Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Reality check

It's been one of those weeks. You know, the ones you wish you never got out of bed.

Between advising, meetings with students about grades (translation: me calling them into my office and discussing a plan for helping them not fail my course), recommendation letter writing and editing proposals, I'm ready for a long nap. Sadly, it's only 4 pm on a Wednesday.

The last few days I've been grappling with the Lupron monster. For the most part it's been an interesting battle: there are moments where I've managed to kick the monster's ass fairly thoroughly, all while demanding "who's your daddy," while hog-tying the asshole.  Other moments, it's got me pinned, crying out "you are, YOU ARE" in hopes it will loosen its grip so I can jump it again. Grey has been watching all of this go down, resorting to finally naming the monster "Lulu." Now we just need to find a muzzle.

Last night, though, we decided to make peace. And all of this was due to two very incredible posts by two bloggers, both of whom are named contains people contained Mo.

The first post is by this Mo. I've only recently started following her blog (thank you ICLW!!!) and have already learned so much from her posts. The one last night hit me like a ton of brick: in honor of Dr. Seuss's birthday she wrote about her favorite book from his work, "Oh! The Places You'll Go." I'd never read this one, somehow missing it probably due to the fact I was a teenage when it was released. But reading Mo's post immediately opened the flood-gates. All starting from the image of the prickle-ey perch.

Grey found me midway through Mo's post and immediately wanted to know if I needed a shock-collar for Looloo. It was then that he sat down and helped me finish Mo's post, helping me read aloud Seuss's words.

The post sparked a conversation we've been meaning to have for awhile, a conversation about change. The last few years have been hard ones, with us being in a holding pattern not only with trying to expand our family but also with our work and our dreams. The excuse for a long time was that we couldn't move on because one of us was in the middle of completing our education. We're finally at a point where we are planning for the next transition, but in the meantime we're both feeling catch in a holding pattern, waiting for the outcome of this cycle, of the next year. Both of us are hurting from being stuck on the IF rollercoaster, but neither of us have been able to put words into the awfulness of the situation. Seuss did that for us.  And Mo summarizes all of this better than I ever will.

The second post came from this Mo. Only a week after the loss of her son, she is already writing about what Nadav has taught her. Her strength inspires and awes me, so it wasn't a surprise that this post would do the same.

Like many women, I'm awful at asking for help. I feel the need to sacrifice myself so others don't suffer or are inconvenienced in any way. Many times, this is unconscious, driven mainly by guilt and a mentality that I'm somehow weak. Mo's post made an outstanding case for why we need to stop hurting ourselves this way, and called on us to stop feeling guilty for asking for help.

But her post also touched on a mechanism for why we may do this, especially during periods of loss. Her observation about her parents having a difficult time seeing her grieve really hit home. No one likes to see someone they love hurting so badly. But it never dawned on me that this needs to happen. It needs to happen in order for healing to happen.

After reading both these posts, my mind was a whirl, sensing a connection from this wisdom. The answer finally hit me like a ton of bricks at 4 am: I'd been waiting quietly in the "Waiting Place." And not just while dealing with infertility; I'd been doing it for most of my life. Some how, I got it into my head that all my drama would be dealt with if I just waited my "turn." I would have my baby when it was my turn. Thing is, my "turn" never came. And despite everything I'd been told, my most memorial moments in life were when I stop waiting and took action. When, good or bad, I could own the outcome.

And I'm currently doing that. Good or bad, Grey and I are moving forward with this FET. There are no guarantees that this will work and even if I am lucky enough to end up pregnant, this doesn't mean I will end up with a baby. But that's not the point. The point is that I'm finally doing something.

T minus 8 days till I'm off the Lupron and get to say good-bye to Lulu. Till then, I'm holding out hope for a muzzle.

Monday, February 27, 2012

All aboard the crazy train

CD5: Mood swings are in full oscillation. It didn't help that I spent my whole weekend stuck indoors grading. But it's noticeable. So noticeable, that even Jax and Dais will leave the room. During my IVF cycle, I remember the period right before I started stims as being one of the tougher ones. Lots of tears and constant anxiety. Initially I thought part of it had to do with the holidays. Note to self: it's all the Lupron.

Doing a Google search for "Lupron mood swings" results 1,300,000 results (all in under 0.29 seconds). The first result titled "Will Lupron make me a Wack-a-doo?" is enough to freak out anyone who doesn't have experience with this medication.  This is followed with hit after hit with "mood swings" either capitalized or having "severe" plopped right in front of them (sometimes both). Either way, there's no overlooking the cause of me turning into a mope.

