A (not so) encouraging story

The third clinic was the charm today.

That’s one thing that stinks about moving to a new area and trying to explain to each receptionist that you need your blood drawn for hormone testing, but that your doctor is out of state so you’ll actually just need that blood back now thank you.  I’m just gonna go pop it in the mail and hope the USPS guy doesn’t ask me what it is.

I even pulled out the “this is for my fertility treatments and I have to do this today” line on the first two clinics and nada.  One told me it was against California state law to give me my own blood back.   Really?  Don’t tell that to the 3rd clinic…

Anyway, during the blood draw the nurse was extremely nice.

So this is for fertility treatment?

Yea.

Oh yeah, sometimes it just takes a while, you know?

(So I’m realizing…)

You know, I tried for quite a while to get pregnant before I did.

(Oh awesome, she understands!  Kindred spirits!)

Yeah, me and my first husband (red flag!) were together for 5 years and tried but nothing.  They told me I had one ovary and it wouldn’t happen.  It put a lot of stress on our marriage, you know.  He was from a Hispanic family and his mother always asking “where are the children??” So we divorced.  Then on my second marriage I didn’t ever use birth control because I didn’t think we could get pregnant and now I have three children!

Oh, wow!  I guess its about couple fertility, huh?

So, it took me a minute to figure out her actual point, but I can only conclude it was, “Leave your husband and get pregnant”?  Ummm, yeah.  Not so encouraging.

There was that other time our lab cleaning lady told me that lovely story about her Indian friend who “came over from India and married a white woman who couldn’t have children” so he left her and had an arranged marriage and was “popping them out so fast” right after they got married.   Yes, I shifted nervously in my seat, scratched my arms and tried to change the subject because really, what’s more fun than talking about husbands leaving their worthless-non-procreating wives?!  (Just about anything!!)

But I hope those stories suffice all those people who type “husband leaves infertile wife” into the search engine and find this blog.  Apparently it happens on occasion, as depressing as it is.  If you want some helpful things men have said about infertility, here is something by my husband.  He’s a pretty quiet guy on the subject, no matter how much I beg him to share his thoughts.  He deals with it differently than I do, there’s no doubt its not as all-consuming for him and obviously his hormones don’t effect the way we discuss things as much, but I do catch glimmers of what is really going on in his head.  I’ve come to appreciate his non-emotional side as being the rock that gets me by, although it can be frustrating when I want to say “Man, isn’t it awful that they already got pregnant?” and all he can say is “No.  Good for them.”  Because really, good for them.

And those are all the stories you’ll find about husbands leaving their infertile wives on this blog.

Maybe we could all say a little prayer for couples coping with this extra stress tonight.  Lord knows we all need it.

 

*Updated to add a little info on getting your blood drawn for PPVI Institute:  In Texas I had the most success with Any Lab Test Now.  They were amazing at helping me and when I went there I saw at least 3 kits for other women who were doing the hormone panel as well (they even store it for you the whole month!) so I could not recommend them enough.  Unfortunately, they don’t have one in California, so here I tried Que.st Diagno.stics and Lab.Corp, who both were not able to do the draw.  I finally found success at a local hospital’s outpatient lab and from what other commenters say, that is the most frequent place they have found success as well.  I also had to do a draw in a small beach town and randomly had success with the local “for minor emergency clinic”, although that could have been a fluke.  I played up the “I’m going to have to drive 2 hours unless you can help me and I can’t have a baby” card hardcore for that one.  

Blindsided

What do you get when you mix no sleep, health crisis, and last minute major revisions to your thesis that your adviser decides to make a week before you defend?  With “small calculations that will take no time at all”?  Oh right, a semi-meltdown that looks like this.

At least, that’s what I’d like to completely blame it on.

In reality I think its also that I’ve been so good at compartmentalizing lately that I almost, quite literally, forgot that this entire world exists that, oh yeah, I have absolutely no part of and will not for the foreseeable future.  Yes, I mean the world of motherhood.  For a minute there I think I was tricking myself into thinking that I’m just a normal girl, graduating, moving and looking for a job while I postpone having children because I’m working on my career.

