazine, which held some clout for me. Also, the format was very appealing. It is broken into three parts: Part I is Thinking About Adopting; Part II is Working on Adoption; and Part III is Parenting Your Adopted Child. In addition, there were blue sidebars peppered throughout the book that featured real-person stories from AdoptiveFamilies readers on various parts of the adoption process, from deciding to adopt to parenting. They were honest, and real, and not always wholly complimentary to the person sharing--but I love knowing that other people have thoughts and worries that aren't necessarily PC but in sharing, reassure the reader that thinking this way (even briefly) is normal. Also, every chapter in every part featured full-length essays written by adoptive parents on their experiences with various stages of the adoption process. The book was informative, broken out into chunks that weren't overwhelming, and covered all possible adoption pathways. It covered international, domestic, and foster adoption. We are really only interested in domestic infant adoption, so I could skim some of the other pieces but also learn a bit about those other pathways. International Adoption is not among our choices because, quite frankly, we want to start parenting as early as possible and often, with international adoption, you are welcoming a toddler home. There are often country requirements as well that are more restrictive. There are travel considerations. It is not the path for us. Foster adoption is incredible and I so admire the people who follow this path. Given the loss we have sustained from infertility, I just don't think we have the ability to go this route that is rife with loss and potential loss. It would not go well. Reading about these other options was helpful in solidifying our decisions that domestic infant adoption is really the way we want to go. There were surprising things in the book -- I discovered that some people feel that when adopting domestically they should be able to specify a sex as a compensatory benefit to having gone through infertility. That was actually shocking to me, and while I think I can see where those people are coming from, it was bizarre to me. You don't get to pick any other way -- it just seemed like a prospect that hadn't ever entered our minds and was a little off-putting. To each their own though, although for us this was a little on the crazy-pants side. Other pieces were very reassuring -- stories of partners not quite in sync on the decision making process but who came together eventually; stories of nervous adoptive parents-to-be prepping the house for a homestudy ("Should I bake cookies or bread to make the house smell welcoming and domestic?" one woman wondered aloud to her husband); reassuring tales of initial fears that proved unfounded; sad stories of failed adoptions and losses but that ended in a successful adoption afterwards. It's not all Pollyanna, but it's not all doom and gloom, either. There are helpful exercises-- the homestudy chapter explains in detail what could be required (but that it varies by agency or state), but includes helpful questions for you and your partner to explore and discuss beforehand that will likely be included in the social worker's homestudy process. They recommend that you answer them separately and then compare notes, to see where you land before discussing, so that you can figure out where there may be conflicts or just pieces to discuss further about your families of origin, your parenting philosophy, your background, your thoughts on adoption and open adoption. That was a really helpful section, as the homestudy is, to be honest, incredibly intimidating. From where we stand in the process, anyway. I'm sure it will change. The book seems like one that will become a well-worn reference, and a book you could turn to for advice or reassurance during various points in the process. It is a nuts-to-bolts, comprehensive guide with a personal touch.

Secrets to Your Successful Domestic Adoption: Insider Advice to Create Your Forever Family Faster by Jennifer Joyce Pedley
This book appealed to me because the author is both a social worker who helps both birthmothers and adoptive families through the process, and is also a birthmother herself. She gives a very interesting and comprehensive perspective on the birthmother's view of adoption. As an adoption newbie, before getting any information, birthmothers seem a bit...scary. I repeat, this is from our uninformed viewpoint. This book was incredible for providing a dual perspective but always keeping birthmother/expectant mother thoughts on the process close to heart. I appreciated the author's honesty and her detailed information on all parts of the process, especially if you choose to go a more independent, attorney-driven, private route. It was a bit overwhelming at times, but it was also well-organized into five parts. I was incredibly nervous when I cracked the book open and saw that the first part is titled, "Second Choice/Second Best." I felt it was judgy, and I was about to be judged for not choosing adoption first, for wanting to experience pregnancy myself, for pouring energy and money into infertility treatments. I WAS SO WRONG. It was an incredible chapter grouping that brought me to tears, frequently. It was about how adoption is not the birthmother's first choice, either. That very few people grow up and are like, "I want to build my family through adoption!," but also very few people say, "I want to get pregnant at a time that is awful for me and place my baby for adoption!" She has a very eye-opening chart that shows the parallels between the birthmother's feelings and the adoptive mother's feelings -- there are a LOT! Examples: Both feel that their reproductive systems have betrayed them, but oppositely. Both are likely to be uncomfortable around pregnant people and newborns. Both have worries that their child will hate them. I found this book incredibly helpful for exploring my fears of open adoption (that have been broken up pretty significantly) and my picture of birthmothers. It was highly educational. I have to give a caveat, though. The author made me incredibly angry at the end, when she related a story that she thought was funny and yet was in incredibly poor taste. She talks about her son's adoptive parents, and that they had a very odd circumstance. Each were identical twins, and then their identical twins actually married each other, too. So they had identical DNA, and somehow their sibling/inlaws were able to conceive but they weren't. So they had bizarro children in the family that could really be their children in terms of looks and whatnot. Strange, right? And so far an okay story. But it goes horribly wrong when she jokingly says to Sybil, the adoptive mother, that she doesn't understand why she didn't just sleep with her brother-in-law, because no one would ever find out from DNA tests. Ha HA ha ha. And then she says the adoptive father, Ron, laughed a bit but that Sybil didn't seem to find it funny. NO SHIT, SHERLOCK. That's so not funny I can't even believe an editor approved putting that little anecdote in the final chapters. It made me so angry I was almost ready to write the whole book off, but it's such a small piece to what is otherwise a very helpful book from a perspective most adoption books aren't coming from, that I forgave her the anecdote transgression and continue to recommend the book. Just be warned that that piece is in there at the end of the book and it will probably make your blood boil if you are coming to adoption after any kind of infertility struggle.

Both books were incredibly helpful to making me feel far more comfortable and more informed about the adoption process. I am nowhere near done with research, as research is how I come to grips with situations I never thought I'd be in but yet must come to peace with, for they are my new reality. Infertility was definitely one of those experiences, and now the process of adoption is another one. There is much hope in the process though, because if we can survive IVF in its many iterations and come out all in one piece (if worn very, very thin in places), we can survive all the emotional trials that adoption holds. Because both books were clear-- this is not easy. You will end with a baby in your arms if you stick it out, and both were clear that you should expect at least one false start or mismatch. Both made me feel really, really confident that our agency is a good choice, as they are very adamant that birthmother counseling is key, and that is emphasized bigtime by the agency we've identified. I am confident that this could be a pathway that leads us to the family we've dreamed of, should our last efforts fail us as all the other cycles have, already. It's possible we could find success before we commit to the process, but it is so comforting to have this information at my fingertips, to feel more informed, to try to feel hope again in an unfamiliar process that is slowly materializing on our horizon.