The question is, how does one combat the mean reds and/or the blues? The original plan of distraction, either through burying myself in work or spending time with friends, hasn't been working. Friday's experiment involved '80s comedies (John Cusack in "Better off Dead"), which worked for the interim before calling it a night, but definitely didn't solve the problem. Today I'm experimenting with exercise, as that has worked wonders just with battling day-to-day life. Either way, it's become apparent that something has to change.

Why all the fuss? Well, part of it is I don't want to burn-out Grey. Poor guy has been amazing through all of this and I know he's worried and anxious about this cycle too. The miscarriage threw him in a way that he wasn't prepared for, so even though he's marching ahead with me, I know he's worried about this cycle failing or ending the way it did in January.

But the other issue is my students. This semester I'm working with 41 young adults ranging from 19-21 yrs, with the oldest being 26 yrs old. And as much as they'd like to believe they've got it all figured out, they don't. The deal is though, I need to not bring my drama to the table. Be that during lecture when it becomes clear half of them haven't prepared, listening to them protest about how hard it is having quizzes on Mondays (though their exam scores are SO MUCH BETTER because of it), getting excuses about why papers haven't been turned in on time (and how I'm being unfair about enforcing the late assignment policy), all the way down to working with advising for a student who clearly is struggling. My drama can't be there.

Hello Lupron, you hear that? I've got to be the stable one.

So, I'm coping. Be that through taking 30 mins in the middle of the day to go for a quick run or shutting my office door for a quick cry. I'm coping.

10 more days of Lupron. God help me.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Thursday, February 23, 2012


A belated welcome to all those visiting from ICLW!  A bit of background on me: Grey and I've been TTCing for a little over 2 years, with a formal diagnosis of "Unexplained Infertility" in January 2011. This past December, we took the leap and underwent IVF. The cycle was successful (8 beautiful embryos and a positive pregnancy test). Unfortunately, 4 days after the first beta, we learned that something was wrong. This resulting in a week on the beta roller coaster followed by a diagnosis with a blighted ovum. I had a D&C on January 11th. I've spent the past month healing, reflecting and preparing myself for a FET in March. 

This past week has been a rough one. News of Mo's loss hit me harder than I ever imagined. This was followed with news that a friend on an online forum suffered a chemical pregnancy, which probably could have been prevented if her RE had checked her day 21 progesterone levels, realized that it was low, and prescribed her supplemental progesterone. I've been filled with anger and sorrow over both of these losses because both of these women have been through so much and deserve to be holding their babies, not trying to remember them.

But I'm also scared. Scared shitless. This news has triggered memories of that awful day in January. The day when Grey and I learned that we would lose our pregnancy. That the brief moments of happiness and peace we had experienced were over. All that was to follow was pain. I never want to live through that again. And I'm worried that I'm setting myself up for the same thing.

Today I am officially CD1. After threatening for a few days, my period finally arrived. With that came the instructions to reduce the Lupron and start Estrace. I've heard time and time again how much easier it is to go through a FET than IVF, and so far on the physical end they've been right. But this week has reminded me that though physically I can take it, emotionally I'm still weak.

Miscarriage and infant loss is one of the biggest taboos in our society (next to infertility). All too often, people respond with suggestions like "it's for the best," "it wasn't meant to be" or (my personal favorite) "it's all in God's hands." In a lot of cases, parents are lucky to even get these responses, as people become incredibly uncomfortable about the subject and just assume that not saying anything is for the best. But the worst of all of this is that as time goes on, people assume you'll have 'gotten over it.' That because there was never a baby for them to see, it never existed. That this child was just an idea.

The problem is, like any trauma, the wounds may heal, but scars will remain. Sometimes the scars are tiny, only noticeable to those who look for them. But other times those scars are not so tiny. In fact, they are damn ugly. We try to hide conceal them, covering them with veneer to make them appear less ugly, but we know what they are.

For the past few weeks, I've been looking at the scars I've accumulated during this journey, particularly the most recent one. I've convinced myself that I'm okay with them, as they are part of me and I'm not ashamed of what I've done during this time. But this week reminded me that I'm not okay. I'm not okay with having to undergo fertility treatments, I'm not okay with having to hide my tears following a pregnancy announcement, I'm not okay with people I know and love suffering miscarriages and loving their children.

I'm not okay with the loss of my one and only pregnancy.

