Thursday, June 26, 2008

A Series of Left Behinds

My first indoctrination into the concept of The Rapture was when I started working at my current job. Back then, I was still an office gal and so every morning, I would drive to to office and park the car next to that of our office manager. Her license plate holder always intrigued me: IN CASE OF RAPTURE, THIS CAR WILL BE UNMANNED.

I thought it was an odd statement. Up until that point, my only exposure to the concept of 'rapture' was the kind you find in bodice-ripper literature. While nothing is out of the realm of possibility, I had a hard time seeing our very proper office manager announcing to the world that she would abandon all caution when driving in the event of unmitigated pleasure, let alone that she would attempt unmitigated pleasure while driving. I chalked it up to the general rule about the Quiet Types and left it at that. I thought about asking her, but if it was what I thought it was, frankly, I didn't want to know.

Then, I happened to read an article in Newsweek about the Rapture (the capitalization gave me a clue that this was a proper noun rather than an adjective of desire) and it all clicked into place. Of course, the car would be unmanned. She would be up in heaven while the rest of us were left to slog it out down on earth. I thought this was just fascinating. There were so many practical issues - when would it happen? what if you were in the middle of something really really important (like on the can)? what if not all of your family came along? do pets go too? what do you do up there? do you watch everybody else slog it out? who is considered to be a true Christian? is there an appeals process if you think you are and you aren't called?

Not surprisingly, there is a very popular series of books about what happens after the Rapture, the Left Behind series. I haven't read them myself, but they are very popular.

I have to admit I've been feeling a bit left behind this week. We are in that excrutiating state of moving forward with very little momentum since it is a mock cycle. No hope for pregnancy What. So. Ever. Nada. Zip. Zero. I'm popping my nightly Estace but I can't quite convince myself of the progress that it represents. Our actual FET seems ages away in August.

We are also increasinly being left in the reproductive dust of our friends. A couple we knew and hung out with in the town where we used to live just had their second child, their first child having been conceived right after we started trying. So, three years on, we have the dubious distinction of two miscarriages and they have two kids. And, of course my best friend now has a 1-month old baby girl. Our other friends' baby just turned 1 in May. We are officially down to two other couples that we know who don't have children.

With each new child, we lose common ground with our friends as they ascend to that new place where we can't follow.

With every child, we are left farther and farther behind.

I know we are not in a race, but how long will it take before we are all on equal footing again?

image: buddhakiwi

Monday, June 23, 2008


Despite my outwardly blase appearance toward 'trying' this month - me trying to get pregnant? Not! Watch me as I down my martini while riding a roller coaster, then soak in a hot tub for an inordinate amount of time, follow it up with pure caffeine pills and finally, hang on for dear life on a ride with a thoroughbred race horse - inwardly, I was secretly hoping for the ultimate surprise: a conception that required nothing more than two people, some wine and a bed. Things were really promising too, since last year after my miscarriage, I had the period that would not end and ultimately got a progesterone shot in the ass to re-set the ole system. This time, it was a picture perfect cycle.

So, on Sunday morning when I noticed some spotting, I knew that once again I was thwarted and we would be back on Dr. Uterus's roster of Unfortunate Infertile Couples.

A few days earlier, when I was still holding out a teensy bit of hope, I saw a woman walking in front of my house with her two year old. I had seen her before and the beginnings of a tell-tale bulge, but I had chosen to think that her t-shirt was just bunched in an odd way. This time around, though, it was obvious that she had The Bump, and I decided in my infinite wisdom that she had acquired The Bump in the way that most people do - in the privacy of their homes, without drama or fanfare and most certainly without needles, drugs or other paraphernalia. And that depressed me. Who was I to think that we would be able to do that - even now, more than three years since we started down the road to expand our family? What a silly infertile girl you are, thinking that you could get knocked up like everyone else. Don't you know that you're Special (and not in a good way)?

Such is the internal monologue of an Infertile Girl.

