Monday, December 29, 2008
I wrote that post in a desperate attempt to reach out into the blogosphere, to find some solace and comfort among others. But in my heart I knew it was just a temporary fix, something to see me through until my luck finally changed. I almost didn’t start blogging at all; despite years of disappointment, I still believed that my childlessness was just a fleeting, transient condition. Why bother seeking out an online community when I could be pregnant (ergo, happy) in a matter of months? Why go to all the trouble of joining a support group when I’d just have to drop out?
At the end of 2006 I celebrated like mad. What a shithole of a year! In 2006, I had suffered my first miscarriage and learned that we were infertile. In 2006 I was stripped of my precious naivete.
I welcomed 2007 wholeheartedly, for 2007 was going to bring us IVF and—with our “excellent” chances of it working—salvation.
At the end of 2007 I celebrated my guts out. What a rat-bastard asshole of a year that was! Two more miscarriages and lessons best not learned, like that your beta can double while you’re having a full-on period, like that an IVF cycle—which totally skips the fallopian tubes—can still result in an ectopic pregnancy. In 2007 I learned I had pregnancy-threatening fibroids. In 2007, I tried to turn to adoption. In 2007, I turned away from adoption and instead opted for major surgery. Oh, and in 2007 my amazing, kick-ass, 12-year-old kitty (my first pet) died.
So I welcomed 2008 with open arms. I just knew that in 2008 my life would change. Maybe IVF wasn’t going to work, but surely by the end of 2008 we would either be pregnant or actively working on adoption. No doubt about it 2008 would bring an end to the endless sameness, the dullness that marked my life, my marriage, my family.
It’s the end of 2008, and I’m not so sure I can celebrate. No doubt about it, I am eager to see the last of this scum-sucking, douchebag, ho-bitch of a year. But can I really welcome 2009 with such blind devotion? For more than four months I’ve been looking forward to this new year. Because with 2009 comes the end of my forced break. 2009 brings us a new IVF cycle with what we hope to be J’s new-and-improved sperm. Or maybe it will bring IVF with donor sperm, a whole new kind of opportunity. And I’ve been swearing to myself, and anyone else who will listen, that by the end of 2009, god-fucking-damnit, I will know where my baby’s coming from. By the end of 2009, my life will finally change.
But now that the new year is upon us, I’m finding myself unwilling to embrace the hope it might bring. I am weary and depressed. I’m tired of welcoming the new year, each with its sexy, slick persona and delicious promises. I’m sick of getting burned.
Last week, when we were taking our mini-break in Virginia, I told J that I can’t even imagine us with a child anymore. I still know that it is what we want, and it is still the direction we’re heading toward. In my brain I still believe that we will end up parents someday. But I’m no longer sure I believe it in my heart. The possibility of actually having a child in our lives just seems so foreign to me. I’ve become alienated from the fruits of my labor (thank you, liberal arts education!). J just nodded. He didn’t even have to say anything; he’s right there with me.
I’m scared to death of 2009. I’m not feeling strong or determined, and I can no longer see the finish line. 2008 sucked, but at least I knew where I stood.
* * * * * * * *
Of course I can’t leave it at that, because at the same time as 2008 has proven to be the darkest year of my life, and in many ways the darkest year for our country, it also has brought me one of the most amazing nights of my life, and with it one of the proudest moments of our nation’s history.
In 2009, we, the United States of Generally-Loud-Obnoxious-Asshole-Ignorant Americans, will swear in the first black president in our country’s history. And I’m gonna be there (on the mall, at least). Me and about 3 million other freezing, cheering, weeping Americans. And how ironic is it that, at a time when I am myself bereft of hope, I will stand with a crowd gathered to honor the man that most embodies that word?
Thursday, December 11, 2008
Let me preface this post with some background: I have always had problems with the holidays. Christmas is supposed to be about family, and my family (at least on my side) is royally fucked up. Christmas tends to be when my narcissistic bi-polar mother gets depressed and paranoid. Sometimes there is hate mail. Merry fucking Christmas. Oh, and did I mention my birthday is the day after Christmas? Crappy birthday, made even crappier by constant reminder of ticking clock.
As the years leak by without any luck on bringing a baby home, Christmas is progressively sadder. I’d love to be all melodramatic and say that this is because my first baby was due Christmas-week two years ago, but the truth is it isn’t really about that. (Oh wait, writing that just made me get misty, so maybe it’s sort of about that.) But it’s much more than a miscarriage. I don’t want to suggest that everyone else should feel the way I do, but I really think that if I’d had a child anytime in the last three years I wouldn’t really mourn my lost pregnancies. None of them seem like real babies to me, any more than my embryos seem like babies. I never heard a heartbeat, never saw them in a sono, never even got morning sickness. The most pregnant I ever felt was when I was losing it. To me, my miscarriages (4 in total, if you count chemical pregnancies––I do––2 if you don’t) aren’t so much lost children but lost chances. I feel sad for them the way I feel sad for my embryos that don’t survive (okay, a lot sadder, because they were farther along, but the same idea). But what I really feel is sad for me, sad that my first miscarriage was more than two years ago and I still don’t have a toddler, sad that my most promising pregnancy (ended in ectopic) was well over a year ago and I still don’t have an infant, sad that after three and a half years of struggling, Jason and I still don’t have a child to love, to nurture, to grow. Sad that my fantasy of having two kids is virtually gone, and that my fantasy of having a 100% biological kid is hanging by a thread, that my fantasy of having even a 50% biological infant is fading.
So I don’t think Christmas would be any better even if it wasn’t a miscarriage milestone. What matter is that the holidays are all about family, and I can’t get mine off the ground.
Last year it all became Too Much. Probably because in addition to the other crap, J and I had to give up drinking (him out of necessity, me out of solidarity). So now we can’t even muster merriment from a bottle. And we’ve been having the same Christmas, with the same four grownups (J, me, his mom, his aunt) for the last 10 years. The tradition was nice for awhile, but the sameness of it all is killing us. The same foods (J’s mom and his aunt have certain favorite dishes and won’t let me cook anything else); the same conversations—verbatim; the same stupid pretend jokes about who’s got the biggest stocking and who’s trying to steal whose presents.
And don’t even get me started on the presents. For some reason, Christmas at J’s house requires so many presents that we literally, literally spend all day opening them. All Fucking Day. It’s unbearable. All that money spent on all that crap, which isn’t even crap that we want (or, in the case of gifts to them, crap that they want). And all I can think is what I really want no one can give me. Every year, as everyone whines about how we’re never going to get through all of the presents, I loudly suggest that we should buy less next year, that perhaps we could focus on one really great present for each person, something like that. And each year I am told that I don’t really mean it, and that if we cut down on presents I would be the first one to complain, and then it’s the same old jokes about who’s stocking is bigger and who’s getting the most presents, and who is trying to filch things from whose pile of loot. And remember, last year all this was with no booze (at least for me and J—his mom and aunt were as lit as the Christmas tree).
This rant (an oft-repeated rant, I’m ashamed to say) came bursting out of me on New Years Eve last year, and I made a solemn promise to myself: I swore that this year, if I wasn’t safely pregnant or on an adoption list, we weren’t going back to J’s mom’s for Christmas. Now to many of you, this might seem like no biggie, but my MIL spends her entire year thinking about, planning for, and bitching about Christmas. But considering the fact that Christmas was less than a week over and I already was having a panic attack about the next one, I put my foot down.
I got my most recent BFN in August, my last chance at being pregnant before Christmas. That same day I started making plans. I booked a cabin in the mountains of VA for four nights, and a couple of weeks later J and I had The Talk with his mom, where we broke it to her that, for the first time in her life, she was going to have Christmas without anyone but her sister.
The funny thing is that she took it really well. Like a grown-up. I tend to forget (in light of the aforementioned batshit-crazy mother) that parents can actually act like adults. She’s disappointed, of course, but she was also really cool. We told her it was just too sad, and that we didn’t want to pretend to be happy, and that it would just be for this one year. I thought it was odd that she needed us to tell her why it was so sad, but once we explained it she didn’t argue with us.
So here’s the plan: 4 days in a cabin in the mountains: hot tub on the deck overlooking the valley (J will probably not be allowed in, given sperm count issues, but I’m the one that lives for the hot tub, so it’s not that big of a deal); wood-burning fireplace (J and I are both certifiable firebugs); DVD’s and good music; great cooking (and I can try out NEW recipes); a visit to Luray Caverns; and maybe an afternoon massage.
Then, the week after Christmas, J’s mom and aunt come down for dinner and present-exchange. And here’s the beauty of this: I have to work the next day, so we can’t do a late-night thing. This leaves one hour, maybe two, for opening presents. If they decide to go present-crazy, so be it. After 10:00 I’m kicking them out and whatever isn’t opened doesn’t get opened while they are there.
