What We Have Here Is a Failure to Communicate

The other day, I spent about an hour counseling a friend who has just passed the bar and is looking to break into the legal job market.  Of the hour I spent talking to her, only 15 minutes was spent discussing her resume with some ‘move this here’ and ‘change that around’.  The rest was spent trying to get her to stop apologizing for her lack of everything – legal experience, good class rank, etc.  She would never get a job that way.

I thought about this as I was reading the over much-hyped article about infertility in Self magazineResolve has taken up the article as a rallying cry against infertility being ignored. I think this is missing the point.  Being ignored is not the issue here.  Not being able to sell our disease to the public as a crisis and a travesty that needs public support and funding is the issue.

After all, infertility is nothing but fault based, a sort of you-break-it-you-buy-it scenario.   It is our fault that we can’t get pregnant: we waited too long to have children, we were promiscuous in our youths, we drink too much caffeine or alcohol, we were foolish enough not to request a semen analysis before the wedding and married men who shoot blanks, we can’t control our lady parts that have the nerve to grow outside of the uterus, we don’t have a uterus but can’t seem to grow one either, we just happen to be gay and have two of the same parts, our hormones are wonky because, hello, we’re just crazy bitches that way! As if this weren’t enough, infertility isn’t even fatal.

No wonder your average non-infertile person is going to look at infertile people and shake their head in disbelief that we want sympathy and money for treatment.  Or, they offer up one of those famous lines that we should just adopt because there are so many kids out there that need good homes or that we’re being selfish for spending so much money (ours and other people’s) to do something that is supposed to be natural and free.

The thing is for infertility to be taken seriously as a disease that needs to be treated like other diseases with the funding and treatment, we need to change public opinion about infertility.  I think one of the most crucial steps is that we need to stop apologizing for wanting the same experiences as our more fertile brethren.

I will say this again since it bears repeated. We need to stop apologizing.

People who don’t have difficulty conceiving don’t apologize for not having difficulty conceiving (although, frankly, some of them should).  And, on the other end of the spectrum, people with cancer don’t apologize for getting chemo.  So, why do we feel the need to apologize for wanting to have our own kids?  We need to stand up and say, “we have just as much a right to conceive our own children as those who do not have difficulty conceiving .”  We have to answer those who tell us to adopt.  We have to respond when we are accused of being selfish.

Being infertile means never having to say you’re sorry.

That Old Infertility Magic

3324427905_977ffcd916These past few months, I have been neglecting my inner infertile.  I admit it.  I’ve been paying way more attention to the pregnant lady because frankly, she just demands so much time.  I need more maternity pants! Get me to the bathroom, again!  Get me this crazy exotic food that doesn’t exist anywhere within a 50 mile radius!  She has been rather vocal and consuming. But, my inner infertile is always there, waiting patiently to remind me of where I have been and ready to insert a nice reality check when required.  Apparently, today was the appointed reality check day.

Mr. X and I were walking G in the neighborhood this afternoon on a lovely fall day.  It was still light out and so inquiring eyes could probably see the bump.  I’ve only recently begun to not actively hide the belly.  I can if I need to, but I just didn’t feel like it today and I’m trying to get more used to putting it all out there, so to speak.

We run into a neighbor who we haven’t talked to in a while.  She has eagle eye vision and homes in on my stomach.  Eyebrows raised, she asked, “is there news?”

I respond, “I’ve grown a beer gut?” Not satisfying her.

Second try, “I’m dressed as a pregnant woman for Halloween?” Still no. She would not accept anything short of outright victory.

Ok, I said. “I’m pregnant.” Much squealing (her) ensued and then, came the total buzz kill: “Oh, our next door neighbors are expecting too! She’s 18 weeks and they just found out that they’re having a girl. They are SO EXCITED!”

I felt like I’d been socked in the gut. Again. And it wasn’t because my announcement was met with another one.  No, my supreme discomfort was because I was reminded of how much it took me to get to this point when I strongly suspected that my doppleganger had done nothing more exotic than have a few mai tais too many.  The usual and customary feelings hit me like a wave:  I felt like a lesser person again, an inferior and an infertile, perpetually incapable of bearing fruit.

My inner infertile took this opportunity to perch on my shoulder and whisper into my ear, “you know she got pregnant without drama and that she hasn’t had any of the issues you’ve had.  She’s actually excited! She can be excited, unlike you.  And, of course, she’s due in March, too.   So, don’t get comfortable there prego!”

Meanwhile, Inner Prego Lady immediately climbed into bed, pulled the covers over her head, and declared that she wanted to hibernate for the next four months.  She’s a dramatic thing.

