Such is life

I feel like a broken record.

One day everything is going seemingly OK and then…

One day I’m completely content with the fact that I’m going back to work next week instead of having the opportunity to be a mom and then…

One day I’m committed to making this our last month of “treatment” because too many things are giving and not enough ends are meeting and then…

Well, not exactly.  I’m still pretty convinced I will take next month ‘off’.  Maybe permanently.  Two days ago I was happy about it.  Then I hear a pregnancy announcement (from this couple no less, I mean, they planned it, why wouldn’t it happen perfectly according to their plan?)  and it feels like a smack across my face.  Who am I kidding.  Its not like I have a choice to be pregnant or not next month.  The only choice I have is to take drugs that make me feel like I’m crazy but hey, its probably not even the drugs, its probably all in my head because who has to take drugs to get pregnant.  Its supposed to just happen.

There are days when I think I can do this and be really, truly happy and then…

And then there’s days like today.

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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.  

How to tell its time to move

How do you know when its time for you to move?

Everyone in your local sub/infertility group is either pregnant or has adopted.

Yup, it was time for us to get a move on.

I say that (partially) in jest because of course, we didn’t actually decide to move because all of our infertile and sub-fertile friends had finally adopted and/or conceived without miscarriage.  A while back I wrote that we had a little group going of couples who hadn’t been able to conceive, led by the priest who witnessed our marriage.  It was awesome to meet with these couples, all who had been trying far longer than us (8, 6, and 3 years).  Not even necessarily from the things they said, but they were able to give me comfort that “it was going to be alright” and that I was not alone.

The last time we met in May, we went mainly to say goodbye and to meet the new baby our friends had just adopted.  We were thrilled to meet the little guy, catch up with the parents, and say goodbye to the rest of the group.  Right before we left, that’s when I heard that the third couple was pregnant.  After 3 surgeries, 2 miscarriages, and almost 6 years of trying, they had finally made it to the second trimester.

My first thought was, Miracles are being worked in this group!  A year ago no one was pregnant, now there has been a birth, an adoption in record time (3 months) and what looks like a healthy one on the way!  God is listening to us!

My second thought was, I am alone.  And unfortunately, that thought hit while I was still talking to the new parents.

I was so happy and surprised for our friends.  They had tried for so long and had all but given up the summer before (and they conceived by making diet changes, no drugs, etc.)  Her joy was contagious.  I knew her struggle and I shared in her joy.  But that could not stop my tears.  I just kept smiling.  I knew they were tears of joy, but I also knew that they were tears of something that’s a lot harder to put my finger on.  So did she.  She tried to calm me  as I desperately tried to hide my tears that would not stop for the life of me (which I blame partially on the fact that I was already emotional from saying goodbye).  Luckily, it was literally the last exchange that happened before we left so it wasn’t too terrible that I was teary-eyed.  We made a quick escape.

As we drove off to our next good-bye dinner that night, I kept thinking how I was glad to be moving on, at least in some way.  To stay there while the rest of our group had reunions with children, man.  I mean, of course its fitting I’m the last one, I’m years behind these women in terms of trying.  But still.  I kept thanking God that he hadn’t left anyone behind that may have needed my support in person.

Which leads me to my next proposal.  While I’m glad no one needs my support in Texas, I sure as heck would love a support group here in California, specifically southern California.  I know there seems to be a large contingent of people on the east coast, but is there anyone out here who would like to meet up?

I guess I have a love/hate relationship with the thought of making friends solely based on our shared inability to procreate, especially considering that unlike motherhood, its a label that often changes as time goes on.  However, the relationships that I’ve made on the blog-world and carried into more personal relationships and the support I felt from that group were extremely important for my socialization and remembering my humanity, in that my problems aren’t unique to me alone (just a small percentage of people…).  And now, all of those people are with child.  And I miss them.   I understand there’s a danger that more people may go on to leave me as well, but I guess its better to have be-friended a sub-fertile than never to have friended at all, right?

Seriously, if anyone is in Southern California, let’s even make it “the west”, and either is looking for a support group or knows of one already, please let a gal know.

As always, appreciating your prayers.

Secret language of sub-fertiles

So the first time I watched this interview with Piers Morgan asking Beyonce if she was going to have a baby soon, my ears perked up at that line “Only God knows” and the serious tone her voice took.  Am I reading too much into it?  Maybe.  But that’s my husband’s line of what we used to answer before it was totally out there that we were trying to have a baby or to people we don’t know that well, “in God’s time”.

I wish I could be this awesome at answering this question.  She’s like, my role model to answer prying questions with humor and grace.