And due to this, I am totally blowing off the rest of the holiday obligations: super easy (if not original) presents for extended family, very few (and very nice) presents for J’s mom and aunt, and nothing else. I’m not cooking for any parties, I’m not getting a tree (though we did do outdoor lights at J’s request, which make me happy), I’m not going to any dress-up events.
I wish we were in the type of family where we could completely boycott Christmas. But we’re not, and it would cause more trouble that it would be worth. That being said, I think I’ve come as close as I can to a true fuck-off to the holiday.
Anyone else telling Santa to fuck off this year? We got enough troubles, fat man, without you adding to them.
Sunday, November 30, 2008
And of course, checking out their kids. Because pretty much every one of the people I knew in high school and college now has kids.
I could be all mopey and say that it’s really hurting me, but right now it isn’t. I guess I’m past the point where I surprised to be the last one of my peers to have children. And I really have come closer to the “acceptance” point with regard to my infertility. So seeing pictures of people I used to know playing in the snow with their adorable pink-cheeked toddlers doesn’t hurt all that much.
But it is awkward. Because while I’m pretty much out of the infertility closet with my close friends, it isn’t really something you chat about in an open forum with used-to-be-friends. My infertility is a big part about why I haven’t reached out to old friends in the past few years. I mean, what is there to say? They tell me about their kids, their new career path, etc., and then they ask, “so what’s going on with you?” And the truth is, the only thing that is going on with me is my fertility treatment. It is in my mind all the time, it’s what drives me, it’s this huge part of who I am. But it’s a conversation killer, a true dud. Nothing stops a conversation like: “What’s up with me? Oh, nothing really. Spent the last three and a half years trying to get knocked up. Had a few miscarriages, major surgery, and took out a second mortgage. We’re considering using someone else’s sperm. So what kind of investment banking did you say you were getting into?”
I actually tested this theory with my oldest friend, my BFF from high school. She found me via e-mail a few months ago. After a few nice e-mails, I came right out and told her about what we’d been through. I didn’t lay it on too thick or anything, and I prefaced it with an explanation that, based on our long history, it felt weird not to tell her. I didn’t hear anything for a few days. Then I got an e-mail saying she hadn’t forgotten me, but didn’t have time to write a meaningful response. Then nothing. I’m sure she feels awkward now that it’s been so long. (And I really do need to write to her again and let her off the hook, tell her that no one ever knows what to say about this shit.) But this certainly told me that what I suspected all along is true: infertility is a crap topic of conversation.
So while I’m enjoying Facebook, I’m back in the closet. And it sucks. I want to be who I am, and I feel kind of pathetic. I mean, if I’m still childless after 12 years of marriage, I should at least live some kind of awesome, jet-setter lifestyle, right? Or be some big hot-shot in my career? Instead I just feel lame.
And I’m developing an annoying habit of self-narrating my life in my head. “[Babychaser] is drinking her coffee while she checks her blog.” “[Babychaser] is putting up Christmas lights.” “[Babychaser] is doing her laundry.” “[Babychaser] is driving herself nuts thinking of herself in the third person.”
But what I want to write is “[Babychaser] is still infertile.” “[Babychaser] is wondering if she’ll ever have a pink-cheeked toddler to romp in the snow with.” “[Babychaser] is taking a nap, because she doesn’t have anything more urgent to do on a Sunday afternoon, because unlike you fertile assholes, she has no children.”
And I’m already fantasizing, rolling the words over and over again in my head like a mantra, what I really want to write: “[Babychaser] is pregnant.”
Wednesday, November 19, 2008
J and I are in such a tenuous position right now. We had to take out a second mortgage to pay for our shared-risk IVF plan, and we still have to come up with about $5,000 a cycle in incidentals (more, obviously, if we switch to donor sperm).
Even scarier, what if IVF doesn’t work? Our next step is to adopt, and I was counting on our ability to borrow more (and not go bankrupt) if needed. If only I safely had a child in my home, I could live with having to do some penny-pinching, belt-tightening, etc; you pick the metaphor, I can handle it. But for the economy to crash while I’m in the most expensive phase of my life, trying desperately to just get my hands on a baby, any baby—it’s terrifying.
J did nothing to assuage my fears, instead reminding me that he has virtually no work lined up for the next year. Mid-sized theatres are closing their doors all over the country, and those that are staying open are likely to pay even less for their designers. My job, as a government defense attorney, is about as secure as a job can be, but J’s job––risky in the best of times––rises and falls with the goodwill of theatre sponsors.
Sometimes I feel like the world is plotting against me. Why now? Why couldn’t the economy fail a year or two from now, when we’re more settled? Or years ago, when we had nothing to lose? What if, at the end of years and years of searching and trying for a child, I discover the world’s final answer is “no”?
To make matters worse, J e-mailed me an article yesterday that had us both freaked out. For the last two years, we have soothed our souls with the knowledge that, if all else fails, we will adopt a baby from
Then J e-mails me this, an article describing the state of international adoption right now, as compared to just a year ago. International adoption is WAAAY down, and not due to a lack of people wanting to adopt. The top three countries are all shutting down:
None of this is surprising to me. When the
It was a year ago, almost exactly, that we went to our first meeting on international adoption, and it was a year ago that we decided that, despite the risk that Ethiopia might become more popular, we weren’t ready to give up trying for a bio-kid. So I had the surgery, and we pressed on. But now I wonder if we made the right choice. Had we jumped into adoption a year ago, we might be making travel plans right now—our baby would already have been born, just be waiting for us to bring him/her home. Yet here we are, waiting and hoping, while
Can a country run out of babies? Because that’s what I feel is going to happen. Is it possible that I could end up childless, after all my promises to myself that I would never let that happen?
What happens now?
Thursday, November 13, 2008
I’m sitting on one of several hard plastic chairs lined up along the wall of large grey room, about the size of a small gymnasium. Other people are with me, waiting for their turn to try out the new “flying” equipment––a series of cables strung from the wall and ceiling. (Is it exercise equipment, performance art, some sort of therapy? Who can say?) The person hooked into the equipment right now is doing some pretty cool stuff; as the instructor urges him on, he is letting go of his fears, flipping around and over and zipping about.
Then it’s my turn, and I’m both nervous and excited. I think back fondly of when I was younger––I was stronger then and a bit of a daredevil. But after a couple of minutes I’m loosening up and making some pretty awesome moves of my own. While not like the “flying” I’ve experienced in other dreams, where I’m truly free, it’s really fun and I feel healthy and giddy and full of joy.
I finally lower myself to the floor, laughing and exhausted, and the instructor comes up to me and says in amazement, kind of sympathetically:
“Wow. You still think you’re going to have a baby girl someday.”
I woke up a moment later, but not before the dream-me sank down into a chair––stunned that the flying device had somehow let this nice man peer into my soul––and started to sob. Even after I pulled myself awake, my chest continued to ache.
Seriously, what the fuck? I can’t even have a simple, stupid, fun little dream without being smacked down by reality? It isn’t hard enough to be hurting when I’m awake, now I have to hurt while I’m asleep?
Truthfully, I wasn’t that surprised. If there is anything I’ve learned in the last few months it is that there is no escape from the pain of childlessness. I had hoped that my forced vacation from cycling, while frustrating, would be a bit of a relief. But in some ways it’s much, much worse. I am consumed by jealousy, not so much of people with little babies, but of people with actual honest-to-god kids, people with families. I babysat my 6-year-old nephew last weekend, and it was lovely, but after I had put him to bed I just wanted to scream and yell it isn’t fair! He was 2 ½ years old when I started TTC. I had thought he would play with my kids (note the bitterly ironic use of the plural), not babysit them!
(By the way, he informed me that he would “think about” liking my child, but only after it was four years old. I love that kid.)
I think that being “on a break” is making cycling seem so distant and foreign that I can’t believe I’m going to be back in it next year. I told someone recently about how long I’ve been trying, and about what I’ve done so far, and it sounded seriously deranged. This was what I saw in my dream—a stranger’s pity at my continued belief that I might actually have a baby someday. Am I crazy to think this still might happen?
When I woke up from that dream, I realized that the thing that had bothered me the most was the invasion of my privacy. It wasn’t that this guy saw my desire to have a child, it was his knowing that I always pictured myself having a girl. Of course, now that I’m awake it seems odd to be mad at my subconscious for knowing what I think about. It’s hard to be mad at yourself for violating your own privacy. But none of this makes sense, anyway.
Your Bad Bloggy Friend, the Babychaser
Wednesday, November 5, 2008
So I’ll leave it at this: Last night was a beautiful moment in history, and the sun came up this morning on a shiny new America. It’s a beautiful day, and I feel lucky and excited, and a little awed, to be a part of it.
