A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to My HSG

As you may have guessed from the title, I went in for my HSG today. Dr. Uterus always does these at the hospital to which his office is attached because his office doesn’t have the facilities to do x-rays. The hospital, which is religious, requires you to check in even if you are having a simple procedure, like an HSG. This is why I had to show up a half an hour before my procedure (not that that in any way guaranteed that it started on time).

The last time I had my HSG here, you still had to check in, but you checked in at the older part of the hospital. It reminded me a lot of when you would go to the bank to open a new checking account. You put your name on the list and waited (and waited and waited) for your name to be called. Once it was called, you went up to a large counter that was partitioned off into small cubicles. You met the person who called your name and they discussed the intimate details of your insurance, the procedure you were having and other sordid details such as your religious affiliation (just in case you croak in the middle of your HSG and the have to perform the final rites?). In addition to the decor being seriously outdated, the cubicles were separated from each other by a flimsy little cardboard partition which let the person in the next one know your business and you know theirs. In the age of HIPAA, it’s not surprising that this has gone the way of the dinosaurs.

Probably recognizing that there was a much better way of doing this, the hospital now has you check in at the snazzy new reception desk, which is tastefully appointed in granite countertops and terrazzo tile. It also happens to be right across the way from the lactation center. Thanks for that Insensitive Hospital Administrators (not to mention the maternity tour schedule right there where you check in. Double argh!). Anywho, the greatest improvement is that they now have little individual offices where you check-in. You still put your name down on the little sheet and wait for them call your name. In the category of bad planning, the reception area opens up into a huge atrium that is covered in stone and of course echoes everywhere. So, when my name was called – and thoroughly butchered – everyone got to hear it.

The person doing the calling was a perky woman in her mid-30s. She directed me to walk down a hall and meet her at the third door. I went in and she came in through another door (it reminded me a lot of the booths you see in the red light district in Amsterdam where the glass door in front showed the ‘goods’ and the door in the back allowed the ‘goods’ to leave). She took my ID and insurance card while verifying that certain information is still valid.

Then she asks the $10,000 question: what is my religious affiliation? I’m sure it stated no preference or something to that effect, which is probably what I had said in the past when there was just that little cardboard between you and someone else. But, the privacy and security of that little room made throw caution to the wind and rather than tow the party line of “no preference”, I confessed the truth: “I’m an atheist”, I said. At the mention of that one little word, she snapped her head up, then tilted it to the side while she asked in a very serious tone of voice with a hint of derision and accusation, “Why?” It was as if I told her I was going to move to the third world and give up all of my worldly possessions to live as one with the land.

Why indeed, my dear. Why do you believe in a deity that allows so many couples to be childless while ignorant 16-year olds give birth everyday? Why do believe in a God that allows child and animal abuse and that people kill in the name of? Why not instead put my faith in myself and hold myself accountable for my faults rather than chalk it all up to the divine? Unfortunately, she didn’t seem to be able to appreciate this depth of reasoning, so I just said, “I’ve always been that way.”

Who knows, maybe I was the first person who ever confessed to actually be an atheist. Maybe she was wowed by my manners and the fact that I wasn’t carrying around a hatchet, hell bent on destruction. Maybe she was just puzzled that I chose to go to a religious hospital. I do know that it amused me greatly and made me smile as I walked the long hallway to radiology for my date with Dr. Uterus and some dye.

The Difference Between Wanting and Needing

There are actually very few things that I need to survive. I need food, I need shelter, and I need clothing. Arguably, I also need to work to make the money that provides the first three items on the list. There are other things that I want very much, but don’t actually need. I love my husband more than life itself, but I can live without him. I love my kitties with all of my heart, but again, I can live without them.

The same holds true for children. I want to have a child with every ounce of my will, but I know that I don’t need to have a child to survive. I can live without a child. I can even be happy without a child. I can have a fulfilling life without a child. I just don’t want to. I want to know what it is like to feel my child kicking inside of me, I want to know what it’s like to give birth, I want to know what it is like to have a little person sitting on your lap who you created with all of the love in your heart. I want all of these things, but I do not need these things.

Recognizing this, celebrating this, I can view my struggle with infertility as one part of my life, not the only part. When you distill infertility down to its essence, this is the question you are left to answer and the answer will determine how you view the path forward. As long as I have a bed, food and clothes, everything else is as they say, just lagniappe.

Infertility Overload

I remember when the internet was still relatively new and I had only recently been introduced to it. This was in the late 1990s back in college when not everyone had a cell phone (and actually some of the old brick cell phones were still in use), there were no blogs, MySpace hadn’t been invented, and it was iffy to buy things off the internet. To say that the internet was still relatively underutilized (compared to now) would be an understatement.

