A bitter taste that doesn’t fade

Mid-way through the two-day intensive child birth preparation seminar we attended last weekend one of our instructors asked:

Who here thinks giving birth is going to be the hardest thing you’ve ever done in your life?

My hand stayed firmly at my side, while the hands of those around me shot straight up.  The mister and I gave one another a solemn, knowing look, and the moment passed.  It was likely a blip on the radar of so many others in the room – the woman who had to turn away during the bloody birth scene in one video, the many others who let out an audible gasp when our instructor introduced us to the Kiwi delivery device (the next-gen vacuum extractor), and the coach who got squeamish when our instructor noted that the prostoglandins in semen can induce labor.  But, to me, that 5-second show of hands was one of the biggest takeaways of our child birth education rite of passage.  I’m different.  We’re different.  Infertility doesn’t fade.

Don’t get me wrong, had the instructor phrased that question one of any number of different ways I might have joined in with my classmates.  One of the most physically taxing experiences of my life?  Sure.  Something for which I can’t be truly prepared until the moment arrives?  Absolutely.  An even that will redefine physical pain for the rest of my life?  I don’t doubt it.  But, to be entirely honest, I don’t suspect that the physical act of child birth will really, truly be the “hardest” moment of my life.  Whispering permission to die in my mother’s ear?  Bingo.  Walking in to maternity triage to get a double dose of methotrexate to terminate our first pregnancy?  Up there too.  Enduring 12 hours of contractions at home after being sent away from the hospital to birth our third dead fetus?  That definitely is on the list.  No, instructor, I don’t think giving birth is going to be the hardest thing I’ve ever done.

For better or for worse, I’m an education junkie and feel quite comfortable in the classroom.  That’s probably why I’ve built up the act of attending a child birth seminar in my mind so very much over these past 4.5 years.  It’s not that I’ve not gotten excited (and stressed) about finishing the nursery, and I even managed to find a sense of (uneasy) happiness at my first family shower two weeks ago; but, that child birth class?  That’s the moment I’ve most been waiting for.  That day that would tell me this is real.  I’ve always assumed that sitting on a floor huffing and puffing in comical fashion with a dozen other expectant couples would finally normalize this experience for me.  In a few ways, it did; but, in most ways, it absolutely didn’t.

Don’t get me wrong, we left with valuable information and I’m extremely comforted by the fact that I now have my bearings in the hospital we’ll be delivering at.  (A hospital I never set foot in until Saturday.)  Mr. knows where to drop off the car, I know what the birthing rooms look like, and we both know that there’s a definite disconcerting bounce to the upper floors L&D occupies.  (Thankfully, I don’t think I’ll be fretting about a bouncing building mid-delivery.)

It’s just that I also left knowing that pretty much nothing is going to normalize this pregnancy after infertility stuff for me.  And by that I truly don’t mean to be negative.  I couldn’t be happier or more excited to meet this little man in a few short months, and I don’t remotely regret attending the classes.  Just as they prepared us to navigate the built environment of the large teaching hospital campus we’ll be using, the classes also provided me with the knowledge that a certain amount of bitterness is going to be my perpetual bedfellow in this journey.  I won’t wallow in it, but, sometimes it’s just nice to know the lay of the land.

And, the emotions I experienced during the class aren’t likely to go away as we (oh please God!) transition from pregnancy to parenthood.  At just 30 years old, I felt old in the classroom.  In league with one or two other couples, we were the “old parents.”  We were frequently the babies in the infertility waiting room, so seeing so many faces lacking wrinkles and heads missing gray hair was unanticipated and a good bit unsettling.

Then I realized that most of our fellow classmates knew one another or knew our instructors.  The city we’ll be delivering in is kind of a “small town, big city.”  The nurses that led the class were the appropriate age to be friends with the parents of the mid-twenty somethings that occupied the room with us, and many of them were.  Other classmates were young professionals with the same local firms, and still others came from the nearby army base.

In all of this, one word prevails – “nearby.”  Each of our fellow classmates (like most sensible people) are a short distance from their hospital of choice.  We, on the other hand, will be traveling just about an hour to get this baby out.  We have to; I’m high-risk and this is the only hospital equipped to deal with high-risk patients.  As our instructors taught us to leave for the hospital when our contractions were 5 minutes apart, 1 minute in duration, over the course of 1 hour, one casually commented, “… because no one’s from over an hour away, right?”  I raised my hand and our instructions were altered to 7 minutes apart, 1 minute in duration, for 1 hour.

But, ultimately, I wasn’t worrying nearly as much as my fellow nervous classmates about deciding when to head for the hospital, because odds are our drive up will be timed to the convenience of our physicians, not my body, as they intend to induce if I get to 39 weeks.  And induction means doing it all at the hospital.  Being high-risk also means constant monitoring that made our tour of the whirlpool tubs and discussions of laboring in water all the more frustrating to listen to since those won’t be options for me.  At times, I found myself sitting back and mentally saying to my fellow students, “Oh, honey, don’t worry about how big that bathtub is… you’re gonna be begging for an epidural the second you roll in.  Accept it and move on.”

I had thoroughly othered myself.  An older transplant to the region that would never have the “typical” birth story (whatever that is!).  That’s not going away anytime soon, so acceptance sooner rather than later is probably a good bet.

