Thursday, December 19, 2013

But He Doesn't Look Like You...

Between toting my son to a holiday work party to showing his picture off to a few work people here and there, I've gotten some interesting reactions of late. It always the begins the same: they look at my son carefully, he with his dark hair and prominent, dark eyebrows, a near-spitting image of Mr. S, and then they look back at me, even more carefully, with my lighter hair (dyed, people!) and plucked eyebrows (I promise they used to be formidable before the transgressions of my youth) and then back again. And you immediately see the wheels turning. A great majority of the time they make a remark like, "Wow. He must look just like his father" (translation: he doesn't look anything like you)

It gives me pause. It doesn't bother me because this is not an insult.  In my humble opinion, my kid is off-the-charts adorable. But for a split second I remind myself that, no, they did not mix up the egg in the lab (this has actually been a running joke since he birth) and I have more than enough proof of this that isn't immediately obvious. But why do I feel the need to remind myself? Why do I feel the need to call to mind his eye color, his chin, his cheeks, the way his skin is almost translucent when he's cold? (yes, an unfortunate reality for my Mom and I as well) Ah, IVF is a funny thing...(and people's obsessions about the visual expression of genetics is even weirder...)

And then I instantly wonder what this exchange will be like when my child actually does not have a genetic connection to me. Will I be released of this odd, split-second need to remind to myself that my genes really are hidden there, somewhere? Or will their inspections actually discomfort me more than they do? I guess I always figured it would roll off my back, but perhaps I am being naïve. I might have some thick skin and a few canned catch phrases to develop before the day comes.

And then there's this: what if I learned tomorrow that they HAD actually mixed up the egg and that my son did not have my genetics after all? Would that change how I feel about him? Without hesitation I would give a resounding, "no." It wouldn't change a single thing about our relationship. It would certainly bring up questions and concerns about a health heredity I know nothing about (and most notably my clinic's competence--oh, how I would question that!), but as far as how I think and feel about him, how I parent, it wouldn't change things in the least. So, I know that if I can say this for certain about him, I can say it with near certainty for a future child.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Pretending to Move Forward

Radio silence from me here is never for lack of care. Or love, because I love this blog. Oh, how I love this blog. I have loved it since I typed my first word here over five years ago.  I knew we were meant to be from that moment. It's like a good, but distant friend, someone you can't speak to on a daily (and sometimes, regrettably, monthly) basis, but you know life would never be the same without them and when you do catch up, it's as if you never parted. It all falls back into place like muscle memory.

But then life, and especially work, has a way of swallowing me whole and preventing me from making that connection (both literal friends and figurative blog friend, actually). I'm someone who processes best through writing. In fact, when I am assessing a student who has a complicated case and I can't seem to make heads or tails of it despite consulting with others, it is only when I sit down and start writing their report that-voilà!-the direction I need to go with them becomes clear, or, in the very least, as clear as it can be. This is what this space has been for me personally. While I can't say that I have everything figured out by the time I hit publish, I am markedly closer to that place of peace once I do. In other words, I need this space. There's nothing quite like it in the world for me.

It is always surprising to me, then, that when time thins and I become stressed, I start cutting out all that is helpful to me, believing these activities to somehow be luxuries, self-indulgent even. That's how blogging goes by the wayside. And then, in a lovely vicious cycle type of way that I am quite well-versed in, I have no outlet for that stress and cut out even more to compensate (and then get even more stressed). Rinse, repeat. One day I'll learn, right?  These days, well, the learning curve is still too steep to navigate.  I am, as always, my own worst enemy. (more on that in coming posts)

As far as updating goes, I have had little (teeny tiny) bits of happenings on the IF horizon. In the process of attempting to dash any thoughts of babies from my mind (a feat I fail miserably at), I got a private message from a forum a few weeks ago looking to donate a single embryo to us. Although I knew in my heart from the very moment I read it that the plan actually coming to fruition was a longshot, there was something about the possibility that made me pay attention to something that I thought I could keep denying. The message came as a result of a post I had left on a forum a long while back (prior to our decision to only pursue egg donation).  The original forum post was a request for more information about open embryo donation specifically and at the time of the posting, I had not yet gotten down to brass tax with Mr. S. When he finally made it clear that this was not a route he was willing to take, I never considered taking the post down. And for reasons that may be obvious, I'm not yet ready to do so now.

So, for the second time I approached Mr. S about embryo donation, but this time I had more specifics: an embryo whose parents had a full sibling and were willing to explore an open relationship (huge, huge bonus). At once I had this embryo formed into a child in my mind, with a brother (my son) beside him/her and a boy several states away who had the potential to be another lovely addition to their life and very importantly, a key to their genetics.  Yes, I skirted this fantasy for several days until the following occurred:

  • I did the math and realized that the amount of money we would have to spend just for a chance at this single embryo didn't make sense, even from a gambling fertility treatment perspective.
  • Mr. S did not change his tune. No surprise there. But at least it got us talking about the elephant in the middle of every room I step into.

The next day I was approached by someone who could connect me with a family looking to donate multiple embryos, but the latter of my bullet points above stopped that one immediately.  I don't say this to point fingers, either. If it takes two to tango anywhere, then family building is at the top of that list. And this is certainly not the first time in history two spouses have been on different pages regarding this.  So, as it stands, we will pursue egg day. Today, tomorrow, a few months from now? Not likely. But, I have to admit, it was pretty nice to pretend for a few days that I was finally moving forward.  

Thursday, October 24, 2013

BlogHer in San Jose Next Summer? Um, yes please!

I have been wanting to attend BlogHer for years, so after hearing a first hand account of the experience in Chicago from one of my good buddies, I had already (somewhat publically) declared that no matter where 2014 was being held (with a few scary town exceptions), I was prepared to pack my bags! Well, the BlogHer gods apparently heard my call because it's being held in my hometown/backyard next year.  Squeee! Needless to say, I am registering soon.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Running Parallel to 2008

My inferti-dar is (as far as I know) unchallenged in it's accuracy. And, interestingly enough, I have fallen into a number of social situations during which I've found my red-threaded sisters. I could pick them out of crowd from a 100 yards back, and when they've finally confessed their infertility, do you know what I've done? Skirted the issue. Yeah. She who once proclaimed herself an IF warrior, who once took it as a personal mission to lift other IFers up, found herself running for the hills at the mere mention of broken reproductive organs. Pretty lame...

I wouldn't exactly say I was 'running for the hills', per say (I do tend to be overdramatic in my writing sometimes). I didn't shut them down or stop listening and I didn't give them the lame platitudes they probably hear often from some of their ill-advised but well-meaning friends, but I certainly didn't go out of my way to either get or give more information as I would have just a year or two ago. I showed empathy and let the subject linger long enough so as to not express the reluctance I was feeling, and then, as soon as the polite window rolled open, I was out. Frankly, the subject is just too painful.

I find myself right back in the place where I was 5 years ago. OK, perhaps not in the exact place as I now have a child, but I could literally rewrite every one of my posts from 2008 (just insert child). They would be nearly as angsty and heart-broken and after having my son, I never EVER would've believed it possible to be dropped right back into the middle of that mess. I could still blog about my most recent miscarriage and my frustration over the lack of movement towards any resolution, only I could write many more chapters on that last part now. In 2008, I was in active treatment for at least half the year. Currently, I haven't seen a needle since October of 2012.

OK. Let's just let this last statement sink in. I am sitting here lamenting that I haven't gotten the chance to pump myself full of hormones. Seriously. Sometimes I wonder what reality I'm sitting in. But it is a reality that has me feeling trapped and hopeless. Without the highest level of medical intervention, my chance for another child is a solid 0%. I think it's safe to say that after 9 years. And without that chance, I am in limbo, infertility purgatory, where I can neither begin to grieve and move on or start making plans. You'd think I would have had enough training in the unknown and unresolved by now, but I guess not.  I am in a nebulous space, a lonely space, and the mere mention of infertility, even in casual conversations with strangers, threatens to bring me to tears. This is why I cannot be anyone's shoulder just yet.

I could also talk about my husband's reluctance to throw money at the chance to have a child when he is content with how our life is currently, only now it would include the statement, "another" child and the price would be much higher. And, in some respects, I could still talk about how isolating being here is, except back then in 2008, I could drop in on a regular RESOLVE meeting and feel heard. Now, that doesn't feel like a possibility. As I've mentioned in the past, I am a square peg trying to fit in a round hole in IF support land.

