Wednesday, January 4, 2012

What IF Not?

Well, first of all, I'm sorry that I haven't posted in almost a month, if anyone is following this blog. I could blame the craziness of the holidays, which is definitely part of the story. But the real truth is that I wasn't sure exactly what to say.

I am 7 weeks pregnant today. IVF #2 actually worked. I've had 2 betas to confirm my HcG numbers are good, one ultrasound to confirm that the gestational sac and yolk sac are all in order, and semi-constant nausea for about 2 weeks. In one week, I have another ultrasound to see the heartbeat. This is when I think (hope) I will stop panicking, waking up in the night googling "blighted ovum" and other similar concepts, and will actually start to feel like my baby is really going to make it.

I already feel pregnant. Not physically, other than the nausea, but I have switched my mind so far away from Gonal F and Lupron injections, daily E2 counts and ultrasounds, and egg retrievals and embryo transfers that I'm terrified to find myself back there. I sit in meetings about projects that I hate at work and think "none of this really matters because in about 7 months, I'll be having a baby." I read all the January health magazines that exclaim over their new 21-day cleanses and diet plans for starting the new year right, and feel a sense of detachment and calm at knowing that this year, I will not be dieting. I took a walk with my pregnant friend and we made plans to take prenatal yoga together. I am pregnant. I hope. I pray.

There are a lot of conflicting emotions when you finally find yourself pregnant after infertility. At first, I still resented the fertiles. I imagined telling them that I was pregnant and wanting them to know that my pregnancy was not like theirs. Mine was the result of blood, sweat and tears. Lots of them. Mine was a marathon, while theirs was a sprint. I didn't want to be lumped in with everyone else who just gets pregnant, just like that.

But then, slowly, I began to resent my fellow infertiles. I was so used to my several-times-a-day habit of perusing the infertility message boards that it was hard to give it up. I still felt more connected to those women than I did to anyone else. They had been there for me through my darkest moments. Yet, every time I read a new post, my anxiety level rose. So many miscarriages. So much pain, sadness, bitterness. Why did they have to constantly remind me that at any moment, I could be back there?

I'm not sure where I am right at this moment. I'm not angry at the fertiles anymore, and when I finally make the pregnancy announcements, I may mention what we went through to some friends, mostly because I want to make sure people are aware of infertility, and to help other people who are going through it know they aren't alone. But I no longer feel the need to make it the focus of my pregnancy. I still avoid the message boards and blogs, and possibly will until I bring the baby home. I'm too anxious of a person to read about everything that could go wrong and I guess I need to choose faith instead of fear.

As far as this blog, I'm not sure how much farther it will go. When I was trying to get pregnant, I loved reading infertility blogs, particularly ones that had a happy ending pregnancy (and birth). But I really lost interest once the pregnancy was in full swing and the bloggers began posting about pregnancy symptoms and baby showers. It's not that I wasn't happy for them--I hope that every infertile woman gets to have her moment of finally being able to bask in the joy of these things--but it wasn't my reality at the time. And the truth is, I needed this blog to sort through what was probably one of the most difficult moments of my life. I have probably 10 other blog entries that are half-written, just thought, musings or observations that I jotted down during my IVF journey that I never got around to finishing and posting. But I needed to write them, as well as these posts that were published, to help get me through. I don't know if I need that now. I guess I'll have to see how it goes.

Thanks to everyone who I connected with during this journey. The truth is, as I get more confident about my pregnancy, I know I'll start checking in on you all again, reading your blogs and looking at the message boards. When I do, I hope and pray to hear good news from every single one of you.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Childless by Choice

Well, it's over a week late for giving thanks, but I'm now in the midst of IVF#2 (transfer is tomorrow!) so lately I've been reading a lot of infertility discussion boards. I've probably read hundreds of women's stories and experiences at this point and one thing they have made me realize is that there is a particular area of my life where I am extremely fortunate.

Yes, I am beyond thrilled that my insurance unexpectedly covered two rounds of IVF. I'm grateful beyond words that my husband and I are still great friends and totally in love despite this challenging process.

However, the thing I'm really thankful for today is that my sister and my best friend absolutely, completely, 100% do not want to have children.

My sister is two years older than me and will be turning 37 this year, so she is probably too old to be an egg donor, but recently told me, "too bad I can't give you my eggs to double your chances, because I will NOT be using them." My sister lives a happy, childless life in New York City and finds the idea of pregnancy and birth appalling. Not only would it cause her to gain back all the weight that she carried around as a chubby teenager, but then she would end up having to deal with a baby after all that. This is not to say that she is not completely excited for me to have a baby. She'd love to be the fun aunt who babysits my kids once they are old enough to feed themselves and use the bathroom on their own. But the idea of being responsible for small people for the next 18+ years is just not her thing.

