Wednesday, November 7, 2012

So Much in 24 Hours

*Death and loss talk (pets)--please don't read if you're sensitive to this.

The past twenty-four hours has been all-consuming, jarring and leaving me in a puddle of jumbled emotions and confusion.

The first part of it started yesterday when I brought my cat in for a follow-up vet visit. That last sentence seems so casual, but it was anything but. As I gathered his thin, lethargic body in my arms to put him in his cage, there was no struggle, no fight left in him. I knew this would be his last moments. I knew it in my heart, even though that wasn't the plan. The plan was to make him better, but at that point, I knew it was a longshot. He had been losing weight over a few months, but nothing drastic until the last few weeks. At his last visit he was anemic and his liver counts were off. There was suspicion that his condition was being caused by a primary anemia, but after several days of treatment for that, he had lost even more weight, so much so that all I felt was ribs. He was vomiting and had stopped eating. We had the option to keep him hospitalized and gather more information, but even without a specialist's consultation (which would have been thousands at the end of the day), the vet felt a mass on his GI track and just knew.  So, we realized what we had to do to release our boy from his suffering. We had to say goodbye.

I always forget how much bravery it takes to go there until I am faced with it again. And again. But I am so grateful that we had that option for him and it was with the most loving guidance. We've been with the same vet for over six years and I wouldn't trade them for the world. They let us make our decision without influence and when it was done, backed us up and helped us through it. Charlie (my cat) was known for purring so loudly that it was often mistaken for a growl. But this was the last creature on earth that would ever growl. He was a gentle soul, one who let G lay on him or pretend to ride him like a pony in the days when he was nearing 20 pounds (he was a beefy cat). And his passing was a peaceful one. Cradled in Mr. S's lap, I was able to cuddle with him in his last moments. After the vet began, his purring became faint, subsided and then he put his head down. It's always suprising to me after having been exposed to violent deaths in media how gentle and understated it can really be, as if they've merely gone to sleep. That's what makes it so hard to grasp.

As if that weren't enough:

Reeling from this, I faced my RE today. I told Mr. S to skip it because my purpose was to close the doors on all that was treatment-related so that I could clear room to move on and this was something I could do alone. And quite honestly, the appointment felt like an afterthought following last night's events, so I went in casually...and came out completely baffled.

One thing I knew before going in there that I haven't been as transparent about on here was that I had not yet truly moved on from the possibilty of treatment and my RE's words made that even more so.

First, she determined based on our best knowledge, including past labs (I had a complete 'multiple miscarriage panel after my first), that the fact I've had two miscarriages was probably horrible, horrible luck. Do we know that for sure? No. But based on what we do have as evidence, that's her idea. Although she was wondering whether sperm issues might have contributed. After discussing embryo adoption, she determined that in many cases, the embryos we might get would probably not even be as high quality as the ones we could produce ourselves (unless the donor embryos were from donor egg/sperm--talk about indirect reproduction) and after a few tries there, we'd be looking at the same cost as a fresh cycle. She completely nixed the egg donor idea because she doesn't believe that's where the problem lies. She admitted that my FSH was worse than other 34-year-olds, but absolutely not out of the realm of being responsive to treatment. So, what was her recommendation? A fresh IVF. While it's still a gamble, she seemed to be very positive about it. That wasn't what I wanted to hear. I wanted black-and-white: "You're broken. Don't waste your money here." I really thought for sure that's what I was going to hear and at least that would have made this decision easier.

And then we had some discussion about my concerns regarding adoption and she agreed with these as very real, sparking more fear in me for that road. Ugh. I did make known that I very much wanted a second child and that this was an either/or scenario as we didn't have the funds to do both.

Call me naive, but I just don't think she would mislead me for more business (they're doing plenty fine). However, I also know this is her job--treatment. Her world has to be that treatment is the end-all, be-all. She is conditioned towards this everyday, so although her medical expertise is excellent, this is not a decision that is now only weighed within the confines of a fertility clinic.

It's a gamble and I know I wanted a guarantee, but when a gambler hits the jackpot even once, it is too seductive to resist going back to that same machine and trying again, even if the odds have dropped considerably. I feel the draw towards it again and I know that the treatment itself is not what I fear. It is the fact that I may walk away empty-handed once again. 

So, our decisions boil down to these two:

  • Go into a fresh IVF with a final acceptance and understanding that G may very well be an only child at the end of it. 
  • Adoption and coming to terms with some of those fears before embarking.
Will my fears about adoption (ones that were reinforced by the doctor) be so great that they'll push me toward standing right back at square one broke and with nothing to show for it? Will I find myself living with regret just because of my call to gamble? Or will I face some of those fears if we choose adoption and always wonder what would have happened had I taken the doctor's advice?

I have no idea where I'm going from here. It was hard enough to think through my major life decisions without having lost my beloved Charlie. So, next month we will be embarking on a cruise, just the three of us and I'll be seeing my sister (the only sister I am close to) after 20+ years of separation: both things we desperately need as something to look forward to. I'll need that down time and maybe then I will be clear-headed and ready to move.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Thinking Ahead...

Oh boy has my mind been busy. I have been thinking of the ins and outs of adoption, reading, pondering, considering 1,000 different scenarios and although I said I'd be using this space to further explore these in painstaking detail, I am now hesitant. You see, I am realizing something that many of the teenagers I work with fail to grasp...the internet, well, this thing is forever.  Every word I write here might as well be carved in stone.

It's quite likely that if we adopt, our child may have the know-how (especially with a Dad like Mr. S), to find every word I've written on this page in print in 15 years, despite my *partial* anonymity. I have no hesitation about everything I've written so far. Will I want my children to know how heart breaking this journey to them was? Yes, eventually, when they are ready to understand it for what it was: not a guilt trip, but an illustration of how deeply wanted they were. So, I have no need to hide these words as they exist today. But as I consider this possible next step, I am filled with questions and fears and while I would love to reach out and let these be known and have support here, I have to consider this: will my child read these words one day? If I type the worries that are locked in my heart onto this page, what impact would they have if my child were to one day stumble upon them? In the same way we ask our elementary counseling group students, I must ask: will it be helpful or hurtful?

Because of the nature of my fears that are quite likely being shadowed by some of society's misunderstandings still leftover in me, I suspect they will be more of the latter. And knowing kids (and people) as I do, the ultimate concern is that these fears would somehow be seen as a reflection of them and not what they are, which is merely my lack of knowledge and my still-fresh grief over our loss. So, I have decided that the conclusion I will come to will be aided through counseling, books, support groups and lots and lots of plain old talking. It's crazy to think that I would make a life decision without the internet, huh?? 

That's not to say that I won't come here. I've been here for 4 1/2 years (quite sporadically at times) and I don't suspect I'll be abandoning my post just yet. I still have miles to go before our family building comes to a close and I wouldn't trade this space for anything.

Monday, October 22, 2012


On Saturday, Mr. S and I sent the kiddo off to be with his grandparents and spent the morning at an adoption information session.  Whether it was having resumed my regular caffeine habit or the heightened emotions of facing one of the biggest decisions of our lives (my money's on both), I was keyed up and irritable before I walked in. By the end, I was oddly relaxed. I was expecting the opposite and had even scheduled a massage afterwards to combat what I thought would be a fallout.

