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

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.

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.

“How I Spent My BFN Weekend” By Mrs. X

I gave it a lot of thought. What I would do to get the maximum benefit out of the two day respite I had from the real world to deal with the Big Ass Disappointment that was a BFN after IVF.  I pondered all of the suggestions that you lovely ladies provided. I planned. I plotted.  In the end, though, I just gave in to inertia and did whatever the hell I felt like, which is not to say I didn’t have a good weekend.  Here’s a short recap, all brought to you by the letter S.

duncanFirst, I Slept. I slept like it was going out of style.  I Stole the covers. Repeatedly. I got up to feed the animals and then went back to bed.  I think I kicked Mr. X out of the bed at some point so that I could have full reign over the bed.  I grunted at him when he came to see if I was still (!) in bed. 

I Shed some tears. Ok, a lot of tears. Some on Mr. X, most into tissues that gave up their brief lives in my service.  Par for the course in this business, I’m afraid. 

I Squired G around the neighborhood on our twice daily walks.  We Slalomed around the street as part of training since he needs to work on his weaving in and around objects. 

I Saw that Big Red is tentatively deciding to make an appearing which is a relief as it puts this cycle most definitively to bed.

I Slurped a delicious margarita (frozen, no salt with a dash of OJ) and got nice and Sloppy at dinner with friends who were my own age and none of whom a) have children or b) are apparently in the planning stages to reproduce.  We talked about travel, work and animals. It was just what I needed.

I Snuggled into a big comfy chair with a Golden foot warmer on the ottoman and read a good book, the title of which I do NOT recommend googling as the first hit is a swinger’s club. Yea, that kind of swinger. 

I Slayed weeds that had the temerity to pop up in the middle of the lovely bed Mr. X and I planted about a month ago.

maq3737I Slathered myself in herbed brie and let Mr. X have his way with me.
(Ha! Just kidding. Making sure you’re still paying attention.) I did have some herbed brie, though, and it was quite good.

I Soothed myself listening to the old school R&B stations on iTunes.  There is nothing like Maze and Frankie Beverly to cure what ails you.

I Spent an afternoon cleaning the house and it felt darned good.  I can control at least one aspect of my life!

I Searched for information on what I have decided will be my Consolation Prize for coming up empty-wombed from this latest go-round: a super, heavy-duty, most awesome digital camera. 

I Studied our bank statements from last year to see how much we actually spent on IF treatments to see if we can deduct it from our taxes.  It was cathartic in a weird way.

I Spanked (metaphorically) Mr. X in Scrabble. 

I Soaked in Super hot water while reading and Swigging a glass of wine. 

And, last but not least, I Said goodbye to Mr. X early this morning. The Powers that Be have sent him off again on travel. Sniff.

The ‘S’ pictures were brought to you by: duncan (top left), maq3737 (bottom right)

Second Verse, Same as the First

“I’m scratching my head at this one.”

This is what Dr. Salsa said when he called this afternoon to confirm the BFN.  We make beautiful embryos, including one that made it to freeze – which for this clinic is apparently a big deal.  I’m still (relatively) young.  I responded well to the stims. Mr. X’s swimmers, while not particularly abundant, are good.  So, he’s scratching his head at why it didn’t work and why I am – yet again – on the bad side of the statistics.  I didn’t find his head-scratching particularly comforting either.  It makes me feel all the more broken, especially when he mentioned that of those of us who had negative cycles, most were not a surprise (women in their 40s, etc).  Me? I’m apparently a genuine medical mystery.  Even with a 60% chance of getting knocked up, I still can’t seal the deal. 

Personally, I would say that it was my old friend Luck. Or lack thereof.  Shit happens.  This was particularly expensive shit, but I know that I did everything I was supposed to do to make this work. So, while I am very, very disappointed and not a little sad, I have no guilt.  For whatever reason those two little buggers decided not to stick around in the posh accommodations that I so thoughtfully (and at great expense) provided.  Ungrateful brats. 

i-can-haz-boozeOn a slightly lighter note, thanks to everyone for your suggestions on what to do this weekend. I was particularly impressed that no one caved and used the dreaded ‘s’ word.  I even warned Dr. Salsa not to use it and he obliged. It was the nicest ‘negative’ call I ever received.  Once I’m ready, I am to follow up with him and the embryologist for the Failure Meeting.  I think I need to do some boozing before then, though. Thank God I got Mr. X that margarita machine for Christmas! 

