Hello menses, my old friend

Judging by the chunky blood clot and Crinone combo that splatted into the toilet last night with startling velocity, CD1’s arrived.  Between 6pm last night and 8am this morning, I had to make a decision.  As I laid myself down to sleep last night my mind was darting back and forth from decision to decision.  Every option was on the table:

  • Call it quits for good;
  • Take a break, enjoy our summer, and return to birth control until the fall;
  • (Stupidly) try a natural cycle;
  • Just do  more of the same (injects, intercourse, intralipids, etc.);
  • Do the same as before, but add IUI;
  • Say fuck it all and do IVF with local RE; or,
  • Say super fuck it all and do IVF and immune cycle management with my RI.

I’m not lying when I say that I was wholeheartedly embracing each of these decisions at various moments throughout the night.  I literally had no idea which way to turn, and, even after making a decision, I’m still not sure it’s the right one.  I’m just so tired, so weary, so spent.  No decision seems right, no decision seems wrong.  The only thing I was certain of was that a decision needed to be made, so I made one.  I might as well have put all the options in a hat and pulled one out.  That approach would have at least had the benefit of gaining me more sleep last night.

More on our decision later, but first a story.

As I’ve mentioned countless times before, we moved to a tiny little village last summer.  Wonderful change, amazing quality of life… save the full-frontal reminders of the barrenness that keeps me from being fully engaged in community life, save the fact that my employer runs the town and that creates some awkward personal life/professional life quandaries, save the fact that absolutely everyone knows you and everyone knows your business.  This is one of those stories.

As you might expect, I’m somewhat of a local celebrity at the itty bitty community hospital laboratory.  I was first recognized because I brought the average age in the waiting room down a good hundred years.  Then, the phlebotomists committed me to memory after I was able to knowledgeably tell them which arm is the best, which arm is most scarred, and which seemingly plump veins have a tendency to roll.  I’ve had hundreds of blood draws in the past 3.5 years, I see no sense in staying quiet and letting them use me as an experimental pin cushion, when I know better than they do what veins are the winners and what veins are just posers.  As if that wasn’t enough, then I had to use that lab for my gigantic ReproSource draw in February.  In I strolled with three big boxes of self-provided tubes, giving them instructions for what samples had to be mixed, which had to go on the centrifuge, and how to repackage them and have them waiting for the FedEx guy.  That gal looked so overwhelmed.  She brought out textbooks because she didn’t know what order to draw the vials in, she asked for an audience and advice because she wasn’t sure she could get it all in one draw (she did), and she damn well remembers me.  I also remember her.  I tend to ramble on when I assume the blood-drawing position.  I always worry that they are going to think I’m “really” sick (like, not just harboring what most insurances consider a cosmetic issue).  So, I get word vomit.  I told her what the testing was for, she broadly asked what we’d been through, I gave my usual canned response, and she offered to be my surrogate because, “Being pregnant is awesome!”  So, yea, I fucking remember her.

When I went for my beta on Monday I had a different gal (thank God).  Business as usual.  Me in, blood out, off I went.  Hours later I got the call that the beta was 11.  While less than 5 is not pregnant, my “kinda pregnant” 11 was a result of the HCG boosters I’d been taking.  It was as negative as it could have been, despite being slightly above 5.  I was, as you all already know, devastated.

Yet, with my history of ectopics and my “kinda sorta pregnant” first beta level, I still had to return on Wednesday for a redraw.  Color me thrilled.  I pounded down coffee, went to the lab with a scowl on my face, and waited.  And waited some more as outpatient intake let the toddler across from me and his doting parents cut the line.  He was cute, I was not.  When I finally got back to the lab, I assumed the position and remained silent.  The phlebotomist – not the one from Monday and not (thank God) Ms. Surrogate – seemed confused.  So, she went for it.

“Why are you here?  Didn’t you get good news on Monday?”

[Wait, this is really happening?  Hooray for medical privacy!]  “Um, I’m here to confirm what we already know.  I’m not pregnant.  At least that’s what I’m hoping for.  I really don’t want another ectopic experience.”

“But, your level was positive on Monday!  I remember because I had to ask for help.  The doctor requested we run extra tests [my TSH and P4, btw] if your value came back positive, but none of us knew how to interpret what positive was for a quantitative HCG.  We rarely do anything but a qualitative.  So, all three of us girls went and asked a doctor.  He told us any number is positive, and we were all so happy for you.  Honestly, we were kinda cheering when he told us.  We know what you’ve been through.”

“Nope, that 11 should have been a lot higher.  Oh, and anything under 5 is negative too.  It’s possible to have very low levels of HCG in your system even when you are pregnant.  But, it doesn’t matter anyway.  That 11 was purely from the HCG injections I’ve been giving myself.  Today it should be negative.”

“Well, you never know!”

“Yes, yes I do.  We’ve been doing this for so long, I do know.  The only thing I don’t know is how much longer we’re going to keep doing this.  I think we’re pretty close to done.”

“Oh, honey, you’re so young.  Don’t give up hope!  There’s always a chance!”

“Sure.  Thanks.  Bye.”

And here’s the problem that these women, that no one in the fertile world understands.  At a certain point, grasping desperately to hope hurts more than moving on.  A moment exists for everyone (and that moment is different for everyone) where hope hurts.  When saying, “I will never have a biological child,” sounds better than silently asking, “How many more years of appointments, procedures, injections, and waiting do I have left in me?”  When thinking of a future without children remains devastating, but looks more appealing than spending even more hours of your life in a hospital laboratory, in the stirrups, in the car on the way to your latest D&C.  I know I’m reaching that moment.

But, whether out of stupidity or stubbornness, our decision is to delay that day of “No more!” for a little while longer.

I just got off the phone with the nurse.  I return on Monday for my baseline.  Another probe, another prick, another cycle.  Same cocktail as last time (Gonal-F, microdose Lupron, Intralipids, Lovenox, PIO, Crinone, HCG trigger, HCG boosters, baby aspirin, Metformin, Synthroid, L-MTHF, B12, D, prenatal).  IUI.

Rinse and repeat with IUI#2 in August.  Sure, yea, maybe it will work, but preparing for the worst is a whole lot easier than being blindsided by it when it comes.  Sure, we don’t need to be deciding more than a cycle ahead of time, but we kinda do.  And here’s where I’m hoping my insurance provider isn’t reading.  Though I moved to one of 15 states with an insurance mandate for infertility coverage, I got one of the weaker mandates.  (And, we must remember, there are plenty of ways employers can get out of this coverage mandate, but luckily mine is not one of them.)  Bottom line is, if a plan in this state covers pregnancy, they must also cover infertility diagnostics, medications, and treatments at the same co-pay levels as other comparable services.  Coming from a no mandate state this is fucking awesome.  But, here’s the hitch.  All bets are off when/if we get to IVF.  Same meds, same probings, same blood draws are 100% covered during an IUI cycle, but totally out of pocket if we are doing IVF.  So, for the next two months we will do two IUIs.  Not because they will get me pregnant, not because they do anything to improve our chances (NONE of my medical conditions are remotely bypassed by IUI), and not because it’s a barrel of laughs to have another man inseminate you with a turkey baster.  We’re doing it entirely to game the system.  To stockpile meds for step 3 on our IF final solution.  IVF.

