Sunday, December 30, 2012

The year of change

Every man should be born again on the first day of January. Start with a fresh page. Take up one hole more in the buckle if necessary, or let down one, according to circumstances; but on the first of January let every man gird himself once more, with his face to the front, and take no interest in the things that were and are past. 
~ Henry Ward Beecher
2012. The year the Mayan Calendar ended and we were all told that the world would end. The year that brought so many around the world excitement as well as pain. Grey was once told that leap years are years of change. So far, this pattern has held true for us. 2004 was the year we were married (what a good year it was), followed by a wonderful honeymoon exploring the West Coast and a new position for me which would ultimately lead me to graduate school. 2008 marked the turning point in so many aspects: Grey finished his PhD training and began a postdoc that would open so many doors for him, Lucas's wedding and the news that we would not only have a nephew in the new year but also twins in the family and my graduate training turned a corner, resulting in a manuscript that would not only allow me to graduate but open so many doors for me. Then there's been 2012.

It's no secret that 2012 has been a hard year for Grey and me. One of the hardest years we've ever known. We started Jan 1st thinking we were finally pregnant and eager for the future. Within hours, that ended. Litte did we know that more pain was to follow and on the heels of that crippling depression. Somehow in the middle of the year, we began to rebuild and heal. Without the love and support that we both received here, I don't think any of that would have been possible.

Still, there's been some good things. Over the summer, I secured a postdoc in Boston. Since then, the wheels have been in motion and I've been very busy writing fellowship applications. To date, four applications are out the door at the major agencies with only one internal one needing to be completed. During this time, I've had the opportunity to work closely with my new advisor, building a relationship and showing her how committed I am to this project and my training. So far, it's been amazing and she's incredibly hopeful for something coming through soon. It's the little moments where we synch up that make me smile. In short, the work front has been good. I'm excelling in research and will be writing another manuscript in the new year. Not too sabbie for someone who is battling infertility and loss.

In addition to work, Grey and I are stronger. Stronger than I ever knew possible. I always believed that our marriage was a good one, but like all things it's stress that truly will test it. Needless to say, despite the stress and the pain and the heartache, we are not only standing but fighting. Grey pointed out to me the other day how amazingly strong scar tissue is. It's never pretty, but in a lot of ways it's far superior to regular tissue. In addition, the scars are where the stories are. The stories that make you laugh, make you cry.

I'm no longer naive to what the world holds. Reading back on my New Year's post last year had me shaking my head, thinking about how little I knew. This section in particular got me.
So, 2012, bring it. I know there will be moments of sorrow (there always are), but I also know that I'm stronger because of this path I've been on. There is nothing you can throw at me that I can't handle because I won't be alone. And I'm determined that there will be moments of joy; moments that I can look back on and treasure for the years to come.
It's hard to not want to go back and smack my younger self. To scream about this things to come. And yet, I also see a wisdom there from a younger me who wants to live.

Mo's recent post has been resonating with me in relation to what I'm dealing with. After three years on the TTC road, I'm also ready to move on. This past year has been one where I've watched others I know and have grown to love move on, finally expanding their families. All with some guilt and various levels of apology. The thing is, I don't want to live in the fear and pain anymore. I've had enough for a lifetime.

If nothing else, 2012 has taught both Grey and me that we are made of steel but also that we need to stop apologizing and live. No more comparisons; no more Pain Olympics.

With the closing of 2012 comes more news about our current cycle and movement forward. Our suppression check on Dec 14th cleared me to begin stimming (I practically did cartwheels out of the office when I learned I could drop my Lupron dose). My birthday present this last week was the news from the Endo check: ovaries are quiet and my lining is at ~ 11 mm. The thickest it's ever been. Equally surprising was the news that I was to start PIO that evening and begin Lovenox on Monday. Our transfer is this Wednesday (1/2/2013). That date has since been on my brain: 1, 2, 3. With everything going the way it has, it's hard not to hope.

Here's the thing: the me of a year ago would have been spending the past few days thinking about everything that could go wrong. The me of today is burned out from that. Call me naive, but being cautious and wary has become hard. It doesn't mean I'm not aware that all of this could fail, and I would be so heartbroken if it did, but I can't live in fear of heartbreak.

So, here's my New Year's wish: That there be no more sorrow and instead that there be joy and laughter. That there be light once again. Not only for us, but for everyone who has suffered and struggled. More specifically, I wish for all of us to find your children this year, either the path to them or that we actually bring them home. I wish for this chapter to end for each of us. I wish for resolution for us all.

Welcome 2013. May it be a year of hope.

Sunday, December 23, 2012


"It isn't as if there was anything very wonderful about my little corner. Of course for people who like cold, wet, ugly bits it is something rather special."
-Eeyore, The House at Pooh Corner

A few weeks ago, when the suppression medication was in full effect,  I had a meltdown in David's office. Prior to sobbing and confusing all my fears to both David and Grey, I noticed a copy of "Eeyore's Gloomy Litte Instruction Book" in the waiting room. Grey and I had previously flipped through it together, giggling at the relevance of the many Eeyore quotes. At the end of my sob session, I asked David if I could borrow the copy. He agreed, given that I complete the following assignment: I needed to figure out a way to remind myself not to be Eeyore. To not allow the world around me to control my life but to instead live it the way I wanted it to be.

Immediately, Grey turned to me and instructed me that I had to knit Eeyore. That not only was I long overdue in picking up the needles again, but Eeyore was required prior to doing a FET.

So, after a bit of searching, I found this pattern.

And after knitting a Secret Santa gift for Grey's coworker, I got to work.

The end result is this: Meet our holy-shit-we-hope-this-works FET mascot, Eeyore

With Christmas around the corner, I won't have time to show David or Dee prior to our baseline on Friday, but I'm hoping they'll get a kick out of him.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Episode 15 and a brief update

First off, for those of you who don't subscribe to iTunes or follow Shelley or Mo, Episode 15 is live. This week, our special guest was my beloved therapist Dee. Mo had the idea of asking a therapist on the show and literally asked me if Dee would be a possibility as I was walking towards a session with her. Sometimes the stars do align.

Grey and I are officially back from Vegas. I'll post more soon, but needless to say the trip did not go as expected. Mainly, we've both been sick starting from Monday to today, ranging from fevers, nausea, aches and pains and coughing. I'm still trying to figure out whether travel exacerbated our conditions or if it was something about the casinos (aka: the smoke and the air freshener they put into the air system . . . blah!).

Sunday, December 16, 2012

The state of mental health

There isn't a person I know who hasn't been touched by the tragedy that happened last Friday in Newton, CT. Like most, I've spent hours pouring over the information released by the press, hoping to find some reason for these senseless killings and the abrupt end of lives that were just beginning. I cried when the names were released, thinking of the parents who's arms were now empty. And I've been angry; angry that despite the signs, this was not prevented.

There's been a lot of focus on gun control in the US since Friday. Many blog posts have been quick to point the finger at the NRA, the laxed attitude to gun regulations and have called for change from our nation's lawmarkers. I'm not saying that this isn't important nor that it isn't something we should be talking about. But what has disturbed me is how many people have once again refused to addressed a key issue: how the US treats the mentally ill.

Since our miscarriages and failed cycles, Grey and I have both been in counseling. I've talked before about how therapy has been a life-saver, preventing me from dwelling too long in the dark pit of despair and giving me the tools I need to heal and live. What I haven't talked about is how much of therapy is not covered by insurance. How much of it is covered out of pocket, resulting in huge monthly bills. We are fortunate that we are able to prioritize seeking help, but with each bill I'm reminded how unavailable counseling and psychotherapy is to the general public.

A lot of this has to do with how our culture views mental illness. It should not come as a surprise that ~60% of the convicts occupying our prison system suffer from a mental disorder, which is 5 times higher than the general populous. Even within the general populous, mental illness is always talked about in hushed tones, with families refusing to seek help simply out of shame.

The thing is, like any preventative care, the sooner an individual is able to be diagnosed and receive help, the better the outcome. Granted, it's never an easy road, but I have witnessed families rally around an individual, providing support and addressing ancient demons only to conquer and thrive. In some cases, it's simply a matter of counseling. In others, more aggressive intervention is required. But at the end of the day, the outcome is always better than ignoring the problem.

Adam Lanza was not a demonic monster; he was a human being who was in a great deal of pain. I'm not excusing what he did nor condoning anyone who chooses to take lives. But to hear that he was isolated, without friends, so painfully shy that he couldn't speak without anxiety and was forgettable. Well, my heart breaks there too. And I can't help but think "what if." What if someone had reached out to Adam, offering a kind word or letting him know they were available to talk? What if someone had pushed Nancy Lanza to seek help for her "difficult son?" What if a judge had mandated family counseling following the Lanza's 2008 divorce?

