I wish I could say that this is how much we are getting in a tax refund (not even close since we aren’t getting a refund at all and are actually providing a refund to the man), but instead I have to report that this is my HCG level as of this morning. I have to lose at least 7,553 more unit-thingys before I can be “pregnancy-free”.* I did the math (well, I punched the numbers into a calculator which then did the math) and found that if the levels drop by half every 48 hours on the dot, it will take 22 days from today to get to baseline. Of course, nothing goes the way it is supposed to, so this is a wild guestimate.

I also made the mistake of looking at my records for my other D&C. A week after the procedure, my HCG was a whopping 350! Of course, the baby died about two weeks before we had the procedure, so during that time, I’m sure I did some serious dropping. In the end, it still took me 6 weeks to make it to below 5. Yikes.

Why does this bother me? Well, because even if we aren’t going to see Dr. Uterus anytime soon, it would still be nice to think that there might be a chance for an oops. As long as the HCG is up there, the ovaries are not going to cooperate to make that happen. I know I shouldn’t even be thinking about pregnancy, including an oops, but part of me just can’t let go of the notion that I should be doing something to get knocked up even if that means just knowing that I might be fertile and having unprotected sex. Besides, part of me still dreams of being able to call up Dr. Uterus and say, “Guess what?! I’m pregnant and I didn’t need you to get that way!” This is very indicative of how my day-dreams about pregnancy have changed over the years. I used to spend a great deal of time thinking of elaborate ways of telling my parents that I was pregnant. Now I fantasize about telling my RE that he’s obsolete.

I did mention to the nurse that I haven’t had a full-on period yet (just spotting) and she indicated that this usually equates to the levels going down faster. I won’t read this as gospel, but it’s encouraging. I go back next Monday morning for another draw. As a present to myself, I asked to be able to have all of my bloodwork after the D&C to be drawn at an off-site lab rather than going to the office each week and see all of the glum faces of the nurses who know what happened. So far, this has worked very well as the ladies at the lab don’t know me, don’t know my history and are extremely efficient. And, no glum faces. This and the Cadbury caramel egg I had after lunch totally made my day – well until finding out how high the level was. I think another caramel egg after dinner (which will also feature a nice Rioja from Spain) is definitely called for.

And, another benefit is that once the number goes down, maybe I can finally stop having hormonal rages (or “being pissy” as Sweetie calls it). Or maybe, I just won’t be able to use that as an excuse for “being pissy”.

*I won’t bother to discuss how ironic this is. I’m at the point of just shaking my head.

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Glutton for Punishment

When it comes to living with infertility in a primarily fertile world, I am a glutton for punishment. Article about nesting during pregnancy? I read it. Read an on-line chat about working part-time or full-time after the birth of a baby (I would kill for this choice!!!)? Tempted. Watching the episode of House Hunters where the family is expanding (number-wise, not body-wise) so they have to find a new house? I watched the whole thing, including every single freakin’ reference to the fact that she’s pregnant. I couldn’t tear my eyes away.
image: amortize
So, why do I do this to myself? What do I expect to gain? At first, I thought I was doing it because I may gain some valuable information that I can use down the line. So, the article on soothing your baby seemed like a good read. Then, as time went on and we had no baby to soothe, it seemed less and less helpful. I suspect that I do it now to see if I’ve reached that point of equanimity where I can read about (fill in the blank) getting knocked up and not feel that twinge of absolute envy. I never manage to do it, though.

And, it seems as if motherhood and fertility is everywhere now- celebrities are popping out enough children to populate a small island, there is not one but two blogs dedicated to parenting and family on Washingtonpost.com, and of course, there is my love/hate relationship with articles in the New York Times, which has been documented on this blog already. The point is, it’s getting harder and harder to censor out this kind of stuff, which makes it easier to punish myself.

