Counting Children and Assholes

Ok, non-breeders, it is time for a confession.

I find that A and I have bonded frequently lately over counting other people’s children and scowling at them. That sounds super petty when I read it back to myself, but it is true.

I mean really, do you need 5, 6, 7 kids? Do not even get me started on that show 17 and counting or whatever number she is up to at this point. Is this jealousy? Possibly, but I’ve also always been a bit dramatic over injustices.

There was this couple, most likely a very nice couple, sitting with their brood of children at the dining area of the local grocery store here in town. I couldn’t see them, but I read it all over A’s face. He was disgusted, which is really interesting because usually it is me who makes this sort of observation.  He shared that the couple had 7 kids and looked in their direction with contempt. I glanced over my shoulder and caught a few in the corner of my eye. Later they got up and congregated by the door, one of the younger ones grabbed a child’s grocery cart and started down the produce section with his mother tailing after him. As I watched them, I understood what A had been thinking to himself because I was thinking it too. For Pete’s sake what I would do just for one child. Just one.

There is another place that we call the playground. It is a pizza joint that has a bocce ball court that is essentially the town sandbox. The patio calls our name and typically we try to sit away from the bocce ball court. Since it was that hour of day when it crawls with adorable children under the age of 5, we wanted to sit on the other side of the patio but it was full and not in the sun, so we parked it by the sandbox. Surrounded by little people and their parents who seemed so smug in their abilities to procreate (projecting, totally projecting).

I love children, which I know sounds like a stupid thing to state on a blog dedicated to my attempts at creating a child. I love children and I love to be around them. I don’t mean to brag, but I am sort of a kid charmer. I can get the most reluctant to come out of their shell and talk to me. I get on their level and see the world from their point of view. I am one kick-ass aunt to my niece and nephew for that reason. These are not accolades I am throwing on myself, honestly. Others have noticed my child-whispering ways.

This is all to say that when I see a huge family with children under the age of 7, I get a bit pissed. I get moody and distant. I want to cuss loud and drink heavily in the presence of those kids. I judge the parents for their parenting skills. I know this is a really bad reaction and I try to temper it in myself. The new thing is that it is starting to come out in A too.

The other night we were carrying our divorce rescue dog over to the emergency vet because she was attacked by the stray A picked up during our snow storm before last (because there is nothing more annoying than a person complaining about huge families when that person has FOUR dogs-for the record, the stray is NOT staying). On the way there, A says “Maybe I should just start being an asshole.” I think that over for a minute, figure out where that is coming from, and say “No, no you should not just start being an asshole.” But then I think, maybe we should. I know plenty of assholes who have kids. I know plenty of assholes who don’t owe large sums of money to CareCredit (for our dogs) or Attain (for our attempts at having babies). I know plenty of assholes who use drugs and have 5 kids from 5 different fathers. Ok, so that is just one asshole I know. But you get the point. I know plenty of assholes who don’t raise their kids right; I see the effects of it on the faces of my students.  So I get the point he was making that night. Why does it seem the guy who was just trying to do the right thing by keeping the dog from being ran over get rewarded with a $700.00 emergency vet bill? Why does it seem that the guy who just wants one kid sees an asshole with 5, 6, or 7 kids in tow? Why can’t someone just cut the nice guy some slack?

Coming Out and Over Sharing

We’ve been trying to conceive now for 6 years. Most of our close friends know about our struggles and have been supportive. Those are the people that we really want to be there for us and who check in when things hit rock bottom. They are the people with fingers crossed and who send up prayers on our behalf.

Living with infertility can sometimes feel like a double life. Because so much of our lives is spent on social media sites and seeing what is happening for others through Facebook, Twitter, and the like, it can feel like many of those “friends” don’t really know what is happening for us because we don’t put our struggles with infertility out there.  I waffle on this a lot. The issue of over sharing. One way I feel people over share isn’t on social sites at all; it is through their bumper stickers.