My best friend struggles with her nieces and nephews. She loves them, but she also kind of fears them. You can't just take them to lunch and chat about the latest story on NPR. You actually have to know about things like dump trucks and ponies and act interested in talking about them. You have to find restaurants the serve chicken nuggets and macaroni and cheese. Or worse, to learn how to prepare those things yourself. My best friend married a man who is significantly older than she is, who already has grown children of his own and has no desire for more. He even had a vasectomy to seal the deal. Recently my best friend found out that she has a medical condition where it would be extremely dangerous for her to get pregnant and while sad about the condition, felt that it was a happy turn of events that no one in her family would dare ask her when she plans to have kids now. Like my sister, she would be thrilled for me to get pregnant, would be pacing the waiting room when I went into labor, and would be the first person to show up with dinner when I was struggling with breast feeding a new born and losing my mind. But she will never, ever long for the same experience.

I know that to the average person, it would seem really strange that I would be thrilled that two of the most important women in my life are so anti-children. After all, wouldn't it be better if they had babies so we could all push our strollers to the park together and they could advise me on which diapers are the best?

Actually, I have plenty of great women friends who have babies or plan to have them, and I'm sure that there will be no shortage of stroller-pushing mothers in the park to bond with. But when you're a woman who has been struggling with infertility for longer than anyone should have to, there is something so comforting about knowing that your sister is not planning to make her big pregnancy announcement at Christmas dinner, and your best friend is not going to tell you in a pitying voice that she got pregnant after accidentally forgetting to take her birth control pills on vacation with her. I might sound completely selfish for saying this, but it's a wonderful blessing to have two women in my life who are not now and never will hop onto the baby train and leave me behind in the dust.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Being Different

Tonight we had dinner plans with our friends who have a new baby. They actually started trying to conceive after we did, and now their baby just turned 6 months old. Of course, they brought the baby to dinner and he was adorable and delightful and a complete darling.

But as I was getting ready to go, I realized that I was making a little bit more of an effort than I probably would have if I'd just been planning to meet my best friend for dinner at the Indian place up the street. It was as if I was unconsciously trying to show them that "You might have that adorable baby, but I have glowing skin that's the result of 8 consecutive hours of sleep, shiny hair that I had plenty of time and money to have highlighted, and, (although I'm not going to pull it out at dinner) a vagina that's lovely, un-stretched and still fits in these jeans."

At some point, I think my inability to get pregnant turned into some sort of a competition in my head where I feel like it's Us vs. Them. The Haves vs. the Have Nots. The Sharks vs. the Jets. The Tutsis vs. The Hutus. The Fertiles vs. the Infertiles.

I resent it when my fertile friends make comments like, "Wow! You're so lucky that you can keep your house so clean!" or "Enjoy having the freedom to travel while you can!" Yet, when they're coming over for lunch, I frantically vacuum the floors and hide the piles of books and magazines under the couch. When they ask, "What have you been up to lately?" I go overboard about how excited we are for our upcoming trip to Mexico.

You could rightly argue that that showing off my clean house and gushing about my vacation plans are an absolutely fine response to these situations. After all, what am I supposed to do, invite them over to sit in my dusty living room amidst my piles of fertility books and boxes of hormone injections and tell them that what I've really been up to lately is frantically googling my estrogen numbers and follicle counts and comparing them with anonymous women on the internet?

But I think that there is actually more to the story than that.

When I was just starting junior high school, my parents got divorced and my mother went back to graduate school at the same time. For the next 4 years, we lived off my mother's graduate assistant stipend, which you can imagine, was not a lot to sustain an adult and two children. Compared to my friends in my suburban middle class town, we had very little money for new clothes, school trips and other activities. I certainly wasn't deprived compared to many people in the world, but I constantly felt different compared to the people around me.

So I took control of my situation. The way I saw it, I was different. So I had two options: I could be different because I was poor, or I could be different because I was interesting. I chose interesting. I didn't need back to school shopping trips at the Gap, I made my outfits from vintage clothes that I bought at Goodwill. I didn't need to join school activities that required money for equipment or uniforms, I was too busy working on my latest masterpiece in the art room after school. I didn't need school trips, I was planning to take the bus into the city and hang out in smoky coffeehouses talking to college boys.

