Its Not How Far You Fall

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Image by John Kollege via Flickr

I missed an opportunity to mark a special moment yesterday morning and it didn’t register until I was reviewing my protocol last night. I took my last Lupron shot yesterday morning.

NO. MORE. HEADACHES.

Too bad I can’t have a nice glass of red wine to celebrate.

I begin taking progesterone at bedtime but I don’t inject anything until Sunday (I will leave how I take  progesterone to your imagination for now).

So today is a completely shot free day. Yes!

I love having little reasons to be happy in IVF.  The roller-coaster ride of attempted conception has many loopty-loos and inverted twists, but is mostly made up of enormous hills and heartbreakingly rapid drops. No matter how hard you try you can’t smooth them out. But we still try. Its human nature to try to eliminate pain, even if it is impossible.

Whether its IVF or any other uncertainty in life, we make valiant efforts to protect ourselves and develop a variety of coping and defense mechanisms to help. We say things like:

“I have to stay grounded.”

“Hope for the best and plan for the worst.”

and of course the mother of them all:

“I don’t want to get my hopes up.”

I am one of the world’s worst offenders. Only three days ago Bill and I settled on Plan C and I immediately posted about it with the excitement of someone who had found the Holy Grail.

Why do we even need a plan C at this stage? If this transfer doesn’t work, Plan B will take at least three months and potentially even half a whole calendar year. Is it really necessary to have a back up plan in this situation?

Nope.  But we have one anyway.

We do it for many reasons.  Humans evolved this behavior because it has real life benefits. In days of old, when we  fought for survival or chased prey it made sense to anticipate outcomes and prepare alternatives.  These days its a useful skill in business negotiations and competitive sports. Professional pool players do well to “look six shots ahead.”

With infertility, some planning makes sense. For instance, We aren’t ready to buy the pontoon boat Bill has his eye on. Not yet. That wouldn’t be prudent until we know what is next and how it will affect us financially. Plan C is expensive. But its more than just pragmatism. Thinking ahead also provides a momentary sense of relief when the decision is made, giving the elusive feeling of control in an otherwise uncontrollable situation.

Planning has value, as long as its kept in check.

But hope? Hope is another thing altogether. There is no sense in losing hope or muffling it in a futile effort to protect ourselves from being hurt.

I have seen little value in “not getting my hopes up” in the two different ways I have approached IVF.

First I tried gathering as much information as I could, considered statistics, worried about outcomes and worked my tail off to keep my emotions in check. I feared and obsessed about low odds and potential losses.

As hard as I worked, when it didn’t work it hurt like hell.

Next I bought into The Secret approach. I tried visioning a cycle filled with good news and a baby in my arms at the end of it. I worked to cultivate full trust in the process and embraced all the highs along the way.  

As hard as I worked, when it didn’t work it hurt like hell.

There was no measurable difference in the pain at the end, but there was a gigantic contrast in my mood and the ease with which the process was navigated in the second approach. I savored the peaks, holding my hands up in the air and screaming with pleasure.  When I plummeted to the bottom I was washed over with pain. But I pulled myself together and continued the ride.

This time I am struggling to have faith in the process and let myself believe it could work. I meditated at acupuncture today, fervently willing my mind to give in to the possibility that I will be pregnant in a week. I couldn’t get quite there as hard as I tried. My human brain won’t let me after 6 failed cycles.

I continue to try. While I may not be able to fully believe, I am committed to enjoying the high points and making the most of our conception experience.

So today I am embracing the excitement of this part of my cycle. I am excited to throw the lupron in the trash. I am excited to be done with work for a full week, able to wholly focus on preparing for transfer. I am excited to enjoy my daughter this weekend before we leave on Monday. But mostly I am excited to be nearly three weeks pregnant on Thursday when our little snow baby comes back to me.

Sure, I could choose to say “I am excited to maybe be nearly three weeks pregnant on Thursday.”  But it won’t make it any sweeter if I am pregnant, nor will it lessen the pain if I am not. I won’t know the outcome until March 22nd. Until then my hopes will soar.

