Monday, December 31, 2007

2007: The Year that Wasn't

I am sick of lists about 2007, just like I was sick of lists about 2006. There are so many 2007 lists out there that they are actually generating more news than probably happened in 2007. There are also the anti-list lists which are still lists. I choose to do something different to memorialize 2007. I'm going to do it by the numbers.

Number of times I laughed: thousands
Number of times I cried: hundreds
Number of plants I killed: less than 5
Number of new hobbies started: 2 (sewing and gardening)
Number of old hobbies rediscovered: at least 1 (reading poetry)
Number of pregnancies: 1 (yes, Virginia, you can get pregnant!)
Number of miscarriages: 1 (yes Virginia, life does suck)
Number of weeks our baby lived: 9
Number of weeks it took me to get over the miscarriage: 34 (and counting)
Number of condolences after miscarriage: at least 10
Number of people we told about the miscarriage who never said anything: at least 3
Number of vials of Menopur shot up: at least 30
Number of IUI cycles completed: 4
Number of episodes of Grey's Anatomy I watched: 71
Number of miles put on the car: maybe 3,000
Number of couples we are friends with who had babies: 3
Number of baby presents I made and sent: 2
Number of thank you notes received for those presents: 1
Number of new friends made: 3
Number of old friends lost: 1
Number of movies watched from Netflix: 29
Number of new countries visited: 3
Number of new cities in US visited: 2
Number of new Christmas ornaments bought: 2
Number of sewing projects completed: at least 8
Number of sewing projects still going: 2
Number of cross-stitch projects finished: 3
Number of cross-stitch projects still going: 2
Number of cross-stitch projects bought but not started: at least 4
Number of home improvements made: 2
Number of times I cursed: thousands
Number of cruises: 1
Number of plane flights: at least 10
Number of times I said that I hate my job: at least 20
Number of resumes sent out for new job: 0
Number of therapists seen: 1
Number of visits with Dr. Uterus: at least 30
Number of times I gave up alcohol and caffeine: at least 10
Number of prenatal vitamins taken: 365
Number of Prozac taken: 365
Number of times I shook my fist at the sky: 0
Number of times that I would have liked to: 5
Number of kitty bites: at least 15
Number of books read: at least 30
Number of pictures taken of the kitties: at least 250
Number of times I rearranged my office: at least once
Number of times I thought I was being a bitch: quite a few
Number of times other people told me I was being a bitch: 0
Number of times I wished the grass would be greener: too many to count

Sunday, December 30, 2007

16 and Pregnant or 31 and Infertile?

I absolutely loved Ricky Gervais' series on HBO called Extras. Ricky plays Andy Millman, an extra who is trying to break into show busines with his own show. He has an almost Seinfeld-ian prediliction for saying the absolute wrong thing at the absolute wrong time and watching the messes he manages to get himself in his truly sqirm-worthy. Another main character is his best friend and fellow extra Maggie (played by Ashley Jensen of Ugly Betty). Maggie is not particularly bright and seriously quirky which she demonstrates with her random questions for Andy such as would he rather have no legs or no arms, etc.

I've got one for Maggie- would you rather be 16 and knocked up like Jamie Lynn Spears or 31 and infertile like me? Personally, I'd pick 31 and infertile any day. I can only imagine the world of hurt that I would have encountered had I gotten knocked up at 16. Not to mention that I would have had to make a difficult decision about what to do with the pregnancy as I am certain my parents would have been against me keeping the baby (and I really wasn't very fond of them at that age). And, there is a lot more public humiliation and shame associated with being very young and pregnant than there is with infertility (my how things have changed).

Despite all of my grousing about our current situation, I wouldn't trade places with her in a million years.

Friday, December 28, 2007

My Kitty Baby

We have two kitties, who are brothers although they look nothing alike. Their momma apparently got around with several different toms and thus they have at least two daddies. The Bad One earned this name many times over but is still much adored in the house because he loves snuggling with us. He also tolerates being held (and has since he was a kitten). I usually pick up him and hold him up against my shoulder and then shift him into my arms like a baby. I start cooing at him that he's my kitty baby (kit-ty bay-be) and that's his cue to begin squirming to be put down.

My parents were in town for Christmas and I was holding the Bad One like my kitty baby. My mom held out her arms in the universal sign for "can I hold him?" and I felt this instant sadness that all I could give her was a cat, not a real baby. I hope someday I can give her a real baby to hold in her arms.

A Promise

When I get pregnant, I promise I will not put a creepy spinning baby on the side of my blog showing the development or put a ticker at the top to show how far along I am. Part of this is because the spinning baby is just plain weird (it kind of looks like its on an inverted spit) and the ticker is a reminder that there is still so much time for something to go catastrophically wrong. The main reason, though, is because it is so difficult for other infertile women to see happy pregnant ladies, even if those ladies were fellow infertiles. To me, tickers and spinning babies on infertility blogs are inadvertently cruel because the girls who are still struggling with infertility who read these blogs are then reminded with every spin that they don't have a pregnancy to memorialize with a spinning baby or ticker. When I am pregnant (and come hell or high water, I will get knocked up) no tickers or spinning babies. Period.

The Waiting Room

I spend a lot of time these days in the Waiting Room - the physical waiting room and the metaphorical waiting room. The physical waiting room belongs to Dr. Uterus. It's tolerable as waiting rooms go (except when they had Christmas music going 24/7). I know which chair I like and that he has sucky literature (no People!) and that it is an ok place to catch up on increasing my score on BrickBreaker on my Crackberry. It is also the place for me to begin to worry about whatever is coming up because except when I was pregnant, going back is usually somewhat to highly nerve-wracking.

For as much time as I spend in Dr. Uterus' waiting room, I am always in the metaphorical Waiting Room. Waiting for a new cycle, waiting for a procedure, waiting for a pregnancy test. Waiting, waiting, waiting. I suppose everyone is waiting for something - the next weekend, the next holiday, lunch, dinner, a movie sequel. It just seems that waiting in infertility is much more agonizing and time consuming. While waiting for normal things, you can usually keep yourself nicely occupied while waiting - be it by doing work, sleeping, reading, etc.

But, waiting while you have infertility is difficult because you are reminded of your infertility just enough to make it seem like it is always there. It could be because you have to take a pill every night, you see a pregnant lady (or ladies), you get an email from a friend asking how the babymaking is going, you get Christmas cards with friends' toddlers smiling back at you. As Roseanne Roseannadanna said, "It's always something. If it's not one thing, it's another."

How do you distract yourself from infertility when there is always something around to remind you either of what you are going through or what you don't have? Sometimes it seems like a herculean task to simply not think about it 0nce for 5, 10, or 20 minutes. Work hasn't been providing the level of distraction that it normally does simply because we are between holidays and it is pretty slow. And blogging about infertility (which is so helpful) also means that there is the urge to think of new topics and blog about them lest things get stale.

Maybe I'll start doing a little trick I heard about for OCD. When you find yourself having a thought, you smack your wrist with a rubberband. It never really worked with my OCD because the concern behind the thought didn't change. But, maybe it will work with this - much like I remind myself to stop grimacing when I'm thinking (it's my vain attempt to not make the furrows between my brows even more noticeable). I hope to be able to go at least an hour without thinking about infertility. This sounds like a modest goal, but considering how time and life consuming it all is, I think it's a fair goal.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Why Am I Doing this Again?

When Sweetie and I sat down with Dr. Uterus in November to chart out The Future, we were very excited at the prospect (and success rates) of IVF. It seemed like the one-stop shop that we were looking for, the new hope. The failure of our last IUI, though, really took a lot out of me - mainly hope. So, when I got the IVF protocol in the mail and saw how much was actually involved, I was really freaked out. I suppose its natural to be a little freaked out on your first IVF just given the sheer newness of it. I just really thought that I was an experienced IFer and there wouldn't be that much that was different this time. I feel like I'm back in newbie land, but with none of the illusions and hope.

I also realized that part of me is still deathly afraid of having another miscarriage. My heart never hurt so much as it did then. I don't know if I could go through that again. To this day, I still feel cheated and the scar from that let down is still fresh and raw. Now with our best prospect for pregnancy looming, I find myself pulling away and not getting invested to preserve that little bit of hope and courage that I do have left.

I shared with Dr. Uterus a few weeks ago how I was scared to get pregnant again. He said something very profound: "Are you scared of something that will probably not happen or something that probably will?" I answered that I was scared of something that probably will not happen. But, still. Do I have the courage to try to get pregnant again knowing that I could suffer another loss? Do I have the courage to hope that I will get pregnant and have a baby? I think about what it would feel like to hold our baby in my arms, to see both of us reflected back and I think I might.