So what do you think, Beyonce with baby trouble?  I hope not, but if so, it was predicted here first!

 

What I’m thinking when I hear you’re pregnant

I’m one of those people who thinks you can learn a lot about your own psyche and subconscious from your dreams.  Sometimes they’re crazy but at least for me I can see a lot of real-life  in my dreams.  Rather than ignore them (even the weirder ones…) I at least try to understand why my brain was making that connection while I had no control over my thoughts.

So anyway, after I finished my defense two months ago, I would have a few reoccurring nightmares.  They were:

  1. Zombies were attacking and I had to run away.  I hate zombies and don’t watch scary movies because I don’t enjoy them.  Apparently I have a vivid enough imagination as it is.
  2. My adviser berating me and telling me she was taking away my degree.  I would wake up in a cold panic that I hadn’t practiced enough only to realize, I already passed?!
  3. Friends would either tell me they were pregnant or I would run into them and their 6 month bellies and find out for myself.

Out of those three scenarios, guess which one I would wake up crying to?  Yes, repeatedly.  I wonder what my subconscious was telling me?

I sit here writing this after receiving news that (naturally) a close, married friend and her husband have gone off the pill and are eager to start their family.  For a myriad of reasons, probably none due to me healthily dealing with the matter, its been a few  months since I’ve been hit with a pregnancy announcement that’s given off that gut feeling of being punched (for that I’m grateful). But how I reacted to this news made me remember how it feels and very well may feel again to hear those words that friends/family are pregnant.  In response to that feeling before, I wrote this joking post about the ‘cosmic pregnancy’ balance instead of examining the very real response that I feel after someone’s big announcement.  (Looking back to that post, I have been meaning to write this post for a while now, I just never found the right words.)

But as I sat there, listening to my friends talk about how excited they were about trying to get pregnant and feeling that familiar pit growing in my stomach, I remembered why I haven’t written that post.  Its a complicated of a subject that elicits a really complicated response that could easily be misconstrued.  I have friends who will read this and one day probably have to tell me that they’re pregnant and I don’t want to create a giant awkwardness around this subject after I write about it here, once they find out what is really going on in my head when I hear the news.

For me personally, how drastically I’ve changed in regard to talking about plans to have babies, and just all things pregnancy is one of the most upsetting points about our sub-fertility.

However, I do think its necessary to write about this, because the ignorance and/or misunderstanding that surrounds how sub/infertile women receive these announcements is more unsettling than the announcement itself and I hope to shed some light on this.

If anything, I hope in reading this post you understand that the primary reaction to hearing that someone is pregnant is not jealousy.  In my experience, its one of self-pity, isolation, and fear.

Self-pity that I am a broken woman that cannot relate to the most basic of womanly topics (perhaps, other than ‘the period’).  Isolation because of this brokenness and lack of understanding with and from my peers. And fear of being left behind because of those first two.

A close fourth reaction is then guilt and shame.  Guilt and shame for feeling these things, especially because if I’m hearing about a pregnancy, its likely because I’m friends with that person.

Speaking from personal experience, I used to be the most excited person ever when I found out a friend was pregnant.  I’m really good at getting excited and would continuously say “I can’t believe so and so is pregnant!” to whoever would listen.  I had perfected the art of the diaper cake and made them for a variety of close/not-so-close friends just because I was so excited for their new additions.  And this was before we were even in a place to try to get pregnant.  I was just a woman celebrating who women are:  miraculous co-creators of life who have the special privilege of participating directly through pregnancy and birth.

…Or not always.  Which is exactly where the difference starts to come in as a ‘not by choice’ childless woman.

These things that are supposedly ‘womanly’ things are markedly unlike us.  And its not that a sub-fertile or barren woman will just sit idly by and at least hope that one day it will be her, there may be actual medical barriers preventing her from ever having that identity (known or unknown).  If babies and birthing are womanly things, then sub/infertile women are decidedly broken and unwomanly.  Self-pity plays into the ‘why me?’ questions and whatnot, although I’ve all but tried to stop figuring that out.  And while I might be able to ignore it for the most part in public, being reminded yet again that you are decidedly unwomanly is a depressive thought.  Airing the Chapel wrote about how seeing infertility as a disability that you just have to live with helped her come to peace with that and I tend to agree.  I have to think past the naysayers and doubters and remind myself that its OK that my reaction isn’t one of extreme joy and excitement to be part of the sex that gets to experience the childbirth process upon hearing a pregnancy announcement, because my reality proves that it isn’t a shared joy just because you have the reproductive parts.  I can be happy for another woman without being overly excited and not feel guilty and that’s ok.  The best way I ever handled a pregnancy announcement since starting this journey was when I heard a cousin was pregnant while I was preparing for my defense . My reaction was just “oh, cool, another little one in the family”.  I didn’t even realize until later that it hadn’t bothered me because I didn’t even consider the pregnancy process, only the result, because that pregnancy thing wasn’t something that could happen to me (in my hopeless head at least).  Of course this only worked because I was so busy with work and I wonder if it will be so easy to always think like this, especially now that I am actively seeking to conceive through treatment.

