Pulling Me Out of the Depths

I was very depressed last night and this morning about our failed IUI. I ended up telling my mom how it all turned out – they didn’t know that we were doing this cycle – and she was so supportive and understanding. She told my dad who sent me a wonderful e-mail this morning and I think he understood for the first time how incredibly hard this journey has been for us. He was also able to provide some much needed perspective that while we are in a hole, we keep trying to dig ourselves out and this should not be an all consuming problem.

I expressed to him that I couldn’t see my worth without having a child. I see now what a dreadful place to be that was. I managed to trivialize all of my accomplishments up to now by creating a myth that I have to have a child to be a worthy person. My dad helped me see this by pointing out that there are many ways to be a worthy person – not just having a child (and frankly, there are many unworthy people who do have children). So, I suppose it is more about creating my own reality than the myth that I think I should have. My wise therapist has been saying this in various themes, but it is only now really sinking in.

Earlier this evening, I also spent some time randomly cruising other people’s profiles who share similar musical tastes. I found so many women who are my age who are not mothers, but more importantly, are not obsessing about becoming mothers. It was so refreshing to see that there are people out there who aren’t listening to their biological clocks and who are just living their lives, traveling, thinking, blogging, knitting, whatever. I remember now that there is a life outside of infertility. As you might guess, infertility induces tunnel vision, especially when you are 2.5 years into the hole and don’t see much light.

In the past, I really just paid lip service to having other interests and friends, but frankly, everything I did was shrouded, influenced or colored by infertility. It’s still impossible for me to make plans a few months out and not wonder if I will be pregnant. It’s impossible for me to look at a woman with a large belly and not wonder if she’s pregnant. I can’t answer the phone from an old friend and not dread that there is going to be news of bundles of joy being expected on the other end of the line. It’s a terrible way to live.

And, while I know that it is a terrible way to live, I also don’t know how not to live that way right now. Conventional wisdom would have me take a few months off and collect myself. At the moment, I can’t stand the thought of even more delay. Haven’t we waited long enough? I also know, though, that I’m really tired of being depressed and touchy. My compromise? I have to do three weeks of BCP before I get going on IVF. Those three weeks are my vacation of sorts. It would be so wonderful to just be. me. Not infertile me. Not bitter me. Just me. The start of the journey is to recognize that no matter what happens with my reproductive organs, I am still a good person who deserves as much happiness as everyone else. And a dog. A nice furry, bark-y dog.

What’s the Worst that Can Happen?

Inevitably, I approach test day as D-day. This despite numerous remonstrations from Sweetie not to do so. The thought of the Phone Call is a major anxiety inducer because the Ghosts of Phone Calls Past always come back – the low timbre to the voice on the other end, the straightness of the point, the wrapping up of a month of effort and money in four little words, “The result was …. ” Those little words hold the key to overwhelming joy or overwhelming sadness.

I always try to think of new ways to lower my anxiety about the whole ordeal. I’ve tried having her leave voice mails with the information, which worked very well the first time since I was actually pregnant, but really sucked the last two times when it was negative. I’ve tried re-playing the “negative” answer in my head to get reacclimated to the feeling. I’ve twiddled with the idea of taking a test before hand, but since I use an HCG trigger, the last thing I wanted was a false positive from the trigger. I’ve tried to think of all of the wonderful things that I can do if I’m not pregnant starting with boozing and ending with clearing out the dead crap in the garden. None of it makes a damn bit of difference when that call comes and once again, I’m not pregnant.

I must be an eternal optimist or really stupid, because this time I’m again trying a different tact. I use it often with my raging OCD – I simply ask “what’s the worst that could happen?” Here, the worst that could happen is that I’m not pregnant and we move on to IVF. I’m not going to die, I’m not going to lose my house, my kitties will be fine, my husband will still love me and nothing will have changed about who I am or my worth. By far, I get the most comfort out of this line of thinking than any of the others.

Update: the call came in at 2:40 and the answer was a disppointing “no”. There were a few tears, but we also laid the groundwork for IVF. For the first time in almost three years, I will be back on birth control pills as a means of getting pregnant. The irony just keeps on coming.

All I Want for Christmas…

Here’s my take on that seminal Christmas favorite:

All I Want for Christmas is My Two Pink Lines

All I want for Christmas is my two pink lines
My two pink lines, my two pink lines
Gee, if only I could have my two pink lines,
Then I could wish me a “Merry Christmas”

It seems so long since I could say
“Oh my god, I’m pregnant!”
Gosh, oh gee, how happy I’d be
If only that was what those two lines meant.

All I want for Christmas is my two pink lines,
My two pink lines, see my two pink lines
Gee, if I could only have my two pink lines,
Then I could wish me a “Merry Christmas”.

