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.
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