What if we stopped assuming that mental illness isn't a problem or is simply that individual's problem and started demanding that help be available to all?

My heart is heavy for the members of Newton, CT. My heart is heavy for the families that lost too much. But I am also tired of us passing the blame. Yes, gun violence in this nation is awful and we need to address it. But no one who takes another individuals life willingly is mentally well. And if we don't address the root of the problem, nothing will change.

Agree with me or not, please take a moment this week to contact your Congressmen/women and let them know that we need change. It was too much with Aurora, CO. It was too much with Virginia Tech. And it was too much with Columbine, CO. Enough is enough.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Raising hope

Three. Three years ago this month, Grey and I prepared for a journey that would expand our family. Three years ago, we naively believed we would be spending our last Christmas without children. What followed instead was three years of pain, heartache, grief and loss. Three years of becoming what so many people fear.

On Sunday, everything came to a head. Granted, I've been on BCPs and Lupron. It's a given that they always tank my mood, causing me unending levels of anxiety and pain. But this time was different. Being stuck in a coffee shop while working on writing a final exam key and worry about the future, the whole time swearing I was going to pass out because the barista couldn't figure out how to turn down the heat in one area of the shop, I almost physically collapsed. It was in that moment, that I realized I was literally killing myself.  And I was done. I couldn't continue with living a state where hope didn't exist. That the loss of hope wasn't just killing me, it was killing Grey too.

Here's the thing: it's very easy to be hopeful . . . in hindsight. My reader has been filled recently with posts from fellow ALIer's who have been able to conceive through fertility treatments telling people not to lose hope. Though an important message, it's still coming after the fact. But to have hope DURING a period of fear, especially following years of disappointment and failure, well that's a hell of a lot harder if not something that is discouraged. For anyone who's been on this road, you know how skilled one becomes at killing hope in attempts to steal one's self from disappointment and pain. It practically becomes second nature. To foster hope involves confronting fear, acknowledging that pain and disappointment could happen, but also refusing to allow it to take over. Raising hope is a scary business.

Monday morning, following proctoring a final exam, Grey and I moved our embryos to the new clinic. Being back in the old clinic triggered a wave of emotions, causing me to remember all we had lived through. It was hard being back in a place that had once been a place of hope. That now was filled with memories of what should have been.

After checking in, we were instructed to go to the lab. While Grey went to find a restroom, I was left alone with our original embryologist. She's an incredibly tall, solid woman with fiery red hair and a no nonsense attitude, which has earned her the affectionate nickname Big Red. Taking the dewar we had to the back, I assumed that she would simply transfer our two remaining embryos into the tank and send us on our way. Instead, she emerged carrying a smaller dewar (after refilled the larger one) and placed it in front of me. Gingerly, she lifted the metal stick inside and showed me 2 one-inch straws. We verified that they belonged to me (numbers and names matched), before she submerged them again into the liquid nitrogen, but in that moment I saw a flash of love in her eyes. She then looked right at me and told me "my greatest hope is that every embryo I help create goes on to be a healthy, happy baby."

In that moment, everything changed. All the doubt, all the fear vanished. Though I've had so many people tell me that they have hope for us for this cycle, I've been stuck in old patterns of pretending to hope for the best, but actually replaying worst-case scenarios in my brain over and over. Looking into Big Red's eyes, I knew I couldn't do that anymore. To do so would guarantee that this cycle would fail. To do so would be unfair to Grey and me. To do so would be unfair to our snowbabies.

The car ride over to the new clinic helped me formulate a plan. Watching Grey with the dewar once we had the embryos gave me a glimpse at what an amazing father he will be (at one point, he rolled up the windows in the car because he was worried the embryos would catch cold). Looking at the paperwork reminded me that these two are strong (4AB and 5AB when frozen).

So, I made a decision to change my outlook on this cycle. I've said before that there is a chance that this cycle will result in a BFN, leaving both Grey and I heartbroken. But, there's also a very good chance that this cycle will work. That after 3 years on this journey we will be able to not only achieve pregnancy but also bring home our children.

With Dee and David's help, I've begun visualizing a positive outcome to this cycle. These exercises have been harder than I ever imagined, trigger panic and guilt (my favorite thought is "how can you be so naive?!?!?"). Do I believe that these visualizations will cure me of infertility? No. Absolutely not. But for too long I haven't allowed myself to hope, convinced that if I did I would be fooling myself. The thing is, I can no longer live without hope as to do so is killing us. So, despite the gatekeepers screaming protests, I've been pushing the visualizations. Bit by bit, I'm seeing images of my children's faces. The smiles and coos. I'm seeing Grey hold them, smiling a smile I haven't seen in 3 years. I'm seeing our family walking down the street years later, with them pushing the stroller of their brother/sister, who we've adopted, and talking happily about how special our family is. I'm even allowing myself to see me pregnant with them; and actually enjoying this pregnancy.

Needless to say, the Jabberwocky has been raging and the gatekeepers have been going crazy. But I'm pushing. Pushing Grey too, telling him over and over that this cycle will work. That we will bring home our children soon.

So far, it's been working. Taking these moments to envision our family has resulted in both a calmer Cristy and Grey. And we've been seeing signs of hope too, from unexpectedly finding cherry blossoms on trees that should be dormant to watching both hummingbirds share a feeder (which never, ever happens). Adding to the spirit, we got the green light for this cycle this morning, with me sailing through the suppression check in under 5 mins. All the more reason to have hope.

I'm ending this post with a song I heard many years ago as a child. Granted, it's early 1990's music, but the message is still an important one. Despite all the pain and suffering, you need to have hope. Be it with one day becoming pregnant, carrying a pregnancy to term, with your baby surviving/thriving despite a birth defect, or even just to know that one day you will get past this. That all the pain will be gone and that there will be happiness again. To hope is to live.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Episode 14: Donor Egg

Happy Wednesday, everyone! Take a break and catch the latest episode of Bitter Infertiles here. You can also find us at the website, Twitter  and by subscribing to iTunes.

This week, our special guest Beth helps us tackle another important topic: Donor Egg. An important topic shrouded with misconceptions and misunderstanding. Thank you Beth for taking the time to talk with us! And I hope that this upcoming cycle results in a healthy and happy pregnancy.

This episode is loaded with interesting information but the part that stuck out for me was Beth sharing with us her journey to date and how she had been diagnosed with unexplained infertility. That despite her FSH and AMH levels coming back in the normal range, her response to the meds only resulted in 1-3 embryos, resulting in a diagnosis of poor egg quality. Truthfully, I'm still a bit confused, as I always assumed that FSH and AMH (especially AMH) were able to assess this. So, for me, it calls into question whether these are truly ways to assess or if IVF is all the more diagnostic for this purpose. If anyone has answers, please fill me in!

Thursday, December 6, 2012

The human condition

Infertility. Miscarriage. Infant loss. Birth defects. Words that are guaranteed conversation stoppers.

As a child, I knew very little about any of these topics. Sure, there was the hushed whispered stories of an aunt who had suffered an ectopic. Or my uncle who struggled with his wife to conceive, but the details were always buried. Like a shameful secret no one wanted to talk about because of how tragic all of it was.

Even years later, when it became clear what Grey and I were living with, few people in our lives remain willing to talk openly about the pain and the doubt. On one end, I understand this. Each and every one of these topics is painful and filled with anxiety, guilt and grief. And there are no easy answers to these nor is there anyway to guarantee a happy ending to each story. Sometimes, there are no happy endings to these chapters of our lives.

I've been thinking about this more and more as Grey and I progress through this cycle. There's been a lot of bad thing that have happened recently, from Shelley's news last week, Trisha's and Tutti's recent miscarriages, news of uncertainty from fellow bloggers. Even S.I.F.'s recent post about evil in the world.  None of it is right; none of it makes sense.

The truth is, there is no guarantee that this cycle will work. Though IVF is an effective treatment for those suffering from infertility, there will always be couples who walk away from this process with empty arms. I know this because I've been there three times. Even if we are able to become pregnant, we still face uncertainties such as miscarriage, birth defects and even infant loss. All scary. All taboo.

Hence, it's natural to want to quietly go through this process alone. To hide from the world while filled with doubt, grief and the belief that nothing will change. It's also natural to want to forget once we are able to expand our families. To not talk about all the pain and grief, to bury the shame. It's part of the human condition.

But there are times when we need to fight this urge. To counter our guilt for speaking out with the resolve for change and a greater purpose. To swallow our fear and share our stories. Not for ourselves, but so that those who are suffering no longer have to live alone because of tragedy.