There is so much to process and so much to consider and so little time has been spent devoted to that, but if I had to make a snap decision (of which I don't make a habit), I would say that as of now, this feels terrifying-oh so, so terrifying...but right.

But it could be wrong. (remember, I don't make snap decisions) And I'm going to give myself countless books and perhaps months to figure out which it is. I will come here and process until I have a novel that expounds on every fear under the sun about adoption (of which I have many). But ultimately, I am a destiny kind-of-girl. It is the one thing that has gotten me through the hell fires of infertility-this belief that whatever road I am traveling, no matter how bleak, will ultimately lead me to exactly where I belong. This is not to diminish our losses, but to make sense of them, to give them purpose.  It seems to me that every heartbreak keeps pushing me toward some greater plan that I can't yet see. I do also believe that there is a mixture of freewill intertwined in this, that, despite this 'bigger plan', you still also have the enormous capacity to be a dumb ass and just screw things up, hence my lack of snap decisions.  However, at the end of this researching and soul searching and fact checking, I do know that my heart will take the lead.

And my heart keeps seeming to scream at me that this is where our child is.

Parenting Through Infertility

For the past few years, my profile on here described me as someone who was parenting AFTER infertility. Kind of misleading, no? Because, from my vantage point (recent FET, miscarriage, looking into other methods of alternative family building), I can't see any sign of a period on the end of my infertility sentence. Now, my profile accurately describes me as someone parenting THROUGH infertility.

This led me to wonder: will I always be parenting 'through', or will the 'after' come eventually? Or is the idea of a definitive beginning and end too simplistic here? When I have completed my family building (with whatever path that might be) and when I am not actively thinking about where my next baby will come from, will infertility become an afterthought one day-something that will stab me in the heart only once in a great while as opposed to almost everyday?

As you can see, I have more questions than answers. That's the way life pretty much is these days.

This sounds strange, but for a brief, shining moment in G's infancy, infertility really was an afterthought. Whether it was the product of being too enveloped in mommyhood to care about anything outside that state or the desperation to shed my IF wares, I *almost* felt as if it had never come to pass, this crazy infertility thing. I started getting these delusions that perhaps, after having given birth, I might magically become pregnant without five people in lab coats in the room. I mean, I had a baby--that meant I was cured, right?  I was ready to join the fertile world! I'd like to label this brief period of time as non-fertile mommy psychosis, perhaps even pomposity.

(Haha, now I would be glad to get pregnant with the lab coats)

Maybe this only exists in my head, but being that I'm not nearly as unique as I'd love to believe myself to be, I think there are others who also think that having given birth somehow makes them 'less' infertile (whatever that means), regardless of how much effort, money and medical intervention it took to get there. I know this is crazy talk, but this is what I once felt. As I mentioned, I think I've so desperately wanted to not be infertile, to just move on and embrace a new life with my child(ren) and family, that it's seductive to believe the limitations of our bodies no longer exist. I can tell you that doing the kind of soul searching I've done recently for which direction we'll go has cured me of this thinking.  I am reminded, by the mountains that I currently climb, that this journey is not over. Perhaps it never will be, but one day I'd like to at least be going downhil for once.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Where I Am

Congrats to you if you make it through my novel below. :) I am back again to process something more immediate. I had indicated that part of the way in which I deal with grief is to look forward, but being that I have all too much familiarity with it, I know exactly where I am in the process.

I'm angry.

I'm completely pissed.  I feel short-changed by the universe.*

I guess that means I'm past the shock/disbelief, so that's something.

I'm reeling at the irony and searing rage that I feel over the fact that my brother-in-law and sister-in-law gave birth to their second child just a few days after my miscarriage. These are married people in their mid-thirties who already have a kid and after they found out they were 'accidentally' pregnant, whispered the 'A' word and then decided against attending my Mom's memorial because they went into 'crisis mode'. She was probably already about 3 months along before they clued in and they showed up to the hospital this time without so much as a bag packed or diapers purchased.  This kid felt like an after thought, when I would have given ANYTHING to be in that position.

I apologize. My emotions are ugly and dripping with envy with this one. In tonight's role, Shelby will be playing the part of the bitter infertile. It's not pretty, but it's real.

So, my own personal tragedies this year have served as parentheses for this pregnancy, this child. I'm not sure how I will face her, but I must. She is my son's cousin and I won't ever deny him that.  I know this will all fade, but this is where I am...right here, right now.

In an attempt to heal, I will light my two candles tonight at 7 PM in honor of Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness day...for my babies.

*I NEVER lose sight of how much I do have, even when I'm feeling sorry for myself. I am AMAZINGLY lucky. Just hurting.

Crossroads and Options

In 2-4 weeks time, I will see my RE, likely for the last time.  This appointment will be to see how I've recovered physically from the D and C (which is fine so far) and also to explore my 'options', whatever that means.  I would be lying if I said I didn't explore my 'options' in my head multiple times a day. Ladies and gentleman (if there are ever any of you), I am at a crossroads.

Hopefully my crossroads turns out better than the Britney Spears' movie of the same name. I do realize that I need to allow myself time to grieve before jumping into anything life altering,  but in case you hadn't noticed, that is precisely one of the ways in which I grieve. I move forward, or at least try to mimic the motion of doing so. Hope is healing. And when it comes to problem solving, I begin by thinking it through, and then I discuss it, but the real work begins when I write about it. This is always when my decisions and ideas become most clear for me, so here I am and here are the decisions I have before me:

Disclaimer: I am by no means well-versed on any of the below (except IVF) and am merely in the beginning stages of questioning and considering, so if I present some blatant misinformation, I apologize in advance. I am open to correction. My research into each is still young and the below are only my impressions as to how each would fit into MY life, not anyone else's.

Only Child

G can be an only child, as I was. The pros: all of our efforts, attention, and money can be devoted solely to him to assure he is given every opportunity available. Only children with regard to birth order are often very similar to the eldest: high achieving and generally very responsible (not necessarily, though!).  He will not have any difficult sibling relationships to deal with as Mr. S had and in some cases, still has.  There will not be any drama at family holidays or when we do pass away (at least none dealing with siblings). Being an only child made for a swift and seamless dealing of affairs once my parents were gone. And I never lacked for attention as a child. And let's face it, being the parent of an only child is just easier and at this point, cheaper.  That money my Mom saved for us to have a second kid? Well, that can go to the education of the grandson she already has and I know she wouldn't mind that a bit.  Cons: This paints a picture of my life in recent years. As an only child, I was the sole provider for my parents as they aged, became ill and ultimately passed away. Although a sibling is not a guarantee of an equal partner in shouldering this burden (I have seen many examples of this), having someone to share in the emotional aspect of loss would have been some comfort to me. I also found being an only child very lonely and did not like being the center of my parent's universe. I longed for them to focus on something or someone else as I'm pretty independent. And having the dog referred to as my 'sister' lost it's charm after awhile, especially as I longed (begged) for a sibling. I hated sitting at a table of three and always thought my house was too quiet, but that's my personality. However, I think that's G's personality as well. He is a people lover and if you can believe it, has been asking for a baby (not necessarily a sibling, but a baby) for many months now.  Finally, I think emotionally, physically, and otherwise, we have SO much more room for another, so much more to give and I have a deep desire to give it.  I could eventually learn to live with this option, but at this point, it seems as if something (someone) would be missing. In fact, it seems tragic.