It is impossible to go to just about any website and not get assaulted at least once with something – even a headline – that brings that familiar ache. But, I am making progress. I have started to give myself permission to skip reading those articles. For example, the article on going back to work after the birth of a baby? Self: you are permitted to skip it. It won’t do anything except upset you, so you have a free ride to look right past it. Instead, go look at Cuteoverload. Stick your nose in the middle of a fragrant bloom and breathe deeply. Kiss a kitty. You’ll find the urge to look at those articles is gone and you’ve gotten a wonderful respite.

In the world of infertility where control is so fleeting, giving myself permission to skip the things that I know will just upset me is one little way I can have some control.

Graduation Day

I should mention that Dr. Uterus, while having a solo practice as a reproductive endocronologist, shares office space with a high risk OB. If he wasn’t Dr. Uterus, I would have abandoned him long ago in favor of someone who didn’t routinely have very pregnant ladies in his waiting area. But, he is Dr. Uterus and he is wonderful (and did I ever mention that he’s easy on the eyes?), so I put up with the pregnant ladies (and the pregnancy magazines and the fliers about maternity tours at the nearby hospital).

Anyway, on the day when I had the unexpected visit to his office because my beta was rising rather than declining after he had predicted the miscarriage, I saw a heavily pregnant woman walking ahead of me to his office. I knew why she was there and I was so angry that I was in my place and she was in hers. She was happy and practically bursting and I was already annoyed at having to cancel my trip and go visit him to see if I was going to have more drama (the theory was a possible ectopic). This was just karmic icing on the cake.

As Dr. Uterus’ nurse called for me, she turned the husband of the Bursting Pregnant Lady and said “hi”. It was at that point that I realized, they were former patients and had graduated to the high risk OB. Rather than feel hope, my heart sank. I was a double failure. It wasn’t like she had just gotten knocked up the normal way – she was a Dr. Uterus Success Story and here I was, the misfit with rising betas and what are probably delicately referred to as “issues”. To be sure, I had no idea what this lady had been through. She could have had five previous miscarriages for all I knew. Frankly, at that moment I didn’t care.
image: Amigurumi Kingdom
All I cared about what that she had graduated and I hadn’t. I was being held back. Again. I had to repeat Remedial Infertility 101 and Early Pregnancy Loss 102. This is particularly difficult for me since I am a Type A, Class A, Grade A Overachiever with delusions of perfection and immodesty. I was salutatorian of my high school class, I graduated with honors from college and was near the top of my class in grad school. I don’t do failure.

So, not ever being able to even graduate from Dr. Uterus’ care is another blow to my self-esteem which is obviously heavily dependent upon my ability to succeed in conventional situations. Now, my rational mind knows that a) I have no blame for my first miscarriage and probably no blame for the second and b) my inability to get or stay pregnant is not a reflection on my worth as a person. But, my rational mind is being put in a half-nelson by my irrational, emotional, hormone-fueled, addled and grief stricken psyche and it is not going to let go. Bad crazed psyche!

The next step is to wrest my rational mind away from the crazed psyche. Maybe I should add that to the list? I suspect that all that will help is time and healing. I have a lot of the former and need a lot of the latter. Or maybe, I just need to grieve for the loss of yet another “normal” milestone.

The Deluge

Of the numerous terrible things about having a miscarriage, one of the worst is that even though you no longer have a baby or pregnancy, but you still have the hormones. They don’t leave the body particularly fast and depending upon how far along you were, it can take an agonizing amount of time for the HCG to leave your system. I seem to recall from last time that it leaves the body in halves – so if it was 10,000 one day, it should be 5,000 a few days later and so forth. While you are waiting for it to eek out of your bloodstream, though, you are left to its mercy (and that of the progesterone) so that all of the emotions that you are already feeling are that more heightened. Talk about being hit while you’re already down.
image: Earthwatcher
So, today when I felt the sadness just overwhelming me, I knew that in some part it was the damn hormones just making a bad situation worse. But, still. I’m sad. I’m sad that once again I don’t have a baby to look forward to. I’m sad that we’re coming up on our 5th wedding anniversary and it’s still just the two of us. I’m sad because I feel like I have failed again and that we are running out of “it’s-a-random-occurrence” excuses. I’m worried that there might really be something wrong with me or with our embryos.