There's an article that's been circulating on Promptly talking about the rise of birth defects and miscarriages in Iraqi cities. The article, which you can find here, starts with the image of a young mother watching her baby die.
The women’s baby girl was struggling to breathe. Her little tummy heaving up and down too fast. She had complex congenital heart defects, like so many babies born here in Fallujah, a dusty, war-weary city, west of Baghdad currently experiencing a dramatic increase in birth defects and miscarriages.
The woman in the pink dress gazed with loving concentration at her baby, urging her, willing her to live, to take another breath. Her large brown eyes were not angry, more overwhelmed, full of innocence, and questions. I saw the babies eyes as she stared back at her Mother, only innocence there too.
The article goes on to talk about how there's been a rise in birth defects and miscarriage in these war-torn communities. It talks about roles of heavy metals and toxins in causing all of this. But the most powerful part of this piece is the snippets of descriptions of the couples who are losing children.

All of this has struck a chord with me. The knowledge that there is this amount of pain and suffering in the world and that for the most part, it is caused because of the greed and arrogance of others; all of which could be avoided. But there's a deeper purpose that. Having lost two pregnancies, I'm familiar with the pain and grief these couples are facing. The fear of an uncertain future and of being shunned by society.

I'm feeling a need to embrace aspect of the human condition; to step out of the shadows and rally for this cause. For raise my voice and tell these couples half a world away "I'm sorry" and "you're not alone." To let anyone who has been faced with any of this to know that they are not alone. And that there is no shame in having lived through it. In fact, there should be pride.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Episode 13 and Lulu strikes back

Ladies and Gentlemen: Lulu is in the house. She rode in this morning on the BCP express and proceeded greet me by wrapping me in her bear hug of depression. Plus she brought presents (headaches, drowsiness and spaciness). Gotta love Lulu.

But enough bitching and on to something far more entertaining. Episode 13 of Bitter Infertiles is live. Click here to listen. In additions to an update on Shelley (if you haven't stopped by her blog, please do so and give her support), we had a special guest this week to help us tackle the all important topic of second-guessing yourself: Amanda! We had a lot of fun talking with her, so thank you Amanda for spending a few hours chatting with us.

Off to practice my chock-hold on Lulu.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Necessary evils

CD who knows. BCPs are in full effect. Translation: I'm not sleeping. If I'm lucky, I'll get maybe 2-3 hours in before I find myself wide away. If I'm not so lucky, I'm awaking up after 2-3 hours shaking and crying from the nightmares. Vivid nightmares that I swear could be straight out of a horror movie. My acupuncturist has a theory that all of this is due to liver stagnation. My system is currently overwhelmed with trying to process the BCPs, in overdrive to reverse the effects. In short, it's a lossing battle with the only cure in sight being to get off suppression medication as soon as possible.

Needless to say, I've been doing a lot of swearing.

This last Monday, all the emotions from being overtired came to a head. Frustrated to be back in a medicinally-induced menopausal state with no guarantees of a different outcome, I had a meltdown in David's office. In my moment of weakness, I told him I didn't want to do this anymore. That I'm tired of dragging Grey through all of this. That I wanted someone to give me a definite answer for all of this.

After allowing me to vent, David calmly put down his pen and told me something that helped calm me down: this FET is a necessary evil. No matter the outcome, Grey and I will finally have an answer that will allow us to move forward. That by not going through this we were stuck.

Here's the thing: I am a huge control freak. For too long, I've believed that I had more control over my life than I actually do. Case in point: graduate school. I remember telling everyone that I just needed to get in and everything would be okay because I was willing to work my butt off. Talk about being disillusioned. What I learned over the next 6 years of my life is that there's an element of luck involved with surviving the process. Sometimes projects flop, sometimes people get scooped, sometimes the messy asshole you're sharing space with gets something to work because they stumbled upon something that was completely unexpected. Hence, no control of how everything will turn out (and anyone who tells you otherwise is completely full of it). What I learned I could control was HOW I would react to failure and bad news. Experiment fail? I learned to pack up for the day and to get a good night sleep so that I could tackle everything while I was fresh. Or, I learned to take a walk, come back and formulate a game plan for the next step. When all else failed, I learned how to formulate a mini-presentation so that my advisor and I could tackle the issue together.

Unfortunately, I stil haven't completely embraced this approach while dealing with infertility and pregnancy loss. That sometimes some of us have to run the obstacle course of treatments or the adoption process in order to expand our families. That these necessary evils are important for the process, even though it's completely unfair some of us have to shoulder more than we feel we can handle.

I don't know where I'm going with this other than to say I'm tired, I'm feeling less than optimistic, but I recognize that this is something we need to do. Maybe the point of all my bitching is to acknowledge that though I understand why we're doing all of this, I'm just tired of being so unlucky with all of this. Grey and I don't deserve this heartache and pain; this uncertainty. Hell, no one deserves this.

Here's to hoping our luck changes soon.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Episode 12: All about the man juice

Extra! Extra! Episode 12 of Bitter Infertiles is Live! Click here or here to listen. Even better, subscribe to iTUNEs and get it while it's hot.

This week, the ladies and I tackle Male Factor. Seeing as none of us have much experience with this side of infertility, we had a lot of help thanks to our special guest Tiffany. Even if you're not dealing with Male Factor, this episode is a great one about communication. Thank you again Tiffany! It was wonderful talking with you and I learned so much.

Monday, November 26, 2012


Rant time, folks. I need to get this one out before I attempt commuting home.

First, though, is confession time. I'm an advice column addict. My addiction started at a young age following church services. To pass the time while my mother made her usual social rounds, my father would supply us with the Sunday paper and it wasn't long before I was hoarding the section that contained both "Dear Abby" and "Ask Ann Landers." It wasn't until my 20s that I found my current favorites, which include Savage Love, Dear Prudence and Miss Manners. Initially my excuse for my addiction was their sound advice that was helping me make better decisions about my own life. But the truth is, I'm a junky simply because it helps me feel better about my own train-wreak of a life. Reading these weekly (or biweekly) letters helps me feel better about my own problems or at least count my blessings.

Today may have cured me of my addiction.

Quick recap, for those of you who haven't heard me bitch about my abandonment issues: I haven't had any contact with my immediate or extended family in over a year. I now realize that the ground-work for this was laid before I was even born, with me fulfilling the role of the whipping boy/black-sheep for this generation of children. Through a lot of counseling, I've begun to see the generational pattern of all of this; that my parents were simply executing programing that was instilled in them from birth. The thing is, I'm still angry. I'm angry that my parents chose to sacrifice me in their feeble attempts to "save" their siblings. I'm pissed that my mother viewed me as a threat instead of celebrating any of my life achievements or milestones (be it birthdays, graduating from high school, college, getting married and even completing my PhD). I'm disgusted with the whole lot of them that living like white-trash is celebrated and that "don't judge" is deemed as a suitable reason for not addressing the fact that all of them are fucking miserable.

Reading Dear Prudence today made me physically ill. Seriously, I recommend you find a place to sit down before you follow the link, because the main letter will piss you off. Is it possible that all of this is fiction? Yes, absolutely (part of me hopes that's the case). Still, if even a part of it is true, it's tragic. And Prudie's sage advice? Telling the letter writer to hang herself would have been kinder. Instead, the advice is to suck it up and think about the child. Never mind the fact that this poor kid has a psychopathic mother and a narcissistic father. One good note out of this train-wreck: at least the comments section hasn't been the usual bash on infertiles and anyone who pursues fertility treatments showcase.

This hit too close to home. Particularly the part where the letter writer talked about seeing all the happy family photos of FB. I could have been ill with her. Granted, I don't have to deal with the pain of infidelity. That on top of infertility and RPL would suck in whole new ways. But the betrayal this letter writer is experiencing from people who are suppose to love and support her is all to real. To be exiled by loved ones simply because the offending party became knocked-up and brought a baby into the world makes my head whirl. The reality is, not all children are brought into this world to two parents who want nothing but the best for them. More often than not, they are viewed as pawns for imaginary wars played between individuals who think only of themselves. Got any sage advice for that one, Prudie?

Someone please explain to me why any of this is okay? Seriously, I'm asking for a reason why this person should torment herself in the name of family. I'm not suggesting that we revert to a society that stitches scarlet "A"s to people's clothing or that children born from these tragedies spend the rest of their lives suffering from the sins of their parents. But come on! Sacrificing someone for one's own selfish gains isn't something that should be rewarded.

What's getting to me is the fact that I don't have family. I know I haven't had any for years, with infertility being the straw that broke the camels back. That in a lot of ways I'm better off. Still, I'm at a loss. Mainly because society expects those of us who are thrown off to simply dust ourselves off and go on to live happy lives without offending kin. It's always easier said then done, especially around the holidays and other celebratory events. Do I regret the decisions I had to make? No. Part of me just wishes I never had to.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Thankful . . .

