Adjusted Expectations

Anyone who has traveled along on this journey knows that it is one of constant readjustment of expectations. I began when I was 28 years old and my expectations were high. I figured that we were both healthy and pregnancy would come to us easily. Dropped the birth control and started to casually attempt making a family. Things were lighthearted and easy. A few months in and I started to get a bitt more serious-maybe there was some talent to getting pregnant? So, I started tracking my ovulation. When I got a positive OPK, I asked my husband if we were serious about making a baby because we needed to have sex, um, now-what do you think his response was? A few months of tracking goes by and we still have nothing, so I bring it up to my OB/GYN and thus the infertility roller coaster of adjusted expectations began.

I am now 7 years out. I have had 3 IUIs, 1 fresh IVF cycle, and four FET cycles. When we met with our RE that we now see, expectations were high as we moved into the IVF side of things. It was going to be a breeze based on my age, eggs, hormones, and his sperm. Four cycles later and we have no answer as to why I can’t carry a baby to term.

After having gotten two positive pregnancy tests-one chemical and one that resulted in a miscarriage at almost 7 weeks-I tried to go into our last two transfers with realistic expectations. Coming off of the miscarriage, I waited six months before I tried again. The pain was still very real the day of the transfer and I knew I wasn’t really ready to accept an embryo and a chance at building a family. I practically broke down into tears at the acupuncturist because I was so afraid of what the results might be from the transfer. I couldn’t prepare myself for a chance at loss again. Being that it was way too late to back out of the cycle, I was less than an hour away from the transfer, I had to see it through. Walking down the same hall that lead to the room where my D and C took place, anxiety was high. It didn’t much matter that instead of going straight to the room where the D and C happened, we took a right and went into a different room. The feeling of sadness as I walked to have my baby removed from my womb where I couldn’t even protect him from harm was stronger than the feeling of hope for my next two embryos who were about to be transferred. The transfer resulted in a negative pregnancy test, followed up by a consult, and readjusted expectations, but hope because of options.

This cycle was different. I had enough time to work on my grief from my loss and was in a different head space. It would have been my baby boy’s first birthday and the fact that I had been pregnant didn’t sink me to the bottom of despair; it floated me to the height of hope. I had taken my three months of acupuncture in preparation as one day at a time. I didn’t allow myself to get too far ahead of what was in front of me. I didn’t have thoughts of doubt, of what if this one fails too, of negativity. I didn’t get so far ahead of myself to think of baby names or nursery design either. I worked at living in the moment as much as possible, meditated with guided imagery, and stayed calm.

As I got my protocol for the transfer and made the call to the pharmacy for my meds, I felt an excitement to be starting a new cycle. My hysteroscopy, taking place in the same part of the practice where my D and C happened, did not trigger me to sadness. I just really wanted to get through it so I could get that much closer to the day of our transfer. I headed in to my blood work and ultrasound appointments with a positive attitude. I was excited and hopeful, but not too hopeful. My expectations were realistic, but I didn’t dwell on the statistics.

July 23rd would have likely been my son’s first birthday, or at least close to it if he had arrived around my projected due date. This thought did not sink me; instead it gave me the feeling that good things might come, but I was also aware that this round too might not end in a positive test. I, again, took it one day and one moment at a time.

The two week wait wasn’t filled with trepidation or too many hopes. I did not project to brining a baby home and I didn’t project to hearing bad news on the other end of the phone when I got the results back. Even though I knew I’d receive my test results on my 35 birthday-fully aware of where that put me on the charts of IVF statistics if we had to try again, I worked at not getting ahead of myself. I didn’t think about what like would be like as we adjusted to being parents and I didn’t think about what life would be like as we adjusted to being child free. I was just present in moment. I took my shots like a champ and meditated nightly with my FET guided imagery program. The soothing voice lulling me to restful sleep, only to wash, rinse and repeat the next day.

