Inequity

Today I paid what I hope will be the last of the bills associated with my third miscarriage.  And, it was the hardest of them all to pay because of the situations that gave rise to it.  Perhaps I’m numb, perhaps my spirit is just broken, but these days my emotional pain doesn’t center around the fact that we lost another potential child in February.  Instead, I just grimace at the general unfairness of it all, and the realization that this process has been made so much harder thanks to the American medical and insurance systems.

Our most recent pregnancy lasted to 9 weeks, but for only a week of that time did we actually have cause to hope.  Like both my prior pregnancies, my beta HCG values throughout the pregnancy were problematically low.  In the majority of normal, healthy pregnancies one’s HCG value will approximately double every 48 hours for the first few weeks of pregnancy.  But, like so much else in infertility and early pregnancy, beta doubling times are just an odds game.  Healthy pregnancies result from abnormal rises, normally rising HCGs can result in miscarriages.  But, when your in the thick of beta hell, it’s hard to believe you’ll come out on the right side of those odds.  And, at least so far, I never have.

The betas for my last pregnancy went as follows:

  • 3w5d: 41
  • 4w:     97 (doubling time 38.64 hours)
  • 5w:     1113 (doubling time 47.72 hours)
  • 5w6d: 1479 (doubling time 351.08 hours)
  • 6w5d: 2038 (doubling time 363.22 hours)

At 5w6d we were told to expect a miscarriage, then three days later, at the appointment scheduled for the purposes of confirming the loss, I saw the heartbeat on ultrasound for the first time.  That little heartbeat hung around for 3 more weeks despite extremely poor bloodwork results.  On Valentine’s Day we found out that the heart had finally stopped.  We weren’t destined to be one of those lucky couples who beat the odds and succeeded despite bad lab results.

The heart stopped on a Thursday, and we decided straight away that we wanted to have this embryo tested for genetic abnormalities.  The best way to obtain a sample capable of being testing was to have a procedure called a dilation and curettage (D&C) performed.  Essentially, the cervix is dilated and the “products of conception” (POC) and some of the uterine lining are scraped out and sent off to pathology.  (If there’s one thing you learn pretty quickly in this repeat loss/infertility game, its that so much of this “medicine” is just about as low tech as you can get.  And, as a result, hasn’t actually changed all that much over the years.  During my first miscarriage, my husband’s 85 year old grandmother (who had suffered losses of her own as a young woman, including the heartbreaking loss of a new born) asked why we weren’t just having a D&C.)

So, heart stops on Thursday, we ask for a D&C on Thursday, we get scheduled for the following Wednesday.  Absolutely astonished doesn’t even come close to explaining my state of mind at the time.  Aside from the fact that I was basically getting sent home (yet again) with a dead baby inside me, I was irate that I was being made to wait nearly a week during which time I was certain I would either miscarry on my own or, if not fully miscarry, at least lose the opportunity to perform the testing that we needed to have performed as the products decomposed.  “Sorry, that’s the best we can do,” said one of the revolving door of smug nurses.  So, we waited.

On Friday afternoon I started to spot.  I called right in.  “We can move you to Monday, but that’s the best we can do.”  Tears and screaming and a lot of, “I’m not going to fucking make it ’til Monday”s went unheeded.  It was, after all, the best they could do.

On Saturday morning the contractions started and the bleeding picked up.  My clinic has Saturday hours, so I called first thing and reported that the process was well and fully started.  The response, “Well, I don’t know what you want us to do for you, I’ve already rescheduled you for Monday!”  Being no stranger to this IF game, I asked if I could collect the products at home and drop them off for testing at least, to which she replied that their clinic won’t test products passed naturally.  She strongly insinuated I was bat-shit crazy, actually, to even think that naturally passed products could be tested.  Through my tears and hysteria I told her of my friend, C, who did just that for m/c #2.  This bravest of mothers who wandered the empty halls of her local hospital on Christmas Eve carrying yet more lost hopes and joy in a Tupperware container, kept cool with a bag of frozen peas.  I told her of the other women, whose stories I’m less familiar with, but who still got test results from products passed naturally.  She remained completely unfazed.

So, Saturday morning I called the on-call nursing line for our local rural hospital.  Without mincing words I explained the situation, I asked if they had a pathology lab in their large hospital network, and I inquired whether they had doctors on call at the emergency room that could perform a D&C.  She was the first faceless voice on the phone throughout this entire process to give me any sympathy.  I was actually completely taken aback when she offered her condolences and genuinely asked me how I was holding up emotionally.  Her care and concern actually reminded me that, wait, there was some heavy shit going on right now and I wasn’t just calling in to make an appointment for a mild medical inconvenience.  She promised to get in contact with the OB/GYN unit at our nearest mid-sized hospital (about 30 minutes from home), and call us back.  When a representative from that unit called back about 15 minutes later, I was in the bathroom bearing down and passing small clots.  My husband answered and was informed that, yes, the staff could perform a D&C and that, yes, the products could be sent off for testing.  In the middle of a snow storm we bundled ourselves up and headed for the emergency room.

An hour of waiting and intake and vitals later, the general ER doc came in to do a pelvic exam.  He noted I wasn’t yet bleeding heavily (something we had repeatedly told them on the phone and during intake) and informed us he doubted they’d be able to help us.  Next in the room was the OB on call.  He reiterated that I wasn’t bleeding heavily enough or in enough distress to merit an emergency D&C.  I’ll never forget the next words out of his mouth.  “You aren’t an emergency and it’s a Saturday.  My team doesn’t work on Saturdays, and I won’t pull them in for this.”

Abandoned by the clinic that helped get me pregnant and whom I’d already paid hundreds of dollars and abandoned by the nearest OB/GYN unit, we walked out of the hospital with the two sterile specimen collection jars they gave us to collect the embryo once I passed it at home.  Today, I paid that ER bill.

***************

By my best estimates, my miscarriage cost us about $600 out-of-pocket (and, of course, much more before insurance).  It would have been more, but I had already met my individual deductible for the calendar year on January 9 after my second round of pregnancy bloodwork.  Included in that $600 is Mr. But IF’s deductible for chromosomal testing performed on him during my D&C, the D&C we did ultimately do (for who knows what reason, I’d already passed the products), and my $75 visit to the ER where I received no testing and underwent no procedures.  Those are some expensive specimen jars.