"If the only prayer you said in your whole life was, "thank you," that would suffice." -Meister Eckhart

A few weeks ago, Grey and I were at a Rely for Life kick-off event. Playing the role of the dutiful wife, I watched my husband speak to the crowd about why their fundraising efforts were important for furthering cancer research and the development of new treatments/early diagnosis methods. Needless to say, he was popular. Anyway, before Grey's presentation one of the organizers took everyone through an exercise. On each table, was a set of white paper bags with glow-sticks. Dimming the lights, the presenter asked all the cancer survivors to crack a glow stick, place it in a bag and then to put it over their head. Then she did the same with their caregivers, family members, friends, nurses, doctors and anyone who was raising for the American Cancer Society. It wasn't long before the room was filled with the glow from the luminaries. And under that glow, she played the following song.


Hold on, to me as we go
As we roll down this unfamiliar road
And although this wave is stringing us along
Just know you're not alone
Cause I'm going to make this place your home.

Settle down, it'll all be clear
Don't pay no mind to the demons
They fill you with fear
The trouble it might drag you down
If you get lost, you can always be found

Just know you're not alone
Cause I'm going to make this place your home.

Settle down, it'll all be clear
Don't pay no mind to the demons 
They fill you with fear
The trouble it might drag you down
If you get lost, you can always be found

Just know you're not alone
Cause I'm going to make this place your home

I'm not normally a fan of popular music, but this one has stuck with me, haunting my thoughts during the quiet moments. The memory of hope that floated through that room, calling each person to do what they could; to never give up. 

I'm currently in my second week of suppression medication. In the past, I would count the days and focus on how awful I felt. This time, though, things have been different. With the memory of the Rely kick-off event and all that happened that night, I've been choosing to looks for signs of hope. It's amazing how many there are on a daily basis, be it the bursts of sunlight on otherwise cloudy day, the hummingbirds that chase one another while visiting our feeders, the moments I get to spend with a co-workers puppy (I need to write a blog-post about Ralphie, but needless to say watching a puppy grow and bounce is a wonderful cure to the blues), watching up to find Jaxson and Daisy snuggled next to us and even being wrapped in Grey's arms. 

Even the women and men of this community.

The truth is, I have a lot to be thankful for. Keiko recently wrote a post about being thankful for infertility. Honestly, I don't know if I'll ever be there, but I am thankful for the support and love I've received during the past year. For the friendships I've made that have changed me for the better and given me the courage to try again. For the stories of hope that remind me that miracles can happen.

I'm thankful for my family, despite being small. I'm thankful for friendships that bolster Grey and I when we need it most. I'm thankful for the doctors who have provided me with care, even during the moments that were so dark. And I'm thankful for this chance to try again, for the new protocol that goes with a new diagnosis. Hell, I'm thankful for a diagnosis!

Maybe one day, I'll be thankful for infertility too.

For each and everyone of you who stops by this blog today, I wish you all a safe and wonderful Thanksgiving. May there be moments where your heart is full of love and peace. May there be moments of hope.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

BCP blues

Scene: Pharmacy waiting room on a Friday evening in November. Two women are simultaneously called to the pharmacist's window to receive their prescription of birth control pills. One looks tired, having to wrangle two young boys while her husband offers feedback on how she should be parenting. The other looks equally tired, approaching the window with a look that suggests she's carrying the weight of the world and most certainly doesn't want to be screwed with. As the pharmacist hands them the exact same prescription, he proceeds to go over all the details, starting with use to ending with a myriad of side-effects. The lone woman nobs impatiently, clearly wishing the pharmacist would simply hand her the package so she can be on her way. The other woman is wide-eyed, staring at the pharmacist in disbelief as her husband translates all the instructs. Finally, the pharmacist ends his diatribe and asks if there are any questions. The mother responds with a "yes" and then looking directly at her husband, she asks a question in broken English that takes everyone within earshot by surprise: "Why you no get vasectomy?"

Let's start with the obvious: the BCPs are kicking my butt. Today alone, I've found my mind wandering to less than cheery places and the tears have come way too easily. Part of this has to do with the news that I'm once again an aunt, part of it is the usual life BS, but it's hard to mistake the feeling associated with these drugs. How upside down I feel while on them.

I remember the first time I ever took BCPs. I was 21 yrs old and had finally convinced my mother I needed to be on them as my periods were very uncomfortable. The sense of freedom that came from finally being in charge of my fertility was probably enough to overcome any discomfort I may have felt. That and I was 21 yrs old. Little did I know I would spend the next 8 yrs of my life on various forms of birth control: pills to start, then onto the "Patch"(which I really did love) and even the Nuva Ring for a few short months. Religiously adhering to them out of fear of an unplanned pregnancy and "ruining" my life.

What I wouldn't give for an unplanned pregnancy now.

Fast forward to winter 2011. Grey and I are gearing up for our first IVF. Reading over the protocol, I notice that BCPs are my first medication. "Piece of cake" I think. I've been on BCPs before and never with any issue. Despite warnings of others suffering, I convince myself that this will be the easy part of the protocol. It will only be a couple of weeks before I'm eating my words, wondering aloud why I'm struggling on a daily basis. It won't be until after round 2 of these meds that I'm able to recognize this change is it's own special type of blues: the BCP blues.

Before I continue, I need to clarify that I'm actually a champion of BCPs. I firmly believe that without this technology, women would still be in the dark-ages, restricted to the home and slaves to their fertility. Birth control liberated women, giving them control over their bodies and allowing couples to chose if/when to build their families. Frankly, I believe educating both men and women about fertility and family planning is critical to ensure human health and happiness, allowing people to explore who they are and where they fit into the world without being saddled with life-altering responsibilities because of a one-night encounter. I believe family planning makes for better parents. Hence I'm a huge supporter of making birth control free and widely available. Of educating teens about its uses and encouraging them to become proactive about acquiring it.

Still, the irony has not been lost on me that all my IVF cycles have started with BCPs. That the infertile, who can't become pregnant on her own, requires a medication that is meant to prevent pregnancy in order to proceed with fertility treatments. Part of me wonders why these pharmaceutical companies aren't paying me to be their poster child for their product.

Then I get a week in and remember why.

I know I should bitch, that instead I should be thankful we have another opportunity to do another round of treatment. I also know that going through all of this could very well be the road to us finally bringing home a child. For all this madness to end and for both Grey and I to finally be at peace. Still, the future is uncertain. And as much as I'm trying to remember that a lot of this depression is drug-induced, it's hard not to slip and feel totally worthless.

Two more weeks of pills to go. Then we're on to more adventurous medications and fun side-effects.

Come on universe. You owe Grey and me a happy ending.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Grey skies, clear goals

Hi All,

This is Grey again, glad to be back with you. Thank you all for your very warm reception following my last post. It was very validating and you are helping me understand community on a deeper level. I hope I can give you what you gave me.

Our transfer is coming up and Cristy and I are filled with anxiety. For a fleeting moment awhile back, I felt like I could forget, escape. I even thought, hey, this isn't so bad. Who needs kids? But I know at my very core it isn't true. I need kids. No material, no personal freedom can fill a kid-shaped hole in my heart. We have to resolve. We have to do this. No waiting, no running. I can sprint, but have always been a terrible distance runner. She has started meds. I've been working on the logistics of getting our embies transferred to the new facility. More meds on the way. This is going to happen.

Not again I hope. This year started with our slightly late 2011 Christmas miracle destroyed on New Year's like a Christmas tree burned down by its own lights with the presents and innocence underneath. A nasty picture, but a profound minimization of our miscarriage. I wish our tree had burned down and not our pregnancy. I think you all know what I would have given to stop it because you probably would too. I don't want this again. But I can't fix it, I can't control it. I can only proceed into the dark. I grind my teeth and swallow. I take comfort knowing this is what the best of men do for their families, suffer fear and doubt.

I want a child. I want to grow my family with Cristy. This want is a need actually, natural and just. But there is the memory of hurt. Of loss. Doing this again is an exercise in will, not of any curiosity anymore. Last year, there was hope and curiosity. Before that, naivety. What a child I was, so haughty and confident. Now, there is willpower forced into a hope-shaped vessel. I fear that there is also a growing callousness spawned by the abuse of infertility. I want her to be happy. I want to be happy. Therefore, the callousness must not be. I cannot raise a child of any kind in bitterness. It negates the purpose. My soul must remain fertile if my body is not.

Adoption is still possible, still real, ever so personal, but seems far away. I want to do this if we can birth children or not, but it would take months after our theoretical move just to get started. More desert. Just one more dune to go. You said that 6 dunes ago.

There are times I feel better. Usually, these correspond to some time I'm feeling valuable at work or exercising or Cristy is happy. I try to soak these up. Try to keep them going.

Cristy and I are trying, trying to do this, trying to support each other. We fail sometimes. Then, we get back up and try again. Nothing particularly elegant, just grit derived from love and the clarity of what we want.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

And so it begins

As always, this community continues to amaze me. This past weekend was a rough one, but thanks to all of you I am dusting myself off and preparing for whatever is to come.

