Wednesday, May 18, 2016

New Year. New IVF. New Mood.

I really wish I had kept up on the events of the past year as a lot happened.  Technically, most were bad.  But I also wish I had kept a journal of the small miracles that kept me going during this dog of an infertile year.

For the record my son is now 2 years and 4 month old.  We've been starry-eyed for baby number two since taking home the first from the hospital.  It was a dream come true, and I secretly bought into the common notion that having a baby cures infertility.  I have seen it happen to so many: Once the first baby/hurdle is overcome, siblings will follow.  Nature and universe will it to be so.  Perhaps the universe and I are on two different schedules.  Or more likely, I am still just a mule.

For the record, since my son was 10 months old I have endured the following:
August 2012.  FET. 2 embryos.  1 didn't survive the thaw.  Other didn't take.  Failure.
November 2012.  New shared risk contract.  Awesome stim, awesome embryos.  4 frozen. 2 Transferred.  Tiny, confusing chemical pregnancy, beta at a 7 for days. Failure.
Husband lost his horrible job.  I went back to work.  It was really difficult to switch roles and begin work right at the beginning of busy season. However our life has been better since he lost that horrible job.
January 2013.  Frozen embryo transfer.  2 thawed. 2 transferred.  PREGNANT.  Awesome betas.  Then weird betas.  Then no heartbeat at six weeks.  Check again at 7 weeks.  Still no heartbeat. Confirm on March 15th, an enormous tax deadline, on a 15 hour stress filled workday interfacing with a whiny client, that I have indeed miscarried.  I smiled and acted kind and professional to clients and coworkers that whole day with only one hour long break to sob silently in the public bathroom and dry out my wrecked face.  I would never want to relive the two weeks of hell I endured in limbo wondering if I had a live or dead baby in me.  But whenever I feel doubt as to my ability to survive hard things I remember that day.  I am strong.  And as future horrible events came to pass and I felt like I might lie down and die, I eventually remembered that day, remembered that I am the strongest person I know.  
A D&C would have been lovely, but I decided I couldn't afford the luxury of a day off work.  I would have chosen differently if I'd known that I would still be chronically nauseated even with a dead baby.  It was the bitterest of pills.  Nauseated to my fingernails 24 hours a day on a 70 hour work week.  I miscarried exactly a week later.  My sister coached me through what it would be like, and I planned to head home when the bad cramps and bleeding started.  Sitting at my desk my cramps were their very awful, but totally normal level, and I remember groaning in my head "if my cramps are this bad I hate to think what the miscarriage will feel like".  Then I stood up to go to the printer, and my baby fell out into the Depend I had been wearing "just in case".  Shocked, I walked to the bathroom, pulled out the Tupperware I had hidden in my purse to capture the baby for testing, dumped it into the container, stared at it for a really long, wide-eyed while, hid it in my purse and then went back to my desk to turn off my computer and leave.  It is VERY noticeable to leave work at 2pm in busy season.  I told a manager "I am going home because I am sick" and by the time I reached the word sick I was shaking.  My voice and body.  I told her I had a miscarriage sitting here at work and couldn't work another minute.  To her credit she covered for me professionally and kept it completely confidential.  She was the last person I wanted to tell, but in that moment I realized the ridiculousness of stressing about work to extent that I had gone NASA style for a week, and had miscarriage remains hanging out in my purse like leftover lunch.  
 Because this was technically a second miscarriage my doctor talked me into the full panel of genetic testing on me, Lowell and the fetus.  This $4000 testing would cover every scientifically known reason as to why this was happening.  Apparently very few people are as desperate as we are, so no one at my infertility clinic seemed to know what to do with the baby.  It was a horrible circus getting them to accept my Tupperware.  It took over two months to get the results back.  I tested negative for everything of consequence.  My doctor told me that I was in the fraction of the fraction of people who truly have a problem that science can't even test yet.  Yay.  
August 2013.  Another fresh IVF.  Surprisingly poor stimulation.  I have always been a rockstar at this part, and they thought they might even have to cancel the cycle.  They put me on the max follistim dosage allowed.  The "old lady" dosage.  This was depressing and brought about new anxiety, but in the end I had one great and one medium embryo to transfer.  PREGNANT.  But low Betas.  Spent another tortured week with young nurses telling me I should be hopeful, as I waited to hear what I knew to be more failure.  Finally on September 15th I found out that I had again miscarried.  This one was so early that I just had a normal sad period.  