***************

Earlier in the week I needed to look up eyewear coverage through our new insurance since Mr. But IF and I are both sorely overdue for new glasses.  I don’t know why I do it to myself, but every time I log in to my insurers site and bring up the detailed policy description I still find myself scrolling down to the infertility section.  It’s always a punch in the ovaires to read:

IVF: No coverage

but, this time, I opted to read further.  It continues:

Elective sterilization: 100% covered (no co-pay or co-insurance)

Abortion: 100% covered (no co-pay or co-insurance)

And, that’s the moment I realized what I had done wrong two months ago.  Instead of placing my fate in the hands of my rural podunk hospital, I should have found the nearest abortion provider.  I’m absolutely not being facetious, either.  The services they perform are the services I needed, and I don’t expect they would have sent me away with a collection jar.

I’m no idiot when it comes to the whys and the hows of the medical insurance industry, and, though I find it morally abhorrent  I also understand it is in their financial best interest to ensure I don’t procreate.  That said, my situation underscores the flaw in this supposedly unemotional, bottom-line only approach.  I paid for my miscarriage, but would have had no financial obligation for an abortion.  Medically, nothing separates an abortion from a miscarriage.  Indeed, miscarriage is not a medical term, the appropriate nomenclature is either fetal demise or missed abortion.  It is hard to take a step back from this situation and not feel like I am being punished for the mere act of wanting a child, because it is only that aspect of wanting and trying that separates my medical history from that of a woman wanting an abortion.  Indeed, the contrast is even more stark when I recall that my ectopic was, in fact, medically terminated.  I’ve had an abortion, yet my insurer didn’t view it as such.  And the only reason I can fathom?  Because these unemotional bottom-liners do, in fact, care that my motivation was to become pregnant.

These are always difficult discussions to have with myself, because if there is one thing infertility has done to me it is that it has strengthened my resolve to support a woman’s right to choose.  Years of giving everything I have to trying to become a mother, has made me willing to fight tooth and nail for other women to have the choice to not become a mother.  Part of it is motivated by self-interest – it’s hard to live in this era of personhood hysteria and not see the slippery slope that leads from anti-abortion activism straight to my broken ovaries – but, another part of it is also my growing belief in the importance of choice.  My infertility has stolen choice from my family-building decisions, and it’s been exceptionally hard for me to accept that my busted body, lack of access to quality medical care, and an insurance system that views my infertility as akin to breast augmentation, has removed my ability to choose when and how to grow my family.  Therefore, I can’t in good faith put countless other women and men through the same loss of control, the same hell, purely because their politicians won’t get out of their bedrooms.

Some April thanks giving

After yesterday’s mega-post, I thought I’d keep it simple today.  So, here are some things to be thankful for (in no particular order):

  1. It’s Friday!
  2. It’s raining! (When the alternative is the strong possibility of a mid-April snow, I’ll take rain.)
  3. The online IF community, and the hilarity that can ensue on Twitter.
  4. The women and men I’ve met on this journey.
  5. The tax refunds we have coming! (First refund I’ve had in a loooong while.  Thank you moving and taking a giant hit on our old house!)
  6. The eight 2013 babies due to seven of my IF friends.
  7. The opportunity to walk again in the Washington, D.C. Walk of Hope.
  8. The generous men and women that helped our team raise over $1,000 for last year’s walk.
  9. My RESOLVE support group.
  10. Unexpected e-mails and phone calls from dear friends (many congratulating me on this blog).
  11. The amazing concert tickets we nabbed for a few awesome small-venue shows this summer.
  12. The fact that our pellet stove no longer sounds like a runaway locomotive.
  13. The love of two kitties.
  14. My new job, new home, and new friends.
  15. My first rheumatologist appointment is less than two weeks away!
  16. The love of my husband.

How’s that for a cheery post?

Angry ute

So, I’m in a ranty mood.  It’s totally not cool to blame a dead man (and a dead genius, at that), but I blame the death of Dr. Robert G. Edwards.  Edwards, a British physiologist, pioneered the process of in-vitro fertilization (IVF) against strong odds.  Along with colleague and OB/GYN Dr. Patrick Steptoe, Edwards gave the world the first IVF miracle, Louise Brown, born in Oldham General Hospital on July 25, 1978, to proud parents Leslie and John.  So, how did I get from a dead medical pioneer and Noble Prize winner, to fist pumping, keyboard thumping, teeth crunching anger?  One word: ignorance.  It started with the ignorance of the media now tasked with covering his death, and spread from there to lay commenters on the Interwebs, the you-should-know-better posters on infertility message boards, the American medical and insurance systems, a friend’s current beta hell, and an overall very angry uterus.

Mel over at Stirrup Queens has covered this all much more rationally than I’m capable of right now, so I’ll simply provide you with exhibits A, B, and C in her play-by-play of the past two days’ events.  The most I could muster through my own ire this morning was a link to exhibit C on my personal Facebook profile accompanied by the following comment:

Why we are still using the term “test tube baby” 35 years and 5 million babies later absolutely baffles me. Imagine if we never moved beyond the hurtful terms “cripple,” “retard,” or “mongol.” And, FFS, if you’re going to be derogatory at least get the right piece of lab equipment. During IVF eggs are fertilized in a petri dish, not a test tube… Fertilization either occurs by placing sperm and egg together in said dish and hoping for the best, or by a process known as ICSI during which an embryologist injects one sperm directly into an egg in the hopes of fertilization.

Long story short, I find a lot wrong with the coverage out there right now, and it centers around three main gripes.  First, the term “test tube baby.”  Aside from being grossly inaccurate, it embodies a willful ignorance on the part of so many that is exceedingly hard to swallow.  I ran a little experiment this morning.  I went to Google news, typed in “Robert G. Edwards” and perused the results.  6 hits appeared “above the fold” on my computer monitor, and they included:

  • “Changing the Rules of Conception with the First ‘Test Tube Baby'” (New York Times)
  • “Robert G. Edwards, ‘test-tube’ baby pioneer, dies at 87” (Washington Post)
  • “Nobel prize-winning IVF pioneer Professor Sir Robert Edwards has died” (Huffington Post UK)
  • “Robert Edwards: Nobel Prize-winning test-tube baby pioneer dies at 87” (GlobalPost)
  • “Robert G. Edwards: Der ‘Vater der Retortenbabys’ ist tot” (Die Welt)
  • “Nobel Prize-Winning Fertility Pioneer Robert Edwards Dies” (Bloomberg)

(Oh, and in case you aren’t up on your German, my Langenscheidt German to English dictionary did confirm that “Retortenbabys” = “test-tube babies.”)