Love you all,
Sunday, November 2, 2008
“Vote.” Such a simple little word. But every four years it takes on a whole new meaning (every two years if you’re politics junkies like me and J). The word represents a civic right, it truly is “power to the people.” And in the context used by Colbert (this election) and Eminem (in his “Mosh” video last election) and countless others, it’s a noun and a verb and a sentence all in its own. “Vote.” The word is more than an idea––it’s a directive, a mandate.
I love voting. I love going to the little church in my neighborhood and standing in line with people I don’t know and seeing the pollworker check my name off a list. I love standing at the machine (though not nearly as much as I loved the honest-to-god booths we used to have in Massachusetts, with the old-fashioned voting machines where you pushed down the levers and pulled the bar across the bottom to finish your vote) and knowing that I am a tiny little piece of history, that I am playing my part in a process created by men (no women, unfortunately) who probably had never imagined an automobile, let alone a i-phone. What can I say? I’m a dreamer, and voting never fails to make me happy.
So it was with mixed feelings this year when I decided to let go of my sweet little fantasy of going to the polls first thing in the morning with J (our little tradition), waiting in a long line with other excited Obama supporters (I live in a blue blue blue state) and making my (sadly, electronic) mark for the first black man to make a bona fide run for the oval office. Instead, last week I took a deep breath and voted absentee, so that I could spend E-day in Virginia as a vote protector. (My consolation: even thought I don’t get to actually go to my polls, at least I got to cast a paper ballot! Have I mentioned how much I hate electronic voting machines?)
You know those news stories about the “army” of lawyers going to battleground states to defend voting rights? I’m one of them. (Note: as far as I can tell from my training last week, this army of “lawyers” is about 80% law students. Not that it makes a difference for what we’re doing––which definitely isn’t practicing law––but let’s be fair about the facts.)
I’m a little freaked out about this, because I have no idea what to expect. When I signed up I had some romanticized view about sitting alongside poll workers in the polling place, going toe-to-toe with election officials, fighting for the disenfranchised. The reality is that, because I’m not a VA voter, I’m going to be stuck outside, 40 feet from the entrance to the polls, trying my best to spot problems before they happen or get people to try again if they’ve been turned away. If my poll workers are strict about the rules, I won’t even get near them to talk to them if there are problems. I’ve been assigned to a precinct in a heavily Republican district outside of Richmond. I’ve been told that the poll workers could be pretty hostile, and we might have trouble making any kind of an impact. Thirteen hours outside (god, I hope it’s not raining!), presumably trying to get people to stay in line and not give up. And I guess it’s also important to be there so we can call in to the “boiler room” if there are serious problems. Not glamorous, and maybe seriously boring, but at least I’ll know I tried. And I don’t mean to sound self-righteous by telling you all about this, but this is where my heart is right now, and part of the reason I’ve been so absent from blog-world.
It’s two days to E-day. The stakes couldn’t be higher. So, at the risk of being preachy and heavy-handed, I have one word for you, for your friends, for everyone you see on the streets. It’s a noun; it’s a verb. It’s a right, and it’s a mandate. And as we learned in grade school, it’s your civic duty: VOTE.
Tuesday, October 7, 2008
What’s more surreal than spending two years in fertility treatment? Stopping. You would think that the daily hormone changes of an IVF cycle or the thrice-weekly, ass-crack-of-dawn visits to the RE would make life seem other-worldly, and they certainly do. But it’s even stranger––once you get used to having such a single-minded focus in life––to go back to “normal.”
Part of what makes this normalcy seem so odd is that I never expected it. Even though I think of IF as a temporary phase in my life, it is supposed to “end” with the biggest disruption of all: the introduction of a child into our home. (Sort of like when I got bogged down in law school and all I was thinking about with desperation was finally graduating, then realizing that oh shit, oh shit oh shit, then I’ll have to actually be a lawyer! Out of the frying pan, or so the saying goes.) When I started TTC, I figured that life as I knew it was over. Even more so when I started treatment. My life plan was clear: for an undefined period of time I would be in treatment, then I would either be pregnant or in the adoption process, both of which also involve major life changes. Then, of course, I would have a child, the most insane life change of all. It’s just so strange to get all geared up for big changes in your life and then not end with any change at all.
I remember when I was in my early 20s and used to run for exercise (a short-lived period in my life), that I once was running on a trail, and going pretty fast, when I tripped over a tree root and fell. I was a little scraped up and not badly hurt, but I remember the moment with startling clarity. It wasn’t the fall that stunned me, but the abrupt stillness in the instant afterward. In the 20 minutes or so I had been running I had gotten hypnotized by the forward motion––the ground moving under my feet and the scenery rushing by and the vibration rocking through my body with every footfall. But in an instant I was lying on the ground, listening to my heart pound in my ears, while the world stood perfectly still. It wasn’t upsetting. Just disorienting.
So I guess that’s how I feel right now. For 3 ½ years I’ve been pounding my way toward an ever-moving target (I am not a light runner) with what can only be described as grim determination. Even when I haven’t been in a cycle (and I do almost always take a cycle off between treatment cycles), I’ve been planning out the next one, making arrangements for drug deliveries, working out insurance or, later (when the insurance ran out), rewriting contracts with the doctors, or having surgery and focusing on healing so we can go forward, press forward, move, move, move toward that ultimate goal. Then someone ripped the ground out from under me. The world is standing still, and I don’t really know what to make of it anymore, or where I fit in.
The weirdest thing is that this analogy makes no sense. I haven’t even been on that long of a break. I am exactly one and a half cycles out of my last IVF cycle. And our forward movement is far from stalled; we’re taking a break so that J can take hormone shots (which he’s already started) to see if we can jump-start our sperm production. But, if history is any lesson, my feelings often have little to do with the reality of the situation.
I’ve been rocketing between what looks and feels like clinical depression and a fairly upbeat outlook on life. Mix into that desperate escapism into any TV show, movie, or book that has sex or romance, anything that will give me that burning-in-the-gut sensation that makes me feel like I’m actually still alive. Add in the anxiety and obsession with the upcoming election. Oh, and don’t forget that at the same time I’m finally standing still the entire planet seems to be spinning out of control. It’s all just so fucking surreal. Sometimes I feel like I’m hanging on by a thread. And I want to blog—I don’t want to lose touch with the people in cyberspace. But I don’t know who I am or what’s going on in my life or what to say about this crazy world we seem to be living in.
So I’m just going day to day.
Tuesday, September 23, 2008
And on top of that, the one thing I’ve been looking forward to the most, my friend N’s return from maternity leave, has just sucked. I missed her desperately while she was gone, and have been counting down the days until she gets back. So yesterday I spent the morning setting up a 10:00 meeting on my exploding case, then at 9:40 went over to see N, figuring that would give me 20 minutes before my meeting. She was just getting in (first day back is tricky) and her supervisor had just gotten to her office at the same time. So I spent 20 minutes standing there like an idiot while she and her boss talked about their new babies. She kept talking about how hard it is and how paranoid she’s become, and how grateful she is that her husband gets to stay home with the baby for another year, because she couldn’t imagine leaving him with strangers. (I thought bitterly about how, due to the leave I keep burning with IVF, my baby will be in the hands of day-care at 3 months old). Her boss kept talking about how much easier it will be when N has her second baby. (I took deep breaths and tried not to think about how I'm not going to get to even have a second baby.) We looked at baby pictures. They discussed the merits of the exersaucer. I had NOTHING to add to this. It was just awful. And then N starting telling her boss about how hard it is to be alone with the baby all day, and how if she didn’t have backup walking through the door at 6 pm every night there’s just no way she could have handled it. So now I’m standing there like an idiot trying not to cry, because even if I do manage to have ONE child, I know that J will often be gone in the evening (or be completely out of town) for weeks at a time and I will have no backup, and I'm completely freaked out about this.
Finally, I tell her I have to go to a meeting and I’ll come back later. Her boss is still there. I’ve said less than two sentences the whole time. Then I go to my meeting, which actually makes me feel a little bit better because at least it isn’t about BABIES, it's about being a lawyer, which I'm at least good at. So I go back to her office after the meeting to try again. And C is camped out in there. That's right, newly pregnant "I'm having my tubes tied" C of my previous post. They insist that I come in and I panic and can't think of an exit strategy so I go in an sit down. I bailed out a couple of minutes later, but not before C starting gossiping about what a bitch another friend of mine is for bringing her baby in to the office, because he has pinkeye, and how C is pregnant and has a 2-year-old so she has to be really careful. And all I can think of is that C works part-time and has a nanny, while the friend that’s she’s bitching about has two kids and works insane hours to stay afloat. And I really like this other friend, and I'm really anti-C at the moment, so obviously I’m on my other friend’s side.