While there are obvious differences between now and then, the most important element remains the same: I want to get to that little person who I've never met, but I don't know how or IF it will happen. That old familiar feeling has revisited me, telling me that someone is missing here and although I thought it part of my past, I find myself consumed by it once again.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

My Infertility Survival Philosophy

There's a philosophy that has gotten me through the hell fires of infertility thus far. I've used it since the beginning, when we began to realize that parenthood was a longer shot than we anticipated. It's not a perfect concept, I'll admit, but it works for me and it is simply this: what's meant to be will be.

It seems it may be bordering on religious but I tend to think of it as spiritual, this idea that all of the cells and circumstances in this universe are not mere coincidence, that there is some form of unseen magic behind it all, thus a meaning and a plan.  In regards to infertility, I always felt that whoever was meant to join us would come in their own way and on their own timeline. And he did.

 Had any of the other cycles before my son worked, the truth is, the child wouldn't have been the one who is in my life now. So G--he was meant to be. And infertility, that was meant to be. Lately, this has helped me handle the fact that we are in a waiting pattern with cycling.  My philosophy has allowed me to believe that this waiting is not all for naught, that I am merely preparing for the one who belongs in the picture, but I just don't know yet how or when that will be. Or perhaps another will never join us and that will be the plan, but we'll find a way to a life that is meant to be. The unknowns are the hardest, but this way of seeing the world makes it more bearable.

But then in writing this, I stopped myself and let it sit for a week or so because it was too flawed, this way of thinking. Where this becomes an imperfect concept is understanding that it wouldn't have been helpful in an alternate universe. Nothing truly horrific has happened to me (and I mean truly horrific-I don't need to go into details-let your mind wander). I've lost people, and yes, earlier than most my age, but it was in the normal order of the universe. Parents before kids.  And with family building, although stalled by many more years than I would have liked, for all intents and purposes, my dreams came true. The philosophy worked for me in the end, but what if it hadn't? Would I still be able to hang my hat on it? That what's meant to be will be?

I've been grappling with that lately. Am I deluding myself in thinking that the way the world moves forward for me is kismet when there are others who haven't been as lucky? What makes me any more deserving of a plan that is fortunate?

Or--is it not the wind, but how you adjust your sails that I need to look at? Perhaps it is this philosophy alone and not particular circumstances that make a person blessed. There are people who do have truly horrific things happen and they find a way to live on and it is their perception alone that carries them. And, of course, there is the vice-versa version where people who have what would generally be perceived as fortunate circumstances bemoan their existence.

I don't know. For now, I still must believe that everything big or small, losing someone, leaving the house at a certain time, is meant to happen and serves as the stepping stone for the next event and then the next, and so on.  Despite it's flaws, I feel I have no other choice but to consciously embrace this philosophy of destiny because sometimes, and especially with infertility, it's one of the only things driving me forward.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

My Own Facebook Foibles

In sharing my FB pet peeves, I realize that I might have come off as a self righteous hypocrite. So, to balance the scales, let me follow up with some of the annoying ways I contribute to FB's lowest common denominator:

  • I post about my kid way too much. The people in my newsfeed (assuming they haven't blocked me) will be treated to a nearly daily dose of how ridiculously clever and adorable my offspring is.  Did you need to see 30 pictures (from every angle) of his recent hip-hop dance recital? Ummm...yeah. Because he was wearing gold chains, a sideways baseball cap and posing like a straight up thug. And he's the whitest kid alive. IMHO, it was high-larious.
  • On that note, I'm hilarious! Or at least I think I am. So, most of my updates are either of my kid or me trying to take a stab at standup comedy by way of social media.  Looking back, I probably miss the mark most of the time. Sorry for that.
  • In my efforts to be the next greatest FB comedian, I probably post too many ecards.
  • And my dog. Have you seen my dog? She's almost as adorable as the kid, so it stands to reason that she gets nearly as much screen time. Remember when I said that I unfriend almost no one? Well, that's not completely true. If you diss my dog, you're out. A previous coworker once posted about how she was tired of seeing pictures of everyone's pets. My unfriending finger got a good workout that day.
  • And finally, I post way too often. Period. While I'm not one of those people who announces when they're going to bed or what they had for dinner (unless it was epic, although I do draw the line on food pics), I'll admit I am pretty boring. Why do I post so often? Maybe I missed my chance to be on stage and am reclaiming it in a very indirect way. I won't lie. I might be a closet attention whore.

I'm probably violating someone else's 'Facebook' rules, but unless you avoid posting altogether, I think it's impossible not to, so I say this: do whatever the heck you want on Facebook. If people (like me) have a problem with it, then we know where the block or unfriend button is. And most of us (who are not me) aren't afraid to use it.

Thursday, August 22, 2013


It seems to me that the season for annoying Facebook posts is in full swing. I guess most people on my newsfeed got the memo and as a result, my blocking finger has been getting a good workout. But don't get me wrong. I love me some Facebook, like in need of a 12-step program and twitching when I don't get my fix kind-of-love. I sometimes catch myself checking it compulsively on my phone throughout the day and am shocked by how cemented the memory of the action is in my muscles when I catch myself reaching down and opening the app before I even know what's consciously taking place.  And then I remember all the douche baggery that keeps taking place there and wonder where my local FBA is (Facebookers anonymous). Luckily, all the great people on my newsfeed balance the scales.

From what I've gathered, it seems as if there are three breeds of sharing that exist in the Facebook world:

  • Those who portray a flawless and oftentimes ridiculously exciting or perfect existence. (seriously, they're parasailing in Grand Cayman again? And how did they maintain their perfect makeup mid-air above the water while taking a selfie?)
  • Those who vomit every last sordid and awful detail of their lives-including detailed medical and relationship information- and in the process make themselves look beyond miserable (perhaps they are-but most of the time you conclude that no one is possibly THAT miserable).
  • And the others, the neutral folks (because their participation is either limited or portrays pretty run-of-the-mill, boring life stuff, like getting an oil change or weeding-YAWN.)

As for me, because I try to have boundaries and not use FB as my personal diary, on most days I fall into the last category. But I realize that to some, at least from the outside looking in, it may appear as if I'm actually more in line with the first (without the parasailing), for unless you're willing to portray the whole picture, your life will almost always look glossed to a high shine. While I complained about weeding my backyard and posted from my professional family pictures (all of which were set in fields aglow in sunlight), no one was privy to the fact that they were taken just a few days after I learned I had lost our baby and the day before my D and C. And people, without any background beyond that, begin to believe that this is my reality, that weeds may actually be my biggest issue and that I spend more than a fair majority of my time laughing in sun-drenched fields, petting horses with my family without a care in the world.

That's the problem with 'socializing' through media. The information you receive is so selective and therefore misleading. I mean, I guess in 'regular' socializing this is also the case to an extent. You need to edit depending on your audience, of course, but in a face-to-face situation, there are no professional photography cover photos or witty, insightful quotes that make you look like the next Maya Angelou. And Facebook runs the risk of making you feel even more alone because while everyone seems to be parasailing in the Grand Cayman on your newsfeed, you take a look around at your life and it seems at that moment like you're the only one barely keeping their head above water (except for the random needy miserable status update person--if it weren't for them, well, then, things would look really grim).

So, at the risk of sounding like I'm whining about the very thing I'm addicted to (really, I do enjoy it more than I hate it), I figured I'd list a few of my long-standing pet peeves:

Social Media Rules

The rules to social media etiquette are beyond baffling, right?!? I ask (somewhat desperately): who do you friend, who do you not friend and mostly, who do you UN-friend??

I have a number of people I've blocked FOREVER, as in, I've not seen them in my newsfeed since almost day one of my FB use (which is going on almost 6 years). It's almost as if we've never been friends, so why continue to actually BE friends on FB? Well, because some people actually consider a friend request denial or an unfriending akin to a literal slap in the face and quite frankly, with all of the customizing features (blocking, selecting audiences for status updates), I'd rather avoid that drama.  My question always is, is it worth it? most times, it's not.

Maybe avoiding drama isn't a good enough reason to be strong-armed into maintaining people on my friends list, but this stuff is not black-andwhite. That's not to say that I don't 'clean house' from time-to-time, either. I have no issue taking someone off who I've not been in any contact with and probably will never run into again. Most of those I've maintained are people who I have a high chance of interacting with again.

Personally, though, you'd have to be a pretty close friend or family member for your unfriending to move me at all.  Speaking of which, my cousin (who I'm not close to at all) unfriended me and his sister (who he is close to) on FB in November because of our politics. And I wasn't overzealous in my political posts. I literally posted once about my chosen candidate. At the end of the day, I found it completely amusing that he would do that, but didn't take offense at all.  Some people, however, do.

