Life is Stinking Hilarious

Back in January, in one of my very first posts, I wrote about being a Rebel in a Bathtub,  describing all the taboo ways I exercise my freedom after a failed cycle. Shortly after writing that post I began to feel old and desperate, overwhelmed by the sound of a ticking clock in my brain, and I decided it would be wise to start following the rules again, which I have pretty much stuck to the last few months. I haven’t exactly been a t-totaller, but I have limited my alcohol, eaten healthy, moderated exercise, and popped hundreds of supplements. I had only three glasses of wine when I learned of Blob’s demise and only 9 total over the course of two months preparing for our last failed cycle.

All that effort at purity and perfection came to a halt last night when I accidentally had way to much to drink which also led to other choices that are not too great for my upcoming cycle like eating gluten. Actually, I didn’t just eat gluten, that would be understating it. Rather, I had gluten with a side of gluten and a little gluten sprinkled on top for good measure. There is more that I did and shouldn’t have, but not that I can put in writing for the fear of losing my low insurance rates.

Today I awoke in a haze and when the memories came rushing back I instantly began hating myself and my youngest sister for the influence that inspired my bad choices. I belly ached to my husband, sharing my self loathing, and also posted to my favorite fertility board about my transgressions. My IVF pals and husband all said the same thing, one night of bad choices is not going to lead to a failed cycle and it might even be good for me. I am human after all and loads of women get pregnant every day in much worse condition.

They are probably right. At least that is what I am choosing to believe. Besides, I can’t change it and its not as if stressing about whether I have destroyed good eggs is going to help me get pregnant. Better to move on and use my guilt for something good, like a run.

While I was punishing myself and trying to eliminate toxins on that run this morning, it occurred to me how ironic life is. There was a time many years ago that bad choices while under the influence might have led to, gasp, a pregnancy that we didn’t plan and didn’t want yet. Fast forward a decade and here I am hoping that the bad choices, which really weren’t all that bad, will keep me from getting pregnant.

Very funny life. Very funny.

And here is another really funny thing about life. It has a way of moving at the speed of light when you want to savor it, but gets stuck in molasses when you are looking forward to something. Tomorrow we meet with our new fertility doctor over Skype and it seems like time has come to a stand-still as I anxiously await his counsel. This is the first time I have ever experienced anxiety about a meeting because we have reached the point with my age and history that being turned down by a clinic is a real possibility. Bill thinks I am crazy, and that just like Celebrity Miracle clinic they will gladly take our money especially given the fact that we still produce so many eggs and conjured up three genetically normal embryos in our cycle late last year. Still after five fresh IVFs and 9 transfers they may advise us to move on to donor eggs. We will find out tomorrow, if tomorrow ever comes.

Image by rubyblossom via Flickr

Image by rubyblossom via Flickr

Meanwhile, my daughter is far too rapidly making the transition from toddler to little girl. Today when I put her down for a nap she did not want to say “good night” to the owls painted on her bedroom door, our routine since she was born. She also did not want to give me “one more kiss and one more hug” like she always asks after I rub her back and sing her one song. She has become a master procrastinator and manipulator at nap time which only further demonstrates how un-baby-like she is. We couldn’t possibly be having any more fun but the arms on the clock measuring our time with her are whizzing around and around leaving memories of my baby in a beautiful but painful blur.

Very funny life. Very funny.

 

*I finally picked back up on reading the book “Writing Tools” and posting samples of my work on the Writing Tools page. Hence the extraordinarily long second sentence in this post. It has proven very difficult to keep up my work on writing skills while in the midst of IVF but now that we have entered a waiting period I hope to be able to work on it and add posts on most weekends.

 

Dear Sarah

Dear Sarah,

I am writing you this letter because through many years and hundreds of conversations I still haven’t found a way to say to you what I need to say and think you need to hear. I don’t know why this is so hard for me, you would think that after all I have been through it would be easy for me to tell you not to wait, not to do what I did and let precious fertile years slip away. After hundreds of shots, tests, ultrasounds, and buckets of tears I should be screaming at you “Don’t wait! You can’t wait. The most fulfilling and beautiful experience a woman can have is slowly creeping out of your reach and you have to do something about it NOW.”

But I don’t do that. Somehow I can’t ever find the words, not matter how hard I try.