Oddly enough, I only started easing into comfort with the classes on the second day when our instructors had learned enough to start calling me out as the special snowflake that I am.  On day one I was pretty miserable.  The class began as our instructors noted that, while their own pregnancies had been a while ago, they were still L&D nurses and instructors and were abreast of how the field had changed in the intervening years.  And, even more importantly screamed one, “My kids have given my grand kids!  Squeal!”  To which the other one replied, “Yes, my children have been delinquent and haven’t given me any yet, but they will soon or they’ll be hearing about it!”  The room laughed lightly, the instructors playfully jabbed one another, I turned a violent shade of fuchsia, formed my fist into a ball, and almost walked out barely thirty seconds into the class.  I was fuming for most of the rest of the 2.5 hour session.

Saturday morning was similar in tone, and then came lunch.  The instructors sat at our table and did something that oddly made me feel instantly better.  We had the names of our OB/GYNs on our name tags (to help us find our “labor buddies” with similar practices?!? Yea, no one else was with my MFM…) so the one instructor asked, “So, why are you with Dr. S?  He only takes really difficult cases, no?”  That might have made some of you squirm, but to me it was just the opening I needed to start the conversation about how I found her comments the day before a bit unsettling.  I listed off my resume – IVF, 3 miscarriages, antiphospholipid syndrome – and she went from playful (bumbling) kindergarten teacher holding the hands of a bevy of nervous fergiles to the educated L&D nurse instructor that she was at her day job.  From that point on – during the tour, through our discussion of pain management options, to the section on induction and labor augmentation – she looked me in the eyes, gave me additional tips and advice, and waited until I’d asked all my questions.  It’s amazing how you can go from hating something to loving something in the blink of an eye.  I even began to cut my classmates some slack, not the least of which because one particularly squirmy gasper overheard my conversation with the instructor at lunch and identified herself to the two of us as the survivor of 7 IVF cycles, the last of which landed her in our midst.

I’ve always known that there are many different and equally appropriate ways for women and men to endure struggle.  Mine has always been to latch on and find strength in difference.  To be brash in the defense of my journey and emotions.  I rarely sugarcoat the death of my mother, and – over time – I’ve come to be downright obnoxious about our IF.  It’s what works for me.  Others, though, are going to find strength in, well, not necessarily “forgetting,” but in moving on.  Child birth videos don’t make me squirm because, well, I’ve watched videos and seen pictures of my laparoscopies and those are a wee bit more frightening to my mind.  And, I was always a masochist throughout my IF.  I watched the videos, I read the child birth books, I was the most birth-educated non-mother around.  Whereas others can compartmentalize, I always wanted to know it all and know it NOW.  No one way is better or worse, but I sure wish I had taken the time to reflect on how my methods of coping would impact my move from IF to (lasting) PG after IF to (again, please God) parenting after IF.  Then again, I don’t know that I could have worked through this all any earlier than this moment.  That I could have anticipated how defining myself through difference would change when the differences became different.  And, that’s why I’m oddly happy we did take these child birth classes.  No, I didn’t need to learn about the stages of labor, or form bonds with my fellow nervous mamas to be, but I clearly DID need to work through some of this baggage.  And I think I’m closer now than I have been at any other stage of this pregnancy…

In which I have a breakdown

See, the trouble with having expectations is that life almost inevitably never lives up to them.  And then, if you’re anything like me, you spiral into a pit of ennui followed by a decent amount of self-loathing.  And then the capstone breakdown moment which just serves to remind you that you are far too fucked up to have had any business setting up expectations for your life in the first place.  It’s a fun ride, and I can’t help but think it’s been made even more tummy tickling by the healthy dose of hormones I’ve got rolling through this ol’ body of mine.

I don’t even know how to articulate where I’m at right now.  Linear thought and reason have left me, it seems.  I think of one thing to type and I immediately flit to another issue.  All that adds up to a silent blog and an overwhelmed me.  So, where to begin…  I guess with this blog.  You know, this one I poured my heart and soul into.  This one I was so proud of.  This space that provided sanity that now only reminds me of the sanity I feel like I’ve lost.  It’s one year anniversary was last Sunday and I totally missed that (whoops), as did I miss the Twitterversary that came a few days later.  I had helpful emails from WordPress and Twitter reminding me of the occasions.  The emails led to hyperventilation and a whimper of “No more.  I can’t take one more thing right now!”  That’s completely and totally healthy, right?

Just as healthy as laying a new floor at 28 weeks pregnant, I’d think.  My knees are currently on strike, but, you know, priorities.  The floor in the nursery does look damn fine.  I think I’ve previously explained here what a wonderful sense of pride and worthiness one can reap from rehabilitating a badly run-down grand old home.  Listen to me now: Ignore the batshit crazy lady who watches far too much HGTV.  Preparing a room with the world’s creepiest white-washed teddy bear wall-paper, drop ceiling, and stained carpet hiding loose asbestos tile flooring to be the one-day home of the son we’ve spent, oh, every last ounce of our time, energy, money, and metal stability trying to create for the past 4.5 years?  Yea, not nearly as rewarding as you’d think.  Doing it on your own while contractors concurrently gut and remodel your downstairs bathroom at 28 weeks pregnant?  Seriously, what the FUCK was I thinking?  Clearly, finding a resolution to our infertility led me to believe that I’d somehow been imbued with superhuman powers.  You know, cause getting 1 in 4 embryos that managed to find a home in my womb to actually stick around for 28 weeks makes me totally capable of, well, climbing ladders, painting (on the same day our hot water heater died), ripping up carpet, laying new flooring, and doing a rickety flight of stairs each of the 100 times a day I have to pee…

nursery after picture

Nursery After

nursery before picture

Nursery Before

But, at least that job I took because it would provide a better work-life balance for me and my finicky uterus has totally gone to crap.  Because I totally uprooted my husband and moved us both to the middle of snowy nowhere for long and un-rewarding work hours, never-ending physical demands, an unreliable leadership who philosophically opposes my understanding of my entire professional identity, and a maternity leave policy that is entirely unwritten and made up as you go along to suit the needs of whoever you happen to be talking to at the moment.

