Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Taking it Back

There is nothing quite like infertility that can make you feel out of control of a world that you thought you had mastered. America and all of its seemingly endless opportunities intensifies this feeling of mastery. We have had presidents who came from modest single parent homes only to find themselves as leaders of the free world, immigrants who arrived with little more than the clothes on their back who built empires. If these stories don't breed the idea that your destiny is right in your own hands, I don't know what does. If there is anywhere in the world where you can create yourself and achieve exactly what you want, this is the spot.  Right here, right now.

Except, that is, if you're infertile.

This topic of lacking control because of infertility is not a new one, but it's becoming more prominent in my own life. You see, I'm a card carrying member of the hyperfocused-on-the-future, super goal-oriented club. Education, career, house, even friends and a spouse can be found given the right effort (and maybe a little luck-I'll grant that one). You can shape your dream life if you're up for the challenge. And quite honestly, this had worked in my favor most of the time. 

Reaching my goals was never an easy process. There were always roadblocks and delays, but I knew that if I kept getting up every morning, dusting myself off and moving ahead, even if it was at a snail's pace, I would get to where I was going eventually. Dreams unrealized or taken away could be found again. I named the place and I found a way there. This ultimately misled me into thinking that everything was like this. Yup, I had a handle on all this life stuff; I was a pro, until I no longer was. I guess for some, babies don't fit into the equation as smoothly.

Infertility promptly erased those driver's seat illusions. There came a point when the molding of my life was so obviously out of my hands with regard to family building, no matter how hard I worked.  Education, career, marriage...an incomplete sentence left dangling and no amount of high achieving, future focus could make that right. When finally we were lucky enough (and yes, this one was more by way of luck then blood, sweat and tears) to have a child, the 'ren' that I had originally envisioned on the end of that word was left off and perhaps might always be.  And I've learned too well, there's only so much I can do about it. 

Now, the line that separates where my real power exists has blurred.  I've been so overcome by this lack of control that I experience with infertility that I let it bleed into other areas that were actually well under my control. The feeling of helplessness is a contagion, spreading like wildfire to my weight, the food I put into my body, my health, my finances, my time, my focus.  I let it all go, stopped trying and feigned apathy and I'm tired of living like that. Infertility is enough of an unknown for me to create more pitfalls willingly. I think it may just be time that I take all the rest back.

I've been here before and yet where to begin is still just as confusing and daunting as ever. But I'm ready. W.eight W.atchers, budgeting, meal planning, exercise. Slowly, with help, these areas I've let slip will fall into some sort of manageable place. I don't expect miracles, but I do at least expect to show that I still have the power to make change somewhere in my life.

Monday, January 28, 2013


When I go back and reread paper journal entries that I've written in years past (a habit I don't do often--I lived it once, no need to repeat), there's a common mood that dominates them-misery. I look like a dark, foul, pissed off person on paper. But, in general, I can't say that I've ever been consistently miserable very often in my life. I mean, sure I've had my moments, shite happens (clinical depression about 10 years ago-that sucked), but page-after-page of these journals reads as if I've been stuck in that very spot, that I've absolutely hated my life and that's not the case (excluding the ages of 11-13 and then it's a painfully accurate portayal, but I have a feeling I'm not alone there).

Happiness just doesn't have a way of inspiring me to write, but when the skies grow dark, I'm pulled by a primal need to put pen to paper. As a whole, the end product of journaling can sometimes resemble a Sylvia Plath novel. But I can promise you that gassing myself in an oven was never even a remote possibility, even at my lowest, and yet, these records leave that impression.

Geez, what the hell is my kid gonna think when he gets a hold of them later? I might need to do some editing...

While my blog can go there, too, I've somehow been able to paint a more balanced picture here (knowing people are reading keeps that in check-thanks!). Still, for the sake of my looking back and preserving something closer to reality, some speck of light, I'm going to start this entry out (and here you thought I was already halfway through!) by telling you what is actually going right. (But don't worry-I'll promptly launch into the misery afterwards!)