Disapproving Cervix

I think my cervix has decided that it has had enough prodding for the year. It was very disapproving and disgruntled during my sonohysterogram today and is still making its displeasure known with spotting and some cramping. This year it saw lots of action - four IUIs, one HSG, one pap smear (which I swear didn't happen because I didn't feel a damn thing), and today's scream fest of an SHG. I'm sure if it could talk, it would say, really, enough, can I just have a break for a while to remember what it was like when I was a happy, unmolested cervix? It seems like a very long time since my cervix was seen once a year and then went on its merry way.

It's amazing how much agony one little body part can produce. I can't wait for childbirth.

Clear SHG But Still Seeing Red

I had my SHG today to confirm that my uterus is hospitable for growing human life - basically to confirm that I have no polyps, fibroids, etc. After all, what's the point in going down the IVF road if your uterus is already full with other stuff? It took Dr. Uterus two (!) attempts to get things just 'so' which meant two pokes of the catheter - I swear I almost fell off the table I was in such agony. It was by far the most painful procedure I've had so far in the infertility journey. It was 10 times worse than my first HSG when my tubes were blocked and the pressure from the dye on the blockage was quite painful. Even post-op of my D & C when I had to take the Satan drug Methergine was easier compared to this.

Dr. Uterus was very apologetic and also stated that I apparently was the first patient of his to have more pain with the SHG than with the HSG. I have always strived to be different but this was not what I was hoping for. I did do some googling and found several other ladies who had unbelievably painful SHGs, so I know that I'm not alone. The good news was that the scan was quite clear and there do not appear to be any problems uterus-wise.

The whole experience, though, threw me into a bit of a depression partly because it was so damn painful and partly because the whole process just took so freaking long. I waited for almost an hour before we got started and then it took another 20 minutes after the procedure to check-out. I was fairly despondent by the time I got home and had a good cry. I felt so alone, as if I was the only person having this terrible time today. Then I made lunch and felt better. Funny how that works.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

The Friend Dilemma

I've always had a hard time making really lasting friendships. Put me in a room and I can charm or get to know just about 95% of the inhabitants, but I may only be in interested in getting to know 1or 2%. And then it's a lot like dating. Awkward moments, guardedness about yourself, etc. I'm quite picky about the people I am friends with. They have to be a special mixture of snark and kindness with an adventurous streak thrown in. And now, at least, they have to not be knocked up, focused on getting knocked up or have very young children already. That's a pretty tall order for girls in my age group.

Given how hard it is for me to make friendships, you would think that I would work really hard to keep the ones that I have made. And I do, with one notable exception. I've written before about my dilemma with my best friend. I feel a small measure of guilt on a daily basis that I am not being more strong in dealing with the fact that she's knocked up and I'm not (and in fact I'm actually going on BCPs to suppress my ovaries in preparation for the most invasive method to get pregnant known to man). I feel as if I should be able to hear whatever she has to say and be an active participant and cheerleader through her pregnancy. I know that is what she would do for me. When I called her with the wonderful news that I was finally pregnant last spring, she screamed into the phone. I was so touched. When she told me that she was pregnant in November, I sincerely wish that I could have done the same for her. But I couldn't. I couldn't do it. I couldn't scream in excitement (although to my credit, I was very good. No crying, no pouting, no hanging up).

Since the initial flurry of emails in which I tried to tactfully and gently lay out what I can and cannot handle (ultrasounds - no way, baby pics after the blessed event - fine), I 've tried to keep a low profile. We have had patches of non-communication in the past just because of fate, so I can kind of get away with being the silent type. But, I know eventually, I'm going to get that email asking how I am and I will have to decide if I want to know how she is, which really means if I want to know how her pregnancy is progressing. If I can't, I hope that I can forgive myself and that she can forgive me for being - hopefully a temporary - selfish person.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Next Stop: Hyperventilation Land

So I got my tentative IVF protocol in the mail today and I actually almost started hyperventilating. Here it is:
I thought I was pretty experienced at the infertility thing after 6 IUIs, but I apparently don't know squat. I feel like I haven't gotten much information from Dr. Uterus' office about everything that is entailed, and as usual I will have to turn to Dr. Google to fill in the blanks. I do know that I have my BCPs and I'll start popping those tomorrow as Big Red showed up yesterday.

Apparently, I need to have a sonohysterogram (SHG) to make sure my uterus is polyp, fibroid and scar free. It makes perfect sense, but that wasn't exactly mentioned before. I have to schedule it for next week as Dr. Uterus is skipping town the first week in January (can you blame him? All of these rabid infertile women constantly hounding him to knock them up? The man must be exhausted). Since the SHG is best performed when the uterine lining is very low (all the better to see your uterus with my pretty), that will put it at the beginning of next week which as we all know is Christmas. And since the mail was delivered after Dr. Uterus' office closed today (they close at 12pm on Fridays) I have to wait to make the appointment until the 26th for the 27th or 28th. Grr and double grr. Why didn't the nurse mention this the freakin' two other times we've talked about the BCPs? I can already feel my OCD flaring up.

An abnormal SHG can temporarily put the kabosh on IVF so that will be the next hurdle. The good news is that they are going to continue using the medicine I use already (Menopur) which means the five or so vials I have left over will still be put to good use. There's nothing like shooting up with post-menopausal women's urine to make you feel good about yourself.

At the same time, though, I have to admit that a tiny part of me is beginning to get excited. This is a new adventure now matter how you look at it and we are starting to climb for the summit.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Pulling Me Out of the Depths

I was very depressed last night and this morning about our failed IUI. I ended up telling my mom how it all turned out - they didn't know that we were doing this cycle - and she was so supportive and understanding. She told my dad who sent me a wonderful e-mail this morning and I think he understood for the first time how incredibly hard this journey has been for us. He was also able to provide some much needed perspective that while we are in a hole, we keep trying to dig ourselves out and this should not be an all consuming problem.

I expressed to him that I couldn't see my worth without having a child. I see now what a dreadful place to be that was. I managed to trivialize all of my accomplishments up to now by creating a myth that I have to have a child to be a worthy person. My dad helped me see this by pointing out that there are many ways to be a worthy person - not just having a child (and frankly, there are many unworthy people who do have children). So, I suppose it is more about creating my own reality than the myth that I think I should have. My wise therapist has been saying this in various themes, but it is only now really sinking in.

Earlier this evening, I also spent some time randomly cruising other people's profiles who share similar musical tastes. I found so many women who are my age who are not mothers, but more importantly, are not obsessing about becoming mothers. It was so refreshing to see that there are people out there who aren't listening to their biological clocks and who are just living their lives, traveling, thinking, blogging, knitting, whatever. I remember now that there is a life outside of infertility. As you might guess, infertility induces tunnel vision, especially when you are 2.5 years into the hole and don't see much light.

In the past, I really just paid lip service to having other interests and friends, but frankly, everything I did was shrouded, influenced or colored by infertility. It's still impossible for me to make plans a few months out and not wonder if I will be pregnant. It's impossible for me to look at a woman with a large belly and not wonder if she's pregnant. I can't answer the phone from an old friend and not dread that there is going to be news of bundles of joy being expected on the other end of the line. It's a terrible way to live.

And, while I know that it is a terrible way to live, I also don't know how not to live that way right now. Conventional wisdom would have me take a few months off and collect myself. At the moment, I can't stand the thought of even more delay. Haven't we waited long enough? I also know, though, that I'm really tired of being depressed and touchy. My compromise? I have to do three weeks of BCP before I get going on IVF. Those three weeks are my vacation of sorts. It would be so wonderful to just be. me. Not infertile me. Not bitter me. Just me. The start of the journey is to recognize that no matter what happens with my reproductive organs, I am still a good person who deserves as much happiness as everyone else. And a dog. A nice furry, bark-y dog.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

What's the Worst that Can Happen?

Inevitably, I approach test day as D-day. This despite numerous remonstrations from Sweetie not to do so. The thought of the Phone Call is a major anxiety inducer because the Ghosts of Phone Calls Past always come back - the low timbre to the voice on the other end, the straightness of the point, the wrapping up of a month of effort and money in four little words, "The result was .... " Those little words hold the key to overwhelming joy or overwhelming sadness.

I always try to think of new ways to lower my anxiety about the whole ordeal. I've tried having her leave voice mails with the information, which worked very well the first time since I was actually pregnant, but really sucked the last two times when it was negative. I've tried re-playing the "negative" answer in my head to get reacclimated to the feeling. I've twiddled with the idea of taking a test before hand, but since I use an HCG trigger, the last thing I wanted was a false positive from the trigger. I've tried to think of all of the wonderful things that I can do if I'm not pregnant starting with boozing and ending with clearing out the dead crap in the garden. None of it makes a damn bit of difference when that call comes and once again, I'm not pregnant.

I must be an eternal optimist or really stupid, because this time I'm again trying a different tact. I use it often with my raging OCD - I simply ask "what's the worst that could happen?" Here, the worst that could happen is that I'm not pregnant and we move on to IVF. I'm not going to die, I'm not going to lose my house, my kitties will be fine, my husband will still love me and nothing will have changed about who I am or my worth. By far, I get the most comfort out of this line of thinking than any of the others.