After 4 months of negotiations, though, it does appear I will get a decent leave thanks to having taken about 2 days of vacation time in the past 2 years.  (Silver lining ftw.)  I mean, I can never take vacation because of my husband’s two-job work schedule that makes it impossible (or at least damn challenging) for us to leave town on the weekends.  Did I mention that includes both this weekend – my shower in my home town 6.5 hours from here – and next – our childbirth classes?  Don’t get me wrong, I absolutely LOVE spending 14 hours in the car and 8 hours in an over-priced roadside motel, to spend 24 hours in my childhood home for a shower that will only be attended by my guilt-tripping aunt, two additional aunts who disowned my side of the family while I was growing up, a great-aunt I’ve met once, and my two bestest girlfriends (at least there’s a win).  Do I sound ungrateful enough for you yet?  No?  Well, how ’bout I tell you about the temper tantrum I threw yesterday when I found out that my cousin (daughter of one of the two “we will shun you for 20 years then pretend nothing ever happened” aunts) gave birth to a happy and healthy baby boy.  The baby boy she conceived on her honeymoon after the wedding we suddenly couldn’t attend because I was on all fours in my bathroom back home birthing my third miscarriage.  The cousin who was on a fucking dating-based reality show the year Mr. But IF and I first started trying to conceive.  The new baby that will be the center of attention throughout my entire shower, and whose name shares several syllables with the name our son will get when he arrives.

Bitter enough for you yet?  I know writing it all out surely makes me want to strangle my irrational, self-centered self.  So then we turn down the path of discontentment.  The size of the “You’re getting everything you fucking wanted and dreamed for so long” slap I want to deliver across my tear-stained cheeks is frighteningly out of control.  So I try to recenter myself, to focus on what’s important, to find a healthy way to let it out and move on.  Last week I called my therapist for a much-needed appointment only to find her only availability conflicted with an endless array of stressful work meetings.  We moved to this week to discover that her open slots were all on Thursday, the day of my day-long 28-week appointment (2 hour round-trip, growth scan, GD testing, consult, etc.).

At least I tried to get help, but, omg, I should totally just “snap out” of my mental crap and focus on the fact that shit is getting really real with the MFM after this week.  Thursday’s appointment is the “beginning of the end” of my pregnancy treatment plan, and will be followed by my first non-stress test (NST) at 30 weeks, which will happen weekly until 32 weeks, and then continue on bi-weekly until 39 weeks, at which point, if I haven’t gone into labor, I will be induced.  I’m beyond grateful to be getting this much attention, but telling an already stressed out and overwhelmed patient that she’ll be spending approximately 5 hours a week just in the car from 32 weeks onward doesn’t help with the stress level.  Add to all those round trips NSTs that, I’ve been told, could take anywhere from 15 minutes to a full day, that could result in the decision to immediately delivery there and then, and I’m just feeling oh so relaxed.  Good thing my ability to take any sort of maternity leave rests on me working a 40-hour week up until the moment of delivery…

And then, I step back and get immeasurably angry at the fact that IF caused this all.  IF made the blog and, more importantly, made me judge my worth by the meaningful ways I contributed to the IF community.  IF (and the subtle acceptance that we’d never have a family) made us feel prepared to tackle an endless array of house projects over the next decade, and “beating” IF fucked up that timeline.  IF encouraged me to put time and effort into improving my education and finding a new and rewarding position in a state with an IF insurance mandate.  IF made me incapable of planning a shower until the last moment, and IF-related pregnancy complications are making us throw that shower early in the third trimester.  IF familiarized me with a life dictated by doctor’s appointments, and IF hinted at the autoimmune issues that got me booted to high-risk pregnancy territory.

And, I think, above all, IF was an easy scapegoat for issues I would’ve faced no matter what.  I think I really cry because my mom is gone.  She should be planning my shower, she should be trying to calm me and tell me it will all be alright, she should let me whine and complain and scream and cry and still love me just as much after it all is out.  My shower, like my wedding, was never going to be without emotion, without a sense of loss.  Blaming IF masks some of that, but when the tears came in the bathtub on Sunday it wasn’t because I was unfulfilled in my career, because my husband’s second job interfered with our travel plans, or because my shower will be poorly attended.  Becoming a mother, without a mother, hurts.

Why’d you give me your mother’s card? and other questions

I’ve never been big on Valentine’s Day.  I just don’t get the premise.  A day set aside to tell your loved ones you love them?  Shouldn’t that be every day?

Granted, as a kid it meant candy hearts, paper cards, and chocolate.  But, those hearts tasted (and still taste) like chalk, the cards always devolved into a game of “whose parents are so poor that they had to give out the crappy cards?,” and, I know I know, I HATED chocolate as a girl.  Only the onset of menstruation really changed that one.  Yay?

So, as I awoke this morning to over a foot of fresh snow on the ground (on top of the existing 10+ inches), to absolutely no communication from my employer that we were getting so much as a late start, and to an email from my boss telling me she wasn’t coming in so I’d have to and be the sole person responsible for the department today, I wasn’t feeling particularly festive.  After dragging my mopey behind out of the shower, I started to post to Facebook:

Valentine’s Day?  M got me a freshly snow blown driveway; I gave him my endless appreciation.