This strategy worked really well for me and, on some level, it's still working for me. Once again I feel different compared to all the people around me. I can't be one of the women with their adorable new babies, sharing the dramas of parenting. Believe me, I've tried. So instead, I'll dazzle them with my gorgeous house that's like nothing they've seen since the day they gave birth and stories of trips that they can no longer afford and frankly would be too tired to take.

If I can't be fertile, I can at least be interesting. If I can't have a baby, I can at least have good hair.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Infertility = Life?

On the fertility website that I sometimes peruse, I got sucked into reading a 23 page post that someone started, essentially for anyone to vent their frustrations about infertility, titled "Why I hate infertility today." I found myself reading post after post, nodding and thinking "Yeah! YEAH! Me too!" In my head, I started listing all the reasons that I hate infertility too.

And then I stopped reading for a minute to pop into the kitchen to check on the bread that's baking in the oven. I took a second to pause and admire the screen print that my husband and I picked out today as we wandered around our city's annual flea market for handmade art and crafts. I grabbed a chunk of dark chocolate from the one-pound Trader Joe's bar that we keep for emergencies and when I sat back down, the nicest cat ever climbed on my lap.

It occurred to me that infertility really sucks. But that doesn't mean life sucks. Sometimes it's difficult not to confuse the two, but today maybe I could try a little harder.

So on another day, I will make my list of why I hate infertility, because anyone who has been through this is certainly justified in venting. But today, I think I'll let the bread baking in the oven and the purring cat keep me warm against the cold breeze from the infertility curveball that got tossed through the window. And I'll be happy in this moment knowing that "Infertility" most certainly does not = "Life."

Thursday, October 27, 2011

The Infertility Identity

After my last post about constantly being asked about my reproductive plans, it occurred to me that perhaps I should take a little more responsibility for all of this. Maybe instead of being part of the Problem I should be part of the Solution.

Statistically, how likely is it that I've made it to my mid-30's without having one friend or acquaintance that I know of who has undergone fertility treatments? Over the past year, I've heard of a few "friend of a friend" stories ("my sister's husband's co-worker's former roommate did IVF twice and now she has triplets!") but I've never actually known anyone personally who has struggled with infertility.

But then I wonder, how many of my friends and acquaintances would say the same thing? Little do they know.

It seems that when I joined the Infertility Club, I actually signed up for a secret society where all the members make up fake names like "longingforbaby35," and gather in underground chat rooms to discuss the intimate details of our cervical mucous and number of times we have sex a month and to lament about another baby shower at work for Fertile Francine in Accounting. Yet, few of us actually tell people in our real lives that we are going through this.

I recently saw an interview with Mariah Carey where she went as far as to tell Barbara Walters about taking progesterone during her pregnancy with twins, and yet, the words "IVF" were never mentioned. At one point, Barbara asked Mariah, in the same "about to dig up some dirt" tone that she might use to ask Lindsy Lohan if she's still snorting coke, "Did you use any....fertility treatments?" Mariah, of course danced around the topic, and who could blame her for not wanting to tell Babs about how she took twice daily shots of hormones derived from a pregnant woman's pee (bet you didn't know that, did you?) and yelled at poor Nick Cannon not get to close to her or he might burst her bulging ovaries, only to see the headline "Mariah Carey Gives Birth to Test Tube Babies" splashed all over the tabloids next time she's in line at the grocery store.

It just seems easier to simply smile and say "we're thinking about it" than to actually tell people the truth about trying to get pregnant. Or, in my case, smile, say "we're thinking about it" and then make a list in my head of all the things I wish I could say, such as:

"Oh, we'd love to have kids! My husband told me that if I swallow the sperm, it will get to my stomach faster, but we've been trying that for months and it's not working."


"Well, if we had kids, I'd have to give up my heroin addiction, and rehab is so expensive."

or perhaps,

"We plan to have kids someday, but first my husband needs to get his gun collection out of the closet or there will be no place for the baby to sleep."

It's as if actually saying "we've been trying for months, we can't get pregnant, we're doing IVF" would somehow be more shocking.

I'm sure that for some of us, the questions and discussions that would follow a revelation like that seem more taxing than the questions that we are hearing now. But I wonder if for most of us, the reason that we're not telling is that we are not quite willing to turn "Infertility" into a part of our identity. Suddenly, we're not the childless friends--annoying, but it implies that at least maybe we had a choice. We're the infertile friends.

But when we keep quiet, we turn infertility into Something to Be Ashamed Of, like being an unwed mother or watching porn. And then we start to feel ashamed. Something is wrong with me. Everyone in the entire world can get pregnant except me. I did something to deserve this. It's my fault for not being nice enough/thin enough, for being too selfish and focusing on my career or waiting for the perfect partner while the clock was ticking.