I have a hang up about bumper stickers. I hate them. I feel that if you need to put your beliefs out on a material object as a message to the world, there is something possibly problematic about the foundations of those beliefs.   I guess I question why we feel like we always need to define ourselves to the world and why that also comes out through stickers on a car. The worst are the family bumper stickers. It isn’t because I’m a non-breeder. Okay, maybe that does skew things a bit.  I know that is a harsh judgement. If you have a lot of bumper stickers, I’m sure you are a very nice person, but just know I’m passing judgement. Then I got to thinking about it, and I realize this makes me a real hypocrite, we do the same thing through social media.  Guilty party over here.

We all have those friends who share way too much in their posts.  Some of them are hidden from our news feeds for that very reason. So, then why did I feel the urge to come out on FB about our infertility? Here’s why: The Disgrace of Infertility.

Did you read it? Read it before going further in my post. I’ll wait. I promise.

So now that you’ve read it, can you see why I crossed the line and shared way too much about myself to my 503 or so “friends” on Facebook? I felt that needed sharing. Nate sums up all of what A and I face every. stinking. month. There was also some weight lifted. I was able to be honest, albeit through someone else’s words, with my social network.  I have friends that I’ve lost track with but who are still friends on Facebook. People who I would really want to know what is going on with me because they are an important part of who I am today. Those were the people who responded to that post. It also came during a time when I was feeling pretty vulnerable in my fertility journey. Why then would I put it out on one of the most public places? I think because I needed more reassurance from others. I felt reassured by Nate’s words and I wanted to connect with people that I hadn’t been connected to in a while, but knew that they’d get my post.

About the blog post Nate wrote-

His experience and the way in which he wrote about facing fertility challenges really hit home for me. I don’t totally agree with the title though. I don’t feel disgraced by infertility. I don’t want people to consider me a disgrace. I don’t want others to think I think I’m a disgrace to myself. That’s some serious self-pity that a gallon of chocolate ice cream just can’t fix. That word disgrace bugged me.

For me, his post called into question our societal worship of breeders and if you can’t breed when you want to breed, then you are less than those who can. It calls into question the devaluing of what it means to be a woman when that woman cannot procreate. It calls into question the feelings of invisibility couples feel when they cannot make a child like everyone else around them. It calls into question the feelings of ineptitude men feel when they cannot create a child and have to watch their wives go through the difficult and emotionally draining medical procedures. I don’t think this is a disgrace of infertility’s creation, but one of our society.  We define ourselves and others in such a limited way that when we can’t put that bumper sticker of the stick figure family on the back of our car, we feel disgraced.

While I didn’t think about it in the moment that I posted Nate’s blog post to my status, I really wanted to have someone talk about that word disgrace with me. No one did on Facebook, and that’s okay. They did comment on how we weren’t alone and how we shouldn’t suffer in silence. All very comforting in response to the quote I pulled from the blog that stated, “The silence of not wanting to talk about it. The silence of wanting to talk about, but being scared. The silence of trying to avoid the one thing you are wondering about, but not wanting to focus on it, and yet having your mind dominated by it. The silence because you just don’t want to deal with the questions.” I pulled that quote because it was about breaking the silence, which I felt I was doing on Facebook, my social network bumper. Hypocrite? Check.

But now, I want to talk about the word disgrace. How do you read his blog post? How do you read that word disgrace? What is disgraceful-the fact that we have to go through what we do in order to create a family or the fact that we feel disgraced by what we go through to create a family? Is it that our definitions of what it means to be a man or a woman are too narrowly defined by our ability to procreate? Is it that we allow for society to define us that way? How does the idea of disgrace and infertility fuel pity we get from others? Are we okay with that? Where exactly does the disgrace lie?

Living in the Now

Anyone on this journey can tell you how hard it is to live in the now, not the past and not the future. Our brains just spin with emotions tied to what has happened and what hasn’t happened and what we hope to finally happen that we have difficulty living in the present. Or is that just me?