Yesterday was CD2, meaning it was time to begin the usual suppression medications. Lupron has been ordered and I'm currently on BCPs. Though no symptoms have been evident, I fully expect to start feeling all those lovely side-effects by the weekend (just in time to record another podcast). If listening to a medicinally-induced menopausal woman talk about infertility and pregnancy loss doesn't grab your attention, this may be one to miss.

Anyway, in preparation for the havoc these drugs will be doing to my body, my acupuncturist and I had a discussion about things I can do to help turn-over the drugs. I haven't written about this since July, but the herbs that I've been on have been amazing regarding regulating my cycles and making PMS virtually nonexistent. With being on the drugs, though, herbs are out (they could potential interfere with the drugs, counteracting their intended purpose), so we had a discussion about the next best thing: food.

I have a love/hate relationship with food. From a young age, my weight was scrutinized, resulting in calorie counting and obsession about what went into my body. It isn't much of a surprise that my eating habits were so awful for years based on this, with me focusing too much on what the back of the package said vs. what I was actually eating.

All of that changed for a time when I moved to Seattle. Living in the Mint House meant communal living and sharing food. I learned from the Mint Ladies to stop focusing on the package and to instead focus on the product, the presentation and the portion size. Slowly, I began to love food for what it was. Meeting Grey only enhanced this, as he and his roommate would spend hours perfecting various recipes. It was through them I learned it was important to toss the margarine and embrace butter as well as how to incorporate spice, various types of vegetable cuts and most importantly patience. And it wasn't a terribly surprising consequence that my waistline began to shrink as I learned to eat better.

Then infertility hit. Though I was still mindful of food, being balanced went out the window. Instead of feeding my body, I was focusing on what to eat/not to eat while TTC. The balance I had found with various types of foods was gone and it wasn't long before bad habits started creepy back in. Over the past 3 years, I've managed to add 20 lbs to my frame. While other's talk about how they lose weight while undergoing IVF, I added (and was envious of those who were able to lose) and worried that the weight was adding to the increased symptoms and negatively impacting our changes. The inability to wear certain pieces of clothing or things becoming tight have been physical reminders of all the failure.

My acupuncturist equals all of this to an increase in dampness to my body. The idea being that as moisture has accumulated and become stagnant, so has the weight. Part of the problem with the increase in dampness has been my daily commute (2 hours round trip 5 days a week is certainly taking a toll), but also to me not clearing things. So, we talked about what I could do in order to stave off some of the negative side-effects of the drugs.

She started by recommending a couple of books. The first is called "Healing with Whole Foods," by Paul Pitchford. What she liked about this book is that it incorporates Chinese medicine with Western nutrition. Though there are things she doesn't agree with, in general it was a good place to start. The other book is called "The Self Healing Cookbook," by Kristina Turner.

As I'm waiting for these books from the library, she gave me a list of additions to/subtracts from my diet. Some will be harder than others.
-Beets (roasted ones, if possible)
-Beans (Lentil soup anyone?)
-Leafy greens
-Green tea

-Coffee (this one may kill me)
-Excessive sugar
-Soy (minimize this one)

The adds are clearly easier than the subtracts.

So, I'm slowly weaning myself off of coffee (I hate decaf, so it's better to reduce as much as possible) and minimizing sugar. In addition to this, I've come to the realization that beer needs to go too. In the meantime, I've been experimenting with ways to prep greens (roasted beets with balsamic vingar, kale with garlic and pepper flasks) as well as stocking up on old staples. All in the hopes of getting a leg up on Lulu.

Two BCPs down. 2.7 weeks to go.

Friday, November 9, 2012


This post has been a long-time coming, slowing being drafted in my head over the last few months. So much to say, but the information was unclear and confusing, hence I wasn't ready to share what was happening out of fear of giving inaccurate information. But also out of fear that I would appear two-faced and flippant in my decisions. It's time, though. Things are moving and because so much will be happening soon, it's important to be open and honest. Part of me hopes that by sharing this too that somehow this information may potentially be useful to others.

Let's start with June 22, 2012. The day Grey and I learned our Hail-Mary FET had failed. The day, that despite mentally preparing ourselves for, still broke our hearts. The day our biological children died. I remember being curled up in a ball on the floor, sobbing uncontrollably with Grey. How could this have happened? How could everything have gone so wrong? It was  clear that our REs were in the dark as to why treatments weren't working. "Bad luck" they had told us. "Just a matter of trying again." But neither of us had the strength to continue. The pain from loss was too great and both Grey and I felt unheard by others as well as by each other.

We made one of the best decisions in that moment and started marriage counseling. We both knew that things were bad, but the extent to which wouldn't become clear until months later thanks to David's and Dee's help. Death does this to people, robbing them of the world they knew; the life they had hoped for. Without help, death can do destroy everything.

As we healed, Grey and I made the decision to stop treatments and to start the adoption process. We were excited about this new road, as it gave both of us a sense of equality in the expansion of our family. So we did what any couple does when they start down this road: we researched options, talked with other couples who had adopted, made plans for interviewing agencies and talked about what we envisioned for our family. After lots of talking, we found an agency that we both really liked. One that emphasized open adoption and provided lots of support for birth-parents, birth-grandparents, adoptees and adoptive parents. Everything was in place and we managed to secure one of the last spots for an August seminar to start the process and hoped to do a homestudy by November.

Then a gigantic monkey-wrench was thrown into the mix. The agency learned we were planning on relocating in a year. Faster than you can blink, the door to adoption closed. "Relocate, get settled and then we can talk" they all told us. Our independent adoption option dried up too, with the social workers failing to call us back. We were back at square one.

In hindsight, the decisions from the agencies makes complete sense. Their goal is to be able to place children in a home that is stable and one that a child can thrive in. Hence any potential adoptive couple needs to be in a state where they are not relocating. Add in the fact that open adoption requires birth parents having the opportunity to see their child, and moving makes things especially difficult.

Still, I had a hard time accepting this. While in Boston in July, I was still scheming. "What if we find an agency in Massachusetts?" I reasoned. No go, as they also wanted us to be settled first. I finally had my breakdown on the Freedom trail, where it finally became clear that it was time to admit we needed to wait.

All hope seemed lost as we climbed the steps to Bunker Hill. As Grey read the placards, I stared off into the skyline, hoping for a sign. It was then I saw the double-rainbow that brought me to my knees. The one that brought peace to my heart. The one that gave me the strength to do my interview the next day, to survive a wedding with Grey's family and even to go to New York to see friends who were expecting a baby in October (and an unbelievably adorable pregnant woman to boot).

That double-rainbow was on my mind when Grey and I went to visit Jay. Opening my mind to the conversation ahead.

For those of you who don't know Jay, I highly recommend clicking over to her blog and reading a few posts from 2010. A veteran IFer, she's been through her fair share of hell navigating the world of fertility treatments and stroller nazis. Jay was one of the first blogger ALI bloggers I found and her humor was instantly contagious.

What makes Jay extra special is that she decided after MJ was born to do something to help those who were still in the trenches. In July, 2012 she wrote a post about quitting her job so that she could work with Fertility Authority ( darning move for anyone, let alone a new mother, but Jay is committed to helping those who are trying to resolve, wishing every single one of us a happy ending to our journeys.

So it wasn't a surprise that during our meeting in New York, she did this with me too.

The reality is, Grey and I still have two high-quality embryos left from our fresh-cycle last December. I've been terrified to talk about them, convinced that any attempts at FET would result in losing them. So I did the thing that scared and wounded animals do: I avoided the topic. When asked about children, I happily talked about our plans to adopt and how we were excited by the prospect of moving to a new city. But never the embryos. It hurt too much to think about them; the idea of destroying/donating them made me physically ill. Hence, I was stuck. Stuck with how to proceed, scared of losing those last bits of hope.

Jay did something different. While Grey went off to find some water, she turned to me and asked me point-blank about our embryos. She told me she knew how scared I was, but that she still had hope. And then she reminded me that Fertility Authority was set up to help someone like me. That if I gave the word, she would have the team there discuss my case and find an RE for a second opinion. No calling on my end, no having to answer lots of questions, no having to work our way through a maze of paperwork.

Though I initially waffled on the idea, the conversation stuck with me. And as I reflected back on our time on the East Coast, the image of the double-rainbow haunted me more and more.

Finally, I wrote Jay and told her to make the second opinion appointment happen. Within a few days it was set up: new clinic with an RE who specializes in repeat pregnancy loss. Outside of providing insurance information, all Grey and I had to do was show up.

I panicked. Panicked hard core. How could I do this again? Walk into a waiting room filled with other women who so desperately wanted babies knowing what I knew? How could I trust that any of this would be different? After all, we are unexplained. There's no reason I can't become pregnant, so what will be different this time?

