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.


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.


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.


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.

The (wow that went) quickening

What a difference a week makes, eh?  Sorry I’ve left y’all hanging, but even when I’m totally zapped of time and energy and incapable of updating here, I still try to give the play-by-plays over on Twitter…

So, what we’ve learned in a week:

  • Baby But IF has a winkie.  The Mr. smiled from ear to ear as the ultrasound tech proclaimed proudly, “No doubting this one, that’s a big old boy right there!”  Momma hen came out a bit as I stifled the urge to reply, “Stop staring at my son’s penis!”
  • I’m half way through this pregnancy.  How in the HELL did that happen?  I mean, I know I’m probably saying this because I have yet to reach any sort “OMG I’m huge and miserable and uncomfortable” phase, but seriously can we slow this down a little bit?  It took us 4.5 years to achieve a sticky pregnancy, it seems kind of cruel to know I’ll only get to be pregnant for about 1/8th of the amount of time it took us to get and stay pregnant.  (On the flip side, I so desperately want to meet this little man that the prospect of our meeting on the horizon is probably enough to get me to stop the chorus of “That’s so unfair!”)
  • Stubborn boy doesn’t like kicking when daddy is within reach.  As I was settling into a good book in bed on Sunday night I felt a sudden something.  A passing moment, I buried my mind deeper into the book.  Then again.  And a split second later I thought, “Whoa, wait just a damn second!  You idiot!  You know what that was!  That was most decidedly a kick Mrs. Always-Late-to-the-Party!”  Of course, Mr. But IF was sound asleep so missed out on the tiny pitter patter I could feel both inside and outside of my tummy.  And, the following day, when baby boy decided to vent his Monday morning frustrations by attacking the front of my desk, daddy was a few buildings away at work in his own office.  The movements are still very minor and fleeting, but they’re there.  And, just thinking about that brings uncontrollable tears.  I was so very certain I would never see (and feel) this day; that it has come has melted me into a pool of topsy-turvy emotions.
  • My (now former) OB is amazeballs.  It’s not that I learned this this week, obviously, but more that I’m confirming it.  I had my last visit with him yesterday.  I peed in a cup, listened to little man’s heartbeat, had some blood drawn, and that was that.  Off to perinatology I go next week to face an entirely new unknown.  The departure was bittersweet.  Dr. T had a med student with him, so it prompted him to explain to her how 1. I was a complicated case, and 2. That I was a dream patient.  Though no one likes to be a medical students introduction to when to transfer a patient off to a higher level of care, it melted my heart to hear him say, “She’s a dream patient, this one.  She knows her stuff, and it’s important for all new doctors to learn when it is time to listen to a patient who knows what she is talking about.”  And, then he hugged me goodbye and threatened to hunt me down if I didn’t send updates.  It’s strange, for over a year I cringed as RE#2 and his ridiculous soul patch hugged me in his impish, condescending, zen-master manner; this single hug from an OB I met just a few months ago elicited a wholly different reaction.
  • The regional perinatology center may more closely resemble Alcatraz than medical nirvana.  As Dr. T said his goodbyes he warned me (and the med student) that “Things aren’t so cushy over there, but you’ll be in good hands.”  This really wouldn’t startle me, except he said it as I stared at the exam room’s peeling wallpaper, broken vertical blinds, and as Dr. T perched gingers on a stool meant for 4 wheels that, for whatever reason, now only had 3.  If my former office is “cush” I’m not quite sure what to expect from the new one.  That said, if 4.5 years spent running like a lab rat through a maze of medical offices has taught me anything, it’s that the dingier the office, the more amazing the doctor.  And I’ll keep repeating that philosophy as I try to avoid being shanked in the new doctor’s offices next Thursday.
  • Referrals move quicker when you’re pregnant.  A new rheumatologist will see me April 17.  That’s less than half as long as it took to get a referral last year after my third miscarriage.  I still don’t have much hope that we’ll get anything useful out of the appointment, but at least it’s something else to look forward to.
  • And, finally, I have amazing friends and family members that I totally don’t deserve.  The mother-in-law has been nudging me with shower planning questions since the New Year holiday and, while at first the thought struck fear straight into my heart, I’m now more and more on her side as it looks more and more unlikely that I’ll be allowed to make it to my due date thanks to all these new medical issues.  I finished my registry on Sunday, posted it on Facebook in response to a few questions I’d gotten earlier in the week, and, to date, I’m humbled by the response.  While things most certainly don’t equal love, all I gotta say is this little guy is so beyond loved it’s incredible.  He has no idea what’s about to hit him when he makes his grand appearance!