At this point I have two frozen embryos and one more fresh and one more frozen attempts on my contract.  I am so emotionally wrecked and depleted even thinking about going through the torture of another round I cry at the very thought.  Technically I am supposed to use my frozens next, but it doesn't seem right to put my "children" in my poisoned body.  I decide to forgo my free frozen, and go directly to my last fresh round.  My last IVF ever. Thinking about the fact of this being the last is both simultaneously the most heavy and most relieving concept I've ever grappled with and my poor mind can't handle it.  My losses have accumulated.  I am disturbingly happy and functional in my day to day life, but just under the surface is pain so intense it scares me.  The doctor suspects that my endometriosis  is why the last stim went bust so I have the choice of a laparoscopy, or three months of Lupron injections.  I chose the Lupron.  I have started the drugs for my January 2014 round.  
As I retype I get lost in the awful parts, and I forget that I meant to document the lessons of this terrible time in my life.
I would have thought that I would be feeling the love during all of this struggle, but from my standpoint, God was noticeably absent this year.  That compounded my pain, and I frequently asked Lowell whether my past conviction that my life is easier because of my testimony in Jesus Christ was actually wrong.  I didn't question my testimony, I was just experiencing so much pain that had no relief, had prayed so hard, been so disappointed and was not feeling any help or love at all.  So in essence, I believed I had a loving Heavenly Father, I just was broken hearted that he was not loving me.  
It would be hard to pick which event hurt the most, but it may have been our August 2012 FET.  It was the most positive and hopeful I had ever been and when I unceremoniously picked up the beta from the hospital and saw it was zero my heart felt turned inside out.  Driving home crying and shaking my fist & yelling at God with baby Vincent happy in the backseat I was overwhelmed by rage and pain and decided I needed some radio to distract my thoughts.  Some lame pop song about sex or gansta rap was what I had in mind.  Instead I turned it to the sweetest, albeit weirdest song ever, Fireflies by owl city.  I love that song, but in this moment I was disgusted at my "luck".  I thought in my head how I loved fireflies in Texas, and how happy they made me.  How I don't have fireflies anymore, but I guess I have dragonflies and I do love those.  *Note that these are just the weird stream of thoughts that aren't significant at all, normally.  Quickly I found some gross sex song, felt marginally distracted, drove home and went about my life.  That evening I looked out the window and noticed about 20 dragonflies in the frontyard.  The backyard could have had 100.  Flying in beautiful squares.  I called Lowell out to witness them.  He loves them too and we stood there in amazement.  They were enormous and beautiful.  They were flying so deliberately, yet calmly and were so close I could see their patterns and colors as they passed.  It was other worldly.  Lowell loved the show and new it was a special gift from nature that probably would never be repeated.  But I knew it was so much more.  I knew my Heavenly Father saw me beating my fist in the air, heard me cursing him.  He heard my thoughts about fireflies and needed me to know that he was with me on one of the lowest days of my life.  I know.  
Unfortunately, as the dark events continued, that wonderful event served not to buoy me up, but to make me question even more.  "Why did You show me love in what to me was such a personal and undeniable way, yet continue to allow me to destroy my heart time after time after time?"  Having babies is a commandment!  It is a GOOD thing.  I am not asking for anything selfish or unnecessary.  I am not ungrateful for what I have.  Further, I would quit all this madness this very moment if I felt it were right to adopt.  That would be wonderful.  I am not being stubborn!  I will do what you want, when you want.  I consult with you every time I do this.  And I feel I get a "go-ahead" each time.   I just feel this major conviction that I need to go to the end of the infertility universe to make this next baby if that is what it takes.  But it is taking everything I've got.  In more ways than a person can imagine.  I know You know this.  So why the torture?  
As previously mentioned, I became fascinated and scared by how much I could function and even feel joy and fun despite the pain.  In the summer I had a 


This grief feels like it weighs 300 lbs.  And all of it is on my chest and shoulders. And heart.  So I am writing in the attempt to, almost literally, get some things off my chest.

I am back at the ugly place I haven't been in so long.  Where I am in so much pain, and so heartbroken and feel so much loss, that it is taking everything to just function normally.  I am back at the gross place of fearing that my sister is going to announce her pregnancy any minute now.  The announcement I was looking forward to just last week, because it would mean we would be expecting babies right around the same time again.  I hate when my pain threatens to stamp out my real joy.  