We’ve decided to do 1 IVF cycle in the fall.  One last chance to say, “We did everything we could and we’ve reached the end.”  I’m not sure whether we are doing it for ourselves or to silence those around us who ask, “Why not just do IVF?”  I’m not sure that I care what the justification is.  I just am happy we have a roadmap.

IUI in July, IUI in August, IVF in Septemberish, FETs if we have any frosties, then the end.  Life has a way of changing such neatly designed and thoroughly agonized over plans, but at least we have a baseline template that can be modified when/if needed, rather than entirely flying by the seat of our pants.

I’ll either be pregnant in 2013, or I’ll be moving on and learning to embrace our childless future in 2014.  Making this decision has been brutal, but the resulting silence is a blessing.  Now, with the decision made, in my head I don’t weep, I don’t hope, I don’t wonder.  I just embrace the silence that certainty has offered.

Hello darkness, my old friend 
I’ve come to talk with you again 
Because a vision softly creeping 
Left its seeds while I was sleeping 
And the vision that was planted in my brain 
Still remains 
Within the sound of silence

– The Sound of Silence, Simon & Garfunkel, 1964

Housekeeping

My blogroll is getting unwieldy, so I’m tidying things up a bit.  In other words, I have 1 million projects to be working on right now, I’m pissed off that I haven’t heard the results of my second beta yet (they ALWAYS call by 10:30am), and I have all of 4 days left before Reader goes the way of the dodo, so I’m engaging in the finest of avoidant behavior and procrastination all at the same time.

This is all a really long way of saying that if you’ve disappeared from my blogroll, I haven’t abandoned you.  Or, in other words, if you just gained a mystery follower with a real-life-sounding name that isn’t NotWhenButIF then you’ve probably just unearthed my true identity… muwahaha…  I’ve used my best judgement to guess at the readership of this blog and the types of resources they’d be looking for and have only kept those blogs front and center on the blogroll.  Similarly, blogs I love that aren’t routinely updated have been removed, as have blogs that I know already have an extremely high readership and recognition level in the IF community.  In the first case, I don’t want to promote inactive blogs and discourage neophytes tip-toeing into the world of the ALI/PAIL blogosphere.  It’s rough to feel alone in the day-to-day, only to find similar silence in the blog world that you’ve turned to for support.  In the second case, I don’t want to waste valuable space promoting blogs that certainly don’t need lightly-followed me driving people their way.

As always, feel free to point out blogs you think I’ve missed or shouldn’t have removed in the comments below or by contacting me.  This whole process involves a lot of judgement calls that aren’t always that fun to make.

On the flip side, I’ll probably be able to keep up with ALL of you (blogrollers and others) a whole lot better now that all my ALI/PAIL blogs are folded in with the millions of other professional, political, humorous, and news feeds I subscribe to via feedly.  I was always terrible at remembering to check WordPress for updates, and the last thing I need are a million additional new post emails in my already crammed inbox.  So, if your blog is no longer highly visible on my blogroll, know that it comes with the benefit of it being incredibly more visible to little old me.

Finally, through these actions I’ve made the conscious decision not to reinvent the wheel and try and become the be all, end all source for all of the ALI/PAIL blogs out on the Interwebs.  It’s been done.  However, I do follow far, far more blogs than it is probably wise for me to do, so if you are looking for referrals or recommendations to blogs on a particular topic, with a particular tone, or written from a particular stage of the journey, feel free to ask.

Now off to finish my tidying.  I seriously do have some amazing bloggy-goodness news to share with you all, but I can’t just yet and it’s killing me.  I could use a good and upbeat post right now, so I’m waiting on pins and needles to publish it.  But, unfortunately I don’t control the timeline for this one…  Vague enough for ya?

Sensory reminders

I think I’m OK.  Really.

Yesterday’s news hit hard, but I’m surviving like I’ve done countless times before.

But, to be brutally honest, I’m not quite sure how to fill the page right now.  Yesterday’s tears have been replaced by a flurry of thoughts, questions, and decisions.  First and foremost – what’s next.  Another cycle?  The same protocol or different?  Is it time to return to the big guns (and even bigger price tag) of the reproductive immunologist, or march along blindly to the orders of Dr. Soulpatch’s assembly line?  Do we need another break?  Should I care that resuming a cycle immediately will derail me from the brewfest I’m so looking forward to?  Is it time to accept child-free as our resolution (for either the short or the long term)?

I don’t have the answers, but what I do have are a lot of visual, aural, and tactile cues that those answers need to be formulated.  Oh, hell, all five senses are concurrently triggering my sense of urgency.

The Sights of Failure

Those visual reminders of my empty womb are both the most prevalent and most sneaky.  Take, for example, exhibit A:

Exhibit A: Bruised and battered

Exhibit A: Bruised and battered

Each time I undress this abdomen engages me in a gnarly staring contest.  I’ve stopped the Lovenox, but the bruises remain.  They are a brilliant purple, green, and yellow rainbow of fuck-you-ness shining through the day and night.

Then there is, exhibit B:

Exhibit B: Not-shot time

Exhibit B: Not-shot time

Since I began my PIO, HCG, and Lovenox injections I have been relying on a daily alarm.  While the HCG and PIO are a bit more forgiving, the Lovenox had to be taken at as close to exactly the same time of the day as possible.  Thus the reason I’ve done shots in multiple public restrooms – the latest while we were out to dinner with Mr. But IF’s relatives the day of the Walk of Hope.  Existing in the stupor I’ve been living in since yesterday’s call, I forgot to disable the alarm.  Fun reminder of the shots I’m not taking to support the pregnancy I don’t have.

The Sounds of Failure

Exhibit B could have filled both categories, but I’ve got others.  Plenty and plenty of others.

For example, there are,

  • Exhibit C: the sound of my across the street neighbor’s newborn crying moments after I broached the “What now?” question with Mr. But IF; and,
  • Exhibit D: the sounds of Twitter, blog, Facebook, and e-mail notifications signaling all of your love and support after my news.  In other news, I hella love you all

The Taste of Failure

This is my favorite by far.  Since the news I’ve had,

  • Exhibit E: Coffee, coffee, and a side of more coffee… perfect timing, I might add, as the news coincided with a two-day, mandatory faculty retreat;
  • Exhibit F: All the food, all the time.  I can blame the PIO, I can blame the sadness, I can eat all the things; and,
  • Exhibit G: Sweet, sweet beer I’ve missed you.  We have a standing Monday night get together at our house, so yesterday Mr. But IF asked via GChat if I wanted to cancel.  I replied: “No.  I want the twenty liters of beer.  Stat!”  Mission fucking accomplished!