I didn’t spend much time on the internet then – just email through my university’s system. There just wasn’t a whole lot out there and I wasn’t particularly interested in exploring the dark corners (of which there were many). By my senior year, though, I started to get more adventurous and go places on the information superhighway. But I was immediately turned off by how impersonal and how removed you were from reality when you were online.

As the years have gone by and the technology has advanced, this feeling has all but gone away. The internet is what allows me to do my job, keep in touch with friends and do most of my shopping. It has also allowed me to connect with other people who are dealing with infertility in ways far more intimate than randomly meeting people and asking for their IF stories. When I first learned that I had infertility, I searched out other women on the internet who had infertility. Unfortunately, the first blog I encountered was the most depressing thing I had ever seen. I was such a novice at that point – we had just found out that I had blocked tubes. I now recognize that reading a blog by a hardened self-styled bitchy infertile probably wasn’t the best idea at that point. So, I actually banned myself from looking at infertility blogs and bulletin boards because it was just so depressing.

After my miscarriage, though, after I had that awful experience, my desire to find other women who had experienced loss intesified. When I had my minor melt down before my expected due date, I found comfort and solace online, particularly because I found several women who had miscarriages right around the same time that I had. I was hooked again on blogs and bulletin boards.

The down side, though, is that you become engrossed in everyone else’s heartache. I spent 45 minutes the other day reading a blog by a woman who lost her baby at 24 weeks. It was the most heartbreaking thing I had ever read on infertility and miscarriage (and that is saying a lot), but I just felt so bad after reading it. I felt like I was having my miscarriage all over again and the grief just wasn’t going away. I hope that she finds peace but I can’t bear to follow her blog because her pain is so palpable.

I also lurk on at least one infertility bullentin board and it is also exhausting sometimes seeing all of the pain that is laid bare. But again, where else would it go? It is so cathartic to send your thoughts and feelings out into the internet void, but the confessional nature belies the truth that there are people reading and following and becoming terribly invested in someone else’s life whom they have never met. I will still blog for me, but I think it’s time to take a breather from reading other people’s pain.

Getting Back on the Train

Big Red arrived right on time yesterday so I will go in for a baseline ultrasound tomorrow. I’m having the same ambivalent feelings that I always do at the beginning of a new cycle. I want to be invested in it so that it will work, but I don’t want to be so invested that I get all caught up and totally bummed if it doesn’t. I want to be positive so that I can have a good response to the stims, but not get overly so that I am again bummed in the even it doesn’t work. I know that the best thing is to just take it one day at a time. But as with most things, that is easier said than done. Onward and upward.

Waiting and Waiting No More

So, I’m actually waiting to get my period (rather than waiting not to get my period). Since I was benched this month due to a cyst and Dr. Uterus pretty much dashed any hope that I would get pregnant this month, I’m just chilling, drinking my beer and waiting for Big Red to make an appearance. So far, just a couple of false alarms, but that also means that day 3 when I can go in for a baseline ultrasound will actually come around when Dr. Uterus’ office is open.

I have decided to stop waiting, however, to begin stitching a Christmas stocking for a future baby. I had bought a kit to make one last year and was going to start it later on in my pregnancy earlier this year. After I lost the baby in April, I couldn’t stand the thought of starting it. But, now, I realize that I am tired of putting things on hold for when I might get pregnant or when we might have a baby. And, I know, to paraphrase those sage ladies of A Few Good Eggs, that if you want it, you will have a family, although it may not be in the manner in which you had originally intended. I firmly believe this and still take great comfort in it.

Remembering this, I know that I can start the project and not feel as if I’m putting the cart before the horse. I had never bought ‘baby’ things because it seemed like I would just be asking for more difficulty. But, I’m tired of being superstitious about this and want to just do what I want to do. And, right now I want to get started on this thing because it’s going to take me forever anyway. I see now that the most important thing is giving myself permission to just start it. I just have to find where I put the damn kit.

Giving Thanks

During my time as someone with infertility, I have done much lurking about the blogosphere and infertility bulletin boards/chat rooms. And, with a few exceptions, I have come to recognize that on the infertility specrum, our case is relatively mild. I liken it to have thyroid cancer. It sucks because you have cancer, but it could be a lot worse because it is the least aggressive and most treatable of cancers. We have infertility, which sucks, but it is very treatable (although not on the timetable that I’d like). So, I am thankful that our glass is more than half full and that we will very likely realize our dream of becoming parents, although not on the schedule that I had planned. And that’s ok.