So, let’s review.  Of the six highest ranked, most SEO-ed news articles out there on this IVF pioneer, only 2 – HuffPost UK and Bloomberg – respected the intelligence of their audience enough to avoid the “test tube” trap in their headlines.  35 years and 5 million children and editors across the globe still don’t think we’re educated enough to comprehend the term IVF.  No, we’ve got to continue to perpetuate idiotic, inaccurate colloquialisms.  Articles on the battle against HIV/AIDs discuss anti-retroviral treatments, pieces on cancer make note of melanomas, drug resistancies, or “tumors classified as ER+, or estrogen-receptor positive,” and endless contributions on the American obesity epidemic outline the comorbidities that accompany being overweight.  Medical terminology is employed in discussing these diseases; readers are treated as willing minds wanting to learn.  But, for the CDC-recognized disease of infertility?  A 35-year misinformation campaign.

Second, and this extends beyond the media’s coverage of Edwards’ death, is the media’s ever-present tendency to want to take discussions of fertility treatment to the extreme.  The first line of the New York Times obit reads, “Robert G. Edwards, who opened a new era in medicine when he joined a colleague in developing in vitro fertilization, enabling millions of infertile couples to bring children into the world and women to have babies even in menopause, died on Wednesday at his home near Cambridge, England.”  Really?  What does that add, exactly?  Of the hundreds of women I’ve met in the infertility community, I’ve not yet met one griping about how she needs IVF because she waited past menopause.  This global obsession with the idea that infertility is only the plight of those rich, white women who wake up one morning and at 50 years old exclaim, “Oh Shit! I forgot to have kids!” pisses me off more than I can begin to explain.  I was first told I was infertile when I was 19, I requested testing for PCOS at 25, I started trying to conceive at 26, and I sought treatment with a reproductive endocrinologist at 27.  A few months shy of 30, I still don’t have children.  The average age of my infertility support group is early- to mid-thirties, the women with downward cast eyes I’ve sat with in two different RE waiting rooms appeared to be predominantly in their late-20s to mid-30s, yet, did you know fertility treatments let you pop a kid even after menopause.  So, you’re telling me, all I need to do is go through menopause and then IVF will be a sure thing?  Score!

The same Times article declared further down page that, “The technique [IVF] has resulted in the births of five million babies, many in multiple births, according to the International Committee Monitoring Assisted Reproductive Technologies, an independent nonprofit group.”  You are woefully misinformed if you think IVF always succeeds and that, furthermore, IVF guarantees multiples.  Of the 7 women I know who have had IVF success (defined as either currently pregnant or now raising an IVF miracle), do you know how many had more than one child?  0.  But, the twins!  But, the high order multiples!  But, the fears of having to selectively reduce!  You know when that is much, much more likely to happen?  When patients are forced to use non-IVF fertility treatment methods to try and conceive.  The two sets of infertility treatment twins I have first hand knowledge of were the results of timed intercourse and intrauterine insemination (IUI).  Simple fact of the matter is that IVF allows doctors and patients the greatest control to try and limit the likelihood of a risky multiples pregnancy.  If you (or my insurance company for that matter) gave it a moment’s thought the advantages of IVF would be quite apparent.  In IVF embryos are fertilized outside the womb and then transferred back into the uterus in the hopes they will implant and thrive.  With fertilization happening outside the womb, doctors and patients are able to jointly decide just how many embryos go back.  My old clinic was a strong proponent  (as are many across the nation) of what is known as eSET or elective single embryo transfer.  Put simply, one goes back in the hopes of one happy, healthy baby.  All other artificial reproductive techniques do not allow for choice when it comes to how many embryos to put back, because fertilization is left to occur in the womb.  In methods such as IUI and timed intercourse drugs are used in the hopes of triggering the woman to ovulate mature eggs, which are then (hopefully) fertilized by sperm introduced into the uterus through insemination or the old fashioned way.  In other words, fingers crossed!

But many women (myself included) are forced by finances, insurance requirements, or other non-health related reasons to use methods like IUI and timed intercourse, even when IVF is a better fit for their medical condition(s).  (In my instance, my PCOS makes me a likely candidate for over-response to stimulation medications.)  For my next cycle we will be using injectable stimulation medications to cause me to ovulate (something my body is incapable of doing on its own).  This comes with the strong likelihood that I will not only ovulate, but possibly ovulate more than one mature egg.  So, when Mr. But IF and I get down to business and try to make the future generation of What IFs we stand a real chance of providing his boys with one too many eggy targets.  So, here we sit, at least two months before any of this is even slated to occur, fretting over how many follicles is too many follicles and at what point we will pull the plug on the cycle.  We face the very real possibility that after weeks of multiple daily injections, hundreds of dollars spent on medications, monitoring, and trips back and forth from the doctor, and years of waiting and worry just to get to this point, that no sperm will ever come anywhere near my overly-abundant eggs.  Infertility – where too much success is a sure fire way to fail.

So, why don’t we do IVF?  A million different ways of saying it’s expensive.  Really fucking expensive.  And, now that we are blessed enough to live in one of the 15 states in this nation that actually recognize infertility as a medical condition, we do have some less appealing, but much more affordable options open to us (and you better believe our move to a mandate state was most certainly not an accident.  I’d give anything to live in my home state, but as long as they continue to not only passively ignore infertility, but be outwardly hostile to the infertile, there’s no chance I’ll ever move back).  My state’s infertility insurance mandate requires that all procedures and prescriptions associated with infertility be covered as would any other medical conditions.  However, 35 years and 5 million babies since Louise Brown, my state still considers IVF an “experimental” procedure not worthy of medical coverage.  They will, however, pay outright for any visits with a maternal fetal medicine doctor, early hospitalizations, or NICU stays that may result from a multiple pregnancy I could potentially achieve through superovulation with IUI or timed intercourse.  Yes, the octomom’s of the world exist, and yes, multiple pregnancies do often result from IVF, but the type of outright malpractice, bad decision making, and simple luck that leads to these cases happens in almost all medical fields.  Finally, with so few receiving insurance coverage for IVF, is it any wonder they are willing to push the odds and put back more than one embryo when one’s life savings hangs in the balance?  I speak high and mighty now about the wonder of eSET, but have no doubt that when the clinic rips $30,000 from my cold, spendthrift, Scottish hands I’ll be begging them to “put ’em all in, Coach!” because I better get a kid out of this!  But, no, go right ahead New York Times, remind me again that IVF was only invented for elderly women wanting a gaggle of mini-mes.

