United in stunned disbelief: A blog rec

I’ve kinda been all over the place lately.  I spent my first 3 nights away from N this past weekend.  I had to go out and start attending to my dad’s house.  (The sheer volume of mouse droppings on his countertops when I dragged myself in the door after an epically bad 8.5 hour drive assured me that the trip was necessary.)  All three of the ButIf’s, not the least of which the littlest ButIf, have been sick off and on since at least November.  The hubs and I, both still recovering from last month’s pneumonia diagnoses times 2, are struggling to identify our roles as parents, to find a schedule somewhere in this life that has absolutely refused to be scheduled.  Dealing with orphanhood has also been weighing me down.  Not just the obvious emotional toll, but also the medical bills, the calls to the estate lawyer, the drive to pick up the cremains, the arguments with water companies that expected his bill to be paid on time despite the fact that their customer died the day before his bill was due…  I digress.  But, finally, my health has also been a constant elephant in the room.  I’m in pain a lot these days.  Surely all the driving and the physical exertion at my dad’s house isn’t helping, but no 31 year old should hurt this much.  Tingling hands, aching legs, the reemergence of the hip rash, weighing 10 pounds heavier at 9 months postpartum what I did the day I delivered, a back that causes constant, sleepless pain.  Next week’s rheumatologist appointment can’t come soon enough.

But, as I circle the wagons in preparation for another battle with medical professionals (albeit one that I still have some respect for), it’s causing me to reflect on my experiences with the medical field.  To put it simply, I’ve been failed just so many times.  And the cause hasn’t really mattered.  What unites my experiences navigating the medical diagnoses of infertility, repeat miscarriage, endometriosis, Hashimoto’s, PCOS, and my as of yet undiagnosed spondyloarthropathy is one thing – I’ve had some truly baffling responses lobbed at me.  The college health center MD who, upon first suggesting PCOS as the reason for my missing menses, casually stated to 20-year-old me, “You’ll be infertile, but otherwise you’ll be fine.”  The PCP who recommended a hobby and counseling would cure my uncontrollable and unexplainable weight gain.  The OB/GYN nurse who spent 10 minutes badgering me to tell her exactly which prenatal vitamin I’d been taking, even though she knew that day’s appointment was the one at which I’d be told that I needed to terminate the suspected ectopic pregnancy I’d been carrying after 18 months of trying.  The phlebotomist who offered to be my surrogate because, “I get knocked up whenever my husband looks at me!”  The other OB/GYN who, upon learning I’d relocated to the area, was infertile, and was going to be pursuing more infertility treatments, kept talking to me about the REI in the big town up the road (apparently years of medical school and residency in the field of obstetrics didn’t dissuade her of the notion that one goes to a sporting goods store to treat infertility).  The rheumatologist who told me she couldn’t help me until my disease had progressed to the point that I could no longer function.  The common thread is the sheer WTF-ness of it all.

And, I’m not alone.  That’s why I was happy to stumble upon the new blog You Need a New Doctor.  There’s a few things that sharing these truly horrifying stories can do.  They instill solidarity in those of us who have endured them, they let us know that (sadly) we are far from alone.  They give us a chance to laugh (or cry) along with a community of fellow-travelers.  They shame a system that has repeatedly failed us.  They inspire us to help make the system change.  They let external observers in on the dirty little secret that one person’s “unfortunate bad experience” is, in fact, an entire community’s burden.  We can do better.

So, please check it out.  And, while you’re there, check out my own submission about my third miscarriage – Thanks for the Jar?

Finding me

How many times have I made promises to write more?  To return to the blogosphere?  To reinvigorate my Twitter presence?  Too many.  Far too many if you count the silent thoughts that went unrecorded.  So, this is definitely not me making more promises I won’t keep…

But, I had a realization yesterday.  As I sat with my therapist and reviewed dad’s health (re-hospitalized, poor, and fading), N’s sleeping (non-existent), my marriage (strained), my career (overwhelming), and my health (rocky and ignored), she said something that surprised me.  As much as I’ve come to respect and embrace my need for our sessions, I’ve still always subconsciously conceptualized therapy as a highly narcissistic thing.  What could be more self-centered than an hour exploring the self?  So it felt out of left field when she observed that I seem the happiest when I’m helping others.  Was this just a compliment to help walk me back from the edge that’s become my life?  Had I really fooled her into thinking of me as this give give giver?

But, then, I really mulled it over.  Who am I now?  Who am I beyond a grieving daughter and proud mother?  What makes me me?  What makes me happy?

It’s then that I realized that, where others have hobbies, I have the cause of infertility.  The drive to help the young and chronically ill.  To walk others through the minefield that is an undifferentiated autoimmune diagnosis.  And, I miss that part of me.

Infertility can never be “cured,” but it can recede into the shadows.  It absolutely has for me, especially since the tumult of September.  And, a large part of what makes me me went with it.

I miss my RESOLVE support group.  I miss who I was when I was sitting in the front of that often very crowded hospital conference room.  I miss discussion forums and surprise questions from Facebook acquaintances and teary phone calls from women’s whose menstrual cycles I knew as well as my own.  Being an infertility advocate was my club sport, my crafting, my recreational time.  It’s left an odd void.

Yet, my relationship with infertility is still forever changed thanks to my son.  I can’t go back and feel those feelings as deeply, as wholly, and as painfully as I once did.  They, too, are shadows of what they once were.  And that makes me feel like an intruder in my own identity.  A fraud.

I need to rediscover my role in this community.  Because, yes, my therapist is right.  No past time makes me smile brighter or cry harder than advocating for the rights and opportunities of young women facing infertility and autoimmune disease.