The Reciprocator:

Here's the thing: if I like or comment on your status update or picture, it's because I really genuinely like it, not because I feel I owe you anything since you liked mine. That's also the way I feel about blog commenting. I will not get offended if you don't reciprocate. What I've seen happen frequently, however, is that when I like someone's update or picture, they all of a sudden start liking ALL of mine when they had not previously done so. (This only applies to acquaintances, not close friends) Eventually, if I don't reciprocate on all of their updates, their likes/comments eventually fade away. Perhaps this is the media version of the reciprocity we normally engage in with normal social situations and I'm missing the point. But personally, it strikes me as a little juvenile. If you don't find what I've posted all that interesting, then, by all means, don't like/comment!


And do you know what one of my biggest pet peeves is?

The vague status update. I looked it up and there's actually a name for it: vague-booking. These postings (i.e. "So sad! But can't talk about it!") request their audience to beg them for more information, which they almost always get around to after tens of, "what's wrong?" "what's going on?" replies.  I have a feeling they're sitting behind their computer screen hitting refresh and only after having reached a number of replies that satisfies their need for attention do they finally 'relent' and spill the beans. I have a number of multiple offenders (who I know in real life did not get the attention they wanted from Mommy and Daddy- and it shows). I have one request: if you have something to say, just say it. Or don't. Pick one.

Veiled Bragging:

I have a few people in my friend's list (minor acquaintances) who engage in veiled bragging.  There's a fine line between sharing personal triumphs of real value and bragging about things that are distasteful and lack meaning, like how much money you have. For example, one of the friend-of-a-friend peeps on my list always finds a way to work the square footage of his gargantuan house or something that demonstrates the level of his personal wealth into his updates. He stops just short of listing his bank account balance. But he does so in a way that does not make it the focus of the update.  He 'slips' the reference in. Anyway, if you wanna toot your own horn, go for it, but make sure it's something that's meaningful and won't leave a bad taste in anyone's mouth.

The 'Elderly' Selfie:

Everyday I look at my newsfeed and I am barraged by a constant stream of self pictures taken from cell people who are my age. I am 35, people, not 15. One of them posts nearly half a dozen on a daily basis, everything from on her way to work to sitting in her cubicle. If she has a new pair of sunglasses, a new dress, or if she's reading a book to her kids, well, she takes a selfie. She's not the only one, either. I have a rule that I do not friend past or present students and something tells me that, despite having almost 20 years on them, their newsfeed probably doesn't look much different than mine. I still see the poses, the 'fish' lips, the bathroom selfies, and, yes, the glamor shots from above that happen to capture the squeezed together cleavage. And I swear that for the most part, I have a classy friends list, but some people just can't resist! Hey, if you need a profile pic and need the assistance of a selfie to get it, then by all means, go wild! But if you do not have the word 'teen' attached to anywhere in your age description, then hourly selfies are probably a little excessive. Just sayin'.

The Preggos:

I mentioned before that beyond the douche baggery, Facebook has become a place of some pain for me as it seems as though everyone is pregnant (or just had their baby). Old co-workers, family, you name it--there's something in the water (and I obviously have an industrial strength filter). And as you know, nothing brings out the status updates like bumps and ultrasounds.  My favorite: someone who took a selfie of their 'baby bump' from above-- in the bathroom--while doing fish lips. Wow. I think marrying all of my pet peeves into a single picture deserves some type of award!

I feel like I'm missing a ton of pet peeves here. And I also feel like I sound beyond snarky, but I know I'm not alone in these . Nearly every conversation I've had about FB seems to snake around to at least some of these topics. I also recognize that FB is forcing us to understand a corner of the social universe that is completely foreign to us and for a girl who is still trying to figure out the rules for 'regular' social contact, I'm even more baffled here. Still, I can't help open that app. Damn you, FB! My friend and foe...

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Support Group Meeting and Why We Are Choosing Egg Donation...for Now

Last night I attended my first RESOLVE meeting in many years. (actually, technically, I have never been to a RESOLVE meeting as the support group I attended previously was an 'offshoot' of RESOLVE, but I digress...) Anyhow, this one was specifically for adoption. They had emphasized in a previous email that those considering treatment with donor gametes were also welcome, hence why I showed up, though I have to admit it was apprehensively. Even with the stated open door policy, I really don't feel like I fit in many places in the IF world, at least not with regard to support groups. The general group doesn't feel quite right with the alternative methods of family building I'm exploring, but we're not pursuing adoption, either (at least at this time). And as far as I know, there is no Secondary Infertility group and probably not a lot of people jumping to attend. Square peg, meet round hole. So, despite my self-proclaimed ease with all things IF and an (albeit odd) enjoyment of these types of groups, it was a leap of faith to show up.

What I found, though, was that despite my differences, (being the only person still considering treatment and not adopting and also, having a bio kid) the group did not make me feel like a freak.  They were so warm and open that it made me question whether I've ever met an infertile person I don't like (OK, I have, but only once!). Seriously, what is it about IFers? Does the struggle strip them of BS? Does it humanize them to such a degree that your exchanges can from then on be nothing but authentic? Certainly the very topic you're there for makes you get down to brass tax right away and get past the formalities. I know there is no way to label any group with an adjective, but if you could, IFers always seem to be generally likeable and welcoming. Or maybe I've just been really, really lucky.  I truly enjoy discussing adoption issues at an intellectual level (and possibly personal, should it ever be back on the table for us), and for that I loved it, but I still didn't quite 'fit'. However, I feel certain I fit better there than a general group. Anyhow, the topic of why Mr. S was hoping to maintain that genetic link came up and the ladies there were interested in why that is. I mean, most of us, at some level, do desire that genetic link for reasons that can't be fully explained, but it seems that it can be described for men in particular.

I think loss of the genetic link is sometimes harder for men, especially when the female partner is actually carrying the child. Recipient mothers going through egg or embryo donation still have the biological (though not genetic) connection through pregnancy/childbirth.  And I think most people would agree that maternal instincts come naturally to many women and do not require giving birth, but for men, those instincts may be harder to come by. While I know many men who are just as maternal as any woman I've met, in general I don't think that's the rule. Even genetic fathers, whose physical role in reproduction ends at conception, can often have a normal insecurity about bonding. But with embryo donation, even that physical role is removed and yet, maintained by the mother.  I can see how it can feel unbalanced. So, when Mr. S determined that he wanted to keep that genetic link, I wasn't surprised. It's his part and his choice.

We have to be honest with ourselves here-everyone does, especially when you're exploring third party reproduction. Once upon a time, a celebrity had said (I'm loosely paraphrasing here) something along the lines of people who seek out genetic kids are being vain. And then, said celebrity went on many years after that quote to have two bio kids of their own. Personally (and very unlike the empty-headed commenters on articles), I feel that if having a bio kid is that important to you and you are able to do so, then have at it. Don't deny what's important to you. But leave room for changing your mind, too, because you never know how the tides may turn later on.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

The Hamster Wheel of (non)Treatment

If I am to be absolutely honest with myself, the pursuit of a second never leaves my mind. That's the thing about obsessions. They don't actually let you ignore them. You can be sitting in a meeting about a student's need for behavioral services (completely unrelated to IF) and then, BAM!- you're instantly wondering whether the clinic you're looking at includes the specific genetic testing you want. And lately, these thoughts are more present than ever as I search for ways to add to our family. I look around every corner, and every corner beyond that. I have literally looked everywhere. The search is in my bones and while I would love to take a break as I know that initiating treatment is many, many months away, my heart just won't allow it.

I have long known that one of my goals in life is to eventually be a support for people facing infertility. Well, that is, when I get my own stuff in order. So, with this constant scheming and turning over of ideas, I figure it this way: I am fulfilling goals that are twofold: I'm looking for myself and I am looking for others.  Whether or not I use any of the information I've gathered for myself, I refuse to truly leave empty-handed. I can at least pass what I've learned on to someone else. For example, in the past 6 months, I have explored no less than the following:

  • Own egg IVF (before I got my DOR diagnosis)
  • RPL testing
  • Counsyl testing
  • PGD (PGS)
  • Shared cycle donor egg
  • Own cycle fresh donor egg (including the most recent live birth rates for clinics in my area and the top clinics in the country, as well as cost)
  • Finding a donor using a clinic pool vs. outside agency
  • Which clinics are open to asking the donor to sign up for Donor Sibling Registry
  • Known donor
  • Anonymity using donor gametes
  • Frozen donor eggs
  • International donor eggs
  • Open domestic adoption
  • Embryo donation (also, known vs. anonymous)
If I had to do a search in my email for clinics that I've reached out to with a list of specific questions, I would come up with literal pages. I realize that while part of this sleuthing is to be an informed consumer, the other part is to formulate a sense of control that is in reality very much missing.  I know that consciously, but right now, it makes me feel as if I'm creating some forward momentum.