And, finally, when did it become SOP to spend the bulk of an obituary giving lip-service to the deceaseds’ many detractors?  I must have missed the multiple Lincoln obits that went something like:

Abraham Lincoln, who lead this nation into its bloodiest of wars, robbed countless Southern gentlemen of their God-given chattel, and wore silly hats, died today at the Peterson’s House after an unfortunate incident during a performance of Our American Cousin at Ford’s Theater.  The 16th President of these United States, Lincoln’s actions and beliefs were not always embraced by his constituents.  Former US Senator from Mississippi Jefferson Davis said of Lincoln, “Though we were both born Kentuckians, I’ve been very unsure about what Abe’s been doing.  I wasn’t sure it was appropriate, and didn’t want to get too involved in it.”

So, this is what initiated today’s angry ute.  This targeted anger builds upon years of reading through one too many comments sections for pieces like Dear Prudie’s “Baby’s on Us” for Slate, Wesley J. Smith’s “Assembly Line IVF” for The National Review, or Father Tadeusz Pacholczyk’s “A Question Mark Hangs Over Their Heads (problems faced by IVF children)” for Catholic Exchange, and it adds up to a piss poor view of the fertile world, and a whole lot of me being called a murderer for aborting my ectopic and a selfish pig for wanting my own biological “spawn.”  So, I hereby nominate @FurrowedFox’s “NEVER read the comments” Tweet of the Week.

What’s that, you say?  Retreat to the safe haven of infertility message boards?  Honestly, a pretty good suggestion in most circumstances except, 1. why should I self-ghettoize because I’m making you uncomfortable, 2. how will change be affected by hiding away in my IF silo, 3. there’s some ignorant bitches on those boards too, and 4. I fucking HATE baby dust.  You may have noticed my multi-paragraph rant against the term “test tube babies” above?  I loathe all attempts at trivializing this hard-ass shit we are all going through.  If you think I hate it when Ms. Fertile Editor does it, you better believe it gets under my skin when those of us actually walking the walk (or injecting the inject) do it.  I see “baby dust” as the infertile’s way of saying “just relax.”  The term may also be anathema to me because I associate it with the most unhelpful of all the online message board stereotypes – the “wow, you’re fucked, good luck and baby dust” gal.  You know, the 50 year old woman that already has 5 children but wants just one more for her new husband.  That one that posts on every.single.thread about how easy her first five were, how much more heartbreaking her infertility is because she has 5 little voices at home asking her for a brother or sister, and who advises that you aren’t praying enough/patient enough/eating enough pineapple core/taking enough Vitex.  Oh, and bonus points for the fact that she is inherently incapable in writing in complete sentences, proofreading, deselecting the caps lock, and entering paragraph breaks.  But, don’t worry, her lack of computer abilities will be made up for in spades when she posts 55 positive pregnancy test pictures large enough to see from space in her thread titled “FINALY!” that begins “After 2 exceptionally difficult months, here’s what we did.  Baby dust!”  My hatred of the cutesy lingo has been the best hidden of my dirty little infertility secrets these past years, but there you have it folks, I absolutely hate it.  Thank you, Tertia, for letting me know I am not alone (oh, and for writing one of the most gut-wrenchingly honest and bladder-bustingly hilarious tales of infertility ever).

Angry ute day, I tell you!  When I got a message today from my rheumatologist titled “Appointment change” I literally typed my name/password into the online patient portal so hard in order to view said appointment change that I thought I might have broken my work keyboard.  If they’ve pushed me back even further I’m going to do some very unkind things to some very nice cars in the hospital parking lot…  Breathe out, however, for they just shortened it from a 60 minute to 30 minute slot.  Hah, I’ll show them!  I learned long ago that as long as you don’t stop talking, (I mean, seriously, don’t stop, don’t breathe, don’t blink) the doctor can’t leave the room.  I’ve gotten many a 60 minutes out of a 15 minute follow up!

And this all leads up to the absolute shittiest of shit news – the discovery that a dear online IF friend just experienced a chemical pregnancy (early miscarriage) from IVF#1.  My heart is utterly broken for her, and I don’t even know what to say.  My warped sense of humor doesn’t always jive well with compassion.

So, with that, I suppose I’m off.  Off to think up my team name for the Washington, D.C. Walk of Hope, off to try and find the right words to heal the unhealable, off to respond to the two brave souls who reached out to me today about my RESOLVE support group, and off to turn the meme below into an angry ute cross stitch pattern.

Hi, I'm a uterus!

Hi, I’m a uterus!

Edits: Some grammar/word choice/spelling issues corrected 4/12/13.

What hath IF wrought

It’s Wednesday and time for your weekly dose of bullet points.

Yesterday’s post was rough.  Not gonna lie, that one stung.  And maybe wasn’t the most appropriately timed seeing as Mr. But IF and I have been dealing with the heavy load of his uncertain employment situation.  Since I dragged us up here for my new position, he’s only been able to find a 6 month contract job, and that contract ends in June.  Nothing like adding even more uncertainty to an uncertainty-define IF life, right?

So, anyway, I thought I’d lighten it up some today.  Without further ado I bring you “Things I can’t believe I’ve done and will likely do again.”