For once, my job is treating me kindly. The stress overload last year that kept my stomach in knots until quitting time everyday is no longer my regimen and I'm enjoying my new role far more than my previous. I still do school psych stuff, but my primary job is as a coordinator for a mental health prevention program for elementary students in our district, which is allowing me to participate and get experience in endeavors I would have never been involved in otherwise (writing grants, supervising employees). So, work, well it's pretty good.

And the kid-he's pretty fantastic, too. He's silly and smart and funny and charming and so creative and I honestly love being in his company (except when he's acting like a 3-year-old!).  And, of course, after 12 1/2 years, I have the best husband (no, I really mean it--not just because he reads this!) who spoils the ever-living crap out of me and a roof over our heads and enough money in our pockets to eat out sometimes and embark on the occassional indulgent trip to T.arget (to get what? $200 later-who the hell knows?)

And...we got a new dog, who is, simply put, fabulous. She's a 2-3 year old lab/german shepherd mix. She is mellow (most of the time), smart and sweet as sugar. She even gets along with my cats! OK, she has a touch of separation anxiety, but I would, too if I were trapped, pregnant and sick, in a cage at the pound for who knows how long. I do believe I've already fallen in love...

Yes, I have an enormous amount to be grateful for-a 'thank your lucky stars every second' amount. But I vascillate between two very different end points, one on which I am tremendously grateful and another on which I give myself permission to recognize just how difficult these last few years have been on me, tiptoing dangerously close (and sometimes stepping over the line) to feeling sorry for myself. These two shouldn't have to exist so separately for me, but they do.  I think this vascillation is pushed forward by this misguided belief that if I am feeling misery and anger about my losses and dwelling just a moment too long in them, then I am somehow ungrateful for what I do have. I know logically that's not the case, but my head is not always one to invite logic into these matters.

Here's a brief synopsis of the last three years:

Two weeks after I had G, my Mom ended up in the hospital and as a result of her complications, she had to leave her full-time job, remain on oxygen and was thereby housebound, no longer able to take care of basic functions, such as grocery shopping and later, even bathing. I tried to help from over an hour away with a new baby, but it was a struggle as she refused in-home care. Three months after G was born, my Dad passed away.  Later that year, we bought a house and moved. I watched over those next two years as my Mom deteriorated even further (of the same disease as my Dad) and exactly 2 years and one week to the day of my father's death, she too died. That Fall, I used some of the money she left me to do an FET and ended up having our second miscarriage. One month after that, my beloved cat of 12 years died. And throughout this time, Mr. S continued (and sometimes continues) to have various baffling health issues.

That's the cliff notes version. That's the 'this is what I dwell on so I can occasionally feel sorry for myself' version.

And then I remember times like these:

I was in the 7th grade, around 12 years old. It was the night before Halloween and I was busy carving my pumpkin in the kitchen. I thought there had been some commotion in the house and that was confirmed when my Dad said he was driving my Mom to the hospital because she was having an asthma attack. This had happened numerous times in my childhood, hours spent waiting in the ER for breathing treatments to be completed, so when he gave me a choice of whether I wanted to go with them, I declined. I decided to stay and carve my pumpkin.

Well, it turns out, she flat-lined that night and spent the next two weeks in the ICU. I could've lost her then. And I did, for a split second. Oh, how different my life would have been had that split second turned permanent. Instead, I got to spend another 21 years with her. She left that hospital so she could see me off to the prom, watch me graduate from high school and college, be there at my wedding, watch her grandson be born. If ever I feel cheated (as I often do) by the fact that I was only 33 when she died, I try to remind myself that I could've just as easily been only 12.  Instead, I was gifted 21 years. And most of the time, that works. Most of the time.

But it is still incredibly easy to slip into a place where I feel like I have a target on my back. And just as easy to slip into the place where feeling like I have a target on my back is somehow this self-indulgent, first-world problem crap because there are other people who lost their entire families in war as children and don't even have limbs, for God sakes, so how dare I feel even remotely do anything but thank my lucky stars!!

