Last Friday, I informed Dr. Salsa that I wanted to get started on a new IVF cycle.  And, just like that, my anxiety and indecision vanished.  I couldn’t remember what I was so undecided about.  It seemed like the most natural decision.


Four days later, two birth control pills down, the water still feels really good. 

I pick up my schedule on Thursday. 

image: Felipe Skroski

Taking the Plunge

It’s CD 2 and I have a decision to make.

Do we take the plunge and get on the IVF calendar for June or do I sit it out another month?

cobalt123-2I’ve found that the decision process is lot like getting in the pool when the water is still chilly.  First in goes the toe, which is then immediately yanked out because the water is way too freaking cold.  You stand around for a few moments debating if it’s worth it since if the toe is frozen, there’s no telling what pain the rest of the body will be in.  Imaging simply jumping into the water leaves the body with chills, which does not help the debate. 

But, the water looks so good and inviting.  And, was it really that cold?  Toe is then reinserted, this time for a few seconds hving been acclimated albeit for less than a second, before once again being extricated.  It wasn’t as bad. 

You get bolder.  Now all toes are being inserted and the foot soon follows.  Eventually, you make your way up to both feet wading in the water.  It’s easier now that the legs are being immersed, but when the water gets to the bathing suit bottom level, there is that sudden whoosh of cold and you scurry back to the (now warm) shallower water.  Wading process begins again, with the venturing and retreating. 

Eventually, you either suck it up and go under completely or get out and lay in the sun waiting for it to warm the water.

grakenI’m leaning toward sucking it up and going completely under. I want to feel the sense of accomplishment in overcoming my fear of the cold water and the unknown. I don’t want to wait because I’m too apprehensive about the discomfort.  I don’t want to put off something that could potentially change our lives because I’m scared or anxious about what might or might not happen.  The excitement at the thought of once again taking positive steps toward potentially getting pregnant is beating out the anxiety about potentially getting pregnant again or potential failure.  Part of this is because I’ve now survived both the negative and the miscarriage.  I know that I can do it if I need to. 

But, most of all I can still visualize the glittering prize. The triumphant breaking through the water after taking the plunge.  Seeing the sun shining overhead. 

images: cobalt123 (top left), Graken (bottom right)

Panic! At the Bunco

Monthly Bunco has been a relatively safe outlet for me. I can meet up with lots of women, enjoy girly conversation and not be worried about surprise pregnancy announcements or bulging bellies since all of the women are the parents of at least teenagers and are much more interested in discussing what the people down the street are doing (or not doing) to their lawn.  Monday night, I presented myself on the steps at the appointed hour for our monthly get together and greeted friends right and left. It was shaping up to be a typical low-key Bunco affair.

I made my way to the kitchen and commenced dishing with my neighbor down the street about something really trivial and stuffing some awesome cheese into my mouth.  I was simultaneously eyeing up the bar and debating if I wanted a red-wine hangover the next morning. 

This train of thought came to a screeching halt when something waded into my peripheral vision, that looked an awful lot like a large, swollen beachball of a belly.  It broke the waves ahead of its owner.  It had that slow movement favored by people carrying a lot of weight in the front.  Sure enough, it was a pregnant lady. At my bunco. WTF?!

If you could have taken a picture of me, the imge would be me with very wide eyes, with hand bearing cheese on cracker frozen in place on trajectory to meet open mouth that is now open for another reason.  In other words, I looked like a freaking deer in her very ample headlights.

I unfroze, ate the delicious cheese, and headed out to the other room away from this paragon of fertility.  I debated for about 20 seconds if I could excuse myself from the festivities.  But, I decided that this was a good challenge: could I stick it out, have a good time and manage to avoid her?  I was going to find out. I decided right then and there that neither this interloper nor her giant stomach were not going to run me out of my bunco night!

But, she kept following me, being introduced by the Judas of a neighbor who brought her along to meet the girls.  I developed a sudden interest in the backyard, answered the door when the doorbell rang and tried to get the hell away from her.  I got trapped in the kitchen , though, with her and some of the ladies where the first question asked of her was, “So, when you are due?!” Ugh. Preggo declares herself to be 7 months along but, “huge” – her words, not mine.   This started the ladies who had popped babies previously to chime in with their stories of being huge and ending up with twins.  Preggo dispels any notions that she is carrying two – “We only saw one heartbeat!”  Double ugh with knife stabbing. 

Not a moment too soon, it was time to go to the tables. Mental notations of where Preggo was heading were made and I went into the exact opposite direction.  I proceeded to eat too much chocolate while beginning what would turn out to be a spectacular losing streak (10 out 12). 

Losing on the fourth game at a given table means that you have to move to another table. Winners get to stay.  Needless to say, I lost the fourth game and headed to my second table where I breathed a huge sigh that Preggo was at the other table, at least for the next four games. 

Luck, that bitch, ran out on me again, and I lost the fourth game meaning I had to go to the third table where, you guessed it, she was sitting, enthroned.  This was easily one of the hardest things I have had to do in a long time.  I sat at the table and actually conversed with a very pregnant lady who I am pretty certain got that way the way most people do.  And you know what?