Embryo Donation

Pros: Adopting an embryo is not much more expensive than an FET. As I understand it, the legal 'stuff' (yes, that's the technical term-'stuff') is taken care of in advance so by the time you reach the RE's office on transfer day, that embryo is yours. There is no waiting after the baby is born, wondering if you might get your heartbroken when the bio parents decide not to go forward. The heartbreak piece of this family building would be minimized for this process and for me, that's a huge bonus. I would get to experience pregnancy and childbirth (for better or for worse) again.
Cons: This is a relatively new type of adoption, so explanation to family or friends would be more difficult to navigate. Plus, what is the relationship with the child and their biological parents? My guess is that many bio parents of an embryo would not wish to have an active role in their child's life and that is not the type of arrangement I want. I want my child to know where they come from and have more than once-in-a-decade contact. And how do I explain to acquaintances that the kid I just gave birth to doesn't look anything like me? The general public doesn't know how to handle this information and considering so many of them already sound like morons about adoption, something that's been around FOREVER, can you imagine what they'd do if they heard about embryo adoption?  They'd look at us like we were aliens. My kid doesn't need to deal with that. Finally, the odds of delivering a healthy baby with embryo adoption are no better than plain old IVF-about 34%. That means that it's likely I'd have to go through it ALL again, maybe multiple times, maybe including loss- something I'm not thrilled about.  In that case, why wouldn't I just do another fresh cycle? And quite frankly, I love my RE, but I wouldn't mind if we saw each other less. FAR less.

Donor Egg:

Pros: The odds of the delivery of a healthy baby are excellent (far, far better than with my own eggs) and the child would be a biological child of my husband's and biological half-sibling to my son, which would simplify things I think. Given the selection of a donor with my same ethnic background (which is plain old white girl-easy to find), there would be no explanation to outsiders because they wouldn't need to know, so my kid and family wouldn't have to put up with too much moronic crap from the outside. I would also get to carry and give birth to this child and there once again would not be any waiting afterwards as all legal 'stuff' would be taken care of before the child is born.
Cons: The biggest con is that I know most, if not all, donor egg profiles are closed--slammed shut, in fact (save for medical information). This is not at all what I wish. Again, I want my child to know where they come from. The second biggest con is cost. I mean, holy crap!! We're talking a minimum of 30K. Seriously, who has that kind of money laying around to just throw down on the table for something with better odds, but at the end of the day is still yet another gamble? Not I. And there's no tax credit for this one (just a write-off). We would have to wait several years before this would become financially feasible for us and at that point, that money could go towards my son's college fund.

Open Domestic Adoption
(I've ruled out international and foster for personal reasons)

Pros: The biggest and brightest pro is that this is a guarantee. No gamble here-one day you are going home with a baby.  You will be a parent again and your child will have a sibling. Period. After years of gambling, this is HUGE for us. We're done with the 'IF'. We want 'When'. This is a child who will already be in the world and because domestic adoption has moved to almost all open arrangements, the kid would get a chance to have their birth parents in their lives. Of course the extent of this would yet to be seen, but the possibility is wonderful. We would get a chance to meet birth mom beforehand (and/or parents) and eventually have more 'family' (that's how I envision it at least...can you tell I'm an only child with no family who desperately wants more?) The more people my kids are surrounded and supported by, the better. Our child would come with a built-in 'extra' or 'extras' (because having extended family on top of that would be icing on the cake). I know this is perhaps an idyllic version and I've not yet delved into the reality (because, who knows whether everyone would actually stick around until you're in the thick of it), but this would be my hope.   I personally have very little ties to biology. As a former nanny, I know that being related is not a necessity to devote your heart to a child (or anyone) and as someone with 7 half siblings (you read that right), most of whom are not in my life (by design), this is further proof. And finally, there's an adoption tax credit. I don't know exactly what that would look like at the end of the day until we talk to our accountant, but boy howdy it sounds good. We will be attending an adoption information session in a week and I might not sound so ignorant after that!
Con: Again, cost. Although tempered by the tax credit, this avenue has turned out to be far more expensive than I anticipated. I had gone into it thinking somewhere in the ballpark of 11-15K, but it's more like 20K-30K in these parts. That's a HUGE chunk of change that would hurt...a lot (similar to egg donor). And there is still the possibility of heartbreak. I can imagine that placing your child up for adoption is one of the most heart-wrenching experiences of your life and it is quite possible that minds could be changed and as a result, we would be subject to more heartbreak. I'm terrified of losing another child and with adoption, that is always a possibility (actually with all options that's a possibility). And there is the issue of raising a biological child and adopted child together. In my naivete, I would think it would be wonderful and just our version of normal, but I've not yet explored what that really looks and feels like for the kids. As with everything in life, it's never that simple. The only thing that gives me pause is that life is already tricky enough and adoption adds extra intricacies to navigate. As a parent, I want my child to have as easy of a road as possible and I can imagine there's grief and questions (and so much more) attached. My heart already aches thinking about my child (and the birthmother) processing all of that and I've not yet even embarked on the process. This is not to say that it's not worth it, it's just harder to go into something with the guarantee that there will be hearts that need healing along the way, one of which is your child's. (I could literally write pages on this and I've not even begun my research. I probably will) I feel like we could do a bang-up job of it (and our extended family would, too), but it's still more complicated.


Pros: As I mentioned, I am not that tied into biology, except that it just makes things simpler. It's already enough of a challenge to figure out where you fit in, especially in this current world. If we were successful with IVF again, I would get to experience pregnancy and childbirth (which I did enjoy) and not that this makes a huge difference, but I would love to get a second chance at breastfeeding. If successful, guiding this little one through life would just be...easier.
Cons:  The experience of pregnancy, childbirth and breastfeeding is literally a blink of an eye in teh life of a child and I've already experienced. The true meat is in the parenting. I can say that confidently because I'm there now. And $15,000+ and many hormones later, there is no guarantee. I've had one live baby out of four embryos. While this is better than what I expected and we were SO lucky, that's still a 25% 30 years old. I'm 34 now.  My FSH is considerably worse, so I can only imagine what our chances would be now. After the expense and toil of an IVF, it's very, very possible that we might be right back to square one, as we are now, save for the huge dent in our bank account and the bruises that are still residing on my ass from the shots...and let's not forget what more hormones in my body might be doing longterm. (seriously, this has become more of a concern for me lately) There is always the possibility of loss again. A third miscarriage? Part of me feels like that's what I would be signing up for. Once was far more than enough. Twice, unreal. Three times? Have an extra bed in the psych ward? You might wanna clear some room for me. (This is said in 'sorta' jest)

At the end of the day, I know we will make the right decision because our heart will be in it. We will have turned over every fine detail beforehand so that we know we are standing by our family first and foremost when we do move forward. The beginning of this quest has just arrived, though. Perhaps I might sound like I am leaning in one direction more than the others, but from my standpoint, I am still open to all of them almost equally. It's time to figure this out because we would like to do it sooner than later. So, commence rolling up my sleeves and doing my homework. We're off the great big IF.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Moving On

Ever heard of someone's nausea increasing rather than decreasing as their pregnancy fails (and even as they begin spotting and cramping)?