Update: the call came in at 2:40 and the answer was a disppointing "no". There were a few tears, but we also laid the groundwork for IVF. For the first time in almost three years, I will be back on birth control pills as a means of getting pregnant. The irony just keeps on coming.

Monday, December 17, 2007

All I Want for Christmas...

Here's my take on that seminal Christmas favorite:

All I Want for Christmas is My Two Pink Lines

All I want for Christmas is my two pink lines
My two pink lines, my two pink lines
Gee, if only I could have my two pink lines,
Then I could wish me a "Merry Christmas"

It seems so long since I could say
"Oh my god, I'm pregnant!"
Gosh, oh gee, how happy I'd be
If only that was what those two lines meant.

All I want for Christmas is my two pink lines,
My two pink lines, see my two pink lines
Gee, if I could only have my two pink lines,
Then I could wish me a "Merry Christmas".

Never say I didn't try to entertain with my infertility!

Prenatal Hazing

There’s a new show on HGTV called Deserving Design where some family that is disadvantaged in some way gets a room makeover from Vern Yip (formerly of Trading Spaces). I suppose it’s HGTV’s answer to Extreme Makeover – Home Edition, that sobfest of the highest order of schlock hosted by formerly cute-but-quirky-carpenter on Trading Spaces Ty Pennington. Frankly, I’m a little disappointed in Vern for buying into the schlock-fest, but he still does beautiful work.

I have a new show, too, called Deserving Pregnancy. How deserving you are of getting pregnant depends entirely how long and how difficult it was for you to get pregnant. Whenever I hear that someone is newly pregnant, whether I know them or not, I automatically try to find out how long they’ve been trying and how many roadblocks they’ve had along the way. An accident? Completely and totally undeserving. A few months with no drama? You still don’t deserve it. You have no idea how awful it can be. A year, no ART but with a miscarriage? You’ve been through a nasty setback and managed to get back on the horse. Good for you, but I’m still not entirely in your corner. Five years, ART and no prior pregnancy? You deserve every single moment of joy! I’m so happy for you! I hope you have the most beautiful baby (or babies) on the planet.

Call it prenatal hazing but the farther down this road I’ve gone, the harder I have feeling joy with or for people who get pregnant with no problems or even while using birth control (getting pregnant on the Pill is one of my absolute favorites). The worse the road you’ve been down, the more likely I am to genuinely feel joy with you when you finally do reach that milestone. When you read about the mechanics of how pregnancy happens and works, it is truly astounding that so many people get pregnant with little to no difficulty. And yet when something or many somethings go wrong, it is heartbreaking how difficult it can be.

I’ve tried on many different theories about why we in particular have so much difficulty and others have so little. None so far have helped me feel ok about it. Other areas of life where you perceive that you’ve been shafted, you usually can find some reason and off-sets the shafting. You’re smart but not that attractive? Looks are skin deep and you can always survive on your brains. Smart and attractive? Either you are also super sweet or just a plain bitch (either one is an acceptable counterbalance to being both smart and attractive). So what is a counterbalance to not being able to get pregnant? You have a great shoe collection?

I recently read a post by a woman who suffered a devastating loss of her baby and yet was positive enough to see that even though this particular part of her life was sucking big time, she could still take comfort and joy in the parts of her life that were working: her job, her marriage, etc. Maybe it's not so much that there has to be a mathematical formula (you are allowed 67% maximum happiness and good karma at any given point) as it is about our focus. There are women who are pregnant who have no job and no husbands or significant others to help them. I think I can honestly say that I would much rather be not pregnant with a good job and a husband than the other way around. And, when all else fails, I just go to Cute Overload, and it's all better. Meow.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

I ♥ My Husband

I have shared my deep feelings of grief and frustration with my husband whenever a friend or relative calls with the news that they are expecting. I got the impression that he accepted my feelings but thought that they were wrong or just useless (you feeling bad about it isn't going to change it from happening). This weekend, we are heading back to the city where we used to live and where two couples who we knew pretty well have either very recently or within the last few years went from coupledom to familyhood.

I have avoided going back with him because I knew he would want to see them and I would have to go. And I would have to hide how awful I would feel and put on a good face for what would seem like way too long. Neither couple knows of our troubles (although I have dropped vague hints) and it's not exactly something you kind of bring up out of nowhere ("What a great color scheme in the living room, and oh, by the way, I had an artificial insemination with Sweetie's frozen sperm last week because we are having trouble conceiving like you did! Don't even get me started on my miscarriage! What kind of fabric is that?").

So, when it became inevitable that we would go back for a holiday party, I dreaded fielding the questions about whether or not we were going to see these couples. Today, I finally mentioned that we might go visit on Saturday, fully expecting that this was what was required of me. And Sweetie gave me the most wonderful gift: he said it was up to me if I wanted to see them because he knew how hard it was for me. Oh, what a wonderful feeling - what a weight lifted off my shoulders!

I've given it some thought and I think I would like to see one of the couples who had a baby in May. She's not likely to be pregnant again so soon and I can still get a baby fix rather than deal with a toddler. But, I'll make sure that I have a code word for Sweetie in case things get too difficult and we need to leave.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Christina Aguilera is Mocking Me

Airports and grocery stores are one of those places where you often shuffle through doing the mundane things of life. You usually can't avoid them unless you hermit yourself into a house and never leave. The proprietors take advantage of the fact that they have a captive, although possibly unwilling audience, by trying to sell time-wasters in the form of magazines. You can read about how Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt are on the verge (again) of splitting up or how Britney is supposedly trying to adopt twins from China to make up for the two children that she lost through her sheer stupidity all while you load your groceries onto the conveyor belt. Depending upon the line, you can even check out who has had plastic surgery and liposuction.

Airports are actually much worse. Every third store front is a magazine shop with all of the magazines that you only read at the dentist’s office. The best sellers or most attractive covers are sometimes repeated on the front of the kiosk. The new issue of Marie Claire with Christina Aguilera and her giant pregnant belly is one such cover. Everywhere I turn, there she is flaunting her pregnancy in my face saying, “I’m possibly underweight, I have tacky hair, a terrible bronzer habit and a questionable sense of style, but I can get pregnant, despite my lack of any body fat and whenever I want and you can’t! Ha!” What is the point of putting her on the cover with her naked pregnant belly other than to show it off which has the side effect of tormenting those of us with infertility?

Ironically, I thought the picture of Demi Moore on the cover of Vanity Fair, back in the day when she was pregnant, was beautiful and not objectionable. It was done by Annie Liebowitz and seemed to be designed to celebrate the female form during pregnancy. Of course, when the Demi Moore picture came out, I was still in high school and avoided pregnant women like the plague in case pregnancy was a contagious disease.

How is that picture acceptable to me and not this one? I want to say that I think the Demi Moore picture is a work of art in its own right, regardless of the subject matter, and the other picture is just a semi-naked picture of Christina Aguilera which, frankly, you can find just about anywhere. I think I’ve seen her belly button more times than my own. Or maybe it’s that Demi Moore outclasses Christina (or X-ina as the press has started calling her – how declass) in just about every possible category known to man and thus any picture of Demi Moore (nude or otherwise) is automatically more appealing than a picture of Christina Aguilera. Or maybe I digress.

I’m still trying to decide how much of my reaction to this picture is just because I’m pissed that I’m having so much difficulty getting pregnant and how much of it is because I think the picture is just really tacky. I think it’s an even split. Although, really, there is no artistic value in it and it seems only to be designed to celebrate the worst-kept secret in 2007.

Or maybe it’s just that I think her music is shit. Either way, I’m sure as hell not buying Marie Claire anytime soon and definitely not that particular issue.

Saturday, December 8, 2007

Yep. Still Bitter.

If you look up 'bitter' in the dictionary, you find the following definition:

bitter (bit´ər) adj. [OE biter, akin to bītan, to bite] 1 having a sharp, often unpleasant taste 2 causing or showing sorrow, pain, etc. 3 sharp and disagreeable; harsh (a bitter wind) 4 resentful; cynical 5 Mrs.X as she continually reflects on the fact that her best friend is pregnant while Mrs.X has 1 lap surgery, 2 HSGs, 5 IUI attempts, 1 miscarriage, multiple ovarian cysts, a mild case of OHSS, and lots of money out the door to show for her efforts after 2.5 years of trying.

So maybe entry No. 5 is not included in my Webster's New World dictionary, but it might as well be. I am a bitter woman because of infertility. I am bitter that we got dealt this hand and I am bitter that we are stuck with one oar in the water turning in a giant circle - start the stims, watch the eggs grow, insemination, 2ww, pregnancy test, start again (or is it more like the undulating curve of shifting expectations?) I am bitter that there are those who have such an easier time than we do and I am particularly bitter that one of them happens to be my best friend who unbeknownst to her was supposed to have difficulty so that I could have a friend who truly understood all of this.