  • Places we’ve had to have baby-making sex:
    • My childhood home (in my parents old bed — yes, the one in which I was likely conceived).
    • In our home with mother-in-law downstairs.
    • On vacation with in-laws.
    • While at professional conferences.
    • Oh, and one interesting discovery that has resulted from compiling this list — All three of my miscarriages were conceived away from home.  Wait, what?  So much for stressed, time-sensitive, we gotta do this now, sex not being conducive to getting knocked up, eh?
  • Place I’ve peed on sticks (home pregnancy tests (HPT) and ovulation predictor strips (OPK)):
    • Work… a whole lot of work.  Two different universities, various buildings, and at least two dozen different stalls.  Each time I threw a stick away (especially the hundreds of negative HPTs) I had to wonder what the cleaning lady would think when/if she found it.  It made me indescribably angry that she’d probably assume that the undergrad that left it there left enormously excited to see a single pink line.
    • Restaurant bathrooms.
    • Hotel bathrooms.
    • Friends’ bathrooms.
    • Family’s bathrooms.
    • I’ve also learned that if you set your iPhone to stopwatch instead of timer you can watch the clock tick up to 3 minutes (or 5 minutes) and avoid having your timer alarm start ringing behind the stall door in a crowded public restroom.
  • Things I’ve peed into in order to dip sticks:
    • Work coffee cup (eh, forgot my pee cup at home and needed to know!).
    • Giant red solo cup (hard to miss that one).
    • Dixie cup (preferred method).
    • The package the test comes in (if you can manage it, this one is brilliant!)
  • Embarrassing n00b things I’ve tried:
    • Grapefruit juice.
    • Pineapple core.
  • Less embarrassing, but still totally out of character things I’ve tried:
    • Acupuncture.
    • Visualization.
    • Umm, I founded a freaking support group?!
  • Places/times I’ve administered or received injections (sure to be a growing list as I’m still a relative injectable virgin):
    • At homes that are not my own.
    • From a drunk husband during our Super Bowl party (luckily my ass is huge so there was little chance the PIO needle would miss).
  • And, finally, few numbers for you
    • Times I’ve checked my cervical mucus: unfathomably large number.
    • Months I’ve tracked my basal body temperature: 33.
    • Progesterone suppositories administered: 74.
    • Clomid pills swallowed: 25.
    • Pills I swallow during maintenance/non-TTC times: 15 (currently, has been higher in past).
    • Daily injectable medications waiting at home for when we get the all clear: 5.
    • Sharps containers filled: 2.
    • Empty sharps containers in my bathroom cabinet: 2.
    • Times we’ve spent our entire FSA by mid-year in the past 3 years: 3.
    • Doctors seen throughout the journey: 9 (2 GPs, 2 OBs, 2 REs, 3 endos).
    • Surgeries: 2.
    • Blood draws (since I started tracking in 2012): 75.
    • Transvaginal ultrasounds: 43.
    • HSGs: 3.
    • Endometrial biopsies: 1.
    • Pregnancies: 3.
    • Children: 0.

The thin line between pessimism and self-preservation

How did couples survive before GChat?  Mr. But IF and I certainly aren’t ones to hold anything back when talking face-to-face, but the problem with that whole face-to-face thing is that it really cuts into the trashy TV viewing/computer game playing/Internet comment making/ element of our infertility battle.  GChatting?  Well, when the alternative is working, then, why, sure, let’s have a meaningful conversation right here and now!

him: oh, random anecdote for your blog that I forgot to tell you about yesterday
Dentist (to me): “You and your wife has such straight teeth – you’re so lucky, when you have kids there’s no way they’ll need braces!”
that was rough
don’t know why, but definitely a gut punch
Sent at 9:24 AM on Tuesday
me:  ouch
Sent at 9:25 AM on Tuesday
him:  yeah
those are the ones that get to me…when it’s just an abstract, “we’re infertile”, no problem
when it’s imagining the kids that aren’t, not so much
me:  sorry… don’t even know what to say
For whatever reason, those comments don’t bother me anymore
none of them
i put on my hard crusty armor
and evil laugh because I have no hope left that we will actually have children
🙁

So, umm, yea.  Apparently I don’t have any hope left?  The things that flow stream of conscious-like from your fingertips, eh?

Commence tailspin of introspection.  If I don’t really have any hope left, why the injections, why the expense, why the emotion, why the blog?  Am I just a masochist?  An attention whore?  An idiot?

While the answers to those questions could most certainly be yes (I mean, I did kinda enjoy those PIO shots in a “Oh, yea Mr. But IF, stick it to me!” kind of way), I think the bigger answer is that self-preservation mode kicked in a looong time ago.  Probably sometime around our ectopic in 2011.  Walking into maternity triage, requesting chemotherapy to kill a hard fought for implanted embryo, and getting two quick jabs in the bottom after 15 months of trying to conceive, it desensitized me.  Two losses and two years hasn’t returned my optimism.

I can’t even imagine a baby with my crooked toes, his baby blues, and our straight teeth.  I can visualize future conversations I’ll have with my RE, I can recall the physical pain of a miscarriage, and I can even ramble on about a future in which we have found a resolution; but, I find it totally impossible to open myself up to imagining our biological progeny.  It feels so far away and so unreachable.  An effort as insurmountable as understanding the vastness of space, the speed of light, or, for that matter, why I’m infertile.

If there’s one thing way too many years in the academy has taught me, it’s that just because a question is impossible to fully answer, that doesn’t mean it’s not worth asking.  (If you’re in the humanities it may mean you’ll be getting no grant funding to answer said question, but 1. I guess that’s not really the point here, and 2. that actually resonates pretty well with infertility seeing as we’re not often deemed worth of external funding either.  Hey, look, I’m both worthless professionally and personally!)

So, what would our ever-so-hoped-for child look like, be like, live like?  I guess straight teeth are a given.  The rest?  I really hope I get to find out.

The losts weekend

First off, yes, I’m alive.  This weekend kind of kicked my behind.  While I didn’t set out with this intention, this weekend essentially became the “weekend of losts.”  If you asked me what behaviors I’ve changed, what actions I’ve altered, and what opportunities I’ve passed up in the past 3.5 years of trying to start a family, I could now answer quite concretely.  I’d simply say, “You know what I did last weekend?  Well, yea, that’s what I gave up and moved beyond when we decided to start trying to conceive.”

Here’s a timeline.

Friday

The event:  Happy hour.  Beers with peers.  A rollicking good time.  And, a time I needed when, on my drive home from work, I realized Holy mother of God it’s still f-ing snowing here!  (Fists to the sky) It’s APRIL!

The IF reminder: A new dear friend who knows of our woes greeted me by saying, “Happy you’re here, sorry to see you’re drinking.”  To some, this might be too touchy or too uncomfortable, to me it was a reminder that I’ve managed to make an incredible support network in our brief time here.  This is what I needed someone to say, and I’m glad I had someone around to not only say it, but to observe it in the first place.  I really, truly do love beer, but even at the happiest of happy hours I still find myself wishing I couldn’t have any.  And to have a peer pick up on that deep down pain, well, that was pretty awesome.  (Oh, and so was the beer.)

Saturday

The event: Breakfast.  McDonald’s to be exact.

The IF reminder: Oh, God, I love food that is shit for your body.  I’ve missed you MickeyD’s.  If I’m not allowed to even try to conceive, I might as well totally mess up my good diet regime with this sausage McMuffin.  I mean, I want to have something for the rheumatologist to blame me for when I finally get to see her, right?

The event: Fancy pants art film screening.  A triptych film installation documenting American cataclysms.  You know, we’re childless academics.  It’s our thing.

The IF reminder: My Lord if parts of the damn thing didn’t look like a blurry ultrasound.  I kept waiting for the break in the awesome soundtrack and original compositions in which I’d hear giddy nurse echo, “I’m sorry-orry-orry-ry.  There’s no heartbeat-beat-eat…”

The event: Shopping.  Must buy all the pretty dresses, blouses, and cardigans.