Once again, I am coming to terms with the fact that I will most likely not be able to conceive on my own, for whatever reason, and that assisted reproductive technology is my ticket to the Baby Game. I used to find this incredibly unfair. Now I've progressed to mildly unfair. Progress! Two-plus years of having the same thought over and over again will tend to smooth it out, rought out the edges and leave a smaller (and hopefully less painful) nugget than when you started.

Being that it is CD 1 today, I called Nurse To a T (Dr. Uterus's right-hand lady) and scheduled the mock cycle for the FET in August. I tried not to think about the fact that we also started trying again last year in August after the last miscarriage and it was a bust. I'm trying not to believe that I am only fertile in February since that is the month when I have gotten pregnant two years in a row now. I start the Estrace tomorrow (that's a new one for me) and will do the PIO injections starting in July. I had originally decided to go with the capsules (Endometrin?) but two things mitigated against it - expense and we won't have the results of an endometrial biopsy for almost two weeks, during which time I will be starting up for the real-deal FET. If the Endometrin didn't work, that would be a terrible time to find out. So, it's back to the butt shots for me.

And, just for sh*ts and giggles, I'll pick up an HPT to make certain, before I start pumping my body full of estrogen, that there really is no alien invasion. I'm not expecting a last minute reprieve, but it's a lot easier to pee on the stick when you don't think you're pregnant than when you do - which is probably why I hardly ever indulge.

Never a dull moment, here at the Young and the Infertile. Will she? Won't she? Tune in to find out!

image: jillhudgins

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Advice to the Young at Heart*

* Total props to whomever can figure out where this is from. No cheating!

People, I can't tell you how many posts I have started and then stopped this week (well, ok, it was three, but who's counting?). I have lots to say, the written diarrhea is backing up, but I can't quite find the right words to express it. I have lots of ideas written down - but none seem inspiring. Where is my muse? Does infertility even have a muse? If it did, I would imagine that it would be Melpomene, she of tragedy. Thalia could be the pinch hitter if good ole Mel was hitting the town one night, desperate for a little levity after the woes of the infertile world.

Maybe I should take the cue of the Greeks and write of cautionary tales and other mythology (although I thought it was so freaking hysterical that they recently reported that the vast majority of ancient Egyptian scrolls discovered in 1896 were torrid romance novels full of porn. 2,000 year old porn, people!). Or perhaps, since it is the season of graduation, I should write my speech as the graduating speaker - which will likely never happen, but if the woman who spoke at my college graduation could actually be invited, there's hope for me yet.

Ah, yes, I think I will indulge in a little navel gazing, but instead of addressing acne-ridden teenagers who are aching to go get trashed before the ink on their diplomas dries, I will speak directly to the me that ten years ago this year graduated from college. Lord knows I could have used some words of wisdom. Here goes:

Dear Ms. X,

You have now been out of college for a month and frankly, you're a bit of a mess. No forward momentum to propel you to the next adventure, no plan for the future. Knowing what I know now, here's some advice for getting through then.

Seek engagement (no, not a marriage proposal). I know how much you loved college - the friends, the sense of being and fitting in that you never achieved in high school, and I know how hard it is for you to say goodbye to those things. I don't think it would be possible to recreate the experience that you had in college (and in some respects, you probably don't want to), but remember how wonderful it felt to be engaged, learning, constantly introduced to new ideas and new people. You now have to seek those things out for they will not come as easily.

Lighten Up. I do remember very well how much you thought of yourself and how seriously you took things. I'll just say two words: lighten up. Nothing you experienced in your 22 years in any way compares to the shit storm you will run into later in life. Failure to start lightening up will result in a nasty five-year hangover down the road.

Be compassionate. Remember that no one's life is a bed of roses and nine times out of ten, the person who is making your life difficult has a lot of difficulty themselves. The one out of ten person is probably just an asshole and not worthy of further thought.

Be gracious. You know the Golden Rule, but it bears repeating. Treat others as you would have them treat you - even if they don't hold up their end of the bargain! Not only do you get to ride the moral high ground, you have done a good deed that has lightened someone else's burden.

And, most importantly, be mindful. You have your whole life in front of you. Now is not the time to rush it.