I have danced around the topic many times and I know you share my discomfort when I do. You tell me you will be okay either way. You can imagine a life with kids and can also see a life without and that either can be great. Like me, you went to school, experienced life, began a career that you loved, and haven’t felt like the time was right to have children. And of course you want to find that person, the one who makes you long to carry a child. I understand, life just hasn’t come together in the right way to make you a mother yet, or even to allow you to give it too much thought. It seems so distant, so impossible and foreign, even if you feel that natural drive pushing you toward doing what you were made to do.

I remember the feeling well. There was a time in my life I wasn’t even sure that I wanted children. And then at 34 I had a moment that changed that, a moment that many women have and that you too may have someday. The moment is different for us all and doesn’t happen for everyone, but it does happen for many women like us.

After that moment, all I wanted was to be pregnant and to give birth. So we started trying. I had no idea that I was about to wrestle with demons that, up until that time, I didn’t even know or care existed.

And how would I know those demons were waiting in the dark shadows of infertility when celebrities all around me were popping out babies in their mid-forties? I didn’t know then and chances are you don’t know now that there is a damn good chance that those babies carry the DNA of much younger women and are born of expensive, invasive, and emotionally difficult procedures.

Chances are you don’t know that fertility takes a nose dive at 32 and not at 35 like you have always heard. You heard that because long ago we only measured in 5 year increments but today we know more, a lot more, and we know that we are losing valuable time. Sadly, for most bright, ambitious, and driven women like you, your early thirties arrive before you are even the “you” that you want to be before you are ready to become two or especially three.

I am lucky and thankful every day that we started when we did. After multiple heart wrenching, physically taxing, financially draining, and emotionally painful procedures we had our little girl and I have never been the same. I am sure you are right, life without her could indeed be very good, but I have no doubt hat it is better with her. She is love, pain, joy, fear, purpose, and every human emotion in technicolor. I couldn’t breathe without her and I don’t even remember what mattered to me before her. I am smitten, turned upside down and inside out, and its wonderful.

I want that for you if you want it. And I want you to understand what you may need to do to get it, because if I don’t tell you I don’t know who will.

I am thankful every day that we started when we did, right at the peak of the steep slope of declining fertility. Four years later in our quest for a sibling, the fight is even harder and we are unsure if we will win it this time. Looking back, I wish I had created more young embryos and stored them before transferring the one that gave us our daughter. Or I wish we had made embryos right after we were married and put them on ice for awhile until we were ready to try for the first time.

Better yet, I wish I could talk to my 25 year old self and tell her to go through the slightly expensive but highly effective process of preserving her fertility through egg freezing.

Twenty-five year old me would have thought I was completely insane, because she had time and wasn’t even sure she wanted a baby. I know she would never have done it. Why spend all that time and energy on something she might not even need during a time in her life when she felt like she had way more time than money?

That’s the reaction I expect from you too and its the reason I haven’t said all this to you before. After all, I don’t like it when people tell me to “just relax” or give me other unsolicited advice about my fertility. Who am I to presume that you want or need to know this? Who am I to tell you that even if you aren’t ready you should talk to a specialist, get a few tests done, and consider your options for preserving your fertility even if you may never decide you want a child?

You may not need any of this. Fertility is different for everyone and some women can and do get pregnant in their late 30s and early forties, Its just  not nearly as common as popular culture makes it seem. I want you to know that. I want you to make an educated decision about one of the most important and amazing choices we make as a woman.

I want you to know because I wish someone had been brave enough to tell me.

So who am I to say such things to you, Sarah?

I am a woman, mother, friend, and an advocate. But above all else I am someone who loves you.

All My Best and Love,

Alisa

 

*Image by William Arthur Fine Stationary via Flickr

Consolation Prizes

La Crema

The official results are in. My HCG level today was less than one and this cycle is done.

I couldn’t help feeling relieved. Since I learned the results on Tuesday I have tried to be hopeful but couldn’t shake the feeling of being terrified that the low number was going to double, and double, and double again only to turn into another miscarriage in several weeks. The odds were against our having a miracle, so the next best thing was to have this over quickly.

Ahhhh…Next best things…

Any failed IVF cycle has its silver linings. Or as I prefer to call them, our Consolation Prizes.

We didn’t win the jackpot this time BUT we did win a fabulous No-Expense-Paid Trip For Two (or Three) to New York City!!!

Okay, New Jersey really, but close enough right?

We already have a consultation with our prospective new clinic and its a hop, skip and a jump away from the Big Apple. This time instead of snowboarding perhaps we can catch a show and visit friends in the area. We meet with our new doctor over video chat on May 27th. We will keep our regroup with Home Clinic scheduled because we love them, want their ideas, and may end up doing donor eggs there someday. No reason to burn bridges.