I am also thankful that I was able to have wine at Thanksgiving dinner. It made it go down a lot easier.

The 5 Stages of Infertility

If infertility is akin to getting a fatal disease diagnosis, then it stands to reason that we go through the same stages of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. I first learned about them after my miscarriage and flitted back and forth through them, constantly and then with less frequency. I had thought that I had pretty much made it through. But, I am coming to know now that even six months after my miscarriage and two more unsuccessful IUIs, I am not finished with them.

Currently, I’m experiencing anger – it even seems as if I am feeling real anger for the first time, I think in part because before, I had no specific person or thing to be angry at. I don’t believe in God, so I can’t be angry at Him. I was never angry at Dr. Uterus – it’s not his fault that we had a miscarriage. I’m not angry at Sweetie. I know that what happened to our baby was no one’s fault.

But still, I’m angry. I’m angry because my best friend is pregnant, I’m angry that she feels as if I am damaged goods and couldn’t handle the news for a while, I’m angry that I probably am damaged goods and couldn’t have handled the news for a while, I’m angry that none of our friends really knows or understands what I’m going through, I’m angry that I don’t feel like my parents understand how difficult this is for me, I’m angry that I can’t find some way to feel better about all of this, I’m angry that got dealt such a shitty hand on this. I’m just angry.

I know this is irrational anger, but I also know it’s what I’m feeling and dismissing it as completely irrational won’t solve anything. How do I go stop being angry? My rational half knows that it is about letting go and accepting (as we are told to do) that this is the way it is. And to do that, I know that there’s not much I can change about others – I can only change myself. I can find people who know what its like to go through this, I can recognize that my parents may not be able to give me the support I need and that’s ok, and I can recognize that my best friend tried for a year and a half to get pregnant and wants this very much.

It all still hurts, though. Does it ever stop or does it just ache less?

Dr. Uterus, Sweetie and I Walk into a Bar…

So Sweetie and I met with Dr. Uterus today and shared our concerns about all of the roiding of the ovaries, our frustrations with not moving forward and whether we should consider IVF. As usual, Dr. Uterus was extremely helpful in answering our questions and letting us know our options.

First, we decided to have another HSG because Sweetie was concerned that it was possible that my tubes had been blocked again since that was our original main problem. At the time, they were blocked by debris, not by scarring, so the thought is if it could happen once, could it happen again? Dr. Uterus put the chances of a bilateral occlusion (both tubes blocked) at 10%. The worst that can happen is I have an uncomfortable HSG (which I’ve already had) and we get more information. We decided that if the tubes are blocked, we would move straight to IVF rather than continue with IUI (what would be the point?). If only one is blocked then we’ll continue to IUI but just try to make sure that the ovary corresponding to the open tube is producing enough eggs to make it worthwhile.

Second, we’ll do another IUI next month, assuming my ovaries have calmed down. If the IUI doesn’t work, then we’ll move on to IVF. For the longest time, the idea of moving on to IVF was very difficult for me in part because it seemed to imply further failure (and we all know how I feel about failure). But, now, talking with him about it it seems doable. He said we were very good candidates for it and that we could have a good 55% success rate per cycle. It’s hard not to glob onto numbers and feel as if they are really indicative of your chances, but it is so encouraging to know that it is a good option for us. He also agreed that our plan to do one more IUI was a good one and then do IVF in the new year.

It was the first visit in a long time that I actually felt better after going to his office.

The Flash

I had one of those moments today when a conversation caught me off guard and reminded me of how much I still hurt from the miscarriage. I was talking to one of our contractors who mentioned that he had not been in the office this morning because his wife took him with her to the doctor’s office. She’s pregnant, in her first trimester, and had started spotting. They went in for an ultrasound and saw the flash on the screen showing the baby’s heartbeat. At that mention, my heart began to ache because I remembered when Sweetie and I had that amazing experience watching our own little one’s heartbeat flashing on the screen. I had never experienced something so wonderful as that day, especially since we also heard the heartbeat for the first time. It is now particularly painful to hear someone else talking about having that moment because the baby whose heartbeat I heard so vividly (and can still hear) is not here and never will be. I still miss my baby.

The Sympathetic Response

One of the easiest ways to get me to become weepy about my infertility very quickly is to tell me in that *right* tone of empathy how sorry you are about what we’re going through, or how hard it must be for me when friends get pregnant. The sudden swell of grief that causes me to tear up is more of a response to the person who is showing how much they care about me to be saying these things as opposed to grief about the particular event. It’s kind of like wearing your favorite sweater even though you know it generates static electricity that will shock you. You love to wear the sweater, so you deal with the shock when it comes which will never be when you expect it.