The IF reminders: 1. I haven’t had either a good probing, a condescending consult, or a FedEx delivery from Freedom Pharmacy in a looong while, so, lookie there!, I have some expendable income!  2. Between my Hashi’s and PCOS diagnoses in 2011 and today I have lost 60 lbs. and 5 sizes (take that “You’re just fat, lazy, and depressed!”).  But, I haven’t bought any new clothes in all that time because, “It would be depressing to have all these nice new clothes but then be too big for them again because I’m pregnant.”  That seems unlikely, so it’s time to un-bag-lady myself.  (Oh, yea, and I give you all permission to vomit in your mouth and fling it onto the monitor in response to my weight loss gloating.  It’s what I’d be doing.)

The event: Colleague’s raucous birthday party.  Booze, karaoke, dancing, one too many cameras and book-of-facing for my liking.

The IF reminder: The next morning.  The total body ache that emanated more from deciding it would be a blast to show of my Little Nell moves during our Rocky Horror sing-along, than from the liquid courage that made me open to dancing in the first place.  I’m not even thirty and every. muscle. hurts.  Maybe a banana will be a better breakfast than those…

Sunday

The event: Breakfast.  Screw the banana.  I’m making 12 pounds of shredded breakfast potatoes.  And bacon.  And eggs.  And toast!

The IF reminder: My tummy…  I’m gonna go to the grocery store and buy better food for the week ahead…

Monday

The event: Dentist appointment.

The IF reminder: Why, yes, yes you may do X-rays!  No, I most certainly am not pregnant!  When were my last X-rays?  Umm, spring 2010?  (Doing the mental math.)  No, probably fall 2009.  We were on an every fall schedule (because I know the hubs just had his done).  In the fall of 2010 I was trying to conceive and in the middle of a 65 day anovulatory cycle.  And, I was definitely supposed to do them in fall 2011, but I was pregnant with my ectopic.  Then spring 2012 when I went in and was decidedly no longer pregnant, I had that awkward conversation with the hygienist who had prepared for the day she’d spend with her pregnant client.  But, never fear, for that visit I was in fact pregnant again.  No X-rays, but also no baby.  The pregnancy ended a few days later.  And, I guess, that brings us to today.  Wait, what’s wrong, Ms. Hygienist?  Did I say something wrong?  Is there something on my face?

So, there you have it, I’ve abandoned you all for booze, clothes, fried food, tap dancing, and a dental cleaning.  Tune in next week when I wax poetic about the glories of unpasteurized soft cheeses and high doses of ibuprofen!

Reinforcement and clarity

Each time I sit down to add to this burgeoning blog, I over-analyze my chosen topic.  I’ve done it since day one, and, as the posts pile up, I’m doing it even more.  Right as I was beginning to get so deep into my head that I worried I might never come out long enough to post again, the ALI (adoption/loss/infertility) blogging community came to my rescue.  Thank you, dear strangers, for the much-needed reinforcement and clarity you likely have no idea you gave me.

Looking at the small collection of posts I’ve completed, there isn’t much range in the concepts, emotions, and themes discussed.  Anger.  Jealousy.  Frustration.  Bitterness.  They are, for the moment, the four corners of this blog.  Each day as I put virtual pen to paper, I wondered what these cornerstones said of me, said of my journey, said of my worth as a blogger, said of my suitability to be even one of the many voices of infertility.  I am infertility, but am I the infertility that should be out there for public consumption?  No matter how hard I tried to self-affirm my point of view, I still felt like a whiny, self-indulgent, infertility stereotype.

Then, I found this Tuesday’s tandem posts from Cristy of Searching for our Silver Lining and Josey of My Cheap Version of Therapy.  The posts discuss the stark differences between healing and finding resolution from infertility and developing infertility amnesia.  I’ll leave you to peruse Cristy and Josey’s fuller discussions on your own; their thoughts are far more developed than mine.  But, I will add that two very important observations jumped out at me from their posts that I find worthy of repetition and further elaboration.

First, Cristy writes,

The truth is, those who are unresolved (in the trenches, so to speak) are going to have a very hard time distinguishing between healing and infertility amnesia. I know I most certainly did. After all, you’re in survival mode and one rarely is at their most reasonable and rational when they are fighting for their family.

Perhaps this will come off as yet more uncritical self-affirmation, but this comment resonated with me.  It went a long way toward granting me peace and helping me recognize that – as I sit here very much still in the trenches – my options are limited.  Yes, my current self-reflection rests on a bedrock of negativity, but, no, that doesn’t mean it always will.  I owe myself no expectation of rationality today as the battle rages, but do hope that time will bring greater clarity once the war is over.  I can strive to achieve what Cristy calls, “a genuine effort to move beyond.”

Josey hit even more to the heart of what I’ve been feeling when she reflects on the act of blogging/journaling itself.  She observes that,

[Posts of substance] are easier to come by when your life – your world – is full of turmoil and pain. At least for me, it has been easier to sit down and write deeply about the times that have made me cry in life than the times that have made me rejoice. I don’t know if it is because as children we are taught that gloating is bad and we shouldn’t rub it in, or if it’s simply because I often feel the need to work through my painful times with words and journaling but during the joyful times I tend to just revel in the moment. For whatever reason, I have to make a conscious effort to chronicle the good times as well as the bad, and slowly by surely, that is becoming easier.

It’s not lost on me that the moment I decided to go through with starting this blog was the moment we learned I’d be in for yet another drawn-out wait to try and conceive again.  We’re in a total standstill, and that standstill brings greater pain to my life than my miscarriages, my diagnoses, and my infertility.  When there are no daily injections, no trips to the doctor, no hard decisions, no second opinions, all that remains is the worry and the what if.  Is it any wonder that my daily self-reflection in this time of inactivity rehashes the same themes again and again?  With nothing new to add to the conversation, I just keep picking the same old scab.  I hope I find it in me to also reflect on the good, but for now the bad is front and center and it seems disingenuous to pretend it’s not.  Unless I want this blog to become a thing of fiction, I think it’s best to continue on in the current trajectory.

Yesterday over breakfast Mr. But IF and I realized that, should we ever get the all-clear to return to treatment, some hard decisions will have to be made about my blogging behavior.  Do I continue on with these grand highfalutin substantive posts alone, or do I provide nitty-gritty play-by-plays of the current cycle?  As hard as it might be to believe, when I started this blog I never considered that question.  I was so in need of an immediate outlet, a one-click venue to vent my anger and frustration at another delay, that I never considered that one day the delays might end, the realities of our lives might change, and the purpose of this blog might evolve.  For an aggressive over-planner like myself, this mental blind-spot is astounding.