I spent the past year second guessing buying new clothes because I hoped that the next outfit purchase would be one that my pregnant belly would fit into. Every time I enter the dressing room that question runs through my head: what if I get pregnant, do I really need to buy this ________ (fill in the blank)? All stinking year. Then, as I head to the counter to purchase the item the nagging voice in my head is saying, “you won’t be able to wear those if you get pregnant” which competes with the voice of doubt who encourages me to buy until my heart is content because the past has shown me once not to be hopeful.  Standing at the register, the hopeful voice retorts, “we created a baby once, so why isn’t it plausible that it could happen again?” Still, I pull out the plastic and walk out of the store with the new shirt or jeans or whatever because the other voice says, “remember what’s happened in the past? You can’t plan for a pregnancy that isn’t actually happening. You just can’t live your life that way.” But, I wonder if this last voice is  the past haunting me or the voice of reason.

So how do I get off this merry-go-round of emotion? How do I focus on the present and not allow the voices of the past and future wreck my right now? That’s my goal for this year. I feel it with every decision I make-not just purchasing clothes. I timidly make plans for taking trips or taking on professional opportunities with those voices in my head forcing me to second guess or be doubtful that I will ever get out of this cycle with what I so desperately want.  I wonder if I will be able to do a road trip this summer to Texas because I might be too pregnant to travel comfortably, then that voice of doubt comes in and diminishes my hopes. I wonder if I’m taking on too much, though it means professional growth and brings me joy, because it could also mean stress and stress could keep me from getting pregnant. I questioned painting the spare bedrooms this summer because I was unsure what those spaces should be. All I wanted to be doing was making a nursery, not a guest room and an office. So what do I do? I select paint colors that I want in my nursery in hopes of what could be. And on and on it goes…

Immediately following my last failed IVF, I went straight to the voice that said “screw this”  and declared that if I was going to have a childfree life, then I would start at that moment living for myself and only doing what made me happy. No more spending time stuck in the middle of a life that felt incredibly stagnant and suffocating. Living for the next round and the next test result and the next heartbreak. I declared that life was over. I enjoyed a self-indulgent expensive meal and got knee-walking drunk. With every sip of alcohol, I was still focused on what the future would look like and wasn’t focusing on the present. I pictured us traveling the world, having golden tans, tied to no one and no place, doing what we wanted on a whim. It was an extravagant life I conjured up out of the ashes of failed attempts and heartbreak. In the morning, it felt just as far fetched as our journey to a baby had been.

Being in the now is something that I’ve struggled with my whole life, so I can’t really blame it on infertility, but I think in many ways infertility has made me hyperaware of my tendencies. Perhaps that is a silver lining to all of this. Perhaps if anything this has allowed me to do the introspection I might not have done otherwise.  That has to be worth something.

This is a new year and a chance to do things a bit differently. I won’t call it a resolution, because we all know what happens with those.  My goal is to live in the present and deal with things as they come, not as they have happened in the past or how I have imagined. I will do them if they bring me joy and because in the moment it feels like the right thing to do, regardless of unknown possibilities or impossibilities. This is not the same flipping the universe off attitude I had at the end of our last round. It comes from somewhere else; a place where I want to be at peace with what is happening in the present and not acting out against uncontrollable forces that hold my future or wounds from the past, because truthfully, you just can’t live your life that way.

What are the goals you’ve set for yourself as you enter this year in regards to your fertility journey?

It’s a Breeder’s World

I just finished watching the SnapFish commercial with the family trying to compile the best photos for their holiday cards and I. got. angry. I hate that commercial on many levels, but today it is because of what it reminds me.

Now that the holidays are here it is impossible to be reminded over and over and over again that our family looks very little like the families splashed across the TV as they celebrate the holidays or the abundance of holiday greeting cards that will soon fill our mailbox. I’m grateful to be remembered by our friends and I enjoy seeing how their children grow, but each year of their growth, both in age and number of family members, is just another hurtful reminder that it is just us and our fur children here.  I’ve actually stopped sending holiday cards because you just don’t see people without children on the front of those damn things.  I know it shouldn’t be about what they have and what we don’t, and truly in the beginning it wasn’t that hard to do every year, but something has changed for me the last two years. Sending a generic card seems to ignore what our family is made of and sending one of us with our dogs seems depressing. Who wants to be depressed by a holiday greeting card? I can only picture our card in the mix of all of the others and being the only ones without small children on the front.  Our friends know about our difficulties to conceive, so I feel like sending them a picture with us and our dogs will only bring about sympathy and I don’t want that.

