How Exactly Do I Say All This?

Hey.

Yeah, I know. I went away.

So here’s the thing. Yesterday, we found ourselves at the unfathomable place of being 12 weeks and 1 day along.

I owe a few people an apology for disappearing, not responding, not answering. At the very least, I should try to explain.

This wasn’t about being coy. I didn’t disappear because we got a positive and were too scared to say anything. (Actually, I was too scared, but that wasn’t the reason.)

To make a long story short, I was in the dark place.

After the last post here, we learned that the first of two FETs failed. It hurt. We had some big decisions to make. I needed time away from infertility treatments to recover my mental health, but honestly, with my situation I did not feel comfortable stopping even for a month. Scary time.

We were making long-term plans. We’d use the very last bit of our credit to pay for one more cycle with my eggs, and then – we assumed it would not work, but we needed the closure more than the money – we would begin to recoup the money slowly and save for a donor cycle. We went ahead with an FET with our final two day 3 embryos.

No symptoms, nothing different. Those were some ugly, dark days leading up to the test. I was convinced the second FET had failed. But there it is. One of them thought he’d hang around.

How many other people follow a similar path and manage okay without coming so close to losing themselves to depression? A lot. I know that. All I can say is, I have more respect than I know how to express for the women who struggle through infertility and yet hold onto themselves. Warriors, the lot of you.

Right now, I struggle with the things that other bloggers have already articulated far better than I can: Fear of what’s to come. Survivor’s guilt. Feeling out of place around fertile women.

For starters, twelve week safety line? As if. Sure, maybe we are in a theoretically more secure place. But I think the day I walked into the clinic expecting a normal monitoring session with instructions for retrieval and walked out with a cancelled cycle and a DOR diagnosis might have changed me forever. I’ll have to learn how to manage my anxiety, obviously. But that’s one moment in my lifetime that will continue to impact me forever.

So why post now?

Aramis thought I should, and I figured she was right. It’s possible that other DOR women who are really hunting through the Google results might come across this blog. And while I firmly believe that any one person’s blog needs to be taken as exactly one sample of qualitative data – if keeping this here, at least for a little bit, can be of any service to anybody else, it’s here.

And what now?

I’m not sure. I am pretty sure that I will be walking away from this blog, although I think I’ll leave it up, at least for a while. It’s not about forgetting where I came from. It’s about recognizing that I need to find a way to incorporate this infertility experience into the rest of my life as it becomes more complicated, rather than allow it to continue to dominate.

Well, never say never, right? I actually have gone back to a bunch of blogs from infertiles who got knocked up to read up on their birth stories (lesson learned: birth plans should be called birth daydreams, at the rate they appear to come true) and such. But honestly, I am pretty sure I won’t morph into a PAIL blogger – more power to the ladies who do, that’s super-cool. Just not what I’m seeing now for myself.

So I’m closing the door but keeping a key. Lots of things in the coming days to fear. Lots of things to learn, too.

Thanks, everybody. Peace out.

I shaved my legs for this?

I got my hair done this week. This is the first time all the way since August, which is pretty sad and shaggy, now that I think about it.

I was reluctant to get my hair done because I’d mentioned to the hairdresser that we were about to start our first IVF. I mean, it came out a bit more natural than “So I’m about to jab my belly full of old nun pee.” I mentioned it because I wanted her to know that I was doing something nice for myself in preparation for what I expected to be a challenging time.

Oh, how little I realized.

I didn’t want to go back to my hairdresser and have her ask me how it went. So I didn’t go. (Nor did I find another hairdresser, which would have been logical, but honestly I like how the girl does hair.) Going back felt like admitting defeat of sorts, which is also silly because I’ve been defeated how many times now? Gotta get over myself.

So I got over myself. I went back earlier this week.

She didn’t even remember me!

I’ve only gone to her a couple times, so I’m not offended. Besides, she’s a hairdresser, not a Wall Street analyst: so what if she’s sketchy on her customer base? I’m relieved.

Every so often, R. and I realize we’ve gotten ourselves worked up for what amounts to nothing at all. I think it must have been an early RE visit at which nothing happened – probably monitoring for cysts before a Clomid cycle – when I said immediately afterwards, “I shaved my legs for this?”

It has entered our shared language. We say it after a mediocre concert, or an encounter at work that proves less confrontational than expected. It can be a relief, it can be a disappointment. In fact, in the way that he and I eventually find a way to tell a joke about even the worst of everything – even when it still hurts – I’m pretty sure we said that about our first full IVF cycle.