When I got downstairs to the breakfast table, however, I found a card addressed in my husband’s handwriting to “Mom,” propped up next to a little black box.  Huh?  Clearly he’d gotten me a gift, but why was he giving me his mother’s card?  Wait, who gives their mother a Valentine’s Day card?  Hold up a minute…

Through the tears I opened said envelope to find a card picturing the both of us with little N’s NT scan picture nestled in between.  Through more tears I read the message from my men – my husband and my son.  By the time I opened the necklace the tears were flowing so quickly I couldn’t quite make out the beauty of the mother’s necklace (two intertwined hearts) through the surging stream of tears.

You win, Mr. But IF.  Well done.

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There have been a lot of questions lately.  What will be the outcome of this pregnancy?  Where do I fit in the IF universe?  How can I help those still in the trenches?  Will I be a good mother?  Will labor be complicated?  Will I like my new MFM?  Will he have answers for me?  When we the electrician and drywaller get the future nursery done?  How will I find the time and energy to plan a surprise 60th for my mother-in-law the same weekend as my shower?  How should I react to my aunt’s sudden pronouncement that I must now drive over 800 miles round-trip in the third trimester to attend the shower she’s suddenly decided to throw for me?  Why, when we’re so close to getting what we’ve dreamed of, did I experience a severe bout of crippling depression two weeks ago?  Will HR ever give me a straight answer about my maternity leave?  Will the snow ever stop?

Each question deserves its own post, but just so many posts have gone unwritten lately due to fatigue, long work hours, and, above all, an uncertain mind and voice.

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Last year on Valentine’s Day we drove up to the RE 9 weeks, 2 days pregnant, and drove home knowing our child’s heart had stopped beating.  Witnessing the global outpouring of love and joy (and commercialism) that this day brings as our own hearts broke into a thousand little pieces just made me feel numb.  The following day we went to our weekly Friday happy hour and I ordered the largest beer I could get in the company of friends and colleagues who knew of our infertility and pregnancy.  It allowed me to skip the questions; it enabled them to just jump to whispering, “I’m so sorry” over the din of a crowded restaurant.  Last year I wasn’t asking questions, I was just struggling to feel something, anything, even if it was just inebriation, as we waited for our own bloody red Valentine’s present to begin the coming weekend.

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Asking questions is the province of those with time and unspent emotion on their hands.  I’m whirling in them now because there’s not much else to be doing.  Baby N is kicking and thriving, baby stuff is arriving on our doorstep at an unsettling pace, showers are being planned, and my new doctor is proving to be even more kickass than the one I left behind.  While last year I trudged zombie-like through the day – following our scripted path home from the RE, running into the coffee shop to get the biggest cup they had to offer and running into all our neighbors and their 2.5 children, sending emails and working at my desk with a dead fetus inside me – today my mind flits and floats with a lightness and inquisitiveness that only the content can know.

A year ago today…

A year ago today…

  • We woke early, bundled into our car by 4am, and headed out into a snowstorm.
  • We drove 230 miles to Woodbury Long Island to meet with the reproductive immunologist who offered our last hope.
  • I was 8 weeks pregnant with our third pregnancy.  I was still pregnant, but the news had been rocky from the start.
  • I saw our little one’s heart beating for the last time in Dr. B’s exam room.
  • We heard the verdict of “This may work out, this may not, I do not know…”  We left with a plan (lovenox, prednisone, IVF, and, possibly, PGD) should the pregnancy end (which, of course, it did the following week).
  • We drove another 230 miles home, buying a wedding gift for my cousin along the way.  We’d ultimately miss her wedding as I was 6.5 hours away miscarrying in my bathroom.  She’s currently set to pop out her first next month (yea, that didn’t take long).
  • We digested the news over a prime rib special we devoured during old people dinner time.  460 miles on the road for a 45 minute appointment that left us with more questions than answers can stir up an appetite.
  • We rejoined our friends, our normal life, at our weekly Wednesday night trivia game.

Today…

  • I leave in 10 minutes to drive an hour to the regional perinatology center.  I will meet my new practice for the first time.  I will wait in a waiting room with fellow high-riskers for the first time.
  • I’m 20 weeks, 3 days pregnant with our darling son.
  • Our son is kicking me as I write this.
  • I’m putting the finishing touches on my list of questions for the MFM.  I’m making modifications and additions based on the mock-appointment my therapist and I held last night.  I’m reminding myself I have agency in this pregnancy, I have knowledge, I have power.
  • I’m getting a stomach ache at the thought of starting all over with a new unknown practice.
  • But, that stomach ache is eased by my insatiable appetite and little man’s jabs.
  • If all goes well with the appointment, I hope to take advantage of being in the “big city” and stop off at a Hallmark to buy thank you cards to send to the amazing men and women who have ALREADY showered us with baby gifts.
  • I hate that I just prefaced that with, “If all goes well.”
  • Ultimately, though, today is so much better than a year ago…

FB Official

Over the years I’ve had plenty of time to think about how or if Facebook will play a role in my pregnancy.  I’ve gone from loathing any thought of allowing FB into my womb, to desiring more than anything to reclaim some normalcy in this process, even if that “normalcy” is defined as blathering on about bumps on FB.  Initially my hesitations about FB announcements were twofold.