Yesterday was my birthday. It was also my pregnancy test day. I will admit that August 1st was more difficult than the other days in my two week wait. I really just wanted the test to happen already so we’d know, but I also knew that once delivered, those test results required an adjustment in expectations. If positive, I would have to adjust to the fact that carrying to term might be difficult or impossible for me. I also had to adjust to the fact that it could be a breeze and not to let the past predict the future. If negative, I would have to adjust to the fact that we weren’t going to be parents this round. I would have to adjust to the fact that we did have options, though those options meant more adjusted expectations.

I was anxious yesterday as I traveled the hour and 15 minutes to the RE’s office for my blood work. I took deep breaths, tried to distract myself with reading, jokes with my husband, and signing along with the radio. I tried not to think about what impact the results of the test would have on me, my husband, and our lives. Riding in the elevator, A. leaned over and hugged me. He said that no matter the outcome, things would be okay. I nervously nodded and took another deep breath as I stepped out of the elevator. I greeted the receptionist with a smile and took my seat in the waiting room, trying to focus on my book. I was wished a happy birthday by the nurse who did my blood draw and given well wishes for a positive outcome. It felt that a good outcome was possible.

We checked out and I took many more deep breaths as we worked our way back home. It being my birthday and the tax free weekend in my state, I wanted to stop at DSW for new shoes. I knew I was getting closer and closer to the phone call with my results as I tried on shoes. I checked my phone to be sure I had my volume up, even though I knew it was not on silent. My phone began to buzz with happy birthday wishes, many from friends who knew that I was getting results from the test and who tried to ask but not ask about the outcome. My search for a nude pair of heels became my sole focus and I meandered through the clearance section. Finally, the phone rang. Standing in the middle of an isle, shoe boxes opened around me, I took the call. I instantly knew the results. I could hear it in her voice.

I tried to sound positive and understanding as she explained that I wasn’t pregnant and that she was sorry. I had empathy for her as I knew that just as much as I didn’t want to receive this news, she certainly did not want to deliver it to me, or the many other women who had the same news I got that day. I also felt the twinge of jealousy knowing that there were also those women who got positive news that day and grew angry that I was not one of them. On all of the days of the year, I got a negative pregnancy result on my damn birthday.

Being that I was in public, I collected myself and while this may sound crazy, I continued to shop for shoes. My husband had gone to Costco and I was in many ways thankful that I had a chance to process the news and go through those initial emotions completely anonymously, as just another shopper in the store looking for shoes. I could adjust my expectations again and let the shoes console me. I ended up with four pairs.

What sucks about the results the most is that we still don’t have a reason for our lack of success. It isn’t like they can tell me that I will never likely get pregnant because of deformities, PCOS, or endometriosis. They cannot say that A. doesn’t produce enough or no sperm, that his sperm are shaped weird, or that they don’t swim well. We fall in that small percentage of people who have unexplained infertility. The decision to ultimately stop treatment falls on us, not on a tangible reason for our lack of success. To have been pregnant means I know that there is always a hope that I can be pregnant again, which means I always want to go back for one more round. There will always be that sliver of hope that makes me doubt stopping treatment.

Before we head to the post-IVF consult, I already know what my options are. I know that I can go through another fresh round-Attain owes us one last fresh round. That will likely give us a number of embryos. Two years ago they retrieved 18 eggs, eight of which became blasts. It would be easier to walk away if we didn’t have that last fresh round and didn’t have the opportunity to continue the process. I know that I can do a fresh transfer and then use the remainder for surrogacy. I have a friend who has offered to be our surrogate. We can jump into adoption, though scrapping the money together to be able to pay for adoption seems daunting at the moment. It could mean A. having to switch jobs and us moving. We live in an awesome college town, but the opportunities to be a working professional are slim. We would have to sell our home and move to his hometown. We could live child free, though based on our conversation home yesterday, I don’t think we are ready to not be parents in some way to someone.

I know that these are all opportunities and shouldn’t be seen as problems. I know that there are plenty of women who would rather be in my shoes with options than to be without options. I know it can seem that I sound like a whining brat. The thing is I just want resolve and I wish it didn’t have to come from what I choose. I wish it were completely out of my control. It would make the expectation adjustment so much easier.