In a wonderful stroke of coincidence, this realization has dawned just as announcements of RESOLVE’s Advocacy Day 2015 hit the airwaves.  I can’t fully commit to attending just yet – my life is a whirl of unanswered questions thanks to cancer – but I pledge now to try and make it this year.  Won’t some of you join me?

Survivor’s guilt (even if pre-survival)

Three realizations converged today (well, four if you count my new awareness of what the moist parts of your eyes and nostrils do in a -35F windchill).

First, I woke feeling lost about what to do with this blog in the new year.  I’ve had checking in here on my list of things to do for ages now, and even with ample down time over the holidays, I still couldn’t muster a post.  It came to a head this morning because I did actually, in theory, have something to write about.  Baby But IF gave us our first serious scare yesterday (well, aside from the constant, skull-numbing, miscarriage fears I’ve had since the moment I saw that flash of white shoot across the ultrasound screen on the day of our embryo transfer).  I won’t belabor the point (yet? ever?) but did y’all know that it’s common to have blood pressure dips in pregnancy?  I surely didn’t as I gingerly walked down the stairs to tell Mr. But IF that I thought I was dying yesterday morning after a post-vomit check-in with his blood pressure cuff gave me a starling 86/57 result.  So yea, I thought today, there’s something to chat about.  There’s an update worth mentioning.  There’s a way to contribute something of worth that might help someone in the future.  But no, I almost immediately decided, this blog is not the place to gloat about my (totally blown out of proportion) brush with death.  That’s totally inappropriate.

A few hours after making that decision, I read Dogs Aren’t Kids’ recent post “I’m an Asshole.”  And, what can I say, it resonated.  It wasn’t until about halfway through the post that I realized that I’m the hated and not the hater in this scenario.  And, that realization stung.  Not because her words hurt me (they absolutely didn’t), but because it felt like it was taking away part of who I am, part of what I define myself as.  You succeeded, Dogs, and this post is tremendously brave.  I just feel lost because I don’t know how to be brave myself anymore.  How to morph my IF activist self into a pregnant IFer with any semblance of credibility.  I stared at the empty text box for an hour, struggling to phrase a comment, find the words to un-self-righteously convey a “Fuck yeah! Damn straight!” on her blog as I chugged my Metamucil and wondered whether those flutters low in my abdomen are what I’ve started to think they might be.  Ultimately, I closed the tab.  I ran away.  I was decidedly un-brave.

Finally, it came together when a member of another IF “grads” board I’m on posted the Huffington Post’s blog “A Twin Mom’s Post-Infertility Survivor Guilt.”  As I wrote on my wall when I shared the article on Facebook:

Nothing more to say but “Yep,” “yep,” and “yep” (and I’m not even close to delivering or even fully accepting that we’ll get to meet this little one yet)!

I’ve actually used the AA chip analogy in therapy sessions before.  A few weeks ago my therapist asked (with no hidden agenda or any other motivator but to continue our conversation), “Why does membership in the ‘infertility community,’ as you call it, matter so much?  What makes you so fearful about leaving that part of your life behind?”  I stumbled quite a bit at that one.  Me, that usually has an answer planned for every possible question, for every contingency — I just froze.  I mumbled something about being true to myself, about wanting our struggle to help other people, about how I’ll never be able to forget what we’ve been through.  Ultimately I formed my own version of the AA analogy.  Though, in my version of IF AA you would get to stay a member forever… I’m just not quite sure how that happens just yet.

Then I got to Goldberg’s commentary on her shower.  She writes, “Years later, when my mother-in-law sent out invites for my own baby shower — for twins, no less — I had to stop myself from launching a follow-up email apologizing, saying something like, please, don’t feel obliged to come. People did come, though, with heaping bags of registry loot.”  That one hit me straight in the gut.  When we were home for the holidays my MIL announced she’d be throwing me a shower.  She asked when I’d like it to be, what I’d like, and who to invite.  My first thought was, “I can’t think about this yet, we still don’t know if this pregnancy will last!,” and my immediate second thought was, “Oh God, even thinking about going to my own shower is overwhelming and filling me with dread and bitterness!”

I have some confessions to make.  Namely:

  • I still loathe pregnant women.  Like give them dirty glares from across the aisles at the grocery store levels of hate.
  • I’m terrified of the day I really start showing.  It will truly be open season for talking to me about my pregnancy.  A few have tried it already, and I keep replying to all questions in hushed whispers, all the while suspiciously looking around to make sure no one can overhear me. This from a woman that gladly discussed infertility, IVF, IUI, timed intercourse, cervical mucus, miscarriage, hell, you name it, loudly and proudly in crowded bars and restaurants.
  • After four years of being anal retentive about every drug, calorie, drink, or thought I put into my head (Could this saucer of soy sauce make it less likely for us to conceive?  Will half a cup of coffee impact the effectiveness of Clomid?), I’ve been startlingly hands off about this pregnancy.  I’d love to say it’s because I’m just that cool and relaxed about it all, but, if I’m being honest, I had that sushi on December 23rd and that second cup of coffee on Tuesday because I can’t bring myself to act pregnant.  I’m still so certain it won’t last.
  • I’m ashamed to discuss the preliminary baby names we’ve agreed upon with friends and family.  Not for the usual reason – you know, the fear that someone will hate them – but more because it feels like an act of smug arrogance.  Frankly, I’d love for them to argue with me about hating the name because fighting back is something I’m pretty damn good at these days.  Having happy, lighthearted conversations isn’t.
  • And, perhaps the deepest, darkest secret of them all, I’m actually excited.  I’m fascinated with my hardening belly, the flutters I think just might be something other than gas, the sound of my doppler, and (once the sheer panic dissipated) even the threatened black out yesterday.