And then, bam.  I’m blindsided by my blog reader and jolted out of my carefully constructed – with good reason – world of caring only about graduating.

Sigh.

If it wasn’t a blog it would have been something else.  Blogging really isn’t the problem.

This is just the sub/infertile life.

Why do I keep forgetting that?

It’s not you, it’s me.

Blog fast is going great.  Too great.  Sorry I’m not more descriptive, but my mind feels like a cross between a mushy melon and an intensely focused targeting machine, zero-ing in on random points and moving on to the next.  And I’m aware that probably made no sense.

This post is not going as planned.

I’ve just now made the connection that I wait and wait for the weekend to come so I can read blogs, but with each week comes less and less earnestness.  I am excited to read the blogs and updates but I feel oddly hollow after reading the newest posts (pretty please don’t take that as an insult, internet.  this is an analysis of myself).  Maybe I just build it up too much.  I’m “that person” who does the same thing with my birthday.  But then, more recently I’ve realized that its not just emptiness but sadness associated with blog reading.  Akin to a depressive feeling.

Simply put, blog reading does not give me feelings of happiness.  Granted, we don’t just do things to make us happy, but there should be some benefit to them, right? And there have been many a time where thoughtful comments have pulled me out of a deep funk.  But I wonder if its really more of a “fix” than a need.  Pregnancy or mommy blogs point to a different life that is quickly leaving (left?) my frame of reference for the foreseeable future.  Infertility blogs, well, they make me sad too.  Looking at something I might never have just teases me but then reading posts about how sad I am because I’ll never have it just makes me more depressed.

I just want to forget it all already!  Is escape ever really an option?

I’m realizing that my life focused on everything but things related to kids right now is busy and stressful and exciting and so, so refreshing.

Perhaps the only way to have peace with my own yard is to just stop staring at the neighbor’s.  Completely.  Both the kept and the unkempt ones.

Of course there’s no way to do that.  And it feels like cheating. I can’t just ignore the world forever, can I?  But maybe it really is the best solution.

Maybe its just a bad day.

The thing is though, it was going perfectly fine until I checked my blog reader.

You learn a lot on a blog fast.

This was probably one of those brutally honest posts that I should have just kept to myself, because if I really found this whole online blog world uninteresting, well then what’s the point of posting to tell you that?  And I realize I just ran off the whole world, but I completely understand. I would probably stop reading a blog that is slowly imploding, too.

No such thing as the real world

In these days of anxiety, deadlines, and pressure, I can’t help but look forward to my ‘real life’ starting.

Except I have no idea what that entails. And then I wonder if when real life is here, will I just look forward to something else?
(Despite your opinions on his interview skills/life decisions, his music is still catchy)
Are there some of us that are just never satisfied?  I don’t want to be in that group.  It doesn’t seem like really living.
I get excited about new things all the time.  But its a challenge for  me to focus on the here and now.  Especially this now.  But I’d hate to get to my real life and wonder why I squandered my fake life. We have THE great news, the same promise of salvation and eternal life always!  And the same strong support at all times.  I shouldn’t get so wrapped up in these temporary moments to lose sight of the big picture.
So I try to take a moment and see friends, put aside my pressures and care for the people I love things I believe in, even when I feel in over my head.   Like seeing family and helping with NFP teacher training and meeting Rebecca and The Man :)  Things like that remind me of why we work hard in the first place.
But I still have to get through the now by doing this work.  Now.
Each day has enough trouble of its own.
Lord, just help me tackle this batch of trouble right now.

How to tell people about your sub-fertility

I brought up yesterday how amazing it was to be pleasantly surprised when a friend reacts in a supportive way.  I want to reiterate that I understand that not everyone will react that way and that the actions we take to protect ourselves are just that, to protect ourselves.  It was just a nice reminder that I do not need to protect myself from everyone and that good people who can relate to me do exist.

I need more pictures in my posts...here's a Mexican sunset!

In general, I am a very open person and I can talk about things that are personal to me without feeling too vulnerable. However, I’ve realized the issue with sub-fertility is not so difficult for me to talk about it, as it is for me to tell people.  After all, what good response is there to “We haven’t been able to conceive.”  Its just a conversation killer.