And yet, starting today, though I'm scared out of my mind that in a month all of that sorrow will repeat itself, I will move forward. With my husband by my side, we will try again. I will pop the pills, stick myself with needles and forgo caffeine. I will steal myself, meditate to relief my nerves and try to remember that there's a chance that all of this works out.

All because I know that if I don't, I will forever be stuck in this limbo of wondering if I had tried, would it have worked. And that limbo scares me more.

Wish me luck.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Redefining family

Many years ago, a piece was circulating via email about Urban Tribes and their role in a person's development during their single years. I really liked this piece for a few different reasons, because I was never much of a dater yet I had a good support system through my friends.

What stuck with me through all of these years, though, was this idea of family. Traditionally, we've defined family as being composed of individuals who are genetically related: you have a mother, a father, grandparents, aunts and uncles and siblings. The phrases "blood is thicker than water" and telling someone "we're the same blood" have been ways to emphasize the strong tie family has and how important it is to us and our society.

So what happens when blood relatives let you down? In the case of infertility, this will happen more times than not and to varying degrees. Whether it's parents prying too much about when you're going to have children, a relative's remark about how you just need to get a surrogate, a cousin talking for hours upon hours about how difficult is it to be pregnant, or learning your younger sister is pregnant. In an ideal world, we cry, but the love and support for one another would help us through those difficult times, building strength within the family.

But sometimes this doesn't happen. Sometimes, in all the excitement of a grandchild, your mother tells you to get over yourself because your sister is going through something really hard. Sometimes you're told you're being selfish, that you brought this on yourself. Sometimes "family" causes more harm than good.

About 5 months ago, I made the difficult decision to cut off contact with my family. Infertility was not the reason for this, but it certainly was the straw that broke the camel's back. For years I've had a difficult relationship with my mother, filled with multiple incidents of abuse, mainly verbal but also some physical. Still, I hung onto the relationship because I craved family. I craved it so much that shortly before my official diagnosis, I tried confiding in both my parents about my pain and sorrow of not being able to conceive.

My sister's announcement that she was pregnant was a blow, but I was determined to be there for her and support her. What drove a wedge was not her being pregnant, but her using her pregnancy as a weapon to attack when an argument ensued. What continued to make things difficult was the gossiping that was happening on both sides of the family, with Grey and I being judged continually and told to "just relax." But the final straw was an email in August, where I was told that Grey and I should adopts my cousin's son because the state was pulling him from the home. It was only following a heated phone conversation, where I indicated that Grey and I were not ready for that path, that I was told "no child you adopt will ever be yours."

Since then, I've found that I've been in a process of redefining "family." During this journey, both Grey and I have met many people on the same path, forging new relationships. In addition, our relationships with  some friends and family in the Pacific NW has strengthen, with them being huge sources of support during this period in our lives. But probably the biggest change has been finding this community; finding others who are on this journey to share stories. Initially it was a place to gain information and read about others people's experiences, resulting in my feeling a lot less lonely when everyone around me was able to get pregnant so easily. What I never expected was to form friendships with a number of bloggers nor that in my darkest hours, it would be getting those emails that would help me through those moments of grief.

In a non-traditional sense, while living on the island of IF, we come together as a tribe; we redefine our family. My family is no longer restricted to a blood relatives, it includes kindred spirits, women and men I've met during this journey who understand my grief, my excitement and even my dreams. In during moments of crisis and joy, we come together to support one another, despite different points of view and being at different points in our journey.

Ethan Watters said it best:
 Tribal behavior does not prove a loss of ''family values.'' It is a fresh expression of them.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Calling on community

Today I was planning on writing a post about redefining family, following on the heals of Mel's post about community. Instead I'm joining the voices of many other bloggers offering support and love to one of our own.

I've been a lurker on Mo's blog for 9 months. Learning today that just shy of 23 weeks she is losing her son stopped my heart. There are no words how awful this is and I'm beyond angry with the universe for allowing something this tragic to happen to any expectant mother, but especially to the women in this community.

If you have a few moments, please stop by Mo's blog and send her some love today. You can also ready more here and here.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Trying my patience

Okay, I'm the first to admit it: I'm not a patient person.

You know Daniel Goldstein's marshmallow test that demonstrated that those who were able to practice deferred gratification were happier in life? Well, I was the kid who would have failed it. Hell, I would have stolen the other kid's marshmallow too.