Yeah, me neither.

But I am, as I've found, an exception to the rule in many cases. And not always in a good way. 

D&C was yesterday. The night prior, my nausea was at an all-time high. In fact, it was debilitating. I was beside myself and thinking that my HCG was obviously low enough at that point to not be the cause, so I was envisioning all kinds of crazy google diagnoses. But the next day, after the procedure, I was finally nausea-free. Strange...and an odd consolation prize.  My body knew for awhile that something was awry and was screaming to tell me.

 I think I might be working towards my black belt because I am a pro at this. This is obviously said with a fair amount of sarcasm as loss will never be old hat.  In fact, I think it compounds with time and more loss. Still, with this grieving thing, if practice makes perfect, than I am nearing perfection, collecting my 'miscarriage' socks left and right.

But the light at the end of the tunnel is that I am now allowed to move on, to make plans for who or what might be ahead. After 8 years of this roller coaster, I do have the most remarkable prize that has made it all very worth it. He is a prize that I NEVER discount how I lucky I am to have the opportunity to parent. He is a bright, sensitive, empathetic, compassionate, talented, creative little man for whom I would've weathered 1,000 more storms. And if someone else is destined to join our family, I will weather just as many ahead. It makes it easier knowing just how small a price to pay this really all is in the end.

Thank you to all of you for your support. Although I am awful at commenting on blogs, I do still read about and follow all of your lives and it's nice to feel the sisterhood that still gets me through after all these years.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Playing a Part?

Forgive me for being put-off by others' joy (especially since I had no idea how long and how many roads it took to get there), but when you are sitting in the RE's waiting room to get the pre-physical before your D&C, a whole jubilant family obviously going in for a transfer is such a stark contrast to your reality, that it feels like a knife to your heart, a blunt knife that keeps trying to dig in everytime their laughter rings out.

In that moment, I realized that all of the times that I sat in an RE's office might have been filled with anxiety, but above all, there was always the anticipation of possibility, the hope in creating life. This was the first time that I was in that office for the opposite-to see an end to this possibility and to put the final period on this 8 year sentence.

Yes, it has been 8 years. I have had unprotected sex without conception for a total of almost 8 years, several of which were spent in offices like these and a sentence is exactly what this trap of infertility has felt like.

At first I chose the D&C because we were considering a diagnosis of the placenta.  Not that answers would help us as we'll never be on this path again, but just for curiosity's sake. However, this diagnosis turned out not to be covered by insurance (note my complete lack of surprise) and is a good chunk of change. My doc cited another less expensive diagnostic process and in doing so, explained it in these terms this morning: (this is loosely paraphrased)

'If the sample turns out to be a chromosomally normal female, it's most likely that we got your sample and not the baby's. But if it's male, we'll know it's the baby's. And if it's a chromosomally normal male, well, then we'll say--that's not right. What happened? Maybe it was something with your stomach (IBS and ulcer), an illness you had-we'll have to question a lot of things...but most likely it will be due to chromosomal abnormalities.'

And for the first time, it hit me. This could have been a healthy embryo and my body could have failed it. After having gone through a full term, healthy pregnancy, I had dismissed this possibility. Somehow, up until that point, I had been cloaked in a cloud of unshakable belief that this baby was not normal and no matter what I did or did not do, it would've ended the same; it was meant to be. Her words made me question that, made me question every breath I took over the last almost-two months. I had a lot of stomach issues. I was almost constantly nauseated while pregnant and now I considered that this was my GI issues, not pregnancy, and that somehow, these issues might have caused the loss, the loss of something that could have been perfect and miraculous.  Bottom line: I failed this child. I know these far-reaching thoughts were not the doctor's intent, but that was the end result. And I know the odds are against this thinking. But still, the cloud that was almost an emotional safety net for me dissipated. And my brain focused on the words...

"chromosomally normal male"

And at once I pictured my son, a 'chomosomally normal male', in slumber that morning, his soft rosy cheeks, his little bare chest rising and falling with his breath. Could I have lost the possibility of that type of miracle again?  At once this embryo was no longer a gender-less non-being as I had envisioned. That type of picture helped me keep my distance, but now, this embryo, this child, was real in every sense of the word, a little boy with dirt on his nose, raspberry-stained fingertips, skinned knees, my son's little brother, my baby boy.  This vision, one that I should have seen coming, sent me into a tailspin I've not yet crawled out of.

 I spent the next 15 minutes sobbing in the clinic parking lot.  At this point I know that we cannot do the diagnosis for there is no way I could live with knowing that this baby was normal, if that turned out to be the case. And there's definitely no way I can learn his/her gender.  I know it would send me on an unnecessary slippery slope of searching for the answer because I wouldn't let it rest. And that would result in countless tests and hundreds of dollars and more heartache, something we've had plenty of, thank you. We don't need that. We need to heal.  We need to move on. I'm not sure how, but I've been here before so I know it can happen.

It's more than likely, though, that we will learn either nothing or that it was chromosomal abnormalities. And perhaps the latter would bring me a strange peace of sorts. But the possibility that I played a role in ending what could have been a perfect little life, well, that's something I'd never be able to reconcile. For my first miscarriage, I really didn't feel any guilt. So, here I am, with another new chapter of grief to navigate. D & C is Monday. Wish me...peace.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

New Normal

There's that moment, that split second before anything comes up on the ultrasound screen when your heart arrests with the reality that what is about to be seen will be either one of the best things or the worst things.  Yesterday turned out to be one of those worst things. I knew it many moments before the doctor began to explain, as she was beginning a search that ended on an empty sack. When they have to search--when the screen does not fill with the arcs and tones of a beating heart, when it is immediately silent and black and empty--you know.

I've been here before and then, I haven't. The first time we lost our baby, we had heard a heartbeat and were measuring on track. I got four weeks beyond that appointment before we discovered the truth. But as I mentioned before, that pregnancy also got off to a rocky start, a sign of things to come. In some sense, I'm less shocked this time. And call me a bitter, seasoned infertile, but I knew in my heart that the universe would not gift a second child to me this 'easily'. No, one must toil for years. This is my experience. It would be naive of me to think that only $5,000 and several weeks of ass shots would give me my heart's desire.  However, I can say that five years and $40,000 was a small price to pay for the greatest gift that I already have.

That's how skewed my perspective is now. I view an FET as 'the easy road', when for most, this would be above and beyond what they might be willing to do. Actually, it would be above and beyond what they think they'd be willing to do, except that if they were infertile and it was one of their only choices to fulfill their dream of a child, then I bet that willingness would expand to greater lengths than ever anticipated, as it did with me. To which I would say, "welcome to the new normal."