And, I’m angry. I’m angry because I feel cheated (again). I’m angry that we had this happen again. I’m angry that I couldn’t just have a normal miscarriage like last time and instead had that two week blip of hope that still left us with nothing. I’m angry that once again we’ve landed in that 2-10% who hear the heartbeat and still end up miscarrying (which I find particularly cruel). I’m angry that we’re infertile and can’t seem to make much progress. I’m angry that Dr. Uterus has had so many successes and yet I can’t seem to be in that win column yet despite our Herculean efforts. I want to add my picture to the books in his waiting area holding my baby with that grin of success and satisfaction. I’m angry that he is so confident that it is yet another random occurrence which makes the whole thing doubly worse.

And, I’m particularly angry that everyday irresponsible people who have no business reproducing have perfectly healthy children who they then abuse and kill. If I wasn’t already an atheist, I think this would have sent me over the edge toward the religion-free lifestyle. It makes me want to bang my head against a wall.

But then I realize that these are all feelings that are part of the process. For as ugly as they are and as ugly as they make me feel, I know that they are natural and I probably would have real problems if I wasn’t having them. We like to think that we are going to handle situations with grace and aplomb at all times, but frankly, that’s impossible. The most we can strive for is to have enough introspection to recognize the feelings for what they are, have them and then move on.

It helps if you don’t read the article in the New York Times about nesting during pregnancy, too. I will not bother linking to it here since it will probably just cause more misery for everyone else. I already made the mistake – no need to compound it for all you fine ladies.

In other news, we finally received the results of the chromosomal analysis that we had run on each of us. We are both chromosomally normal, although, as Sweetie sagely pointed out, we are in every other respect probably off-the-charts abnormal. This is encouraging news (yay! we have no translocations!) but it’s also frustrating (boo! we still don’t have that smoking gun!). Shinejil – please chime in at any time here to remind me to be grateful. I think it’s my turn.

I’m also able to resume bathing – that is taking long, luxurious bubble baths lit by candlelight while Wine Boy plies me with alcohol and tries to molest me as I read Madame Bovary and other scintillating fiction. Unfortunately for Wine Boy, we are on “pelvic rest” (I just love that phrase. Who on earth thought of that to denote no sex?) for two weeks. Ouch. Well, more for him. My ovaries are screaming at the moment as they regroup back into their normal size and I have no doubt that they would be extremely disapproving if there were extracurricular activities going on in their general area.

Also, I’m slowly beginning the transition over to temporarily making my new blog my more regular blog. So, continue to check over at A Year of Inconceivable Living for new posts. It’s been rather quiet because of the drama of the last few weeks, but I hope to get more prolific. I will continue to post here about infertility, post-miscarriage travails and other related topics, but I want to begin focusing on our break which I plan to do exclusively at this other blog.

And, to my dear friends in the computer who are pregnant, I must beg a favor – I’m having a hard time reading your blogs right now, so I wish you the absolute best but please forgive me for not stopping by for a while. Be well and I hope I will be able to give you the same wonderful encouragement down the line that you have given me.

bath image: amishah

Perfect Timing

The New York Times today had a wonderful article on trying again after recurrent miscarriage.

In more sucky perfect timing, the woman sitting next to me at Subway today was a) very pregnant and b) reading What to Expect When You Are Expecting while sucking down Cheetos. Thanks for that. Knowing that I could drink caffeine and eat deli meats when she couldn’t didn’t make me feel one bit better about not being pregnant (again).

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The Ride is Finally Over

image: nic0
It is with great relief that I report that I have finally been allowed to get off the pregnancy rollercoaster.

Everything went fine this morning. I had my Sweetie, my family’s love and all of your good thoughts with me as I went through the familiar routine of the D&C. I had the same anaesthesiologist who I saw not eight weeks ago for my egg retrieval, and I told him that I really did not want to run into him again – except at the mall or something. He wholeheartedly agreed.