Never say I didn’t try to entertain with my infertility!

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Prenatal Hazing

There’s a new show on HGTV called Deserving Design where some family that is disadvantaged in some way gets a room makeover from Vern Yip (formerly of Trading Spaces). I suppose it’s HGTV’s answer to Extreme Makeover – Home Edition, that sobfest of the highest order of schlock hosted by formerly cute-but-quirky-carpenter on Trading Spaces Ty Pennington. Frankly, I’m a little disappointed in Vern for buying into the schlock-fest, but he still does beautiful work.

I have a new show, too, called Deserving Pregnancy. How deserving you are of getting pregnant depends entirely how long and how difficult it was for you to get pregnant. Whenever I hear that someone is newly pregnant, whether I know them or not, I automatically try to find out how long they’ve been trying and how many roadblocks they’ve had along the way. An accident? Completely and totally undeserving. A few months with no drama? You still don’t deserve it. You have no idea how awful it can be. A year, no ART but with a miscarriage? You’ve been through a nasty setback and managed to get back on the horse. Good for you, but I’m still not entirely in your corner. Five years, ART and no prior pregnancy? You deserve every single moment of joy! I’m so happy for you! I hope you have the most beautiful baby (or babies) on the planet.

Call it prenatal hazing but the farther down this road I’ve gone, the harder I have feeling joy with or for people who get pregnant with no problems or even while using birth control (getting pregnant on the Pill is one of my absolute favorites). The worse the road you’ve been down, the more likely I am to genuinely feel joy with you when you finally do reach that milestone. When you read about the mechanics of how pregnancy happens and works, it is truly astounding that so many people get pregnant with little to no difficulty. And yet when something or many somethings go wrong, it is heartbreaking how difficult it can be.

I’ve tried on many different theories about why we in particular have so much difficulty and others have so little. None so far have helped me feel ok about it. Other areas of life where you perceive that you’ve been shafted, you usually can find some reason and off-sets the shafting. You’re smart but not that attractive? Looks are skin deep and you can always survive on your brains. Smart and attractive? Either you are also super sweet or just a plain bitch (either one is an acceptable counterbalance to being both smart and attractive). So what is a counterbalance to not being able to get pregnant? You have a great shoe collection?

I recently read a post by a woman who suffered a devastating loss of her baby and yet was positive enough to see that even though this particular part of her life was sucking big time, she could still take comfort and joy in the parts of her life that were working: her job, her marriage, etc. Maybe it’s not so much that there has to be a mathematical formula (you are allowed 67% maximum happiness and good karma at any given point) as it is about our focus. There are women who are pregnant who have no job and no husbands or significant others to help them. I think I can honestly say that I would much rather be not pregnant with a good job and a husband than the other way around. And, when all else fails, I just go to Cute Overload, and it’s all better. Meow.

I ♥ My Husband

I have shared my deep feelings of grief and frustration with my husband whenever a friend or relative calls with the news that they are expecting. I got the impression that he accepted my feelings but thought that they were wrong or just useless (you feeling bad about it isn’t going to change it from happening). This weekend, we are heading back to the city where we used to live and where two couples who we knew pretty well have either very recently or within the last few years went from coupledom to familyhood.

I have avoided going back with him because I knew he would want to see them and I would have to go. And I would have to hide how awful I would feel and put on a good face for what would seem like way too long. Neither couple knows of our troubles (although I have dropped vague hints) and it’s not exactly something you kind of bring up out of nowhere (“What a great color scheme in the living room, and oh, by the way, I had an artificial insemination with Sweetie’s frozen sperm last week because we are having trouble conceiving like you did! Don’t even get me started on my miscarriage! What kind of fabric is that?”).

So, when it became inevitable that we would go back for a holiday party, I dreaded fielding the questions about whether or not we were going to see these couples. Today, I finally mentioned that we might go visit on Saturday, fully expecting that this was what was required of me. And Sweetie gave me the most wonderful gift: he said it was up to me if I wanted to see them because he knew how hard it was for me. Oh, what a wonderful feeling – what a weight lifted off my shoulders!

I’ve given it some thought and I think I would like to see one of the couples who had a baby in May. She’s not likely to be pregnant again so soon and I can still get a baby fix rather than deal with a toddler. But, I’ll make sure that I have a code word for Sweetie in case things get too difficult and we need to leave.

Christina Aguilera is Mocking Me

Airports and grocery stores are one of those places where you often shuffle through doing the mundane things of life. You usually can’t avoid them unless you hermit yourself into a house and never leave. The proprietors take advantage of the fact that they have a captive, although possibly unwilling audience, by trying to sell time-wasters in the form of magazines. You can read about how Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt are on the verge (again) of splitting up or how Britney is supposedly trying to adopt twins from China to make up for the two children that she lost through her sheer stupidity all while you load your groceries onto the conveyor belt. Depending upon the line, you can even check out who has had plastic surgery and liposuction.