Just, because I feel petty

I felt the need to post mostly because this bothers me every time I get on Pinterest and because I feel guilty that I haven’t posted in a very long time. Summer school and all that, you know.  Teaching it…not enrolled.  I was pursuing a degree in library science, so technically I would be enrolled for course work this summer, but I have to say that I might be a library science dropout.  I never got around to enrolling in my classes before the end of drop-add. And, I just became a statistic for something else. Awesome.

So back to the point of this post. I have a beef with people who end up on my Pinterest feed, or whatever we call it in Pinterest, who have a board called “real mommy stuff.”  Like. nails. on. a. chalkboard. I refuse to ever repin crap that they pin, even if it the 52 greatest ways to reuse a toilet paper roll for yard art. I just won’t do it.  I scroll past their posts with a vengeance and with disgust seething from my clenched jaw.  All of which goes away quickly when I find the next new way people are using reclaimed wood to make a dining room table, but that’s not the point. I’ll pin that, with absolute admission that I will never make a dining room table out of reclaimed wood ever, but I think the idea is cool and the person has not assigned to a stupid board called “real mommy stuff.”  I also feel like there is no discrepancy in what gets posted under “real mommy stuff.” These people seem to put 695 slow cooker recipes, how to use a jig, painting mason jars, making outdoor bars for the deck, cleaning with lemons, and how to repurpose old bath tubs under “real mommy stuff.” I mean how much of that has anything to do with being a mommy anyway? Aren’t some of those things just “real people stuff”?

So why do I cringe when these pinners and their board labeled “real mommy stuff” show up on my screen? I don’t know if it is the smugness of their pictures (I’m sure they are very lovely people and that I’m totally projecting their smugness) or just the fact that there are things out there that people feel should be categorized under “real mommy stuff.” I’m also sort of over, okay really over, the claiming of all things by mothers-that sounds really terrible. Maybe it is more that I am over the only identity any woman in their mid-30’s and 40’s seems to be recognized for is their being a mother.

Being petty? Probably. The either or identity seems to permeate every aspect of our lives and I’m just not okay with it. Every time it comes up, it makes me acutely aware of what I am not and that’s the rub.

AF is a Cold MF

All of us are acutely aware of what tomorrow is. While I’m not in the same place I was last year with Mother’s Day, I sure didn’t want to be shown that I’m not actually pregnant on Mother’s Day. That’s some cold ass shit. 

I’ve restarted acupuncture and I’m going twice a week.  I’ve been using my moxie stick. It smells like I’m smoking a bowl, but it apparently helps to warm my uterus. I’ve been trying to up my anti-oxidants. I have been taking my vitamins like a champ. AND we timed  intercourse this month. All the time that small voice in the back of my head was saying, “don’t get your hopes up.” And I didn’t, but then again, I did. 

I mean come on. We’ve been riding this freaking ride for SEVEN years now. Maybe, just maybe the universe was tossing us a bone. Then my boobs got really big. Then my attitude started getting really bad-I found myself snapping on people, okay mostly my dear sweet man, and thought: “Self, this is not normal. Maybe it is just an extreme case of PMS, but MAYBE it is for real this time.” 

Then I get up this morning and I know it is going to start. My boobs are less sore and my low back is a whole lot more sore. And I just know. And then, she begins. What a heartless bitch.  

The Hardest Job

abd55:

A blogger I follow posted this. I felt it needed to be shared.

Originally posted on Conception's Bitch:

If you haven’t yet seen the video about motherhood being the hardest job, don’t watch it if you’re infertile. Just don’t.

You can, however, read this article in which the author takes issue with the video.

I posted that article yesterday on Facebook and pissed off a bunch of moms and was told it was a feminist attack on motherhood. I was not in the headspace yesterday to respond to everyone’s comments but I was this morning. This is what I wrote:

First, before anyone says it, no, I’m not a mom. So no, I can’t make a statement based on my lived experience that motherhood is or is not harder than anything else in my life.
Second, I have no doubt that it’s hard. Like incredibly indescribably hard. I can’t speak for the author but in sharing this article I was in no way trying to imply that it’s…

View original 286 more words

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?