I've been in this kind of shifted normal for years now. It's so, so strange to me that people actually just have sex, get pregnant and have babies. There are many who don't experience loss and heartache, many who do not need to journey to the ends of the earth and have their heart ripped out in the process. What a foreign concept.  I promise I'm not comparing (maybe feeling sorry for myself a little, but I think that's allowed for now). But what this does make me realize is that at this point, building a family is about gambling and heartache to me. I'm tired of that path and one way or another, I want off it. I've had enough loss.

For now, I must concentrate on saying goodbye--goodbye to my last chance, to a child who would've started kindergarten as G began third grade, would've been a freshman when he was a senior. I need to say goodbye to a child who would've been born in spring just a few weeks before my 35th birthday, a child who would've had the room next to G's, a child who would've had the second round on all of G's baby stuff. I need to say goodbye to my second chance at breastfeeding. And I need to let go of another opportunity to fall in love with a perfect little soul again. I know very deeply what I am missing as I have it with my son and it is nothing less than crushing.

And for now I must figure out how I am to get through the holidays with my brother-in-law's newborn ever-present (who was an 'oops'-and yes, they rarely have time for their first). They're due this month and I am ready to run, book a flight away for every holiday, but I know that's not fair to G, who loves his cousin and grandparents. Under other circumstances (pre-G), you better believe I would've been gone. Oh well, I'll suck it in and plaster a smile on my face. We do what we must do. I just wish it were under more joyful circumstances.

If I haven't said this lately, let me say it again. F.uck IF.

Monday, September 24, 2012

What Being Done with Treatment Looks Like

Before the ultrasound:

I have no idea what the ultrasound today will reveal or any ultrasounds thereafter, if we get there. I think it will be good news, a small milestone at the very beginning of many, many others. But I do know this. Should this not prove successful at any point, we are done with treatment for good.

I always wondered what it would feel like to be at the place where I was done. I thought I would be more torn, but I just knew that the game of the gamble wasn't for me any longer. Nevertheless, I do want desperately to add to our family.

Should this not go the direction we hope today or any day thereafter, Mr. S and I have decided to look into adoption. We haven't made a final call, but we have seriously decided to roll up our sleeves and do our homework and see if it's meant for our family. We're done with the lack of guarantee, the drugs, throwing money at companies for a 'chance'. It is finally time to move on and with both possibilities-whether the one I'm brewing right now or a child through adoption, I am filled with hope, but petrified all the same.  I do know this-whoever is meant to join us, will.

Post Ultrasound:

One little sack, measuring on schedule.  I would breathe a sigh of relief, but I've never been one to do that.  Even after my kid's birth I was still a worry wort practically in the same way I was before every ultrasound. Next appointment is in a week. There should be a heartbeat by then. Although my doctor basically alluded to the fact that I need Xanex BADLY, I can't have that, so I guess a bag of chocolate and a bath will have to do as I chew my nails to the quick in anticipation.

Friday, September 21, 2012

The Little Embryo that Could

Once upon a time, I started a pregnancy out with low betas and low progesterone. This was following an IUI we were sure wouldn't take. But as the week went on, the beta and progesterone rose to low normal levels and within a few weeks we had two appointments: one in which we saw a perfect sac and fetal pole, and the other in which our little one's heartbeat clocked in at 120.

And then, the next appointment-silence.  No heartbeat. An embryo that had arrested weeks before.

The moral this tale taught me was that even when you think you're out of the woods, you might not be. Sometimes early signs are warnings of things to come.

But then another part of me has learned stories of fighters out there who defy statistics, fighters who once seemed out of the game but came roaring back onto the scene, proving everyone wrong.  I pray that this one is the latter.

On Monday, our beta was 325. A perfect doubling time every two days over a four day period of time would be 1300. Today, we were at 1580. I couldn't convince myself that today would be bad news. One day? Perhaps. But today is good news. I'll take what I can get.

I have no flippin' clue as to what's going on or how to feel about it.  Optimism with a huge piece of caution pie, please. And I know we'll know more at our ultrasound on Monday. No, strike that, we may not truly know until we either have this baby or don't. But at this point, that's a chance I'm willing to take.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Welcome to My Rollercoaster

As the nurse was drawing my blood, I began sobbing, openly. Normally I cover this up, but with a needle in my arm, I was locked to the chair so my only option for escape was to draw one hand slowly up to my face. Everything went quiet in the clinic, people shifted uncomfortably and smiled apologetically. Eventually, the lab lady offered me tea, which I declined. As soon as the cotton ball and tape were fastened to my arm, I booked it to the bathroom to clean my smeared makeup.

This was how my third beta went down.  This was Monday, but the beginning of the roller coaster was the previous Wednesday, the day before my first beta. I had convinced myself that I NEEDED to come home in the middle of the workday and take a test right then. I downed a bottle of water on the way home and after those requisite 3 heart-pounding minutes,  I was shocked at what I saw. SHOCKED.

NOT pregnant.

Because I was certain, down to the bottom of my core that I was.  From the day after transfer, I tried so hard to convince myself otherwise because I knew that if I didn't, I would have even farther to fall. (that's the reasoning of a jilted infertile pessimist for you)

Returning to work was not an option. I was a tearful, fuck-the-world mess. Instead, we left and I ate some very fried foods (and got sick from them, of course). The next morning, the morning of my beta, I decided to take another test with undiluted morning pee for posterity-just to be absolutely certain. I couldn't hold it past 5 AM, so in the dark of early morning, I went to wait for the results, but before I could stand up, it said it...pregnant.  What?

That morning, I was all smiles and chatter with the lab ladies. I squealed a little when my doctor called me with a 154 beta and went about the next day dreaming of G's sibling and nurseries. I know-dangerous, but I indulged.

And then the next day, it hit. I've felt it before-that heavy feeling of dread, waiting for the bottom to fall out. This is more than pessimism, more than the echo of loss or infertility. This was intuition, my body's voice, that knew the next day's news would not be good. And it was spot on. My second beta was 178. It barely went up, and was far from doubled.  My doctor proposed a few scenarios-either this was twins and one was petering out (yet still we would have seen that number go up more), we were waiting for a miscarriage or it was an ectopic. That's what brought me to that third beta on Monday.

So, when my doctor called Monday afternoon, she asked, "so what does your intuition tell you today?" with the sing-song quality of good news in her voice.  "It's not good." I said. Well, apparently it had gone up, close to doubling. 325. I was more than confused and back onto the roller coaster.

What do I think about this? I try not to think either way. Easier said than done. Tomorrow, Friday, is my fourth beta. I'll be sitting in that same chair trying to stifle tears and I'll spend that morning afterward with my eyes glued to my phone.  I can't see from where I'm sitting that this could be good news, but I want more than anything for it to be. I'm spending my moments balancing realism, impending grief and hope and it's exhausting. Either way, I'd love to get some definitive news and stop living on the roller coaster of the unknown.

Friday, September 7, 2012

Silent Monologue

Me: "Aw, what was the twinge? I'm getting my period I bet. I bet it's my period. Goddmanit! I bet it's all over."
Me (2 seconds later): "What if that's implantation cramps? Are there such a thing? Cause, it could happen. I could be pregnant!!"
Me (2 seconds after that): "Holy crap! My boobs are sore. They're never sore. But I'm certain it's the progesterone. It has to be. My boobs weren't even sore when I was actually pregnant. And there's just no way I'm pregnant. This is so not gonna happen."
Me (4 seconds later): "I went a whole four seconds without thinking about every twinge in my body. Go me!"
Me (2 seconds later): "What was that twinge? Damn it!"