The Smell of Failure

So, this may get into TMI territory, but what the fuck is an IF blog for if not making people a little uncomfortable?

So, here’s another question for you, do you know what Crinone* smells like?  Especially once deposited to its final destination?  Without further ado,

  • Exhibit H: My smelly cottage cheese hoo.

And, while you are all busy being thankful that I don’t have a picture to accompany that one, then there is:

Exhibit I: The scent of love and lost moments

Exhibit I: The scent of love and lost moments

Yesterday was our 7th wedding anniversary, and the aroma of these flowers evokes profound joy and sorrow in equal measure each time I pass by.  Joy that I have a man in my life that means the world to me, and sorrow that I can’t give one of the greatest joys of life to him.  Happy to know that, as the card says, he’s “glad you’re my wife,” and disappointment that another relationship milestone has been marred by IF.

* In other news – worst damn website EVER.  Daily dose of hope my ass.  More like daily dose of “plastic applicators see my vagina more than my husband does.”

The Feel of Failure

And, we’re not talking emotional here.  That’s been fully covered in, hell, every. single. post. ever written for this blog.  Let’s limit to the physical.  So, there is,

  • Exhibit J: The hard lumps all over my ass from the PIO;
  • Exhibit K: The sting of the (please God final!) blood draw I’ll have to endure tomorrow to confirm my barren-ness; and,
  • Finally, Exhibit L: The pre-menstrual cramping I woke to this morning.  Despite nearly 4 years of this trying to get knocked up thing, I still have a hard time remembering that negative pregnancy tests (and miscarriages, for that matter) are shortly followed by the severe pain that is my endometriosis-fueled vaginal blood bath.  So, when I woke up this morning to a crampy tugging sensation I knee jerked to, “OMG, twinges!  I must be pregnant!” only to remember that I’m an idiot and my (not remotely) monthly visitor was on her way.  Injury to fucking insult I tell you!

That last one is the one that’s really pushing the urgency.  We need to know what is next within 2 or 3 days of the start of bleeding.  Birth control or baseline?

But, how can you make such an important decision when all senses are on high alert and bombarding you with triggers?  For all the waiting that we do in the land of IF, I could do with a little more wiggle room at this stage of the game.  A moment to breathe before committing to a month of pills, probes, and pokes, or a month of hurry up, worry, and wait.

Failure is familiar

… but still utterly devastating.

Got the call just before my 15 minute morning break from my day-long work retreat. Called back as soon as I could bolt down the four floors to my office.

HCG is 11. I’m not pregnant.

Here I sit with my reddened nose and eyes back in my never-ending meeting. How do you focus on discussions of pedagogy when your heart is broken, your hands are shaking, your breathing is shallow, and your world is spinning?

Marking the moment

So, I’m totally exhausted. This amazing weekend has come to an end and my bed is calling my name. Here’s the thing, though. I feel like I can’t let myself sleep until I pump out something – anything – to mark this moment. This is the last moment of certainty I fear I’ll have for a while.

And, the timing of it is kind of a shame. I owe you all (and am promising you now!) a much, much longer post about my weekend at the Walk of Hope. For the sake of providing a teaser (because I clearly haven’t dangled enough others out there lately), here’s the general run-down:

  • $70,000 raised for RESOLVE
  • A beautiful and warm DC morning
  • A sparkly new venue with what felt like many more people than last year
  • Bucketfulls of hope and cheer
  • A lot of adorable little ones wearing multiple variations of “I’m an IVF kid” stickers
  • A few inspiring conversations with total strangers
  • Oh, and yea, and one other little thing. I got a personal thank you, hand shake, and bracelet from RESOLVE’s own Barbara Collura for being among the top individual fundraisers.

So, yea, that happened!

But, what’s weighing heavier on my sleepy mind at the moment is that tomorrow is beta day. Tomorrow things change. I’d say I’m feeling about 5% confident we’ll get a clear BFN, 5% confident we’ll get a clear BFP, and about 90% confident that we’ll still be left waiting. I’m calling it now — mildly elevated beta that could either be an early pregnancy (with my hallmark shit betas) or residual HCG from my regular boosters (last 2,500IU dose on Friday).

In my head I’ve established my own scale:

  • <40: Abandon all hope ye who enter here. Totally not pregnant
  • 40-300: Who the fuck knows? Another round of beta hell
  • >300: How did my lab’s get mixed with someone else’s? Could it actually be…

I don’t now how hard and fast any of you should view those numbers, but I know that I need my own personal matrix in place before I’m ready to cope with tomorrow. I’m going to have enough to obsess over, at least I can do a little prior planning on the numbers end of things.

I complain a lot about how the uncertainty is one of the hardest elements of this whole IF deal. There are the big picture uncertainties – will I ever be a mother? will I have a biological child? will I ever be able to get over this pain and anger? – and there are the more granular worries – when can I try to TTC again? will I get pregnant? will I stay pregnant? They all cause their own level of stress and anguish, but I do think the uncertainty I’ve had the hardest time coping with over the years is that which sets in after chemical confirmation of pregnancy. If trying to conceive carves your life into two week periods of waiting, confirmation of pregnancy carves my life into 2 hour, 2 minute, and 2 second intervals of waiting. My three failed pregnancies have made me familiar with what it feels like to experience concrete and tangible sources of uncertainty for which there is no timeline or end point. The seconds after a positive pregnancy test are, perhaps, the most frightening of all for me.

As all this runs through my head I know I’m rationalizing. As I posted on Twitter earlier today, to me, “BFN=certainty and BFP=anxiety.” I’m already setting up my own lose/lose situation. If my blood test is negative, sure I’ll have certainty, but I’ll also have failed at conceiving yet again. And, this would be even worse, because I’d be batting 0 for 2 for the first time given this cycle’s two perfect-appearing follicles. If I am pregnant, I’ll always feel the need to refer to myself as “technically” pregnant, and will anticipate that each hour, minute, or second will be the last one of my fourth pregnancy. Our psyches’ have a strange way of trying to maintain some semblance of stability, eh?

So, this is the moment I’m marking. A moment of the utmost clarity at my role, purpose, and importance in the infertility community, mixed with complete confusion as to the headspace I should currently be occupying.

At least Mr. But IF and I both had equally valid excuses for why we didn’t get so much as a card for one another for our 7th anniversary tomorrow. Because, yea, that’s good timing for a beta…

Pre-departure checklist

So, we leave for the Walk of Hope tonight.  I’m equal parts excited and exhausted just thinking about it.

The Walk itself will be brilliant, no doubt about it.  Last year I left with a sense of inspiration, hope, and optimism that was startlingly uncomfortable to this lifelong pessimist.  This year I’m rolling up prepared.  I’ve packed my happy shit-face grin, positive thoughts, and acceptance of outdoor group yoga.  I’m excited for a vacation from my self.