I have yet to have a moment alone with N since she got back, and the two times I’ve been in her office I’ve just been this wooden dummy. You know the feeling, where your facial muscles freeze and you can't really manage an expression and you're sure you look like you've had a lobotomy? That was me. And mind you, none of this is N’s fault. She was the best pregnant friend an infertile girl could have, and we've had great phone conversations since she's been gone. But I felt so disappointed and deflated nonetheless.
So yet again, yesterday afternoon, I found myself sitting in my office trying not to cry. Part of it is that I'm so hormonal. And part of it is that we just learned that they're going to try a new hormone therapy on J, which is somewhat promising, but means we're not going to do another cycle until JANUARY at the earliest. (Sorry, that’s a story for another post.) So I’m nowhere near having an actual child to ease my pain. And then there's all that frustration that no one suggested we try this treatment for Jason a YEAR ago! (Again, something I’m trying not to get into right now.) But mostly it's knowing I have to wait while everyone else gets to be in this special club and have this amazing life experience and I'm stuck on the fringes with nothing to say and I feel totally left out.
And of course my rampant PMS isn’t helping. And J left yesterday morning for Alabama and he won’t be back until Sunday. And then I had to spend the entire afternoon getting patronized by smug opposing counsel in a case that we WON, because they knew we had no choice but to settle, and they were holding all the cards.
Blech blech blech! What an awful day.
I keep thinking at some point I’m going to run out of sadness, that there has to be a time where this stops hurting me so badly. But there is no rock bottom, and my pain seems infinitely renewable. How many times can I write that I’m so fucking tired of crying before my heart gets the message?
Monday, September 15, 2008
A little background: My co-worker C and I were kind of close a few years ago. Not super-tight, but I’d been to her house with other girl friends a few times, and she and I talked about personal stuff. In June 2005, I told her that J and I had been trying to get pregnant. Unbeknownst to me at the time, she also had just started TTC. Five months later, she told me that she was three months pregnant. “I thought it NEVER was going to happen!” she confided in me.
Since then, on one or two occasions, when I’ve let me guard down, she and I have had conversations about my infertility. On both occasions I have been stunned by her insensitivity to my plight.
But all that is important is this: C has a 2-year-old kid, even though she started TTC a month after me. She knows this. She knows that I have been doing IVF for at least a year. And I’m almost positive that she knows at least about my first miscarriage, if not more.
Cue the curtains:
My good friend L (not a big fan of C) and I are hanging out in my office, right before lunch. C walks into my office and flops down into one of my chairs.
“Oh my god, I’ve been meaning to talk to you!” She always talks like this, high drama with great big exclamation points. “I am SOOO PREGNANT!”
I glance at her belly, and indeed, she does appear to be pregnant. These things tend to show when you’re a size 2.
“Congratulations,” L and I duly reply, without much enthusiasm. I desperately want to look over at L to see what she thinks of this display, but to catch her eye would have involved too obvious a head turn, so I keep looking at C.
“After this baby, I’m SO getting my TUBES TIED!” she exclaims. “I don’t care if I’m divorced, I’m still getting my TUBES TIED. This is it for me!”
I’m try to keep my mouth from hanging open. I’m pretty sure that, in some societies, whining to your infertile friend that you must seek surgical intervention to halt your rampant fertility is considered somewhat impolite.
She goes on, undaunted by the stunned silence coming from both me and L. “I’ve been SO SICK for the last three months! I mean, my FIRST PREGNANCY was horrible. And this one has been even WORSE!”
Of course, I am not to be spared any detail. “I even had some BLEEDING,” she announces, “I had to go to the EMERGENCY ROOM when I was in New Jersey because I was BLEEDING!”
My heart is pounding, but more from astonishment than true anger. I guess it’s hard to be hurt by something so ridiculously rude.
“And you know,” she adds, “the whole pregnancy thing is so much WORSE when you’re OVER THIRTY-FIVE!” Oh yes, I think sagely, thirty-five is definitely way too old to be trying to have a baby. “I’ve had to go through genetic screening, and these AWFUL TESTS!” Awful tests? Really? Can’t imagine what that must be like.
But she saves the best for last. “But at least with this baby, I’m finally going to have a FAMILY!”
Take a minute to let that gem sink in. I’ll wait.
Now, perhaps it’s arguable that, with just me and J and the cats, I don’t really have a “family.” Not that I would ever say that to anyone else in my situation, but that’s pretty much the way I feel about it. But to suggest that it’s not a real family until you’ve had TWO kids? To someone who if lucky will end up with one? Can anyone out there join me in a rousing what the fuck?!
And then she was gone. She just popped in for a little, two-minute, fertility-flaunting chat, and then she was done, blissfully unaware that she was leaving only shocked silence in her wake.
After a minute, L closed the door to my office softly.
“Wow,” was all I could manage.
“Wow,” she agreed.
Wednesday, September 10, 2008
J and I had a plan. One more cycle with his sperm, then likely one or two cycles with donor sperm, then we are DONE with this INSANITY. (Remember Susan Powter? “Stop the Insanity?” Turned out she was totally ass-backwards on the nutrition thing, but the title was brilliant.) Only three more cycles, max. That’s what I’ve been telling myself. And while the idea of losing J’s genetic input made me grieve, and the idea of going through the adoption process made me grieve and stress, I had been finding some measure of peace in the idea that the end was in sight, less than a year away.
Now I’m faced with the possibility (still just a remote possibility) that the end is not in sight. J went to see the sperm specialist (all the docs at my RE’s office are RE’s, but this guy’s the go-to doc for men) yesterday. The good news is, this doctor doesn’t seem to think that J was sick, because he didn’t seem to think that there had been any change in J’s sperm in the last year and a half. (“What?,” you ask. Didn’t this all come up because the RE thought J had a progressive deterioration? Yeah, I’m confused too.)
This doctor also has a few ideas about what might be wrong with J’s sperm count. One thought is that J’s got some issues with the way his tubes open when he ejaculates, so maybe most of the sperm are getting trapped inside. (“What?,” you ask. If his sperm have been this bad for the last year and a half, and there’s something wrong that they can do something about, why the fuck are we hearing about this NOW, gazillions of dollars and a few miscarriages later?) J’s getting tested for this on Friday. The doc didn’t tell J what could be done about it (J sucks at asking questions), but it seemed he had some ideas. And maybe he had some other ideas, if the problem was something else, on how to improve it. J didn’t ask what the ideas were, or whether they involved expensive and painful ball surgery (he clearly doesn’t read Io’s blog).
And you know what? When J told me all of this my peaceful, floating, restful mood evaporated. I put the phone down and took deep breaths, trying to figure out why this news, which is supposed to be good, just made me want to curl up in a ball and cry.
Part of it is anger. If there was more that could be done about our clearly male-factor infertility, why didn’t our RE send J to the sperm specialist sooner? Why did I have to go through two more miscarriages and an ectopic pregnancy? Why did we have to use up all our insurance and take out a second mortgage on our house? And the worst thing is, this RE is one of the very BEST. And I like her and trust her. So I’m confused. Maybe the truth will be that nothing can be done to improve his sperm, and maybe that’s why she didn’t send us to get more tests earlier. Maybe she thought that, as we were getting good-looking (but short-lived) embryos, we were doing as well as could be expected. I just don’t know. And I’m so tired of all this. I can’t even think of trying to ask her.
But mostly I think I’m just exhausted. What happens if they come up with some new (and undoubtedly expensive) thing to help J ejaculate properly? What then? How many cycles do we have to give to this new process before we can go on to Plan B? What happens if the sperm doc wants to medicate J or give him hormone therapy? How long will I have to wait for his sperm to react to that so I can do this last cycle with J’s sperm before we can go on to donor sperm and I can finally get pregnant? I was hoping to do another cycle in a month and a half, get it over with before Christmas. So that we could start the new year with a new plan, one that might actually work. But if we have to wait for new sperm to percolate, we’re looking at January for the next cycle.
I remember when Luna said last spring that her RE had come up with yet another suggestion––I can’t remember if it was a new protocol or another approach to FET––and she said she just felt trapped. Like she’d finally resigned herself to being done with this and now she was getting sucked in again. That’s exactly how I feel—trapped. It’s like I’m a prisoner of my own infertility, a slave to its needs, incapable of climbing out of this pit of despair and failure and sadness.
A big part of me wishes that J had no sperm. Or that I had no eggs. Or that we hadn’t been able to fertilize or that our embryos couldn’t implant. If only things had been truly impossible, we would be DONE with all this. We would have used donor gametes or started the adoption process years ago, and probably would be parents by now. Instead, we wait and wait and wait as I get older and older in my sad, quiet, empty house, as my life ticks away.
I keep telling J I don’t know how much more of this I can take. But I can’t find a way to stop. And I can’t seem to find my balance. I’m so angry, and so scared, and so very very trapped.