It wasn’t that bad.  We had a decent conversation. She made a few gratuitous preggo references, but all in all, it wasn’t terrible.  I am at that point in my infertility journey that I have a very visceral, usually negative reaction to visibly pregnant women, but sitting there with her, I was able to see her as someone I could relate to, even if she is pregnant and I am not. I was so proud of myself that I stayed there, I talked with her and was able to forget that she had what I did not.

And, I realized, walking home that night, that it hurt to be near her, but it was a self-inflicted hurt. No one else was involved.  She did not come to Bunco to flaunt her luck in my face. Even my neighbor who invited her (and knows some of our IF history) didn’t invite her to make me feel like shit.  And I felt such relief at this realization.  The power of the Preggo on me is only that which I give her.  And, I didn’t give her more than a centimeter.

I enjoyed my evening and I enjoyed meeting her.  I enjoyed deciding that my evening was not going to be ruined by her and I was going to have a good time even if she was there.  And I did.  I was a winner after all.

Got Cliché?

My infertility reading – other than blogs – has been rather haphazard.  When we were first diagnosed, I read just about anything I could get my hands on, partly to learn, partly to not feel as if I was the only person who was dealing with this.  Some books helped. Others, not so much.  As we got deeper down the rabbit trail of treatment with more and more experiences behind us, I found my own voice and also found that most books just kept saying the same thing.   

41lcshl2b3jl__ss500_By the time Waiting for Daisycame out, it was late 2007, I was two and a half years into the journey, with one lap, two HSGs, 6 IUIs and one spectacularly awful miscarriage behind me.  I was no longer interested in reading the prepackaged success stories (I did it and so can you!) that most books seemed to be or the books about miscarriage that never seemed to give me much comfort (this onestill grates me).  I also had never heard of Peggy Orenstein and wasn’t particularly interested in what she had to say on the topic of infertility. 

After my second miscarriage, a thoughtful commenter directed me to her article about how the Japanese mourn miscarriage.  It helped me a great deal, but still I wasn’t ready to take the plunge and read about how she eventually went on to have a child. As we got back onto the rollercoaster again for IVF #2, though, I began to feel that familiar tug to read more of these completed stories about infertility.  I decided that my wait for Daisy was over and it was time to pick up the book.

It didn’t take me long to finish. Peggy Orenstein is a beautiful writer, and her experience is so raw. She lets it all hang out – every ugly emotion, every flaw. More than a few times, I caught myself nodding knowingly at the sentiment that she put so much more eloquent words than I ever did. I also found myself shaking my head at her and her husband – neither should win the award for Best Communicator in the Marriage.  But, I digress.

I stayed with Peggy – all through the multiple miscarriages, the donor egg fiasco, the failed adoption.  I was nearing the end, anticipating the denoument , assuming that Daisy was the product of adoption.  Do you know what happened, instead? If you haven’t read the book, you might not want to read any further. I’m just warning you now.

She got pregnant on her own. Over 40. With one ovary.

1418417514_dae7a872c2My first reaction at her final triumph in reproduction was not joy.  It was not hope that if she could do it with one ovary over 40 and after multiple miscarriages, so could I.  It was anger.  I was angry that she ended up fulfilling the Cliche To End All Infertility Cliches. She had become Charlotte who got pregnant when she decided to adopt.  She was Tina Fey’s character in Baby Mamawho ended up getting pregnant with a freaking t-shaped uterus after her surrogate faked a pregnancy.  She was Nicole Kidman who’s dip in magical waters made her fertile.  It’s the “When All Else Has Failed and You Have Reached the End, You Will Get the Pregnancy and Baby that You Always Wanted” Cliche.

I bet you are thinking right about now, gee, Mrs. X, bitter much?  A lot of this anger comes from the fact that I still haven’t managed to have my Cliche moment and I don’t know if I ever will.  But another portion of it comes from the fact that a great majority of the books, movies, etc., out there that touch on infertility give an unrealistic portrayal of how many people end their battle with infertility.  Most end it either by adoption, getting pregnant through ART or deciding to live child free.   It’s a rare couple that after many, many years of heartache and pain have a child naturally. 

But, we are suckers for a happy ending.  And, I am genuinely happy for Peggy.  I’m also sorry that she had to go through as much as she did to get there, but I’m thankful that she wrote this book about it because for a while there, I saw a lot of myself in her.  Just expressed a lot better.

Paging Nancy Kerrigan

mg-911Back when the worst scandal about the Clinton Administration was “White Water: How Bad Is It?” (which frankly, sounds like the intro to a really bad joke: “It was so bad that only a scandal involving an intern, a dress and a mysterious stain could be worse! Oh, wait, that happened two years later. Never mind. Those were the days.”), Nancy Kerrigan got the worst shock of her life. 