I’m also excited to leave the frigid north for a beautifully sunny and warm D.C.  I’ve never liked the heat and when I accepted this new gig last summer I embraced the climate change that came with it.  That is until, on our walk home from trivia night on Wednesday, JUNE FUCKING 19th, I saw frost on the grass.  Bring on the 90 degree weather, D.C., momma’s missed it!  Shorts and sandals?  Check and check.

And, finally, we get to see family and friends, revisit some of our favorite sites, and get out of Bedford Falls, Stars Hollow, the quiet little sleepy village we now call home.  My gift to my very newly engaged gal pal down south is packed as is my appetite for all things not the pizza, McDonald’s, and pub grub one can get in this town.

But, just thinking of the drive and lack of sleep ahead of us, and the missed opportunities behind me, has me a little weary.  Mr. But IF and I slightly amended our previously discussed travel plans.  Last night I threw a (can I blame this on PIO?) temper tantrum, and finally decided I wasn’t willing to go straight from our driveway to the Walk without access to a shower or a blow dryer.  I’m by no means a high maintenance gal, but I would like to have the opportunity to brush my teeth before mingling with my IF heroes.  So, the 6.5 hour midnight drive has been scrapped.  Mr. But IF leaves work at 7, we’ve got a hotel reserved along our drive, we’ll get to sleep around 12:30, and be back on the road by 6:30am to make it to the National Harbor in time.  That means I have the time between 5 and 7 this evening to check the oil in my car, get gas, pack, tidy the house, and all that jazz before I spend the next eternity on the road.  I’ve certainly cut things closer, but I fear I’m also packing a boatload of worry.

Bruise

My left abdomen. I call this “As the bruises turn.”

And the worry is likely packed right next to the needles and sharps container I’ll be bringing with us.  Anyone have tips on how to sneak off to a bathroom with your husband in his Aunt and Uncle’s house exactly at 7pm in order to have him jab you in the ass with a giant needle?  No-one?  In related news, you remember how upset I was about the Lovenox not being nearly as horrific as I was warned?  Let’s just be glad I don’t plan on wearing a bikini to the Walk.

I won’t, however, be packing the witty T-shirts I’d planned to make.  And this has me sad.  I’ve been mentally designing these things since April, and we even named our team around the t-shirt theme, but they are not meant to be.  Call it another casualty of moving to the frozen northern tundra.  I just couldn’t get my hormonal TWWing ass up to the craft store to get the iron-on transfers I needed. C’est la vie.

But that regret has me thinking of other regrets.  I’d love it if next year (because, we are certainly going again next year!) we could form a bigger team.  What can I say, ask my trivia team, I’m a competitive person at heart and our little team of two can’t contend with the big guns on the fundraising leader boards.  And, more importantly, I’d really love to share this experience with others besides Mr. But IF.  Next year, I’m packing my team.  And we WILL have t-shirts.

Finally, I wish I had broken my silence in our small town with the aim of doing a little more local/grassroots fundraising.  The burden has fallen unfairly on the backs of friends, family members, and other infertility sufferers, and I don’t doubt a box in our public library or on the counter of our regular hangout brewpub, or an announcement on our village’s social networking site would have resulted in some donations.  Navigating our IF during this move (both professionally and geographically) has been difficult.  When you live in a company town, your personal life has a way of getting straight back to your employer.  I don’t know if I’m ready for that yet.  We’ll reassess after my 3-year review.  So, I suppose, I’m also packing a little apprehension and uncertainty about my self-identified role as an outspoken IF advocate thrust into small town life.

But, the issue of my anonymity may have to be forced sooner rather than later.  It’s premature to say much, but I received a tremendously exciting email this morning.  Like, an I-let-out-a-little-squeal-in-the-middle-of-my-meeting-when-the-notification-popped-up-on-my-iPad email.  More details to come, but suffice it to say it’s about my work on this blog.  I’m equal parts humbled and speechless.  And, I’ll have to make room in my suitcase for my growing ego.

Next stop, National Harbor!

Up, down, all around

These past few days have been strange.  You know that thing where you feel like you are watching yourself from outside of your body?  Yea, that.  Since Friday I’ve felt sort of up, down, and all around.

The Up

I think I’m actually doing a decent job managing the TWW anxiety.  I’m just trucking on with my normal life with minor modifications, herbal tea instead of coffee, a butt shot after dinner, and a compulsion to eat all the things because the PIO and HCG booster combo have turned me into a bottomless pit.  Otherwise, life as usual.

One of the (very few) positive upshots of my cycle having been delayed three months, is that I’ve known for ages now what the protocol would be and what that would mean for my mental stability.  It was decided early on I’d start post-O HCG boosters, so the moment that decision was made I was starting to prepare myself for the fact that there would be no definite D-Day, no moment to circle on my calendar in big red marker, at which we would know with absolute certainty that I am or am not pregnant.  So, yes, my first beta is on Monday, and, yes, I’m sure I’ll worry about the result, but ultimately I know it is very unlikely that that first beta will say much of anything.  Barring the unlikely scenario that my beta comes back abysmally un-pregnant despite 4 HCG boosters over the past two weeks, all Monday will give us is a starting point.  It will be at least another week of blood draws before we know whether that starting point is the start of a few days or start of 9 months.

Honestly, I thought that this new booster head game would break me.  But, it’s largely done the opposite.  I’m not really living my life to a TTC wristwatch because I don’t know when I’ll get answers.  The timeline’s been removed from my life.  And, that’s oddly liberating.  Now, don’t get me wrong, each time my purse grazes my bruised and lumpy PIO butt, each time I decline alcohol at social events, each time I do my daily Crinone suppository, I do get the reminder that these are heady days.  Sitting at 9dpo implantation should have just happened, and I could actually be somewhat pregnant right now.  But, on we go with life as usual.

The Down

Though, not entirely life as usual.  I had actually mentally sketched out most of this portion of the post this past weekend, but something Mr. But IF said made me step away and cease writing it.  Rather than delve deep, I’m just going to skim the surface.

The weekend was hard.  Sunday was hard.  Father’s Day was hard.

A few week’s ago Mr. But IF G-chatted me the following:

random, but for some reason this year the father’s day stuff is getting to me like it hasn’t in the past

I pick on Mr. But IF sometimes for appearing more detached and less emotional about our infertility than I am.  I complain that he hasn’t raised the same amount I did for the Walk of Hope, I get cranky when he forgets and offers me coffee and beer, I roll my eyes when he doesn’t remember every doctor’s appointment.  But, you’ll notice, all my triggers are tangible things.  Fundraising, food, and appointments.  There’s a simple reason for this.  If pressed to think of examples of ways in which he’s emotionally checked out from this process, I’d be hard pressed to find any.  I’ve never once had reason to doubt his mental connection to this struggle.  I’ve seen the tears, I’ve heard the anger, I’ve witnessed the pain.  But, like many men, Mr. But IF may show his sadness, but he rarely speaks it.  Put simply, the Father’s Day comment caught me off guard.