Smooches, Your Older, Wiser Self.

ps - those birth control pills that you were taking for endometriosis? Totally not needed. Throw those bad boys out (but still use a condom!). Use the money you would have spent to buy stock in Apple. You could pay for numerous IF treatments off of the earnings. Just a thought.

What would you, dear reader, tell your younger self?

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Say Hello to My Little Friend

When I was about 10 or 11, I decided that I wanted a cat. I have no memory of what possessed me, but chances are it was that I decided this was just what I thought I needed. Up until then, we'd had no pets since my parents both worked and I was at school most the day. My father couldn't bear having a dog knowing that it would be alone all day and he was not partial to cats (oh, how times have changed on that one! He now has this t-shirt. Seriously).

I needled, wheedled, begged, whined, pleaded - everything to get a cat. When they finally gave in, I said no thanks. Why? Well, in addition to being a Grade A manipulator, I realized, even then, that what I really wanted was to know that I could do it. I could get them to agree. Once I realized that that was the goal, I had won. It wasn't about the cat at all - it might as well have been a bike. Needless to say, I didn't have a cat (or any pet) until I was married. That time, I truly wanted a cat.

I have to wonder, though, if my sometimes physically painful desire to have a child is just a more grown up manifestation of the same thing. Do I want it this badly because so far I haven't been able to do it? Has the whole process become another challenge to overcome with the final victory not having a child to parent for the rest of my years, but just producing a living baby? Is this my Petulant Inner Five-Year-Old (who is kissing cousins with My Inner Drama Queen) throwing a hissy fit because I was told "no?

I will be the first to admit that I have gotten most everything that I wanted and those times that I didn't usually were directly related to something I did or didn't do. In other words, not since I was a kid have I been denied something I wanted without my usually having something to do with that denial. (Perfect example: I *would* have graduated from grad school cum laude if I had paid more attention in one stupid class that I took my very last semester and gotten a better grade.)

Yet, I also can't remember feeling this much physical gut-punching pain as I do when I hear that someone I know is pregnant or has a baby. It is literally like a punch in the stomach. And, surprisingly, what is so painful to me is not the idea of having this child, it is the loss of the more pedestrian things that go along with being pregnant - getting to wear maternity clothes, picking out cribs, painting nurseries, picking names. And most of all, it's having Pregnancy Innocence. I lost that one the first round out of the gate, never to be seen again.

After the initial gut reaction, my inner 5-year-old immediately stamps her little foot, crosses her little arms, and through a pouty little mouth yells, "That's not fair! That's what I want! I want to count the little toes! I want to look at cribs! I want to pick out nursery colors! I want, want, want!" I want everything that goes with being pregnant, including having the healthy child at the end. Most of all, I want to feel as if I have a legitimate chance to make it to the finish line.

Although, again, is this just my desire to complete that which I have not been able to? The best way to get me motivated is to tell me I can't do something. Works like a charm every time. But, what was accomplished? This is not the same as getting into a better class at school. This is a child, more of a lifetime commitment than anything I have undertaken. Am I seriously treating it as a challenge like a marathon or a goal to accomplish in and of itself? I have this terrible fear that we are successful and that baby is placed in my arms and all I can say is, "What now?"

I suspect, as with all things, that the truth lies somewhere in the middle. I had similar concerns when we got Fluffy and the Bad One five years ago. I was very honest with Sweetie that I was afraid that I would lose interest once they were no longer kittens. After all, they were adorable kittens doing what kittens do so how could I possibly find them interesting when they were older, more sedate kitties? What I didn't count on was that they would wrap me around their little paws just as easily as if they were swatting a string. I, of course, have loved them from the day we brought them home and in fact, love them more now that they have gotten their "kitten years" behind them. Just goes to show what I know.

Maybe it is best to have compartmental goals - 1) get pregnant, 2) stay pregnant 3) worry about actually raising child when we get there. Small bites, small steps, small goals, all lead to a big mountain. For this process is in part a marathon, with each phase being another leg of the journey.