I experienced this duality of pain/joy after I had Vincent and was trying (and failing) for Weyland.  I discovered that joy does not vanquish sadness like people say.  You just learn to live and hopefully function with a divided heart.  Your eyes are opened to the fact that many people function this way, and it might in fact be more common than uncommon.  And the mysterious human heart becomes even more miraculous. It made me look at every person in the grocery store line differently.  Did they have a heavy heart too?  Were they dealing with extreme heart break while simultaneously out of milk?  It made me look at people who appear genuinely happy too.  Were they experiencing real joy while simultaneously mourning loss?  It gave me a greater appreciation for the human condition.  It helped me internalize those snippets you hear about being kind to everyone because you never know what they are really dealing with.  I'm tempted to call pain/joy duality "faking it til you make it" but there is nothing fake or counterfeit about the happiness and good parts of life that continue (thankfully) in tandem with the sorrow.  

I have a favorite family photo of me, Lowell and Vincent.  It floors me when I remember exactly how truly happy I was in that moment, and in my life at that time.  I also marvel at the picture because I remember perfectly what intense pain and sadness I was going through as well.    It was my first experience with pain/joy, and I remember that even though it was shocking to learn that joy doesn't eliminate pain, it was equally shocking to discover that the pain could not rob the joy. Not one bit. They were arch enemy superpowers doing their equal and opposite things, side by side in my heart, but not ever squaring off against one another.  Like they've known forever that they have to coexist, and it was me who had to quit expecting them to compete.  

So many days in the years since that picture was taken, I've glanced at it, and had the flood of thoughts above, and then realized I had in fact passed through those difficult days. I had made it. I was not "faking it" I was simply "making it until I could take it"  I'd learned a new lesson about life and came out the other side, not stronger,but feeling like I'd gained insider knowledge about the human heart.  I know, and don't want to forget, that joy always has a place in mine.

A Breakup

Long story short: I decided a gestational carrier was the new best move for me, and I found a wonderful person to carry my babies.

Gestational carrying felt like such a dramatic solution to my problem, perhaps overdramatic, and yet I felt like it was the best path to navigating my infertility Bermuda Triangle.  The three points of the triangle being: 1. The moral obligation I feel to give my embryos their best fighting chance at life.  2. Money  3.  The emotional cost of doing anything (including the emotional cost of doing nothing. Inaction is as much a burden as action, and Lowell doesn't understand that completely.)

Sad story short:  Me and the wonderful carrier broke up this weekend.  We had had an amazing first date.  We had both said how much we liked each other.  We were both giddy about the relationship.  We were both looking forward to the transfer in September.  And then she decided it was best for her young family that she not risk a twin pregnancy by transferring two embryos.  And I decided it was best for my family that I need someone to be willing to risk a twin pregnancy and implant two embryos.  And there you have it.  An impossible impasse.  And a very sad break up.

Someone posted a wise but cliche thing that went something like "If you would regret worrying about what you are worrying about if you died tomorrow, you should let go of it today."  Word.  But after some self assessment, this isn't something that I can let go of.  It is something that I will have to mourn.  And historically, my mourning has been allowing myself to get on the yacht chartered to Who Knows Where, with a path through the Bermuda Triangle.  You hope you land somewhere nice.  But the ride is out of your control, and sometimes you wonder and hope you won't die getting to the destination.

Monday, July 22, 2013

The Stroller

Well first, my calendar appointment went off without a hitch or a tear.  I did so well.  It was almost just an ordinary day.  As the nurse took my blood she said "You must be so numb after going through all this."  I replied.  "Yes, numb days are the good days.  I like numb".

Last year, as I embarked on my first FET after having my son I found a great deal on my dream stroller.  The Britax B Ready double stroller with 15 different configurations.  I thought it was a great idea because it was perfect for twins, or for babies 2ish years apart like mine would be.  So I was covered no matter the outcome - except for the outcome that actually happened.  The stroller ended up up sitting in its box collecting dust in my spare bedroom, the one that had been where my twins would reside.  So unused stroller, sitting in empty bedroom for a year, and still not even a pregnancy in sight.  Every time I walked in that room I'd see the stroller in the corner.  I'd give it the slit eyes and walk out.