Whether you fall from 10,000 feet or 1000 feet its going to hurt like hell when you hit bottom, but at least from 10,000 feet you feel like you are flying for awhile.

Friends in Low Places

orange panties

Image by Treacle Tart via Flickr

Like Garth Brooks, I have friends in low places. Or at least one friend.

Don’t get me wrong, my friend Kristy exemplifies class and style, it’s just today she was literally in a low place.

Low meaning that she was sandwiched between a pair of stirrups below my waistline. She was there holding a wand while looking up at a video monitor to assess the size and pattern of my endometrium.

Kristy and I met and instantly became friends almost three years ago at a pre-natal exercise class. Everyone who meets Kristy instantly becomes her friend. She is a sweet social butterfly who never met a person she didn’t like and you’d be hard pressed to find someone who didn’t like her. Our kids were born only a month apart. We quickly formed a small play date group that gets together to drink a beer and let the kids run wild.

I love our little clan and Kristy is the glue that holds us all together.

Before I met Kristy my local monitoring was done by a hometown infertility specialist who partners with more remote clinics. She was nice enough and always willing to come in on weekends, but I never connected with her. So for baby number two I switched to Kristy for monitoring at the local hospital.

Trans-vaginal ultrasounds take a friendship to a whole new level. Moments like that shared among friends connect you for life. I remember how nervous I was the first time I went to see her. I am sure she was the quintessential professional, but I felt a little strange.

Fast forward a handful of scans and we gossip and carry on as she inspects my innards like we are knocking back brews on my deck in July.

Switching to her was a great decision and not only because she is a friend. Kristy is excellent at what she does. You may not realize it, but follicle monitoring is tough stuff. Its difficult for the tech to count all those tiny circles across the surface of our imperfectly round ovaries. Kristy is a whiz at this, arguably as good as techs at clinics that do it all day long and able to carry on a conversation at the same time (I’ve seen more than a few who can’t).

As good as she is, the best part is the friendship and that hit home today. After I left the appointment the obsessing began and we had the following text exchange:

Me: You are sure you saw three layers, right? They weren’t as obvious to me this time and we won’t check again before transfer.

Kristy: Yes, three layers and measuring 9mm

Me: Is it okay if I use your name in the blog? You might want to read tomorrow.

Kristy: I always read your blogs, your writing is funny and informative. Even though we don’t have infertility in common its good because it lets me know how you’re feeling and how my patients are feeling.

See what I mean? Sweet, right? I regularly freak out and text after appointments and she is always there to talk me down. You can’t get that from a stranger. She lies about my writing being funny and informative. She loves her patients and wants to understand how they are feeling. (Side note- this his smart on her part because Kristy can get pregnant by merely thinking about having a baby. A mutual friend and I are throwing her a small “sprinkle” for baby number 2 on Sunday.)

All of this is great, but here is where she did me in, where she sealed her fate and got stuck with me as a friend forever. As I am leaving she says to me:

Oh! I forgot to tell you, I wore my orange underwear for you today.

If you have read Orange Panties and Green Toes you know why that makes her the best friend and sonographer ever.

Thanks Kristy, it worked.  Everything looks good and we are go for launch. Unfortunatley they increased my estrogen but that’s on the lab and not ultrasound. I guess we need to talk the phlebotomist into wearing orange panties too.

Now please just let me drink out of your glass on Sunday…

Twitterisms

How am I doing?

My middle sister asked me this question tonight, catching me off guard. She reads the blog religiously so I assumed that she of all people would know exactly how I am doing. The question made me realize that blogging daily and pouring your heart out on the world wide web doesn’t really tell people how you are actually holding up in the IVF process.

I am okay. Just okay, but that’s pretty good.

At times I am tempted to treat this blog like a twitter post and just quickly check in with 140 characters worth of emotion, experiences or wit. If you read regularly, you know I don’t do that. I want my words to have meaning and beauty which takes thoughtfulness, work, and time. But if I posted quick tidbits and insights they might tell more to the reader about my state of mind than a 1000 words of carefully constructed prose.