Why so huffy? Well, I'm waiting for AF to show up. And in this first time in 20 yrs of menstruating, I'm late. And not in a "honey, I could be pregnant!!!" way.

Yes, I've ovulated (check) and I'm going through normal PMS symptoms (double check) and even had the little bit of spotting after sex one night (triple check). Still no AF and without AF, I can't call the clinic and get CD1 instructions on moving forward with this cycle.

Yes, I'm whining. I know I shouldn't be, but I am.  Someone smack me.

Friday, February 17, 2012

The joys of Lupron

Okay ladies, I need some feedback.

For those of you on Lupron, what are your symptoms?

Here are mine (what I can remember and what I'm currently experiencing)

1) Dull pain from ovaires (feels like they're shriveling up and dying) - usually in the morning after the shot
2) Hot flashes - usually at night
3) Excessive sweating - usually at night
4) Feeling incredibly cold - all day
5) Swollen breasts - probably the only perk
6) Increased need for sleep - it's been a busy work week, so I can't say for sure if this is the Lupron or my work schedule

Last cycle I was overlapping with BCPs, so I haven't experienced any mood swings, but I just started all of this again.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Reflections on "the truth about IVF"

A few days ago, SIF wrote this post that has been causing somewhat of a stir. Before I go further, I feel it's necessary to state that I admire her bravery and strength in expressing her point of view. For a lot of people in this community, it's not a popular one. But blogging has never been about being popular and I hope that though there is disagreement, there will continue to be support for expressing different points of view.

Back in December, while in the middle of our IVF cycle, Grey started digging into the history. His interest was not only sparked by the fact that we were in the thick of things, but also from the announcement of Robert G. Edwards receiving the 2010 Nobel Prize. Briefly, for those of you who don't know the history, Edwards and his colleague Patrick Steptoe developed in vitro fertilization. Their work lead to the birth of the first "test-tube" baby Louise Brown. What lead to Edwards receiving the Nobel Prize was not simply the fact that the procedure lead to Louise's birth, introducing a new way to help infertie couples who formerly had no possibility of having a baby, it was the fact that Louise was ultimately able to go on and reproduce without additional medical intervention. The reason Steptoe wasn't awarded this honor was because he passed away in 1988 and the Nobel Prize is not awarded postmortem.

All of this is fascinating, but equally fascinating is the history of fertility treatments, which is long and staggering. For those of you who want an abbreviated version, here's a timeline. To see that some of the first attempts at fertility treatments began in 1855 is mind-boggling. But what is really a piece of fascination that I was previously unaware of is the Del-Zio's lawsuit. I won't talk about this case today, as I believe it desires its own post, but I will say that the idea one would interrupt someone's attempt to expand their family, even though it happened almost 40 years ago, caused a very strong emotional respond.

As of today, tens of thousands of children are born each year in the US because of fertility treatments and IVF, though only a small percentage of these treatments, still has the highest success rates. Because of this procedure, many women like myself are able to become pregnant.

Despite what we know today about fertility treatments, there's still this onslaught against those who pursue treatments. Because we are willing to inject our bodies with hormones, take medications to sustain a pregnancy and even go through extra measures to bring home healthy children, we are viewed as pushing something that is "unnatural." Not too long ago, I listened to someone who was clearly ignorant on the subject talk about how she would rather live childless than expose potential children to any of "those drugs."

But here's the thing: we live in a contaminated world. Our food, our water, even our air. There's no escaping it. Worse yet, we accumulate these harmful chemicals in our bodies over time, ultimately passing them on to our children. Sure, we can try to live an organic lifestyle, but the reality is that the fertility drugs we use to promote ovulation and pregnancy are far safer than the fumes we are exposed to from motor vehicles. They're far safer than some of the water we drink. And they are far safer than most of the chemicals we expose ourselves, our world to on a daily basis.

In addition, biology is a wonderfully robust system. It's amazing under what conditions life will thrive! If given just enough to be able to do so. For some, it requires a little bit of progesterone because their bodies aren't making enough, for others it's a matter of identifying what is not functioning properly and correcting it. Again, there's nothing wrong with this, because it is proper medical care. And for a lot of women, addressing these issues not only allows them to have children, it also allows them to lead healthier lives.

Despite the fact that I don't agree with SIF on the point of supplementation and fertility drugs, there is one thing she talks about that I do agree with, which is the dark-side to ART treatments: with the technology comes the continual possibility of hope. And it's all to easy for couples to become lost in the loop of trying again and again.