Which, comically diminishing the horrendous grief one feels upon getting confirmation that yes, your thousands of dollars and weeks and weeks of tears and strain have all been for nothing, is about how that moment feels. I shaved my legs – for this?! I took care of myself for all that time, shelled out vast sums of hard-earned money, took time off work, carefully arranged my schedule, set relationships and professional commitments aside, revamped my diet, and for absolutely, positively nothing?

There’s no way around that, of course. To give ourselves the best chance at IVF working, we do all of those things and more. And I believe that I have finally learned the lesson that I cannot protect myself from grief. It will come if it’s coming.

So, metaphorically (and literally) speaking, I shaved my legs again this time. What choice did I have?

Earlier in the week, however, I made a choice. I — well, whatever the opposite of shaving your legs would be, metaphorically — I did that. See, I came to work and there was all this Easter chocolate. Like, everywhere.

I thought about eating it or not eating it. To decline the chocolate: would it give me any possible increase in odds? Perhaps, and that’s a relatively small sacrifice. Give up some Hershey’s eggs, get a baby. Hmm, let’s think about that one.

But then I felt so, so sad. I remembered how I felt when I got confirmation last time that the cycle failed. I shaved my legs for that? I went through all that self-denial and discipline, and for nothing?

And I knew then that the next time I get bad news, I would think back to the moment when I wondered whether or not I should eat that Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup. And I would grieve the moment when I denied myself even more pleasure, all for nothing.

I cannot protect myself from grief. But I can eat a piece of fucking chocolate.

A sad, sad flower bed

(More in my xeriscaping series in which I figure out ways to survive the drought/2ww.)

We’ve got us one ugly as sin flower bed. It was all right until last spring, when the rosemary and lavender I’d planted when we moved in suddenly exploded. We trim it back every few weeks, but it’s out of control. We’ve got about half a dozen spice jars of dried rosemary we give as gifts to out-of-town guests.

yard before (2) small

We need to clean up this bed, but it’s hard for me to uproot the one thing in the whole yard that’s doing well.

My current thoughts are, keep the rosemary, but maybe take out one of the bushes so there’s just one and then there’s some space between it and the lavender. And then get a smaller spice plant – like some oregano, perhaps – to plant in between to give some vertical variety. But what to do on the end where the weeds have taken over? I’ve done a tomato plant in years past; any suggestions?

I realize this series might be turning out to be a disappointment, as we haven’t yet done any work, per se. Give us a couple weeks, though, and we’ll get some stuff in the ground. And we will totally trim back that riot of a lavender bush. (I can’t believe I’m posting this. It’s like showing off your terrible haircut to the internet. Oh well.)

Ugh.

I know I said I was going to talk about landscaping. But I gotta say this somewhere.

The twice-daily progesterone dosages are kicking my ass.

It’s hard to quantify any of this, but I get the impression that supplemental progesterone hits me harder than most women. I learned recently from the RE that the progesterone my own body produces gives me GI irritation (so it’s not actually uterine cramps the whole luteal phase, it just feels like it). But the supplemental stuff: hell, I don’t know if I’m getting more than my body would ordinarily produce or what, but I’ve got terrible cramps and a stomach ache and last night what I guess was a migraine or something painful that left me weak and shaking. I had terrible anxiety attacks in the middle of the night, and can we talk about what a worse and worse mood I’m in every day? I’m this close to an HR violation at work because everybody is pissing me off for doing things like walking through doorways. All drinking extra water seems to do is make me have to pee in proportion to how much extra water I’m drinking, and I have no idea what remedy there might be for this.

At this point, I’m just trying to survive until the beta.

No, let’s not have any of that “Maybe it’s an early sign!” stuff. If that’s your first response, then I do appreciate the optimism, but I am 100-percent sure that this is all related to the medicine.

If you have any suggestions for ways to ease the side effects of the progesterone, I would deeply love to hear.

Walking Tour

As I mentioned in an earlier post, I’m refocusing this blog for the time being on our xeriscaping efforts. Because there’s nothing better to take your mind off a painful 2ww than contemplating chronic drought conditions brought on by climate change.

On Easter morning, we took a stroll around a university campus in town that’s been installing some drought-friendly plant beds in recent years. If you’re thinking of changing up your landscaping, btw, that’s a nice couples activity, and it’s free. Walk around and take pictures and figure out exactly why your life partner insists on mulch over gravel. (Weed control. I suppose he’s right. Still, I like the look of gravel.)