In an April Time magazine article, it gave statistics on the numbers of Americans living childfree. It states, “The birthrate in the U.S. is the lowest in recorded American history. From 2007 to 2011, the most recent year for which there’s data, the fertility rate declined 9%. A 2010 Pew Research report showed that childlessness has risen across all racial and ethnic groups, adding up to about 1 in 5 American women who end their childbearing years maternity-free, compared with 1 in 10 in the 1970s.” Even though I know we aren’t alone, it is tough not to feel that way during the holidays. Maybe I shouldn’t assume that we’ll be the only ones who send our friends holiday cards sans children, but this time of year makes the likelihood of us not being the only one impossible.

Read more: The Childfree Life – TIME http://content.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,2148636,00.html#ixzz2keGYRDbe

I haven’t always looked the holidays with a dreaded sense of feeling left out, but now that I do, it totally sucks. It begins with Halloween and ends with Christmas. Three full months of reminders.

How do you fight the “involuntary child free” holiday blues?

Grin and Bear It

About five or six years ago I had an HSG test. It was no big deal. I went to the hospital and checked in with the radiologist, stripped down and put on the hospital gown, got on a sterile stainless steel table and was out of there in about five minutes. No pain at all.  Because those films are now lost between REs and OB/GYN offices of my past, my RE had me redo the test. I was expecting much of the same from several years ago. Man, was I wrong.

The nurses were sweet and the whole procedure lasted maybe 10 minutes, but the pain this time was more than last and it is lingering. I don’t think they used the balloon last time to expand my uterus. What an instrument of torture that thing is. It was less painful than the exploratory hysteroscopy, but painful nonetheless.

This is going to sound crazy, but it was also frustrating that they didn’t see anything that looked wrong. I’m not asking for my tubes to be suddenly blocked or my uterus to be misshaped, but a diagnosis for our infertility would be nice. We seem to have relatively solid working parts. I make lots of eggs when stimulated and am super fortunate to have them fertilize. I find all of these things to be great blessings, but it makes going through this so very difficult because we have no idea why we can’t conceive and carry to full term. Genetic testing comes back without concerns. The only thing I can think it could be is stress.

I’m working on trying to find good ways to separate myself from my stress. Compartmentalize it, deal with it, and move on or leave it where it is until I can deal with it again. My head sometimes turns into a hamster stuck in that spinning wheel. Once I think of stressful things, it just keeps going and going and going…Then my heart is racing and the tension headache may start or I find I have difficulty catching my breath. Not a full on panic attack mind you, but something close to one. I would lace up my running shoes, but I’ve been directed to not run. The whole fight or flight connection seems to be detrimental to conception and running may increase that feeling.  I need to get my yoga practice back up and am working through guided meditations, tough finding one that is free and doesn’t sound like a robot talking to you has proven difficult. Laughter is helping too. I just finished the most hilarious YA book called Carter Finally Gets It. Something about the humor of a kid living with ADD and surviving his first year of high school got me giggling while I read. It was a nice break from the hamster wheel for a while. Both my therapist and my acupuncturist are coaching me to find this separation, but breaking that cycle has prove to be tough.

So how do you work through the stresses of life and infertility?

Postponed

When I started reading about IVF about four years ago, I was terrified of the idea of having a round postponed. I couldn’t imagine getting all of my hopes up and going through all of the medications, only to be told to go back to the drawing board and try again.

Luckily none of my rounds have been postponed by my RE. Unfortunately, they’ve been postponed by me.

What do you do when life gets in the way of trying to make a life?

I’m working through my anger and disappointment with this round. We’ve been preparing for it since that post-IVF meeting in September. Everything was going okay until about two weeks ago when my parents decide they are going to fall apart. To be fair, it is actually just one parent.

My step-father has been given a new chance at life. He has stage three lung cancer and his prognosis was grim. He was given 6 months to a year to live with treatment. He has successfully completed intense chemotherapy and radiation and been told that he’s going to live a long time. His tumor shrank by 50% and the cancer activity in his body has decreased by 2/3rds. He’s not what we would consider cured, but he’s in a better place than he was when first diagnosed. Mentally, though, he’s beaten. Couple this with my mother’s Alzheimer’s and dementia and you’ve got a recipe for disaster.