When we talked about it later, the first thing he did was apologize for saying it.  As I said my own, “I’m so sorry,” he replied, “The last thing I want to do is make you feel worse.”  But here’s the thing, hearing my spouse speak of his pain doesn’t make me feel anything but a little surprised.  Startled because it’s not normal for him to initiate such conversations, but certainly not sadder (or even happier).  My pain is my pain and it is always here, just as I’m sure his is always there, so in no way does acknowledging a personal trigger or igniting a conversation change that pain.  I’ve been at my saturation point for a while now, so while there are peaks and valleys on the emotional line graph of my life, nothing anyone can do or say will change the unit of measure or enlarge the overall plot field.  And, I hope in reading this (if not in face-to-face conversation), Mr. But If accepts that.

As I said, I had a much longer post on this lone topic prepared, but I’ve scrapped it.  I don’t really need to belabor the fact that hearing the happy voices of our neighbors celebrating three generations of fathers in a backyard BBQ on Saturday stung my soul or waking up to the sounds of prop planes swooping overhead in conjunction with the village’s Father’s Day Planes and Pancakes breakfast resulted in instant tears.  And not only do I not need to drag on about those triggers, I absolutely shouldn’t.  I shed my tears on Mother’s Day, on Christmas, at family gatherings, on anniversaries – Mr. But IF deserves his own day of sadness, his own day of grief, his own day to hide from the world.  In frustration he said, “Don’t I get a day to be sad?” and it immediately made me realize that in expressing my sadness I’ve partially boxed out his.  The loudest and most persistent voice in the room should’t always win the battle.  I’ve got to find a way to let him eek out his own space to deal.  And, I’ll start with Father’s Day.

The All Around

Throughout the goods and the bads one thing has remained constant.  We’re busy.  Blissfully busy.  Distractedly busy.

We’ve carved out our summer into a million weekly rituals:

  • Monday night “Beer and Buffy” at our house with whatever assortment of friends wants to attend.
  • Tuesday day of rest and laundry.
  • Wednesday night trivia.
  • Thursday night game night at a colleague’s house.
  • Friday night happy hour.
  • Saturday Farmer’s Market.

I never considered myself a social or outgoing person, but having these distractions has been a tremendous blessing.  Sure, I had to have Mr. But IF give me my butt shot while our friends were eating on our back patio last night, but we’ve learned to roll with the punches.  And I’m getting good at making a mean mock-tail.  Now, if only the waitress at trivia would stop loudly proclaiming each week, “Wait!  You aren’t drinking AGAIN?”

This week promises to be particularly busy as we look forward to traveling 6.5 hours to the Walk of Hope this weekend.  I’m sure I’ll post much more on this later, but suffice it to say things got a lot more complicated in the past few days.  We used to live much closer to the Walk, so attended last year.  The combination of the amazingly positive experience we had last year, with the knowledge that a trip back this summer would provide a handy chance to visit with old friends and family, lured us back again this year despite now living over 6 hours away.  So, we signed up, we raised funds, we exceeded our fundraising goal.  Rock on.

But, as I’ve discussed before, since I uprooted us and moved us several states away from our home of the past 8 years last summer, Mr. But IF has had a lot of difficulty finding work.  I moved us to the middle of nowhere with a promise from HR that spousal hiring was “totally what we do,” and have watched my husband struggle mightily with trying to find a permanent position.  He’s currently working two jobs – a full-time temp job that ends June 30 and a permanent part-time job where they can only pay him for 9 hours/week.  The combo of two jobs leaves him working this Friday until 7pm.  No work, no pay, and with a recent bathroom renovation to pay for and having only been at the 9hr/wk job for a couple weeks, he’s not willing to take the time off.  And, I get it.  I really do.

What I wish I didn’t have to get is the fact that that means we have to somehow sleep, drive 6.5 hours, and get to the Walk between 7pm Friday night and 8am Saturday.  The best plan we could come up with?  Yea, we’re leaving here at 1am on Friday and going straight from our driveway to the National Harbor.  For those of you that will be at the Walk, I apologize in advance for my tousled hair, bad breath, and overall appearance of having slept in a car.  You’ll have to forgive me, but I will have, err, been sleeping in my car.  Sadly, this is not remotely the craziest thing we have ever done in the name of IF, so it’s all good.  In fact, what an exciting adventure!

We get to relax after that, though.  Time with family and friends including a newly engaged dear friend who I can’t wait to pamper with gifts and girl talk.  Exploring our nation’s capital (always one of our favorite past times).  And, yes, walking alongside some of the most awesome people in America.  Totally worth the drive!

Before I sign off for the day I’d be remiss not to mention that a RESOLVE supporter has agreed to match all new donations up to $5,000 to this weekend’s Walk of Hope made between yesterday (June 17) and Friday (June 21).  As I’ve said countless times before, I believe strongly in the mission of this organization, so I’d love to see a new fundraising record reached on Saturday.  If you have even a dollar to spare, please consider donating.  You can either donate to the Walk directly or send me a message to ask for the link to my personal fundraising page and contribute to my team.  Thanks in advance!

Fatty acids on board

This morning I returned to the RE for my first Intralipid infusion.  It was my first time at the RE since I triggered ovulation, and my first experience with Intralipids (ILs).  Despite a morning of firsts, it was a pretty boring event.

IV drip stand and bag with intralipids

My vein milkshake

I’ve been aware of ILs for a while now, but up to now have always had doctors who strongly poo-pooed both ILs and the entire world of immunological infertility and miscarriage.  Back in my young, naive, spry days I remember asking RE#1 about immune implantation failure and ILs or IVIG and his immediate response was, “Get off the Internet!”  My inner self replied, “As soon as you get your head out of your ass,” but I smiled, thanked him for his time (why do I do this when all I can think is what a waste of my time such visits are), and went home to bitch to my friends in the computer.  So, though RE#2 is by no means my favorite person in the world and he often makes me miss RE#1, I was happy to discover when pursuing his website before making our move that he did at least do some therapies aimed at the immune system.  Granted, he does no immune testing, his NPs and nurses no less about the therapies than I do, and he blindly moves all repeat loss patients (RPL) to his cookie cutter RPL protocol (Lovenox, Baby Aspirin, ILs) without a thought toward their history or medical background, but even when motives aren’t quite pure, the results can still be positive.  And, I’m feeling positive now that my own Intralipids are on board.

Intralipid is a brand name for a type of fat emulsion.  Basically, the “medicine” is comprised of soybean oil, egg yolk phospholipids, glycerin, and water, and is administered via an IV drip.  The substance was initially created to help nourish adults and infants who are unable to get sufficient nutrients.  At about 2,000 calories per infusion (ack!) that makes perfect sense.