We left soon thereafter and went about the rest of our walk.  Inner Infertile and Inner Prego were still in their various throes when the Ref stepped in to bring some clear thinking to the proceedings.  “First”, she said, “we have no idea how this lady got knocked up and frankly, it doesn’t really matter.   She’s also perfectly entitled to be excited.  We are doing just fine taking it one day at a time and anything more would induce anxiety attacks.  Besides, there are far too few measured, content but not overly excited pregnant ladies in this world.  And, finally, her pregnancy has nothing to do with ours.  It doesn’t change a thing nor should we let it have the power to. We can only be responsible for our sphere and she is not part of it.” Amen, sister.

Inner Prego peeked out of the covers and saw that the world had in fact not changed in the slightest. Little Bugger kicked her just for reinforcement. Inner Infertile went back to her retreate on the beach to her book and fruity alcoholic beverage to contemplate the concept that it really doesn’t matter how someone else got knocked up.

As for me, I was relieved to be reminded that I was solely responsible for worrying about me, and not someone else and their pregnancy.  Besides, Inner Prego has to go to the bathroom. Again.

image: FAB O LENS

Scare Tactics

Or, when good trips to the bathroom go bad.

I can easily count on both hands the number of times that a trip to the  bathroom has scared the beejezus out of me – and I am not including the large spider in the West Virginia outhouse or the no other option use of a port-a-potty.  I mean where what you find in the bowl is not what you thought would be there.

JanesdeadFor a lady in a family way, that usually means one thing: bright red blood.  And, I had it.

Last night around 7, after a quick trip to the grocery store, I went to the potty for a respite before making dinner.  I wasn’t really paying attention until I wiped and the previously pristinely white tissue had taken on an alarming shade of bright red.  But wait, there’s more!  A nice pool in the bowl as well.  Gives new meaning to the phrase blood in the water.

So, I quickly hurry out and tell Mr. X of the latest development in five words or less (“I’m having red!”) and we pow-wow on what to do.  I really did not want to go to the ER.  I’d had a terrible experience there the first time I was pregnant and while bright red bleeding is certainly not a great thing, I had no cramping.  I decided instead to contact Dr. Salsa who advised that if the bleeding was heavier than a period, then do not pass go, go directly to the ER.  If not, we could see him the next morning at 7am.  Have I told you how much I love my RE?

Anyway, having 20 years of menstrual experience behind me, I could tell very quickly that this was not heavier than a period and elected to stay put.  The bleeding came and went which was just awful because you get lulled into thinking that the worst is over and then the worst starts all over again.  The good news was that it wasn’t getting heavier and I still had no cramping.

alice-palaceThis morning, I put off going to the bathroom as long as I possibly could and finally couldn’t stand it any longer. Sure enough, still bleeding.  We headed out at 6:30 am and Dr. Salsa saw us first thing. 

After a very uncomfortable encounter with the speculum, he declared that it was true blood – to which I wanted to respond, as opposed to fake blood?  But, I kept my mouth shut and deduced that he meant as opposed to menstrual blood.  And, it was definitely coming from the cervix. 

Out came the speculum (thank God!) and in went the dildo cam and there was the little bugger, apparently oblivious to the commotion going on around it.  I could have sworn that I saw it wiggling, but Mr. X thinks it might have been the camera angle.  Either way, the heart was beating away.  Dr. Salsa also found the source of the bleed: a blood vessel outside of the uterus had likely been broken by the overly aggressive tentacles of the growing placenta, which he – no kidding – likened to a tumor.  This of course required me to say in my best Ahnold voice, “It’s not a tuh-muh!” 

Dr. Salsa declared that he was not concerned, particularly since my cervix was shut tighter than the credit markets.  Still, I’m on somewhat modified duty on a wait-and-see basis.  Today’s highlights have been little to no cramping and brown spotting/bleeding.  I’m learning the hard way that when it comes to me and the big P, there is never a dull moment.

Also, I had planned on posting a lovely little entry yesterday since yesterday was our bi-weekly check up appointment at 9w4d or 9w6d, depending upon who’s method you use.  Everything looked good – heartbeat was 180, measurement was at 9w5d and we saw little arm and leg buds.   We’ve never made it this far before – with the first, the baby died at 9w2d and with the second, it didn’t make it past 8w6d.  So, it was quite the milestone and while it is not the same as an all clear, we savored it nonetheless.  Needless to say, this has been tempered a bit by last night’s fireworks.  While we’ve made it farther than ever, we were reminded that we’re not out of the danger zone.

images: Janesdead, alice-palace

Looks Like I Picked a Bad Day to Quit Drinking…

Caffeine, that is.