And, that’s what today has given me.  I don’t know what this blog is for, or even who would want to read it anymore.  I don’t know how I can live life infertile and pregnant at the same time.  I don’t know if the survivor’s guilt will fade or if I even want it to.  All I do know is that I’m here, I’m infertile, I’m pregnant, and I’ll likely be trying to figure it all out for the rest of my days.  Why else is life worth living if not for growth, reflection, and reinvention?

Round Two: The Sunshine Award

No, not one, not two, but THREE of you nominated me for the Sunshine Award over the past several weeks.  Um, guys, my eyes are getting a bit misty…

But, seriously though, how have I fooled you all in to thinking that I’m that type of blogger that brings sunshine to the cloudy IF days?  I have to assume you all nominated me out of a wicked sense of contrarianism.  And, frankly, that’s pretty awesome.

The “rules” of accepting the Sunshine Award are as follows:Sunshine Award

  • Include the Sunshine Award icon in your post
  • Link to the blogger who nominated you
  • Answer 10 questions about yourself
  • Nominate 10 other bloggers to receive the award and invent 10 questions for them to answer
  • Link to your nominees and let them know about the nomination

 

Kitten’s Questions:

On October 4 (OMG, really?) the inspiring Kitten of Yet Another Bitter Infertile nominated me for the award.  (And, I do mean inspiring.  Did ya’ll see how she rallied the troops to take on the evil troll that attacked her and all of greater infertiledom via her comments sections yesterday?)

1.What odd routines or rituals do you have?

Hrmm, I don’t actually think I have that many.  I hate to repeat something I wrote yesterday, but honestly the only one I can think of right now has to do with my medication regime.  In order to remember which side to administer my Lovenox and PIO on each night I’ve used a system of even date left side, odd date right side.  Even numbers are CLEARLY better in all regards, as is the left side because my name starts with an L.  Thus, even left, odd right.  :-)

2. What’s your favorite Halloween costume that you’ve worn?

Oh, so many!  My mom was a SAHM-supreme and hand-sewed all my costumes.  I loved the yearly routine (oh, another routine!) of going to the fabric store every September, picking out the pattern I wanted, having her make it and constantly need to fit it, and then getting to show off my total uniqueness every Halloween.  Though it makes me cringe looking back on it, I think my fav ever at the time was my ballerina pig costume.  In hindsight, not the best choice for a portly 11 year old, but at the time I thought it was perfect.  A tulle tutu, ribbons lacing up my point shoes, adorable pointy ears!  It was a good choice, too, as it snowed that Christmas and that full pink felt suit was super warm!

3. What do you think of people who eat soup on a sweltering hot day?

Why not?  If it’s what sounds good go for it!  Plenty of societies in hot climates have amazing hot soup traditions!  Nothing better than a hot bowl of spicy Pho on an August afternoon!

4. Favorite song to sing at the top of your lungs?

I’m not much of a singer, to be honest.  If I’m in the right mood (rare) I’ll happily belt along to whatever’s on the radio when I’m alone in the car.  I can’t resist anything from the Moulin Rouge soundtrack.  I blame high school.

5. Have you ever stolen anything?

Wow, I’m a dork.  Not really?  I mean, I definitely help myself to my employer’s paper and mailing envelopes (shhh!), but does that even count?

6. Be honest – Have you read 50 Shades of Grey?

Nope.  I have limited time and energy to read for pleasure (which is unfortunate, seeing as I do love reading), so when I have the time you better be sure I’m reading a book I think I will like!

7. What’s something that made you laugh so hard you peed (or nearly peed) your pants?

Oh man, I totally did this once when I was younger.  Maybe about 11 or 12?  My dad was telling a story about my aunt’s beat-up car.  I can’t remember what was so funny about it, but I started laughing (and peeing) and couldn’t stop.  One of the most embarrassing moments of my life.  Ever.  I’m turning red just thinking about it…

8. What book(s) are you reading right now?

Track of the Cat (first Anna Pigeon mystery) – m’eh.  The Winter King by Thomas Penn – quite good, and an era of history I know little about.  Living Well with Autoimmune Disease by Mary Shomon – rereading select sections for millionth time with eye toward answering my ANA and pregnancy questions.

9. How do you pronounce “aunt”? (ahnt or ant?)

It’s the black crawly insect all the way.

10. What do you see in this image?

A crown?  My super duper princess crown.

 

Hope’s Questions:

A few weeks later (yet still an embarrassingly long time ago) Hope at A Crack in Everything also named me as a nominee.  A fiercely strong woman (seriously, check out her bio), it was an honor to get this nod from her.

1. Where do you feel the most at home (other than, you know, in your actual home)?

Wow, maybe I don’t feel at home anywhere but my home?  What kind of a sad statement is that?

2. What song brings back good memories?

Pretty much anything released between 1999 and 2004 is sure to have some sort of memory attached to it.  Most are good, though some aren’t!

3. When did you know that you were ready to have children?

2008.  The mister and I had been together for 6 years, married for 2, and had been in our new home for 1.  Of course, we waited two more years to start trying (partly under the advice of a GP who ran a few incorrectly timed blood tests and told me that the fact that I never got periods would have no negative impact on my fertility).  2013 is drawing to a close and we may actually be finally rounding the corner to parenthood.

4. What’s your next big (non-child-related) goal?

Tenure.  (Vomit.)

5. What’s one of your pet peeves?

Only one?  Hehe.  Probably bad spelling.  God invented spell check for a reason.  Sigh.