Somewhere along the way, however, it was postulated that ILs could also correct immunologic dysfunction in the uteri (yes, hah, that’s the plural) of women experiencing infertility, repeat miscarriage, or repeat IVF failure with normal-appearing embryos.  As Dr. Braverman explains, “Intralipids have a suppressive action on certain components of the mother’s immune system, essentially safeguarding the embryo from the immune reactions which might otherwise result in a miscarriage.”  As the lucky recipient of two autoimmune diagnoses (Hashi’s and Raynaud’s), the sufferer of three miscarriages (including one 9 week loss of a normal-looking, strong heart beating almost fetus), and the owner of a set of crazy and yet undiagnosed autoimmune lab results, I’ve decided it’s time to throw everything there is at this trying to conceive shit and see what works.  I believe in my heart something immunological is happening to cause my abnormally low progesterone and HCG and to interrupt my pregnancies.  We know my immune system is already fucked by i’s propensity to attack itself, so why is it so strange to think it’s also attacking babies?  I’m loudly shaking my head along to Dr. Sher who writes, “In my opinion, it is very regrettable and unfortunate that so many patients are denied the ability to go from ‘infertility to family’ simply because (for whatever reason) so many reproductive specialists refuse to address the role of immunologic factors in the genesis of intractable reproductive dysfunction.”  Preach it Dr. S!  So even though medical researchers are still spouting the same, “appropriately controlled, large-scale, confirmatory studies are necessary,” hurry up and wait, I had 2,000 calories of egg yolk and soybean oil injected straight into my vein this morning.  Breakfast of champions indeed!

Now, normally ILs would be given a few days prior to ovulation, a few days after, and then again sometime in early pregnancy.  This is what I wanted, this is what we planned, this is the proper way of things.  But, when we mapped out this entire cycle back in March Intralipids were on a nation-wide back-order at every specialty pharmacy currently covered by my insurance.  I frantically messaged my NP through our patient portal, told her I couldn’t get the Intralipids, and asked what to do.  She replied with a simple, “Oh, yea, they’ve been backordered for a while now.  We’ll make do without them.”  I’m glad she was so fucking calm, because I most certainly wasn’t.  Then my high ANA was discovered and I was left hanging in the breeze, unable to try and conceive, stuffed full of birth control pills again, and waiting for the world’s most unhelpful doctor visit to pass me by in mid-May.  When this cycle started we reviewed the meds I had in my possession (those gathered for the March cycle that never happened), I got poked, I got probed, and the rest was history.

At my final follicle check before I triggered I had the “good” NP (and not the “chipper” NP, the “grumpy” NP, or the “clueless” NP I’d had for prior scans that cycle) and she dutifully asked me to review my history and the plan for the cycle.  I explained it all and she asked why we weren’t doing ILs.  I told her I’d tried in March but was told it was hopeless and there were none to be had.  She informed me that they had a new supplier and that I really should be doing them.  I agreed immediately.  She wanted to book me the next day (the day of my trigger) for my first infusion.  And here’s the hiccup.  First, the meds had to somehow be ordered, approved by insurance, paid for, and shipped across two states in under 24 hours.  Doable (I’ve done it with PIO before), but not exactly stress-free.  Second, and the bigger deal, I would need to take an entire morning off work with only a few hours notice.  With an hour drive each way to the doctor, and two hours spent in the chair receiving the drip, that’s at least a 4.5 hour absence.  I have freedom to take time as I need and my boss has been quite supportive, but I just couldn’t do it.  So, I didn’t get my pre-O dose in.  I’m not incredibly concerned about it, but I am annoyed by how it happened.  Between my baseline and my final scan I had 5 appointments with the RE to discuss my protocol, yet only at the last was this question (a question I would have never thought to ask myself) raised.  Once again, my treatment is being dictated by bad timing.  Next thing you know I’ll have the gall to miscarry again on a weekend!

The infusion itself was, I don’t know, what’s the word?  OK?  Fun?  Not terrible?  Oddly relaxing?  Honestly, it was probably my best trip to the RE because 1. no talked to me much, and 2. I didn’t have to take my pants off.  (Yes, the things that make for a very bad night on the town, make for a very good visit to the RE.)  It’s strange the things I worry about in advance of my appointments.  Last night I wasn’t remotely concerned about the infusion itself – the needles, the drip, the visual, the waiting.  What I was concerned about was what they were going to do with me, where they were going to set me, what my surroundings would be like.  I’ve complained before about my ski chalet fertility spa clinic, and this is perhaps a topic I should expand upon a little more in future weeks, but long story short, I hate feeling like I’m being pandered to, like my medical condition is being minimized, like only aggressive femininity is catered to by my fertility boutique.  The Bose speakers blasting tranquil bird and water sounds, the Keurig in the lobby, the overstuffed furnishings and fireplaces, and the spa out back do the exact opposite of relax me; they enrage me.  So, my biggest fear with the Intralipids was that they would set me in some dimly lit cave of tranquility while administering them and that the entire time I’d be getting increasingly annoyed that my fate had come to this.  Me, the gal who hates getting her hair done at a salon, the woman who’d prefer a beer and football to wine and a chick flick, left to fester in a doctor’s office most convincingly camouflaged as a day spa.  Talk about the awful things IF has done to me!

Typing with IV drip

I should definitely get overtime for this!

To my great pleasure, however, I was whisked away to a bright and sterile procedure room, instructed to sit in an exam chair that reclined to a lounge position, given a warm surgical blanket, and asked to review my history and sign several consents.  Once the IV was in I was handed the water bottle and laptop I’d smartly brought from home and more or less left to my own devices for the next 2 hours.  I got a little work done, worked on the questions I’ll be asking when Mr. But IF and I host our village’s weekly trivia night on Wednesday, and before I knew it time was up.  It would have been perfect save dealing with the pulseox monitor they required me to keep on my finger, which greatly inhibited my typing.  (I was hoping to post this from my chair this morning!)

Now we wait.  My first pregnancy blood test is a week from Monday.  Hopefully the milkshake my veins just drank in does some good, and even if it doesn’t my morning alone with my laptop and thoughts certainly did.

No pain head game

I never let a good thing go un-fretted about.

The protocol for this cycle is new, but largely old hat at the same time.  As I told my nurse last week, most of the meds aren’t foreign to me, but the fact that we’ve planned for them from the start and will be doing them with purpose is.  Despite my planner persona, the bulk of my prior cycles have been an incredible shit-show of changing things mid-stream only after realizing things aren’t going as they should be.  This is the first time I’ve gotten my clinic to agree that things never go as they should with me and that, in fact, an excess of caution is probably the best course of action in my case.  So, instead of waiting for terrible betas to get us to start HCG boosters, we’re doing them right away.  Instead of finding out that suppositories and Crinone do absolutely nothing for me, we’re going with PIO injections from the start.  Instead of waiting weeks upon weeks for Clomid to cause me to unexpectedly O one late-blooming follicle, we’re jumping both feet in and stimming with injects.  It’s been nice to have a plan and (more or less) be sticking to it.