For my own emotional health I decided to sell the stroller to my sister who is having a baby in just a few weeks.  (Days apart from one of my prospective due dates.)  She had had a miscarriage with her first pregnancy which was really, really sad.  It was a blighted ovum and she was nearly three months along when she finally started bleeding.  She called me in the middle of the night from the ER.  The ER doctor had done an ultrasound and found nothing.  NOTHING, and began to treat her as though she were crazy.  They insinuated that perhaps she had imagined she was pregnant.  She said "No, I was just with the OB last week.  Call him."  Upon confirming she really did have a whopping amount of HCG in her urine they were incredibly apologetic.  (Morale of of the story - same as I have always preached - regular doctors know NOTHING about pregnancy, OBs know NOTHING about infertility.  Beware.) 

My sister does hair, so I got a couple years of cuts and colors out of the stroller swap.  So no babies yet, but my hair is lookin good.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Will Seven Be My Lucky Number?

I am headed in to have a water ultrasound and receive my calendar for my 5th fresh IVF today (plus two FETs = 7).

I began my subconscious, yet ritualistic reading of fertility blogs yesterday, the re-hashing of past woes, and my assessment of both my mental state and outcome probabilities. 

All of this mental preparation is in hopes of having a smoother ride each time I do a round.  The reading (crying) over blogs yesterday was in hopes of getting the sadness out of my system prior to my calendar meeting.  I've had epic weep-fests in front of the nurse at the last two. At the others  I at least made it into the car before catastrophic meltdown commenced.   Strangely, these meetings (which often don't even involve shots or medical evaluations) are the toughest I face in each cycle.  There comes a point each time as I  contemplate my new calendar where the grief surges up from my stomach to my throat and nearly chokes me - I am not being metaphorical here.  This really happens.  I think my body physically attempts to vomit out the pain.

This appointment is the hardest because I am acutely reminded of how terrible this really is, and as I sit in a shell-shocked state the little voice inside me screams "Why are you doing this again!"

I'll have to mentally rattle off as many answers as I can to that question over the next few hours.  For now, the quick answer is I am hoping seven will be my lucky number.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

ramblings about faith

This is not some lovely, well thought out post.  Just the ramblings of someone with a brain full of unfinished thoughts.   I am naturally a very spiritual person and that colors the way I look at life and my experiences.  I love to pray and am so grateful I have that outlet to express my daily joys, happiness, sadness, frustrations, really almost anything.  Something that is becoming a deeper mystery to me as life goes on is faith.  How does it really work?  I believe that real faith is a belief in something bigger and grander than yourself that serves as an anchor in life.  For me, I believe in God and Jesus.  I love them, and have had some sweet experiences that have convinced me that they love me, and I have had even better experiences that have convinced me of how much they love others.   So that FAITH (the kind in capital letters) comes easy to me, and is not very mysterious.  The other kind of faith, faith to make things happen...I don't get it.  I may have the concept wrong altogether.  I already mentioned that in relation to my infertility and treatments I feel I have used every possible algorithm of faith, and I don't feel like the outcome has ever been contingent on my "positivity" or belief of outcomes, or prayers.  Incidentally,  I do not believe positivity is the same thing as faith and I hate when they are used interchangeably.   So seriously, what is my problem?  Why am I not able to strong-arm an outcome with my tremendous faith (AKA hope)?  One little thought I had was regarding the bible verse that says that faith the size of a mustard seed can move a mountain.  I feel like I have had mustard seed sized faith - so why can that move a mountain but not make me get pregnant?  The thought I had was that one does not have faith in her ability to move mountains, or part the red sea.  One just possesses faith in God - and he moves that mountain.   So maybe there really aren't two kinds of faith.  Maybe faith to have a baby isn't actually a real thing.  It is just a hope.  Maybe there is just one kind of faith, and my desire to force outcomes with what I am labeling "faith" is really a lack of it.   But then how do I reconcile that I have been taught to pray for every good thing I want.  And I believe I have even been told that this can affect outcomes.  I am so confused.   Really, really.
This faith confusion is exacerbated by the fact that we are also suffering because my husband works for    one really bad dude.  Cruel.  Dishonest.  Dastardly.  We have been praying/begging for a new job for almost two years now, and though I am trying so hard to be thankful for ANY employment, and also trying to practice patience, the cumulative affect of the infertility set-backs and the job drama that I am totally understating have caused me to really want some relief.  Now please.  Thanks.  Again, am I focusing too much of my efforts on an outcome?  Again, I feel we have tried so many different variations of "help us endure this better"  "help us get tougher"  "help things get better"  "help us get the H out".
I will say that when the chips are down, and I remember to pray for some relief, I have always gotten it.  Always.  For me that wonderful comfort is so real and so surprisingly immediate at times.  I am just so down and so tired of this and feel if the real key to my own relief is having some personal epiphany than I am in big trouble because my confused mind feels closer crazy than to some gem of truth that will magically deliver me from these problems.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