It took Jay several emails to talk me down. In that moment where all I wanted to do was hide, she wrapped me in love from afar and gave me a bazillion reasons for why I should meet with the doctor. Finally, with David's and Grey's help, I agree to put my trust in things that were moving forward. Finally, I set up a formal appointment to see the new RE, Dr. Smile.

At the beginning of September, we had our first appointment with Dr. Smile. As promised, Grey and I didn't need to fill out miles of paperwork ahead of time (just a few bits of information when we arrived) and we were back to see the RE within 15 minutes of arrival. Sitting across from her, she reviewed our history with us, providing ample amount of tissues to get me through the first 6 months of 2012.

What we determined during the meeting is that I should have been on PIO for my FETs. Crinone isn't enough and it's likely that's the reason I miscarried in April. Something I had suspected, but was told couldn't be the case. We also talked about my response to meds, fertilization rate and even survival rates during the thaw. She was very impressed our embryos were so strong, leading her to a similar conclusion that both Grey and I had come to: problems with implantation.

Then Dr. Smile did something I wasn't expecting: she suggested RPL testing, providing all the insurance codes so we would not be billed. Walking through each of the tests, she talked about her reasoning behind which ones to perform vs. ones that weren't useful. In the end, both Grey and I were karyotyped and I had an APA panel and anti-thyroid hormone levels checked. We were sent out front to schedule a follow up appointment with a very optimistic Dr. Smile telling us she had hope for us regarding all of this working out. Cue the knot in my throat.

4 weeks later, Grey and I returned for our appointment with Dr. Smile. Joking the whole way up, we both fully expected the results to come back perfect and there to be no change in treatment. The conversation about the karyotypes was relieving and amusing; apparently no patient has requested images of their chromosomes and I was super excited when they promised to mail us the results.

And then Dr. Smile got a serious look on her face. Opening the folder of results, she looked me dead in the eye and said the words I never thought I would hear: "we found something."

Antiphospholipid Antibodies (APA) are a group of antibodies that bind to phospholipids (the molecules that make up cell membranes). Their presence has been associated with recurrent pregnancy loss during the first trimester as well as stillbirth, preterm labor and preeclampsia. You can find more information here. Most recently,  there has been some suggestion that elevated APA could be a cause of unexplained infertility. The issue, though, is that there isn't any good data about this (supposedly there's a paper that refutes this, but I've yet to find a reliable reference, so please let me know if you do!). Still, Dr. Smile believes there's a connection. And with the result that I am weakly positive for one of the antibodies, she believes it warrants a course of action.

So, as of today, Grey and I have a calendar for one final FET during the first week of January 2013. I start BCPs this weekend and am scheduled to begin Lupron at the beginning of December. In addition to PIO and Estrogen, this cycle will be supplemented with baby aspirin and Lovenox. Embryos are scheduled to be transferred from our old clinic to the new one within 3 weeks.

I am completely and utterly terrified. I haven't stopped crying since I received the calendar and am so frightened of all of this failing once again. In addition, I feel like a liar. The guilt of backing off from adoption when we said we were done with this path makes me question myself as a person. I feel like I've been deceiving everyone around me for selfish gains.

Grey is scared too. Holding me the other night, he told me that he wishes he knew the answer to our misery. And then he told me about the dreams he's been having of our daughter. How much he loves holding her, singing to her and watching her play. About how she has whispered her name in his ear. It's that hope of making that dream a reality is giving him the courage to try again. To finally break out of the limbo we've been living in face the pain and possibility of grief all over again.

This is our Jabberwocky. All this fear and doubt.

So tonight, I am confessing the sin of silence in hopes of finding support. This is my call for help. Even now, I'm shaking at the thought of starting meds once again, suffering the side-effects from the treatment and even all that can go wrong. I'm terrified of losing these last two snowbabies, of them dying and leaving our hearts permanently broken.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012


The past few nights I've been dreaming of babies. The particulars of these dreams escape me, hence the reason I need to start keeping a dream journal, but what has been clear is that I awake from each of these dreams deeply saddened and feeling lost.

All of this start Sunday. The weekend had been going very well as I got to meet a friend from a forum Shelley and I are a part of. Grey and I ended up taking her to one of our favorite pubs and the three of us had a wonderful time. Saturday afforded me time to catch up on housework/work in general and both Grey and I were feeling pretty good. All that ended Sunday, when we attended a Sip & See for a friend's new baby.

There's no one particular moment at the Sip & See that was awful and in all rational, this shower should have been one we'd be happy to attend, as the new mother had undergone IVF to bring her son into the world. Nonetheless, it took a lot for Grey and I to attend the event. And while we were there, it became clear that neither of us were doing well.

Later at a coffee shop, both Grey and I tried to process what was bothering us. PMS on my end? The new father's ongoing complaints about life with baby? A longing for what should have been? On and on went this broken conversation as we worked. Initially, I hoped it was just a matter of the weather changing that had us both in a funk, but as the days have gone by and the dreams have become more intense, it's clear something else is up.

Everything came to a head last night. Grey was talking with his mother about plans for Thanksgiving and it became clear we were going to be spending this one alone again. Lucas's wife started having contractions over the weekend and MIL is excited about seeing her new granddaughter. As Grey talked with his mother, I was hit with a tidal wave of sadness. I knew that this niece was due soon, but the reality of the situation that we should be preparing for the delivery of our babies we lost in April made everything all the more clear. Our arms are empty and we are no closer to resolution.

Grey and I talked about this. He too is suffering, revisiting the websites for adoption agencies that looked so promising but who will not work with us until we have relocated. Being in this limbo has been incredibly frustrated as we both want to be building our family, not waiting. And with this knowledge comes so much grief for both of us (Grey confessed to shedding some tears in a bathroom stall because of this). Despite what everyone tells us (it's good to wait, you need to pursue your future for your family, blah, blah, blah), it's clear that none of them truly understand the difference between preparing and being benched.

And then there's the secret I've been keeping. Developments that have been happening that I'm still too scared to talk about. I know that very soon, I will need to talk about this; to confess what's been happening. For now, though, Grey and I are trying to proces all the grief and fear that has surfaced from recent news. We both need to be stronger before I can go there.

In short, both of us are being haunted. If all had worked out last December or March, we would be holding our children now or preparing for their arrival instead of living in the reality we do now. With being haunted comes sadness and blame; me blaming myself over and over again for losing our children. My heart screaming constantly "why" knowing full well that an answer will never come. Instead, my dreams are filled with images of children and babies. Touches of soft skin, kisses and smells that feel like they will never be a reality.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Episode 10: Go vote!

Episode 10 is live! A lighter one this week were we discuss all things Ricki (and the media in general).

Lots has happened and I'm long overdue for a post. Will fill all of you in soon, promise.

In the meantime, GO VOTE!

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Episode 9: the importance of validation

Episode 9 of Bitter Infertiles is live. This episode is one that we've been waiting to do for a while; one that had me tearing up while we were recording. This episode focuses on baby loss. Joining us for this important topic was the amazing Alissa from MissConceptions. I honestly don't know if we would have gotten through it without her.

*Spoiler alert: I'm starting this post by talking about the episode. If you would prefer to listen to it, please don't read any further. I really believe it's an important episode and don't take away the experience with my observations.

Sunday afternoon was a tornado of emotions and realizations. Mo, Shelley and I had been talking about recording an episode on baby loss for awhile, but the Sunday after Mo's return from the US made it clear we needed to prioritize it. The morning of, I was nervous. I've been worried about Mo for awhile and was hoping that talking with Alissa would help her find some peace and solace, as Mo was clearly still grieving for Nadav. What happened instead was the floodgates for her grief were opened.

Through her tears, Mo talked about how she relives losing Nadav on almost a daily basis. That she hurts so much and just wants the pain to go away. This was part of the push to become pregnant again so soon, as she hoped that it would help promoting healing and would allow her to move forward with life. Instead, with this last failed cycle and the realization that she should be holding her baby, she feels trapped.

It was at this point that I started looking for plane tickets to Israel.

Alissa's words were powerful ones that touched me to the core. She talked openly about Michael and Alena and about the fact that her pregnancy with Raz doesn't erase the pain of losing her first borns. She talked about grieving them, living with the "what ifs" and even about things that trigger that awful day in October

And then she said something that resonated with the gatekeepers. That circled back to what David and Dee had been trying to help me see for so many months. She told Mo how important it is to remember Nadav and to validate her loss. That healing from this terrible tragedy requires her to reopen the wound and to care for it properly. She suggested a scrapbook for him, using the posts she wrote about the lessons he taught her as potential entries. Or to claim a space in her home to hang the images of his name in the sand. A soundtrack. Or even to paint. She acknowledge how painful and scary all of this is; how tempting it is not to do this, as loved ones will worry that you're becoming obsessed, not healing or even worry that you're doing more harm. But, without honoring the dead, the living can not move on. Validation is that important.