6. What’s one of your favorite keepsakes?

Right now I’m holding on dearly to my most recent ultrasound picture!  Longer term, though, it’s probably the silly vending machine ring that Mr. But IF used to propose.  He’d ordered the real deal in enough time for it to get to him for our anniversary, but some wires got crossed at the jewelers and it came a week late.  He proposed with a plastic ring that came out of a vending machine in one of those see-through balls.  He tucked the receipt for the real ring inside the ball as well.  It was a perfect memory and a perfect keepsake.

7. Cats or dogs?

No question.  Cats.  Dogs?  Pshaw!

8. If you could live in any other place or time, what would it be?

I always wanted to live in another time, though IF has largely changed that.  My life would be a lot different right now were it not for artificial reproductive technologies and the support networks that have developed on the Internet!  Though, a part of me still wishes I could be held to a 1950s dress code (c’mon, hats!) and that being a SAHM was still a reality for the masses.

9. If you had money to give away, who would receive it?

Half to my in-laws, half to a trust to dole out support for treatments and adoption for the IF women I’ve grown to love.

10. When was the last time you laughed really hard?

Last night.  We had a friend over for dinner.  We were talking bad television.  A story involving a medical show, a Viagara mishap, and a med student applying pressure to an erect penis.  I love my friends.

 

Johanne’s Questions:

Finally, Johanne over at My Hope Jar also gave me the nod a few weeks ago.  Her focus on creating a “Community of Hope” is beautiful, and more important than I can put into words.  Why do we feel the need to hide our losses away?

1. Why do you blog?

Because I’m a narcissist?  Really, truly I do it because it’s cathartic.  It let’s me get it all out in a “me me me” sort of manner without having to feel guilty about burdening others, without worrying that my words might sting the individual I’m talking to, without censoring myself.  The blog is public because I truly feel that others can find comfort and kinship through my selfish words.  I sure know I did when I first found blogs like A Little Pregnant and The Infertility Voice.

2. What is your favorite movie?

I don’t know that it’s my super-duper all time hands-down favorite, but now that we’re getting to that time of year again I definitely have to give a shout-out to Love, Actually.  That movie came out the Christmas after the Christmas we lost my mom to cancer.  It mattered so much to me at that time, and still does to this day.  (Though, I do have to fastforward through the Sarah and Karl parts.)

3. What is your favorite food?

I wish I could say something gourmet like Sushi or Thai or fresh-organically-grown-farm-raised-whatever, but there’s honestly not much better in this world than a Pittsburgh-style steak salad.  Iceberg lettuce, french fries, strips of perfectly cooked steak, mountains of shredded cheese, and a gallon of ranch dressing?  Dear God, I’m hungry!  I can haz move back to Pittsburgh now?

4. What is your favorite thing or memory about your spouse?

My favorite thing is his intelligence.  I love that he challenges me at every turn, and that there is literally no topic of conversation he won’t go down.  My favorite memory still has to be the first time he walked me to my dorm after history class.  We stood outside my door talking for easily an hour, and at that moment I knew he was someone far more special than I’d ever given him credit for.

5. What do you do to relieve stress?

Veg out in front of the TV and cross stitch.  It’s such a good distraction.

6. Who or what inspires you?

All of you!  This IF stuff is hard.  It’s totally no joke.  The fact that any of us are still standing is, quite frankly, a miracle!

7. What is your biggest fear?

Aside from never being a parent?  Heights, probably.  Just can’t stand them!  As a result, I’m totally no fun at amusement parks, and truly horrid at flying.

8. What is your biggest dream?

To be someone’s mom.  I know, I know, another cop out answer!  But, it’s the truth!

9. What is your best piece of advice?

Be kind to yourself.  We all spend so much time worrying about what others think of us, that we often forget to take care of ourselves in the process.  The one person you will have to be able to live with for the rest of your life is you.  Make sure you want to know that person!

10. What are you most proud of?

My marriage.  My parents didn’t exactly leave me a great road map to follow, so the fact that we’ve made this work for the past 8 years, and that we’ve made it work WELL is a constant source of pride.  I don’t know where I’d be without the mister.

 

My Nominees:

And, again, I’ll echo what I said yesterday.  No pressure to comply at all.  Just know that I’m thinking of you and, to pull on the award title a little more, that you do bring sunshine (and buckets of dark humor) to my life!  In no particular order:

1. Fox in the Hen House – The Furiously Funny Fox

2. Just Stop Trying and It Will Happen… – The Award Winner

3. My Cheap Version of Therapy – The Granola Sweetheart

4. Teach Me to Braid – The Faithful One

5. On Fecund Thought – The Spiritual Inspiration

6. Our Misconception – The Movie Star

7. Our Last Embryo – The Diagnosis Sister

8. Stuck on Pause – The Healing One

9. Stupid Stork – The “I Just Spit My Tea Across the Room” One

10. Who Shot Down My Stork? – The Socky Ringleader

I thought it was going to be impossible to come up with yet more (different) names for this, my second blog award post in as many days, but damn there’s a lot of you out there I love!  If I haven’t gotten to you yet, don’t worry.  You’re on my list.  Muwahaha…

 

My Questions:

1. Are you and your partner a case of “opposites attract,” “two peas in a pod,” or some mix of both?

2. Salty or sweet?  (There totally IS a right answer!)

3. If you remember, how’d you find my blog?  Why do you (or don’t you!) read?

4. Where do you feel your virtual best?  On your blog?  Twitter?  Facebook?  Pinterest?  Some other site I’m far too uncool to know about?