Up, down, all around

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

The Up

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

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

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

The Down

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The All Around

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The thin line between pessimism and self-preservation

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Riding in cars with infertiles (pt. 2)

On Friday I mentioned that two discussions occupied our time on the car trip down to the in-laws. First, a calm conversation about our current feelings on adoption. That one I’ve already reviewed. The bigger land-mine was when conversation changed (as it so often does) to a discussion of our sex life. If you know me and Mr. But IF in real life, this is your warning that you may not be able to look us in the eyes after this one. I give you full permission to look away.

First, as a bit of a preface, this is going to be a hard post to write. But, one of the many things infertility has taught me is that, in almost all cases, the things you find hardest to discuss are often those things that must be discussed. Sex is one of those things. Deep breath…


Once upon a time a precocious college lad met an inquisitive young lass. A few walks home from class, a hilariously failed phone call (remind me to tell you about that one some time!), and, ultimately, a first date.  A date that turned into an all night conversation at a doughnut shop. That turned into an all morning snog-fest in the dorm room. That turned into a let’s skip class and stay in bed all day. I hear Mr. But IF now, shouting into the screen, “We didn’t go all the way that first night!”, and that’s true my dear readers. I think we waited, er, 48 hours?

I was a late-ish bloomer – at 18 Mr. But IF was only my third kiss – but it was opportunity not motivation that had held this overachiever back. Worlds of experience separated me from my man, and I wanted to make up for lost time!  And make up we did.

Three years of daring college escapades, uncomfortable public over-sharing, and (barely) evading roommates later, the man I thought I’d learn a little from became the man I wanted to spend my life learning alongside. We started dating at 18 and 21, were engaged at 20 and 23, and married at 22 and 25. I never saw any of that coming, but, looking back, the results have been better than I could have dreamed. Since we largely grew into adulthood together, we’ve grown together through all those changes as well. I never expected to be married so young, but I’m happy.  Well and truly happy.

Yet, somewhere in the months before our wedding something changed. We went from a couple that thrived on brassy exploits in physical intimacy, to a couple in which one partner (myself) lost all desire.  I blamed grad school stress, I blamed the difficult process of learning to live with someone, I blamed my increasing weight and the seemingly unending process of grieving my mom, I blamed the wedding.  Despite years of really good sex, I hatched a plan that now makes me look back and shudder.  “You know what would make the wedding night special,” I coyly queried.  “How ’bout we totally abstain until then?”  I watched my future husband turn a shocking shade of bright white, and, bless the man, he consented.  If I’m totally honest with myself, I, on the other hand, felt deeply relieved.  I was tired of sex, and, though I couldn’t quite put a finger on it then and there, I now know why.  I wasn’t crazy, getting older, or under stress (all things suggested to me by the medical community).  I was in pain, physical and emotional.  And, unfortunately, the worst had yet to come.

During our early years together I was on the birth control pill.  In fact, I was on it before I needed to be on it for the usual reasons.  It was prescribed to me to calm the extreme pain I had during my menstrual cycles (you know, that sign that I was just an overly sensitive weak woman) and I was given birth control as a curative to my ever absent cycles.  While to many women (and men) it may sound awesome to only cycle once every year, it’s less awesome when your period crashes the party that one day you wore white pants in the past 10 months.  And, it’s absolutely less awesome once you do, indeed, become sexually active. There’s nothing like taking a pregnancy test every day for 10 months while you wait for your cycle to return and endlessly Google “false pregnancy test, but still pregnant?”

Then, coincidental to our becoming engaged, moving, and planning our wedding, I was taken off of birth control by a horrid former doctor.  She didn’t like that my blood pressure was “a little high” the one time the nurse took it.  To this day it still stuns me that all medical practitioners think it is totally sensible to assess your BP first thing after the marathon-running “I don’t have time for this” nurse chases you back into the exam room and asks you to strip from the waist down.  I personally think all pills for Viagra should be revoked if there’s even the mildest elevation in a man’s blood pressure as the glove is slapped on for his prostate exam.  So, anyway, despite no history of elevated blood pressure, I was off the birth control.  My cycles disappeared, and, on the rare occasions that they did reappear, I missed several days of classes vomiting and writhing in pain on the floor of my apartment.  From February to November of 2004 I had no period, I saw my first (of now hundreds of) negative pregnancy tests, and I went to the doctor at our student health center.  One more pregnancy test and he simply said, “You likely have PCOS.  You’ll probably be infertile, but otherwise you are fine.  Here’s a prescription for a drug to jump-start your cycle.  Need some condoms?”