And now not only am I bitter, I'm selfish to boot. Is there a 12-step program for bitter, selfish infertile women? (Step 1: invest in a very large punching bag upon which you can take out your obviously strong feelings (preferably not husband). Step 2: have a glass of wine (or 3) in attempt to dull feelings of bitterness. Step 3: Cut all fertile women out of your life so that are left with either childless, childfree or other bitter infertile women. Step 4: Avoid all public areas that may have pregnant ladies. Step 5: do not under any circumstances watch TLC from 2 - 4 pm. Step 6: provide in-service to family and friends on infertility and how it has changed you into a shrew. Step 7: learn how not to ask others if they have children to avoid the inevitable question back. Step 8: ignore Dr. Phil. Repeatedly. Step 9: admit that you are a bitter selfish infertile woman and recognize that you are not inherently a bad person. Step 10: do not tell everyone that you are starting a cycle to avoid having to tell them the news (either way). Step 11: recognize that you aren't the only one having these feelings (Hat Tip, So Close: Surviving Infertility) Step 12: repeat steps 1 -11 as needed)

I hate admitting that I'm a bitter selfish infertile woman because I always felt that bitter infertile women were weak and just couldn't control their emotions. The karmic bus has officially caught up with me on this one. I am officially one of the gang. Or, maybe, as with most things, I am a part-time bitter infertile woman. I'm also a part-time kitty mommy, sewer, reader, thinker, sleeper, lover, walker, comedienne, bad movie connossieur, worker bee, queen bee, wife, housekeeper, trash-putter-outer, friend, blogger, photographer, artist, laundress, light bulb replacer, gardener, writer, cook, nosy neighbor, dog sitter, interior decorator, dreamer, to name a few.

We are all part-time beings. We do not have one label all of the time. Labels are like hats - they are interchangeable and each one makes you feel a little different. And, I truly look forward to the day that I can retire my "bitter selfish infertile woman" hat, however that may come about, but I don't think I can put it away just yet.

Friday, December 7, 2007

Baby Don't Worry About a Thing

To me worrying is like breathing - it's autonomic. I worry, therefore I am. And, if worrying is your thing (like it is mine), infertility is a veritable smorgasbord of worry because there are so many things to worry about! Are my eggs good quality, does he make enough sperm, are my tubes open, will my uterus behave, will my eggs and his sperm play nicely? Like most things that we worry about, we either don't know the answer or can't change the outcome of the answer, which heightens the worry even more. It's enough to make you hyperventilate at the mere thought.

Fighting the urge to worry is like fighting the urge to breathe. But, while one thing is required for you to live (breathing, in case you thought otherwise), the other is not. And so, I am diligently weaning myself off the Worry. Giving up booze and caffeine have been a walk in the park compared to this. But, I'll tell you, earlier this week, I reached a milestone. I got bored with worrying. I realized (rightfully) that at this point, everything is out of my hands and in my uterus. Add whatever Doris Day line you wish here, but I know that the best thing I can do now is just not worry. I have also finally accepted that worrying, in fact, does no good.

I gave myself permission not to worry and it's been wonderful.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

I Want the 29 Million That I Paid For!

Unlike all of our previous IUI attempts, Sweetie was not in town and thus could not provide a fresh specimen for use. I knew this ahead of time and so I had him make two deposits of troops in the Sperm Bank so that we wouldn't miss an entire cycle because of his work schedule. All told, he banked about 60 million sperm (Super Sweetie!). Only half usually survive the unfreezing, so the projected total for the insemination was 29 million. It was such a relief not to have to worry about how many he might produce on a given day, too, so it was worth the cost of freezing right there.

I arrived yesterday at Dr. Uterus' office at the appointed hour for The Procedure, but not after seeing Dr. Uterus drive into the garage while I was walking to his office - glad to know I wouldn't be keeping him waiting since I was running a little late myself. While I was being ushered into the ubiquitous exam room, his nurse told me that they had 11 million motile sperm unfrozen. I knew this meant that they had only unfrozen the one batch, not both. Rather than panic, though, I simply asked if it was possible to have the other one and told her that the plan all along was to use both. I refrained from demanding the 29 million sperm that I had paid for. There was no need to be rude, after all.

This turned out not to be a problem as it only takes 10 minutes to unthaw them (I'm still kind of fuzzy on how that actually happens - Sweetie swears they put it in the microwave). I was very glad to have that extra time to relax and do my version of meditation while listening to my favorite album by Matt Pond PA on my iPod. I was nicely relaxed and in a good place mentally when it was finally time.

I was nice and comfortable (well as comfortable as you can be on a table with a sheet while lying on paper) when Dr. Uterus came in as his usual bright self. I decided ahead of time that I wanted to have some time after he inserted the speculum to relax again since that particular part of the procedure is always uncomfortable and made me more tense. He had no problem with this and I was glad to have that extra time to get used to it. There was a little discomfort with the actual insemination, but that was similar to my prior ones.

In the end, we had 25.5 million motile after the unthawing which was pretty close to the anticipated number. I was perfectly happy with this outcome. And I was really proud of myself for being able to relax and be positive about the insemination, particularly in light of all of the hand-wringing-drama that it took to get there. Rather than assume that it was doomed because I was so worried, I recognized that I had a good chance and that chance was no where near being over.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Trigger Happy

I finally got the go-ahead to trigger today. On every other cycle I've done, I've had six days of stims and and the IUI on day 10. This time, I had eight days of stims and will have the IUI on day 12 (tomorrow). I've gotten tired of worrying about it though, it is what it is. I ran into Dr. Uterus on my way out this morning and expressed my growing panic over the time it was taking and the amount of drugs. His sage words were that it doesn't really matter how much it takes as long as you get the result. I got the result - one big Mongo-esqe 25mm follie on the left and two respectable 16 and 17 mm follies on the right. I sincerely hope this is the last time I have to do this for some time. Please, please, please let this be the last time I have to do this for a while.

Monday, December 3, 2007

Mind Over Matter

I learned at an early age that our minds have a great effect on our bodies. I learned this because all of the anxiety and worry associated with school directly translated into discomfort in my GI tract. It wasn't until I read Conquering Infertility by Alice Domar, though, that I realized that the mind has a great effect on infertility as well. To be sure, nothing short of surgery was going to unblock my tubes, but my mind could certainly help with my response to stims and overall mental health while enduring the roller coaster that is infertility.

The first time I read the book, it was during my third IUI. I had a fantastic response to the stims and poof, I got pregnant. Coincidence? There were many other factors at work, but I can't help but think that my response was due to using my mind toward that goal. The successs of that third IUI continues to haunt me - not only because it ended in miscarriage - but because I have convinced myself that everything must be the exact same as it was that cycle for me to get pregnant again. After all, it worked and it hasn't worked any other time. My mind understands that this is pretty stupid, but there is also a part of it that is still holding on to this theory.

The result: I find myself trying extra hard to relax so that I can get the maximum effect from the stims. And of course, I'm trying too hard. Everytime I feel myself relaxing, I tense to remind myself to relax. Not helpful. And then I worry that I'm not relaxing enough. Even more unhelpful. And now I'm worried because it's taking even more medicine than before to produce some good eggs. This, too, makes it even harder to relax. It also doesn't help that I have been reading a lot of blogs recently where the women have very poor responses to stims. During the time I banned myself from blogs and IP boards, I was blissfully unaware of how difficult just stimming can be to get a maximum response. Not so anymore. This has added to my anxiety.

So, what was supposed to break a vicious cycle of stress has been manipulated into something that causes a vicious cycle of stress. The only thing now that "brings me down" is knowing that Dr. Uterus isn't concerned. That's about it. I think the best thing I can do right now is just not think about it. At all.

Watch Where You Stick That Thing!

It seems like this IUI cycle has been particularly tough. I've had to use lots more medicine, and the timing has worked out such that I've had not one by four (!) ultrasounds so far. Normally I get away with two. These are transvaginal ultrasounds with the transducer, or as I like to call it, the Condom Wand (mainly because it's a wand with a condom on it - pretty original, huh?) Normally, they are pretty much non-events, but these last two ones, I have been in serious discomfort. My ovaries are very unhappy about their weight gain due to all of the medicine and remind me at every opportunity, particularly during these ultrasounds. Oh my God. I wanted to scream when she just kept moving the Condom Wand around trying to find the follicle on my right ovary today. The only good news is that tomorrow's visit will likely be the last one with the IUI on Wednesday. I can only hope. My ovaries are groaning at the very thought.

Saturday, December 1, 2007

The Resistance

On my first medicated IUI cycle, I used relatively little medication to achieve the desired result. The next three IUIs, I was able to still use the same dosage. My last IUI, though, I had to do more stims to get the same result. This time, I've had to do even more. I momentarily worried that maybe I was going into premature ovarian failure because it was taking more medicine to achieve the desired result. But, my therapist reminded me of one simple truth: my ovaries are getting resistant. Just like you build your tolerance to alcohol, caffeine and other drugs, so too with stims. I choose to look at it this way, if we get pregnant, I won't have much medicine left over. If we don't get pregnant, I probably won't be using this particular medicine for IVF and so I won't have much left over. A win-win in my book.