Anytime I’ve told people about our problems (I’ve only told family and a few close friends who know me well), I’ve started crying.  As soon as the initial tears start flowing, I’m OK.  I can talk with my friends/family about it and not cry again.  Of course, I’m not really about telling just any old person, but about telling the people you’re closest too for example, who might wonder why you’re taking a vacation to…Nebraska? My friend this weekend gave me the idea after she told me about a similar situation with her mom.  When her mom had breast cancer, she was fine talking about it with friends and coworkers, but she just could not tell them herself.  She worked it out where her manager told everyone instead, so by the time she talked to them they already knew and it was easier for her.

I’m big on owning and accepting my feelings.  This is happening to me, so a big part of me wants to be the strong one that can tell people about this.  After all its my life, so I’d like to be there when it happens.  A prideful part of me wants to be the one that has it all together and accepts this completely in stride and doesn’t cry in front of people.  But, I know that would just be a show.  It does affect me.  It dose cause me pain and I don’t know what I gain by hiding it other than by giving off an “everything’s OK” guise to further propogate the idea that I don’t need anyone’s help.

I’m starting to see the advantage of say, having my husband tell his family so that its easier to talk about in the future with them and so that I don’t scare them all away and make them not talk about it ever again by being a blubbering mess.  I know other women feel differently, but it is therapeutic for me to talk about it, so I don’t want to ostracize people and make them think I can’t.   My big fear with this is that because I don’t tell them myself, they will think they can’t talk about it to me and then it will be even more awkward.

I'm already awkward. I don't need anything else to make me more awkward.

This is of course assuming that they don’t already know, which I’m guessing they have an inkling.  The last time we were at his grandparent’s house his grandma asked us why we don’t have kids yet (in Spanish, so keep in mind I’m just barely following along – but I did catch that!) and the hubs responded with our patented “We’ll have them when God gives them to us.”  Never to be easily tricked, his grandma responded with something along the lines of “Well, you have to work at it to you know!” Did I mention she’s a little feisty? And apparently his dad chimed in with “That’s why they’re going to see the Virgin of Guadalupe, Grandma.”  So.  Maybe they got the hint (even if it was lost on Grandma) or maybe his dad was just trying to save us from intense Grandma questioning.  Its a fine line you can’t distinguish between!

Anyway, I’d appreciate any personal stories on this as I’m totally on the fence about how to handle it now that I can understand why it might be better for everyone if my husband just deals with his family, even though I am concerned about the “egg-shell” effect.

Do you tell your family hard news yourself or do you get your spouse to do it?

Fight, flight, and fertility – A little more personal

I’ve realized I may not have done the best job explaining exactly what I meant by “what makes me me” yesterday.  So if you didn’t read that, please do.  I attempt to clarify how I think that study relates to me here as well.

I can’t seem to access the full article now, but what I remember is that the study (referenced here again) looked at fertility of women over a year and found that higher levels of alpha-amylase, the enzyme that is released under acute stress, reduced fertility over a period of the first month, but over the course of a year of trying to conceive those values had no influence.  What’s interesting is that ‘infertility’ is defined as inability to conceive after a year, not just a few months.  It seems then that yes, this enzyme would be effective in delaying conception, but statistically not for what the medical community defines as infertility.  I wonder though, if someone is under extreme acute stress for an extended period of time (unlikely but still possible), would fertility be compromised?  The article didn’t address that.

Cortisol levels were also measured, which is more of a measurement of how your body is trying to sooth itself basically.  More cortisol would maybe mean that you have experienced a lot of stress and your body is trying to recuperate.  This study found that higher levels of cortisol actually related to higher fertility, which is totally confusing.  So short term, acute stress is bad, but long term stress seems to be good?  Mixed messages much?