So, by the eve of our wedding I was fat, possibly infertile, stressed, and in pain.  And I could never wear white pants.  Oh, and one other lovely realization.  Sex hurt.  Sex hurt badly.  It felt like my entire body was a walking, talking, aching muscle.  Tell me that’s not a turn on?  But, young, embarrassed, and ashamed I held it back from my future husband.  It was, after-all, just the stress, just the worry, just getting older.  It would be fine once we were married.

A month before our wedding I went to a new doctor to get a new prescription for birth control.  She gladly consented and was actually a little taken aback when I told her why I’d been taken off of it in the first place.  To be on the safe side I was prescribed a low-dose option, but I never again had a single questionable blood pressure reading (until, that is, it started bottoming out during the hey day of my undiagnosed Hashi’s).  Fast forward to holy-moly-sex-is-awesome!  See, it was the stress after-all!  But, why am I so constipated?

I finished my graduate degree, I got a “real” job, and along with the job came a “real” doctor.  We discussed my past, I complained of some issues (severe chronic constipation, emotional ups and downs, easy bruising), so she decided to change my birth control.  Bad move, doc.  Bring on the emotionally abusive, desire-less, wife from hell.  But, laying it out like that, it makes it seem so obvious.  Change in pill leads to change in health and happiness so just stop taking the pill, right?  But, we didn’t know it was the pill.  I mean, hell, it’s the birth control pill.  It’s the pharmaceutical equivalent of a tic-tac.  Pop one a day and all worries away, right?  Surely it wasn’t the pill.  It was depression, it was IBS, it was stress, it was poor diet… it was anything but the pill.  I had X-rays, I had blood work,  I went to counseling, I was referred for a colonoscopy three times (but thank God their scheduler always managed to forget to call me back).  I accepted that this was my life now and there was nothing to be done about it.

Then, in 2010, we decided to start a family.  I dumped the birth control and, at least in the beginning, it was wonderful.  Pain-free sex, desire (now fueled by the “holy crap we’re making a baby” phenomenon!), emotional stability.  Then, that first crippling period.  Then, 50, 60, 70 days without another.  Then the return of the pain.  I sucked it up and rolled with the pain of sex.  I can’t count the number of pep talks I had with myself in those early days.  “You want children, you need to have sex, your husband doesn’t deserve to see you in pain.  Smile, moan, say how much you want it!”  Months rolled by, I had no periods, and I certainly had no positive pregnancy tests.  Visit #1 to the PCP was the, “Give it time, you’re young” visit.  Visit #2 was the “For some people it takes time to regulate after birth control” visit.  Visit #3 was a pep talk from my OB and a reminder to keep taking prenatals (which I’d been taking already for 9 months).  Visit #4 I was referred for a colonoscopy (which I again didn’t have).  Visit #5 I was told my acne could be corrected after we were done having our family since most treatments weren’t pregnancy safe.  Visit #6 I’ve recounted already.  As the diagnoses rolled in I still had pain but I thought I had all my answers.  Hashi’s and PCOS were the be-all, end-all of my health and happiness problems over the past few years.  What couldn’t be explained away by that evil duo were most certainly the result of infertility-induced depression and self-loathing.

But, they weren’t.  On November 18, 2011, we terminated our first pregnancy that my OB coolly told us was “almost certainly” in my tube.  In January 2012 my first RE gave us the news that both my tubes were, in fact, blocked.  And, in February 2012 I had an exploratory laparoscopy that uncovered Stage II endometriosis of the ovaries, tubes, and bowel.  The day I woke up from surgery was the day I realized what life was supposed to be like all these years.  Even while still in pain from incisions and CO2, I felt better than I had in years.  Bowel movements weren’t a painful occurrence that happened once a week, they were a morning celebration of my new found health.  (Turns out having your bowel adhered to your abdominal wall kinda messes with you.)  My periods were a walk in the park.  I mean, seriously, I could take a walk in the park while on my period.  I could LEAVE MY HOUSE while on my period without fear of public vomiting and physical breakdown.  Oh, and sex.  It was AWESOME.

