Where the hell have I been, right? A number of you have reached out to me and for that I’m immensely grateful. Doubtlessly others of you have raised a virtual eyebrow at my sudden absence. (You have, right? Ah, how I love narcissism!) Again, I thank you. To the rest that haven’t noticed, I thank you as well for caring enough to follow my story in the first place. And about here is where the positive happy-sounding elements of this post will end.
I’ve kind of been a mess lately and I’m struggling with exactly how to approach this post. Writing from a raw place – an emotionally and physically overwhelmed place – is no small task. But, the longer I let the feelings fester, the longer I leave the blog unattended, the more overwhelming it all becomes. I started this blog as a way to channel my feelings and emotions into something both productive and therapeutic, and it’s been a great fit for the emotional needs I’ve had. Life got busy, I stopped blogging, and my cycle started. Having those three events occur simultaneously was not a good thing. Without the ability to blog about my fractured psyche and my increasingly bruised body, the mental and physical scars had no access to the healing power of getting it all out onto virtual paper. At the same time, as the screen remained blank, my treatments continued, and the prospect of returning to this blog for just a simple update became overwhelming given the range of emotions and events that have occurred in the past week. My forum for maintaining sanity had become yet another element on the to-do list that contributed to exhaustion, frustration, and depression. It’s strange how that happens – how things that help can hurt in equal measure. How a call or a message from a loving friend can feel like stacking one more weight on a body already overburdened. How the offer of a back rub or a home-cooked dinner from a worried husband can make you feel like the steam engine of your life is running perilously low on water and edging ever closer to disaster. How a much-needed blog can turn into your own Frankenstein’s monster hellbent on destroying it’s maker.
Last week work was busy. It was the type of week that would have challenged me whether in treatments or not, but having that week coincide with the onslaught of early morning drives to the RE, the phone tag and unanswered online portal messages, and the daily hormone injections that are the day-to-day of an infertility patient was brutal. Friday offers a wonderful case study. The day earlier I had stayed at work late into the evening preparing for the following day and, as a result, delaying my 7pm date with my needles. I ran home, shot up, shoved some food in my mouth, and went to bed. I awoke on Friday at 5am to be showered and dressed by 6am to be in the car and on the road for my 7am appointment 50 miles away to be wanded and pricked by 7:30am to drive the hour back to work by 8:30am to begin my day. Oh, and because of my important day at work I got all gussied up which, in retrospect, was not the best idea. My pantyhose came off for Mr. Wandy and, having the constant fear that I do that the nurse will bring the next eager patient in on the fertility clinic conveyor belt before I’m zipped up and out of the exam room, I opted not to put them back on until the coffee shop bathroom halfway home from my drive. (Yes, the coffee shop where my sleep deprived self drooled over the enticing aroma of that amazing black elixir that is now verboten to barren me.) But, the coffee shop stop was still a necessity because I needed somewhere other than the open country roads to try and get the ultrasound gel off my wrap dress. Mr. But IF laughs at my demeanor when alone in the exam room, but years of practice have bread utter complacency about the ins and outs of morning probings. I always hop off the exam table, scoop up the paper sheet that is useless as a sheet but brilliant as a human-sized paper towel, shove that sheet up the hoo to clear out the blue goo, dump the sheet in the waste bin, ruffle around in the exam room drawers for a pantyliner (why are they in different drawers in different exam rooms?), and commence re-dressing. Maybe it’s this somewhat elaborate bare-assed clean up regimen that makes me worry that the next patient can’t be far behind me? Anyway, it’s my routine, and in the years since I’ve practiced it I’ve gotten far less goo on my panties, had fewer moist drives home, and worn my fair share of free pantyliners (sure, I have my own in my purse at all times, but something at the RE should be free and if this is all there is you better believe I’m raiding their shelves). However, on Friday something went awry. In my hurried zeal to mop up Wandy’s remains with the sheet my dress got sandwiched between gooey hoo and sheet. This is 1. why I should never wear a dress EVER, 2. why I decided the pantyhose were staying in my purse, and 3. why I was praying for half an hour that the coffee shop bathroom would have paper towels not an air dryer. So before my busy day at work had even started I’d emptied a public restroom of paper towels and ate a delicious my-life-is-so-fucked bagel. And that was just Friday.