Suspended Possibilities

This may very well be my last chance at another child and the weight of that hasn't completely sunk in. 

I held on to these two embryos for three years with a steel-laced grip. Changes, bills and tragedies piled high throughout that time, leaving me undoubtedly unprepared, so the decision to keep them in storage was almost always a no-brainer.  And then I realized the main reason why they were still waiting: suspended possibilities.

You see, I thought that as long as they remained, so too did the possibility of another child. Their very existence, the bill that I received every month, meant that the game wasn't over. And that once I went forward with the cycle, should it fail, meant that any possibility of another child would be gone with them.

While this could very well be true, I came to a place recently (though I'm not sure when) during which I was ready to let those possibilities fly, whichever direction they chose. I became ready to accept their destiny and as a result, mine. And in some strange way, I felt a peace in doing it. Letting go of this dangling unknown to see where it may go has been strangely freeing and yet anxiety provoking at the same time.  My cushion of insurance is gone.

How is it that the end of these next several days will likely reveal a turning point in my life? How can one treatment, a few snapshots in time, change a person's path completely? I know that well, but I still can't understand it. This game of gamble where so many put all of their chips down on one dream can either bring about the greatest thing imaginable, a child, or it can stop it on a dime. It's a dream giver, a dream crusher, and I will soon (but not soon enough) find out on which side of the coin mine will fall.


It was a split-second decision I made several weeks ago. After committing to halting our FET until I was ready, I decided that I was suddenly...ready. At once I was in a much better space both physically and emotionally and the timing at work seemed to make sense (which it rarely does), so I embarked on returning our 3 1/2 year old embryos. As of today, I am officially PUPO.

Weird. I have a coupla embies floatin' around in me, each deciding whether to stick around.  Maybe they've already made the decision. That stuff, well, it's still surreal, even after having experienced it the first time around (and watching one of those said embryos from three years ago go to preschool today).

The journey to this transfer was especially harrowing this time around and it wasn't just about being loaded up with crazy-making hormones. After attending a quick work meeting the morning of (I know, stupid decision, but I wanted to get it out of the way) and my son's preschool orientation for 20 minutes after that (it was worth it), Mr. S and I rushed off to the clinic for my pre-treatment acupuncture for what was supposed to be a 30 minute commute. We would have arrived in plenty of time. At that point, it was about an hour-and-a-half until transfer.  So, that 30 minute commute? Well, as we sat in inching traffic just fifteen minutes from our house, we discovered that our commute was projected to have over two hours of delays due to freeway closures.

  Cue all that is anti-relaxation.

It turns out that there was an officer-involved shooting on the freeway somewhere between our town and the clinic during which both the suspect and an officer were shot. Although I am now heartbroken for the family of the officer (who just passed away today), at the time, I have to honestly say that I was hyper-focused on what was in front of me, especially as I sat in a frozen stream of traffic with the fullest bladder imaginable. It was well beyond discomfort and into the seering pain stage.

After finally finding our way off the freeway, I peed for what seemed like 5 minutes straight and we got back on for another hour, taking a very diverted path. As soon as we arrived at the clinic, we did not pass go, collect $200 (no they collected far more than that) and did not do pre-acupuncture. Instead, I was ushered straight into the stirrups. As I lay there, it became one of the most odd de-ja-vu experiences.

Except, this was different. I'd been here before, but then, I haven't. 3 1/2 years later, I do not have the assurance of the package of 6 IVFs waiting for me or the non-elevated FSH ovaries that would make it possible for me to go back and do it again. But one thing I do have is a child. So, although de-ja-vu, I was looking at the experience with a very different lens. Nevertheless, my longing is no less.

And so begins the complete and total mindf%$ that is the *sorta* 2 WW. I forgot how intense it could be.  Namely, I forgot how much it SUCKS MONKEY BALLS. More on that....

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Plan B...or C. Hell, I Have No Idea What Plan I'm On.

My originally scheduled FET *would* have been today (if all went according to plan). But, it didn't. You know what they say about the best laid plans...

Except that instead of pointing my finger at some whore-bag cyst or lab error or something to that effect, I'm going to chalk this one up to life.  And life, well, she's been a bit of a bitch lately.

When I made the decision to go forward with our frozens, it was just a few months past my mother's death.  Perhaps an outsider might have determined that I was being a bit hasty there, but that outsider might not have been privy to a laundry list of other details that seemed to make the timing ideal, not the least of which is my steadily disappearing fertility (if it was ever there to begin with) and the fact that it was scheduled smack dab in the middle of my 6 weeks of summer vacation.  Perfect, right?

What I didn't anticipate, though, was that there was a competing laundry list of reasons why the timing was absolutely awful, all of which I was blinded to until more recently.

At the beginning of the list: my stomach. My doc and I have suspected an ulcer for at least a year now.  Fatty foods, alcohol, stress=a gnawing, burning pit of fire in my gut.  Right before I was slated to start my cycle, my GI issues were kicked into high gear and I decided at the suggestion of an acupuncturist (certainly not the beeyotch I dealt with before!) to tackle those first.  I was really bummed, but decided to postpone the cycle for a month.

And then Mr. S did something to his toe. We're not sure what, but I can tell you that it has rendered him almost completely unable to move around for almost a month. While our help with childcare has been limited to nil, I have found myself unable to go to acupuncture appointments and feeling really isolated and overwhelmed with parenting much of the time on my own. While I have made efforts to get out of the house and involve my son in social activities, the truth is, I don't have much in the way of family and quite frankly, friends, at least locally.

Perhaps this isolation is exacerbated by the absence of one of the most important people in my life, a reality I am still trying so hard to wrap my head around. I am still so frequently shocked at how raw and new the pain still is over losing my Mom.  I truly believe I underestimated the weight I am still carrying.  It can expertly mask itself, but make no mistake-it is a power player.

Here I was, in the middle of what should have been perfectly unblemished summer days strolling in the sunshine with my miracle baby, but instead I've been overcome with fatigue, anger, loneliness. I've been here before and it's not a good place.  So, with that being said, I am not at the top of my game for the child I already have, so why in the world would I even consider adding someone else right now?

I wouldn't.

I went to my doctor (primary care) today who I have long suspected was a fellow IFer (I've been trying to align myself to get 'the confession').  Sure enough, she is. When I shared my concerns about my physical and mental health, she recommended that I ignore my clock and take care of me first. Yes, she pulled out the "you can adopt" card, but I allowed her this pass as that's exactly what she did.  And you know, whether that's our destiny or maybe these frozens will take or whatever, it gave me a fair amount of peace because the look on her face was one of fulfillment and not at all matching what I felt-a place of constant worry and despair.

So, the short story is, I am voluntarily postponing our FET until I feel it is time.  That could be another two months or perhaps longer. I won't know until I reach it. Living in this uncertainty is maddening for a planner like me, but I refuse to waste my last chance. While circumstances will never be perfect, there's certainly a lot of room for improvement.