Following the episode, I spent the rest of the morning reflecting on what both Mo and Alissa had said. Angered and pain were stirring beneath the surface and I thought of all the friends I have met through this journey who had suffered from the pain of infertility and loss. It was while I was showering it all came together. Like getting hit by lighting, where all you feel is tingling for the impact.

Infertility and pregnancy/infant loss are painful tragedies that affect so many. But what makes them so unbearable is that those suffering are rarely validated. Comments like "at least you don't have cancer/Alzheimer/6-months-to-live," "just adopt," or even "it's G_d's will" invalidate the individual who is suffering. Talking about these topics is often met with discomfort and silence, even from loved ones. And then there are the haters. Those who are so bitter in life that they think nothing of tearing you down with their callous comments and simplified rational for your pain. All of it invalidation. All of it adding more trauma.

Here's a basic psychological fact: we all need validation. Without it, wars start, families break apart and humans are miserable. With it, we bridge gaps, find purpose and move mountains (sometimes literally). We all need validation. Without it, it's easy to go mad.

What I realized is that I had spent most of my life feeling undermined. My mother was skilled at doing this, pointing to the needs of others and reasoning that my feelings didn't matter when I felt wronged. Being a good midwestern girl, I played into it. What changed that was infertility and losing two pregnancies. Suddenly, as my mother tired to minimize the pain of infertility because of my sister's unexpected pregnancy, I found myself unable to stuff the emotions. I found myself drawing away and cutting off contact. In April, when we lost our second pregnancy, I focused my rage on Lucas because I felt he invalidated our pain by announcing the news they were expecting again. That as Grey's family has silently watched us suffer, assuming space is what is needed, I felt isolated and even more invalidated because I viewed them as labeling me as "crazy."

That I have felt so incredibly invalidated in all of this for so very, very long.

Grey and I having been talking about this realization for the past few days. With David's help, we're beginning to formulate a plan for reversing these feelings and teaching those around us to give support. But a big part of learning how to teach others involves me walking the walk. To offer the same thing that I need so desperately.

Ladies, Mo needs your love. She's missing Nadav so much and needs support as she begins this painful process of reopening the wound. For awhile, I wanted to tell her exactly what to do in order to heal, what to create to honor Nadav. But what hit me most was not that she needs the project, just the support  and love. So please, go give it to her. Wrap this amazing soul in love and light. And tell her that she's validated. That losing her baby isn't something to be minimized or hidden. Reread these posts and share with her what you've learned from your journey too.

But most of all, let her know you understand and that's she's not alone.

Spoiler alert #2: next week's episode is about Ricki Lake. Jessica from Too Many Fish to Fry will be back from her hiatus to talk about this. Be prepared for lots of ranting.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

I am the evil queen

First off, thank you all for your wonderful comments to Grey. I sent him each and every one and the discussions that post has sparked between us have really been interesting. The post was very cathartic for him, but all of your comments on top of the news this week about the disaster of an episode on the Ricki Lake show has really pushed a new level of insight. I'm still gathering my thoughts, and promise to post soon, but in the meantime, you can read about it here, here and here.

This past week has truly been an exercising in herding cats (hence my absence). Work has been all consuming, between fellowship applications, teaching and mentoring. One of the things I've noticed, though, is that despite the stress I've been more calm. Moments where I use to been easily frustrated, particularly towards the individual causing the stress, have been spent instead asking questions and trying to drill down to the root of the "why." Grey has noticed it too. During our meeting with David, he talked about how I've been validating him more, being more open to explore thoughts and feelings vs. shutting him down. When he told David this, I found myself shocked and confused: I guess I always assumed that he understood that I was hearing him in the past, but apparently I wasn't sending the right cues.

All of this has spurred me into digging deeper personally, exploring thoughts and feelings about myself. Why am I so angry with Lucas? Why do I feel I deserve this lot? Why do I live, knowing the hell of infertility is far from over? The answers haven't been forthcoming; a lot is still hidden from me behind a wall my subconscious built. But in my quieter moments and even in dreams, the answers have been slipping out. The gatekeepers are finally talking. Or maybe, it's that I'm finally listening.

Part of the realizations have come after watching two series: the first being Tin Man, an adaptation of the "Wizard of Oz" and Once Upon a Time: a series about fairy tales transported to our world. Before you criticize me too harshly about my choice of entertainment, let me just say that two characters from these shows have helped open the lines of communication with the gatekeepers. And it's not at all surprising who they are: the evil queens.

I wrote in the past about how villains are created, reflecting on how the difference between the hero and the villain is success. As I've explored this idea more, though, it's become clear how off I really was. Though most certainly the formula for the creation of an antihero, a true villain is someone who has become corrupt along the way. Suffering some great hurt, they've gone down the slippery slope of incorporating elements into their lives in hopes ending their suffering. Honestly, who can blame them? When living with abuse, chronic pain or loss, who wouldn't give part of themselves to no longer hurt?

In Once Upon a Time, the evil queen is portrayed as someone who is power-hungry and filled with malice. Blaming Snow White for ruining her life, she banishes everyone to our world, stripping them of their memories and subjecting them to her eternal rule as the town mayor. She's also an adoptive mother, adding perfect commentary about how our society views adoption. As the series progresses, the writers begin to the evil queen, showing her childhood with an abusive and controlling mother. How she is continually punished for her chooses as a young woman (mother kills her soulmate after Snow White reveals their plan to elope, her being forced into a loveless marriage, etc). It isn't long before this character makes the decision to kill her abuser, pushing her through a mirror during a moment where she feels she has no other choice.

In Tin Man, the evil queen is the sister of the heroine. It is reveal she is possessed by an ancient evil witch when the younger sister breaks her promise and leaves her older sister the be taken. So much pain and hurt comes from this one act, with a whole land living in fear due to the tyranny of the evil queen.

As I've watched the character developments of these evil queens, I've found myself drawn to them; drawn to their pain. Both of these women hurt immensely, having been betrayed by those who were meant to love and protect them. Both of them have been abused, with others forcing them down paths they would never have chosen on their own. And both of them simply need to be loved and acknowledged for their pain.

The messages from the gatekeepers has been loud and clear since viewing these shows: the rage and sadness that exists inside me stems from feeling abandoned by the world. Grey has been the exception to this, but my anger with Lucas has come because I perceive him striping me of the last bit of support I have. Yes being a parent is hard and yes a new baby will require work, but it's clear he's clueless to our lot (at times willfully so). Hence the hardened exterior, the anger and the snapping. All defense mechanisms of a wounded animal.

The messages about why I feel deserving of this lot, though, have been veiled and scattered. I've tried on the ideas of destiny or fate, neither of which really ring true. What has, though, is a realization one came from a song called "The Merry Minuet" by the Kingston Trio, written in 1959:

They're rioting in africa. They're starving in Spain. 
There's Hurricanes in Florida and Texas needs rain.
The whole world is festering with unhappy souls. 

The French hate the Germans. The Germans hate the Poles.
Italians hate Yugoslavs. South Africans hate the Dutch

And I don't like anybody very much!
But we can be tranquil and thankful and proud

For man's been endowed with a mushroom shaped cloud.
And we know for certain that some lovely day

Someone will set the spark off and we will all be blown away.
They're rioting in Africa. There's strife in Iran. 

What Nature doesn't do to us will be done by our fellow man.

In other words, we need villains. We need them so badly that we will create them. As fearful we are of evil, we as humans see nothing wrong with this practice, justifying it as "destiny," "bad seed," or even "G_d's will." That we are willing to destroy someone simply because they are different or strange to us. This truth makes me so sad, yet ring so true because I feel like a living example.

I'm struggling with all of this, trying to process what the gatekeepers are telling me. Trying so hard not to reject what is being revealed, instead being curious about it. It's hard and I continue to fail, but it's slowly coming out.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

First blog anniversary: A guest post from my better half

One year ago today, I decided to create this space as a place to share our journey with the world. During this time, it's mostly been a one-sided point of view. Grey and I have been talking about this blog and how amazing this community is. But the thing that I noticed missing was a guy's point of view on infertility and pregnancy loss as well as the hurdles involved with expanding one's family. In honor of the one year anniversary of this space, Grey has written a post. And as I promised to him, I will be reading it will all of you, seeing his point of view on these past 3 years only after he hits the "publish" button. 

Cristy has invited me to share my experiences and feelings on her blog with a series of guest posts. She's cool that way. I'm Grey. Infertility has been absolutely awful. I'm lucky though; at least Cristy and I are together through this. That has not been easy. The anxiety, fear, shock, sadness, the despair, the anger, the tears take a toll on a relationship. There have been many fights followed by crying and making up. But having held tight to each other through this, I love Cristy more deeply than ever and I feel we have discovered aspects about ourselves and our relationship we would otherwise have overlooked.