In life in general, I don’t buy that stress is entirely bad.  Stress makes us do extraordinary things.  Perhaps I wouldn’t have worked as hard as I could on that project if I didn’t fear about turning in a bad version, maybe I would never have received that fellowship if I hadn’t “stressed” to get the application turned in on time, and we stressed to make the money/time commitments work to see our families when it otherwise wouldn’t have been possible.   Stress makes fathers provide for their families (how many young dads stress about finding jobs once they have children?) and it helps mothers feed their babies when they’re crying (which produces stress).

What I thought was interesting about the article is the difference between involuntary vs. voluntary stress.  Voluntary stress to me is more related to your situation:  having a stressful job, being in grad-school, being in financial/martial stress, etc.  Those are stresses that aren’t guaranteed to be constant forever and have the potential to change (although you made very well need to stay in those situations for the time being – this says nothing to the immediacy that they can be remedied) and are related to cortisol levels.  Involuntary stress is how your body naturally responds to stress, more along the lines of how we have designated “Type A” and “Type B” people.  There are people (like my husband) that it just takes forever to get them stressed out.  Then there’s me, where it seems like I have an automatic response button or as my dad puts it a “sense of urgency”.

This is why I think the part about the alpha-amylase enzyme via acute stress was what I was referring to yesterday.  It’s really interesting because your “fight or flight” mechanism really seems to be something that’s hard to control, its just automatic (hence, fight or flight). I know whenever I get in a conflict or tense situation (for example, when I am asked a Catholic theology question by my evangelical family member at a family gathering), or even right when I’m about to do any public speaking, my heart starts beating so fast, I get hot, and I feel like I’m either going to choke or throw-up.  I literally have to practice what I’m going to say until I have it memorized because my brain will cease to function from nervousness!  I have absolutely no control over that and its been with me my whole life.  Of course its debilitating in other ways (its really hard for me to give an improvised talk because of this) but I’ve learned what I need to do and considering I still have to give talks on a regular basis, I know I have improved.  But it will still never be ‘easy’ for me.

Seeing that that could be linked to not getting pregnant, well what’s a girl to do?  Beat myself up more?  These situations will always happen in my life, even if I limit them.  I know breathing exercises and centering my thoughts and focus through prayer has helped calm it down, but that heart beating thing in a sudden situation just happens anyway.  I’ve learned the best I can do when it happens is to just keep breathing and speak calmly.  It seems like you could limit a stressful lifestyle, but could you erase that immediate response mechanism?  This is what I mean by I am who I am.  It seems to me that some people are geared like that and others aren’t.  I look at my husband and he doesn’t even know what I’m describing when I tell him what happens to me!

But he has lived with me for 2 years and known me for the 2 years prior and has seen my natural responses and I guess knows me well enough to realize that this really isn’t something that I can just ‘turn off’.  And I love him for expressing to me that even if we never have kids because of it, he still loves me for it.

Anyways, I’m certain I can’t be the only sub/infertile blogger that has these issues…

The day I felt the most loved

Before I tell this story, I’d just like to clarify that there are days I have felt unloved by my husband.  I am sure there have been many more days where he’s felt unloved by me.  There are days where I think, how could we ever handle a child if we argue like this without one?  No wonder God doesn’t bless us. Then there are days that are just OK.  Sub/infertility is hard on marriage.  As my husband says, its an opportunity everyday to be better than you ever thought you could be and some days you don’t meet that challenge.  Our life is by no means perfect.  But then there are days where I feel so, so loved.  This was one of them.

 

One of the harder things for me about accepting our sub-fertility has been the idea that I did or am doing something wrong, something that has caused this.  This will sound conceited, there’s no way for it not to, but I’m usually good at things.  I learn things fairly easily.  I’ve gotten good grades.  I’m usually not scared to ask questions, although I do struggle with self-confidence, particularly since starting graduate school (when I’ve learned how much I actually don’t know!).  I’m athletic and have also been involved in sports.  I’m tall, so I usually feel physically capable, even around men.  Even when I’m not good at something  (like track in high school for example – I was awful even at my small school) I have the discipline or stubbornness or whatever you call it to stick to it and at least see some improvement that I can be proud of on a personal level.  I read books on how to run faster and jump higher in high school and had a tutor for my college math courses.  Working hard has usually equated to success in my life.