So when is enough, enough? The reality is, that decisions is a personal one. I've met a couple who have gone through many years for treatment, pursuing multiple rounds of IUIs but will never venture into IVF or adoption because of religious/cultural beliefs. I've met a couple who have moved straight to IVF after being diagnosed with endometriosis. And I've met a couple who decided after 2 yrs of this madness that adoption was their path to parenthood. Their son and daughter will turn 2 yrs and 4 yrs this year. I think what we each need to ask ourselves is how long we will continue on this journey before we are willing to explore other options. Because I've also seen women who have ruined themselves and their families through continually pushing for fertility treatments, refusing to ever look to another road. Though it's wholly unfair, their refusal to resolve leads to madness. And to allow infertility to take your sanity means that it wins.

The truth about IVF is that it's an amazing medical treatment. One that will hopefully be more accepted in our society one day soon. But the other truth is that it's not a silver bullet, as some will not be able to bear children after going through this procedure.  And though it has given so many a reason to hope, ultimately it is our responsibility to those we love as well as to ourselves to make potentially painful decisions.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Back in the stirrups again

First off, happy Valentine's Day everyone. If you're like me, you probably recognize this overly-commercialized holiday as a way to capitalize on love and romance. But, it's also become a day for me to stop and reflect on where I've come during this journey. How much I've survived because of those around me through their love and support. So sending all my readers much love. That and chuckling at this poor schmuck who clearly forgot to purchase his significant other some roses (grocery store ones will have to do).

Secondly, thank you all for the comments on my last post. I'm doing better and I appreciate your suggestions. I guess one of the things I'm learning from all of this is how to address things that were broken a long time ago. Never easy, and I don't necessarily know the right path for dealing with all of this, but daily I'm learning how to navigate my way through. Unfortunately, with my family, that means no contact (long story as to why doing otherwise is not good with my family). But that's just for now. Time will tell.

Anyway, on to more important business. Grey and I went in today for my second mock transfer and the saline sonogram. Because I've had so much difficulty in the past filling my bladder, I made sure to start chugging water at 7 am. I went a bit overboard, but more on that in a minute.

The clinic I see has 3 REs who oversee all the fertility treatments. Though Dr. Optimism is my primary RE (love her), I also can be seen by Dr. Sage (the medical director for the clinic; adore him) and Dr. Practical (younger RE). In the past, I didn't really care for Dr. Practical, but since going through IVF, where she was the one in charge of monitoring my stimulation, and then the D&C, where she immediately returned my phone call when I was complaining about severe cramping, I've become more fond of her. Today though, I've decided I really do like her. And it all came down to how she handled the entire appointment.

First order of business was the mock transfer. Right after they confirmed I wasn't pregnant (routine for any SIS), they proceeded to check my bladder. To my surprise, it was full. Apparently I don't have much of a tolerance for a full bladder, as I get the urge to pee before it's truly full. Not today, which means I know now EXACTLY how uncomfortable I need to be. Anyway, the mock transfer went smoothly.

Next up was the saline sonogram. I've never had one of these, but I do remember the HSG and how painful it was. Grey was immediately by my side, holding my hand. To both of our surprises, this was painless and easy too.  Dr. Practical applied a topical anesthesia to my cervix and then made a point of slowly inflating the balloon on the catheter. Hence, no cramping. The good news is that everything looks like it's healed well and no scarring was detected!!! So we're good on that front (hooray!!!). She also took measurements of my uterine lining (very thin) and looked at my ovaries (both back to normal size with zero activity).

After I was allowed to dress and visit the bathroom for the third time, Dr. Practical brought in the FET consent forms to sign. We talked once again about the procedure and the risks of twinning. Thankfully, she didn't push for the eSET. I think due to the fact of how this last cycle turned out.  As we wrapped up, she asked if we had any questions. Though I didn't, Grey did.

The first one was whether we were moving the FET date.  Dr. Practical took a moment to count the days, reconfirmed my last day of bleeding and then ordered some blood-work. Based on today's results, we'll have a better idea if we need to push things back or not, but she's keen on trying to keep those dates.

The second question had to do with the embryos. Grey had questions about how they were frozen (number per straw, whether it was a new method called "glass freezing," etc) and instead of brushing him off, she took the time to answer each point as thoroughly as possible.

I know how busy this practice is on a day to day basis, whether it be IVF, IUIs, counseling patients, training medical students and residents, etc. So the fact that Dr. Practical took the time to work with us, even though this was not a part of the appointment, won me over. She will still be Dr. Practical to me, as she has a straightforward way of answering questions, but the animosity is gone.