  1. I feared I’d hurt someone like me.  Someone that simply wanted to mind their business, stalk casual high school acquaintances, and blow off a few minutes of the work day with FB.  That someone that logs in happy and logs out crying after yet another “my baby is the size of a kumquat” post from a 20-year old cousin that got married two minutes ago.
  2. I was wary of the stupid comments.  The “About damn times!”  The “I told you it would happen if you just relaxed!”  The “All in God’s time!”  I’ve gotten enough of those face-to-face over the past 4 years, I didn’t want a digital jab hunting me down and hurting me in the comfort of my own home or office.  I also didn’t want to explain to great aunt so-and-so why I deleted her comment and encouraged Mr. But IF to go ahead and chug down the fifth of whisky for the both of us.

But, as the years drew on, as we proudly came out of the IF closet on FB, total radio silence about any fluke pregnancy we’d managed to trick long enough to stick around until announcement time seemed unrealistic.  And, frankly, I’ve sat through enough cutesy announcements by this point that it’s about damn time that I spew some (admittedly bitter) joy back into their smug fertile faces newsfeeds.  So, we did it.  We made it FB official.  I feel funny…

Because brevity isn’t really my forte, my initial plan of a simple photo collage quickly went out the window and was replaced with a full-on video montage.  Oh, and can I just say, I had FAR to much fun sticking stickers all over this thing to anonymize the personally identifiable content.  Enjoy!

The gift that keeps on giving

I’m 8 weeks pregnant today.  Things appear to be progressing normally.  I have an ultrasound on Wednesday, expect to be released from my RE next week, and will have a combined maternal fetal medicine consult and first (ever) OB appointment on November 27.  Really, what more could I ask for?

You see, the thing is, infertility and repeat miscarriage are gifts that really keep on giving.  Infertility is not lazy, it works hard each and every day to reassert its control over your life.  Miscarriage is not easily forgotten, but rather, like infertility, haunts my every day.  Neither is curable, eraseable, destroyable.  No matter how this pregnancy ends, no matter how future pregnancies end, I will be infertile, I will have suffered repeat pregnancy loss, until my dying day.

I also, it seems, will continue to suffer strained relationships due to the gift of my infertility.  Yesterday I may have injured my relationship with my aunt – my only surviving female blood relative – to the point of no repair.  Ever since my mom (her sister) died in 2002, Aunt L has tried to step up, tried to be there, tried to fill the gaping hole my mother’s passing left.  She’s done admirably.  Through her own immense grief and while receiving her own life-threatening/life-altering medical diagnoses, she’s been strong through graduations, engagements, marriages, and various other events that she should never have had to be the primary support person for.  Yet, her job is a thankless one.  She’s not my mom.  She’ll never be my mom.  And, for that, I seem to never be able to forgive her.

To say she’s struggled to understand my infertility is an understatement.  If it didn’t hurt so much, it would almost be comical how stereotypically wrong her responses have been to my pain time and time again.  When I became pregnant in 2011 after ovulating on vacation on day 56 of my cycle, she laughed as she replied, “I told you all you needed to do was relax and take a vacation!”  When that same pregnancy was diagnosed as ectopic she said, “It just wasn’t meant to be.”  After scheduling my first laparoscopy to investigate possible endometriosis (a condition that she herself has, that forced her own hysterectomy in her mid-30s) she told me I was being “too much of a worrier.”  Each medicated cycle after I was reminded that I’d never succeed if I was putting all those “unnatural hormones into your body,” and each negative test after negative test I was told, “It’s just not your time yet.”  When our third pregnancy ended in miscarriage last winter, she cried with me, but reminded me that the worry I had been feeling since our first bad blood draw at 5 weeks, “certainly did your baby no favors.”  She was visiting when we were approaching the end of my stimulation phase for this IVF cycle, and insisted on driving with me to my last monitoring appointment before trigger and retrieval.  On the car ride to the clinic she told me I could have avoided all this “IVF stuff if you’d just stuck with acupuncture.”

This woman loves me deeply, wholly, and completely, but seems incapable of saying or doing the right things.  And, believe me, I’ve taken my own advice – the advice I dole out so often at my RESOLVE group.  I’ve told her how her words make me feel.  I’ve asked her to respond differently.  I’ve told her what I need from her.  Each time I’ve been ignored, or, worse, corrected.  “More negativity is not what you need,” she explains, “you worry so much it makes no sense to make everyone else around you be just as miserable!”

So, for the past couple weeks, I’ve taken the coward’s way out.  She calls, I don’t answer.  She texts, I don’t reply.  It snowballs out of control.  My anxiety gets higher, the inevitable confrontation gets worse.  Finally, yesterday, Mr. But IF made me answer her call.

Apparently she thought I had died in a ditch.  You see, I do all those ridiculously long drives to the doctor and surely I got in an accident and no one noticed or told her.  (What that says about my husband and friends we’ll just ignore for now.)  I’m pregnant and she wants weekly updates, she demands weekly updates!  I told her that was just too much.  With a shaking voice I explained (again) that I just can’t keep calling and saying, “Yes, still pregnant.”  That even those three words leave me in a complete panic.  That just saying them seems like tempting fate.  That in my mind it’s not three words, but five.  It’s “Yes, still pregnant, for now…”

Again I was told that response is silly.  That my emotional needs are irrational.  If only it could have ended at that.

As her voice turned from stern talking to to chipper happiness, she said, “Well, fine, then we can talk about some other happy news at least.  Your cousin S is having a little boy, so you need to have a little girl.  I’ve told everyone you need to have a little girl so that your kids can play together!”