Personally, I'm tired of being ashamed. This is not to say that I will stand up at the next dinner party, clink my fork against my glass and say "We have an announcement! We are infertile!"

But maybe I'll try a little harder to stop blaming myself and to start thinking more along the lines of:

"Thank god I waited for the right man and didn't marry my college boyfriend or I'd have 4 kids and divorce papers right now."

"Thank god I focused on my career so I could afford a nice home for my eventual child."

"Thank god that I did all the wild, fun, selfish things that I wanted to do before having kids or I might resent them and feel like I missed out."

"Thank god I didn't spend my life as a size two, or I might be an unhealthy diet-obsessed person who passes that onto my daughter."

"Thank god I went through this infertility thing because it made me so much clearer on the fact that I am meant to be a mother. I will be such a patient and loving parent when this baby finally arrives."

And maybe the next time someone asks about my reproductive plans, I'll say "we've been trying for months, we can't get pregnant, we're doing IVF." and someone who overhears me will come up after and say "me too."

Monday, October 24, 2011

What Infertility?

"So are you guys thinking about having kids soon?"

I counted 5 times last month that someone (different) asked me this question. 5 well-meaning Fertile Myrtles whose little bundles of joy toddled through my living room or screamed through lunch while they interrogated me about my own reproductive plans. I understand why they're asking, and a few years ago, before I stumbled into the Land of Infertility and no amount of clicking my heels together could get me back home, I might have been oblivious enough to ask a friend the same question without even thinking twice.

After all, I'm a happily married 30-something with a flexible part time job and a husband who is gainfully employed. We own our own house, have savings and retirement accounts and family nearby who are dying to babysit. We spent our 20's getting advanced degrees, traveling, and spending leisurely weekends sleeping in, reading the newspaper and going out for brunch. What is there left to do? What could we possibly be waiting for?

Right. What could we be waiting for?

Intellectually, I understand that when someone easily becomes pregnant after a couple of rolls in the hay, (or even worse--one "Oops! He promised he'd pull out and now look what we got 9 months later!" moment) it doesn't occur to them that it might be hard for some people. But emotionally, I can't help wanting to smack those people. Because I've come to realize that if someone makes it to their mid-30's and seemingly has everything going for them on the kids front, except for actually producing the kids, then maybe it's a sign that you should quit asking.

I don't mean to sound bitter, and most of the time I'm actually not. I'm usually thrilled for my reproductively-talented friends and I adore their little darlings, but as I approach my second IVF cycle, after a year and a half of TTC, months of blood tests, HCGs, ultrasounds, discussions about my sex life with REs and urologists, hundreds of trips up and down the stairs carrying food, drinks and movies after my husband's varicocele surgery, thousands of miles logged on the drive from my house to the RE's office and back at 7 in the morning, more needles used than your average heroine addict (blood draws, acupuncture, hormone injections), giving up dairy, giving up wheat, replacing dairy and wheat in my diet with the most vile herb concoctions you could possibly imagine, enough green tea to hydrate a small Chinese village, supporting the entire staff of the Whole Food's Vitamin department with my purchases alone, one extremely invasive procedure where a bunch of eggs were snatched from my over-ripe ovaries followed by another extremely invasive procedure where they were shoved back inside me, all culminating in...drum roll giant BFN, I'm a little over "So are you guys thinking about having kids?"

Um, are we thinking about anything OTHER than having kids????

So here I find myself, suddenly a Platinum member of the Infertility Club, full of advice on how full your bladder really needs to be for ET, what is an ideal FSH number, the best way for DH to administer POI and how to de-stress during the 2WW until you can POAS or AF arrives. (If you don't know what any of those abbreviations mean, lucky you.)

As I mentioned previously, IVF #1 was a bit of a bust, but onward and upward for IVF #2! The first time around I left it all up to the doctors, thinking that they had it under control and I could finally chill out (vile herb concoctions? down the drain! cheese and bread? my new BFFs! ) and let them do all the work. This, obviously didn't work so well for me, and all I got for my IVF #1 (lack of) effort was a month of migraines and a stress level that could shatter glass. So for IVF #2, I plan to be more intentional, as they say, and spend some time focusing on things that will make me feel as healthy as possible, and as in control of the process as one can possibly be during the insanity that is the world of ART.

This is my record of my journey. To anyone else who is also going through this process--I hope my experience can help you in some small way, or at least help you to realize that you are not alone. And baby dust to you!