Airports are actually much worse. Every third store front is a magazine shop with all of the magazines that you only read at the dentist’s office. The best sellers or most attractive covers are sometimes repeated on the front of the kiosk. The new issue of Marie Claire with Christina Aguilera and her giant pregnant belly is one such cover. Everywhere I turn, there she is flaunting her pregnancy in my face saying, “I’m possibly underweight, I have tacky hair, a terrible bronzer habit and a questionable sense of style, but I can get pregnant, despite my lack of any body fat and whenever I want and you can’t! Ha!” What is the point of putting her on the cover with her naked pregnant belly other than to show it off which has the side effect of tormenting those of us with infertility?

Ironically, I thought the picture of Demi Moore on the cover of Vanity Fair, back in the day when she was pregnant, was beautiful and not objectionable. It was done by Annie Liebowitz and seemed to be designed to celebrate the female form during pregnancy. Of course, when the Demi Moore picture came out, I was still in high school and avoided pregnant women like the plague in case pregnancy was a contagious disease.

How is that picture acceptable to me and not this one? I want to say that I think the Demi Moore picture is a work of art in its own right, regardless of the subject matter, and the other picture is just a semi-naked picture of Christina Aguilera which, frankly, you can find just about anywhere. I think I’ve seen her belly button more times than my own. Or maybe it’s that Demi Moore outclasses Christina (or X-ina as the press has started calling her – how declass) in just about every possible category known to man and thus any picture of Demi Moore (nude or otherwise) is automatically more appealing than a picture of Christina Aguilera. Or maybe I digress.

I’m still trying to decide how much of my reaction to this picture is just because I’m pissed that I’m having so much difficulty getting pregnant and how much of it is because I think the picture is just really tacky. I think it’s an even split. Although, really, there is no artistic value in it and it seems only to be designed to celebrate the worst-kept secret in 2007.

Or maybe it’s just that I think her music is shit. Either way, I’m sure as hell not buying Marie Claire anytime soon and definitely not that particular issue.

Yep. Still Bitter.

If you look up ‘bitter’ in the dictionary, you find the following definition:

bitter (bit´ər) adj. [OE biter, akin to bītan, to bite] 1 having a sharp, often unpleasant taste 2 causing or showing sorrow, pain, etc. 3 sharp and disagreeable; harsh (a bitter wind) 4 resentful; cynical 5 Mrs.X as she continually reflects on the fact that her best friend is pregnant while Mrs.X has 1 lap surgery, 2 HSGs, 5 IUI attempts, 1 miscarriage, multiple ovarian cysts, a mild case of OHSS, and lots of money out the door to show for her efforts after 2.5 years of trying.

So maybe entry No. 5 is not included in my Webster’s New World dictionary, but it might as well be. I am a bitter woman because of infertility. I am bitter that we got dealt this hand and I am bitter that we are stuck with one oar in the water turning in a giant circle – start the stims, watch the eggs grow, insemination, 2ww, pregnancy test, start again (or is it more like the undulating curve of shifting expectations?) I am bitter that there are those who have such an easier time than we do and I am particularly bitter that one of them happens to be my best friend who unbeknownst to her was supposed to have difficulty so that I could have a friend who truly understood all of this.

And now not only am I bitter, I’m selfish to boot. Is there a 12-step program for bitter, selfish infertile women? (Step 1: invest in a very large punching bag upon which you can take out your obviously strong feelings (preferably not husband). Step 2: have a glass of wine (or 3) in attempt to dull feelings of bitterness. Step 3: Cut all fertile women out of your life so that are left with either childless, childfree or other bitter infertile women. Step 4: Avoid all public areas that may have pregnant ladies. Step 5: do not under any circumstances watch TLC from 2 – 4 pm. Step 6: provide in-service to family and friends on infertility and how it has changed you into a shrew. Step 7: learn how not to ask others if they have children to avoid the inevitable question back. Step 8: ignore Dr. Phil. Repeatedly. Step 9: admit that you are a bitter selfish infertile woman and recognize that you are not inherently a bad person. Step 10: do not tell everyone that you are starting a cycle to avoid having to tell them the news (either way). Step 11: recognize that you aren’t the only one having these feelings (Hat Tip, So Close: Surviving Infertility) Step 12: repeat steps 1 -11 as needed)

I hate admitting that I’m a bitter selfish infertile woman because I always felt that bitter infertile women were weak and just couldn’t control their emotions. The karmic bus has officially caught up with me on this one. I am officially one of the gang. Or, maybe, as with most things, I am a part-time bitter infertile woman. I’m also a part-time kitty mommy, sewer, reader, thinker, sleeper, lover, walker, comedienne, bad movie connossieur, worker bee, queen bee, wife, housekeeper, trash-putter-outer, friend, blogger, photographer, artist, laundress, light bulb replacer, gardener, writer, cook, nosy neighbor, dog sitter, interior decorator, dreamer, to name a few.