One of the earliest experiences in this journey that sticks in my mind is the day of the HSG. I'm a scientist, but (overly) conservative on some matters of health. I'm not a fan of directly irradiating our reproductive organs for any reason. I freaked out. I thought we were going to harm our children, fry their DNA to a nice toasty mutagenic crisp with x-rays. Not the sexy kind of fantasy mutations you see in X-Men either; the bad ones, the cancer ones and worse. They say that they do this all the time, the dose is low and perfectly safe. I'm sure that's also what they said about painting radium on watch dials and installing asbestos insulation. I started studying horrible diseases because of how awful they are and my imagination has a diverse inventory. Then I worry about the conversation I had once with a radiology tech who flies around the country adjusting this kind of equipment and can find it out of tune. Is this clinic competent? Why do we have to do this? Why can't we just wait and try some more? Cristy and I fought. This was about 1 hour before the procedure. I waited until then to address these feelings.
It was the first of many diagnostic interventions, then meds. Every time I asked: "Do we have to do this? Why are you so impatient? Why do we have to risk this?" then I'd say stuff like "I can't believe you'd risk this, you're obsessed!" I took my insecurities over the experience out on Cristy. It was a lesson on how a wedge can be driven between two people who love each other dearly.

Then came the day. My first one. Not nearly as invasive as what Cristy had to go through, not painful at all, but more than a little awkward. I'm sure almost every guy feels this way doing this, except those 6'2'', MD-PhD-JD-triathelete-Returned Peace Corps-MENSA 20/20 vision in their beautiful blue eyes, professional sperm donors you read about, they must know that they offer a quality product that the world can't do without ;) . For me it was extra awkward; this was the department at the university I'm affiliated with, there are people I see in seminars that have offices 2 doors down from the "production room." Then, I'm on. The reading material is interesting. I'm amused by and support the inclusive diversity; all your standard guy-magazine fare (subscription tags on the front, the clinic is dedicated), and also offerings if your sperm can't really ever impregnate your domestic partner for same-sex reasons. I make my choice, standard stuff, she looks hot. I like the lipstick and her hair color. She also looks non-judgmental, given the situation. Kind of a: "Hey big boy, let's just enjoy the moment." I go to it, thinking how I'm doing this while my coworkers are, well, working, during working hours and I'm doing this. It's slow at first, but I'm experienced and low-maintenence. Job is complete. Ahhh... never a bad finish. Yeah, I'm a guy.

I wash up, make sure the lid is on tight and put it in the plexiglass box I've been instructed to leave it in. The office staff and technicians are great, they remind me of diner waitresses that make you feel special. This isn't meant to be insulting to their training or important role. It's sincere and a complement. I leave and consider myself lucky that I didn't need to do some of the more sophisticated, invasive retrieval techniques (you guys are tough!).

I need to level with Cristy. I know now how she has felt, she fears that it's her, now I have the fear that it's me. Her tests aren't done. More to go. My counts aren't back yet. I love her. I say: "Cristy, whatever the outcome, it's you and me all the way." She agrees. We're a team.

Time goes by. Counts come back. Not great, but ok. Slightly low this, but high that. Doc says nothing particularly informative. Future counts fluctuate, some great (self-esteem booms), others a bit flat, one due to a fever from a Reno wedding food poisoning incident confirmed by 20 other victims, including Cristy (why did I eat the fish?). Maybe it's me. Maybe not. Maybe they're great. Maybe they suck. Maybe I suck. Maybe I'm not a man. Maybe I'm a useless sterile blob, a flesh dumpling just taking up space and depriving my wife of a child, a child some real man could give her if I'd just get out of the way. I'd be better off as a robot. If I was a robot, I'd have a purpose and I wouldn't care that I didn't have the parts to build a little robot. Up, down. Then I see what a "normal" guy's counts look like over a year. They vary at least as much.

More tests for Cristy. Then the diagnosis: unexplained. Constant speculation about things. Is Cristy's progesterone a little too low? Time goes on, "mild male-factor?" gets tacked on to the diagnosis. With the question mark. Are we mild-combined? Is Grey a carrier of some exotic balanced translocation? Does Cristy have a coagulation disorder? I blame me. Cristy blames herself. We are both insecure. We both fear abandonment and being defective. Some nights, suffering very quietly to ourselves. Other nights, leveling with each other and holding each other. Some nights, fighting.

Three IUIs. With the first, I panic again. What if the clinic screws up and mistakes my sperm for someone else's? The old sample swap, a shell-game of gametes. What if I end up with a genetic child with another woman (if my sperm could do that ever at all with any woman) and (gasp!) Cristy bears the child of another man? Cuckolded by the clinic. What if that guy is HIV+? These tests aren't required for this procedure. What if it happens and Cristy and that guy hit it off? Judge how you want, until you are there, you are full of shit in what you think about a man in this position. Insecurities abound. Then I finally stop being so crudely selfish and remember this has become our best shot at a child. Cristy is running body and mind risks too. And she fears me leaving her for some 19 year old fertility goddess.

All IUIs failed. Not one positive. I feel naive to ever have believed in them. Now for the big guns, the BIG three letters, IVF.

More tests. More forms. Scratch together some money. Borrow, borrow, borrow. Save, save, save. Plead with your employer to cover IVF? Fat chance. In this recession? Or ever.

We need pathogen testing to deposit embryos into cryostorage. At least all our blood tests come back negative. I didn't have any reason to suspect, we are insanely dedicated to each other and profoundly low risk for anything. But when you're feeling defective, you wonder just how far it goes.

All I want for Christmas is you. You little baby. Oh to finally see you. That's what I'm thinking in mid-December as we go through our first round. All those mornings, getting up with Cristy to help with her injections. She feels awful. Pain, discomfort, it goes on. The big trigger shot night. The gown, the scrubs, the stirrups. Will they fertilize?

They do. We get about 20 oocytes, nine embryos, eight make it through. Excellent quality. We were finally there, the tide was turning! All I want for Christmas is you. Two days after Christmas we test. Cristy can't look. I look. I tell her: "Sweetie, I think it's positive...". She looks. We hug and cry.

Heaven. For a couple days. HCGs fall apart. Cristy is on the phone with one of the docs, tears drop from her eyes instantly. I deny. It's just a lab fuck-up, man I tell you those jerks can't get anything right...But I'm dead wrong. The lab is good at what they do. They are right. 2012 starts as a miscarriage.

I hold her hand during the D&C. I try to distract her. Don't look down there, look at me. Pain. Failure. Loss. Death.

We try again. How could we possibly go wrong? Pregnant again! HCG is so good, maybe twins? I'll take 'em. Loss of sleep: don't care. No money: don't care. Constant chaos (my brother has twins, I know how it rolls): don't care. I'll take 'em. Now! Finally! Done, done, done! Just give me this! Let Cristy have this!

Then....blood, pain. Miscarriage. My boss reminds me via e-mail about not posting my next week's goals. I write back to him: "I'm sorry, will do ASAP. Right now, Cristy is having another miscarriage, passing appx 50mL clots, in distress..." I feel bad for having answered, but after years of infertility screwing with my employability, I feel the need.

It isn't as bad while it's happening. It's after. And before, if it's happened before and you're anxious. Cristy cries and mourns. I do the guy thing, granite-faced, there for others (Cristy).

It catches up with me. The reality sinks in over the next weeks. I want to die. I imagine two little headstones, about the size of coasters, each with their own little name. Names I fantasized about giving them when we were pregnant. The names for the kids I won't be teaching how to ride their bikes. This hits hard. Bikes are very personal symbols to me. I dig into the carpet with my hands. I cry finally. I also think no little socks for them. This is the stuff that materialized it for me. No bikes and no socks. Intimate symbols.

The tears and the pain expel the cold grey barrenness I live in and have come to adapt to. The pain reminds me I'm alive. The pain separates me from the graves. I remember what it feels like to be alive. The tears are better than the wasteland of a reality I had been living in as a consequence of infertility. This pain is better. This pain feels healthy somehow.

This pain is life pain. I felt a strength from this pain. Like I could live somehow. This is not what I feel most of the time.

I'm writing too much about myself. There are countless nights I came home to find Cristy crying or raging. It was awful. It's not over yet, but it's better right now. I try to support her. I focus on our partnership in life. There are times we are exhausted and can't support each other. There are very few who understand. I think you do. Thanks for reading this. Thanks for your support. I don't know how many times Cristy has been supported by you when I could not because I was in pieces. I hope this story helps you somehow.

I'll write some more later on, I especially want to describe our efforts to adopt, our experience with marriage counseling and wrestling with the decisions on further treatment.
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