Here are just a couple things we saw that we liked.

xeriscape UT (7) smallThis stuff is called Mexican feather grass. It’s soft if you’re really clumsy like me and tend to walk into things, and I think it’s pretty. Also note (if you can, from the lousy photography job by me) the curve that the stones and plants take in a rectangular bed. We might do something with a few of the feather grass plants and then a stone border? Not sure yet.

R. likes isolated ornamental rocks, especially when they’re vertical like this:

xeriscape UT (4) small

This bed has water spouts positioned in the ground for each of the plants, which makes them all look like they piddled in the gravel. We don’t have an irrigation system, and IVF bill says hell no to installing one. But the spacing between plants and rocks is nice, and I like that they have a few flowering plants between the grasses.

We also walked by a turtle pond. We’re not going to get one of those, we just think turtles are cool:

xeriscape UT (12) small

Did you know that box turtles live for like 50+ years? I was thinking that if we never have a baby, we’ll just get a turtle, so we’ll have someone to care for us in our old age.

Start where it’s safe

As I mentioned in an earlier post, I’m refocusing this blog for the time being on our xeriscaping efforts. Because there’s nothing better to take your mind off a painful 2ww than contemplating chronic drought conditions brought on by climate change.

R. and I have decided that we are going to start with the spot in our yard that is really intractable: the spot between the A/C unit and the fence, where there is no gate and the only way back there is to squeeze into this narrow overgrown spot with really long weeds and maybe snakes and grasshoppers flying up your nose (Does anybody else have that specific bug fear? That they’ll fly up your nose? I do.) and the lawnmower is not getting back there unless I somehow find a way to lift the thing over my head, and that was not in the 2ww instructions but I think my RE would rather I didn’t. I have previously gone at this spot with a weed whacker, but that was irritating in its own way.

Therefore? Let’s take out the grass. Here’s the embarrassing part of our yard that nobody but the neighbor’s dog* ever sees:

yard before ac unit small

It’s about 5 x 5 ft. (That’s a little under 2 x 2 m for you non-American types.) We’ve decided we’re going to rip up the grass and then put down a layer of newspaper to prevent weeds from taking up residence (more environmentally friendly than plastic tarp but perhaps less effective, I’ll let you know), and then plant a nice aloe plant in that spot.

Like this, maybe? But just one, not a whole bunch.

aloe example(Image used with thanks from this French site that sells plants.)

It’s a good starting place, and it will give us some good practice at getting a drought-resistant plant established in a place where nobody will know if we kill it accidentally.

How big an aloe plant do you think we should try? Do you think it’s worth it to stick some smaller satellite plants around it, for ground cover? Or should we be planting something tall there to provide some shade to the house instead?

* The neighbor’s dog is adorable and is really good at sneaking through our fence. R. tells me every time not to play with the dog because then he’ll want to crawl through again and again to get more play time with the Person Who Will Throw Sticks for Him To Pick Up (that’s me), and he’s totally right, but guys, this is such a cute little fluffy dog. He picks up sticks and brings them back to you in the MOST adorable manner.

Transfer Transition

Tags

R. and I have decided that we’re going to start a new project: we’re going to xeriscape our yard. (That’s drought-friendly gardening, for those of us you lucky enough to live in places where it rains sometimes.)

With today’s transfer, I intend to step away from all my IF musings for just a bit, if that’s at all possible, and focus this blog for a bit on succulents and mulch.

It’s appropriate, really – planning to grow things in spite of a drought. That’s kind of what we’re all up to, isn’t it?

Wish us luck.

A little extra story

Someone in a forum I read said this to a fellow infertile who was feeling discouraged: “‘Happy endings’ happen for a lot of people, there is no reason they shouldn’t happen for you, too.”

No reason beyond, y’know, the reason we’re all here.

But still. It’s worth remembering.

I’m scared of the transfer. No, not the transfer – but what comes after it. The waiting, the fear, the disappointment, the crushing sadness. I don’t know if I’m strong enough for this.

Last Sunday, I went to a free music festival in a park. It was a little crowded; a young mom and her toddler daughter sat down near me. Ordinarily, all the babies and little kids would be tough for me to deal with, but the weather was beautiful, and in this case, I was secretly glad the mom sat down near me.

Two things were obvious: the little girl was her daughter, and by virtue of their obviously different racial backgrounds, her daughter was adopted.

I don’t know their story. Maybe the woman had always wanted to adopt rather than conceive and carry. Maybe she’s a lesbian and her partner bore the child. Maybe she struggled with infertility before adopting. Regardless, they have a story. And that was comforting.