There are a large number of parents who don’t get to share in the experience of pregnancy and birth and can still handle pregnancy announcements.  And I’m not talking about adoptive parents, I’m talking about men.  I basically reacted and hope to continue to react like a man.  [Although I realize that its one thing to act like a man because you are a man and can’t biologically conceive, and its another to try to act disinterested while you are a sub-fertile woman trying through treatment to conceive.  Because clearly, I am a wannabe womanly female.]

The isolation and fear reactions feed off the self-pity reaction because as our identities change, so do our shared experiences, and therefore so do our friendships.  I’ve already lost count of how many pregnant or friends with kids I just don’t talk to anymore, despite trying to make contact.  Given my past, for me at least this plays a large part into the reaction I have when friends who announce their pregnancies.  I have already fear of getting left behind and at least to date, sub/infertility has been closely related to being ‘left behind’ because kids take up a lot of time and well, people with kids want to play with people with kids.

So as I sat there and watched our friends’ suppressed excitement (after all, they aren’t immune to our suffering, they probably know it better than others) as they talked about what their kids would look like and what they would name them and as I listened to my husband’s metered response (“Well, I hope you get the short, straight path instead of the windy route.” <group laugh>) I realized the excitement over the anticipation of conceiving has been totally replaced by pain.  I hate that such a wonderful subject and what could and should be a source of pure joy is so tainted for us.  But I am beginning to accept that it really is OK that my response is more reserved now.  I am a product of my experiences and I’m sure there’s more than enough women to happily jump up and down and give advice about breastfeeding and discipline to our friends based on their own experiences.

My identity and reality as a sub-fertile woman, never before conceiving, has made the journey of trying to conceive a tender subject full of sorrow and disappointment.  And while that may not always be my case, it is my daily reality now and that is OK.  I am grateful for their joy even if I share it in a different, less personal way.  And I am grateful that I have friends who see children as the blessing that they are.

I hope I helped you understand what goes on when a sub-fertile couple is really thinking when they hear a pregnancy announcement.  I know there are many other emotions as responses in there as well, but I tried to focus on the most dominate ones.  Have you as a sub-fertile or an infertile couple found your experience to be similar or different?  For me it has helped to focus on the product that I can share in (children) rather than the process which I can’t (pregnancy)What have you found that helps you handle pregnancy announcments?

Positive test results

Not necessarily the type I’d really like, though, so don’t get that excited.

On Friday the Omaha nurses finally called with the results for my endometrial cultures.  So now I’m getting way more personal than I ever thought I would on this blog, but if you remember from my write-up, Dr. H had concerns about my endometrial lining, although it was the ‘best picture of an inflammed uterus’ he’d ever seen (if I could set up a scanner I could scan the picture, but would that be too much?  my endometrium on the blog?) and tail-end bleeding and occasional non-patterned mucus readings possibly indicated that there was some odd bacteria/infection in there causing the inflammation.

His plan was, despite the test results, to still start antibiotics but they called with the results and I did test positive for 2 different cultures , after which I was all “high five, honey! first positive test yet!” and now we’re on a grand total of 5 weeks of antibiotics that will hopefully check “inhospitable uterus” off our list of potential issues.  My husband is possibly more medicinally adverse than I am, so he’s a bit vocal about his dislike of this.  But then again I’m like “hey honey, who just had surgery again?  that’s what I thought”.  He is cooperating, I must mention.  He’s just…vocal.  Which is probably good because I was getting a little too used to that being my role :)

From what I have read so far online, which isn’t that much, these things basically look like yeast infections part deux?  The most common way to get them is after birth, which definitely didn’t happen around here.  Possibly sex-related but not necessarily.  I have never had an abnormal pap so I do find it a bit odd, but I also realize that this is a new area of research for Dr. H so I guess I’ll see where it takes us.

Letting it all sink in

Its been two weeks since my lap in Omaha.  I’m still not sure how I feel.