For a while.  It’s now been just over a year since my surgery, and I fear the pain is returning.  Endo is a stubborn little bitch.  She’s always lingering there, just under the surface, waiting to pounce the next time your body goes through the normal hormonal changes associated with a complete menstrual cycle.  Multiply this times 100 when (most) fertility medications are used.  In 13 months I’ve had 3 cycles off of birth control and 1 pregnancy that lasted until 9 weeks.  Yet, here I sit, back on birth control for fear endo is coming back to get me.  But, again, that makes it sound so simple.  Don’t forget the nagging head games.  Is that constant bowel pressure endo, or should I not have had that piece of cake last night?  Was that 1 painful session of intercourse from endo, or just a bad position?  Is my drive gone because of fear of pain, or because WTF my body just killed my third baby?

So that brings us to Friday and Mr. But IF’s (very poorly timed), “When do you think we’ll ever have sex again?”  “I don’t know!” I screamed.  “It hurts so bad!” I admitted.  “It’s not that simple!” I implored.  Whether I like it or not, our sexual encounters are now intimately connected to my fears of my future (failing) health and memories of my past failures to both achieve and maintain a pregnancy.  This, in turn, leads to a frustrated partner, at best, and a man that feels reduced to a sperm donor, at worst, since the only time I apparently am able to get “in the mood” is when I know I have to for the sake of making a baby.  Add to this some long gone memories of my past precociousness, inflammatory statements on both sides, a bucketful of tears, and an unhealthy bantering about of differing connotations of the words “selfish,” “pig,” “ignorant,” “bitter,” and “asshole,” and it makes for a truly thrilling drive down the highway at 70mph.

I wish I could say that we solved our problems on that drive, but these problems aren’t solve-able.  The best I can promise is to remain open about what I’m feeling, and the most I can rightfully hope for in return is understanding.  And, it goes both ways.  I know I often make myself out as the martyr.  hurt, miscarry, get ignored by doctors.  In the heat of the moment I ridicule Mr. But IF for having the nerve to discuss his sexual wants while I’m wondering when/if the time will come when my endo gets so bad I’ll need a bowel resection, or how much that brand of birth control that leaves me with some drive will effect my thyroid levels, or whether or not the sex will “count” given my expected date of ovulation.  It’s easy to minimize the importance of physical intimacy in a marriage when one partner is constantly waiting for the other shoe to drop.  And, in that process, make out one partner’s needs as optional upgrades.  Intimacy in marriage shouldn’t be an upgrade, though, it should be a foundation.  One of many foundations, yes, but a foundation all the same.

Truth of the matter is, as this heart-breakingly accurate post from the blog “My Free Mind” details, not all battles with infertility have happy endings.  And, that’s one of the shittiest aspects of infertility — you just don’t know where you will stand when the smoke finally clears.  I do not know whether I will ever be a mother, but I do know I’m capable of being a wonderful partner.  I’ve been madly in love with my husband since that afternoon standing under the trees outside my dorm room discussing barbers, pocket watches, and history class. Our marriage will not become a casualty of endometriosis, inept doctors, and infertility.

Riding in cars with infertiles (pt. 1)

So, as I’ve already mentioned, we’re spending the holiday weekend with the in-laws.  That means a 3.5 hour car trip south.  South from our rural village, to an even more rural valley populated by generation after generation of What IFs.

No, seriously, it’s half Clampett’s half Walton’s down here.  I remember my first trip home to meet the ‘rents.  The trip on which, among other things, I learned that the man I was dating tends to overlook gigantic plot points when telling a story.  No one can bury the lead like my man!  We were supposed to have a quick Sunday afternoon dinner with mom & dad.  We arrived, walked inside, and no one was home.  “They must be at my grandmother’s,” he uttered.  Oh wow, I thought, guess I’ll be meeting more than just mom and dad.  I started on my walk out the front door, back across the porch, and had my hand on the car door when he said, “Where are you going?”  “Getting in the car so we can go to your grandmother’s house,” I replied.  “She lives next door!” he chuckled, as if it was a commonly accepted fact that all grandmothers lived next door.  To be honest, the concept of a “grandmother” itself was a new one to me.  I’d been raised in a family in which 3 out of 4 grandparents had passed by the time I was 7, and where the fourth (my paternal grandmother) had gotten in such a row with my mother that by the time I was 2 she was a non-entity in our lives despite living in the same town.  Well, OK, come to think of it, she actually may have lived next door to us.  I wouldn’t have known who she was either way.