Work finally died down on Sunday in time for my second follicle check on Monday. Since I’d worked long hours the previous week and through the weekend I had already decided I wasn’t going in on Monday. I scheduled my appointment for later in the day and actually got a decent amount of sleep for once. I also was able to plan to run a few errands in the big city where my clinic is because I usually don’t have that opportunity when running up and back for 7am appointments. Arrive at clinic, shell out co-pay, make awkward small talk with the overly talkative receptionist, sit in what Mr. But IF has named our “angry rocking chairs of doom” (aka the only chairs in the waiting room that aren’t oversized and overstuffed to the point of hilarity when my 5’4″ frame sits in them), and wait. Hear my name, run to exam room, blood out, pants down, sheet on, and wait. Knock on the door, shit its the idiot, tight-lipped NP, double shit she’s got a 20-something resident with her, and triple shit the resident’s doing the scanning. Verdict? “Well you’ve got some stubborn ovaries don’t you?” Judging by the NPs tone I was expecting her to suggest intentional self-drowning in the
spa fertility center’s obnoxious “pond of tranquility” as the final solution to both my “stubborn ovaries” and her misfortune at having to put up with me and said ovaries. “Put your pants on and I’ll be back with instructions.” On they go and I’m left wondering what was seen on the ultrasound since nothing has yet been discussed with me other than a less-than helpful personification of my lady-bits. When the NP reappeared she told me to double my dose and return in a few days. I balked at that news since the visit prior (gooey hooey dress visit) I had been warned I was developing too many follicles by a different NP. I noted that I would not proceed with the planned intercourse cycle if I developed too many mature follicles (in my mind, more than 2 is too many!) and asked her what she saw that justified the drastic dose increase. She said I still had 7 or 8 follicles of about equal size but they weren’t growing quick enough and, “We have to do something with you, we can’t just keep treading water.” She seemed utterly amazed that I would cancel a cycle with too many follicles (this, methinks, is why the clinic’s multiples rate is astoundingly high) and finally, unhappily, agreed to move a little slower and up me one click of the dial on my stim pen, instead of outright doubling. So, I’ve been on the new dose since Monday.
All in all, it wasn’t that bad of an appointment, but I still found myself ten minutes later crying uncontrollably in the parking lot. I cried from the parking lot to the Singer repair store where I got my shit together and dropped off my busted sewing machine. I cried more from the sewing shop to the Staples parking lot where I plastered on a smile and tried to drop off my FedEx package only to find they didn’t accept packages that big. I cried even more about my follicles and my FedEx failure until I reached a FedEx drop off site where I parked next to a dad tucking his little one into a car seat. I dropped the package quicker than if it had been made of molten lava and Googled the nearest Starbucks in this unfamiliar town. I’m not even a Starbucks fan, but there isn’t one within 45 minutes of my home and after weeks of being good and 15 minutes spent listening to criticisms of my ovaries I was in the mood for a little self-sabotage. If I couldn’t down a fifth of Scotch before the hour drive home, at least I could wallow in a Frap. Through tears I followed Google to said Starbucks only to find… no Starbucks. I laughed through the tears at the prospect of being the only woman on planet Earth who couldn’t find a Starbucks, and started the long drive home.
Yesterday, I again stayed home from work and watched a season’s worth of The West Wing while drinking tea and being warmed by my aging cat. Today I’m working, but my mind is still traveling at the speed of molasses and each visitor to my office makes tears line up just behind my eyes despite the decent news I received from my scan this morning. 8 follicles, 2 strong leads at 15 and 14, with an anticipated trigger date of Friday. Good thing Mr. But IF is used to performing through my sadness.
I’m not sure what is causing the funk, but the options are plenty. The stimulation meds could be impacting my thyroid which could be causing these not unfamiliar feelings of worthlessness and overwhelming lethargy. The stimulations meds themselves, and the estrogen level they’ve caused that is now more than double my normal estrogen level, certainly aren’t helping any. Or, quite frankly, I could just be reacting in a totally predictable way to my totally unpredictable situation. The grief of infertility is unlike any other that our socialization prepares us to face. When my mother died in 2002 I wailed, I mourned, I burned with rage, and I went numb with sadness. As the days, weeks, and months wore on, however, a new life developed in the place of the old. It was a life that would not, could not by the very fact of nature include my mother, and despite my deep and utter sadness at the realizations that she would not see me graduate from college, she would not be at my wedding, she would not hold my child, as time passed on I silently revised my visions of my future to include her absence. Even a decade later I’m still often angry and sad in equal measure at the phone calls I don’t get, the visits I don’t make, and the birthdays I can’t celebrate. These emotions ebb and flow with the days and the moments, and last weekend was a hard one as I grocery shopped and paid bills on what should have been her 59th birthday. But, despite it all, she will never be a part of my life on this Earth again, and a decade goes a long way toward granting me acceptance of that fact. Infertility is an entirely different ballgame. I constantly feel the need to live two different presents as I speculate on two very different futures. There is the one where I have children somehow and someway, and the other where I don’t. Nearly 4 years in I can’t begin the process of acceptance because I don’t know what it is that I’m accepting. Will the 5am drives result in a child or more heartache? Will I ever be the mother tucking her child into a car seat in some strip mall parking lot or will I always be left crying in the next spot over? Will children play in our backyard or will we forever mow the lawn of a yard that could be much more, that represents so much more, that is a living emblem of the backyard birthdays we can’t have? It’s easy to blame the meds, but if I’m being truthful with myself I know why I’m numb. This is the same numbness I felt in the early days after losing my mom, the same shutting down of synapses and socialization that accompanied my grief at the irrevocable alteration of my future. And I’m experiencing it because I think I’m starting to accept that I need a definite future to focus on and there’s only one future option that is within my reach. Quitting treatments and accepting a child free life is the only future I can control myself. The alternative is to keep living two lives, two futures, forever hoping for one but preparing for the other. And if there is anything sci-fi has taught me it’s that we can’t live two realities without ultimately being torn apart by the paradox.