Seeing as this blog was created in a moment of base raw emotions, why should I step back from those raw emotions solely because they might reveal a pregnancy or miscarriage in live time?  I will blog our journey as I need to blog it, safe in the knowledge that these acts of sharing might likely be a long first step on the path to healing.

Variable price of entry

I’m not really known for my humility when it comes to the realm of my book smarts and academic achievements.  Socially awkward?  Check.  Uncomfortable with tense family situations?  Indubitably.  Not very awesome with workplace politics?  Indeedy-do.  But, I’m totally confident in my intellectual prowess.  This tends to mean that if I’ve read enough books, done enough research, written enough articles, and compiled enough footnotes on any item capable of being researched, I feel like an expert.  It’s my thing.

So, after 3.5 years sitting on the sidelines, battling infertility, longing to be pregnant, waiting to be a parent, I get a little miffed that I’ve done years and years of homework for nothing.  Seriously, I know more about human reproduction, pregnancy complications, birth plans, and breastfeeding than anyone with an empty womb ever should.  Recently, this has led me to feel betrayed.  I feel like a transfer student who’s just been told 4 years of college credit won’t transfer due to a technicality.  Like a chemist that’s just been told that bismuth, not oxygen, is the most prevalent chemical element on earth.  Like an author who situated her grand narrative in Weimar Germany, only to discover that the Kaiser never abdicated his throne.  I’ve prepared thoroughly for a future that is no longer there.

That certainly stinks enough on it’s own, but then there’s the ever-present reminder that while my hard work merits nothing, others’ ignorance nets pure gold.  At another interminably long meeting this morning with my boss (two teenage stepsons) and colleague (two young children), I was smacked in the face by this inequity.  As so often (and, I’ll admit, so understandably) tends to happen, the topic of conversation shifted from work to children.  Said mother to two young ones told of her latest tale of toddler woe.  You know, the who swallowed what, what was broken how, and what was said to the preschool teacher stories.  At the end, this colleague started rambling, “You know, no one tells you to expect this.  No one prepares you for this.  I just can’t believe that you have to watch them all. the. time.  Seriously, it’s unbelievable!  I’m glad no one told me, though, cause I would have never gotten pregnant.  I guess we all have to be clueless to ensure the future of the race!”

Wait, shut the front door, no one told you being a parent was hard?  Had you known it was hard, you wouldn’t have done it?  You were totally caught off guard with the fact that you can’t just give the kid a brandy and cigar and call it a day?  What bubble did you grow up in?

I, perhaps more than anyone, know I have no right to critique or judge anyone’s parenting style.  It’s that whole “until you walk a mile in my shoes” thing.  But, I do get to judge you for believing that there was a God damned global misinformation campaign and conspiracy levied against you to coerce you into procreating.  You didn’t know this would be hard?

You know what I know?  I can’t put to paper all that I know.  I’ve taught pharmacists how to pronounce countless medications; I’ve explained to women with multiple children what it means to ovulate, how to check cervical mucus, and the importance of progesterone in the luteal phase; I’ve sent medical journal articles to my doctors to explain the risks of Hashimoto’s related miscarriage to my OB/GYN, immunological implantation issues to my RE, and the impact of fertility medications on TSH to my endocrinologist; and I’ve guided friends and family through the diagnosis and treatment of autoimmune disorders.  I know my shit.  Really, I do.  And that knowledge stems from hard work, long hours, and never accepting that I’ve learned my last lesson.  My second full-time job is as an infertility researcher, advocate, support system, and spokesperson.

I’ve paid a very high price for admission, yet I’m continually turned away from the front door by that bastard bouncer called “life.”  At the same time, I’m surrounded by those who’ve paid nothing – no money, no time, no heartache, no health – and were nevertheless welcomed into the club with outstretched arms.  Only in infertility do you turn in an A effort, and leave with an incomplete.

Snow day confessions

So, it’s Wednesday again, and time for another edition of what I’ve taken to calling “Wretched Wednesday.”  The one day of the week during which I’ll force myself to write in bullets, keep the commentary to a minimum, and be as quippy as my verbose tendencies allow.

Last week, I began to review all the awkward conversations and happenings that I’ve muddled through in the past several years.  I’ll most certainly be returning to that theme in coming Wednesday’s, but this week I thought I’d focus in a little bit more.

Above all else, my infertility makes me ANGRY.  Like slam cupboard doors, raise fists to the sky, glare at random pregnant strangers, say stupid shit, angry.  The snow that is falling at a fever pitch outside my window on this APRIL day is also making me angry.  So, I figured, what a better day than this to explore that anger.  More specifically, to explore the totally ridiculous things I’ve said and done in the past 3.5 years in response to that anger.

The name of this list?  “Anger made me do it!”  And, one warning, some crazy offensive stuff has come out of my mouth in the past few years.  Tread lightly.  (Oh, and thoughts in italics, words in “quotes.”)