So was listening to her parent. The little girl had taken off her shoes and was walking all over her mom. “Ouch, sweetie. Don’t stand on my kneecap like that, you’re hurting me,” she told the girl kindly.

They’re a family. Like any other, just with a little extra story.

I’m glad.

Addendum to the Earlier Irritation

A few days ago, I complained about what was a somewhat chaotic visit to my clinic. I feel like I should add to that. I mean, in case anybody can track me down personally, I don’t want to give the wrong impression about the state of things.

(Although, seriously, if my RE’s staff or contract web people are spending their time figuring out who the hell I am, I really need to be paying less money. Get back to work, people.)

Yeah, we’re a little frazzled that I have had to correct just about everyone to whom I’ve spoken, from the labs over to the nursing staff, to remind them that we’re doing a FET of 3-day embryos and not 5-day blasts. It’s unnerving, because (a) we don’t know every detail of what goes into this and what problems could arise if the wrong person isn’t paying attention to the notes in my file, and (b) it’s a reminder that we’re at one further disadvantage, having so few embryos that aren’t even blasts yet.

My regular IVF coordinator got back into the office today and told me that they don’t always need to prescribe the things that hadn’t shown up on my calendar of medicines, so they didn’t put them on there to begin with – which might be true. That’s a little different than what her sub told me a few weeks ago, but fine.

Would disaster have befallen our dubious-as-it-is embryos (sorry kids) if I hadn’t spoken up and pointed out the either missing or as-yet-unmentioned drugs?

I don’t know. I kind of think not. Something tells me that somebody would have noticed, and probably what would have happened is there would have been a few more days’ delay. Maybe another month. Which would have been infuriating, but the great thing about liquid nitrogen is how nobody’s going to jump out of the canister because he’s just soooo impatient to find a uterus. (I would really like to think that all 8 of those cells actually had that much of a longing for mama. Would be neat, wouldn’t it?)

I’d say I’m perfectly reasonable in feeling unnerved to this point. But I’m still totally cool with my RE and his practice.

I have a family member who went through an extended illness. He’s okay now, fortunately, but I remember his wife telling me all the ways she had to look out for him when he was in the hospital, and how closely she had to track each expense to prevent overcharges. And he had really good care. These things just freaking happen, and they will continue to happen until the American medical establishment can reorganize so that my RE has more than 15 minutes to spend thinking about me at one time.

I’m not holding my breath, either.

So where does that leave us – those of us paying hugely out of pocket for some scary stuff that doesn’t work more than half the time for my diagnostic category?

It leaves us in a position where we want to be liked, because you don’t want to be the gal at the clinic with the reputation for biting people’s heads off and making unreasonable demands and telling the doctor all about how the nurses are doing their jobs wrong.

It also means that we have to advocate for ourselves. There’s no way around it: we have to be assertive and ask questions and make sure our doctors and nurses know what’s going on with our case.

I attended a lunchtime lecture last year about negotiating skills for women. Fair or not, when we stand up for ourselves, opinion generally runs against us. But if we stand up as a representative of someone else – a client, a family member – in this case, a family made up of my husband and me – then we fare much better.

So yeah, I’ll march on down to the lab and ask if an embryologist has a few minutes to listen to the concerns of my husband and myself. And I’ll tell my IVF coordinator that we’re concerned that too many people are making the wrong assumption.

But I’m not going to write a bad Yelp review, and I’m not going to post some angry rant. (Assuming we don’t count my “Dude!” in the earlier post as an angry rant.) The truth is, my RE knows his stuff so well it’s pretty much intimidating. The embryologists seem to have their heads on straight. Not all the nurses are superb communicators, but enough of them are that we can do just fine.

This is a scary process, and invariably things will happen that will leave one feeling uncomfortable and adrift. I’m still okay with the general direction of things, however, and we’ve decided that we’re in good hands – albeit hands that might need a few watchful reminders on occasion.

Most hands do.

Awkward Knows No Limits

Just when you think you’ve gotten to a place where you can no longer be made to feel awkward, you go for another visit to the RE.

Last Friday, my 60-something male RE asked from between my legs, with his regional accent, “So. You been producin’ any of that cervical mucus?”

I eked out an answer, between all the inappropriate responses that were colliding in my brain.

That one’s pretty mild, as things go. Still. It’s not really the kind of conversation you dream of having as you look forward into the years from your wedding day.