So we started our walk down the winding country road to “nans.”  (A walk that, in the past decade, has become so familiar and so capable  of evoking disgusting amounts of warm fuzzies.)  As we approached the old white farm house, complete with big red barn repuruposed into a garage, my husband spied a few additional cars.  “Oh, my aunt, uncle, and cousin must be up!”  Like I said, this  man is nonplussed by nothing.  I sat there trying to imagine what my Betty Crocker suburban mother would have done if an extra 4 people showed up for dinner.  Likely smiles all around, an angry cigarette as the cars left the drive, and an “accidental” removal from our Christmas card list.  Family or no family, hell, particularly family, you call ahead!

So, in I walk for my “quiet Sunday dinner” to find a raucous crowd of Mr. and Mrs. But IF’s anxiously waiting to meet the new “city girl” the valley’s favorite son had brought home from that “fancy” college.

Lest you think that the surprise dinner for 4 turned 8 phased me, you’ve not heard the entire tale!  No, my dear readers, while failure to properly prepare me for the magnitude of the afternoon’s events was mere laziness, disaffectedness, or sheer ignorance on my future husbands part, what came next was intentional.  He was very particular on one point when planning the event with mommy and daddy before our trip to But-IF-ville – the menu was non-negotiable.  They’d be serving nothing but the best (to test this city girl) — squirrel!  (I’m still waiting for my, “I met my boyfriend’s parents and all I got was a lousy squirrel” T-shirt.)  A decade later, here I sit in the living room of my squirrel-eating in-laws, having survived the meal (and many more adventures in rural Americana…).

So, where was this going?  Oh, yes, car rides.  It’s always the car ride. And, in the case of this particular car ride, a car trip sans radio stations, data signals, and all other distractions.  (The WhatIF-mobile was the height of German engineering in the year 2000, so while my tape deck is working, my cassette collection isn’t as relevant as it once was.  Original broadway cast recording of “Annie” anyone?)

We’ve had our best discussions in the car.  We decided to buy our first house when driving in the car, we planned most of our wedding when driving in the car, we decided we were ready to try and have children in the car.  Big shit happens in the car.  Today, was no different.

Adoption is a beautiful thing.  (I always feel like I’m pandering to someone when I say that, but I mean it.  Saying it again and again makes it sound less insincere, right?)  People that open their homes to children in need of one are awe inspiring to me.  In large part because, as we bared our souls to one another this morning, we acknowledged firmly and finally that we do not see adoption in our future.

My heart aches daily at the loss of innocence we’ve experienced through infertility.  The loss in some false certainty in the world that we’ve all been taught to expect.  You do right, you treat others well, you make wise decisions and prepare your heart and home for good things to come to you, and good things will come.  Unfortunately, no, they don’t.  Raised by an alcoholic father and forced to sit idly by as my adoring mother lost her battle with cancer at 48, I had already learned much of the “do well doesn’t equal receive well” lesson.  But, experiencing the loss of my own health, the loss of my potential pregnancies, the loss of my potential children, and the loss of my husband’s belief in do right, get right, has left additional scars.  Deep scars.  And a regular addition of new wounds that take their own sweet time to heal, and wounds to which no child should be exposed, especially when said child may have open sores of their own.

I’m angry that I may never experience a lasting pregnancy, I’m furious that even if we do achieve a lasting pregnancy the entire time I’ll be waiting for the next shoe to drop, and, if I’m honest with myself, in my current raw emotional state I know I will loathe those that would be involved in an adoption process – from social workers and birth mothers, and attorneys to agencies.  I’m not in a place yet where I can look at someone that has easily gotten what I want so badly and not have a visceral anger emotion.  And, if there’s one thing I won’t do, it is bring a child into a home filled with anger.  So, for the foreseeable future if not forever, adoption is off the table.

It’s getting late and our stock of Brit-coms is running low here in What-IF-valley, so I think we’ll end this here.  A teaser for part 2, however.  Whereas the adoption chat was a quiet, almost sombre and unemotional affair, the discussion of our sex life immediately elicited tears and shouts.  There’s a post you won’t want to miss, right?