We are all part-time beings. We do not have one label all of the time. Labels are like hats – they are interchangeable and each one makes you feel a little different. And, I truly look forward to the day that I can retire my “bitter selfish infertile woman” hat, however that may come about, but I don’t think I can put it away just yet.

Baby Don’t Worry About a Thing

To me worrying is like breathing – it’s autonomic. I worry, therefore I am. And, if worrying is your thing (like it is mine), infertility is a veritable smorgasbord of worry because there are so many things to worry about! Are my eggs good quality, does he make enough sperm, are my tubes open, will my uterus behave, will my eggs and his sperm play nicely? Like most things that we worry about, we either don’t know the answer or can’t change the outcome of the answer, which heightens the worry even more. It’s enough to make you hyperventilate at the mere thought.

Fighting the urge to worry is like fighting the urge to breathe. But, while one thing is required for you to live (breathing, in case you thought otherwise), the other is not. And so, I am diligently weaning myself off the Worry. Giving up booze and caffeine have been a walk in the park compared to this. But, I’ll tell you, earlier this week, I reached a milestone. I got bored with worrying. I realized (rightfully) that at this point, everything is out of my hands and in my uterus. Add whatever Doris Day line you wish here, but I know that the best thing I can do now is just not worry. I have also finally accepted that worrying, in fact, does no good.

I gave myself permission not to worry and it’s been wonderful.

I Want the 29 Million That I Paid For!

Unlike all of our previous IUI attempts, Sweetie was not in town and thus could not provide a fresh specimen for use. I knew this ahead of time and so I had him make two deposits of troops in the Sperm Bank so that we wouldn’t miss an entire cycle because of his work schedule. All told, he banked about 60 million sperm (Super Sweetie!). Only half usually survive the unfreezing, so the projected total for the insemination was 29 million. It was such a relief not to have to worry about how many he might produce on a given day, too, so it was worth the cost of freezing right there.

I arrived yesterday at Dr. Uterus’ office at the appointed hour for The Procedure, but not after seeing Dr. Uterus drive into the garage while I was walking to his office – glad to know I wouldn’t be keeping him waiting since I was running a little late myself. While I was being ushered into the ubiquitous exam room, his nurse told me that they had 11 million motile sperm unfrozen. I knew this meant that they had only unfrozen the one batch, not both. Rather than panic, though, I simply asked if it was possible to have the other one and told her that the plan all along was to use both. I refrained from demanding the 29 million sperm that I had paid for. There was no need to be rude, after all.

This turned out not to be a problem as it only takes 10 minutes to unthaw them (I’m still kind of fuzzy on how that actually happens – Sweetie swears they put it in the microwave). I was very glad to have that extra time to relax and do my version of meditation while listening to my favorite album by Matt Pond PA on my iPod. I was nicely relaxed and in a good place mentally when it was finally time.

I was nice and comfortable (well as comfortable as you can be on a table with a sheet while lying on paper) when Dr. Uterus came in as his usual bright self. I decided ahead of time that I wanted to have some time after he inserted the speculum to relax again since that particular part of the procedure is always uncomfortable and made me more tense. He had no problem with this and I was glad to have that extra time to get used to it. There was a little discomfort with the actual insemination, but that was similar to my prior ones.

In the end, we had 25.5 million motile after the unthawing which was pretty close to the anticipated number. I was perfectly happy with this outcome. And I was really proud of myself for being able to relax and be positive about the insemination, particularly in light of all of the hand-wringing-drama that it took to get there. Rather than assume that it was doomed because I was so worried, I recognized that I had a good chance and that chance was no where near being over.

Trigger Happy

I finally got the go-ahead to trigger today. On every other cycle I’ve done, I’ve had six days of stims and and the IUI on day 10. This time, I had eight days of stims and will have the IUI on day 12 (tomorrow). I’ve gotten tired of worrying about it though, it is what it is. I ran into Dr. Uterus on my way out this morning and expressed my growing panic over the time it was taking and the amount of drugs. His sage words were that it doesn’t really matter how much it takes as long as you get the result. I got the result – one big Mongo-esqe 25mm follie on the left and two respectable 16 and 17 mm follies on the right. I sincerely hope this is the last time I have to do this for some time. Please, please, please let this be the last time I have to do this for a while.