I’m sure I will be pondering quite a lot over the next few days, but there is one question that is playing like a broken record right now:

Will it ever be our turn?

My Halloween Babies

My darling babies,

We didn’t have a lot of time together, just a few weeks for each of you.  Your father and I saw each of you on the screen, just a little blob with a flashing heartbeat.  We heard those little heartbeats and they were so strong.  I don’t think I will ever forget that sound for as long as I live.  We marveled at what nature was doing and the overwhelming love that we felt.  We wondered what you would look like, which of us you would take after.  And, your grandparents were so excited for us and to meet you both.  

And, then each of you was gone.  And there was silence, on the screen, in our hearts, in our bodies.  We were heartbroken.  We still are. 

Today was to have been your birthdays. One of you would be 1 year old and the other would just be making a debut.  I can’t say that either of your losses has gotten easier, but the wounds are less raw.  Losing you both has been the hardest thing I have ever had to go through, especially since we worked so hard and waited so long to bring you both into this world.  There is not a day that goes by that I don’t think about each of you and wonder what it would have been like if you had been born and we had you here with us.  Still, we are both so grateful to have had those few precious weeks and days that we had with both of you.  

I think it is fitting that tomorrow, November 1, is All Saint’s Day or Dios de los Muertos (Day of the Dead), when people remember the dead.  I will remember both of you today, tomorrow, everyday, forever. 



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Little Earthquakes

Gentle Reader:

When contemplating my next post last Friday, my plan was unwavering: I was going to tell you all how much October has sucked for me and I would have invited you to sign my petition to officially change the name to Sucktober. I was going to regale you with tells of my melancholy and invoke references to Wuthering Heights and Anna Karenina.  I was going to be depressed and depressing, all at the same time.  In short, I was going to try to make you feel as awful as I did. After all, misery loves company.

All of last week, I was a few tears short of a geyser at any given moment. I went through a lot of mascara and Kleenex.  I was very upset about something, the etymology of which I wasn’t really that interested in determining.  I was too exhausted from being sad and the general wallowing that accompanies it.  Work was also particularly demanding, which proved to be a welcome respite from the other option of staring out the window in silent, slobbering contemplation.  No doubt about it – I was a laugh riot.

I now know that I was experiencinng another little earthquake of feelings about my miscarriages, triggered in part by the national remembrance day. That morning, I sent an email to my three closest friends telling them what the day was – I didn’t even know about it until a month ago, so I really didn’t expect them to know at all.  I wanted them to know that it would be much on my mind and for them to remember someone, myself included, who had experienced a loss.  

I initially felt so selfish sending that email.  I have no problem calling attention to my grief on my blog, but it is something else entirely to send an email whose essential purpose is to say, remember me and the bad crap that has happened to me! But, my desire to do it outweighed my guilt and I don’t regret it –  they all sent back wonderful, beautiful emails.  I also asked my parents, who are out of the country, to light a candle.  I hardly ever speak with them about my miscarriages, mainly because it just doesn’t come up in daily conversation.  They also sent wonderful notes and my mom lit a candle at the church just up the street from where they are staying. 

I lit my candles from 7pm to 8pm and marveled at them flickering so brightly.  I hated to blow them out.  But, Mr. X and I made no formal remembrance with the both of us that day.  I see now that this was a mistake.  I needed to be with him that night, to remember with him and to grieve with him. 

Despite the multiple crying jags I had on Wednesday, I felt no better on Thursday or Friday.  By Saturday, I was in a ripe funk, barely able to smile.  We went to the gym that morning and I was tortured by three different pregnant ladies.  I was so demoralized.

I finally broke down later that morning, on Mr. X.  He let me have a huge, loud, and ugly cry all over him.   I slobbered on him, I blubbered, I’m sure I got some snot on him.   I heaved, and he just let me get it all out.  I told him how I was still so sad and how much I still missed our little ones.  I told him how much my heart still hurts.  And, he said just the right things at the right time.  I knew all over again just why I married him.

And, I finally started to feel better.  I also realized that the entire month of October, despite being the month in which both of our babies would have been here, does not have to be written off in a depressive haze.  I am allowed to have fun, to laugh, to be joyful.  I think I thought I could not be those things given the weight of the month. We went on to have a wonderful weekend. Just the two of us.