Going it Alone

For the first time in our journey through ART land, I have decided not to tell my parents about our current cycle. I didn't tell them about my repeat HSG last week nor have I told them that I'm in the middle of doing my stims for our final IUI, which will probably be on Tuesday. Part of me is afraid that I'm punishing them for what I feel is a lack of support and understanding for what we have been through and are going through, by no longer giving them details. To be honest, though, they never seemed to be particularly comfortable with the details.

At the same time, I have to admit that I'm also kind of enjoying taking some steps on my own without keeping them updated. As I get into the two week wait, I may change my mind, but for now, I feel more supported by not telling them than I think I would if I did. Is this a sign of growing independence or growing alienation? I'd like to think its the former, but I will work very hard not to make it the later. I think that it's possible to have some secrets and still be very close to people.

My HSG, A Pas de Deux in Three Parts

If there was ever a need for a sign that infertility has really warped my sense of humor (which was pretty warped to begin with), it's that when I was on the table for my HSG and Dr. Uterus was getting ready to get started, all I could think was that we were about to perform a medical pas de deux. I mentioned this to Dr. Uterus and said that the only difference is that I wasn't wearing a tutu and he wasn't wearing tights. Much to my horror, he said, "how do you know I'm not?" I warned him not to make me laugh while he was putting delicate things in delicate places.

Having an HSG really is a delicate dance. I had to lie on a very flat, very uncomfortable table with no stirrups, but I still had to lay like I was in the stirrups. Dr. Uterus explained that he was going to insert the speculum and then the balloon catheter, while demonstrating the balloon. I really hate the speculum, and I think I've had more than my fair share of cold metal encounters with it. But, such is your lot in life with infertility. In went the speculum, and then the catheter (all of which is pretty much like a typical IUI). It got very uncomfortable with the balloon inflation, but that was just the beginning of the fun.

Once the balloon was inserted, he then pulled the speculum out half way and the radiology technician pulled me up the table while Dr. Uterus was still holding the catheter down below. They got me positioned and I saw the initial picture of the dye making its way through my uterus and the tubes. At this point, it was getting really uncomfortable with major cramping. The last HSG I had was also very uncomfortable because the tubes were completely blocked. This time, it wasn't as painful, but it was still unpleasant.

When he got all of the pictures that he wanted, he removed the nasty balloon catheter and the speculum. I was able to lie like a normal person again waiting for the cramping to go down. Dr. Uterus and I chatted for a while and eventually I was able to go to the bathroom. Much spotting ensued and I was finally on my way, a full hour after I was supposed to be finished.

The good news: the tubes are open and ready for business. Incoming!

Thursday, November 29, 2007

A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to My HSG

As you may have guessed from the title, I went in for my HSG today. Dr. Uterus always does these at the hospital to which his office is attached because his office doesn't have the facilities to do x-rays. The hospital, which is religious, requires you to check in even if you are having a simple procedure, like an HSG. This is why I had to show up a half an hour before my procedure (not that that in any way guaranteed that it started on time).

The last time I had my HSG here, you still had to check in, but you checked in at the older part of the hospital. It reminded me a lot of when you would go to the bank to open a new checking account. You put your name on the list and waited (and waited and waited) for your name to be called. Once it was called, you went up to a large counter that was partitioned off into small cubicles. You met the person who called your name and they discussed the intimate details of your insurance, the procedure you were having and other sordid details such as your religious affiliation (just in case you croak in the middle of your HSG and the have to perform the final rites?). In addition to the decor being seriously outdated, the cubicles were separated from each other by a flimsy little cardboard partition which let the person in the next one know your business and you know theirs. In the age of HIPAA, it's not surprising that this has gone the way of the dinosaurs.

Probably recognizing that there was a much better way of doing this, the hospital now has you check in at the snazzy new reception desk, which is tastefully appointed in granite countertops and terrazzo tile. It also happens to be right across the way from the lactation center. Thanks for that Insensitive Hospital Administrators (not to mention the maternity tour schedule right there where you check in. Double argh!). Anywho, the greatest improvement is that they now have little individual offices where you check-in. You still put your name down on the little sheet and wait for them call your name. In the category of bad planning, the reception area opens up into a huge atrium that is covered in stone and of course echoes everywhere. So, when my name was called - and thoroughly butchered - everyone got to hear it.

The person doing the calling was a perky woman in her mid-30s. She directed me to walk down a hall and meet her at the third door. I went in and she came in through another door (it reminded me a lot of the booths you see in the red light district in Amsterdam where the glass door in front showed the 'goods' and the door in the back allowed the 'goods' to leave). She took my ID and insurance card while verifying that certain information is still valid.

Then she asks the $10,000 question: what is my religious affiliation? I'm sure it stated no preference or something to that effect, which is probably what I had said in the past when there was just that little cardboard between you and someone else. But, the privacy and security of that little room made throw caution to the wind and rather than tow the party line of "no preference", I confessed the truth: "I'm an atheist", I said. At the mention of that one little word, she snapped her head up, then tilted it to the side while she asked in a very serious tone of voice with a hint of derision and accusation, "Why?" It was as if I told her I was going to move to the third world and give up all of my worldly possessions to live as one with the land.

Why indeed, my dear. Why do you believe in a deity that allows so many couples to be childless while ignorant 16-year olds give birth everyday? Why do believe in a God that allows child and animal abuse and that people kill in the name of? Why not instead put my faith in myself and hold myself accountable for my faults rather than chalk it all up to the divine? Unfortunately, she didn't seem to be able to appreciate this depth of reasoning, so I just said, "I've always been that way."

Who knows, maybe I was the first person who ever confessed to actually be an atheist. Maybe she was wowed by my manners and the fact that I wasn't carrying around a hatchet, hell bent on destruction. Maybe she was just puzzled that I chose to go to a religious hospital. I do know that it amused me greatly and made me smile as I walked the long hallway to radiology for my date with Dr. Uterus and some dye.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

The Difference Between Wanting and Needing

There are actually very few things that I need to survive. I need food, I need shelter, and I need clothing. Arguably, I also need to work to make the money that provides the first three items on the list. There are other things that I want very much, but don't actually need. I love my husband more than life itself, but I can live without him. I love my kitties with all of my heart, but again, I can live without them.

The same holds true for children. I want to have a child with every ounce of my will, but I know that I don't need to have a child to survive. I can live without a child. I can even be happy without a child. I can have a fulfilling life without a child. I just don't want to. I want to know what it is like to feel my child kicking inside of me, I want to know what it's like to give birth, I want to know what it is like to have a little person sitting on your lap who you created with all of the love in your heart. I want all of these things, but I do not need these things.

Recognizing this, celebrating this, I can view my struggle with infertility as one part of my life, not the only part. When you distill infertility down to its essence, this is the question you are left to answer and the answer will determine how you view the path forward. As long as I have a bed, food and clothes, everything else is as they say, just lagniappe.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Infertility Overload

I remember when the internet was still relatively new and I had only recently been introduced to it. This was in the late 1990s back in college when not everyone had a cell phone (and actually some of the old brick cell phones were still in use), there were no blogs, MySpace hadn't been invented, and it was iffy to buy things off the internet. To say that the internet was still relatively underutilized (compared to now) would be an understatement.

I didn't spend much time on the internet then - just email through my university's system. There just wasn't a whole lot out there and I wasn't particularly interested in exploring the dark corners (of which there were many). By my senior year, though, I started to get more adventurous and go places on the information superhighway. But I was immediately turned off by how impersonal and how removed you were from reality when you were online.

As the years have gone by and the technology has advanced, this feeling has all but gone away. The internet is what allows me to do my job, keep in touch with friends and do most of my shopping. It has also allowed me to connect with other people who are dealing with infertility in ways far more intimate than randomly meeting people and asking for their IF stories. When I first learned that I had infertility, I searched out other women on the internet who had infertility. Unfortunately, the first blog I encountered was the most depressing thing I had ever seen. I was such a novice at that point - we had just found out that I had blocked tubes. I now recognize that reading a blog by a hardened self-styled bitchy infertile probably wasn't the best idea at that point. So, I actually banned myself from looking at infertility blogs and bulletin boards because it was just so depressing.

After my miscarriage, though, after I had that awful experience, my desire to find other women who had experienced loss intesified. When I had my minor melt down before my expected due date, I found comfort and solace online, particularly because I found several women who had miscarriages right around the same time that I had. I was hooked again on blogs and bulletin boards.