I’ve had the mother of all headaches from about 1pm onwards and I haven’t helped it by brooding over an incident at this morning’s monitoring appointment.

The monitoring itself was fine.  Nice number of contenders, same dosage and a follow up visit with the dildo cam on Friday.

No, what bothered me was what I saw when I got in the room. 

7am to 9am is cycle monitoring time and they see a slew of patients.  I understand that the clean up between patients can be hasty. What I don’t understand, though, is how you don’t clear the image from the ultrasound screen from the prior patient. 

Especially when it is me who is going in for the next appointment.

The person they saw in there before me was pregnant, 7w3d to be exact.  How did I know this without having met her?  The ultrasound screen hadn’t been cleared after she had left and there on the screen was the telltale baby blob. And, just in case you had someone who couldn’t quite make it all out, the tech had helpfully written above it the words “Hi Mom and Dad!” Un-freaking-believable.  And, this is not the first time this has happened at his office, either. The last time this happened, there was no picture.  No ridiculous anthropomorphic utterings from the baby written on the screen. 

What’s amazing is that I wasn’t bothered that she was pregnant or that I had to see the picture of her blob. What bothered me was that they were able to write that message from their baby assuming that seven or so months from now, they will meet that baby, and they were able to do that without a hint of worry or foreboding.  I lost the ability to do that with my first miscarriage (after hearing the heartbeat. Twice.).  So now, I grieve not only the loss of my two babies, but I also grieve the loss of that innocence, that surety that now that there is a bun in the oven, it’s smooth sailing from here on out.  I wanted to bang my head on the wall (or the screen). 

When Dr. Salsa came in, I nicely asked that they make sure that the ultrasound screen is clear before I go in to the room. 

Unfortunately, that’s not going to erase the rest of it.

Rage. Rinse. Repeat.

Recently, I developed a new, rather alarming reaction to seeing couples who appear to be in the same age range as Mr. X and I, one of whom is carrying the tell-tale ubiquitous baby tote while the other brings up the rear with the large stroller/carrier contraption:

Abject rage.

I Like

I’ll be the first to admit that it’s a bit of an overreaction.  I mean really, rage? Aren’t there things that are really more rage-worthy than seeing some former frat boy carrying a car seat like its a bucket of water?  Absolutely, but I see more than just some guy and a baby.  I see where I am supposed to be and I am not.  Enter rage.

Part of the problem is that we see so many of them on a typical trip to a restaurant or a market.  We must live in the fertile crescent of the United States, because it’s like no aisle at Lowe’s is free from the strollerati.   So, rather than seethe silently or begin avoiding just about every public place, I decided to get down to the bottom of why I felt so effing pissed off.

I should mention that it’s not hormonal.  My hormonal rages are usually directed at thoroughly useless, baseless and stupid shit that is not even worthy mentioning here (“Bitch, did you not see that stop sign?!”).  And, I haven’t been on the drugs long enough to elicit such a response. 

No, it’s a complex rage made up of several different emotions.  It’s anger that we have been treading water for four years waiting to move on to the next phase of our life and it’s to the point that we’re beginning to wonder if we are going to take that next step.  It’s fear that we might not have a conventional life and our rhyme might just end at “then comes marriage”.   Most of all, it’s being reminded again of what we have tried to achieve and failed to do, repeatedly.  It’s feeling like we are being held back, asked to repeat a grade, over and over again while our same-age peers move on to the next appointed step.  We’ve got the marriage, where’s the goddamn baby carriage? 

And, damn it all to hell, it still freaking hurts. 

So, yeah, when I see some girl who is my age with the husband and the infant carrier, I get pissed.  Pissed that we are in the situation we are, pissed that I’m still upset about it, pissed that I don’t think I can share my feelings on the subject with Mr. X, and generally pissed that I’m letting a couple of strangers piss me off.

It’s a pisser.

image: I Like

The Word: Knee-Jerk

I never understood the purpose of the medical exercise of tapping one’s knees with a rubber hammer in just the right spot to make the lower leg involuntarily swing.  All I remember is that it made me giggle and seemed to be a very Marcus Welby, country doctor kind of exercise. This is just one of many reasons why I am  not in the medical profession.

Jeff Youngstrom

The exercise, though, is useful in one respect, namely that it reminds us that there are many stimuli out there that make us have that knee-jerk reflex.  For me, the stimuli is the gratuitous mention in thoroughly inappropriate places or situations or completely unrelated discussions, articles, etc., that someone is either expecting or has children, or – worse – grandchildren.  The knee-jerk reflex that is produced by this stimuli sounds much like the childish game where you add “in bed” to the end of every sentence except my phrase is, “and you don’t” or “you aren’t” or “you never will be”.  I think an illustration would be helpful at this point.