Monday, June 11, 2012

The End to the Acupuncturist's Saga...

To get up to speed, start two entries below this one and work your way up. I guess it can be read as a thread of sorts. Anyhow, this is my final response to this lady by email. No, it is not at all healthy to wallow in anger (and believe me, I'm pissed), but I would have felt like letting sleeping dogs lie would have been doing a disservice to myself (for not standing up to this self-righteous douche bag) and future infertiles that happen upon her.

"Dear fucktard acupuncturist-

As my husband put it, 'worst response ever.' Actually, negligent and insensitive come to mind.

If I had realized that you had such a soap box that, if you look closely enough at your email, demonizes me throughout, I never would have stepped foot in your door. That is the antithesis of being a healer. I feel sick that I paid you money at all.

I can understand that being in your business you have to hold passionately onto eastern medicine alone, but that is where we differ. You see, I believe that neither western nor eastern medicine have all the answers, but I'll tell you that the former gifted me the greatest little boy imaginable. And when you feel the need to use my session to state sweeping conclusions that even science has not definitively come to (and please, do not argue this point as it is not THE point) when you are being paid to 'help' the very process you demonize, you are hitting below the belt and not being consistent. This has to do with my family and yes, I take this personally. You should have recognized this and if you had any social understanding, you would see that using me (who endured countless years of infertility and treatment) to evangelize and expound on the evils of IVF would only hurt, not help. In short, your words were not well received.

And for goodness sakes, speaking for future clients, please reconsider serving anyone with infertility who will or has approached medical intervention. When someone has reached this point in their journey, they are well educated and above all, heart broken. None of us wanted to be down this road and none of us need any further trampling on our hearts.

I am not AT ALL interested in maintaining this dialogue. Please do not respond. Your tales of being 'disturbed' by what I'm doing to build my family will not be helpful to either of us."

Holy Cuh-Rap. Hold Me Back Because I am About to Cut a Bitch!

Well, folks. I sure do know how to pick 'em. For the back story on this acupunturist, see the post below this one.

After sending the acupuncturist a politely-worded email just voicing my concern, this is what I got back in response:

"Dear S:

Good Luck on this journey and your opinion was received. My intention was to inform and perhaps spare more suffering down the road.. My belief is that knowledge is Power..

I am viewing your situation from a different paradigm and world view.. The cause and effect from Functional medicine points out very clearly the relationship between a mothers metabolism directly effects the baby's.. The IVF specialists may not talk about this because essentially it is about pumping up the body to whatever degree is needed to get the job done so to speak..If the drugs overload the organs and cause toxicity that is what the baby ingests as well. allopathic medicine only registers toxicity at life threatening levels but the science of functional medicine is looking at the toxicity coming from the mothers placenta at birth.. The stats are startling and I think in mainstream we don't "register or acknowledge these stats.

This is why I was so forthright in sharing my opinion Because I am deeply disturbed as other professional colleagues.. again the argument about genetics is not really looking at the environmental stressors that cause the genetic mutations.Anyway I think you got my point. I hope this was helpful and not more disturbing for you.. actually is not easy for me to inform you but I felt as practitioner it is my responsibility..

best to you"

If that isn't the most full-of-herself crapola I've ever read! It's almost laughable. Almost. Except for the bulging, pulsating vein in my forehead and sky-rocketing blood pressure. Thoughts?

Maybe I'm Overreacting?

Nothing brings out the hypersensitivity than infertility for me. I forget that not everyone exists on the plane where using the term 'implanting' for embryo transfers or suggesting that relaxation cures all makes them homicidal as it does for me.  And as I get closer to my cycle, this becomes more so (and no, I'm not even on meds yet!)

So, keeping this in mind, I have a hard time viewing my recent acupuncture appointment with objectivity. Perhaps you can help me with this...

During our session, I mentioned that my son, G, who is of course an IVF baby, has allergies. Just to clarfiy, they're seasonal allergies and they get pretty pronounced during spring, with runny eyes/nose when he's outside. I don't know about you, but it seemed like EVERYONE had allergies this last season. He also seems to have some minor rashes that crop up from time-to-time, all of which have subsided since the summer has approached. OK, so with that being said, do you know what her response was?

He has allergies because he was the product of IVF, because, as you know, she shares, IVF babies are more likely to have allergies. This was said without any consideration that we have allergies in the family or that we live against an overgrown hill or that perhaps many women needing IVF have more autoimmune issues and therefore are likely to have heritable allergies, thus increasing the numbers of IVF babies with allergies.

Then, as I'm reeling inside from this (but too much of a pussy to call her on her logic that is pointing out a long string of correlation rather than causation in research), she also indicates that I still have toxins in my tissues from IVF...three years later.

I am not here to argue whether any of the above points have basis (although it sounds like it). I think IVF is too young of a technology for us to have all of the answers, but so far what we've seen is what I mentioned--there can be any number of exlplantions for the conclusions she's hung her hat on and announced to me as I embark on another cycle.

But that's still beside the point.

My point is this: if you have an IVF soap box you wish to share, let me give you some advice. Do not pick the moment when you have a paying customer full of needles who is about to embark on a cycle and already has a child conceived via IVF laying in front of you to share it. You with me?

In a way, I felt like she was demonizing the process and, indirectly, me. Your child, her words suggested to me, is less healthy because of something you did. And now you're about to do it again, possibly to another child. Would I have loved to conceive my child without medication? You bet your sweet ass I would, but that wasn't in the cards.  Maybe that makes me sound hypersensitive and paranoid, but even after years of developing thicker skin, I guess this infertile lady still needs to treated with kid gloves because these subjects--infertility and my child, will always be close to my heart.

Thursday, May 31, 2012


"Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn't do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover." -Mark Twain

Years ago, when it became time to face what I knew would be a long haul with fertility treatment, I froze. It was after two years of trying on our own, a clomid cycle from my gynecologist and then an IUI from RE #1, all without so much as a faint line on a pee stick. After moving back to our home state following these attempts at parenthood, I walked into an appointment with an RE (one who would have been #2) and walked out before the front desk could call my name. As much as I deeply longed for a child, something stopped me in my tracks. Six years later, I'm still not sure I can put a name to it, but it would take another year after that before I would walk through the doors of another fertility clinic.

Money, time, or fear of failure. Perhaps all of the above were the culprits. And yet 6 IUIs, one IVF, one child and six years later, and that pause in my chest still lingers.

For Mr. S, it has been a number of things. I think he had a less than successful sibling experience (and continues to), while I had a less than successful only child experience. I was lonely and now that both of my parents are gone, I virtually have no family outside of my husband and child. My only option is to create one. That loneliness seems to be digging even deeper trenches in me as I face the idea of my mortality and being on the front lines of my family. I am standing here as the last generation, watching the people in my life dwindle and I am questioning what I want from this life. Well, I want more. Call me selfish, but don't call me ungrateful. I cherish what I have so much that I long for it to multiply and according to my personal medical statistics, this next year is likely my only chance to see it happen, if ever.

As I said to Mr. S, "We have our whole lives to make money, but this is our only opportunity to make babies."