And, then it crashed.  The tears started flowing, the anger formed a lump in my throat the size of a softball, I couldn’t form words through the shaking.  My young cousin got married a few days after my most recent miscarriage.  After weeks of my aunt going on about how fun it will be to be pregnant at her wedding, I couldn’t manage.  I skipped her wedding.  A well-timed snowstorm gave me the excuse I needed to back out of the 6 hour drive home to the wedding of a cousin I barely know.  A cousin that is apparently very much NOT infertile.  A cousin who’s pregnancy and future little boy are just another on the long list of living reminders of all that infertility has stolen from me, of all that miscarriage has closed my heart to.

I think I’ve done fairly well at avoiding the constant comparisons and the what could have beens.  But hearing of the easily conceived pregnancy of the cousin that (I kid you not!) was on a television dating reality show when Mr. But IF and I first started trying to have our first sucks.  Having my aunt ignore my pain and replace it with joy for the niece who will give her her first grand-nephew sucks.  Having this all happen in time to coincide with the week when we lost our last child, when that heart beat stopped without apparent cause between 8 and 9 weeks, is cruel and unusual.

At least, as I said to Mr. But IF, I have something to talk to my counselor about on Thursday.  If I’m able to get out of bed on Thursday.  If Thursday isn’t the first day of grieving and moving on from a bad ultrasound on Wednesday.  But, it seems, I should just stop with the negativity and celebrate the gleeful naivete of friends and family and cousin’s named S.  Surely it’s my bad attitude that’s done this to me all along.  I’m constantly made to feel that I caused our struggles, I made my misery.  Why does this seem like rational logic to those that love me?  Why don’t they, by extension, remind me that positivity and yoga could have cured my mom’s cancer?  Why, when I speak of the pain of missing her, am I not reminded of a cousin, a friend, a stranger that has two living parents?  Shouldn’t celebrating living parents cure the lack of my own?

Today I am grateful

Today an old online friend sought me out to congratulate me on the news.  She wrote, in part:

I completely get why you left FF.  I read a blog of yours that kind of explained why you left and could sympathize with the need and want to kind of turn to blogging over forums. I think you do a great job at capturing how this journey is going for you. It ‘s probably the least fluffiest blog I’ve read and I like that. I like the realness and rawness to your writing. I’m sure you have to realize those who have found your blog have found comfort in your words and that you’ve helped them in some way or another.

(I really hope you don’t mind I stole your words A!)

Honestly, that was probably one of the biggest compliments anyone could have paid to me.  I suppose I take a sort of sick pride in being the Debbie Downer of the IF blogosphere.  Not because I’m at all interested in one-upping anyone in the overdone pain olympics (I know my story isn’t the saddest or most painful out there by a long shot!), but more because it means I’m doing a decent job at conveying the way that *I* am living infertility.  Hope and optimism have been absent from much of my infertility experience, and pain and suffering familiar bedfellows.  If my writing is raw, if my words sometimes ache and hurt, then I’m succeeding at what I set out to do when I started this blog.  I’m putting some fraction of the emotions I’m feeling out into the ether, and hopefully freeing myself of some of them in the process.

That said, I’m well aware of how one note that often makes this blog.  Yep, But IF’s worrying again, cursing doctors again, depressed again.  The monotony is accurate, but I’m sure it also feels oppressive.  So, today, let’s try something different.

Today, I am grateful.  Grateful for so many things.  Things I should spend more time appreciating, documenting, and celebrating.  Why not take a moment to celebrate some of them now?  So, in no particular order, today I am grateful for…

  • My husband.  His unfailing support, his intellect, his humor.  The joy he’s brought to my life, the sorrow he’s helped me weather.
  • My life.  These 30 years.  Another happy birthday celebrated with friends and family, old and new.  The phone calls, the party goers, the Facebook messages, the cards.  The yearly reminders that I matter to many, even if I often feel that I’m invisible to all but a very few.
  • This pregnancy.  Today, I am pregnant.  No amount of past heartache or struggle should dull the beauty of that simple sentence.  I know all too well that these moments can be fleeting, so I should also know better than to deny the power of these moments.  Once again, today, I am pregnant.
  • My infertility.  Yes, today I am grateful for it.  This month, this year, and this decade I am grateful for it.  Infertility has brought me my LFP ladies, my FF friends, my Twitter buddies, my blogging pals, my support group gals.  How one disease that wreaks so much havoc, can also add so much to one’s life is beyond me.  I’m grateful for my day with C and R on Saturday.  For friendships with women I’d never have met if infertility hadn’t entered my life.
  • My friends.  The text messages, phone calls, and emails from three friends named A.  Celebrating weddings past and planned.  I wish I was better at staying in touch sometimes, but know I love you all and you’re regularly in my thoughts.
  • My cats.  Yes, even when they wake me at 3AM wretching in the carpeted hallway.  (I most assuredly have crazy cat butt parasites.  C’est la vie.)
  • Sunshine on my birthday.  And the marshmallows roasting over our fire pit it enabled.  And, yes, even the sugar crash that hit later last night.
  • The Internet.  Without the support it has offered I would have lost my mind long ago.  Without it, I wouldn’t have met YOU.  That’s definitely something to be grateful for.