5. When did you start blogging?  Was there a particular trigger that fueled your desire to blog?

6. What one thing never fails to make you happy?

7. Are you crafty?  If so, what’s your favorite medium?

8. If you could have a new career/occupation/profession tomorrow, what would it be?  Why?

9. What one item of your partner’s clothing/apparel would you love to secretly toss?

10. Thoughts on the term “furbabies”?  Love or hate?

Digging out from Bad Blogger Purgatory: The Liebster Award

So, as I mentioned yesterday, I’ve been engaging in some serious bad blog behavior.  Ya’ll have nominated me, have patted me on the back, have begged me to engage with you via various old school chain letters fancy blogging awards, yet I’ve not heeded the call.  I’ve left you hanging.  I’ve <insert overused verbal flourish here>.  Time to remedy that!

First, the lovely and strong Lauren at On Fecund Thought (note: some posts password protected) nominated me for the Liebster Award.  The award icon pretty much says it all:

Liebster Award rules

So, here goes.

11 Random Facts

1. Odd numbers annoy me.  Hrmm, what does that mean for the rest of this response?

2. Odd numbers annoy me so much that on odd dates I shoot my Lovenox and PIO on the right side.  I prefer the left side because my name starts with L and clearly L is the best letter.  So left-sided shots are reserved for the glory of even-numbered dates.

3. I may be a bit anal (see above).

4. Mr. But IF is probably laughing right now because I wrote “anal.”

5. Mr. But IF and I met in college 3 months before my mom died.  He met my friends and family for the first time at her funeral.

6. I’m first generation American on my dad’s side.  He emigrated from Scotland with his mother, grandparents, and sister in the mid-1950s when he was in his late teens.

7. I was a high school drum major, and still miss it.  I drag the Mr. to drum corps shows regularly.

8. I was salutatorian of my high school graduating class.  The GPA system was rigged.  I should have been first.  I was cheated.  I still carry a chip. 😉

9. Pittsburgh is the greatest city in the world.  That totally qualifies as a fact.

10. I wear gloves in my office.  And a heating pad.  And multiple sweaters.  The thermostat is set to an ungodly 60 degrees and there’s nothing I can do about.

11. Ranch dressing is my greatest weakness.

 

11 Worthy Bloggers

I’m not quite sure how to determine if ya’ll have under 200 followers or not (I sure don’t have that many!), but I’ll plow on.  Rather than actually have to think about this, I’m gonna simply take this opportunity to thank those of you with blogs that have recently commented on this little old blog o’ mine.  In no particular order, I give you:

1. Invincible Spring

2. Our Little Geekling

3. rainbeforerainbow

4. Doo, Dah, Diptie

5. Hakuna Matata

6. Don’t Stop Beliving

7. Dogs Aren’t Kids

8. My Hope Jar

9. A Crack In Everything

10. The Mamas Rapscallion

11. Amateur Nester

 

11 Questions from Lauren

1. What is your super power? Not a fake one, but something you are good at and can consistently rely on?

Really coming up blank here.  Do I go full-nerd or full-pessimist?  Oh choices!  I can seriously pump out a research paper, annotated bibliography, well-researched project proposal, a blog post in 30 seconds flat.  See kids?  Procrastinating throughout your life does pay dividends!  Now, whether or not I can actually muster the energy to care to do any of those things unless absolutely necessary is a whole other question!

2. What gift (apart from effortlessly making a human) do you wish you had?

The ability to turn back time/travel back in time.  I’d give anything to relive just a few more moments with my mom.

3. Have you read a book more than three times?

Absolutely!  The real question is how many books have you read more than three times?  At the very least my childhood/teenage favs have to be on there.  Anne of Green GablesHitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, anything Sherlock Holmes, The Valley of DecisionThe Phantom Tollbooth, the Ender’s Game series, Pride and PrejudiceCrime and Punishment, oh, the list just goes on and on!

4. What is your mantra?

To never live by a mantra.  😉  Sorry, I effing hate mantras.

5. What’s the best piece of advice you ever received?

Does a quote from a random author count as advice?  Something that has always resonated with naturally introverted, self-conscious, and shy me is the following from Andre Dubus: “Shyness has a strange element of narcissism, a belief that how we look, how we perform, is truly important to other people.”  Really, when we all get down to it, so little of what we do or how we act really matters to other people.  Some might find that sad or pessimistic, but I find it liberating.  Why should I be so in my head about everything if no one else really cares?  That line of reasoning often brings me peace.

6. Do you blog on a PC or a Mac?

A lil’ bit of both.  I’m a dyed in the wool Mac girl, but my work laptop is a PC.  So on the *cough cough* rare occasions that I’m writing from work, you’re catching me using a PC.  I’ve also written many full posts on my iPad while traveling.

7. What made you decide to start blogging?

Oh, boy.  Desperation? An unquenchable desire to hear myself spout off at random?  An over-sized ego that was naive enough to think I had something new to add to this conversation?  A growing disillusionment with the revolving door of women I’d met and helped on online forums?  A desire to further my advocacy?

Mainly, though, it was another distraction to throw myself in to as I entered another long indeterminate length waiting period following my third unexplained miscarriage.  What started as a distraction quickly became a much-loved hobby.  I was hooked.

8. What’s in your handbag (UK) / purse (US) / “bag you carry around all day” (elsewhere)?

What isn’t?  I do regularly carry the world’s largest purse!  Usual stuff – wallet, keys, pens, hair brush gum, business cards, etc.  A small pharmacy – Advil (even though it’s now verboten, the Mr. often requests it), tissues, nail file, nail clippers, bandaids, my daily pill case, and, if I’m going to be out at shot time, my needles, my wipes, some gauze, etc.  The less usual – a giant coupon organizer, often my iPad, hallmarks of my OCD cleanliness (hand sanitizer, stain stick, lint brush).  And, finally, the personal – memorial card from my mom’s funeral, the latest ultrasound picture, my long-past expired college ID, my hometown library card complete with my 10 year-old’s signature.