Monday, September 8, 2008
I don’t really have any big news, so this post is going to be boring as hell. Mostly I’ve spent the past two weeks worked up (at one point actually frothing at the mouth) about the elections. But that’s a topic for another day. Here’s how I’ve been otherwise:
We told J’s mom about our decision to bail on Christmas, and she was astonishingly cool about it. With all the crap I go through with my own mom, I tend to forget that there are parent-types out there that are capable of acting like grown-ups. So when it happens, I’m stunned. She’s obviously disappointed, and was relieved by our repeated assurances that this was not going to be a regular thing, but that we just needed to break this negative cycle. But she didn’t lay any kind of a guilt trip on us, which I greatly appreciated. And I told her so, and told her what a great mom she is to both of us. She accepted my mad props, because she knows she could have been really difficult about this.
I went to the gym last Sunday (a week ago), where I weighed myself for the first time in months. As suspected, I’ve gained a lot of weight. Just under 10 pounds in the last six months, most of it in the last three months. Not terribly surprising. I’m no nutritionist or fitness expert, but I’m pretty sure that when you spend weeks on end stuffing your face with greasy carbs, and fail to exercise, you get fat. At least most people do. I certainly do.
The good news is that I’m already on track to lose it again. First, I’ve decided I’m done with laying off exercise during my IVF cycles. Fuck that. It hasn’t worked so far, and I’m beginning to think it’s all a myth. So I’ll do the bed rest after retrieval (I have to, because I always end up somewhat hyperstimulated). And I’ll hold off on exercise during the 2ww, because I’m too scared not to. But I’m going to try really hard to exercise while I’m doing the 2 weeks on the pill, and while I’m bleeding in between, and while I’m stimming. Because my body really needs exercise. I need those endorphins and I need to feel like there’s something in my body that belongs to me, not the doctors.
Exercise for me is a scary prospect. I have a bad back, weak shoulders, feet that require orthotic support, and an overall tendency to injure myself. And once I get hurt I can’t exercise for weeks. So I’m trying to start slow. I love weight lifting, but I’m going to try to hold off for a few weeks and focus on super-safe cardio. Mostly I do elliptical, but I’ve just started swimming. I haven’t been a regular swimmer since college (where I took swimming classes), but I’m determined to give it a shot. I finally found goggles that don’t leak (though they still hurt my eye bones), and I’m working on finding a swim cap that will keep my hair relatively dry (the chlorine strips the fake red out) while not squeezing my brains out my ears. Yesterday I swam for a half-hour, and I ended up feeling like I was floating all day.
Oooh, and I won a work-related writing contest! Which makes me feel really good.
J has his follow up appointment with the endocrinologist tomorrow, which has me concerned. But I was more concerned it would take him weeks to find time to see the doctor, so at least this is soon. I don’t have any idea what’s going to happen. Is he going to be found to have some serious illness? Is he going to be found to have some minor problem that can be corrected and maybe even improve his sperm count? Or (most likely) are they going to have no idea why his sperm are so rapidly diminishing? This is so frustrating.
Like I said, not a very newsworthy post. But I wanted to drop a line in and tell everyone thanks for the love and affection and support, and I’ll get back to your blogs sometime soon.
Monday, September 1, 2008
First, J and I are seriously considering donor sperm (though we are agreed that no matter what the final decision is, we will do one more cycle with his sperm). I say “considering,” because J hasn’t made a final decision, and it’s 100% his call. As far as I’m concerned, where we get the sperm is his half of the child-making venture, so he gets to decide. I know that I would prefer trying donor sperm before adoption, but that’s only my preference if it’s what J wants.
Donor sperm. What a terrifying concept. In the abstract, in the tiny world of the family that is me, J, and our future child, it isn’t so scary. I mean, if adoption is cool, what’s so strange about half-adoption? That’s all donor sperm is.
But in the Big Scary World of extended family, friends, colleagues, and acquaintances, using donor sperm takes on a whole new shape. While everyone thinks adoption is the greatest thing since deep-fried cheese (so much so that many already have suggested that I start the process now), the use of donor sperm is considered freaky, unnatural, bound to cause problems. As my very best friend said to me when I floated the idea, “I think that’s a terrible idea. J might want to do it now, but he’ll never be able to live with it.” I love her, but she’s so wrong. Sure, there would be things that would be hard about it, and I’m sure that it would cause J both jealousy and pain as well as joy. But the worst part of what she said is that she’s proven to me what I suspected all along; this isn’t acceptable to the general public.
If we were to adopt, everyone would know (especially given that we’d probably adopt from
And though I’m the least secretive person I know, I think this would have to be very, very secret. First, unlike adoption, donor sperm can be kept a secret. Second, it’s just too controversial for me to lay out there. And there is the privacy of my kid to think about. I don’t know how you tell a kid about donor sperm, but I don’t think it’s like adoption—where you tell them from the very start. How can you? Can it even be explained before you explain the birds and the bees? What if a well-meaning friend said the wrong thing to my child by mistake, before we had told him or her? And maybe my kid won’t want everyone knowing. It just doesn’t seem like it’s my secret to tell. (By the way, anyone who knows anything about this is welcome to chime in here. I’m desperate for information about how this is handled.)
For those who keep their IF and ART a secret, I don’t imagine that sounds all that daunting. But for me, it’s really scary. I have a pretty big IVF support network. At least six women at work––not even counting my bosses––know I’m doing IVF, along with another six or seven close friends outside of work. Even more co-workers and friends vaguely know that I’ve been TTC for three-plus years, and that treatment is involved. I’m just a wide-open person. I don’t like keeping secrets about myself; it’s just too important to me to be able to talk about how I really feel.
So here’s how I picture this: We switch to donor sperm early next year, and I get pregnant. (Because if it doesn’t work, there’s no point in being freaked about this.) And then my wide world of friends and co-workers learn I’m finally pregnant. Finally! After three to four years! Huzzah! Babychaser finally has everything she ever dreamed of!
Do you see the problem? What if I’m still grieving about the loss of J’s child? How can I accept the congratulations of everyone I love, telling me how glad they are that I’ve gotten everything I’ve been wanting all these years, when I’m still hurting because I didn’t get what I wanted? How can I pretend to be concerned about ordinary fears of an ordinary pregnancy, when I’m worried about much stranger and larger concerns, like having no idea who the father of my child really is, or what that child will be like? (And it also will be strange after we have the kid. How many people will tell us how much our kid looks like J? How odd to have to just smile and say “thank you” to your friends.)
If we use donor sperm, I will be thrust into this strange new world, completely cut off from some of my closest friends (I probably won’t even tell my aforementioned BFF). Infertility is already so isolating. More isolation seems terrifying.
And now there’s more to the equation, something I never dreamed of. Last spring we learned that T, our little 2-year-old niece, has missed every communication milestone. She is the child of J’s twin brother (fraternal, in case it matters), and they live all the way across the country in
This weekend I learned that she was diagnosed with dyspraxia, a condition that affects both muscle tone and fine motor functions. T doesn’t have the fine motor skills to talk, but she also doesn’t have the motor skills in her hands to sign. She also has trouble distinguishing language with her hearing. She’s 2 ½ years old and she can’t communicate. She’ll never have good muscle tone, and she’ll probably be in special ed for the rest of her childhood. She’s a sweet and mellow kid, which is a good thing, because she’s plenty smart, and this must be so frustrating for her. Not to mention the strain on her parents.
Here’s the kicker: it’s hereditary. My MIL tells me that she thinks, after reading about the condition, that it’s the same condition J’s cousin had before he died a few years ago, and that even J’s uncle has a mild version of it.
It’s hereditary. It’s in J’s genes. And we’re almost ready to give up on those genes.
See what I mean about the merry-go-round, the whirlwind in my thoughts? Just when I thought donor sperm would be such a sad alternative to what I really wanted, I have to wonder if it would be so bad after all. Because now if I do get pregnant with J’s baby, it will be years before we know whether our child is developmentally disabled. And while I know that J’s brother and his wife are in love with their child, and aren’t sorry they had her, right now I can’t face the idea of having a special-needs child.
Of course, donor sperm doesn’t come with guarantees either. I’m sure J (were his sperm count normal) would have qualified to donate when he was younger. And there are a lot of conditions out there, like dyspraxia, that aren’t yet identifiable with genetic testing. But suddenly I’m less sad about the idea of using donor sperm.
And along with that less-sadness comes a certain excitement. Because, to be perfectly honest, I no longer believe that J and I can make a live baby. I believed it wholeheartedly until this last cycle, but I just don’t anymore. And I’m tired of beating my head against a wall, getting nothing but more pain and more debt on every try. The idea of doing something new, something that has a good chance of working (apparently my eggs this last cycle, while few, were very high quality), leaves me almost breathless.