I'm hoping to hear back from the clinic tomorrow morning with news on the blood work. I've never had a cycle go so long and I'm wondering if the end is somewhere in sight.  We'll see.  In the meantime, all I can do is wait and be thankful for the medical team we have working with us.

UPDATE: Heard from the clinic and progesterone is at 17.4! Highest level on record for me. Start Lupron tomorrow and instructed to call clinic on CD1 to start Estrace. So we're officially on for the week of March 12.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Missing my dad

Before the fallout from this last summer, my dad and I were close. Always have been and, in a way, always will be.

The problem comes with the fact that I haven't spoken to either of my parents since the comment in August. The conversation were it became clear that he would always back my mother, no matter how much she was destroying me.

Why all of this now? Well, on Thursday my Dad turns 62. And for the first time in my existence, I won't be contacting him.

And I miss him so badly. Just writing that sentence make me cry.

I know that independent of my mother, he would be supporting me during this time. That, though we wouldn't talk much (because he's not big on phones) he would be sending me love.

But my mom hates me. Since birth. And he's faithful to her to the bitter end. Because of this, I lose. I lose my father because I'm not willing to allow her to torture me anymore. And though I now know that his decision has nothing to do with me, I still hurt.

Fuck infertility. It's robbed me of my denile. My willingness to live in a world of not rocking the boat for those who were willing to sacrifice everyone around them in order to maintain family. But most of all, it's resulted in the loss of my dad. And I'm so sad. Because I want to share with him those 4 happy days and be comforted by all that I've experienced.

Instead, I'm orphaned.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Smoke and mirrors

Most people in real life have no idea I'm living with infertility.

There is no brand, no scarlet letter.  I do things most fertiles do: grocery shop, exercise, go to work, etc. There is no obvious way to identify me out of a crowd.

But for those who are living with infertility, I'm easy to spot. I am the one who gets quiet when someone announces that are pregnant "after only a month of trying." I'm the person who avoids the play area at the mall. I look longingly into strollers as new mothers push their children pass. Not only am I easy to spot, but I have no problem spotting fellow IFers. I've become tuned in to the signs.

When people learn that Grey and I are living with infertility, they usually act surprised. I had one person tell me "but you look so healthy!" when she learned the news. Granted, there's always that moment where advice is offered (and gently rejected), but usually silence follows. Because the idea that a happy couple like Grey and I living with something so terrible is something most people don't want to try to comprehend. The idea that 1 in 8 couples is struggling with this disease makes it all too real that someone they know and love is quietly battling.

Because of this mindset, I've also learned techniques to deflect questions about plans for children from people who really don't know better. I don't have the emotional energy to defend myself from the onslaught of questions that comes with this news every waking hour. And, frankly, there are moments where it's just not worth the announcement.  In a way, I've become an illusionist: oohing and awing my audience with the image of a carefree and full life.

As all of you know, though, it's all smoke and mirrors.

So, how does this work? Well, there are a few universal truths.

First: the imagination always makes for a better story than the truth.  The last event Grey and I attended was for his work. I spent a good amount of time dressing, doing my hair and even applying some make-up. The goal was that even though I felt awful inside, I was determined to show a happy, healthy me. In addition to this, while we were at the event, I made certain to keep talk about myself to a minimum. I answered basic questions, smiled loving at my husband when people talked about his accomplishments, and then quickly made sure to change the subject. Basically, I keep things vague and present an image of prosperity. This is the smoke.

Which brings me to my next truth:  everyone loves to share their story. Whether it be about the vacation they just took, their woes with their teenage children or even telling you about a life-changing event, most can spend quite a bit of time filling in the details of their life. So I use this and have found that it's very easy to keep conversation going without having to touch on my life outside of some superficial details. And when the conversation starts to die, I stoke the flames with another question. This is the mirror.

The problem with being an illusionist is that one becomes paranoid about who knows your secrets. Though many at Grey's work know now about our infertility, I'm cautious about letting them know about the details from the last month. Those memories are painful and a source of weakness. So when asked how I'm doing, I smile and say I'm fine while actively looking for an exit in case I need to break down.

But now I wonder if keeping that facade is hurting everyone involved: me for feeling the need to hide and them from not learning the truth about infertility. I'm not suggesting that I sit each person down and explain the horrors of the D&C, but answering "you know, I'm really not doing well, but today is okay" may not necessarily be a bad thing. After all, the truth is suppose to set you free.