The down side, though, is that you become engrossed in everyone else's heartache. I spent 45 minutes the other day reading a blog by a woman who lost her baby at 24 weeks. It was the most heartbreaking thing I had ever read on infertility and miscarriage (and that is saying a lot), but I just felt so bad after reading it. I felt like I was having my miscarriage all over again and the grief just wasn't going away. I hope that she finds peace but I can't bear to follow her blog because her pain is so palpable.

I also lurk on at least one infertility bullentin board and it is also exhausting sometimes seeing all of the pain that is laid bare. But again, where else would it go? It is so cathartic to send your thoughts and feelings out into the internet void, but the confessional nature belies the truth that there are people reading and following and becoming terribly invested in someone else's life whom they have never met. I will still blog for me, but I think it's time to take a breather from reading other people's pain.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Getting Back on the Train

Big Red arrived right on time yesterday so I will go in for a baseline ultrasound tomorrow. I'm having the same ambivalent feelings that I always do at the beginning of a new cycle. I want to be invested in it so that it will work, but I don't want to be so invested that I get all caught up and totally bummed if it doesn't. I want to be positive so that I can have a good response to the stims, but not get overly so that I am again bummed in the even it doesn't work. I know that the best thing is to just take it one day at a time. But as with most things, that is easier said than done. Onward and upward.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Waiting and Waiting No More

So, I'm actually waiting to get my period (rather than waiting not to get my period). Since I was benched this month due to a cyst and Dr. Uterus pretty much dashed any hope that I would get pregnant this month, I'm just chilling, drinking my beer and waiting for Big Red to make an appearance. So far, just a couple of false alarms, but that also means that day 3 when I can go in for a baseline ultrasound will actually come around when Dr. Uterus' office is open.

I have decided to stop waiting, however, to begin stitching a Christmas stocking for a future baby. I had bought a kit to make one last year and was going to start it later on in my pregnancy earlier this year. After I lost the baby in April, I couldn't stand the thought of starting it. But, now, I realize that I am tired of putting things on hold for when I might get pregnant or when we might have a baby. And, I know, to paraphrase those sage ladies of A Few Good Eggs, that if you want it, you will have a family, although it may not be in the manner in which you had originally intended. I firmly believe this and still take great comfort in it.

Remembering this, I know that I can start the project and not feel as if I'm putting the cart before the horse. I had never bought 'baby' things because it seemed like I would just be asking for more difficulty. But, I'm tired of being superstitious about this and want to just do what I want to do. And, right now I want to get started on this thing because it's going to take me forever anyway. I see now that the most important thing is giving myself permission to just start it. I just have to find where I put the damn kit.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Giving Thanks

During my time as someone with infertility, I have done much lurking about the blogosphere and infertility bulletin boards/chat rooms. And, with a few exceptions, I have come to recognize that on the infertility specrum, our case is relatively mild. I liken it to have thyroid cancer. It sucks because you have cancer, but it could be a lot worse because it is the least aggressive and most treatable of cancers. We have infertility, which sucks, but it is very treatable (although not on the timetable that I'd like). So, I am thankful that our glass is more than half full and that we will very likely realize our dream of becoming parents, although not on the schedule that I had planned. And that's ok.

I am also thankful that I was able to have wine at Thanksgiving dinner. It made it go down a lot easier.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Out of Insanity, Light

I knew I was heading down a dangerous road on Monday. I was so full of anger which I acknowledged was mostly irrational, but I knew was a manifestation of some deep seated problem. My trip to the grocery store to stock up (for the second time) on items for T-Giving dinner gave me the unlikely opportunity to really ponder and question where all of this hostility was coming from and what to do about it. Dodging ill-dressed women manhandling produce is apparently great for self-therapy.

First, I admitted that I was feeling betrayed by my friend who got pregnant au natural. I don't mean betrayed in that she's another on the other side of the list. But of all of my friends, I thought that she was actually going to have problems and I was secretly happy because I would finally have someone who would know exactly what I was going through. She definitely looked like she was heading down that road. And then, poof! Pregnant with no problems, no drama.

But, in admitting this feeling, I also felt like I was flirting with that line between infertility schadenfreude and actively wishing ill on someone, particularly someone I love. I didn't cross the line, though, which relieves me greatly since I think I would then feel like a truly Bitter Infertile Woman. Once I admitted this fact to myself and accepted that it was how I felt (regardless of its merit), I was able to move on and be genuinely happy for her. Although, I'm very glad that she is in another state so that I won't have to be subjected to the expanding belly dance. A girl can only take so much.

I had also felt angry because I felt like my parents weren't really being supportive of our recent decision to move onto IVF if the next IUI is a bust. I talked about it with Sweetie who not so subtly implied that I was being overly sensitive. Maybe, maybe not. I couldn't stand thinking that my dad's questions about why we couldn't just get pregnant naturally (been there, didn't do that) were questioning whether we were really infertile and why there was such a hurry. Whether or not we can still be said to meet the clinical definition of infertile, at this point, we are ready to get out of the infertility holding pattern and move ahead. And we probably can't do that without intervention.

I decided that the best way to resolve this was to subtly remind him of why we are doing this. I told him how excited we are to move on because we had felt like we were in a huge rut for the past four months where we were just spinning our wheels. In other words, we may no longer be clinically infertile, but we are still treading water. I think he understood and told me that they are behind us and really hoping that we get our wish. Of course, this was after telling me that once I have a kid or kids, I will look back on this and question what I was thinking. Not helpful.

Once I battled through these two problems, I felt like me again. And for now, that's enough.

Monday, November 19, 2007

The 5 Stages of Infertility

If infertility is akin to getting a fatal disease diagnosis, then it stands to reason that we go through the same stages of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. I first learned about them after my miscarriage and flitted back and forth through them, constantly and then with less frequency. I had thought that I had pretty much made it through. But, I am coming to know now that even six months after my miscarriage and two more unsuccessful IUIs, I am not finished with them.

Currently, I'm experiencing anger - it even seems as if I am feeling real anger for the first time, I think in part because before, I had no specific person or thing to be angry at. I don't believe in God, so I can't be angry at Him. I was never angry at Dr. Uterus - it's not his fault that we had a miscarriage. I'm not angry at Sweetie. I know that what happened to our baby was no one's fault.

But still, I'm angry. I'm angry because my best friend is pregnant, I'm angry that she feels as if I am damaged goods and couldn't handle the news for a while, I'm angry that I probably am damaged goods and couldn't have handled the news for a while, I'm angry that none of our friends really knows or understands what I'm going through, I'm angry that I don't feel like my parents understand how difficult this is for me, I'm angry that I can't find some way to feel better about all of this, I'm angry that got dealt such a shitty hand on this. I'm just angry.

I know this is irrational anger, but I also know it's what I'm feeling and dismissing it as completely irrational won't solve anything. How do I go stop being angry? My rational half knows that it is about letting go and accepting (as we are told to do) that this is the way it is. And to do that, I know that there's not much I can change about others - I can only change myself. I can find people who know what its like to go through this, I can recognize that my parents may not be able to give me the support I need and that's ok, and I can recognize that my best friend tried for a year and a half to get pregnant and wants this very much.

It all still hurts, though. Does it ever stop or does it just ache less?

Dr. Uterus, Sweetie and I Walk into a Bar...

So Sweetie and I met with Dr. Uterus today and shared our concerns about all of the roiding of the ovaries, our frustrations with not moving forward and whether we should consider IVF. As usual, Dr. Uterus was extremely helpful in answering our questions and letting us know our options.

First, we decided to have another HSG because Sweetie was concerned that it was possible that my tubes had been blocked again since that was our original main problem. At the time, they were blocked by debris, not by scarring, so the thought is if it could happen once, could it happen again? Dr. Uterus put the chances of a bilateral occlusion (both tubes blocked) at 10%. The worst that can happen is I have an uncomfortable HSG (which I've already had) and we get more information. We decided that if the tubes are blocked, we would move straight to IVF rather than continue with IUI (what would be the point?). If only one is blocked then we'll continue to IUI but just try to make sure that the ovary corresponding to the open tube is producing enough eggs to make it worthwhile.

Second, we'll do another IUI next month, assuming my ovaries have calmed down. If the IUI doesn't work, then we'll move on to IVF. For the longest time, the idea of moving on to IVF was very difficult for me in part because it seemed to imply further failure (and we all know how I feel about failure). But, now, talking with him about it it seems doable. He said we were very good candidates for it and that we could have a good 55% success rate per cycle. It's hard not to glob onto numbers and feel as if they are really indicative of your chances, but it is so encouraging to know that it is a good option for us. He also agreed that our plan to do one more IUI was a good one and then do IVF in the new year.

It was the first visit in a long time that I actually felt better after going to his office.