I certainly won't claim to be an expert in any of the subjects above, however. After all, I just truly entered into the third party family building world a mere 5 months ago, which seems kind of nuts to me because it feels like I've been stuck here forever. I still turn to my forum ladies frequently, but I've done enough digging to be of some use to others...some day. But not today. Today, I find myself baffled and both grateful and overwhelmed that this moment in my life comes at a time when my options are plentiful. Sometimes too plentiful. I find myself vacillating between frozen eggbanks and going abroad.  Yeah, that's where I am today. Last week, it was embryo donation. The week before, adoption. Toss a coin, throw a die. It's getting to the point where I might as well do that because my brain certainly can't seem to land on anything.  And even if it could, it's not like it would be happening anytime soon.

However, I also finally cornered Mr. S (my DH) after many months of taking the subject off the table and this helped narrow it for me. While not asking him to make a decision on the spot, I requested that he start considering embryo donation. I think I knew in my heart all along that he was very lukewarm about this pursuit and he finally confirmed this. He shared that he would prefer egg donation over all other avenues (or having an only child, but that's another topic for another day).  I think a huge part of this is that it is harder for him to lose the genetic link. (I began to write about it here in detail and had so much to say, I started another post: coming soon). For one, Mr. S doesn't need to lose that link. Unlike me, he can still (with medical assistance) father a genetic child. I've long since mourned the loss of my genetics in any future children and have moved on. I am just ready to parent again, but this decision is not mine alone, so for now, we will set our sights forward on egg donation...again.

I know. A month ago I got out of line for the egg donor train and started purchasing tickets at the embryo donation station. Here I am again, trying to run along the tracks and hop onto one of the egg donor cars flying past us. Turns out, though, that the admission price is a little rich for my blood at the moment and no one is letting me on. Maybe one day...

It's funny, long before we could buy a house, I used to love perusing open houses and home sale ads. Aside from the fact that real estate in general makes me giddy (I missed my calling as a real estate agent), I figured that even if I wasn't actively buying, I was collecting information all the while keeping my sights set on a future goal, something to work towards, no matter how distant. It drove Mr. S nuts. He is of the mindset that if you're not legitimately in the market, don't bother. Our way of thinking on that subject has translated over to family building. All of this research for something that, at the earliest, will happen late next spring, is probably premature in his mind. But he is indulging me because he knows me so well. I need this. I'm happy to live in the illusion that I'm moving forward, even if I'm actually stuck in a hamster wheel.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

The Balancing Act of Self Preservation

While engaging the balancing act of self preservation in infertility, what is more painful, isolation or being surrounded by everything you can't have? For me, that depends on the year, the day, and quite literally, sometimes the minute.

For a long while (say-3 1/2 years), I mostly avoided the Mommy scene in my small town. I tried it out briefly last summer and encountered a group of unfriendly and frankly, downright bitchy douchebags and not having had any other reference point, figured that the moms in this town left a lot to be desired. So, while traveling the halls of my son's preschool post-miscarriage past the burgeoning bellies of quite a few baby #2s and #3s stung, these people were nothing more than passing acquaintances. All I had to do was endure 20 minutes of avoiding eye contact with the belly and I was good.  It was harder to deal with than my previous few years of being a shut-in, but it was manageable.

And then, by way of lots of summer activities, we landed ourselves in the lap of more than a few playdates and I figured something out. The population of Moms in my town don't suck in their entirety. Imagine that! I somehow had gotten myself tangled up with a few bad apples previously, but there are actually relatable and likable women with kids my son's age out there. However, there's one thing that stands out. They all-and I mean ALL have babies. Every. Last. One. of. Them.

Except me.

(ah, Big Bird, I can always count on you to 'get' me)

Yup. Once again, one of these things is not like the other and it's me. Yay...

I mean, it's not like I want a baby on my hip to fit in with the girls, but it's that much harder when your infertility is literally visual in the number of kids you have playing on the playground. And to make it ever-more-present for me, my kid has an over-the-top love affair with babies to the point of sometimes ignoring his peers in favor of them. And I'm sure you can guess what comments that solicits.  So, this isn't just floating around in my head-it's frequent in conversations. It's always present when I am with them.

I wanted to take a break from this damn IF game-even just a brief hiatus, physically and most of all, emotionally, and it seems I never can. It follows me like a shadow. And now, being surrounded by an abundance of fertility, it's dancing in my face. But for once, I am feeling more community than I have in the five years since I arrived here. It is both painful and relieving. At the start of my infertility journey, I would have counted myself out, favoring self preservation, but I'm tired of being alone here. I need connections and I might just need them more than I need respite from the reminder of my crappy reproductive organs and the dreams I have on hold.

I suppose I'll just take it day-by-day. But it's a balancing act. It always is.

Friday, August 2, 2013

Mom, I Get It

Mom, I get it. I do. And I'm sorry it took losing you to have such clarity.

I remember well that you were never the same after you lost your own mom. You told me how the first time you left home with your new husband, you returned home a few months later and wept when you held her as you realized how much you missed her. You told me that you still remembered her scent so many years later and it made you long for her. You bathed her, changed her diapers, and watched her die. Her death came as suddenly as yours did for me. You began drinking regularly after she was gone and now I get it. It took losing you for me to see how a piece of you died the day she did. I never got that until now.

I'm sorry I never understood what it was like for you to lose your mother until you were gone. Now I know.

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

5 Years (and a few days) Later: Blogoversary

It was before my Father died and long before I lost my Mother. It was my first real loss and I still remember it with laser point detail.

June 13, 2008. Friday the 13th. The ominous date was not lost on me. The nurse had given me a choice beforehand: trans-vaginal or abdominal ultrasound. At ten weeks, she explained, abdominal would probably suffice. I chose trans-vaginal and only now I know why. We wouldn't have seen anything with abdominal. The look of confusion on the nurse's face grew and the smacking of her gum slowed and then stilled as we all looked up together at a quiet black space on the ultrasound screen.  I knew it was coming and then, I didn't. Intuition is like that. You know in your core, but you can't know. Not intellectually, at least.  This was just the confirmation of something that had been nagging at me.

It had been nearly four weeks since our baby, who at one point in time had a heartbeat, had died, so what we were seeing on the ultrasound screen was the stillness of an arrested 6-7 week embryo. I scheduled a D and C as soon as they could get me in. I just wanted it over. I just needed it done.

I carried our baby for two more days, but this time the feeling of dread that I had felt before was no longer a foreshadowing of what was to come, but an echo of what was already well known.  We had lost a child, but what I felt even more pronounced was the loss of innocence. Nearly everyone who's been deeply entrenched in infertility has experienced it and this was the final blow to that pure, open-hearted ability to just hope without reservation. So many of us can point to a single moment in time when they lost it and this was mine.

My husband and I gathered ourselves as best as we could to move our feet out of that lobby, into our car and drive back towards home.  We made the calls--to parents, and then to friends to cancel my 30th birthday party scheduled for the next day. There was nothing to celebrate for me.  And then we found our way to a cliff overlooking the water near our home just to sit.  I seem to do that with grief--go outside, as if what I'm feeling is too big to be walled in. And I spent the entirety of that summer near that spot. Every time I go there, which is often, I think of that first child, the promise of possibilities, the death of possibilities, my first real loss. I've known so much more loss since, but there's something about the first that carved one of the biggest holes.

The reason why I write about this now is that I started this blog just a handful of weeks after our miscarriage. Our loss was the catalyst to write, so when I think about this space, the two naturally go hand-in-hand. And truly, truly, this blog was my saving grace, my way back to healing, and it still is. I don't know that I could have moved forward in the way I did without the words I've put on here over the last five years. Part of the URL is dochaschronicles, dochas being the gaelic word for hope. I was longing to find a way back to the hope I had lost, and in so many ways, I did. Perhaps it wasn't the wide-eyed innocent hope I once had, but it was hope nonetheless. And this still serves as a place to rest my head when the still-rough waters of infertility are keeping me from finding the shore.

5 years later, and I am more grateful for this blog than I ever have been. Thank you for being a part of that.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

No Conclusion

My 5 year blogging anniversary (blogoversary?) has come and gone without a single blip on this page from me. I had started a post with the intention to celebrate all this space has done for me, but much like everything this summer, it was interrupted by a fast forward schedule and a very fast forward preschooler, interruptions I desperately longed for when I began this blog.  And quite honestly, I like to come on here only when I have a clear message to share, when I feel like I have some (even partially formed) conclusion, but this just isn't the case lately.