See what a mind-f* I engage in every day?

 The culmination of all of this back-and-forth in my brain has left me exhausted.  As you can see, I'm not a good grey-area thinker and this is exactly what this is. There is no either/or, no good guy or bad guy. I can be pissed off at the world AND grateful, simultaneously, and they can exist alongside and separate from each other, and should. I know that, you know that, so will someone please tell my heart that already? 

Gratitude is great thing, unless you find a way to beat yourself over the head with it.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Conversations from an IVF Family

Every once in awhile, the topic of reproduction comes up, as it did this morning. After watching a show about dinosaurs, I tried to explain the difference between mammals and egg laying creatures to Little G by using our dog (who had puppies shortly after coming out of the shelter and into rescue in October) as an example. I used the simplest of terms and of course he asked, "how?" (as in, how does one get pregnant?)

Cue crickets.

Mr. S chimes in and explains, "Well, when a mommy and daddy love each other, they go to the doctors and the doctor gets a dish..."

Friday, January 25, 2013


The beginning of the holiday season slammed me full force with unexpected grief and today, I'm still gathering myself. Somehow, since that time, I have felt my mother's absense more deeply. She has not once escaped my daily, and sometimes hourly thoughts, but it became more than that. Perhaps it was the young man I began to counsel around that time whose brother had just been killed or the countdown of the year anniversary (March 2nd) of her passing slimming down or a less than fruitful Christmas experience with her brother's family that threw me into this tailspin, but I haven't gotten out of it. I miss her. And it feels like I'm just beginning to climb out of the shock phase, like I'm beginning to look around for the first time and finally realize (after almost 11 months) that she will never be in this place again. She's gone. For all of our differences, she was a best friend. We spoke everyday about everything, no holds barred and now, she's gone. A piece of me is just...gone.

A few weeks ago, just before I put G to bed, I picked him up and brought him to the top of our stairs. From that vantage point, you can see some water from the straits and on a clear night, the moon. I pointed out the full yellow moon over the water and how it put a golden sheen of light on the straits below and G whispered, "that's Grandma Vicki's light." I couldn't respond. I merely nodded. Now, we speak about my Mom every now and then, but how a 3-year-old would come to think of that, even a creative one like him, is beyond me. But perhaps I am wrong. Perhaps she is gone from here, but not gone altogether.  It's just adult minds are too cluttered, too 'logical' to see what can't be seen. I'd like to think that.

I remember sitting on the back porch of my Mom's care home with her a few months before she passed away. We were talking about the inevitable-her death, an elephant we had denied the existance of in almost every conversation we had since she entered hospice care. My Mom was a master at skirting the issue on anything unpleasant, but for one moment, we were able to talk plainly. We looked out at the back of a historic Victorian when she made it clear that she did not want to be buried. She wanted her ashes to stay with me wherever I went. I wondered out loud, "how will I know where to find you then?" to which she said, "I'll be everywhere."

She was right. She is everywhere, for me. I just wished I had something more tangible, someone to hold onto. I constantly look up into the night sky and search for the feeling of her, listen to the wind and try to hear her in it, but wherever I go, the only place that resonates her presence is my mind. And my mind can't seem to get that she's gone yet.  11 months later and I still make mental notes to tell my Mom about a new pair of boots I got or something funny G said and then, I am reminded. I can tell it to a journal or speak into the wind, as if she might hear, but it's not the same.  This place I live in will never be the same.

"Do not stand at my grave and weep,
I am not there, I do not sleep.

I am a thousand winds that blow
I am the diamond glints on snow.
I am the sunlight on ripened grain.
I am the gentle autumn rain.

When you wake in the morning hush,
I am the swift, uplifting rush
Of quiet birds in circling flight.
I am the soft starlight at night.

Do not stand at my grave and weep,
I am not there, I do not sleep.
Do not stand at my grave and cry,
I am not there, I did not die!