I was at a professional conference today listening to talks by learned professionals in my field.  It is a wonderful respite from the world of reproduction since the topics that are discussed do not in any way have anything to do with the reproductive luck of the speakers.  In fact, there is an unwritten rule that it is rather tacky to mention one’s family in one’s biography that accompanies one’s talk.  So, when I was reading the biography of the upcoming speaker, I skimmed the mind-numbing recitation of honors, awards and other blather and skipped to end where I actually look to see if the person is tacky enough to break the unwritten rule and mention that on top of all of these wonderful professional accomplishments, they have managed to procreate. 

This guy did not disappoint.  Not only did he plug that he has two children, but they were ‘well-adjusted’ children (which apparently is not the norm in our profession – news to me!) and, he is a first time grandfather to twins, for whom he also thoughtfully provided their birthdate. OMFG. It was the motherlode of stimuli. My synapses were firing, my head was hurting, my inner reader was adding “and you don’t” to the end of every nauseating sentence.  And, inevitably, I was feeling worse and worse because I was making myself feel like I was less of a person because I didn’t have these things that were so obviously important to this guy.

I didn’t use to be like this.  With some things, I am still not like this.  I am still confident in the choices that I have made and happy and satisfied with them, ups, downs and all.  It is only when there is that statement of obvious pride at the sheer act of procreation or the gratuitous mention of one’s reproductive status which is obviously placed for no other purpose than to elicit the “ooh congratulations” response, that my knee jerks right out of its socket.  They say, “I’m a proud mother of two!” and I hear, “And you aren’t!” Because, to me, it’s as if the person knows that I have not been able to do something that was so obviously simple to them and they are rubbing my face in it that they can do this one seemingly simple thing. I know that’s not what it is, but that’s what it feels like.

I know that this guy at the conference doesn’t know me. I know that he didn’t include this information because he woke up this morning and decided, “It’s a beautiful day to remind Mrs. X that she is infertile and barren, ha ha!” I know that he just wrote it because he wanted to let others in the profession know of his pride at having raised well-adjusted kids despite his profession and has been rewarded with twin grandchildren. I know in my head that he didn’t put this blurb in there because he wanted to hurt me. But, that doesn’t stop me from hurting at the reminder.

I am not advocating that people suddenly stop bragging about their children around me or decide not to sneak into conversation that they are expecting because they have every right to be happy and proud (and geez, what else would people talk about with each other?). I know that this is my problem, not the world’s.  I know that I am generally happy with who I am and where I am even if I haven’t been able to achieve everything that I want. I know that the measure of my success in life is my own yardstick and not someone else’s.  I know that I can turn off the knee-jerk reaction because even though I may not have that one thing, I have a full life and I don’t need to focus on what I don’t have to see what I do.  But, my knees are twitchy things and it will take some time to reprogram the system.

image: Jeff Youngstrom

A Sunday, Not Unlike Any Other Sunday

Being infertile with no living children on Mother’s Day in the United States can be a real bummer. 

For me, as an infertile with no living children, it was actually an okay day.  I sent my mom a thoroughly free and hilarious Wrong Card which she very much enjoyed. And, I even got an adorable email signature from her: “Love (you’re the reason I’m a) Mom.”  How sweet is that?

I reflected on how lucky I am to have her as my mom and how I love the friendship that we have developed as I have become an adult.  I’m looking forward to taking a trip with her later this year, just the two of us.

I recognized that my own feelings of being excluded from the general party were my own reaction rather than any one reminding me outright that I am not a mom, in the traditional sense of the word.  I spent not an insignificant time telling myself to get the f*ck over myself and just enjoy the lazy Sunday. 

I asked my furry children if they had gotten me anything for Mother’s Day and received blank stares indicating that they were not in fact aware of the auspicious nature of the day.  They all then proceeded to act the same way they do everyday, a cross between adorable and maddening.

Most of all, though, I decided that for me, Mother’s Day would not be about exclusion, but a celebration of the fact that all of us are mothers in some way or another, even if we haven’t give birth, and/or raised a child. And, under that definition, I am most definitely a mother. And, so are you.  Happy Mother’s Day to us all.

The Hurt in My Heart

My heart has been hurting today. A lot.