I will leave you with a quote from Lance Armstrong in that epic story of success in the face of absolute failure, Dodgeball:

"Quit? You know, once I was thinking of quitting when I was diagnosed with brain, lung and testicular cancer all at the same time. But with the love and support of my friends and family, I got back on the bike and won the Tour de France five times in a row. But I'm sure you have a good reason to quit. So what are you dying of that's keeping you from the finals?"

Truer words have never been spoken.
image: readerwalker

Friday, June 13, 2008

Maybe I'm Not as Erudite as I Thought I Was

We interrupt this regularly scheduled blog to bring you this announcement:

Are you freaking kidding me? I use SAT words people! Ambivalent! Orthodontics! Copious! Affirmation! Misadventure! Manipulated! I write for a living! I pontificate! I hypothesize! I use freaking multisyllabic words (including multisyllabic)!

Obviously, my pride has been ruffled, my feathers strewn.

What's even more amazing is that I took this little test a while ago and my blog's level was undergraduate. Now, I've been demoted to junior high status. Like, OMG. Maybe I should start watching the OC and High School Musical.

Do you agree with this dear reader? Can this possibly be correct?

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Mind the Gap

I have a gap in between my two front teeth. It's not particularly noticeable (unless you are me, who notices it all. the. time). It used to be a much larger gap, but thanks to the magic - and pain - of orthodontics, it is now a dainty little thing at the bottom of the teeth that leaves curious bite patterns in apples.
image: flyzipper

I am 32 and Mr. X just turned 35. There is a gap of three years in our ages.

There is a cavernous gap in between my ears where, supposedly, my brain is supposed to be. I think it goes AWOL alot.

There is a yawning gap between me and my first cousins, due in large part to the extreme dislike my father has for their father, his brother. I don't really know my aunt and uncle.

By far my biggest gap, though, is the gap between what I expect will happen to me and what actually does happen to me. It is also the hardest gap to get over. There is no magic jump, no equation, no mathematical formula, or easy numerical explanation. It is a gap.

I know that I need to somehow bridge that gap, find the neutral ground, the median, the way forward through the center. The easy way, of course, is to stop having expectations. That's pretty hard to actually put into action. We are surrounded by reminders of what we should expect - the weather is predicted for us down to - literally - the nth degree, store ads tell us that we should expect to give presents to our fathers on Father's Day (and of course, contribute to the economic well-being of the nation), we even say that a woman is 'expecting' when she's pregnant. Expectations are all around us - both external and internal.

To be able to just abandon those one day is a Herculean feat and one that I don't think I am up for. So, now that I have eliminated the first option, what's next? First, it is to recognize that there is a gap - there will always be a gap between what we expect and what we get. Sometimes the gap will be teeny, other times it will be ginormous. Somehow knowing that there is going to be this gap makes it a little easier to accept it.

Then, well, still try to work on letting go of expectations. I can let go of expecting rain and getting none. It may be much harder to let go expecting that I will be able to carry a pregnancy the whole way through. But, I'll try.

That way, it will be one of the best surprises of my life.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Voices Carry

A few months ago, I gave up reading newspapers online. Instead, I opted just to get the headlines for two delivered to my Google Reader: The New York Times and the Washington Post. I needed a filter so that I wouldn't go through so much stuff that just upset me. For the most part, it's worked out really well. Until today, that is.

I was flipping through the Google Reader and saw that Lori had posted, and although I had lots of work to do, I clicked on over (she always cracks me up and who doesn't need a laugh in the morning?). Funny story about SATC (yes, Charlotte, some girls do get pregnant after they decide to adopt, but most don't!) and then, wham, I saw it. A story about infertility in the New York Times featuring PJ! I couldn't click fast enough.

I can't explain why it was that in reading about infertility, and PJ's experiences in particular, in print made so much of an impact on me. It was if we, as a community, had gone viral, legit, out and proud, whatever you want to call it. I listened to the six voices of women with infertility and I found myself nodding at each one - yep, thought that, that too, oh yea! that one! There was a validation there that I didn't even know I was looking for. The idea that six women were willing to talk about this in public and let it all hang out for the lack of a better term, gave me a certain sense of optimism that some day, more people will understand how hard this.