-Mary Frye

Friday, January 11, 2013

Dangling Decisions

The last time I posted, we were dangling between decisions, still considering adoption to add to our family, but thrown a curve ball after a meeting with our RE who strongly suggested we try another fresh IVF. Unlike the days before our son when the direction of treatment was clear (the outcome was not), this time we are more than battle-worn. I feel like I've existed in this spot forever, pouring money into doctor's pockets, being poked and prodded, falling head-on into heartbreak. There is a hesitance to move forward that had never existed pre-baby. But the yearning to add a child to our family is still hungry. I'm just less sure how this will come to be.

This time a few months ago, Mr. S was hell-bent on adopting our second...until the doctor reignited the possibility of Baby G, part II. And then all at once we realized: should an IVF fail, we will have lost out on thousands and thousands of dollars (which is not to be scoffed at), but will we have permanently lost out on the chance to still add to our family? Not necessarily. While the money piece will have stopped us at that point, who's to say we couldn't save the money and try adoption further down the road? It will still be an option, but it will take time (and far more discipline than we have now) to recover that money. But unlike biology, adoption does not necessarily have an age cut-off (well, so to speak). We're 34. If we needed 5 years to recover the money to go down that road, sure G would be a lot older and the age difference would be less than ideal, but we would still be well within an age bracket where becoming new parents wasn't completely out of the question. As we've all been taught in this ALI existence, "You must give up the life you planned in order to have the life that is waiting for you.” If becoming a parent the second time around is something we want badly enough, it will happen, one way or the other. I'm just not clear yet on what way that will be.  And as you can see, we don't have the means to do both. This is an either/or scenario.

And at once I also realized that a final IVF would be necessary--to heal. Whether we become parents by those means or not, I need this to close those doors. That question of "what if" would absolutely drive itself into my thoughts in the future more often than I would anticipate, I think. After that, I will have an extraordinarily expensive peace of mind...or a child. While I'd prefer the latter, I must take and accept what I'm given. This is what IF has taught me to do.

Recently I was faced with a slew of pregnancy and birth announcements and while having G dulled the ache for awhile, it seems that my feelings of envy (yes, it's ugly, but I'm calling it what it is) are stronger than at any point in time since he was born. I want that back. I'm going to be absolutely honest. While pregnancy is truly a blink of an eye in the experience of having a child, it was one of the happiest times of my life. Sure, I was filled with terror as I had so much to lose, but the anticipation, the healing in feeling as if my body was finally doing what it should, the magic of giving birth, it was something at one point I never thought I would experience, so I lived in a state of overwhelming gratitude every day.  I still can't believe that I was lucky enough to have it all happen and to have this perfect little person in my life.  If I had a second child, would I be guaranteed that experience? Absolutely not. I know as well as anyone that nothing is ever how we plan it to be. Not here, not in this space. I had a smooth pregnancy and delivery. I'm not naive enough to think that another pregnancy would necessarily mirror that. But it would be lovely to have the opportunity to try at least.

When the doctor suggested we go the IVF route again, I had closed that possibility down in my mind until then, but when she opened it back up, a flashback of everything that I loved about having G came rushing back to me. Is it all about the pregnancy or giving birth? No. It's also about the fact that we've had so much heartbreak in the last few years, that if we could make any process in our lives at this point more simplified, then we will. Now, I would weather a thousand more storms for my child or children without hesitation, including going through the wait of being selected by a birthmother, paperwork, legal wait times, etc., but if there's any possibility of becoming parents again without this, then I'll take it. It's not that I won't one day jump at that chance or that joining a family through adoption is any lesser in my eyes, it's just simpler and my heart needs that right now. 

I'm not silly enough to think that four years and many FSH points later that this will be successful. Quite honestly, if we had to convert to an IUI because of too few follicles, I'd be extremely disappointed, but not surprised. But, again, I'd kick myself for not trying. 

So, there it is. For now, we've decided to go the IVF route...again. I'd also kick myself for not losing a few pounds and ditching the insane caffeine habit I've developed again, so we're going to give it a few months before we jump in. This will be a huge sacrifice financially for us, but the outcome could possibly be well worth it.