Friday, November 16, 2007

The Flash

I had one of those moments today when a conversation caught me off guard and reminded me of how much I still hurt from the miscarriage. I was talking to one of our contractors who mentioned that he had not been in the office this morning because his wife took him with her to the doctor's office. She's pregnant, in her first trimester, and had started spotting. They went in for an ultrasound and saw the flash on the screen showing the baby's heartbeat. At that mention, my heart began to ache because I remembered when Sweetie and I had that amazing experience watching our own little one's heartbeat flashing on the screen. I had never experienced something so wonderful as that day, especially since we also heard the heartbeat for the first time. It is now particularly painful to hear someone else talking about having that moment because the baby whose heartbeat I heard so vividly (and can still hear) is not here and never will be. I still miss my baby.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

The Sympathetic Response

One of the easiest ways to get me to become weepy about my infertility very quickly is to tell me in that *right* tone of empathy how sorry you are about what we're going through, or how hard it must be for me when friends get pregnant. The sudden swell of grief that causes me to tear up is more of a response to the person who is showing how much they care about me to be saying these things as opposed to grief about the particular event. It's kind of like wearing your favorite sweater even though you know it generates static electricity that will shock you. You love to wear the sweater, so you deal with the shock when it comes which will never be when you expect it.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Yet Another Plan

Unwittingly or not, approximately every six months, Sweetie and I have reevaluated our plan for getting pregnant. The first iteration was determining if IUI was the right choice, the second was whether to take a break after the miscarriage and try on our own. Now, we think it is a good idea to meet with Dr. Uterus to see about whether we need to revise the treatment plan to avoid the bi-monthly roiding of the ovaries that essentially cuts our months to try in half. Who knows what he'll say, but it feels better to reevaluate and make him aware of our concerns.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

The Next Step or Overkill?

In my thrashing to Sweetie about our status as almost the Only Couple Without Children or Are Even Pregnant (it was said very dramatically), he offered that we could speed up our plan on when (and if) to try IVF. So far, IUI with stims has been our method of choice and worked for us. We have tenatively discussed doing IVF if we don't have a pregnancy in the next six months.

I know that the success rate for IVF is much higher, but I don't kid myself about the emotional, financial and physical toll that it can take. My initial thought is "why make it even more of a math problem than it already is?" We know that IUI works and we know that IVF is a huge undertaking. At the same time, I can't shake the feeling that we have been treading water these past two years waiting to embark on that next quest that we have identified for ourselves.

I'm really torn. Part of me is enticed by the success rate and that we could get this over with so quickly and not have to see Dr. Uterus for some time. The other part of me is justifiably concerned about how hard it will be to deal with if an IVF cycle fails (which is very possible). Not only will we have invested so much in it, there will be little embryos who could have become children that will not have made it. I don't know.

I do know that at least for now, I'm still content to ride the IUI train as far as it takes me. My impatience is not nearly to the level of moving on to IVF immediately, despite my thrashing. The reality is that IVF will not help my thrashing. Realizing that my thrashing is more about my need to keep up with the Joneses and less about my realistic desire to get pregnant will help my thrashing.

My Failure Complex

I am the consummate overachiever. I was in all of the Gifted and Talented classes in school, I did the AP thing (although not the sciences - I'm not crazy), and I used my SATs to get into a very good school. I did very well in grad school and am doing well in my professional life. I even aced my driver's test when I was 16. In all of my 31 years, the only thing I have failed was a test in a stupid biology class. It was a horrible feeling.

Since then, I haven't failed at anything I have tried. Except this. And I have failed spectacularly. What is so galling is what a public failure it is. Your waistline never changes, your boobs never get bigger, you don't have The Glow. People who see you week after week know that you aren't succeeding. You begin to regret telling so many people when you started because you know that you will get The Question eventually and you will have to state the obvious (since you aren't huge and you don't have a baby in tow) and wait for them to ask the Other Question (so, what's the problem?). You begin to withdraw from those who you knew, particularly your friends who have managed to succeed in this particular endeavour.

I, like many of my peers, was always told that if you put your mind to it, you can do anything (or something to that effect). That's not really accurate because it assumes that you have control over what you put your mind to. How many writers have put their mind to writing the next Great American Novel but it never makes it to an agent? How many kids go to Hollywood every year trying to break into acting and end up doing porn? How many women think that it will be easy as pie to get pregnant and then wind up amongst the ranks of the infertile?

Failure has never really been an option for me because that would imply that I wasn't working hard enough, studying hard enough or putting enough of myself toward reaching a particular goal. I am doing everything within my power to get pregnant and have a baby and I am still failing. My inner shrink is saying that by focusing on just this one aspect, I am setting myself up for failure. I am succeeding in other areas of life - I have a wonderful marriage, two beautiful and healthy furry beasts, friends, a good job, a home, a nice car, etc.

I also know that getting pregnant is actually the easiest part of the journey. Having the child, raising the child, loving the child and parenting the child until you die are really the hard parts and where the stakes of failure are not just personal but arguably involve society as a whole. The failure of a parent to effectively raise their child results in terrible things everyday. The moral of the story, then, is that the consequence of getting pregnant and having a child raises the spectre of failure much more often and profoundly than the (probably temporary) failure to get pregnant at all. And, maybe it isn't such a horrible thing to fail once in a while.

The Odd Couple

When we started our journey to have children, we were the first couple in our group to do so. Some had just gotten married the previous fall, others were focusing on being married for a while. Fast forward two and a half years, and with the exception of one other couple, we are now the only ones without children or who aren't pregnant. For someone who has consistently measured the pace of her life against others (a major flaw, I know), this has been particularly hard. I can't help but feel left behind. They are embarking on a journey that so far I cannot imagine (well, past 10 weeks at least) and they are making plans that Sweetie and I can only talk about in the abstract.

I know deep down that this is not a race and the person to cross the finish line first doesn't necessarily win. But, I find it deeply unfair that we have been trying for so long and some of our friends already have toddlers. It is even more unfair that we lost the first baby we were ever able to make and no one else we know has had to go through this. If I believed in God, I would be very tempted right now to be asking how this could happen. Given that I don't believe in God, I know that there are just some unfair things in the world. I have lead a very charmed life up until now and this is apparently my particular Rough Spot. Still, as a control freak, I wish I had some choice over which portion of my life would get the Rough Spot treatment.

I am also forced to confront another bad habit of mine. Whenever friends tell us that they are pregnant, I say the right things and ooh and aah over the pictures. But, deep down, I cut them out of my life. I can't bear to have my failure thrown back in my face everyday (at least that's what it feels like). My best friend is now pregnant (and even waited to tell me because she knew what a basket case I've been) and I know that I can't cut her out of my life. I will have to deal with this. My answer is to let her know that I am genuinuely happy, but there are just some things that I won't be able to share with her. I can't look at ultrasound pictures and I don't think I can hear about a heartbeat. It is still too painful because it brings back memories of the day that I found out our little one had died. But, I can be happy for her and let her know that I'm happy and I can hope that she won't change so much when she has the baby that I won't be able to completely relate.

I know this is selfish, but in infertility, the name of the game is self-preservation.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

The Shift

Last Tuesday found me in my therapist's office crying uncontrollably and unable to pinpoint the exact nature of what was bothering me. There were all kinds of extraneous factors, but there was no one thing. Usually when I get to the point of crying at the drop of a hat it's either hormones or there is something really bothering me that is not readily apparent. I wasn't particularly hormonal since the day before I found out we were benched due to the latest cyst and thus, not shooting up with Menopur.

That left the Unknown Thing That Was Bothering Me. What is amazing is even right after my miscarriage, I wasn't as upset as I was this time. True, it was right about the time that I was supposed to have been due had I not lost the baby, but I really think I had reached the breaking point, the point where I could no longer afford to be optimistic or to hope because each time, that hope or optimism was inevitably killed. Everytime, I went through the same grief, anguish and general unhappiness that I think my soul just said no more.

So what does this mean? It means that rather than focusing all of my energy every single month on whether this will be The Month, I'm going to try to focus on other areas of my life that make me happy. I'm going to focus on advancing my career, convincing Sweetie that we need to get a dog, learning how to sew quilts and clothes from patterns, and gardening.

It does not mean that I'm quitting. Far from it. We are still trying - optimal boning time (OBT) started just yesterday and we are on track. What I have quit doing, however, is hoping. I have to in order to save my sanity. It's the shift in thinking to accept that it may not happen, but that it would be nice if it did. It's the shift in focusing on enjoying the life that we have rather than planning for the life that we don't. I really think this is the only way that I will be able to function in a world where you will always run into someone who is pregnant, an old friend who has had a baby or the latest celebrity to beat the clock and have twins at 48.

This doesn't mean that I'm going to be successful 100% of the time in shifting my thinking. But, it's a new goal in and of itself and it is actually a relief to give up calculating how far along I will be whenever I make plans more than two months in the future or thinking that some activity will jinx my chances.