My optimism was curbed almost immediately by the insensitive-bordering-on-outright-dumb comments that some people posted in response. I shared some of them with Mr. X and he just shook his head, and like the good Libertarian that he is, declared that they were entitled to their opinion. I was less sanguine.

Still, our voices carry. I had forgotten how far they can go. Hopefully, more people will see how hard this all is even if they themselves are not afflicted and recognize that all we ask is to have the same right as everyone else to have a child.

[Mrs. X exits her soapbox. Film at 11.] image: circulating

(Note to my friends who have not dealt personally with infertility but who read this blog: this post was not about you!)

In other news, I must be a popular girl. I have been tagged not once, not twice, not even three times - but four times! And, they're not even the same meme. I've already used up most of my existential energy this evening, so I will attack the easier of the two tonight: you in six questions courtesy of seriously? and loribeth.

1) What were you doing 10 years ago? Well, I had just graduated from college not even a month before and went home with my parents. I know, big dork, but I knew I wanted to take a year off after college and veg before diving into grad school. So, I was painfully adjusting to living back until the parental roof while trying to find a meaningful (and decent paying) job. Many growing pains ensued.

2) What are 5 things on your to-do list today? Today is almost tomorrow, so I'll list tomorrow's to-do's in no particular order: put an iron choke hold on my work to-do list so that I don't feel so freakin' far behind, pick up Sweetie's dry cleaning, don't forget my dinner date up the street, go to the vet to get more pet food, and try to finish the scrapbook I'm making about how I made the quilt for my best friend's new baby.

3) List some snacks you enjoy: Almonds. I need my protein in the afternoon to keep going!

4) What would you do with a billion dollars?: start a foundation to promote conservation, pet adoption and my other pet causes. Fund scholarships for kids who wouldn't otherwise go to college. Invest the rest and live off of the interest - maybe buy a house in Australia, I love Sydney, but otherwise not change much in my daily routine!

5) List the places you have lived: I have to be kind of vague here so I don't blow my intricately laid cover. But, I'll say that I've only lived in three states in my entire life, in two different time zones.

6) List the jobs you've had: a babysitter, library assistant (book shelver - I loved it), resident assistant in college, membership coordinator at a gym, federal employee, clerk at art supply store, teaching assistant, and now my current job, of which all I will say is that I get paid to play with words.

Whew! For my three, I tag Farmwife, Lesley, and paranoid (who had a great ultrasound today!). Thanks to my peeps, Admin, and pepper - I'll get to your tags soon.

Saturday, June 7, 2008

From Never! to Absolutely! in A Few Short Years

The house where we lived when I was in middle school and high school was in a new development (well, new back then). We were one of the first families to move in. The house to our right was purchased by a confirmed bachelor - very nice guy, engineer, with a wonderful dog.

His confirmed bachelor days ended pretty soon after he moved in when he got married. Several years later, they welcomed their first child, a boy. A few years after that, they had twins. One day, after I had my own car and drivers license, his wife asked if I could drive her and the twins to the airport - she had to change out a ticket (this was before the Internets, people!). We loaded up the car with me, her, the kids and all of their paraphernalia and headed out.

While she was inside dealing with the ticket, I sat out in the car with the children (this was also pre-9/11 so you could still park your car at the curb of the airport). As an only child, I had limited exposure to little kids when I was older, so I was exceedingly uncomfortable having two screaming infants in my car even for a few minutes. What would I do if they really started crying? How would I explain it to some authority figure as to why I had two screaming children? I could do calculus, but I couldn't do babies. Talk about poster children for birth control!

My neighbor must have seen how uncomfortable I was with two screaming infants, because when we got home again and the children were safely ensconced, she tried to reassure me by saying, rather condescendingly, that "you'll feel differently when you have you're own."

All I could think was, "Fat chance, lady!" I couldn't even see to my high school graduation, let alone having children. I was, to put it mildly, not entirely convinced back then that I would get married, let alone pop out some progeny. Ambivalent didn't even begin to describe what I was feeling (I think "militantly anti-child" was closer to the truth).