One thing is brand new this time.  Lovenox.  An injectable blood thinner used for many things outside of infertility land, Lovenox is often prescribed to those with repeat losses, clotting disorders, or suspected/diagnosis immune implantation issues.  With three losses, an MTHFR diagnosis, and a fistful of autoimmune diseases under my belt, I pretty much demanded Lovenox this time around.  My RE would have automatically put it on my after another miscarriage as part of his one-size-fits-all repeat loss protocol (he, like many, don’t count my earliest loss as a “real” miscarriage), but I promised I was OK with being moved to the head of the class and skipping that waiting period.  Just give me the damn syringes already!

After a barrel-full of needles from my past and current cycle (PIO, HCG, Gonal-F, and Lupron) the whole, “Wait, you want me to inject myself?” thing faded long ago.  To be honest, I never had much of it to begin with.  Prior to my birth, my mom was a lab technician and regularly drew blood.  I like to imagine her in those days.  She worked in a large city hospital with a pioneering cancer research team in the 1970s.  I see her in her hospital uniform, working a productive day, sneaking pure lab-grade alcohol to the roof to share screwdrivers with her colleagues (true story), and partying with doctors and nurses a la Studio 54.  I’m sure the reality was much more mundane, but the photos, diaries, and overheard stories she left behind have provided fodder for my overactive imagination for a long while now.  Anyway, whenever I needed blood drawn as a child I was usually pretty chill with it.  My mom held me tight, explained what was happening, handed me my blankie, and, if all else failed, cussed out the failing phlebotomist who was hurting her daughter and just drew the blasted blood herself.  She wasn’t a shy lady.  Needles have never really bothered me.  And, once I got my Hashi’s diagnosis that was a Godsend since I started to spend so much time in the phlebotomist’s chair.

However, Lovenox is supposed to be a real bitch of a shot.  So much so that it had even me worried.  “It’ll burn like hell while injecting,” a friend in the computer warned.  “You’ll get a lot of nasty welts, lumps, and bruises,” my nurse cautioned.  For years I’ve read about the hell that is Lovenox.  I was armed with the knowledge that pushing the plunger slow is best, that the needles feel dull when entering the skin, that the air bubble at the top of the syringe shouldn’t be pushed out before you begin, that icing the spot would be my favorite curative, and that my stomach will look like a horror movie before it’s all said and done.  Last night was my first date with Senor Lovenox.  How’d it go you ask?

I kinda feel like I got left on my doorstep on prom night.  All dressed up and fully prepared for a moment to remember, only to feel confused and left behind.  After all that worry, all that preparation, all that time spent telling Mr. But IF he’d be scooping me a giant bowl of ice cream when it was all said and done, it was totally underwhelming.  Yea, it stung a little as it entered, but much less than your average bee sting.  Honestly, the Lupron injection site itch was much more annoying.  And the bruises I was guaranteed?  So far absolutely nothing.  Now the appearance of my ass after last night’s PIO injection is another story, but I’ve done PIO before and I know what that’s like.  All-in-all I guess I’m one lucky girl!

Except, now I fret anew because I’m a total loon.  As soon as I mentally uttered my, “That’s it?” with needle still in flesh, I jumped straight to, “Wait, did I do it wrong?”  Yes, dear readers, even when things go peachy keen and better than anticipated I find something to worry about.  I did the same with the PIO before this and the Clomid before that.  I was convinced for the longest time that my ass was so fat (it really isn’t) that the freaking huge PIO needle wasn’t long enough to get the intramuscular purchase it requires to do its thing.  And, when the Clomid didn’t make me totally bat-shit crazy and result in 5 million mature follicles I instantly worried.  Welcome to the land of IF, where things going right results in worried sleepless nights.

Well, not exactly sleepless nights.  Between the PIO, Crinone, and tonight’s first HCG booster I’ve got enough pregnancy hormones floating through my system right now to drop an elephant for a 2 week uninterrupted siesta.  I fell asleep on the couch last night at around 8 and slept straight through to the morning.  Sleep, it appears, is not a problem.  Oh shit, am I sleeping too much?  Is this a problem?

Clawfoot tub

New tile, new trim, new walls, glorious old tub (refinished).

So, that’s about that.  I’m in the boring early days of the TWW (3DPO today), I’m shooting up, I’m sleepy, my mom is my ’70s icon, needles don’t scare me, my over-analyzing everything does scare me, and I had vanilla ice cream last night.  Oh, and I have a bathroom again.  I plan on getting in this tub and never leaving.  Ok, I’ll still go to the Walk of Hope, but can we get someone to come take my beta on the 24 from this tub?  After a month and a half without a bathroom I need to make up for lost time!

The Sweet taste of praise and subsequent cravings

My heartfelt thanks to Lauren at On Fecund Thought for nominating me for the Super Sweet Blogging Award.  In addition to bravely recounting and reporting the deep pain and raw emotions she has experienced since her first pregnancy ended as a missed miscarriage this past March, Lauren’s blog also boasts one of my favorite titles in the blogosphere.  (I love me a pun, even when it’s rooted in pain.)  I found Lauren when I first started blogging and quickly discovered that her loss happened almost concurrently with my third miscarriage.  Over the past three months the emotions she has expressed in her blog have been both familiar and foreign at the same time.  Her words have made me critically examine my own oftentimes jaded and unemotional response to my third loss, and have powerfully reminded me of the women I was when I lost my first pregnancy in 2011.  I’ve certainly put up an emotional wall over the past two years – rarely stopping to grieve or hope.  Lauren’s words remind me that in protecting myself I may also be losing parts of my self, and encourage me to ask how much more am I willing to give to infertility?  Thank you, Lauren, for the nomination and for the inspiration that you provide to a bitter old infertile like me!

So, without further ado:

SUPER SWEET BLOGGING AWARD RULES

Super Sweet Blogging Award image

Thank the blogger(s) who nominated you. (check)

Answer 5 super sweet questions.

Include the Super Sweet Blogging award image in the blog post.

Nominate 12 other bloggers.

The questions:

1. COOKIES OR CAKE?

Ok, I’m gonna fess up.  The “super sweet” blogging award, while super sweet, was probably not the best one to nominate me for.  I kinda don’t do sweets.  I mean, if it’s a birthday I’ll chomp down an obligatory piece of cake or if I’m at a catered work event I’ll indulge in a peanut butter cookie, but generally speaking sweets aren’t my go to.  Give me a giant bag of potato chips any day over sweet treats like cookies or cake.  If forced?  Cookies.  More portable, more variety.  Though, if there were an option for pie, switch me to that team.  I married into a pie crazy family and have come to appreciate my birthday sour cherry pie from the mother-in-law.

2. CHOCOLATE OR VANILLA?

Vanilla.  Preferably with fresh fruit and hot fudge.  It’s healthy then, right?

3. FAVOURITE SWEET TREAT?

None of the above?  Probably shortbread cookies, though.  Not so much the eating but the making as it inevitably reminds me of days around the kitchen table with my mom.