  • [While holding countless newborns] Do you think they’d notice if I bolted out the door right now?
  • [Said after my recent miscarriage] “I’m sorry I can’t be concerned about a friend’s difficult labor.  She has a child.  Our’s is sleeping in a sterile collection jar right now.” <Ouch, I’m sorry you had to hear that Mr. But IF>
  • [About fertile family members] “Eventually their luck is going to run out and one of their kids is going to have major problems.  Of course, then, they’ll get boat loads of pity.  We’ll still be the invisible infertiles.”
  • [Said in rage to my much younger sister-in-law] “I will seriously never speak to you again if you get pregnant before me.” <I do hate myself sometimes.>
  • [When getting propositioned by my randy and/or sexually frustrated husband] “Seriously, what’s the point?  I’m as barren as the Russian countryside after Napoleon’s invasion.”  Or, “Sure, whatever, might as well make another baby for my body to kill.”  Or, “Ok, but if you complain about the Crinone cottage cheese I’m not listening.”  Or, “Ok, but I’m on Provera so wear a condom.  With our luck we’ll have a first sticky pregnancy but, because of the Provera, our spawn will have 5 heads.”  <I know, I know, I’m such a tease!>
  • [When the husband wants to watch Girls] “Seriously, I get it, you want sex.  Making me watch Girls with you isn’t a guaranteed way to make that happen.”  <Usually followed by post-Girls nookie>
  • [When talking to friends that accidentally got pregnant] “How do you accidentally have sex during your fertile window and accidentally inject lovenox/progesterone/HCG boosters and accidentally get early ultrasounds to rule out an ectopic?  Oh, wait, you didn’t have to do that…”
  • [When invited to participate in yet another baby “meal registry”]  “Where’s my fucking free miscarriage food?”
  • [When the doctor at the ER told me he wouldn’t do a D&C on a Saturday] “Next time I’ll try to plan my fetal demise a little more conveniently for you and your staff.”
  • [While getting re-dressed in the RE’s exam room] Do you think they’d notice if I steal a bunch of probe condoms?  I really want some probe condoms!  I’ve paid for a case of these suckers already so I should get to have one…
  • [When picking out my socks on ultrasound days] Nope, I miscarried in those.  Oh, and I was wearing those when we found out the heartbeat stopped.  These, these obnoxiously red ones, nothing bad has ever happened wearing these… yet…
  • [When making the over an hour drive to the RE in one of many blizzards this past winter] This kid better fucking appreciate me!
  • [When talking to newly pregnant couples] “Wait… all you did was have sex?  That works?”
  • [When adoption is suggested] “I agree.  Adoption is an amazing gift.  Why haven’t you adopted?”
  • [When talking to the cats] “Hello my babies.  My only babies.  Wanna try on this onesie?”
  • [My husband texting his best friend after our ectopic] “If it really was tubal, 40% chance we go through this again.  Guess God’s too busy helping Tebow win football games.  FML”
  • [When I was pregnant] “Oh God, oh God, oh God.  I’m not ready for this.  What the hell?  I’m totally not ready for this!”  <Oh, nevermind, false alarm…>
  • [When I see a pregnancy announcement or pregnancy complaint on Facebook] Insert post about miscarriage, endo, PCOS, infertility, RESOLVE fundraising here…
  • [When around women telling pregnancy or delivery stories] “Oh yea, the pain!  I know during my 3 miscarriages I felt like crap.  Though, I guess, being in a hospital, surrounded by loved ones, and leaving with a baby probably makes a difference.  The one time I went to the hospital they just sent me home with a sterile collection jar for the products.  No baby blanket or anything!  Can you believe it?”
  • And, my ever-favorite instinct/thought/mantra — Punch her in the ovaries, punch her in the ovaries, punch her in the ovaries…
  • [When I asked the hubs if he had anything to contribute to this list] “I’m so busy keeping myself from punching the doctor that I’m not really thinking snarky.”  And, he continued, “Honestly, though, I do think that’s my thing to add.  The notion that I express the anger through pretty much incohate rage, that I then choke back.”

So, my friends (if any of you are left), I’m truly that terrible of a person.  I’m also, that totally normal.  No one told me not to be so pissed off at life when my mom died, so each month my imagined future children “die” I feel just as justified to be thoroughly inappropriate.  I know ya’ll have been there.  What’s your deepest darkest nasty?  (Seriously, though, you’ve been there, right?  I’m not that horrible… Oh, Lord, maybe I am…)

A support group without coffee…

first-birthday-cupcakeTonight is the regular monthly meeting of my RESOLVE support group.  And, it’s a pretty special one too, if I do say so myself.  It is the group’s 1 year anniversary.  That’s damn awesome.

And, a little hard to believe.  On one hand, how has it only been 1 year.  When I think of who I was on the eve of founding the group, I honestly shudder at my naivete.  I had just come out of the IF closet to my family, we were just about to embark on our first cycle since my methotrexate-induced miscarriage the prior November, and I had just completed my initial workup and laparoscopy with RE#1.  I was also totally terrified of actually having to speak to real, live, hurting strangers about that deep pain that united us.  And, above all, I was totally convinced the first meeting would be me alone in a room with my husband since I clearly was alone in my struggle and no one else would show.  And, I kept joking, we wouldn’t even have the support group pot of coffee TV promises us.  Coffee and TTC don’t mix, you know.

In actuality, while terrifying, that first meeting was one of the most uplifting experiences I’ve had on this long journey.  And, I was most certainly not alone.  8 women and men attended that first session.  In the year since, one couple has had their IVF miracle, two couples have endured miscarriages, one is jumping back into treatment with a faith and optimism that warms my heart each time I see her smile, and another is rounding the final bend in her pursuit of pregnancy through donor embryos.  Attendance at our meetings has ranged from 7 to a room-busting 23, and my current e-mail list reaches 38 women.  Nine couples are currently building their families through pregnancy or adoption, and several of those women have transitioned from receiving support at our monthly meetings to engaging with our “Pregnancy after infertility and miscarriage” Facebook group in an attempt to work through the unique (and often unexpected) pain and worry that comes when pregnancy is achieved after a long struggle.  We’ve discussed topics ranging from jealousy to heartache, marriages to holidays, and surgeries to semen analyses.  Our stories are all so different and so impossible to whittle down to simple one-liners here, but each of their stories has become my own story, too.  I laugh with them, I cry with them, I celebrate with them, and I hurt with them.  Coffee or no coffee, this group energizes me and gives me the strength I need to keep on going.

On the other hand, how has a year passed already?  Milestones are hard for many of us in the infertility community.  I know the due date for each of my pregnancies, and silently mourn them each time they roll around.  The date of our first RE appointment, the date I got the call about my Hashi’s, the morning I found both my tubes were blocked, and the moment I saw my first positive pregnancy test, are all etched into my brain.  Not only due to the memories they evoke, but also because with each new doctor’s appointment, each second opinion, each new procedure, I have to recount them all on demand.  It’s hard to move on when you so often have to look back to provide a full medical history.  There’s a hint of that pain in this anniversary milestone as well.  Second on my list of fears when I started the group, just below “no one will come,” was the worry, “What if I get pregnant right away?”  It’s so common a worry that a good part of my training was focused on it.  Yet, it wasn’t a worry I clearly needed to be fretting over.  And, when I expand that worry out to, “What will happen when all my friends from the group move on without me?” it breaks my heart even a little more.  While I’ve moved 9 women to my “graduates” list, that means many, many more remain behind.  As I grieve with them, it adds fuel to my advocacy fire.  This journey is not mine, it is ours, and because of that I feel more justified in fighting the misconceptions, the ignorance, and the arrogance that so many bring to the discussion of infertility.  And, only a few short weeks away from National Infertility Awareness Week, I’m happy to have this reminder of these strong women and men I stand behind.

So, for the audience participation part of the program, have you attended an in-person support group?  What was your experience?  What was discussed or what did you wish was discussed?  Is there a support group in your area?  Would you consider starting one?  Catch you all in the comments!