Our prospective new doctor has a good reputation and his family was conceived via IVF. Its the reason he chose the Reproductive Endocrinology path. Hopefully it will equate to a better patient experience than Celebrity Miracle Clinic. The new clinic is also priced ever so slightly below Celebrity Miracle Clinic. And we can reasonably drive there and save some coin, which is good because we will be digging deep into our empty pockets for this one.

But enough about the fertility stuff. The REAL consolation prizes are a lot simpler like…

  • A delicious glass of red wine in our hot tub on a perfect cool rainy night
  • A  romantic evening with Bill sometime soon, rather than another 6 weeks or so away
  • A long slow run this weekend
  • A good cry somewhere along the way
  • Some time off from hormones, monitoring, poking, prodding, bloating, and worrying
  • Picking my amazing daughter up without wondering if its going to cause me to lose her sibling
  • Another delicious glass of wine

Of course I would rather be basking in the glow of pregnancy, but I develop a nice pink color after a glass of wine or two in the hot tub too.

Thanks everyone for your prayers and support. We are handling it much better this time than last. After nine transfers and only one child we are not bullet proof, but this aging skin is definitely getting a little bit thicker.

The Results Are In… Sort Of

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This morning I was the first person in the lab when they opened at 7 AM.

Still, I had to wait.

The results were audited and sent to my clinic at 7:48AM but the clinic didn’t receive them. The lab resent the results at 11 AM.

Still, I had to wait.

I called back at noon and all the nurses were on lunch.

Still, I had to wait.

I called back after lunch and they couldn’t find my chart. Apparently the doctor took it, never a GOOD sign.

Still, I had to wait.

Finally, the results. Beta of 5.6.

Technically at 12dpo I am clinically pregnant but the threshold is 5.0. My level is really low. They like to see it at 50 at this point.

It’s possible we have a late implanter, but more likely this is a chemical. Or worse, the levels could take off and end in a later miscarriage like last May.

For now I stay on the meds and retest on Thursday.

Still, we wait.

And we pray…

Mother’s Day

Mother’s Day. A day that brings mixed feelings for Mom’s who worked a little harder to build our family than most. Its a day of celebration for those of us who longed to receive a flower at church or breakfast in bed courtesy of a proud, flour covered child. We are finally part of it, rather than being on the outside looking in.

But it is also impossible to forget the pain and loneliness we felt in the days when this day was just another reminder of that title we had yet to earn. For the infertile woman whose heart is aching to be a Mother, this day and all its sappy commercials in the weeks leading up to it can’t come and go fast enough.

For me, Mother’s Day is even more conflicting because of what it means to us. You see, Spork was transferred to me as one of three microscopic embryos on Mother’s Day three years ago. She had been waiting in cryofreeze for over a year for me to finally bring her home. 12 days later I learned I was pregnant for the first time. For that reason, Mother’s Day will always be magical for me. It’s the day I was literally reunited with my first and only child after years of infertility and three previous embryo transfers.

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But I have not forgotten what this day meant to me before I became a Mom. I can’t forget my friends who still desperately want to become a Mom. And of course I cannot forget those who lost a pregnancy, infant, or child of any age.

Today I am praying for all women, not just Mother’s. I am praying that those who have never known the pain of infertility and loss never do. I pray that the wait ends soon for those that are still waiting. I pray for peace and healing for those who are reliving a loss today. I pray for all mothers who gave their child and adoptive family the greatest give you can give. And I pray in great thanks for what I have and for the people and processes that made it possible, because I do know what I have. I do.

Peace and love to you all. May the world be kind to you today and may our Mother’s Day story bring those that need it hope instead of pain.

Follicle Envy

I wrote in Confessions of a Sister and Fellow Infertile that I feel like the odd barren woman out when it comes to the jealousy that often accompanies infertility. You see, I am largely immune to it. Sure I get that momentary pang in my chest when I pass a pregnant woman or see an infant, but for the most part I look at other’s pregnancy success as a huge accomplishment and I don’t let it bother me.

That is with the exception of family and other infertiles. In both those cases I glow as green as the the Jolly Green Giant exposed to radiation in a massive nuclear meltdown.

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In my first post I described my heartache at being beaten to motherhood by those closest to me, my sister and my sister-in-law. In this one I will share a much more light-hearted but never-the-less true confession, I am wildly envious of my closest sisters in infertility.