Did I mention that there’s more? The merry-go-round just spins faster and faster. I talked to my RE on Friday, sort of a post-mortem on the last cycle. As I mentioned, my eggs were great, and J and I actually produced better quality embryos than ever before; they were much farther along at day 3 than the day 3 progress the last cycle. But J’s sperm quality was much, much worse. (It can get worse, you ask?) The post-wash motility was so low they couldn’t even measure it. Apparently they found a few sperm to ICSI into my eggs, and we made good embryos. But this rapid decline in J’s sperm is astonishing, especially given how much he’s cleaned up his lifestyle in the last year.
So I asked her whether that could be due to age, because how is it that his sperm are getting progressively worse so fast? And she said no. And I asked, with my heart pounding in my throat, if she thought it might be “health-related.” And she said that was her concern as well.
Last year, J had a strange occurrence of “primary-cough headaches,” (we only learned what these were afterward), blinding headaches that would hit him after he started coughing. We spent about 8 hours in the ER, where––after he uttered the words “worst headache of my life––a flurry of tests began. He was given an x-ray, and MRI, and a lumbar puncture. And while we waited for the results, we knew that it was possible that he had a tumor, or a bleed in his brain, life-ending or life-altering conditions. It turned out to be nothing serious, and he was given a shitload of painkillers and inhalers and it went away.
But I felt a cold fear in my veins, a blind terror, that I had never felt before. In a matter of minutes I realized that the ability to have a baby was nothing, nothing in comparison to my need to have J. So when my RE suggested what I had feared, that J’s rapidly declining sperm was a sign of something else, that rush of cold adrenaline kicked in again.
She’s going to talk to the endocrinologist next week, and I imagine J’s in for a lot more bloodwork, etc. I did manage to ask her whether, if it were testicular cancer, the urologist who saw him in March would have picked up on it, and she said yes. So I’m not freaking out like I was last year with the headaches. But I’m worried. More worried than I’ll admit to him, as he doesn’t seem scared and I see no reason to make him that way.
And if that weren’t enough spinning around in my brain, today is the day we tell J’s mom that we’re running away for Christmas this year. If this last cycle had worked, there was a chance we’d make it out of the woods on a pregnancy before Christmas. But last January, J and I had agreed that if I wasn’t going to be three months pregnant at Christmas, we weren’t going to do Christmas this year. It’s just too sad for us. Christmas has been exactly the same for the last 10 years. Four adults (J’s mom, J’s aunt, and the two of us) sitting around for two days having the same meals (the women won’t let me change it up), the same conversations, the same stupid jokes about who’s going to get more presents, about who’s going to steal from who’s pile of loot at the end of the day. Each year, J and I think more and more about what it’s supposed to be—a time filled with hysterical children hopped up on too much sugar, freaking out about Santa, filled with delight at the magic of the lit tree at night, entertaining the older women. Every year, J and I get more and more depressed, sad, and our forced merriment becomes more painful.
We’re not doing it this year. We’re running away, probably to a cabin in WV for a few days. And J’s mom is going to FREAK OUT when we tell her. She literally spends all year planning for Christmas (which is part of why it’s become such a nightmare). Oh my god, this is going to be ugly.
My life is insane. I don’t know what to think of it. Right now, I’m just trying to hang on to the merry-go-round, less I fly off into space and madness.
Thanks to all of you for your kinds words and support this last week. I know it’s all been said before, but you women mean so much to me, and I really don’t think I could do this without you.
Saturday, August 23, 2008
I tested today. Big fucking negative. It’s a bit early, I know (9dp3dt), but let’s face it, not so early that it isn’t a reasonable predictor of my imminent failure. And my most reliable symptoms (primarily breast tenderness) are fading away. Just like my embryos.
I wish my heart would just break for good and get it over with. How can I just keep hurting like this, over and over again, year after year? How can I take this much pain? At least when a loved one dies you eventually get past it, right? I don’t know how much more of this I can take. But I don’t see how stopping will make it hurt any less.
I feel so trapped. I wish I could somehow escape this nightmare, run away and find a new life and a new body and a new me. I wish I were 15 years younger, thin and sexy and healthy and falling in love, with my whole future full of dreams and possibilities in front of me.
I wish I could just stop caring.
I wish money weren’t such a big part of this.
I wish I were someone else.
Tuesday, August 19, 2008
I should have turned the car around and gone back for a sono. But you know how it is—I practically live in doctor’s offices, and I just didn’t want to go back. By the time I got home, a carload of groceries in tow, it was really hurting and I was starting to freak out. I managed to get the perishables away before I collapsed into bed, trying not to cry.
Here’s the thing. I’ve had pain like this before. JUST like this, though on the other side. And it landed me in the emergency room alone overnight with an ectopic pregnancy. (Story HERE for those interested in me crying a lot.) So while my rational side was saying that, four days after a 3-day transfer, there was no fucking way it could possibly be an ectopic pregnancy, the less rational side of me was thinking that there was no fucking way I was going to call my doc, who might send me to spend the day in the ER.
And the pain eased up quite a bit once I lay down on my right side, taking the pressure off Lefty. Which was totally not how an ectopic feels, so I felt safe enough in waiting it out. I figured it was probably a cyst or something that had burst, and the worst was over.
But that doesn’t mean I was fine with it. The thing is, I was out of work all of last week, and had been on bed rest for three days (two required by my RE, one precautionary on my own initiative), and Sunday was going to be my day to get things done, ease back into the real world, and get ready to get back to the office. And I REALLY wanted to get back into the office. Staying home is so isolating, and it makes me really insecure.
By Sunday evening, when J finally got home, the pain had eased a lot. A day in bed will do that, I guess. So I figured I’d call my nurse in the morning and see if I had to go in for a sono. I was feeling good enough Monday morning that I confidently told the nurse that the pain was gone, and both she and my RE agreed that it had probably been a cyst and I didn’t need to go in.
But on the way to work my ovary started twingeing again, and by the time I got there it was truly aching. By 11:00 I gave up, called my RE, and took a cab home to get my car so I could go in for my sono. Can I tell you how much I HATE going all the way to work, only having to turn around and go back? Especially because I’m trying to keep a low profile about all this, and I’ve already been out a week (with a couple of days working from home), and I don’t want people wondering if I’m dying or something. (“Something” being the endless speculation I imagine, during my more paranoid times, my co-workers engage in about whether I’m pregnant.)
The good news is this: From the sono we learned that my ovary isn’t twisted, it’s just HUGE (twice the size as Righty) and has fluid around it. From the bloodwork I’ve now learned that it isn’t bleeding, which was one concern. But it is seriously hyperstimulated, and I am on superstrict bed rest. So superstrict that this has been my first chance to even write about it (unlike many of you Carrie-Bradshaw-like cuties out there, I can’t type in bed—I require my ergonomic keyboard, carpal tunnel brace, etc. or I end up seriously hurting). In fact, since Monday afternoon, all I have done is lie down and try to sleep, or sit in my recliner (all the way reclined) and try to watch TV.
I am such a bad patient. I am bored out of my fucking mind! And my body, my poor poor body, needs to be UPRIGHT for god’s sake! Do you know what it does to your digestive system to be laid flat all the time? HEARTBURN! Do you know what it does to your brain to be parallel with your body for days on end? BRAIN FUZZ! Do you know what it does to your muscles to lie there limply for a week straight? ACHING RESTLESSNESS! And I really should have just given in and bought stock in Gatorade. Ugh. Who’d have thought I’d ever get sick of Gatorade???
And so much for keeping a low profile at work. I’m floating the whole “stomach flu” story (not for my boss, of course, but for those not in the know), but how many times a year can you use that one? (“Stomach flu” is my new code at work for “miscarriage.”)
I hate being stuck in the house like this. I feel totally disoriented and exposed at the same time, restless and worthless and paranoid. I just want to be able to go to work every day and do my job like a normal person. I feel like a circus freak. Me and my massive ovary.
Friday, August 15, 2008
So me and my four embryos have been on bed rest yesterday and today. That’s right, FOUR embryos. You know your doctor is desperate when she suggests that you put back four, and you know that you are desperate when you say that’s exactly what you were thinking.
Am I worried about triplets or quads? Frankly, not a bit. I’m worried about a big fucking negative, or (even more likely, in my opinion) another very early miscarriage. We seem to have no problem producing embryos and blasts, but they tend to crap out during the 2ww, or soon thereafter. So, given my history, I’ll be lucky if more than one of them makes it past blast, and if any of them actually develop.
That being said, I’m glad they’re inside now. Part of me wonders (the loopy mystical part of me that seems to be popping up more and more lately) if my embryos will be more likely to develop inside me than in a petrie dish. You know, maybe they’ll just be happier with an honest-to-god uterus surrounding them and the sound of my hearbeat nearby.
Sigh. See what this process is doing to me?