So two weeks ago things got pretty bad. Things have been bad before and stressful, like the weekend we were heading out west for a couple of weeks to put time and space between us and the year of hell, and the wheels totally came off the bus and it crashed and burned. We put everything back together again and though there were some hiccups, nothing as bad as that weekend has happened.   Now we are back here again and just in time for our transfer.

I know I need to separate myself from my stress. The question is: how? I wake up most mornings and instantly feel as though I have chest pains. Friday, I cracked in the bookkeeper’s office (something about that office that sends me into an anxiety filled free-fall of emotions) because she was scolding me about not getting a receipt to her sooner. My eyes well up and my voice cracks. I manage to get out of there with some dignity, face flushed and chest all splotchy. None of this had anything to do with her treatment of me, but everything to do with the immense amount of stress I am under right now.

How do you separate yourself from your family long enough to start your own?

There is never a good or a right time to make a baby. That’s not what I’m trying to do exactly, but it would be lovely if the universe would just work with me and find a way to stay calm enough for me to get through fertility treatment and pregnant.  Is that too much to ask?

Unproven Uterus

It has been a while since I last posted and most of that has to do with all the other things I juggle in my life besides infertility. I transferred to a new school last year to try and lighten my load, mostly so I could quit coaching soccer and have job security, and what have I done? I’ve gone and gotten myself involved in all kinds of other things. Between grad school, working full-time, sponsoring clubs and taking over the mentoring program, and trying to navigate the management of my aging parents who sometimes don’t want my help, my life has gotten totally out of control busy and stress filled. All of that to say that I have abandoned my writing and I know I shouldn’t because this is a space where I work through my thoughts and concerns on our attempts at becoming parents. I’ve been meaning to get this post written for quite some time, so here it goes-

What I wouldn’t do for a proven uterus. Before heading down this path, I had no idea that the medical world placed women into categories like proven or unproven uterus.  At the post IVF consult back in September, we explored options of what to do next. As you all know, my RE gave us the surprising news that she thought we should go forward with the last embryo and do a FET, then look to do one or two more IVF rounds before seeing what might behind curtain number 3. At what is behind curtain number 3, you ask? Finding a gestational carrier.

We’d broached this topic once before at our post IVF consult the round before last (oh, how tired am I of post IVF consults and how ready I am from the sending away party so I can see a regular OB because I’m pregnant with a healthy and happy peanut). My mind raced with possibilities for a carrier. I don’t have sisters who are anywhere close to my age and my sister-in-laws are all older as well. Friends are another option, but that is a big question to ask of a friend. How does one even begin that conversation? Hi, I know I’ve known you since we were in 5th grade together and we’ve shared so many things together-like crushes and clothes-so would you mind sharing your uterus with my baby for me? I actually did test the waters with a close friend of mine this past summer. It wasn’t so much that I was asking her, but retelling what the RE had said about our options of possibly finding a carrier on our own since it can be less expensive. She got instantly weird on me and I ended up saying several times that I wasn’t asking her to be the one.  Yikes.

Since then, though, we’ve had interesting conversations with one couple who have been close and dear friends of ours for a very long time. They approached us about it and at the time, and even still today, we aren’t there yet, but it certainly can be a game changer if that’s the direction we end up going. When I shared this with our RE in September, she was delighted for us. When I expressed concern over age, as all of our friends are heading over that 35 year line when things on the outcomes pamphlet look scarier than if you are under 34, she dismissed my concerns by saying it didn’t really matter as long as the carrier had a “proven uterus.” I laughed at this idea of a “proven uterus” because it seems an absurd thing to exist, but then envy got to me and  I said, “I want one of those,” with an earnest look on my face (like it is something you can find on an aisle of Whole Foods or Costco).

I’m still hopeful that I’ll get to have that title of proven uterus. I’ll wear it like a champ. We are scheduled to start our FET with this month’s cycle, but with all of what’s been taking place with my parents and my stress levels, I am contemplating moving it to January. Another topic for another post: the anger of managing “ideal” conditions for IVF, as if there is such a thing.