Now don’t get me wrong, the only time I have ever cried tears over one of these women is when the “joy sucker” known as infertility kicks them in the uterus when they are already down. While I was pregnant with Spork, I felt total despair and cried buckets of tears for a dear online friend who lost twin boys only a few days after giving birth to them too soon.

Last year, I died a little bit inside when one of the first women I cycled with lost her baby to a miscarriage while she was struggling through a shift at work. I love these women and the community that surrounds us through this unfair, sometimes defeating, and otherwise lonely battle. I don’t know what I would do without them.

But…

I suffer from extreme follicle envy. Not pregnancy or baby envy, follicle envy. I am fine with pregnancy and babies. In fact, I am seriously geeked when my infertile friends have strong positive beta results or climb back from no man’s land when a beta or a baby’s heart beat rallies and defeats the odds. I never, ever, envy that moment when they achieve their long anticipated dreams.

Now that is not to say that like most infertile women I don’t sometimes secretly wonder if they got my winning ticket in the baby lottery. After all, only a certain percentage of us IVFers will get pregnant. But I am smart enough to know that their success is independent of my own and does not mean imminent  failure for me.

No, I don’t want their pregnancy tests with their two bright pink lines any more that I want their babies.

I just desperately desire their follicles.

Oh, and their textbook blastocysts too.

I want to have a follicle count that consistently hits in the 20s and embryos that are perfect quality and number in the double digits. I want enough embryos to “go to blast” with confidence. I long for those blasts to get there by day five and earn perfect 5AA grades.

I’ve never had that. My embryos are often fewer in number, a little slower and are average quality. If my embryos were in a beauty pageant, they would be like the smartest girl in high school standing next to all the Victoria Secret’s models all glammed up and ready to hit the runway. Sure mine are pretty enough and hopefully worthy in a way that really matters, but they are usually outdone in both number and physical beauty.

Even though it is illogical, there is no limit to my envy. Even when I know someone’s Reproductive Endocrinologist has overdone it, producing too many follicles and risking OHSS, I want to be in their stirrups. I want that basket full of eggs because what it really represents is a basket full of options, a veritable guarantee that a baby is in their future.*

Its nothing I could or would ever cry over, and just as it is with my family, deep down inside I am genuinely pulling for my infertile friends. When I hear of their fantastic results, it just hurts a little bit as I realize that those days have passed for me and my hopes of having a beautiful blast that grows into a baby will be realized a few embryos at a time and possibly over many cycles. I have to travel the long hard road and may be looking down the barrel at…wait for it… donors eggs.

Donors egg cyclers are not spared my envy either, however, with their young cycle buddies who also often have a lot of follicles and blastocysts. Plus this group has like the best odds of us all and they have already made that emotional and mental leap that I am still fighting against. What’s not to envy?*

Speaking of young, I really think its the young part that gets me if I am totally honest with myself.

I say this because the infertile women who really cause the little lump in my throat when I read their updates are the really young women who knock it out of the park on their first at bat. I wouldn’t have it any other way, but I have seen so many of them join the infertility community and leave it before the pee is dry on that first positive pregnancy test.* I am happy for them, glad they will not have a need to build bonds with others the way I have after years and multiple treatments. And I am glad to be there for them too. Because I think they need me and others like me, if only for a short while.

I remember back when I started IVF.  I was so nervous about posting for the very first time on my first infertility board. So many of the women there were so knowledge and slightly intimidating to me at the time. Here I was having to look up what BFP meant (Big Fat Positive) and they were talking about new technology and protocols and donor eggs, and blastocysts, and it all made my head spin. But I wanted to be a part of it and every time one of them got pregnant it made my heart almost explode with happiness. They were proof it could happen for anyone. It could be me someday.  And of course it was. I have a beautiful baby. I got lucky.

But I am back here now, and I am one of those older “been there done that” ladies. A veteran of the war against infertility back on the front lines to fight again. Only now I am older and battle scarred. I am so weary and some days I just want to stop the fight. But I can’t stop the fight, not now and not ever. Because even if I were done fighting for me I would still need to fight for them.

So maybe that is what this follicle envy is all about. Its not about follicles, or embryos, or low FSH levels. Its not about odds or blastocysts or numbers.

Maybe its all about growing older, being jaded and battle worn.

Maybe I am just longing for the good ole’ days when I didn’t know better and I got lucky in spite of myself and my naiveté.