Let’s give it a try:

Ultra comfort? I can’t believe the manufacturer plastered that on my lupron syringes. Ultra comfort my @#&! You should see my bruises. #criminallyfalseadvertising

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Nervous/anxious/excited about my ultrasound and blood work tomorrow. The trip is paid for. I’ll freak if we don’t get a green light and have to cancel. #whatsafewthousandmore

Overcommitted myself this week. Totally swamped as we get ready for our trip. I did this last time too. Ugh! #busyismycopingmechanism

The higher dose of estrogen this cycle made me cry at work again today. Embarrassing! And…Um…I have other estrogen symptoms too. #havetowearmymaternitybra

Sleep! I need sleep! Sooooo tired… Anxious and over-thinking. Laid awake until after 1AM and Spork got up early. #needcoffeeandnotallowed

OMG…What will we do if we get all the way to Denver and the embryo doesn’t survive the thaw? #2daysofdrunkendebaucheryatvail

No estrogen fueled fights yet. We are getting good at this! I think writing about all this is helping. #mybloggingsavedmyhusband

So that’s how I am and its common for me at this stage. The week before transfer is always hardest, stress escalates at this juncture and I vacillate between titilation and terror. Titillation at the possibility of being pregnant in a week and terror that I may not be or that something could go wrong.

If IVF is a roller-coaster, and it is, this is the top of the biggest hill right before that heart stopping drop.

Click…click…click… click… (deafeningly silent pause)…

So, all in all I am ok. Thanks for asking sis. It helps to stop and think about it.

A Destiny Determined before Dawn (Perhaps)

I suppose mornings were crazy before we had a kid, especially Tuesdays. We both have important meetings on Tuesdays. But now? Mornings are complete chaos.

So its strange that we may have made a major life decision this morning over coffee (hot water with lemon for caffeine free me).

Spork awoke a full hour earlier than usual today which means the whole house was up and going at the crack of dawn. As a result, Bill and I found ourselves in the kitchen with time to spare long before either of us had to leave for work.

Funny how life works. A few unplanned minutes with my husband may have changed our destiny. We decided to use the gift of time to settle on a Plan C (or D, E, or T depending on when you start counting).

This cycle is going to work, but if by some chance my attempt to shape reality through positive imaging fails we have our next step planned. This is not our morning epiphany, we have known this for some time and have already shared Plan B in the blog. Our quest will continue with one more full IVF cycle at our miracle clinic. But what would happen if that is a bust? If my eggs fail us in another full cycle?

Our plan didn’t stretch that far into the future, or at least that was true until today.

A few weeks ago a “friend” (read- therapist I saw the week after my last negative result) shared that it would be helpful for me to consider the possibility that this just won’t ever work and suggested I think through what that would mean for me. She asked me to answer the question:

What is the worst that can happen?

It was good advice, so good in fact that I haven’t been back since that first visit.

Truthfully, the question pissed me right off. That’s the real reason why I didn’t make a second appointment for the following week as she suggested.

I buy baby clothes, maternity clothes, and have a crib set up in my bedroom because I believe it is important to focus on what you want. I have always visioned my goals and achieved them. I don’t know why baby making should be any different.  This therapist was asking me to send counterproductive thoughts into the universe that may destroy the good vibes I’ve sent. Bah.

Her question also made me cry.  Making me cry in front of strangers, even if they are therapists, also pisses me right off.

So I didn’t go back (it helped that the hormones started wearing off soon after the visit). But I did start thinking about acceptance like she recommended. The therapist struck a chord because she felt that if I opened myself to the possibility of it not working and embraced what we have, it may just prepare me mentally and emotionally to welcome another baby into my being. That caught my attention.

So you mean accepting that I might not get pregnant may help me get pregnant?

Sheesh. I told you this fertility stuff is crazy.

So I pondered “what is the worst that can happen”. Turns out its not so bad. The worst that can happen is I have a great job, a loving husband, and of course Spork. I can live with that. Its enough for me. It took over a month of thinking and blogging to arrive at the conclusion that what I have now is all I need.  I don’t need to move to donor eggs and I don’t need to adopt. I have been very clear on this for the last couple of weeks and it has lifted a huge emotional weight.