The nursing staff were wonderful, as usual. This is the third time I’ve been to this center – not a statistic I enjoy to be sure – first for my lap in October 2006, then my D&C in April of last year and now this year’s booby prize. The only mild annoyance was the intake nurse going over my medical history and saw my last D&C and very sympathetically called me a “poor thing” for having to do this twice. She was very nice, but I just wanted to be treated like anyone else there.

Now a little recap of the ride, shall we? It started out with an optimistic turn in the Positive and Doubling Beta Loop followed by some twists through Anxiety Canyon. Then there was the dive down Spotting and Cramping Hill bottoming out in No Baby Ravine. The slow climb up Imminent Miscarriage Mountain began, complete with the ominous clicking as the car slowly makes it way against gravity. Instead of being released into the torrent after reaching the top, we were sent into the Loop of Disbelief following by the ups and downs of Hope and Despair Canyon. Next, it was through the Loop of Guardedly Optimistic followed by the ups and down of Hope and Despair Canyon again. And then, we were unceremoniously plunged into Heartbreak Ridge, after which we were directed to D&C Station.

My ticket’s been punched, I got my souvenirs and I never, ever want to go on that kind of ride again.

We are officially leaving the Amusement Park of Infertility for a while, taking a break to remember what we have, find what we have lost, discover new things, make new friends, reconnect with old ones, go to Paris, live decadently, and step away from tests, needles, Dr. Uterus, embryos, eggs, sperm, and everything else that has ruled for the past three years.

Ready, Set, Go…

Before my last D&C, I was just lost. I learned on a Monday that our baby had died and had my D&C on a Thursday (of course, this time I learned on a Thursday and I’m having my D&C on a Monday – it’s almost like the eerie conincidences between JFK and Lincoln).

I had three days (since I found out Monday morning) to get used to the idea that I was no longer pregnant and we weren’t having a baby. During those intervening days, I was in a fog of grief, I was just overwhelmed.

After the procedure, I remember waking up from crying – literally crying – that I had lost my baby. I remember Dr. Uterus was there, but I don’t remember what he said. I never told Sweetie because it would just upset him. The days and weeks afterwards were so hard. But, eventually, I got better.

This time around, I had a lot longer to get used to the idea of a miscarriage and I knew fully well that it could happen, regardless of how many times we heard the heartbeat. So, while there is still much grief, I haven’t been lost these past few days.

I have a friend who lost his father a few years ago and it was terribly hard for him (as it would be for most of us). Several years after that, his youngest brother committed suicide. I asked him how he was doing and he said something that surprised me. He said he knew how to grieve this time, that it was easier because he knew how to do it and he knew what it entailed. I hoped that I wouldn’t ever had to know this as well, but now I do.

I know how to grieve, I know how it works.

I also know what to expect tomorrow. In anticipation, I have done some preparation. I hate that I will have no control over my body and who looks at it, touches it, etc, so I have done my best to make it presentable . I shaved my legs and armpits as well as tidied up “down there”. As India.Arie says, “depending upon how the wind blows/I might even paint my toes“, while watching the next scintillating episode of John Adams on HBO with Sweetie.

[I should state that the people at the center we go to are absolutely wonderful and I’ve never had an issue – it’s that I won’t be in a position to know what’s going on so this is my one real way of retaining some control of the situation. If I’m going to be naked in front a bunch of strangers, at least I’ll look good.]

I’m also on Gremlins restrictions as of midnight. Sweetie and I will probably get up at the un-Godly hour of 5:30am to be at the center by 6. I should have my cocktail by 7 and the whole nasty thing should be over relatively quickly. The wounds, of course, will take much longer to heal.


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I’ll Take a D&C for $2,000, Alex!

Alex: You have chosen the category “D&C” for $2,000. Here’s your clue: this is the procedure you will be having on Monday at 7am, but for which you must show up at 6am.

[brrrrrrrrrrrrreeeeeeeeeepppp! Mrs. X rings in]

Alex: Mrs. X

Mrs. X: What is my D&C?