Whatever it is, I do love the infertile community and everyone in it. Old, young, gay, straight, married, single, male factor, tubal issues… whatever brought you here I am sorry you are here, but I am glad we are here together.

Still… I do sometimes wish I had your follicles and your beautiful blasts. Sorry for that one little detail.

 

 

 

 

 * Yes I know infertility is not resolved by a first successful pregnancy, I am exaggerating for effect.

*studies actually show that too many eggs can impact quality, so it may not be all its cracked up to be, but still its hard not to want it.

*I know the decision to move to donor eggs is hard. I am not making light of it, I am once again just exaggerating for effect.

 

Confessions of a Sister and Fellow Infertile

Image by Alison young via Flickr

Image by Alison young via Flickr

I always thought I was different than many of the women I know when it comes to infertility and jealousy. I never struggle in the same way others sometimes do when I learn of someone’s pregnancy or happen to walk by a glowing Mom-to-be on the street.

Like anyone trying to conceive, my awareness of pregnant women and babies is elevated when I am actively cycling. I am human after all. Because I am in the middle of the two week wait, I currently feel trapped in a fictional and terribly done B movie that plays in my head called “Invasion of the Baby Makers.” Pregnant women and infants are everywhere I turn, and of course I feel that tiny pang in the center of my chest when I see them, especially when I am unprepared to bump into… well… a bump.

But that’s it. The good fortune of strangers as evidenced by their tight round bellies rarely elicits more than that little stab of feeling that sinks rapidly and deeply into my heart but fades as quickly as it came. You may recognize the feeling, it lasts only a moment. And that feeling is about the extent of it. I do not have break downs, cry, or break out the Ben and Jerry’s when I find out someone is pregnant or receive an invite to a baby shower from a lucky friend or acquaintance. I never have.

I always remind myself that I don’t want their baby, I want our baby. Besides, I tell myself, I don’t know what version of hell they may have faced or demons they had to slay to achieve their blissful full-bellied state. For all I know the path they tread could have been as long and hard as my own, so I generally just let it go.

Generally.  There are two notable exceptions. Family and fellow infertile women.

I will talk about my illogical envy for other infertile women in my next post, Follicle Envy, but my issues with family members who get knocked up is really quite strange and deserves a post all its own.

Of course the baby blessings of my family members genuinely make me happy, but a few years back when I learned of my sister-in-law’s unexpected pregnancy only a few days after a failed cycle, I sobbed in Bill’s arms until I ran out of tears. I did this despite the fact she was 37 years old and I had been mortally terrified up until then that she would never have the kids I knew she desired. To this day I still do not know why it upset me so much, but it did. It was probably as simple as timing, as well as the fact that it came so easily to her when we tried so hard for so long.

Then there was my middle sister’s first pregnancy. She literally got pregnant as soon as she started trying and announced it to me and the rest of the immediate family in a pretty dramatic an unexpected way while we were in the two week wait of our very first IVF cycle. I am sure its not a choice she would make today knowing what we all know about infertility and IVF. Back then we were all so naive so certain IVF would work and work quickly.

Once again, I was happy for her but I ached at the thought that I was the much older sister and should have been first. I also envied the confidence she had which allowed her to announce her pregnancy with such utter excitement at only 5 weeks. I already knew then that any pregnancy I had would always have a small cloud of fear over it that would prevent my joy from emanating so purely.

In the back of my mind, I also wondered if she was deliberately trying to beat me to the punch since she knew we had just completed our first cycle. I know now that wasn’t the case, she was just expressing unbridled bliss of the greatest news any hopeful mother-to-be can receive, but try to tell that to a hormone crazed woman in the two week wait. It was painful. The experience was almost as painful as being invited to her shower for her second child while I was going through my first and hopefully only miscarriage.

I already had my daughter then, but it still stung and made me want to crawl under the covers and sleep through the nightmare of her pregnancy that was timed so inconveniently with my loss.

These three pregnancies are the only ones ever to cause me real pain or tears. I am sure there is some psychological reason why only those I am closest to make me to feel the jealousy and despair my other infertile friends seem to reserve for catty women at work that they didn’t like that much in the first place.

Maybe it is as simple as proximity, knowing I would be reminded of what they have and I couldn’t every time I connected with them or anyone in the family. I don’t know. But it ached. Thankfully I think its done for awhile. I am happy for that. But I am even happier to have my beautiful nieces and amazing nephew.

While it was hard at the time I would never consider having it any other way.