A life lived in pieces

If you’ve spent any amount of time living or watching someone else live an infertile life, you’re almost certainly familiar with the common complaint that, with infertility, life often boils down to a never-ending progression of waiting periods.  For women with regular cycles (something I’ll NEVER understand) these periods are set at about two weeks.  Menstruation begins, 2 weeks of waiting and tracking until ovulation takes place, 2 weeks of waiting and hoping fertilization and implantation takes place, 2 weeks of waiting for betas to get stronger and a gestational sac to be found in the uterus.  My waiting periods haven’t been as predictable – anywhere from 45 days to 8 months to get a period in the beginning, dozens of cycles waiting for ovulation that never came, 4 months waiting for a useless rheumatology consult, a 9 week pregnancy that just stopped growing – but they still fit the pattern.  I, like so many others, live me life in moments ordained by biology, medicine, and physician convenience.  There’s not a moment in these past 4 years where I wouldn’t have been able to articulate what the next milestone was – the next surgery date, the next scan, the next doctor’s appointment, or the next treatment.

Having crossed to this confusing land of early pregnancy after infertility, things aren’t really all that different.  As the news of yesterday’s strong beta washed over me, all I could think of was what Wednesday’s repeat draw might reveal.  If I allow myself to accept that Wednesday’s might be fine, I open my calendar and start to wonder how difficult work will be the day of our ultrasounds, the day we might learn it’s another ectopic, that it’s growing too slowly, that it doesn’t have a heartbeat.  I’m mentally plotting out ways to explain unplanned vacation time on the day the bleeding starts.  I’m still living my life in pieces, but I don’t know what puzzle they go to.  I arrange them all, keeping each in play, waiting for future clarity that may or may never come.

That’s not to say there isn’t tremendous joy in our life right now; it’s just that it’s a little different than some might expect.  I called my aunt yesterday with our update.  She spoke of fate and angels and having dreamt of babies and my dead mother the night before.  She had joy, even as she commented through the phone, “Honey, you sound so sad.”  Hearing her happy made me so very, very happy, but I’m not quite there yet.  I’m happy to live her happiness, but my own will have to wait a bit longer.  I just haven’t gotten to that chapter of the story yet.

But, where am finding, if not pure joy, at least some relief?  It’s really in the silly things, I suppose.  After a night away in NYC for work on Friday, I returned home on Saturday exhausted and content from a day spent exploring the tiniest bit of what the city has to offer.  I just wanted to put on my pajamas, curl up on the couch, and watch endless hours of television as cat#1 kept me warm, cat#2 kept me entertained, and husband#1 enjoyed his boy’s night away in a hotel with his best friend.  It was while deciding what television series to gorge on that I realized I’m slowly starting to find some peace, or at least find ways to fill the void of another round of anxious waiting.  I can’t speak excitedly to my aunt, and yesterday’s walk past the baby aisle in Target still caused sweat to bead up on my upper lip, but I can return to some shows left unwatched once pregnancy plot lines developed.  I watched the first few episodes of the new season of Parenthood that I had all but given up on; I picked back up on Bones which I had declared unsafe territory mid-season 7; I added Call the Midwife to my cue (but still haven’t hit play).  So silly to be measuring my mental state by television viewing choices, but I’ll take progress wherever I can get it.  At this stage of the game voluntarily watching a show with a newborn is about as groundbreaking as buying that first onesie is for a “normal” pregnant lady.

Yet, I’m still living this life in increments.  I’m still trying to get through each episode as quickly and efficiently as possible, knowing that at any moment the show may have to be dismissed from my Netflix cue.

I’m living this pregnancy like I’m watching these shows.  Enjoying while they last, hoping to see the finale, but preparing for an unresolved end.

Good thing I’m not superstituous

So, as I wrote yesterday, we’re boarding the IVF train and leaving Waiting Station.  My baseline is tomorrow.  All aboard!

After calling the clinic to set the appointment, I followed a familiar routine.  I opened my personal Google calendar and added the appointment, opened my work Google calendar, copied the event to it, and padded it with an extra 1.5 hours on both ends for travel.  (Sure, sure, my boss doesn’t need to know that I’m “busy” starting at 6 fucking-AM, but I want her to feel guilty and lazy when she sees that appointment on there!)  As I added the appointment, though, something hit me about the date.  September 18.  There’s something special about September 18…

A childhood friend’s birthday is today, so not the 18th.  My aunt’s is in a few more days, so not her either.  I went through my mental inventory of work obligations – my self-report isn’t due for another few weeks, that conference isn’t until next month, and, honestly, when does anything special happen on a Wednesday?  I asked Mr. But IF, but, nope, no important milestones.  I let it be.

After another exhausting Monday, I settled in last night to watch my Steeler’s get stomped.  And to eat my body-weight in carbs.  Some friends have guilted me into attending a twice weekly faculty bootcamp class on campus.  Can I just say how much I am looking forward to the excuse of stims to start dialing back on these classes?  I also booted up Facebook for a quick stalk and mock.

Many folks in the infertility community have a difficult relationship with Facebook.  While I’ve had my moments, it’s never been that big of a source of pain for me.  Maybe it’s because I’m somewhat used to Facebook showing me things I can’t have – friends celebrating birthdays, engagements, and showers with their mothers – or maybe it is because I started using Facebook as an infertility soapbox and support network early on in the struggle – I freely post IF articles, comments about our treatments, and speak to my IF “friends in the computer” via Facebook every day, but for whatever reason Facebook has never been much of a trigger.  Last night wasn’t really any different, save the fact it reminded my why September 18 felt so important.

Yesterday when I pulled up Facebook I was greeted by another wrinkly and squish-able newborn face.  The daughter-in-law of my mom’s best friend had her son.  My mom’s best friend, my “aunt” by choice not blood, is now a grandmother.  Another happy ending.