Having a child is not so much “work harder and it will happen.”  In fact, many people think that it is the exact opposite.

It was common for people to remark that Mexico would be the ‘relaxing break’ we needed to conceive.  As we passed the 1 year mark right as we moved there in the fall, I naturally had a hard time swallowing this advice.  Pure length of time trying seems to point to more complicated issues that would at least involve time due to decreased probability, if not for treatment. But naturally, bringing this fact up confirms that you are indeed, stressed out.  And in spite of research showing that does stress affects conception, but only in the short term (as opposed to long term), everyone seems to have a few stories about that ‘one person they know’ who had perfectly timed adoption and conception (even my priest in the confessional told me this!) that throws all that research out the window, right?  Couldn’t they have still just needed more chances to try to get pregnant? But its all still too coincidental to believe it myself.

I would have conversations with my husband about this.  It couldn’t be just stress that was keeping us from conceiving, could it?  There were many months were I didn’t ‘dwell’ and where I just picked up and went on with my life.  We even went on some cool, relaxing trips!   Even when I did have months of unusual stress, my charts reflected no change hinting that my fertility was compromised.  Same old, same old.   But that idea haunted me.  He knew it and would ask me, what if we do get pregnant soon and all those same people say, See I told you.  Just stress for you! What would you say then?  I voiced that it would bug me that they thought that, that ultimately we’d never know for sure, but I wouldn’t care because I would be pregnant!

Still, I’d counter him that what if maybe I was too strung out and if he thought that’s why we weren’t getting pregnant.  Did he think it was my fault?  He, the person who knows me best, would know.  Maybe it sounds crazy that he could tell me something like that, but I trust him too much to not listen if he did tell me.  And he’s good at telling me something that I need to hear how I can hear it, without sugar coating it or being unnecessarily mean.  I am direct like that and that’s how I appreciate being treated in return.  And I trusted the people who told me those things too much to just get pissed off at their comments without first considering them.

While I’ve never been a planner or an organizer, I’ve always been more of a type A personality in that I try something until its beat and I don’t usually give up on something.  If someone says something that doesn’t make sense or confuses me, I’ll think about it and take the time to look it up until I come up with a conclusion for myself.  I’m my harshest critic.  What if this aspect about me, that same thing that makes me me, was hurting my fertility?

I thought maybe there is something that I can’t see for myself here.

It was one day during these conversations that I have never felt so loved by my husband.  We were talking about stress and fertility and how what constitutes ‘relaxing’ for the purpose of increasing fertility and do you know what my husband said?  I paraphrase:

“The reason those ‘just relax’ comments directed at you bother me, is because I take it as people saying that you need to just stop being you.  ‘Just stop being you and you’ll get pregnant’ is what I hear.  Sure all those times that your drive pushed you to do things you might have given up on, it was great, but the implication that you need to change yourself or that you’re not good enough is frustrating.  It seems to me that because this is who you are and you’re valuable to the world because of that, even if you can’t be a biological mother, you have something to offer.  If those things are connected, we’ll never conclusively know, but maybe you were given the strengths you were given to do something else.”

I understand that the people who made those comments to me love me, see me hurting at my lack of motherhood, and were trying to offer suggestions to help me get what I desire and am longing for.  When you see someone hurting, you want to help fix it.

I’ve realized in our short marriage that marriage is a choice everyday.  Every day (month? year?) you learn something new about your spouse and you have the choice to keep choosing marriage with them.  With this new found sub-fertility on our plate, I wondered if it would be the easiest choice to keep choosing me, especially if other people were already concluding that I’m doing this to myself.  These qualities that he used to like about me, that made me ‘me’, maybe they’re not worth it if it means you’re simultaneously self-sabotaging your chances to have biological children.

Looking down the barrel at a future with no biological offspring and again choosing me and my traits?  It doesn’t affirm me, it affirms us.  The magnitude of that conscious decision makes me speechless.  I can’t express enough how much my husband’s words meant to me.  That in spite of everything, he truly loves, accepts, and chooses this person, still, taking these traits with the good and the bad.

Nothing has helped me relax more than knowing this.