Which brings me back to my quiet morning with Bill. It was the first time I have been able to share this acceptance with him. And a funny thing happened.

Bill looked panicked. I have been driving this bus with him along for the ride for a long time. Today it was as if I pulled the bus over to a screeching stop and screamed “Get out!” without any warning and for no observable reason.

For the first time ever we seriously discussed donor eggs. When I told him that I was afraid that I might not love a baby that wasn’t created from my eggs as much as Spork he said “but you will carry it for 9 months, you will make the connection, it will be your baby.” He was fighting for what he wanted. He looked fearful but was kind and understanding. He was quietly, lovingly and sweetly pleading.

It was a short conversation but I knew instantly what we would do.  Plan C.

If necessary, someday I will carry a life that a lab will create with the reproductive ingredients of Bill and another woman, but it will be ours.  This is not something I was even considering a possibility until now. I confess my fear of donor eggs is totally egotistic.  I love that when I show pictures of myself as a child that my daughter swears “Its Spork! It’s Spork.”  I wasn’t ready to give that up until today.

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However if I can accept not having another baby at all, I can embrace having another baby for and with the love of my life. With my newfound acceptance I already have a deeply seeded knowledge that I can and will love the child as fully as I love my own genetic child. It is as if a switch was flipped in my brain during our daybreak discussion that flooded a whole new realm of possibilities with light. There is still much more to discuss, but we will tackle that when the time comes and probably not on a Tuesday morning.

Of course all of this is likely to be irrelevant. If this cycle doesn’t work I am sure the next one will. Or at least that is what I am focusing on for now.

Did You Really Just Say That?

SilenceI

Image: Jennifer Moo via Flickr

Is this a blog about infertility?

Yes.

Ok… then, I suppose its time for another post about really stupid things well meaning people say. Every infertility blogger worth her stirrups must devote ample time to bemoaning how fertiles offer advice or condolences that make her feel broken, guilty, and even sometimes fighting mad.

Rather than relay the ludicrous responses and awful pregnancy advice all at once I am doling the nonsense out in small doses, allowing us to savor the experience and make the good times last.

I begin the new series with my absolute favorite senseless comment of all time.

Its a classic because it happened in an environment and context that are as unusual as the comment itself. In fact, I’d be willing to bet all the money we’ve spent on IVF that its a phrase far less than one percent of the population will ever hear:

“You don’t have fallopian tubes? That’s great!”

Yep. Someone actually said that to me. Someone oozing with genuine excitement when it was exclaimed.

It’s not what you might be thinking.

It was not a jealous friend with kids crawling all over her who can’t afford birth control. Nor was it uttered  back in our pre-baby making days after an “accident” (we had a handful of those days).

This priceless gem of nonsense was imparted during a discussion with a third party benefits representative. Sigh. I was jumping through the umpteenth hoop in the intermittent leave approval process and my doctor had not adequately explained why my condition required treatment. Apparently we needed to provide more detail on why IVF was medically necessary.

I wanted to tell the enthusiastic representative helping me “IVF is not like elective plastic surgery, you don’t choose to spend thousands of dollars and put your body through a procedure that might not work for fun or vanity. No matter what the news says these days, we aren’t making a designer baby nor is anyone else. I’m not trying to become Decamom here either. I need this, dammit”

But instead I sheepishly replied “I don’t have tubes. Is that what you mean?”

Then she said it.

“You don’t have fallopian tubes? That’s great!”

Truthfully, the representative’s thoughtless comment was hilarious. I even felt a little sorry for her as she realized what she said and immediately apologized.

I deeply appreciated her genuine excitement that my claim was going to be approved. She was just looking out for me, trying to help me successfully navigate the system and she found her silver bullet. Clearly I would be rubber stamped. No problemo.

For the first time since I was diagnosed and the tubes were removed something good had come from it. I was a winner. My prize was the ability to take up to 5 days off a month to travel and try to get knocked up without using all my vacation time.

Yipee.