Alex [in best Canadian accent]: No. I’m so-rry. The question we were looking for is “What is my second D&C in a row that sucks beyond belief and imagination.”

[brrrrrrrrrrreeeeeeeeeeeeppppp! Mrs. X rings in again]

Alex: Yes, Mrs. X?

Mrs. X: I think you looked much better with the mustache. And frankly, I find Will Ferrell’s impression of you far more entertaining than you. So-rry.

Alex: That’s ok. I liked you better when you hadn’t become hardened and embittered by three years of infertility.

Mrs. X: So I guess we’re even then?

Alex: Yep.
Thanks to everyone for your beautiful comments. I’m actually doing pretty ok today. I’m sure the grief will come in fits and starts – little things that I have no idea are coming up will trigger it. I already had one such moment this morning when the hospital called to do the usual medical history workup prior to Monday. Once again, I was reminded of all that we have lost. She asked how many pregnancies, including this one, I had had and I answered “two”. Any deliveries? No. Ugh, how is it that one question can make you feel so incredibly wretched?

I was really hoping that this would turn into the ultimate phoenix situation, but it wasn’t meant to be. Like last time, we are having a karyotype done on the fetus to see what may have gone wrong. Last time, we learned that it was a monosomy – or Turner’s syndrome – a 94% fatal chromosomal anomoly. This time, who knows. It may come out completely normal.

There is some good in my world, though. It is a beautiful spring day, my Sweetie and I have the day off, the house is clean since the maid came this morning, I have lots of wonderful friends and family who care enough about me to check up on me and make sure I’m doing ok, I have wonderful friends inside the computer who without even knowing me send their most heartfelt condolences, and I no longer have to worry about when the shoe is going to drop. I’ll take what I can get right now.

And, as always, I have Cuteoverload.com:

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Now Entering Town of Heartache, Population: 2

For the second year in a row, Easter, that Judeo-Christian celebration of Christ’s resurrection will be the season of miscarriage and D&C for me.

Our little phoenix is gone. There was lots of growth, but Dr. Uterus could find no heartbeat. We knew that this was a distinct possibility, but it is still so hard.

There’s not much else to say.

image: Hanadi Traifeh

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Raising the Stakes

Oh, my friends, thanks for continuing to follow the week-by-week saga that is my life. Thank you for all of your good thoughts, encouragement and general love. And, thanks for indulging me in the wild mood swings that accompany this particular rollercoaster. As you can tell, I’m pretty focused on one topic so I apologize in advance for the monotony that has become this blog. But, then again, like many of you, I started this blog to have an outlet for my feelings about one subject, so I guess this is completely in keeping with the MO of this blog. And, the rest of my life is extremely boring compared to this, so you probably wouldn’t really want to hear about it anyway.

We go back on Thursday to get the latest look at how this pregnancy is progressing. It’s been much harder this week to expect the worst given that last week had relatively encouraging news. I wasn’t even expecting there to be a heart beat and we got that and a week’s worth of growth.

An unintended consequence of this has been that now the stakes have been raised. Not only did we get another week, but hearing the heartbeat again gives (possibly false) hope that we might make it further. And what if there still is a heartbeat, but the growth has slowed this week? For as agonizing as last week was, I had the luxury of assuming that there were only two paths forward. It has now become more complex.

It’s also hard not to begin to stop thinking of it as a pregnancy and start thinking of a little being. I had such a hard time when I learned that I was having a miscarriage last year in part because we had thought of the pregnancy as a baby. We had our special name for it and I indulged in reading the week-by-week updates from various pregnancy sites about its development. I’ve avoided this – I think that by thinking about it as a pregnancy, not as a baby, it may be easier if things go south (as we are still anticipating). Whether this will work is a totally different story.

Each week that we get development and relatively encouraging news, it gets harder and harder to make our negative assumptions about the outcome. In the end, I just try not to think about it, but inevitably, it sneaks and creeps in.
image: tadekk