Tuesday, September 23, 2008

My Sad Sad Day

I had such a bad day yesterday. Last week, one of my cases just completely exploded on me. This doesn’t happen often in appellate work, but when it does it can be a nightmare. Turns out that my perfectly good appeal with a brilliant (if I do say so myself) argument had to be settled in a matter of days for political reasons. So I had to spend several days scrambling to settle a case I hadn’t even wanted to settle in the first place. And not only am I bitter about the outcome, I’m disappointed; I was really looking forward to writing that brief.

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


I can’t believe what just happened. I was just subjected to the most offensive two minutes I’ve ever experienced, from someone who pretends (or maybe even thinks) she is my friend.

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

Sad, Scared, and Trapped

The past few days I’ve found myself very sad. Not in a desperate, clawing-at-the-walls kind of way. But I do feel like if I peel back the cover and examine my sadness, that frantic desperation will be lurking underneath.

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


This past week I’ve just been floating. Not on a cloud. Not in the skies. I'm just sort of at rest. It’s been nice, but it’s also meant that I’ve been unbloggy and unresponsive to everyone who stepped in and gave me words of encouragement, support, and empathy. Which is kind of a crappy way to treat your friends.

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

The Merry-Go-Round

So many thoughts spinning round and round in my head. It makes me dizzy, trying to hang on to them all, trying to grasp one though before it spins out of the way and another whirls into brief focus. It’s nauseating, frightening, awful, and, at moments, exhilarating.

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 Ethiopia). But if we use donor sperm, it will be a closely guarded secret, with only a select few our closest friends and family knowing. Certainly I’ll never tell my mother; it would just give her too much ammunition for the next time she decides to hurt me.

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 Portland, so we never see them, and therefore didn’t see this coming.

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.