It started in the morning as the twinge in the nose and progressed to a dull thud behind the breastbone by this afternoon.  As usual, the hurt was internal.  No one came at me with a dagger or intentionally tried to bruise me.  My heart was just overwhelmed with seemingly innocuous things that really turned out to be little poisonous darts, each a minor annoyance, but collectively fatal:  Mother’s Day ads.  More Mother’s Day ads.  Participating in the dangerous game of comparing oneself to other infertiles, and pretty much everytime coming up short (meaning, still not pregnant).  Reading email from best friend with a near one-year old and trying to decipher whether we have entered into the game of one upsmanship.   Receiving drugs for the next cycle and being reminded – again – at what I must do to get pregnant that many others do not.  Remembering the joy of those moments when I was pregnant and genuinely believed that it was going to work, that we had finally defeated the monster.  

In other words, it was a bad day.

So, I took my hurting heart and went to the most peaceful place that I know of, my backporch, and stretched out on a chair.  I listened to the birds and the wind. I tried pleading with my heart to stop hurting, telling it that we are so lucky to have what we do. But, my heart was being churlish and refused to stop hurting.  “I don’t hurt less because everything else in life is rosy,” it said.

I knew I needed something or someone more compelling. I decided to summon Mr. X.  Never mind that he’s working and doesn’t know that I am summoning him in my mind. I closed my eyes and called across the miles to him. The door to the porch closed, I stretched out my hand and there he was sitting next to me, holding my hand.

“What’s the matter, my love?”, he said.

“My heart hurts, ” I said.

“Why does it hurt?”, he asked.

“Because it is afraid that it will never have that special joy of knowing that your dreams are finally coming true.  It sees others finding this joy and it wants to know when it will be its turn.”

“Ah, I understand why that would hurt. Can I have your heart for a moment?”

I reached inside and gave him my poor, shriveled damaged little heart. I watched as he cupped it in his hands like water and began to speak to it: “There is no reason to hurt, little one. This joy that you seek is not the only joy in the world. You can still seek this joy, but this can’t be the only joy that you seek or you will continue to hurt. You know this. I love you, little heart. No matter what happens or doesn’t happen, I love you and will love you.”

My hurt began to ease as I felt his love and as I realized that I can be happy without this joy, even if I still seek it.  I took my heart back and tucked it safely away.  I promised to take better care of it, to be kind to it and to try to shield it from those things that hurts it the most.  

And for now, my heart has stopped hurting.

Four Long Miserable, Wonderful Years

One of the many longstanding jokes in my family revolves around anniversaries of the wedding variety.  My parents had friends many years ago who were celebrating one of the anniversaries in the 30-range.  Someone asked the husband how many years they had been married.  His response was priceless:

“Thirty-six long, miserable years.”

What made this priceless was that he said it in front of his wife.  I don’t think she talked to him for several days after that.  It was also priceless because we’re pretty certain he was kidding, but we weren’t sure. 

I have an anniversary of sorts today.  It was four years ago at the beginning of May that the mister and I chucked the pills and began planning for whether I would work after our child was born.  We all know how that went.

In that honeymoon phase, I was looking forward to a brief fling with conception before moving on to the solid relationship of parenting.  But, as the months dragged on, conception played hard to get and stopped returning my calls. Eventually, my number found its way to the red-headed stepchild, infertility.  IF and I have now been together for quite some time, and, in fact, I learned later that we were together from the beginning of my journey to junior(ette).  We’re joined at the hip (or more precisely, the pelvic area), inseparable, two peas in a pod, bound but hopefully to be put asunder by at least one man, if not more.

And, when people ask us how long we’ve been together, I will answer, “four long, miserable, wonderful years.”  I don’t think I need to explain “long” or “miserable”. But wonderful?

I’ll be the first to admit that my usual feelings about IF are not that it is wonderful or even palatable.  Usually, my feelings begin with a four letter word.  But, on this, our fourth anniversary, I feel compelled to say something nice about my constant companion. So, I will say thank you.

(warning: statements below have not been approved by the FDA and are solely the rather saccharine opinion of Mrs. X. Individual results may vary.)

Thank you for helping me exercise my sense of humor.

Thank you for making me a better writer.

Thank you for making me more empathetic.

Thank you for forcing me to find new hobbies and interests.

Thank you for pushing me to be more social and find more friends.

Thank you for showing me that bad things happen whether I deserve it or not and they are not a statement about my worth as a person.

Thank you for teaching me that life can suck and in ways that are unimagineable, and I can make it through and still be happy.

Please forgive me, though, if I actively work on getting a divorce from you.  I don’t want to grow old with you and I don’t want to have you as my companion on the porch of a retirement home.  I don’t want any more anniversaries.

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)