When I opened up to my “aunt” about our troubles conceiving, she told me her son and daughter-in-law were having issues as well.  She’d been pregnant, she’d lost the baby, they thought it was her thyroid.  I shook my head knowingly and supportively, offered my sincerest condolences, and told her to tell her daughter-in-law to call me no matter when or why and let her know she was not alone.  “We may be next to strangers,” I said, “but please just let her know there’s someone out there that ‘gets it’ and will be there for her if she needs it.  I would have given anything not to feel so alone in the beginning, and I don’t want to know that anyone else feels that way if I can help it!”

She never reached out, and that’s fine.  She was pregnant a few months later, and so was I.  Seems we were both getting our happy endings.

Her son was born yesterday, and mine was miscarried and flushed at just over 9 weeks this past February.

So, that’s why September 18 had a ring to it, caused a visceral reaction.  September 18 was my due date.

After seeing a gestational sac, hearing a heartbeat, seeing the embryonic squirm, September 18 was supposed to be the end of our infertility struggle and the beginning of life as parents.  Instead, September 18 will be the day we start IVF, the day we begin again from scratch, the day we get one step closer to being done once and for all.  While a beautiful and happy new family celebrates in my old hometown, I’ll answer the alarm that will ring at 5AM, scrape the frost off of my windshield at 6AM, be to my clinic by 7AM, and begin the appointments, the injections, the hoping, and the despair all over again.  As they celebrate each newness – eyes opening, hospital discharge, first night at home, first bath – I’ll endure the endless and familiar cycle.  Remove vial from fridge, swab injection site, pull back plunger, stab, sterile gauze, repeat.  While others move on, I continue going in circles.

Nap time

You know that totally put together, strength of a million mighty women post I published last week.  Yea, I’m a liar.

Well, sort of.  I do think the foundation of that post holds true.  In my heart of hearts I did feel a switch flip and bring a sudden awareness, a silent peace that if I’m never a mother, I’ll make it work.  I’ll find new dreams, live in ways I’d never planned, learn to live on.  That part was true (or as true as any untested predictions we apply to our lives can be).

The lie?  It’s not bravery or strength or courage that’s propelling me, it’s exhaustion.  Granted, it was more lie of omission rather than outright “fooled you!”, but still a lie.

I’m just so tired.  The past four years of my life have been a haze of doctor’s appointments, surgeries, arguments with insurance companies, strained conversations with friends and family, shots, pills, sleepless worry-filled nights, physical therapy, counseling sessions, support groups, MRIs, X-rays, blood draws, IV infusions, driving to appointments, keeping family, friends, and strangers abreast of those appointments, fundraising, waiting to get pregnant, waiting for a new diagnosis, fighting for a new diagnosis, waiting to miscarry, waiting to pick up the pieces and try again.  And, as if that wasn’t exhausting enough I had to watch my husband and my IF friends in the computer live the same struggles and walk the same paths.  Again, and again, and again.  I’m just so very tired.

I would guess that for every minute I spend with a doctor, I spend another 20 minutes on the phone with the doctor’s office, on the phone with my insurance company, on the phone with the mail-order pharmacy, standing in line at the traditional pharmacy, going through outpatient intake to get my blood drawn again, writing out checks for co-pays and co-insurance, and filling out the same medical history form over and over and over again (number of pregnancies: 3, number of live births: 0).  I’m running out of steam.  Actually, I ran out of steam a long time ago.

Last Friday I went back to the lab for yet another blood draw.  We needed to decide whether it was time to give up on my body doing what it’s supposed to do and start a course of Provera to bring on menstruation, or whether we should let it do it’s thing and hope (har har har) for a miraculous naturally conceived pregnancy.  Tuesday’s tests were inconclusive, so I was ordered a repeat course on Friday to see whether levels were going up, down, or staying stagnant.  I hauled my bottom out of bed bright and early, went to the lab, sat through another round of “dumb things fertile phlebotomists say,” and waited.  My clinic never called with the results.  When I called back Saturday, I got an answering service.  On Monday I called at 7AM and started screaming bloody murder.

“Oh, the hospital never sent them.  You’ll have to figure this out with the hospital.”

Two hours, 5 phone calls, 2 times being hung up on, and a whole lot of lost work for my employer later, I got the (now 3-day old) results.  Body as stubborn as ever.  No change whatsoever.  Start Provera.  What’s another 3 day delay, right?

Last night I started spotting.  I started planning out our cycle, mentally scheduling the appointments, checking that I’d be in town and available around the potential retrieval and transfer dates.  I was excited.  This morning the spotting is gone and there are no signs that my period has any intention of starting any time soon.  What’s another two weeks of waiting, right?

I’ve been getting bills from my rheumatologist for a while now because they refused to collect my co-pay on the day of my appointment.  The invoice provides no way to pay by credit card (something I always do because of our flexible savings accounts through work) so I have to call.  Well, I’ve tried to call.  Apparently they are closed on Thursdays and Fridays, leave early on Tuesday, and take lunch every day from noon to 2pm.  After calling today and receiving a brusque, “This is the answering service, the office is on lunch break until 2 <you idiot!>” I lost it.  What’s another hour of waiting to pay a bill for a useless office visit that delayed my chances at trying to conceive for 4 months for no good reason, right?

I’m tired of this being the best that is out there.  I’m tired for my friends (first and foremost among them dear C) who have had to fight tooth and nail for quality of care that makes mine look like the gold standard.  I’m tired of being treated like I don’t matter by “professionals” that don’t know what they are doing, don’t respect the weight of their influence on our lives, and don’t do any more than the bare minimum (at best).

So, that peace and zen?  It’s just a scam.  In reality, I’m just ready for this journey to end.  I’m ready for nap time.