9. What’s in your fridge?

Oh, thank GAWD you asked this week!  I’ve been a freaking domestic goddess this week!  (Totally not the norm!)  Milk, eggs, butter, and the like.  An industrial capacity supply of seltzer water – I can’t get enough of the stuff right now.  There’s beer sitting there mocking me, as well as 4 unopened bottles of champagne that people brought me for my 30th birthday a few weeks ago.  Yes, the people that didn’t know I was pregnant.  There’s leftover taco meat for tomorrow’s dinner, chicken to be cooked tonight, and a giant pot of homemade clam chowder I slaved over on Tuesday in order to have ample easy food at the ready for the weekend while the Mr. is away at a football game with friends.

10. Who’s the last person you spoke to?

Just hung up the phone.  Call from the mister telling me our pellet stove is broken.  Joy!

11. What makes you feel fabulous?

Um, I dunno.  A new pair of Clark’s?

 

11 Questions for My Bloggy Friends

And, seriously ya’ll, don’t feel pressured to answer.  I’m pointing out your blogs here to draw attention to your hard work and thank you for the support you’ve offered me; if you fail to continue the chain letter, so be it!  (Or, if it takes you over a month to reply like, uh, someone we all know, then so be that as well!)

1. What was the destination of your favorite vacation?  Why?

2. Do you have any pets?  What?  How many?

3. What’s your favorite physical asset (don’t be shy!)?

4. How is your life different now from what you thought it would be at this point when you were 20?

5. What was the last movie you saw in a theater?  What did you think?

6. Name your guilty pleasure TV show.

7. (Shameless curiosity spurred on by the award rules) How many people follow your blog?  How long did it take you to build up your audience?  How’d you do it?

8. How often do you blog?

9. Does anyone in your “real life” know about your blog?

10. Who was the last person you talked to on the phone?

11. If you weren’t answering this question right now, what would you be doing?

Of blobs and blogs

According to this morning’s ultrasound, the blob has turned into a large, semi-personish shaped thing.  An oblong wiggle-worm with a heart thumping at 170 beats per minute.  Can we all just take a moment and collectively exhale with a, “Holy shit!”?

And, breathe…

As I’ve written before, I’m not quite sure what more to say.  Here’s the update.  I’m:

  • 8 weeks, 2 days pregnant with an increasingly person-shaped gray mass;
  • dreading and relishing the fact that next Wednesday’s appointment will be my last visit to my RE for the foreseeable future (though we’ve got 9 frozen blastsicles stored with them that we shan’t forget);
  • (im)patiently waiting for November 27 and my appointment with the maternal fetal medicine doc (high risk OB) and OB;
  • counting down the days until our NT scan where blob will REALLY look humanoid!;
  • alternatively nauseous from nerves and pregnancy (and nervous when I’m not nauseous, nervous that I am nauseous, and even pregnant when I’m neither nervous nor nauseous);
  • allowing myself to dream up/talk about the way we will announce blob in a manner that respects and acknowledges that path that got us here; and,
  • spending way too much time on Amazon looking at dopplers, ultrasound frames (Christmas gifts!), and other gateway baby stuff (can’t quite muster the “hard” stuff like onesies and little socks just yet).

(Ok, I may have actually just ordered a doppler.  Shhh!)

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

While I’ve been busy off in brain dead beta worry land, early pregnancy limbo, hoping for a heartbeat holding pattern, and other similar locales, I’ve been a bad, bad blogger.  I haven’t failed to notice that MANY of you have shouted out to me or nominated me for the various rounds of blog awards circulating.  Seeing as it’s taken 4 years, 3 miscarriages, 2 states, and 3 clinics to get to this moment, I guess you could say I fully embrace the “better late than never” mantra.  My next two posts will correct this oversight.  Promise!

A whole lot of (blog) lovin’ going on

I have to say, when I started this blog I never thought it’d get much traffic.  I shared the link with my core group of infertile friends in the computer, I shared it with my support group, and I shared it with a select few real life friends.  That was good enough.

Suddenly, I’m finding myself receiving e-mails at a rapid clip with some pretty startling bits of news, offers, questions, and surprises.  First, there was the nomination.  Then, the ever-amazing Jay (@the2weekwait) wrote to ask whether I’d like my blog to be featured as Fertility Authority’s Blog of the Week.  (And, of course, the answer was a resounding “YES!”  My blog will be featured in Fertility Authority’s Daily Shot newsletter next week.)  At the same time, many of you have used my contact form to reach out and ask for assistance – tips on managing thyroid disease and infertility, questions about how to successfully run a support group, wondering how they can help fundraise for RESOLVE or become more active as an advocate.  To all of this all I can say is I’m totally not worthy.  I just wanted a place to tippy type out my measly thoughts each day.  How did that act of extreme narcissism result in such a warm and fuzzy giving back feeling?  Blogging is truly incredible.

Aside from totally flooring me, all these offers and queries have made me realize something else.  Whether I planned it or not I suddenly have a (somewhat) powerful voice in this community.  Despite my accidental activism being the topic of my NIAW post this year, I never fully realized how the act of blogging would extend the reach of my influence.  And, that’s a pretty heady realization.

You see, in my “real life” I operate in a professional world in which you always back up your sources, you always do your research, and you eat, sleep, live, and breath your research area until after years and years of immersion in this academic milieu (or indentured servitude) you might slowly start to make your mark.  You may slowly start to have influence.  And, that’s if you’re lucky.

So color me surprised that after a few months of bantering about on the Internet about my lady bits, disdain for doctors and insurers, and the advocacy of others, I’m suddenly some sort of (minor) somebody.  That’s a lot of pressure!