Ah well, on to the 2ww. May it be a less crazy one than usual. (But don’t hold your breath.)
Tuesday, August 12, 2008
This cycle sucks. Six of my eggs fertilized (thanks to ICSI). Just for some perspective, in my last cycle at this point I had 12 fertilized eggs. And please note that I still didn’t end up with one that was good enough to last.
Monday, August 11, 2008
Anyway, I'm disappointed. Not frantic or suicidal or anything. Just tired and let down.
Shit, speaking of tired, I just realized that the one thing that was different this cycle was arguably just that: exhaustion. So maybe my work-crazed July had something to do with my wacky response.
Anyway, I'll keep you posted as the fert. reports come in. Thanks for all the love and support, sweeties.
This cycle has not gone as well as the others. My right ovary exploded immediately into HUGE follicles, while lefty got all shy and wimpy with tiny follicles. We tried to wait for lefty, accepting the fact that we might lose a few of the frontrunners on righty, but lefty never really caught up. So now I'm worried that (a) I'll only get a few good eggs from righty, because the beauties will be lost, and (b) that I'll only get a few frontrunners from lefty.
So I'm worried that I've crapped out on this cycle already. And this was my first absolutely perfect cycle on my part. Every shot taken exactly on time. No pill forgotten.
Ah well, I'm off to face the giant needle up the zizi. Wish me luck. I'll give you numbers today or tomorrow.
Wednesday, August 6, 2008
1. I hurt. I hurt all over. My back hurts because I had to spend all performing the Great Flea Eradication. I did things I’m not supposed to do: I vacuumed a lot, and moved furniture, and spent a lot of time bending over at odd angles and picking things up. So my back hurts like hell. And my legs hurt as well, which is probably just as an extension of my back pain.
My ovaries hurt. I think I’ve got another 5-6 days to go before The Harvest, and I’m already so achy I just want to cry. I’m at that point where my ovaries jolt if I take too jarring of a step, or when I sit down, or when I stand up to stretch. And I have a long way to go. And I just remembered that this will only get worse after The Harvest, at least for a week or so. And of course the cramps cause more back pain, and more leg pain. Also my feet hurt. I think they’re swollen or something. I had to take my sneakers off under my desk just to give them freedom.
2. I’m exhausted. I worked (and stressed) my ass off in July with the promise of release in August. Release in the form of sweet sweet sleep, total relaxation, and satisfaction in a job well-done. But I seem to have forgotten how to sleep. I can do it for a few hours, then I wake up and there is just no way to get back to sleep. I know its hormones, but that doesn’t make it any less maddening. By the way, I seem to sleep just fine at my desk here at work. Can barely keep my eyes open.
3. The Bitch Queen is in residence. Not constantly, mind you. Just often enough to take me by complete surprise; she’ll takes over my body when I least expect it, then leave me standing in whatever verbal mess I’ve created, defensive and insecure. Nice, lady, real nice.
4. And as always, in typical I-can’t-believe-I-call-myself-a feminist fashion, I feel like I could live with all of the above if I didn’t look like shit. It seems like every cycle the bloating is worse. I am wearing pants that, a year ago, I had to wear with a belt. And my belly is pushing so hard against the waistband it’s leaving permanent marks on my skin. Let’s face it, I look pregnant. How humiliating. I’m on my last “hide the belly” outfit right now (I only really have 3), and I don’t even know what I’m going to do for tomorrow. Hide under my desk, maybe. That seems like a good solution.
Sigh. If I wasn’t already so overly fat, I’d invest in some serious chocolate for tonight. (Actually, if I had the evening on my own, I’d do it anyway, but I can’t indulge in anything food-related without J feeling like he has to match me bite-for-bite, or eat even more than me, and he’s got much more of a weight problem than I do. So I don’t like to encourage him. Probably better for me that way, anyway.)
Anyone else out there feel my pain? What’s your worst IVF/ART symptom?
Friday, August 1, 2008
I remember the phrase “test-tube baby” from my childhood. I guess I was 6 when Ms. Brown was born, so I wouldn’t have heard about her. But of course she wasn’t the only one, and for a long time “test-tube baby” was just a freakish phrase for a freakish concept. (In fact, I’m pretty sure I thought the baby was grown outside of a uterus as well.) And when I heard the phrase “test-tube baby” as a child, it never occurred to me that anyone was making a baby in a test tube in order to solve infertility, to give someone the child they so desperately desired. It was more like when they cloned Dolly, the sheep. I just thought the test-tube baby was some sort of scientific experiment. Infertility wasn’t a concept I really thought much about. And I never thought to link that crude phrase to much-later awareness of IVF.
So last Friday, when I was listening to NPR as I got ready for work (my morning routine), I was surprised to find myself teary-eyed when they talked about Louise Brown’s birthday. I realized that this first test-tube baby paved the way for my own path right now. Or I guess her parents paved the way, as Louise herself had little choice in the matter. But 30 years ago, while I was climbing trees and eating dirt and digging a hole to China, some desperate and brave couple (and some amazing doctors) were creating life. And maybe they weren’t thinking about it in these terms, but in doing so, they created hope.
I have a love/hate relationship with IVF. I imagine that anyone who’s gone through more than a couple of cycles feels that way. (Sorry ladies, but those who get preggers on the first try just don’t count.) IVF has taken over my life. It has hijacked my body, ruined my sex life (or maybe that was already ruined), exploded my debt, eaten away at my vacation and sick leave, and toyed with my heart. It has raised me to new highs and crushed me down to never-before-seen lows. It has fucked with my soul.
But I am grateful to Louise Brown’s parents for dreaming so big.
I have a bloated gut, and parts of my ass still are numb with random stabs of pain (PIO shots). I have taken out a second mortgage. I have a half-gallon sharps container so full I can’t fit another syringe in it. (I love this sharps container and can’t bring myself to take it to the doctor for disposal. It’s not my first, but it’s the biggest one I’ve ever filled.) I’ve had so many miscarriages that, last week, I told the Court that I wouldn’t be available for any arguments the first two weeks of September due to a “medical procedure”––I literally built in time for my cycle to end in another miscarriage.
But I am grateful to Ms. Brown’s doctors for taking the chance. I am grateful for that tiny embryo that fought its way through to survival.
Today, I love IVF. Maybe I’ll be cursing it tomorrow, but I hope I can remember this feeling. And even if I never bear a child, I hope that I will never regret that I took the long shot, that I gave it my all.
I know Louise Brown’s mama wasn’t thinking of me when she gave herself daily shots, or when they first cut into her to harvest those eggs, or during that agonizing two-week wait. I know she didn’t do it for me. But I thank her nonetheless.
Two things on this show have struck me hard. First, we’re one episode in on Season 2, and it already is clear that infertility is going to be the plotline for one of the characters this season. We mostly know her husband, who is one of the ad men in the office, but there was a scene between him and his wife that nearly broke my heart. They’ve been trying to conceive for more than a year now (the show jumped a full year-plus between seasons), and she was telling him about everyone around her who’s pregnant. At one point she said, “It’s like they’re all in this club, and I can’t join.” I wanted to invite her to join our blogs. But alas, no internet for a girl in 1962.
(By the way, this show is so eerily accurate for its time that I forget it wasn’t filmed in the 1960s. J will tell me, “you know that actor is on [whatever other TV show].” And for a minute, I’ll be totally perplexed, because they must have been really young when they filed Mad Men to be on TV now! This has happened three times. It’s like I can’t get it into my head that it’s a new show filmed right now by now-time actors.)
Anyway, I find that I’m totally psyched about this plot line. First, I actually trust this show to treat the issue properly. Unlike darling Charlotte, I don’t think this chickie’s going to get preggers just because she adopts a baby, or goes on a vacation, or some other such nonsense. But more importantly, the show makes me feel lucky. Imagine facing fertility if you were a housewife in the early 60s. Your entire purpose would be to have children. No job, no other source of self-respect or esteem. Nothing to do but sit at home and wonder what you were doing wrong. And imagine having no medical support. No IVF, no Dr. Google, no blogland. Yup, this is going to be fun to watch. Because no matter what, I’m going to feel lucky.
Aside from the infertility plot line, I also just freakin’ LOVE this show, because I love thinking about what it means to be a woman today. Back then (when my mom was starting high school), women were secretaries and teachers and nurses. Back then they were harassed and mocked and ridiculed. (I found it really interested that I wasn’t all that offended by the sexual harassment when it was all titillating flirtation between cute ad execs and cute secretaries. But when one of the girls got fat and that became the object of harassment, I realized how horrifying it all was.)
I’m not saying things are perfect for women now. I mean, one of my concerns about Hillary was that this country just wouldn’t vote for a woman to be President. (I did vote for her, however, so back off.) And sometimes my heart aches to think about how long we will have to wait for a woman to take that mantle. And we’ve only got one woman on the Supreme Court, the most powerful body in the land. We’re more than 50% of the population, but we can only have one of nine Supreme Court spots. Sheesh!