The shift did help me realize that if I had the baby I would be knee deep in screaming infant and I would not have been able to participate in the largest deal of my entire career, which was a truly once-in-a-lifetime experience. So, score one for the shift.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

The Curse of the Cyst

We have been benched again (!) by an ovarian cyst as a result of the stims. This news has formed the third leg in the Trifecta of Bad News these past few weeks. The other two legs of the Trifecta are 1) we had a negative beta last week and 2) this would have been my due week for the baby that I miscarried in April. So, not only do I have no baby, I have no pregnancy and very little chance of getting pregnant this month! Hence, the Trifecta.

I thought at first I was just really sad, but then I realized that I'm also angry that we again had an overresponse that resulted in a cyst. This is the second time in three months that we have been benched and it's getting a tad tiresome. This assumes that the months that we are doing stims and IUI that our chances are much higher than months where we are on our own. It also assumes that there is no chance that I could get pregnant on one of these benched months. I haven't found much literature on the effect of cysts in getting pregnant (although I haven't exactly looked very far).

If this trend continues (and of course, we don't get pregnant), we will essentially be having only half the chances in a year that we would otherwise. I may be only 31, but time is still not on our side, not to mention that we have been at this for almost two and a half years and have one pregnancy and one miscarriage to show for it. (But, the personal growth and development from all the pain: priceless.)

I'm actually tempted to just go back to Clomid, which Dr. Uterus labeled a 'nasty little drug'. Nasty it may be, but it also may not have the same overstimulation problem as the Menopur I've been using, not to mention that it is infinitely cheaper. Oh, and no poking. Would we still do an IUI with just Clomid? Part of the reason we chose to use the injectibles was that it increased our chances of getting pregnant faster, which has always been my main goal. I wish Dr. Uterus used email so I could just email him my question rather than having to go schedule an appointment, sit with all of the pregnant ladies, and then look at his ads for success ("He made it so easy!"). Wow is that demoralizing.

Sweetie also had the bad luck to be sent out of town this week so I don't even get a snuggle for my trouble. He also expressed his growing frustration with the benching and declared that he's impatient with the process, not me. That didn't really make me feel better, it just made me feel even more powerless. I can't exactly speed things up. As usual I decided to let the cyst resolve on its own rather than go on BCPs or doing some hormone intervention. That's worked in the past so I see no reason to start messing with things even more.

My furry children are aloof as usual and have been squirreling themselves into piles of fur on warm surfaces such as my polar fleece and blankets. I suspect they are beginning their winter hibernation. I may just follow their lead. They are smart beasties, after all.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

The Whole Sordid Story, Part II

Dr. Uterus is a firm believer in using all available methods at his disposal to essentially get a girl knocked up. When I met with him after my surgery and learned that Sweetie's count was still too low to make natural conception likely, he said that intrauterine insemination (IUI) with stims was our best bet. And, he wasn't going to use some rinky-dink drugs. No, sir. He wanted to go straight to injectibles.

And so, I moved to turkey basting. I had no problem with the plan. I wanted to get pregnant as quickly as possible and this was the best way to maximize my chances, short of IVF. Once I got my second period after my surgery, I began my first IUI cycle.

Of course, the first step was learning how to give myself injections. I realized that I actually did finally have use for the term "meniscus" and I was immediately transported back to Chemistry lab in high school. I agonized over getting every last drop of medicine into the syringe and making sure I used the smaller guage needle, not the mixing needle for the final poke. I carefully monitored every twinge and made sure to follow the directions entirely.

I don't remember how many eggs I ultimately produced because I really had no idea what was going on. I went to all of my sonogram appointments and had a hard time making out individual egg follicles from the blobs I saw on the screen. I also didn't know what the numbers meant - a 15, a 16.5, a 14. It was all Greek to me. I just had my instructions for medicine and I followed them. I took the HCG trigger and about 12 hours later it felt as if my ovaries and fallopian tubes were on fire.

I finally made it to the insemination day. Sweetie accompanied me to the appointment and for the very first time I had ever been a "lady doctor" there was someone other than the nurse and the doctor in the room as I had my feet in the stirrups . It made me even more nervous and so I was already unable to relax. Relaxation, of course, is key when you have a piece of metal shoved up your snatch so, it was just a little uncomfortable. Afterwards, we went and had lunch, although I really just wanted to get back to work and try to have a normal day.

In the end, that cycle and the next cyle didn't work. By January 2007, I was really getting down. I knew that I needed to get some professional mental help, but I wanted to find someone who dealt with infertility. I was able to find someone who immediately began to help me understand some basic truths: we have no control over what happens to us. Being a control freak with obsessive compulsive disorder, this didn't sit well with me, although I knew that it was true.

We were also benched that month for the very first time since starting on injectibles which at first I was incredibly bummed about, but then realized that I needed a break. I continued to meet with my mental health professional and tried to focus on other things. In February 2007, we were back in business and the most amazing thing happened: I got pregnant. Dr. Uterus finally knocked me up. It was the most wonderful feeling in the world (aside from the nausea, mood swings, and general crankiness).

Unfortunately, it wasn't meant to be. After we got back from vacation on what was supposed to my 11-week check up, Dr. Uterus determined that the baby had died at around 9 weeks 2 days. I was by myself at that appointment. We figured that there really was no reason for Sweetie to go with me since it was just going to be a routine thing. I was numb until I left the exam room and it just swept over me. I made a beeline for the bathroom and bawled. I managed to drive myself home and Sweetie came home shortly thereafter. We were absolutely devasted. We had worked so hard to conceive this child and it was loved so much already. To have it taken away so suddenly was just awful.

I had a D & C a few days later and we elected to have chromosomal analysis done on the "products of conception" (their term, not mine). It turned out that the baby had a monosomy, meaning it had a deficient number of chromosomes. Approximately 4% of fetuses with this abnormality make it to live birth and are then determined to have Turner's Syndrome. Ours was one of the 96% that did not make it.

What bothered me a great deal in those first few weeks was that I had really thought I had made it through the rough patch. We had heard the heartbeat (twice!) and it was so nice and strong. That sound was just amazing. All of the statistics I had read convinced me that once the heartbeat is heard and its strong, you are doing pretty well. I felt cheated and robbed.

It's been six months since my miscarriage and I still hurt. I also feel as if we are even farther from our goal, not closer. I can get pregnant, but I just can't carry to term. I know the reality is that this could have happened to anyone and wasn't necessarily a problem with either of us. But, still, it's hard not to blame yourself.

We have since done two IUI cycles, both of them negative. Right now, I'm so tired of the rollercoaster, although I have no doubt that it is not near what IVF would be like. We still want to have kids of our own and it doesn't look as if we have any major obstacles in our way. It is just the daily grind that is so debilitating, so wearing down on me. When, when will it be our turn?

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

The Whole Sordid Story, Part I

So, how did we get here? We got married in 2003 and decided to start trying for a baby in 2005. By the time we left for vacation that year, I finished my last birth control pill and we were giddy at the thought of having completely unprotected, baby-making sex. Needless to say, we had a great vacation.

I realized when we got home, though, that I remembered nothing from 9th grade biology about how my cycle worked. After all, why did I need to pay attention before then? I had been on birth control pills for the previous 10 years. The most I thought about it was to know that I needed to refill my prescription. I recalled from my days on the Knot boards that there was a book that every girl who wanted to get pregnant should read: Taking Charge of Your Fertility by Toni Weschler. I dutifully got my copy and was wowed at how little I really knew.

I faithfully charted for several months and tried to figure out if I was ovulating. When I finally did ovulate, I was ecstatic! I told everyone, including my parents who promptly responded that they really didn't need to know that much detail. But, I still didn't get pregnant. Five months after we started trying, we moved to a new city and had to spend time getting acclimated.

By January 2006, I knew something wasn't quite right. I went to see a GYN and he promptly put me on Clomid. He told me at the time that if I didn't get pregnant on Clomid in six months, he would refer me to the infertility clinic across the hall, which sounded an awful lot like being sent to the principal's office. Of course, six months later, I wasn't pregnant. So, across the hall I went.

I didn't like the RE at all. I knew that immediately. He just seemed very disinterested and unsympathetic. I had met a neighbor who also went through infertility and she told me to visit her former doctor. That is how I met Dr. Uterus.

Late August 2006, Dr. Uterus performed an HSG and found that both of my tubes were almost completely blocked. This was a total shock, especially since before the procedure he opined that it would be very unlikely that I would have that particular problem. I was told that there were two options: surgery or IVF. Sweetie and I talked it over and decided that the best option was surgery, particularly since I had been diagnosed with endometriosis when I was 19 and I wanted to know if it had gotten worse. In early October 2006, I had laparascopic surgery in which Dr. Uterus completely cleared out my tubes and found no endometrosis. The most frustrating part was learning that the tubes were just blocked with debris but there was no particular reason why that would happen. I scoured the Internet searching for information on this happening and couldnt' find anything.

While I was healing, Sweetie went back in for another analysis, since he had also had low sperm count. It was still low, so Dr. Uterus advised that it was best to go with IUI with my newly opened tubes.

Part II: in which our heroine learns how to get a shot and tries out turkey basting 101.