So, I’m going to slowly start passing along a little some of this attention and the resources that come with it on to you.  Separate from my selection as Blog of the Week, I was contacted by another person at Fertility Authority asking the following:

Would you be interested in working together to direct those visitors looking for clinic information to our FertilityAuthority services? We have a toll-free phone support system for folks looking for clinic or treatment information. It’s free, and we leverage our relationships with clinics to get folks in faster, help step them through any cost questions, etc and help all parties throughout the process.

Now, I’ve never had much trouble getting appointments with REs, but that’s out of some sort of dumb luck, or my bad choices in picking sub-standard REs (quite likely), or because with my wonky months-long anovulatory cycles its not like I’d ever be able to plan a consult for a “good” time of my cycle.  I know that plenty of others do have trouble finding and getting quality medical care in a timely manner, and if Fertility Authority can help with that, totally more power to them!  I also bopped around a bit on their site this afternoon and was happy to see reproductive immunology, childfree living, and other topics very important to me represented on the site.  I don’t know how they monetize their services or how their business model works or any other such stuff, but I don’t really want or need to know.  That’s for potential clients to figure out (and if you are a client I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below!).  What remains for me to do is simply to say that this service exists, it looks pretty exciting to me, and wish you all well.  If there’s one thing you can never have too much of in this IF battle, it’s support and information.  Fertility Authority offers both.  And, that’s pretty damn cool to little old me.

Posts I’d planned to write

Blogging has been good to me.  And, not just because recent accolades have fueled my (potentially overfull to begin with) ego.  (Oh, and PS, voting apparently ends tomorrow – 6/17/2013 – so get your votes in!)  I’ve discussed before how important it is to find community (whether virtual, in person, or some combination of the two) when you are going through this battle to conceive, and blogging (along with Twitter, online forums, and my in-person RESOLVE support group) have all played a major role in decreasing the sense of isolation I’ve felt as the years have rolled on.  But, there’s another positive aspect that only blogging has added to my life and that was missing for so many of the early years.  Some might call it the freedom to be selfish or the luxury of self-reflection.  Namely, blogging has provided me with the time, the space, and the reason to actually explore what’s rambling around in my mile-a-minute head.  I can’t express how helpful that’s been and how profoundly that’s changed my life, my relationship, and my sense of clarity.

You want to know a dirty little secret?  I’m kind of a lazy blogger.  You all only read about one quarter of what actually flows through my brain.  Easily another quarter I do write about, read back, assess, revise, and, ultimately delete.  These thoughts weren’t fully formed, they weren’t quite what I wanted, they didn’t fit within the larger scope or arc of the post that I wrote them for, or, often, simply the act of writing them fulfilled the need I had to express them.  Whatever the reason, they never appear hear.  Finally, over half of the posts I plan to write, I never write.  I think of the theme of the post, I work it over in my brain for half a day or more, I think of visuals, useful related links, and start writing key passages in my head.  But, ultimately, virtual pen never makes it to paper.  My work day runs longer than expected, friends ask us out to dinner, or something much more important happens that needs to be addressed in a timely manner in this space.  And, ultimately, those posts are lost to the hollows of my mind along with the others sacrificed to the delete key.

Even though you don’t read them here, however, all that upfront intellectual effort is so tremendously worthwhile.  It allows me to view my life and live each day with a greater sense of clarity and some separation from the stresses of the day to day.  It’s almost like reading a self-help book or practicing visualization or centering my being or some such other nonsense that would totally not normally be in my vocabulary.  Except, instead of reading a book of someone else’s words, I’m embracing words of my own divining.  I’m reading the story of my life in a new and exciting way.  I’m not just tied to the here-and-now thoughts I’ve expressed in the past on online forums, Facebook, or Twitter.  I’m no longer reading chapters wholly composed of “IUI today on CD20” or “Follie check this morning was a disaster.”  Rather, I’m both writing and reading a story that delves much deeper.  And, that holds true whether pen actually makes it to paper or not.

So, that’s a long lead up to this.  Life’s been busy.  A friend asked us out to dinner.  Work’s been all-consuming.  The two-hour round trips to the RE for 3 of the past 4 days have taken their toll.  This blog has been left languishing.  But, it’s not for lack of effort.  As a way of catching you all up, here’s a sampling of the posts I’d planned to write:

  • Saturday, July 13
    • Title: If you find righty… Tales of an AWOL ovary
    • Description: In which I recount the second follie check in a row during which the NP cannot find my right ovary.  My immediate panic that it’s left on a relaxing beach vacation without me.  My more realistic panic that the constipation I’ve been having combined with her disappearance means the endo is back in full force.  The news that lefty’s still only sporting a 14mm.  The realization that Mr. But IF leaves for a work trip next Monday and that could royally screw, well, our screwing schedule.  The not knowing if the cycle will be cancelled.  The silent wonder over which option (cancellation or moving slowly and steadily forward) is actually my deep-down longed for option.  The familiar feelings of failing.
  • Sunday, July 14
    • Title: I’m totally the most amazing person ever
    • Description: Seriously, is a description even required?  Har… har…  But, no seriously folks, I answered a text from a friend that wanted to go out to dinner with me on Saturday night.  A friend with *gulp* a 4-month old.  A friend whose said 4-month old should have been besties with my little one due this September.  A friend whose dinner I cooked a few days after her and baby A had come from home from the hospital.  A dinner that I cooked less 3 weeks after my D&C.  And, who is the most amazing person ever?  This girl!  My ovary may have been hiding, but I didn’t!  Went to dinner and, oh hell yea, held that sweet-cheeked little bundle of that-which-I-can’t-have for freaking ever while the slowest restaurant in the world made our dinner.  And, I actually had a good time.  Look at me, all emotionally strong and shit!
  • Monday, July 15
    • Title: Premature insemination: Tales from the clinic that always says “no”
    • Description: Returning for my 6th follie check of the cycle.  Repeating silently to myself as I laid down to sleep, as I washed in the shower, as I drove in the car, “Please let them find righty.”  Preparing for cancellation, anticipating cancellation, accepting cancellation.  Discovering that righty’s back (back again!), and sporting a matched set of 14mm follies.  Exhaling for the wait ahead, before finding that lefty’s lone 14 from Saturday, is now a juicy mature 18mm.  Doing a different type of exhaling as I realize the game’s afoot and I’m about to trigger.  Getting the instructions to trigger at 9pm.  Getting thrown for a loop when asked what my schedule is for the following morning (less than 12 hours after trigger).  Being informed, after I questioned the abbreviated time frame, that, “We always do IUIs 12 hours after trigger!”  Leaving with an IUI appointment 10.5 HOURS after my trigger shot!?!?! (when the “normal” is more like 24-36 hours).  Being a bad girl and triggering a few hours early.  Spending the day frustrated at a that clinic only does what the clinic always does as the clinic is always right, silly girl!
  • Tuesday, July 16
    • Title: Well and Truly Basted
    • Description: In which I recount my first ever IUI.  Mr. But IF’s 6:30AM wank-job, my frantic drive to the clinic with deposit in tow, my realization that my hurry mattered little as I waited, and waited, and waited, and finally had my date with the turkey baster 2.5 hours after, ahem, “collection.”  My luck at arriving to find no NP or doctor available to assist me, and instead winding up inseminated by a friendly and apologetic surgical nurse.  The two hours of foreplay with my emulsified fat milkshake before the unlubricated speculum and catheter got frisky.  The unanticipated pain of the procedure itself (way worse than two HSGs, including one I failed), followed by a worry about how much post-IUI spotting is too much post-IUI spotting.  The wonder.  The worry.  The waiting.  The far too much time laying in the procedure room after wondering, worrying, waiting.

So, righty’s back, I held a baby, my IUI was both quite painful and likely quite pointless, but I’ve got 66 million swimmers on board looking for my wayward egg (which may or may not arrive in time).  Oh, and don’t hold your breath for more posts soon.  My fears over the timing of my IUI will mean Mr. and Mrs. But IF have dates with each other naughty bits for the next couple nights.  I totally believe in multi-tasking, but I still don’t know what Mr. But IF would think if I asked him to stop bouncing the laptop so much because I’m trying to blog.  Naw, scratch that.  I know exactly what he’d think.  “Just make sure you tell them how good I’m doing!”

In which I brag

So, I have a whole lot of catching up to do.  Officially pregnant neighbor due a month after I should have been; another child-free, child-obsessed holiday in the books; a weekend with the in-laws spent discussing baby names and pregnant (teenage) relatives; and, perhaps the most fun (?!?) of all?  Apparently I have a new Gonal-F/Lupron side effect.  Holy panic attacks, Batman!  Totally terrifying, btw.  But, I’ll save all that for the post in which I recount my steady march toward hormone-induced insanity.  Something to look forward to, eh?

Today’s post serves a much more exciting purpose.  Today, I finally get to tell you my wee bit of news that I’ve been dangling out there for, oh, more than two weeks!  And, here it is in graphical form:

Hope Award Nominee

That’s right!  I’ve been nominated for RESOLVE‘s Hope Award for Best Blog for the post I wrote back in April to commemorate National Infertility Awareness Week.  My Join the Movement post joins four others (Almost a Father, Fertile Healing, Inconceivable!, and Just Stop Trying and It Will Happen — go, read them, now!) in the running for the Best Blog title.  The winner will be selected via an open online vote occurring from now until the end of July.  (So, yea, after you’re done reading, go, vote, now!)  Then, come early November, one lucky lady or gent gets to get all dolled up and attend RESOLVE’s swanky Night of Hope gala in Manhattan to accept the Award.  And, who says infertility removes the glamour from your life?

On a more personal note, I remember voting for this award in past years and thinking, “Wow, how amazing is it that these brave women have opened up and laid it all out on the line (online) for those of us grasping for some sense of normalcy and belonging?”  Can I just say how incredibly surreal it is that I now find myself among that number?  Seriously, just pinch me already!

And, the timing of this announcement couldn’t really have come at a better time for me.  I first was notified of my selection via email during another endless Friday afternoon work meeting.  A work meeting, I should add, during which I was mentally running through my checklist of things to pack for our whirlwind trip down to the Walk of Hope just a few short hours later.  Talk about reinforcing to me the accuracy of what I wrote several months ago.  Speaking of the many new endeavors and distractions I took on in the months following the termination of my ectopic pregnancy, I wrote:

All these avoidant behaviors, these selfish distractions, they did a lot more than help me pass the time.  They did something that no amount of openness with fertile friends and family members could have ever done.  These activities normalized my experience, they let me know I was most certainly not alone in my feelings of pain and powerlessness.

As I sit here, newly returned from my second Walk of Hope, looking forward to tomorrow’s peer-led support group meeting, and still feeling the deep sting of our latest failed cycle, receiving this nomination reminded me yet again that infertility does not need to be a solitary battle.  It’s sure as hell a whole lot easier when it isn’t!

So, congrats to my fellow nominees and to the many, many others who contributed posts to this year’s Bloggers Unite Challenge.  You may not always feel like (I know I often don’t), but your words matter more than you can ever know.  From a former anonymous reader, thank you from the bottom of my heart for helping me find my own voice and put it to good use.

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?