But think about this. No one suggested that I couldn’t accomplish anything I set out to accomplish when I was in school. I make 3 times what my husband makes and he’s not threatened—he’s so glad! I appear before the second-highest court in the land (don’t get excited, there are many second-highest courts in the land), as an equal (often superior J) to my male opponents. And if any man tries to grab my ass at work, I can sue the pants off him.
So yeah, I love Mad Men because it makes me think about what it is to be a woman today. Women’s Lib—YES! GRRR.
I’m driving J crazy. Because he loves the show too. But apparently the show isn’t ALL about women and how far they’ve come. And he’s tired of me crowing about it.
Am I the only one out there watching this show? Is anyone else out there on a woman-high right now?
Okay, I’ve written enough. I’m posting
Friday, July 25, 2008
A brief (very brief, for reasons that will become apparent) rundown:
1. Oral argument on Tuesday went really well. I felt crappy about it right afterward, as I had a very time answering the judges' questions at the beginning. But as soon as I conceded defeat on the facts, and started focusing on the "big" picture, urging them not to make a broad ruling over such crappy facts, they stopped peppering me with cranky questions and started listening and nodding. And they've already ruled--I won the "good" loss, if that makes any sense. Lost on the facts, but no big, long-ranging rule for the future. So they did exactly what I asked them to.
2. NY presentation went horribly. I had hit the end of the road, maxed out on my adrenaline reserves, and was prepared only for things to go smoothly. When my c0-presented hogged most of our time, leaving me with only 10 minutes to cover 30 minutes worth of material, I was just too damn tired to think quickly enough on my feet to cut down my presentation properly. So instead I raced through it--I doubt I made any sense, and I'm suspecting I made a bit of a fool out of myself. Making matters worse, my co-presenter was this skinny, makeup-less, hot NY lesbian chick who was witty and interesting, and the crowd loved her. I felt like an overly madeup hick with a negative cool factor.
3. NY was otherwise kind of fun, but I was too tired to really enjoy it. I ended up picking kind of a crappy restaurant by the theatre, and had ridiculously overpriced tiny salmon in a place that was too loud for us to talk. Annoying. The show was pretty damn cool, though. We saw Spring Awakening, which is a rock musical about the coming-of-age sexuality of teens, set in the 1890's. The ending kind of sucked, but overall the show was really great. Kick-ass design, especially. Mad props to both the set and lighting designers. Wow.
4. Came home to discover my motion for more time to file my brief is going to be DENIED, even though plaintiff consented to it. So I'm basically fucked. It's due Wednesday, and it's just so nowhere near being written. Looks like another weekend of working at home. Haven't had a weekend off since JUNE now.
5. Oh, and my poor kitties have fleas. No idea how that happened, as they don't go outside. I've never had it happen before. Maybe McNulty picked them up in all his time at the vet in June? Anyway, poor little Val is horribly infested. She's old, and has worse resistance, I guess. So on top of my exhaustion I have had to traumatize my little kitty with nasty chemical sprays, lotions, and a flea collar. And we've been washing almost everything in the house. I guess I'm pretty traumatized as well. (Jason's comment: Just think, if all goes well, in 10 years we'll be dealing with head lice.)
6. I feel horribly inadequate. I think it must be hormonal, because I was feeling all right about myself last month, before I started this cycle. But I just feel self-conscious and fat and humiliated and incapable of coping with the harsh realities of life. I'm trying to keep telling myself it's not real, it's just the drugs. (I thought that was only something you had to repeat to yourself when tripping, but I guess this isn't all that different.)
So now I have to write my brief. I'll be back in touch on the flip side of all this.
Friday, July 18, 2008
In my years as a trial lawyer in a perpetually underfunded and understaffed government agency, I’ve had some experience with this. I call it “fuck-it nirvana”: that blessed zone where your concern about your workload just melts away. Your shoulders sink slowly down in relief, your brow uncreases, you find yourself humming or smiling as you work, joking with co-workers. While chaos swirls about, you are filled with a sense of calm and wellbeing.
Fuck-it nirvana never comes easy. Fuck-it nirvana cannot be achieved without considerable suffering. And you can’t force yourself to get there; you have to reach (and pass) your breaking point. The stress will be driving you up the wall––stomach churning, jaw clenched, head pounding, and let’s not even talk about the intestines––and you beg for relief, fantasize about fuck-it nirvana. “Why isn’t it here?,” you ask yourself desperately, shrugging your shoulders to try to shake it off, breathing deeply to try to find your inner calm. But it is all for naught. Fuck-it nirvana arrives when it wants to, and nothing will bring that blessed relief prematurely. You may think you’re at the breaking point, that surely it is just around the corner. But no, fuck-it nirvana says you’re not ready yet.
This morning I achieved fuck-it nirvana. And Holy Christ, did it feel good.
This week has sucked. Sucked hard. I mean, let’s face it, it’s sucked ass. Things on my appeal are not going well; things on my brief are going worse. And there was a day in the middle of this week where there was a good chance the court was going to continue my oral argument, almost a stay of execution, but then they didn’t do it. And that glimmer of hope made it so much worse.
In the meantime, on Saturday I went to my podiatrist’s office to pick up my $500 custom-orthotic sandals, which were finally done, only to discover that the lab ordered the wrong color. I wanted black—the lab seemed to think I wanted “metal.” Puh-lease. They were hideous. And well, for $500, I needed black.
Luckily, the footbed is removable, so we pulled out the orthotic insert and had the lab rush the right color sandals to the office. So on Wednesday night J picked them up for me. That night I got my first look at the finished product, and I was seriously underimpressed. Certainly not $500 impressed. Not even $50 impressed. For starters, the orthotic footbed wasn’t cut to match the length and shape of the shoe—about ¼ inch of gap was at the end. Just completely shoddy workmanship. And to make matters worse, the lab had made the top of the orthotic black, but had not covered the edges of the orthotic, which showed layers of brightly colored foam. And because there was a this crappy-workmanship gap, you could see this edge. UGLY. And the orthotic made the sandals too tight and uncomfortable, even though I was assured I should order the sandal that fit me right and the lab would take care of the rest. They gave me blisters.
Oh, but we haven’t gotten to the worst part. The orthotics don’t work. It’s almost as if the lab didn’t even bother to shape them to my feet (of which they have fancy 3-D digital scans). While my orthotics for my sneakers push hard on my arches (thus keeping me from pronating), these don’t even touch my arches. I could tell within a few hours (and that mostly seated at my desk) that these were not giving me the support they are supposed to. Essentially, I just paid $500 for a little bit of extra arch support.
I knew this was going to happen Wednesday night as soon as I tried them on. Anyone want to guess what happened Wednesday night? I guess it’s not so hard to figure out: total meltdown. I was fine through dinner. Fine through TV-time. But when I started doing my stretching I got this insane rage. And then I tried to go to take that rage to bed with me and it was all over. I took a tranq and cried for about 20 minutes. I was just at the end of my fucking rope with everything. And so, 5 days into IVF Cycle 4, I had my first serious breakdown. (Which isn’t even a record, sadly enough.)
Thursday I became resigned to the fact that I was going to have to return the sandals and demand my fucking money back. (And maybe even switch doctors, as each doc apparently only has a contract with a single lab, and this lab sucks.*)
And then on Thursday I worked my ass off some more.
Last night I took a tranquilizer as a prophylactic (not THAT kind of prophylactic, of course, because I’ve now learned that my years of devoted birth control efforts were all a fucking joke). Which seemed to work.
And today I hit the jackpot: fuck-it nirvana. I’ve got a moot court on Monday. Oral argument on a brutally hard issue on Tuesday. Trip to NY and presentation in front of hundreds on Wednesday.** Complex bitchy brief due a week later.
What-the-fuck-ever. I just don’t care anymore. And not caring is the best feeling in the world.
All I can ask for now is that my fuck-it nirvana holds through the rest of the storm. Because you never know when fuck-it nirvana will abandon you and leave you out in the cold, blinking back tears and hanging on by a thread.
* I can’t be the only woman out there who needs orthotics and sandals at the same time! Now that I’ve tried throwing money at the problem, and even THAT failed, I am feeling so helpless. I’ve been trying to get out of my ugly-ass sneakers for well over two years. Does anyone know how I’m supposed to resolve this???
* Every time I tell someone at work that I’m really stressed about not being prepared for this presentation, they tell me “oh, you’ll be great, you’re always so good at that sort of thing.” I’m ready to rip the face of the next person who says this. You want to know why I’m good at oral arguments and presentations and trainings and such? Because I prepare, asshole! I’m anal and like to be prepared. That is why I generally seem prepared. Sheesh.