A sledgehammer-wielding goon whacked her in the knees right before the figure skating championship competition and footage was blasted around the world of her on the floor sobbing, “why me?”  Well, Nancy, it was because Tonya Harding, your competitor, had a real inferiority complex and wanted the competition out of the way. Of course, at the time Nancy didn’t know any of that. All she knew was that something inexplicably terrible happened to her for no apparent reason. That shit is scary when you have no explanation. It makes you begin to wonder about your place in the world and how insecure it is. It makes you begin to question your worth.  

We all ask ‘why me’ at some point in our lives.  Some people ask because they were inexplicably saved when others weren’t. Some ask when they are chosen from all others for something very special.  I really began to ask ‘Why Me’ when we were diagnosed as infertile.  See, it wasn’t supposed to be this way. I was supposed to get pregnant like everyone else does and be ignorant and clueless and generally mildly obnoxious about my fertility and spend my 30s worrying about whether Baby Einstein is really the way to go and whether I would continue to work or take a few years off and what will that do to my career?  I was not supposed to have infertility just like I’m not supposed to have cancer or die in a terrible car accident or lose my sight at 40.  That happens to other people, most of whom I don’t know.

I followed all of the rules. I didn’t skip school. I got good grades. I worked hard. I did everything that was required. I even got married first to someone I love.  I was supposed to get what I wanted – within reason – on the timetable in which I wanted it. Isn’t that the American Dream? Wasn’t I raised on the principle that you work hard enough for something, you get it? I didn’t wait too long to start trying – I was 29 and three months.  I didn’t put my career first and think about babies later. I ate well, didn’t drink too much caffeine, took prenatal vitamins, charted. And, it didn’t work.

Why me?

We found out that it was male and female factor – he of the sperm kind and I of the clogged fallopian tube kind. I got mine fixed, we did IUIs to get around his, I get pregnant and then miscarry.

Why me?

We move on to IVF, I get pregnant, miscarry again. Due to the same chromosomal abnormality.

Why me?

We do another IVF, different clinic, slightly different protocol. Beautiful, textbook in every way except the pregnancy kind.

Why me?

I have no answer because there is no answer. But, that doesn’t stop me from trying to come up with one. Am I less worthy than an 18-year-old crack addict? Am I not deserving? Because, frankly, in those dark hours after the light goes off and I can hear Mr. X beginning to snore in his sleep, I wonder about this. I question how it is that I did all of it, in the right order, for the right reasons, and I still didn’t get what supposed to be the right outcome.  And, in that darkness, I come to only one conclusion which is that I am not good enough.

Now, before you tell me how deserving I am of becoming a parent, consider that none of us are likely good enough. None of us deserve what we have. We are just lucky. That’s it. And, some have luck in areas that others don’t. That doesn’t mean that they are better or worse people or that we are better or worse people. It doesn’t mean that they have courted favor with deities or made a deal with the devil while we haven’t.

I will remind myself that tonight when the lights go out.

Requiem for A Cycle

It was a beautiful spring day today. The sun shone brightly, the trees showed off their new green bling, the geraniums were in full bloom. I started off the day on a professional high after having given a kick-ass presentation yesterday out of town.

By 12:30, I felt the defeat that only infertility can sock you with.

At 11:30, I had my IVF post-mortem with Dr. Salsa.  I had no problem with the clinical details – my E2 levels, number of follicles on any given visit, lining check – all of which were projected onto the wall in a weird sort of Excel spreadsheet.  I could handle the discussion of a new protocol.  I could even handle the discussion of what could have possibly gone wrong such that my two beautiful embryos decided not to hang around. 

What I couldn’t handle was when Dr. Salsa decided to share with me just how unbelievable it was to him that this cycle didn’t work by sharing stats from the clinic:

Of the 13 women, including myself, who cycled in that particular period, 11 – yes, 11 – got pregnant.  I was one of 2 who didn’t.  And, just to drive home his point, he said, “I would have put money that you would not have been one of the two.”


So, let’s recap. Even though I had a pretty perfect cycle with an embyro that made it to the freezer and no apparent risk factors, I managed to be one of 2 out of 13 women who still couldn’t get pregnant.  I already felt awful about the negative. I already felt – rightly or not, that is not the question – like a giant failure with a capital F. I already felt like shit just being there, seeing the financial coordinator who did get knocked up with Dr. Salsa’s brand of IVF.  THIS WAS NOT INFORMATION THAT I NEEDED TO KNOW, AND CERTAINLY NOT NOW. 

Later, when I was home and had spent some time decompressing with the dog, I sent Dr. Salsa an email. I explained that I did not want to know about how everyone else did. I explained that I am an inherently competitive person and in this particular arena, hearing about others did in the exact same IVF cycle when mine did not work was just not helpful. I asked him not to share that kind of information with me again because it just sends me into competition mode, and usually, I end up with the short end of a very long stick, which just makes me feel worse.  Sending the email helped and his response was very nice. He apparently knew by my expression the minute he finished the sentence that this was not information that was helpful to me.  It doesn’t un-ring the bell, though. It doesn’t make me forget that I was in the 15% who didn’t make it this time. 

And, so what if I was able to have a lovely glass of w(h)ine with dinner? I’m still no closert to being in that magic 11.  I can feel the bitterness choking me.