Update on FET: Saline sonogram and mock transfer has been moved to Feb 14th. Honestly, I can't think of a more comical way to spend Valentine's Day.  In the meantime, I'm "patiently" waiting for AF to show up. 

Monday, February 6, 2012


Warning: This post contains references to rape and loss. If this is a trigger for you, PLEASE do not read any further. 

Over the weekend, I finally had the opportunity to watch "The Lovely Bones." I read Alice Sebold's novel in 2002 when it was circulating on the New York Time's Bestseller list and managed to devour the book within a week. The story is not an easy one, nor does it have a classic happy ending, but I found following the aftermath of the main character's death to be an interesting insight into how a family copes and grows.

The film is definitely not as good as the novel, but I found watching it brought back thoughts from when I was first reading the book, particularly what I was thinking about each of the characters. In general, I had no issues empathizing with all of them (minus the killer): I could connect with Susie while she remembered her life on Earth, her father Jack as he sought out him daughter's killer, her sister Lindsey and her little-brother Buckley as they dealt with growing up in the aftermath of this tragedy and even Susie's eccentric grandmother Lynn. But, no matter how hard I tried, I had trouble connecting with one of the characters: Susie's mother, Abby. From her initial criticism of her husband following Susie's disappearance, to the affair and finally her abandoning her children, I remember reading about Abby's actions with disgust. How could a mother be so selfish? How could she abandon here children, her family, in its time of need? I didn't understand her, her motivations or why she would be so destructive following the loss of her daughter.

10 years later, while watching the film, something clicked. I picked up the novel again, rereading the different portions that detailed Abby's actions and disgraces.  And for the first time, I understood.

Before I share with you my thoughts, I need to start by talking about how our culture deals with death and loss. Normally, we honor the dead publicly, holding a funeral where all who knew the person can pay their respects and say good-bye. But there are rules with this: loved ones are expected to grieve in a certain manner and only for a certain period of time. In general, these rules are not challenged, as most people have a way of finding closure with the loss and are able to move on.

But what happens when the loss is mingled with something horrifying? In Abby's case, her 14-yr-old daughter is raped, murdered and her body never found. Instead of being allowed to grieve this loss, she is dealing with another level wrapped in shame and guilt. Though she is in no way responsible for her daughter's death, she is wrapped in guilt. For the rest of her life, she must deal with the shoulda-coulda-wouldas.

In a way, Abby's loss is similar to the loss caused by infertility. With infertility, one day you decide to start a family assuming all while be well, while with Abby, one day she is simply making dinner and wondering why her teenage daughter is running late. Then something changes and our world is turned upside down. Like Abby, we are immediately thrown into a state of grief, shock and fear. We turn looking for help and answers, but we find that our support system is not as robust as we originally thought. Some are able to be our rocks, but many are lost as what to do and begin to pull away. As time goes on, people begin to hint that we need to move on because life is too short. But the thing is, how does one move on when the answers are not so simple? For Abby, having a memorial will not give her the closure she needs because of the nature of this loss. For IFers, resolving is not a simple decision, but usually a process that requires time, money and even counseling before we can move forward. In the end, it's not as easy as everyone would like us to believe.

Recent events from the last month have really pushed me to my limits emotionally and physically. And there were points where I literally wanted to pack a bag and walk away from it all. What's stopped me is the relationship I have with Grey and the love from good friends who have been an unending source of support. While rereading the passages about Abby, I realized that she didn't have any of this. Despite being surrounded by family, she was alone. And because of her grief, she lashed out by having an affair and then tried to escape from all of it. Don't get me wrong, her actions were selfish. But to villainize her because of these mistakes is wrong. It's wrong because her family failed her too.

The last month has been one that, if I could, I would want to forget for the most part. The bright spots have been the realization that my support network is strong and amazing. Without it, I'm sure I would have thrown in the towel long ago. Instead, I'm trudging along, holding onto hope. This network has been something I cherish and know first hand how hard it is to build. But in a way, I'm lucky. Because now I know who to turn to when my world comes crashing down. I know beter how to communicate with Grey so that instead of being a burden, I can also be a source of support when we get unhappy news.

In a weird way, I'm lucky.

Brief update: bloodwork revealed that I have not ovulated, so we are officially on hold until AF shows up. I'm thinking it will be in the next couple of weeks as my eye has a nice patch of eczema around it at the moment. But I don't have a crystal ball and, frankly, it's out of my hands.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Did she really exist?