The Pain That Remains

Back again with so much to say and no idea where to begin.  I begin with the sadness that is eating me up.  I alternate between three things: wanting to die (don't really be alarmed) wanting to drive through the night to Seattle to anonymously smoke pot until I feel better, and pondering for hours on end what I am truly craving.  The vat of caramel corn I just made and killed wasn't it.  Why is it I must eat the whole thing before determining that wasn't it?

Here's the good news and why the food craziness is the only outlet I will use:  The Mule did indeed have a baby!  He is fifteen months old and does my soul so much crazy good it is dizzying.  I have to reluctantly declare that the peddled idea of a baby's healing magic (that I despised hearing) is indeed true.  I still maintain that it should be NO baby's responsibility to heal me, yet I have to admit that his magical little soul did just that.  Well sort of...

It was a shock to me that I really did take a live baby home.  I think so many years of bad trained me to not trust good.  It was hard to imagine a happy ending when I had no experience with things working out.  But they did (trumpets sounding) and holding our two week old in our bed, we both admitted how much we wanted another baby.  Right then.  So when my baby was 11 months old, I embarked on thawing his two embryo siblings.  I decided that since I now had banked one experience of fertility trials working out, why the heck not try the dangerous experiment of having joy, hope, faith, prayer, fasting, and more concerted positive thinking than I have ever before mustered?  I had it in me at the time, so I gave it all.  I even drew a poster of me with my two little embryos joining the family.  I hung it on the fridge. 

Only one survived the thaw.  One was implanted and (according to my HCG levels tested at nine and eleven days) sat around like stale bread on the counter until it was tossed out with my period.  Screw you positivity.  This loss was so hard to take because I had dangerously turned the embryos into my children.  They were from my baby's same batch!  They were his embryo twins.  Adding insult to injury was the incredible hope that we could pay the 5K or so for this procedure and poof!  - be the happy parents of three healthy kids, have a crazy few years and be done with the fertility induced state of stress and poverty that has gripped us for the last 9 years. 

We immediately jumped into another IVF.  This time my approach was that of a robot.  I had one exceptionally bad crying fit/meltdown when I went into the clinic to go over my plan of care, (it is just so freaking hard to even think of going through it all again) but after that, I was a lean, mean Arnold Schwarzenegger ala T3.  The compassionate robot.  Who knows why, but this time I stimulated really well, had great numbers at each stage, implanted two great looking five day blasts and had four good looking embryos to freeze.  All was well in the world.  And then I just didn't get pregnant.  It has been a week or two since this revelation.  I still maintain my robot composure on certain days, but Compassionate Robot is gone and Terminator the original lives in my body.  I want to drive into Target.  Right through the wall and past the Starbucks.  Sort of for the comic relief?  I don't want anyone to be hurt.  It just seems congruent with the circus inside me, so I dream that it would make me feel better. 

On to yet another embryo transfer.  Had yet another ugly cry meltdown when I went in for the plan of care yesterday.  I said to the nurse "I have had nine embryos put in me, and of those only one worked" and by the end of the sentence the emotional damn had broken.  It is so hard to think about and say, and it is so hard to describe to someone who hasn't been there why that is such a loaded sentence.  But those little embryos that hold so much hope for life die so quietly, taking so much of my money, so much of my heart, so much of my faith, and lately I fear, so much of my sanity and humanity.  I am the most scared when I wonder what of me remains.  

So about that healing I spoke is real.  It has allowed me to wander Costco and linger in the toy section without the acute pain that such things once caused... I enjoy buying baby shower gifts now... I find myself thinking of how fun it will be to go to Disneyland together someday.   I am no longer childless.  That is the wound that my baby healed, filling it in with the best joy I have experienced so far in life.  The infertility pain stays with me because I still am, and always will be a mule.