Grief is a funny thing. It's never static. Whether you are moving forward or back, you are always moving, and sometimes it's not in the right direction. And, yes, it is possible to move backwards with grief, even when it seems you had the processed the crap out of a situation. Such is the story of my life. You feel strong one day, and the next, not so much.  

My last post reads like I was moving forward, and I was, at that time. Presently, I am finding acceptance of my infertility much, much harder to handle. I feel more hopeless and desperate than I have for many months. I want another child to the depth of my core, but I can't have one. Or I can, but how? But then I look at my son and think, OK, maybe I can do this. One is fine. And then I remember that I have more room in my arms and slip backwards.

 Some days the loss of my Mother is like a feather on my heart and on others, such as today, the ache is so heavy only tears can chip into it. I've been feeling her absence more heavily, too, as I've been cleaning out the garage and finally rifling through all of her pictures and documents. When I comb through the cards and keepsakes, I miss her so much I can hardly breathe.

I can't quite figure out where I am. Am I doing OK or not? Well, I guess it depends on the day.
Today my conclusion to share is that I have no conclusion. And for a girl who has to resist looking at the ending of a book before she's barely past the beginning, you can imagine how much energy I'm spending in accepting this nebulous, grey future I have before me. There is no spreadsheet, no pick-your-own-ending. It's a game of chance. It always is, but it's getting harder to trick myself into thinking the opposite.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Putting the Baby Making on the Back Burner

For a few months now, I have been introducing myself on here as someone who is pursuing egg donation. I've been frequenting egg donor forums and have spent countless hours in my head picturing my life as a mom via egg donation, so, at least for a short time, that began to work its way into my identity. But then, something happened. It wasn't an epiphany, just a slow, gradual building of wanting to no longer be consumed over how and when we would get the money to make this happen.  I guess I just longed to set it aside and not actually be pursuing anything but living.  And in the midst of that living, I found myself relishing a freedom I hadn't felt in a long while.

Don't get me wrong. I am absolutely still grief stricken and I still think about becoming a Mother again many times a day, but I'm not sick with worry over it. I'm not hyper-focused on getting to that place. In the back of my mind, I am always wanting, always scheming, always feeling the ache of absence, but it is more or less background noise rather than a blaring theme song to my every step.  I am not letting myself live solely in that space and it's everything I've needed.  As much as one can take a break from being drug around by their dreams, that's what I'm doing.

Perhaps it's just that I am getting to another phase of grieving. That's the thing about infertility-you are always grieving. It is never done, but where you are in the grief is the key.  Acceptance for me? Not yet, but the intensely present misery is not directly in my face. It still visits, but it's more of a weekly visitor than daily.

I suppose this all comes about, too, out of necessity. I can't obsess about where I will get my next child because I'm not in the position to do so. My only options are out of financial reach at this point, so I have two choices: to worry about something I can do nothing about or to put it on the back burner. I chose the latter.

I've also been toying around in my head with other ideas beyond egg donation. I've revisited adoption, embryo donation and having an only child and my once strong opposition to all of the above is softening. This might be naive, but in some ways, I feel like one day it will become clear to me, that my destiny will show itself and instead of being completely frustrated by the unknown, part of me is excited to learn how it will all play out. The usually very proactive me is confused by this stance I'm taking because, especially in the land of family building, things don't 'just happen', you have to make them happen, and with great effort. But somehow I feel like it will just be realized. I don't believe I'll stumble into another child ("here, have this free IVF donor cycle!"), but that it will be made possible to either embrace parenting an only child or pursue adding to our family again (whether financially or otherwise). I don't know how, but I have the belief that it will happen.

I'm still not in a zen place with this IF business, though, despite what it seems above. The unknown of timing is what I'm having the hardest time with. Seriously.  My kid's gonna be 30 before he gets a sibling (if he ever does). While it's getting easier to withstand the onslaught of pregnancies and babies being thrown my way, I still find time to be a little envious, snarky bee-yotch about it. But at least I'm able to live and breathe and enjoy the here and the now and that's better than I could say a few months ago.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

The Gift

I'm watching G run around the backyard, excitingly fix balls atop his t-ball stand. He's asking Jesse if she's also having fun. She replies, in his voice, "this is great fun!" and suggests a few things they can try, which he agrees on. He encourages Jesse, telling her she's doing a great job. It's a seamless back-and-forth of good friends, only one of them is a real little boy and the other merely exists in the little boy's mind. You wouldn't know, unless you heard that a solitary voice made up the entirety of the conversation, that Jesse is my son G's imaginary friend.

G has had an imaginary friend in one form or another since his early twos. Now, at three-and-a-half, his imaginary world has only become more vivid and intricate, his longings for someone else to be around grow by the day.  He wants to be surrounded by children constantly and although he has outside activities (including preschool) that allow regular contact with other kids, for him, it just isn't enough. He frequently begs for other kids to be around him and yet, after Jesse and G's enthusiastic exchange, he walks back into a house where there lingers only a few adults, and into a quiet room filled with toys that only his hands have grazed over today.

My only way to fully satisfy G's constant need for companionship is to have another kid living in the house full time. For most, that's called a sibling and you better believe he hasn't stopped asking for one. "I'm working on it, buddy" is all I can say.  Thank you, infertility.

Despite what I wrote above, I'm totally aware of the following: that the presence of an imaginary friend is not necessarily directly related to wanting a sibling or other kids around (and may very well just be a very active imagination) and that a sibling will not necessarily fulfill the longing for social contact, especially given that said sibling would be at least 4 1/2 years his junior at this point, if we're lucky. From what I've heard, that presence is considered more of an annoyance for many until several years later.

Perhaps I am projecting my desires onto my kid. Perhaps all the kid really needs is a few extra play dates.  Still, I can't help but think that the imaginary friends and the pleadings for wanting other kids around (sometimes specifically a baby, along with the promises to help take good care of it) are expressions of wanting a sibling. Why do I think this? Because once upon a time, I was an only child who did the same and I remember exactly why. I desperately wanted another person under 18 in my household. My childhood fantasies of what that would look like compared to what might have been would've probably been very different, but I remember the longing was so strong that I made my parents add an extra setting to the table for my 'sister'.  It's kind of nuts to see G do the same. When cousins would come over, I relished in the time and pretended they were my brothers or sisters, even when we were at odds.  It didn't matter if we didn't always get along. All that mattered was that I was not alone.

Being an only child was and still is a lonely experience for me. This has often translated into negative, and I see the potential of that in my son now, especially given that both sides of the family are incredibly small.  It's not like he has or will ever have a ton of close cousins to make up for what he doesn't have in his immediate family. However, I also see that in so many ways, his life is different than mine was as a child and perhaps that will balance the positive end of things. He's in a far more stable situation. By the time I was his age, my parents had already split up twice and we had moved a number of times because of it.  As a child, I wanted someone else to shoulder the burden and share in those experiences. Even in adulthood there have been a number of things that have happened during which I longed for a sibling, not the least of which was experiencing my parent's passings alone.  At this point, I can't imagine leaving that kind of loneliness for him.

Quite honestly, I don't need to read into my son's behavior to justify why I want a second. I've already written about my own reasons for why I want another that are separate from him, but still these reminders he seems to give me on a daily basis only intensify this need.  At this point, I look forward to adding to our family one day not just as an opportunity to parent again, but as a gift to my son.

Thursday, May 23, 2013


Today, May 23rd, was once upon a time my due date. Maybe it always will be, but it's a date that is linked with a wish stopped short, rather than a wish fulfilled. Had our pregnancy continued, my life would've looked very different. But for now, it remains as it was on October 9th. There is no new life to welcome. The only tangible evidence I have that this due date ever existed is a pair of socks from surgery and some pamphlets on miscarriage. The 'almost' rather than the 'will be' is as close to my dream as we'll get for now.

Sunday, May 19, 2013


Hello IF sisters (and possibly a solitary bro out there?)! Welcome! You see, I think my luck is turning. I was just jonesing for chocolate and was convinced that I had nothing in the house. I'll admit I was getting a little desperate. And then, a quick reach in the back of my pantry revealed a well preserved and terrifically delicious chocolate bar. That has to be a sign of things to come, no?

OK. Probably not. Even I'm not delusional enough to think that chocolate can somehow be prophetic. But damn it's good. And so what if I won't be able to button my pants up tomorrow morning? I'm happy now.