See, I was not one of those kids who a) knew they would have kids or b) even wanted them. I hated playing with dolls, playing house or planning my dream wedding. At the same time, I wasn't exactly a tomboy. I was just me: bookish, but quirky, with a love for Chuck Taylors and a wicked CD collection.

By the time I met Sweetie, I still wasn't entirely sold on the idea of having children. I was in my first year of graduate school and trying to keep my head above water. Of course, our talk came around to this topic generally. I tried not to freak him out too much so I just simply said, that I didn't really know if I wanted them. In later years, he claimed that I was adamant about not having children and I explained to him that I wasn't adamant, I just didn't want to scare him off by even bringing up the topic.

The thing is, I didn't decide that I wanted children, until I met the man I wanted to have them with. He was the first man that I had dated who I even could picture myself having children with and who would be a good father. So for me, deciding to have children was less a function of my biological clock than it was a function of totally changing my mind. At the same time, I don't know if all of me has caught up - I still catch myself at restaurants with screaming children being thankful that they aren't mine, or that I can still sleep in if I want to, go out on a moment's notice, etc.

Maybe I will feel differently when it is one of my own.

Thank you to everyone who posted with their thoughts on how to break my funk. Each of them made my day a little brighter. Yesterday was better - I had a great day with my mom and we didn't talk at all about my infertility. It was nice to have a normal conversation. We went to the fabric store to show off the quilt I made, then grabbed some lunch, and headed to my favorite consignment store, finally stopping at a cross-stitch store that I hadn't been to. It was really nice.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Where Did All the Clouds Come From?

These past few days, I have been feeling what can only be described as 'emotionally delicate'. My equanimity of the past few weeks has abandoned me (I sincerely hope only temporarily) and I feel deflated, depressed and battered.
image: visulogik
Where did all of the clouds come from so quickly?

I suspect it started with my best friend's announcement of the birth of her first child last week. I am still thrilled for them, and am genuinely happy that she has a beautiful baby girl. I am also thrilled that I finished the quilt on time. But, - and there is always a but, isn't there? - I could not shake this feeling that she has embarked on a journey that so far, I cannot follow.

She is a mother. And I am not. And this hurts more than I want to admit to you and to myself. I have this profound sense of loss, as if I am re-experiencing my miscarriages all over again, whenever I think of it.

Why does this hurt and hurt so badly? Surprisingly, it is not the Green Envy Monster at all. It is just this deep seated ache, right behind my breastbone, dull and constantly throbbing just under the surface. There is also a little bit of shame mixed in, as if I feel like I have to explain why my body hasn't been able to do this one little thing so far. And the memories of all of the hopes that we had when I was pregnant for the first time. There is the crushing uncertainty of whether we will have that happy moment of carpet bombing our friends and family with pictures of what our love (and untold riches) created. They have all come rushing back - welling up into tears in my eyes and that familiar tweak in my nose just before I sneeze.

The result has been the usual depression - as if my body feels twice its normal weight and I'm being dragged down by gravity, but also copious amounts of tears shed over things that while sad are not really worthy of copious amounts of tears (case in point: I finished the biography of Marie Antoinette and was unconsolable at what she went through at the end). There is also the pressure, as if my head was in a vice, maybe from all of these feelings swirling around in there just trying to get out.

In short, I am a mess. I am a walking Cymbalta ad. I would like nothing better than lie in bed and stare at the wall, but, I don't. I have work to do, deadlines to meet, people to service. My mom is here and I can't bear the thought of ruining her visit with my depression.

I just can't seem to get past this myopia of each minute ticking past that I don't have a warm infant in my arms or a baby in my belly. And, right now, short of overdosing on kittens, I don't know how I'm going to get out of it. All I can see is what I don't have.

But, I will find a way. I always do. Most likely it will be a good cry and some careful sharing with Sweetie. I will also investigate whether my thyroid is somehow involved - my metabolism has been all over the place recently.

What do you, Dr. Reader, suggest I do to get out of this funk?