4. WHEN DO YOU CRAVE SWEET THINGS THE MOST?

Rarely do, but when I do it’s usually a temporary and unexplained binge.  Kinda like the non-stop ice cream gorge-fest that’s been going on since the weather got warmer.  Though, that could also be the Gonal…

5. SWEET NICKNAME?

I’ve had many nicknames, but I’m pretty certain none of them were sweet.  😉

The nominations:

Wow, this the tough part.  I highly recommend all the blogs on my blogroll to the right and encourage you all to use the comments section here to recommend others.  As a means of a “I can’t take all this pressure” cop out, I’m going about this strategically.  I’ve been looking for a way to more fully give back to the many folks who have taken time out of their lives to leave a comment on this blog over the past several months.  So, here are my top 12 commenters with blogs (by number of comments left):

  • I first found Josey’s My Cheaper Version of Therapy when I blogged in response to her and another ALI blogger’s discussions of the differences between healing and finding resolution from infertility and developing infertility amnesia.  Since that time Josey has regularly stopped by here to wish me luck, commiserate, and lend a knowing ear.  After 21 months TTC and medical intervention she welcomed her daughter to the world in 2011.  She is now one of the (growing many) women I know in the ALI community who is pregnant with a naturally conceived second child after a much more difficult battle for sticky pregnancy number 1.  These stories always provide me with a hope I’m almost afraid to speak – that ever unspoken dream that this uphill climb will be rewarded and won’t be required when it comes time for number 2.
  • Melanie at Our Last Embryo was another early find in my fledgling blogging days and has been around for most of it both here and on Twitter.  We share an endometriosis diagnosis, a reproductive immunologist, and state of residence.  I wish, however, that fewer hours and miles separated us so that I could thank her in person for her support, and hug her tightly after her recent failed IVF cycle.  Melanie’s story regularly reminds me that terrible things too often happen to good people, but her strength and optimism fill me with certainty that her journey is far from over.
  • The first time Em from Teach Me to Braid commented on my blog she brought me to tears.  In response to my Join the Movement post for NIAW she wrote, in part, “What a powerful voice you have. You are a cornerstone in this movement.”  If there was any moment that made me feel that what I was doing with this blog was actually important, was more than just hubris, reading that comment was the moment.  Now, I think she over-sells me a bit, but I do agree with her on one point – we all have powerful voices and we need to find our own ways to use them most effectively.  Em is currently in the throes of TTC#2 and, while I’m sad to hear of her difficulties with the medical community, it’s also another refreshing reminder that I’m not alone in occasionally wanting to throw an MD or two out the window.
  • Rain Before Rainbow follows the ups, downs, and inbetweens of someone TTC#1 after two prior losses and an endometriosis diagnosis.  Notice any similarities here?  I find myself shaking my head to her posts far too often and her blog has been one that I regularly go back to.  She discusses with impressive clarity many of the emotional interpersonal/societal aspects of IF I’ve largely left out of my blog because I can’t quite gain the perspective on them that she has.
  • Even if she hadn’t nominated me, Lauren of On Fecund Thought would be on this list for all the reasons discussed above and more.
  • A Crack in Everything follows the IF journey of an aspiring single mother by choice.  After initially trying to conceive in 2008 with a partner with known fertility issues, a move and a consult and blood work with a new RE revealed that partner had HIV (that had thankfully not been passed on).  As she writes, “[…] our relationship ended, and it felt more like a death than a divorce. A lot of plans and dreams we’d shared also ended abruptly, all at the same time.”
  • Kitten at Yet Another Bitter Infertile boasts another of my all-time favorite blog titles, while also providing a brutally honest retelling of one woman’s perspective on infertility.  Trying to conceive since January 2011, Kitten has suffered both a miscarriage and a Stage IV endometriosis diagnosis.  I appreciate the mix of humor and non-IF posts she brings to her blog, and find myself commiserating with her as we’ve both had to deal with more than our fair share of delays lately.
  • Globetrotting Canadian ex-pat blogger Sadie of Invincible Spring frequently leaves me longing to travel thanks to the many travel photos that decorate her blog.  After a second trimester loss and two additional miscarriages, Sadie is one of the many whose time is long since over due.  While the travel pics lure me in and leave me drooling, it’s her humor and candor that bring me back again and again.
  • Sarah at The Mamas Rapscallion won me as a forever follower when I read the following: “I live with my beautiful wife, Tammy, and our adorable/asshole cat, Baker. We live in our recently purchased old house, which we attempt to keep from crumbling to the ground as we admire the charming crown molding.”  As the owner of two asshole cats and an old house that’s more crumble than walls, I felt an instant kinship.  Sarah is currently pregnant with her IVF bundle of joy and I couldn’t be fucking happier.  Oh, and I also love her potty mouth… reminds me of someone.
  • Erika of First Comes Love describes herself as “perpetually pre-pregnant” and I totally get that feeling.  I’m hoping her current break after four back-to-back treatment cycles does her good emotionally and physically and that she crosses into the land of pregnant and, better yet, post-pregnant very, very soon!
  • Another winner for bestest title ever is ImmotileTurtle.  A presence on Twitter as well, the Immotile Turtle discusses her life with the double whammy of PCOS and male-factor infertility.  We both started TTC on the younger side of things, both battle PCOS, and both severely dislike birth control.  I’m so anxious to follow along with her current IVF#2.
  • Last, but certainly not least, Whitney from Whitney & Erick is an inspiration due to her tireless work for the infertility community and total openness and transparency on her and her husband’s path to parenthood.  After 7.5 years, 3 IUIs, 2 surgeries, 6 IVF cycles, and 5 miscarriages, Whitney and Erick are currently expecting twins via surrogacy.  Whitney volunteers for RESOLVE and was honored by them as an “Infertility Hero” in 2012.  She served as the vice co-chair of Advocacy Day in 2013 and will co-chair in 2014.  During this year’s NIAW she and her husband bravely shared their story in the Roanoke Times.  What can I say?  She’s an IF rockstar.  Thanks for all that you do, Whitney and Erick!

So, many thanks to all the above for stopping by and commenting on this blog over the past several months.

I have to say, when I got the nod for the Super Sweet Blogging Award I was equal parts honored and reminded of elementary school chain letters and the earliest of email spam due to its “rules.”  However, when I realized participating would give me a way to thank those that have supported me, while also (hopefully) driving increased traffic to these amazing blogs I was suddenly all on board.  So, I participated despite visions of animated GIFs, personal Geocities sites, and instant messages of a/s/l? floating in my head.  This is a long way of saying, don’t feel compelled to participate in kind if you don’t want to; you’ve all already given so much already!

And, the sweet cravings

The other thing this nomination and subsequent exercise has me thinking about is how I can better drive traffic to my own lowly blog.  I feel like I’ve hit saturation levels via my current means and, at the risk of sounding totally narcissistic and needy, I know there are probably others out there going through what I’m going through that would appreciate reading the ramblings of this stimmed-up madwoman.  Don’t get me wrong, I will continue to write whether 1 or 100 are following, but find me an academic that wouldn’t prefer their work to be widely read and their journal’s impact factor to rise.  What can I say, my ego’d like to hit another all-time viewership record.  Would you all mind helping me out? :-)