Actually, that's how things have been going recently. After many years, one IVF baby, two miscarriages and a diagnosis of diminished ovarian reserve at 34, we decided to go the donor egg route in March, but have been stalled due to finances. For a long while, I was mourning my new diagnosis (which I'm sure I still am) and felt trapped from moving forward, luring me into a wildly bitchy, hate the world place, but in the past week or so, I felt very distinctly that I had made a metric-sized shift in my attitude. I decided to worry about today, to live now and figure out tomorrow's challenges when I was in a better space to do so (kinda like the eat chocolate now, figure out clothing that fits later, which is actually both metaphorical and literal for me).

Active treatment? What's that? I'd love to know, but for now, I'm not there yet. And I will be...someday. And I don't know when the day will be or what that day will look like, but right now, I'm just learning how to be OK with that. And to be better about keeping my house stocked with chocolate.

Friday, May 17, 2013

Mother's Day, Bittersweet

This past Mother's Day marked my 2nd as a Motherless Mother. It was filled with endless activity which kept my mind busy from the the bittersweet that it seems this holiday will always be tinged with. I need that, I know now. Because last Mother's day, just two short months after my Mother's death, my thoughtful husband booked an entire day of quiet indulgence.  Neither of us could have anticipated what that day would turn out to be, except that now I know what it's like to:

Cry on a massage table
Feel deeply envious of a hairdresser (and this time it wasn't baby-related, but mother-related)
Be pitied openly by an esthetician
Get flowers for my mother only to have nowhere to bring them
Pray for an end to the day

Just a month before Mother died, my in-laws proposed going camping on Mother's Day weekend. My Mom didn't want me to go because she thought it might be her last one and wanted to spend it with me. We were both so confident that that date would come to pass. How I wished that were the case and not that we had already spent our last Mother's Day together almost a year before.

There were so many years spent in longing to celebrate this day as a Mother but I never anticipated the mark that losing my own Mother would forever have on it. Like I said, bittersweet.  The gift of one, the loss of another.

Every Mother's Day, I buy a plant for her and pray that my black-thumb doesn't kill it before the season is over. This is the meyer lemon tree I got this Mother's Day because she loved eating lemons (as does G). Happy Mother's Day, Mom.

Monday, May 13, 2013

Financial Infertility

*Update Below

Do you know what the true force that determines whether you will ultimately be successful in this family building business really is? It's not clear fallopian tubes or sperm counts. It's money. A big old truckload of greenbacks just waiting to be dumped into either the clinic's or agency's pockets can almost certainly open up your possibilities and, in many cases, guarantee that at some point, you will become a parent. It might not be in the way you had originally intended, but the reality of a child ending up in your arms is tenfold when you are blessed with the income (or, more rarely, insurance coverage). Because if you're especially infertile and don't have money, well then, you may very well be stopped on a dime...literally.

Pretty crappy way to determine who gets to be a parent, no? But then, we all know this life in IF land was never built on what's fair.

When we thought we were headed for a 'plain' own egg IVF several months ago, even that was a financial stretch for us. But when we were slapped in the face with my brand-spanking, shiny new DOR diagnosis and decided to go the egg donation route (rather than throw away 20K using my crusty ovaries), that's when we found the stopping point of our dime. Our forward momentum is now at a full stand still until we can magically come up with several thousand dollars (in the midst of the constants of life, like car repairs, house repairs, etc.). We will get there, though, but it won't be any time soon. I know that much.  At least the ticking time bomb that once sat squarely in my ovaries is no longer an issue.

And yet, we're still one of the lucky ones. There are so very many people who will never see a F.ollistim pen or wake up from an egg retrieval because that will always be out of their reach. It's funny to think that anyone would consider going through that a privilege, but I do. Access to medically necessary treatment like IVF could very well be the one thing that separates you from your child.  And despite what it seems, not everyone gets that opportunity.

My best friend from middle and high school (who is now more of an acquaintance, though I still love her dearly) is infertile. I've always known she was infertile, even when we were kids. Her periods were so wonky and she ended up with a 16 pound cyst that had to be removed when she was 18. You don't need a specialization in reproduction to know that there's going to be some baby making issues later on.  I don't know all of the details of her story currently, but the last time we spoke in depth over three years ago, she shared that she had a wicked case of PCOS (which I guessed) and since then, I know she's been going through treatment and has had a few miscarriages. She recently shared on Facebook that the doctors tell her it's time to move on to IVF, but she can't. She simply does not have the money and that's heartbreaking to see.

This is only one example of a family that might never grow unless there's some magical good Samaritan that shows up with wads of cash or a change in insurance. I know there are more like her, especially in these economic times.  For any number of people who have stretched themselves thin by taking out loans to finance treatment, there are probably far more who can't even get a loan because they foreclosed on their house or because they kept going over the limit on their credit cards when they lost their job. 

I don't know if my friend has considered foster adoption, but maybe that's not an option for whatever reason. Because we don't have a lot of contact, this is all speculation, but I use her as an example of what I'm guessing to be a huge subsection of the IF community that we don't often hear from. The blogs/forums I read are more frequently by people either actively in treatment and/or parenting following successful treatment/placement. It is rare to see someone sit on a blog or forum for years on end with little to no intervention. Sure, there's quite a lot of failed cycles out there, but are there many people writing who rarely ever see a doctor because they simply can't afford it? Not that I've seen, but I know they're out there and they're probably plentiful.

I would imagine that watching your fellow bloggers/forum buddies move forward with treatment (and often with success) when you are standing still against your will breeds a whole new level of pain to the infertility equation.  No one wants to conceive their children by way of catheter and/or petri dish, but what if you never even got the opportunity to do that? I've been touched by this. I want nothing more than to get started with a clinic, pick a donor and move on with our journey, but I can't. I sit here and daydream about the moment when I show up to an RE's office and finally say, "I'm ready." I actually look forward to treatment, regardless the outcome (although, obviously I'd like an actual take-home baby from it). But the truth is, we just don't have 32K lying in our back pockets. Who does? Well, some, but I doubt that makes up the majority of us.

**UPDATE: Aaryn brought up a great point and I want to clarify, just in case it didn't come across. I in no way believe that money=baby. What I wanted to convey was that in many cases no money=absolutely no baby. I know most understood (including Aaryn) that this was not the intention behind my message, but just in case there was any idea that it was (which, I could see how someone could come to that conclusion), I wanted to make it clear.

OK. That's all. Carry on...

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

When Being Open About Infertility is Not a Good Thing

I remember it so well. I was newly pregnant and our ultrasound showing the heartbeat had been just a few days before, so I was walking around on a cloud of euphoria. I was working for my previous district and when I was called to the office for a delivery at my elementary school the Friday before Mother's Day 2008, there they were, a dozen long-stemmed roses.  When I walked in, a few people were wondering out loud who they were for and, assuming that it was a Mother's Day gift, the principal (who knew of my infertility), turned to me with spite and snarled,

"Well, I know they're not for you."

I kid you not.  I am quoting her word-for-word.

The flowers were for me from my lovely husband and the words inside spoke of our perfect secret, but her words almost knocked me off the cloud I had been riding and were proof to me that I still needed to keep my mouth closed. That my infertility (on top of already preventing me from building my family) could be used against me was the final blow. No, strike that. The fact that I lost that baby a month later was.

For a long time now, however, I have been very open about my infertility, almost to the point where I'm quite certain I've been Facebook blocked about a dozen times thanks to my zest for posting IF literature for a group who is largely fertile. (I can hear it now: "OK, OK, we get it! We won't tell you guys to relax anymore! Geez!") A lot has changed since that Mother's Day, obviously. I initially 'came out' at my baby shower, but I'm going to be the first to admit that this didn't take nearly as much courage as it should have. I chose a time when infertility was (at least at that very moment) behind me. I was, by all appearances, successful, so I was speaking in past tense and too wrapped up in impending Mommyhood to really feel the full sting of infertility as I had when that principal shot her venom at me.  It's far easier to speak about something traumatic after you've conquered it. It was a precisely-timed 'outing', so my hats off to anyone who is speaking while still in treatment/waiting.

 Recently there's been this message in our community, especially in light of 'joining the movement', to talk about infertility. It goes something like this:

 Just talk! Don't be silenced! If we are to move forward and remove the stigma from infertility, then we need YOU to tell your story!! Do it, and do it, now! Don't delay! Our community needs you to speak-and speak loudly!  In fact, shout it from the rooftops!