But again, Mr. S has been less-than-thrilled with the prospect and as anyone fighting the battle of IF knows, if you both aren't on the same page, you're nowhere.  And that's where I've existed in the space of family building for a long while-in some far off no man's land. I have two frozen embryos that have been in storage for more than three years and a conversation I've been too terrified to begin for fear of its consequences. I hadn't approached Mr. S on the topic in months. I was terrified that I might learn he was done, for good, and doubly terrified that even if he agreed to push forward, it would only be with the frozens and not a fresh and that they would prove unsuccessful and I would squander my very last chance. So, my fear of failure, of the unknown, stunted me from moving forward, perhaps much in the same way it did that day I walked out of that RE's office so many years ago.

In the last few months of my Mom's life, she and I discussed baby names constantly.  It was her hope that she would leave me enough money to pursue treatment. It was my hope that she would live long enough to exhaust that money, but she didn't. So, one of the things that stood in our way was eliminated the day she died. It was her gift, one that I would have given back in a heartbeat for another day with her.

About a month and a half after she passed away, my friend, Sarang, gave me this beautiful necklace in remembrance of my mother:

It's my Mom's initials, VRT, a pearl and an angel wing. Lest you think I'm floating way off topic, take a look at this picture of the necklace in the mirror:

Maybe I'm the only one who sees it, but in the mirror, her initials in this font reflected back spell, "TRY."

Try. It was her whisper to me. When I saw that, I knew. I would no longer sit and be held back simply because of the fear of failure. I have never regretted trying and failing any of my cycles. But if I wait any longer, I will.  I will regret deeply letting the opportunity my Mom worked so hard for slip by because of the same cowardice that prevented me from letting her in on the words I had locked in my heart before she died.  I know firsthand that the pain from regret is much heavier than the pain of having tried and failed, so in that sense, I have some control over my destiny.

A few days after seeing the reflection and building up the courage, I approached Mr. S. It wasn't easy. I had no idea the outcome and was prepared to begin grieving a child who would never be born, as so many of us are faced to do on this journey. After consideration, he agreed we should go forward with our frozens. And so, the wheels have been set in motion once again. This summer I'll climb right back into those stirrups and give it at least one more last shot.

While I might never give birth to another child, I will look back and know that at least I tried, that I didn't let fear stand in my way this time. And that my Mom made this possible and just the opportunity alone is one of the greatest gifts I have ever received.

Friday, April 20, 2012


Forgive me, I'm new here, to this place you call grief. Well, relatively new. I had an introduction back when we lost our first baby and later, when my Dad died. While I love my Dad and miss him terribly, this is the first time I've lost a best friend, my mother, and it's nothing that I've ever known.

I'm a school psychologist and was also trained as a marriage family therapist. Having counseled many in grief, I intellectually knew what that meant. The five stages-the bargaining, anger, acceptance, etc. I knew what that could look like, but to actually stumble through it on my own is pointedly different. I'm groping blind in the darkness and no amount of textbooks or having seen the looks on other faces that I now see on my own has prepared me. No matter how much I braced myself for what I knew would happen, made it any better when it did.

I never knew that grief would be a trickster. Cruel and always at the ready, it is never far behind me. I never knew how quickly that one moment or even an entire day feeling as if I could breathe again could be ripped out of my hands when least expected. The minutest of details and the most mundane of activities remind me that she's gone. Every street corner echos her name and yet, she only lived here for just under four months.

I drive to the store-simple enough, right? Except that all I can think about is the night before she died when I went there to buy BenGay for her. She was in pain from being in the same position, but too weak to get comfortable. Aside from the pain medication, it was the only thing that gave her any physical comfort and now I can't even stoamch the store I bought it from, which used to be my regular haunt. Instead, I make excuses to go to distant stores. Sometimes in the middle of my day, I can still smell BenGay in the air. Even my god damn toilet bowl cleaner smells like it, so every time I clean my toilets, I'm taken back to that night.

I go to work, which seems like neutral territory, but it's not. Recently, the high school I work at had a demonstration for a program about drunk driving on our upper parking lot. It was a simulation of what might happen after a drunk driving-related crash with the fire department, paramedics, a helicopter, crashed cars, and of course, some students playing either injured or dead. I floated on the outskirts of the crowd and felt assured that even with being in a vulnerable time of my life, the demonstration was 'fake' enough. And then they started to bring the 'dead' kids out on stretchers covered in body bags and who should show up? The town funeral director in his minivan. He was the one who took care of my Mom. I watched him for a moment, thinking I was fine and then I realized that that minivan was the last car my Mom was ever in. It was the same year, make and model as mine and instantly I was in tears. Just the sight of him threw me into the most unexpected tailspin for the rest of the day-no, week. I've been trying to recover, but it feels like everytime I claw my way up, I slip back down.

Exisiting in any moment where there's not noise is impossible. Putting my son to sleep in the quiet darkness, driving, it's all a portal for ushering in recollections of what I've lost, what I'll never touch again, and most of all, what I might have taken for granted.

Even my own cell phone, my life blood, is a reminder. I used to talk to my Mother everyday, always when I was leaving work, so now that walk to my car with my silent cell phone in my pocket is like a funeral I relive over and over again.

A little over a week ago, I had Mr. S restore my phone. Being completely technologically naive, I had no idea that it would erase my voicemails-over a year's worth of "I love yous" from her. In fact, I made a mental note a few months ago while listening to her last voice mail (not knowing that it was the last at the time) that I wanted to keep it forever because of how incredibly loving it was. It's gone. And because my Mother was completely video camera shy, I have very little to remember her voice by. Mr. S worked long and hard to recover some of the lost voicemails from a backup months back, but the one I wanted was lost. It was like losing her all over again.

That's the way life feels nowadays-like I re-lose her everyday.  I wake up and remember. I reach for my phone on my way out of my office and remember. Every other moment I remember. She's gone.

I am 33, the same age she was when she had me. I have plans to live past 66, but more than ever before I recognize that there are no guarantees. There's no guarantee that I'll see 34, even. But assuming all goes according to 'plan', I will have spent more of my life without her than with her. That seems impossible to me, too tragic to wrap my mind around. Our time was too brief. I am still learning not to live in my regrets, my feelings of being robbed. Give me time. I'll learn somehow, but again, I'm new here. Still learning the ropes.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Mother to the End

I am writing my mother's obituary. As much as this is a moment that is natural and circle-of-life, it is at the same time the stuff nightmares are made of. I'm staring at a blank page. How do I begin? 66 years of life thrown into type doesn't seem feasible. The complicated and beautiful and hard and ultimately deeply loving mother/daughter relationship ended and somehow fit into words. Impossible.

Our relationship was just that-complicated. There was so much emotion, for better, for worse, but when I simplify everything, as life and death moments require you to do, I see all that mattered. My Mother loved me. Beyond measure. During her last moments, she worried that I hadn't eaten and insisted I finish her soup. I did, and it was awful. Depite that, I drank every last drop as she no longer had the strength to. She wanted me to go home, get some rest. She could barely speak the words and yet, she devoted the last of her energy to them. Simply put, she was a mother to the very end.

When I think of my last moments, I hope my son can say the same.