Four years ago the senseless comment may have stung. Today I can laugh at my sad little consolation prize and appreciate my hardened but well rounded perspective.

For Writers- Infertile or Otherwise

ink well

Image: Chris Wightman via Flickr

I am dedicating a page of this blog to helping us become better bloggers. It is designed for weekend warriors and non-writers like me who want to be great writers but can’t quit their day jobs and live the life of a starving artist. It is complete with writing tools and guidance for amateurs who want to become better at the art of writing. But I am no expert, I simply invite you along with me as I learn from an expert I am following from a distance.

How can I help? First let me explain a little about how I ended up with a blog and why I am even interested in writing. I will get to what is in it for you after a brief introduction.

How I Began Blogging About Infertility

I blog because many years ago I wanted to be a writer, or at least convince someone to pay me to read every day, all day. Reading has always been my passion and the way I choose to spend my down time.

I majored in English Lit my first year in college. In only one semester I realized you can’t earn meaningful money writing or reading. Since I liked and needed money more than literature, I switched my major to Business and eventually earned my MBA. While the desire to write never left me, I squashed it for close to two decades.

That changed in January 2014.

That was when I read The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin. Rubin opens by telling the story of how she walked out on the field of law after clerking for Sandra Day O’Connor because she realized she didn’t love her job. Rubin found that her lawyer friends would research, read and discuss the law outside of work because they loved the law. She didn’t share the love. She refused to spend her leisure time reading briefs. Rubin’s passion was writing. So she quit. She left law behind her and dedicated herself to her dream.

The book made me think, what am I passionate about? To answer that question I began to explore what it is I do when I have a choice of how I spend my time.

I love my job, I just no longer want to read books about the banking industry in my down time. I did for many years and I’m done. I don’t care much about Jamie Dimon and his career or how Lehman Brothers fell.  Outside of work, I also enjoy long-distance running. But at 37 I won’t be making it to the Rio Olympics in 2016. I am not so dedicated to the sport that I want to write about it when I unlace my shoes. As far as motherhood, I love being a Mom more than banking, running, writing, and reading added together and multiplied by infinity. I simply don’t have a desire to write about my experiences.

What does that leave?

Infertility.

While I despise my own personal struggle with trying to conceive, I love the science behind the process and all that I learned along the way. Over the last 7 years I clicked thousands of sites and read as many books as I could find. I totally missed my calling as a Reproductive Endocrinologist but I don’t want graduate Med school at a time when most my friends will be seriously contemplating their retirement age.  However I can write about infertility which serves two purposes. Infertility provides an interesting topic that I have stashed away some knowledge about and writing on the subject allows me to process a difficult personal struggle in a positive way.

And there you have it. My topic. My niche. My passion. At least for now.

How My Blog Can Help Us Become Better Bloggers

If I do something, I endeavor to do it well. I may have started college as an English major, but when I finished school the language I mastered was one of numbers and symbols. I wrote quite a bit in my career, just not creatively. Business writing is somewhat different. My ink well is not dry, it could just use some stirring.

To improve my writing, each week I read and complete the exercises for one chapter in Writing Tools. 50 Essential Strategies for Every Writer by Roy Peter Clark. If you want to be a better writer without going back to school for your MFA, all the research points to this book. Its not about perfect grammar or appropriate citations, those are not my concern. The book is about giving prose more power through a variety of techniques.

Under the Writing Tools Tab I share the weekly concepts with links to posts I wrote to put them in practice.  I will not paraphrase each chapter or provide a great deal of additional detail, if you want that you should buy Clark’s book. I will however share a sample of my writing and comment on what I learned. Its just a little teaser but hopefully a help to those interested in writing well. Or at least writing better, like me.

I have repeated this post on the page to explain the exercise. Just scroll down to the bottom of the text to see the first three tools and please join me if you like by checking back there on a weekly basis to see what is new.

I welcome you to post links to your own work, ask questions, and provide feedback on our progress. My goal is to connect a community of writers. You don’t have to be infertile to participate and enjoy the process.

School is in session and anyone is welcome!