Now, I LOVE this message-LOVE it! Obviously I subscribe to it and have blogged about needing more IF awareness recently, but that's because I'm in a place where being vocal will not wound me. When I told my employers all those years ago, however, I was.  It was only after I realized that I needed to start becoming transparent to explain my ongoing absences at work that I finally approached them. Because of Bay Area traffic, what should have been a 20 minute appointment (pick up sample, stuff in bra, drive like mad, lay on table for 5 minutes, then done!) often turned into 2 hour stretches. In the course of an 8 hour work day, that's a huge chunk of time. And it was my first year with the district, so it made it even more imperative to explain why I was dropping off the face of the earth several times a month. So, I was forced to tell my boss and that ridiculous principal. While I don't regret explaining my absences, I do regret going into any sort of detail and opening myself up in the way that I did.

These confessions were long before I had processed any of my infertility. In fact, most family and friends were none the wiser and here were these two people who held this extremely private information and had no motivation to keep it private or treat it respectfully. I had not yet found my way to a support group meeting nor did I even realize the ALI community existed, so I therefore assumed that I was an oddity, having no idea that any of my experiences and feelings were remotely normal. And because of this, I was so tender about the topic of infertility that the mere mention sent me into tears. I still regret showing my tears to that principal when I told her. She didn't deserve that piece of me, but she got it and eventually abused it. So, should I have shouted about my infertility from the rooftops? least not at that moment.

For those who have yet to 'come out', I would caution them with this: think carefully before you do. I'm not telling anyone to remain silent-no, but I think that we should find a way to balance self preservation and supporting our community. Being open about infertility is not meant to be comfortable. Whatever situation you're in, it should take courage, but it shouldn't be done at the expense of yourself, otherwise it could end up doing more harm than good.

Take for instance someone who lives in a small, rural conservative community. Although I live in a pretty liberal place, the stigma still exists here, so I can only begin to imagine what is being said in some places about those 'people who do IVF'.  There are quite a few groups who feel it to be a moral obligation to prevent treatment from happening (take personhood bills, for example), so mean spirits could potentially slip their way in and disrupt your life. And even if you're not worried about the community, if you're not quite prepared to start fielding unsolicited ass-vice, ignorant comments or better yet, very pointed questions about current treatment, then maybe it might also be wise to wait awhile. Being open about infertility educates, which is what we want, but it also has the potential to change the relationships, and thus, the life around you and sometimes not always in a positive way.  We need voices, but at what cost? For some, the cost is just too high.

And then again, some people never even tell at all. And I want to say, I get it. I really do, and I don't hold it against them. Does this silence in our community make for more of an uphill battle for the rest of us? You bet it does. But do I think that the members of our community need to participate if it yields more personal pain? No. Not now. Maybe later. So, if an 'outing' can take place at any point in time in someone's journey, we need that added voice desperately, but learn from my mistakes: choose your audience carefully and make sure that you're ready because sometimes the world of being open is amidst rough waters.

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Why Everyday Needs to be National Infertility Awareness

I was naive in thinking that the questions of when I'll be having a second were going to be nonexistent. I've gotten this far (3 1/2 years) without a lot of curiosity directed my way, so it seemed logical to assume that I dodged that always-awkward bullet. I even let the preparation for my canned response slide in the back of my brain, nearly forgotten. But lately the questions have been cropping up again, despite my out-and-proud IF status, and as always, I give them my standard (though sorely unrehearsed) answer:

"I don't know. It took us almost five years to have G. We needed a lot of medical intervention, so I'm not sure we'll get that lucky again, but we'll see... "

If they ask further, I am always happy to share more. In fact, most probably regret asking because I stop just short of getting out a diagram of the female reproductive system. But more often than not my response solicits a polite, "Oh, OK. I hope it happens for you" from them after which the subject is dropped entirely. Except today.

Today, a particularly thick-headed co-worker of mine kept on the subject. It baffled me that she asked whether we would have another given that she's an active Facebook user and I had been making up for lost NIAW time with multiple posts about our story just a few days before (my guess: I'm probably on her blocked list-ha!).

At first the conversation was benign enough. And then, it happened. As if she had just consulted a manual on exactly what NOT to say to someone who is infertile, she went straight to a few of these tried and true gems:

"Maybe you should just leave well enough alone."

"You know, I've heard that when people stop trying so hard, it happens for them. My brother's friend's sister tried for a long time and when they finally stopped trying, it happened!"

"Adoption? Oh, no, you want to stay away from that. You have no idea what you'll get. You've seen what those kids turn out like."

I'll wait a moment while you collect your jaw off the floor from that last one.

Here's the crazy thing. I've heard similar responses from people who (prior to saying them) I considered to be some of the most brilliant people I know. This particular coworker, while no Rhode's Scholar, is by society's standards an educated and moderately intelligent woman. But that doesn't buy you common sense and emotional intelligence, does it?  In fact, some of the brightest people I know have also turned out to be some of the densest when it comes to understanding infertility. I have one person in my life in particular who was an ivy leaguer and were it not for my very thorough 'training', he would still be saying some of the same dipshit things to this day.

Mel from Stirrup Queens recently revisited her NIAW post from last year about how everyday is National Infertility Awareness for her. That post in particular resonated with me, but not nearly as much as it did today when I realized that despite my social media efforts in the last week, I was still confronted with this obvious need for continuing education about infertility. Laying down a few carefully-worded status updates once a year just won't cut it when these are the comments I'm still getting after all this time.

There simply is no true understanding of infertility unless you've been there. We all know that. The million ridiculous comments on articles about infertility spell that out plainly enough. But that doesn't mean that our efforts are all for naught.  I know that if we keep taking every small opportunity like this, little-by-little, we'll get there.

And what did I say to her? Well, I (politely, of course) set her straight that infertility is very much a medical condition, that my family building decisions were my own and that no, 'those' kids (meaning adopted) do not follow the exact trajectory of the select few she was referencing (and, by the way, she works with kids with emotional disturbance--that's a pretty skewed sample from which to draw a conclusion about any population). Whether my words actually moved her remains to be seen, but I think she reminded me why everyday needs to be about infertility awareness.

The Stomach Bug Who Shall Not Be Named

In comparison to years past, the showing on social media for National Infertility Awareness Week was pretty remarkable. It's heartening to see how much it's expanded over the last few years. There were many in my friends list who did a great job contributing on an almost-daily basis. One of my buddies had a 'topic of the day', including everything from 'Adoption does not cure infertility' to 'Infertility Etiquette'. Some friends posted their personal infertility stories on Facebook and of course RESOLVE was posting topics frequently to which countless people responded. I've never felt more proud to be a part of a community in light of this showing of support. Of course, it goes without saying that being infertile sucks donkey balls and I'm sorry others have to be here, too, but for better or worse, I am in the company of some truly remarkable people.

Posting everyday was initially my intention until I was hit full force with a beast whose presence was so vile I can only describe it as 'the stomach bug who shall not be named'. By the end of the week, my nausea was still blinding, leaving me certain that this couldn't possibly be anything ordinary. Of course, that means running to Dr. Google and looking up insane diagnoses, thus forcing my real and non-Google doctor into a series of needless tests and requisite eye-rolling on the other end of the line. I'm not usually that histrionic about health stuff, but I was desperate. I could barely work and wanted respite. After a little over a week later, my stomach still isn't quite 'right', but I can function. I'll take what I can get...

Being in the ballpark of reproductive age, you can imagine how many times I got, "are you sure you're not pregnant?" Gotta love that one. Yes, I am 99.99999% sure, but thanks for reminding me of my non-existent chance of reproduction without the use of multiple lab coats and a nice young lady looking to earn a few bucks. So, of course, that series of labs included a pregnancy test. I groaned when the phlebotomist mentioned it and bit my tongue from explaining the groan. You see, if I am going to be tortured by a BFN, it needs to be on my terms. I never leave it to a phone call. Every negative (or positive) I've ever received has started within the confines of my own bathroom, so when the nurse calls (or when the email lab result comes in*, in this case), it's never a surprise. I don't leave it in anyone's hands but my own. I grieve on my timeline. Maybe that's part of my controlling nature, but in this world of IF, so little is private or within our hands that I seize any opportunity I can to have that moment without the intrusion of others.

How do you handle big news?