The bills have started to arrive from late December/early January. Marked "laboratory" and "surgery," we've begun fielding the costs for the betas and the D&C. For the most part, the only emotion that I've been feeling when I see these is frustration: frustration that we are being billed for things we've already paid for and frustration with insurance for giving me the run around (hopefully all of this will be solved soon). But one bit of information threw me yesterday, giving me pause. We received a letter from Dr. Optimism with the cytogenetics results.

During our appointment a couple of weeks ago, Dr. Optimism walked us through the meaning for the potential results of the cytogenetics from the D&C. Armed with the pathology report, which concluded I was pregnant, she noted that the amount of fetal tissue was very small. So there were 3 possibilities: one was that the karyotype would show aneuploidy, indicating why everything stopped growing, another was that the karyotype would be normal 46XY, indicating the embryo was male. The final was that the karyotype would be 46XX. This would be very hard to interrupt, as they wouldn't be able to tell whether it was the embryo's karyotype or mine. All they could definitely say is that there was no translocations.

Guess what the results were.

Reading the letter brought on a wave of emotions that I thought I had resolved. It's caused me to question whether this pregnancy even existed. In addition, there came sorrow over the possibility, though slight, that this embryo was indeed a girl. A little girl. And I failed her.

I hate yo-yoing between being okay and not. I hate that the reminders that time as so negative and sterile. I want to be able to move on, to move forward with love. And I want to stop questioning whether I actually was pregnant every single day. Because being in a state wondering if she did exist doesn't help.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

I get by with a little help from my friends

First off, for anyone who follows Jay's blog (The Two Week Wait), please stop by and send her some love.

As mentioned in my previous post, I've decided that to make the most of this down-time prior to FET and made a list of things to do. So far, the jogging hasn't happened due to a very busy week with my students, nor have I started meditating. What I have been good at though is relaxing. Last night was spent sitting on the couch with Grey and flipping through cookbooks for recipes to try over the weekend. Tonight was an impromptu stop at a local restaurant for good food and some wine. Tomorrow I have a date with the tub and I nice bottle of Claret.

What really started all of this was a phone call from a good friend, K. Though not living with infertility, K has been a constant source of support on this TTC journey. Following being diagnosed, while others pulled away, she made a point of contacting me, listening when I needed a shoulder to cry on and cheering us on through many rounds of treatment. So when I told her about my "change" list of FET, she immediately offered to help: this Saturday we are hitting the spa for some girl time. Her reasoning behind this decision is based on two things: 1) we've both earned it and 2) some things are best left to professionals.

I've been reflecting on friendships lost and made since our diagnosis with infertility. I'd be lying if I said that every relationship has remained intact while I've been on this path. But I'd also be lying if I didn't admit the role infertility has played in strengthening many of my relationships. As much of a curse being on this road has been (physically, emotionally and psychological), there has been the blessing that all fair-weather friends, toxic friends, friends with ulterior motives and "frenemies" have vanished from my life. I no longer have time or energy to be supportive of those who view me as someone to compete with, emotionally drain or simply hang around when everything is okay. What's been replaced in those voids have been women and men who have offered unlimited kindness, unfaltering support and love. Some of these people have been part of our lives for years and our bond has only strengthen because of this journey. Others have come from unexpected sources: work, online and even through random chance. This has been the most unexpected and wonderful part of this journey.

This past month tested some of these relationships to their very core. And though it was quiet for a few days following the D&C, I knew in my heart it was not because no one cared but because they were respecting my space and giving me time to grieve. As I've been coming out of that dark period, I've begun to get back into contact with people, letting them know that though wounded, I'm still not broken. The response has been amazing, with messages of support and love when it would be all too easy to say "hey, that's great, but you know you're kinda bringing me down." Sure, there have been moments that haven't been perfect, but the fact so many have reached out to me in my time of need leaves me in awe.

So, to each and every single one of you who have followed me these past couple of months, cheering me on during the good moments and offering words of support and love during the bad ones, I want to say thank you. This journey isn't over, but I know I have the strength to move on because of all of you.

Quick update on the FET cycle: blood draw tomorrow morning to determine whether or not I've ovulated. I've already been warned that due to the D&C, there's a good chance that this cycle is anovulatory, meaning that I wouldn't be able to start meds till have AF arrives. So tomorrow I'll either have the green light or we'll be back on hold.
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