*Not to ruin the suspense, but it was negative.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Join The Movement

   I can think of very few things in this world more isolating than being infertile in a fertile world. It's an incredibly lonely place to be. In this ‘bump’ obsessed culture where the term ‘family’ is only awarded to those who reproduce, many of us are silenced by the unspoken message that we are an outlier because of our infertility, lesser even. It is a secret that we often work so hard to keep hidden, and we're good at it.  So many of us actually go through incredibly invasive medical procedures and heartbreaking losses without so much as a whisper escaping us.  We go to work and somehow muster a false smile, leaving the tears for when we are locked inside the bathroom stall.  We are the ones at your family reunion who stand amongst you wondering the whole time whether we will ever be given the gift of helping grow the family tree, but you wouldn't know because many of us leave our confessions for the ride home. Infertility just isn't a topic that crosses many family dinner tables, or any tables for that matter.  And this is to our great detriment.
So, when people are surprised to learn that infertility affects 1 in 8 couples, I can understand that. We are one of the quietest large groups out there, but we are getting louder by the day. The world-at-large must be informed of how common this disease is and most of all, this message must reach our infertile brothers and sisters, so many of whom are fighting this battle from a lonely corner. We need to affect change, bring down the barriers to accessing family building and let every single person facing infertility know that they are not alone and that there is strength in our great numbers, but the only way any of this can happen is if you join the movement.  Whether you are a friend, family member or co-worker of someone facing infertility or you yourself are facing infertility, I invite you to come along!

What should I do?

How you join the movement will be a deeply personal decision. Not everyone will take to Good Morning America about Male Factor Infertility as my husband and I did. Not everyone will stand at the Capitol and share publicly what the heartbreak of infertility and being prevented from building their family because of a lack of insurance coverage looks like, but everyone can contribute.  Everyone, and in multiple ways.

However small your contribution is will not be overlooked by our community. Every voice is valued. Each step we take is a step closer to breaking the stigma, supporting each other and helping gain access to medically necessary treatment. Below are some ideas on how you can join the movement and help those within the infertility community who are working so hard to build their family:

Infertility forums: Not everyone is ready to be public about this very personal journey for a variety of reasons, not the least of which is cultural and religious beliefs surrounding the use of reproductive technology and/or the stigma and shame about infertility. This is the beauty of the internet. You can post anonymously and in doing so, both receive and provide life changing support without compromising  'real-life' relationships. We get it and with your help, we know you get us, too.

Blogging: The issues that surround infertility are multi-faceted. I've been blogging about infertility for five years and still haven't run out of topics.  And this community is really quite large and always at the ready to lend an ear! We welcome you to the fold (and this can be done anonymously, too!).

Speak: Speak out loud. Confide in a trusted friend or family member. Find a safe place to let the reality of what infertility looks like be heard.  You never know. Perhaps they too have walked a similar path and your words could begin some much-needed healing.

Social media: If and/or when you're ready to join the movement, social media sites like Twitter, Facebook and Instagram are ready for your voice. I guarantee that if you have more than eight followers, at least one of them has been there and would feel relieved to know they are not alone.

Join a RESOLVE or infertility support group: This was a life changer for me. This is where, after four straight years of silence and heartbreak, I uttered my first words about my own infertility to a small group who finally understood exactly what I was saying. To this day, I am still close friends with those members. I still turn to them for the type of understanding I can't quite get elsewhere.

Start a RESOLVE support group in your area: RESOLVE is always looking for new leaders to help bring support to the infertility community. If you're at a place in your journey where you're ready and able to give back, this can be a greatly rewarding, and again, healing place to begin.

Media outlets: If you're feeling especially bold and are comfortable enough to go forward, there are often many opportunities to share your infertility story with media. Do you know how healing (and normalizing) it is to see a regular couple on my TV screen relating struggles that we've faced when for so many years I felt like a pariah? It's powerful!

Lend a Hand: If there is someone you know of who is struggling to access insurance, needed medical assistance or workplace rights related to infertility and you have the tools to help them, take that opportunity.  Turn your own heartache into a meaningful experience by helping someone facing similar hurdles.

Become an infertility advocate: Joining the movement can be as simple as writing your senators and representatives regarding a variety of legislation that will affect the lives of those living with infertility, including: making the adoption credit refundable, fighting anti-family bills and/or supporting the Family Act tax credit when it is re-introduced.  Invite your friends and family to do the same. 

Volunteer: To become even more involved, RESOLVE is always seeking people who can become Project PROTECT advocates.  Meet with your local legislators to address bills pertinent to family building or simply to educate them about the lives and needs of those living with infertility. 

 The ways in which you can join the movement are endless.  And this is just the beginning.
  The very real loss those of us facing infertility experience-the loss of adding to our family in the way we dreamed or even the loss of possibly parenting a child at all is often misunderstood and most importantly, underestimated. The experience of infertility can put us on an island, a place whose painful experiences feel unique only to us. That is, unless we find a way to each other and eventually, to the world-at-large to share our experience. So, please, join the movement and spread the word. Let us see that we are not alone in this.  

To learn more about infertility and how you can join the movement, go to RESOLVE.
This post was written to honor National Infertility Awareness Week, April 21-April 28.

Dusty, but Punctual Egg

It seems to me to be a cruel trick of fate that the almost peri-menopausal girl has never been more regular in her life. 28 days, almost down to the hour since late last year. Regular=more fertile? Nope. It doesn't matter if your egg always arrives on time if it's coated in a thick layer of dust!

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Desperation Blogging

I am literally trapped in my hairstylist's chair as I type this listening to some chick beside me complain about her pregnancy symptoms and the fact that she was soooo worried she didn't get pregnant the first month she tried because she didn't want a 'Christmas baby'. Holy carp. Shoot me. God forbid anyone have one of those dreaded Christmas babies!!

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

My Focus

Is it sad that I got more excited about fertilized eggs than about him?

Friday, April 5, 2013

I Done Got Therapized

Well, not actually. Therapy (in the very traditional sense) was at a minimum when we met with our new IF therapist last Friday. Although Mr. S was dreading getting 'analyzed' (ha ha), our almost-2-hour session together turned out to be more 'psycho-educational' than anything. After working with a different therapist this time last year on grief, I became so used to (and eventually exasperated by) explaining IF terminology to her that you can imagine my surprise when this new therapist started schooling me. It was refreshing.  She was throwing out the AMH, the FSH, the clinic stats-yeah! Now you're talking my language! And while I thought I was walking into a regular IF therapist's office, I didn't realize that she specializes in alternative family building/3rd party reproduction in particular. Score!

I have to say, aside from a few un-PC blunders on my part (ie calling the egg donor the bio mom--oops--that scored me a few ignorance points), I can't say that she revealed anything too earth shattering to me. But the discussion sealed what I've known almost from the start (which is the true brilliance of therapy-revealing what you already know): I will not do this completely anonymously. I just can't.  I've touched on my reasons for this in an earlier post and we discussed these in great detail, specifically centered around the issue of our child's identity building. Interestingly, our psychologist published a blog entry shortly after we met on this very subject and the best summation of my feelings about the matter can be found in her words:

"It is commonsense that disclosing donor origins to donor conceived offspring will lead them to have questions about the donor, and research supports that information about donors is important to donor offspring. Several studies indicate that donor conceived offspring want to know about their donor origins, request information about the donor and feel a sense of loss and questions about their identity when knowledge is lacking. " 

While this does not specifically address having direct contact with the donor, I can imagine that the possibility of this is the only way to ensure that if there are a lot of questions later, this would be the best way to fully address them (as a donor profile doesn't tell everything and can't purport to anticipate a future child's questions). I mean, don't get me wrong. I don't necessarily envision the donor sitting at our table for Christmas (but you never know). What I do envision is arming ourselves now so that we may fill in any gaping holes later.

So, it is for this reason that we cannot go the 'cheap' route (cue the laughter-as if anything in this business is cheap-bwahahaha!). What I've found is that the clinics whose programs are completely anonymous tend to be fairly 'economical' in comparison to those who offer some sort of future contact between offspring and donor (or are willing to work our legal docs into the contract, which is an added expense). That's not a hard and fast rule, but for those clinics that I am willing to pursue it seems to be the case. Unfortunately, we didn't walk into this prepared for a cycle that's at best twice that of a 'regular' IVF, so we have some time to mull it over while we collect our coins.

I think the truly defining moment in therapy, though, was the moment that made me realize how open my heart is to this new path.  As we began to discuss how we would explain our child's conception to them, she gave us an example and talked to us as if she were speaking to a five-year-old who is donor conceived. Her words were so simple and then, being the big old sentimental schmuck I am, I started to tear up.  My son's story is not that much different. Obviously, there will be an additional person in the picture with egg donation, but generally speaking, conception in either of these ways is not a 'typical' story. But it is our story and one that I embrace and think is beautiful. Listening to it, I realized that it primarily spoke of how much our child (and possibly children) is wanted and what great lengths we went to meet them.  If that isn't a story about love, I don't know what is.

For now, I am ready. While I am not naive in thinking that my grief took all of three weeks to process, I do know that I am now more excited about the prospects of building our family in this new way than saddened.