Physically, I’m almost back to ‘normal’.  My scars are still a little swollen and crusty and if I do too much bending over, reaching, or wearing a belt (my first time yesterday), it lets me know it.  The bloating is gone and so is any semblance I had to a woman with child.   I’m very grateful I went to Omaha and was able to cross off some structural issues from the list of why we’re not getting pregnant, but at the same time I look at what we’re left with and scratch my head when I think about what direction we go.

Emotionally, I’m wrestling trying to figure out where I am.  Because we didn’t get bad news, necessarily, I feel like my innate reaction should be one of happiness or relief.  I hate that I’m back to my ‘normal’ feelings of bitterness and anger.

Rosaries we both held during my surgery, from Dr. H

We had a lot of time to talk in the car ride out here after the surgery.  Regarding our fertility, we talked about how long do we ‘actively try’ using treatment, about adoption, and about my job situation.  But one thing I really wanted to talk about was who I’m becoming.

Of all the undesirable outcomes of sub-fertility, the thing I hate probably the most is who its turning me into. Which seems silly to say, since this is my life.  Its like saying “I hate how my life is affecting my life”.  No one wants to be that person who faces adversity, crumples down, cries and gives up.  The American dream is to overcome bad times, strong face forward and rise above the challenge!  But what I’ve realized that even if you’re trying to do that, even in facing the hard facts, you’re forever changed.

I’ve read about formerly “infertile” women who after they get pregnant write about still having this same feeling of resentment and anger towards the world.  And while it used to bug the heck out of me, I guess maybe I finally understand where they’re coming from.  After years of practicing anger and resentment, that doesn’t just go away.  It literally affects how you see the world and it molds you into a different person.

And what I hate more than the fact that I have no child in my arms is that I feel myself changing into an angry and bitter person.  Because I’m moving further and further away from my goal of serving God.   So much lately my first reaction to something is just, anger.  I have not found a good way to stop it.  The only reason I hate that more is that I know if I were to ever become a mother, I’d carry those same qualities with me.  I don’t want to be that person, Lord.

And then I think about how silly it is to think that I, of all the people in the world, can be given this cross and handle it gracefully.

“There are three things that are never satisfied,
four that never say, ‘Enough!’:
the grave, the barren womb,
land, which is never satisfied with water,
and fire, which never says, ‘Enough!’

Proverbs 30:16.

I cannot change the fact that this is where you want me, Lord.  But, oh Lord please, protect me from changing into this bitter woman who only sees the negativity in life.  I know there is so much good in this world.  Help me to see it and be a part of it.

The run-down

This will probably be an extremely boring post for those not undergoing any fertility treatment.  I have to admit until very recently I skipped over these types of posts because they seemed ridiculously detailed and, well, I’d get bored.  Similarly to the way I now skip over details of what an X month baby is doing and/or not doing on schedule these days.  Don’t feel like you have read this is you fall into that category. 

 

The Good:

–  They were able to remove three spots of endometriosis on my pelvic wall and three more spots on my left ovary using the laser (which is apparently not as good as the surgical knife but only has a 20% reoccurance rate and means I don’t have to come back for another surgery).

–  My tubes are still open with good pressure gradients.

–  I have good mucus and seem to ovulate on my own (will be confirmed tomorrow hopefully).

–  I have good levels of estrogen pre-peak and good progestrone levels in the first part of post-peak….(wait for it…)…

–  I have thyroid levels in the range of normal…(wait for it…)…

–  My husband has an extremely high percentage of normally shaped sperm…(wait for it…)…

 

The Bad:

–  My FSH/LH hormone ratios is reverse what they should be. (Does this imply crappy ovulation?)

–  My T3/Reverse T3 hormone ratio is also reverse what they should be, which from what I understand, is making my body act hypothyroid even though my levels aren’t individually within an abnormal range.

–  I go from the highest progesterone zone to the lowest progesterone zone in one day, which is more than a 50% drop and puts me as a Type III Luteal Phase Defect (and likely contributes to my massive PMS each cycle).

–  My right ovary has “polycystic tendencies” but Dr. H was “unimpressed” (maybe that should go into the good column…)

–  My husband’s sperm have a slightly lower than normal count and motility.

–  And probably most disconcerting, I have an unusual endometrial lining, what I believe he called “endometris stippling”.  Could be due to low-grade infection but I don’t have the compulsory tail-end brown bleeding that accompanies that, so…its a little different although once the biopsy comes back I’ll probably still be proscribed an antibiotic.  He seemed to be really excited to have a great picture of it to show his fellows though.  It looks white/pinkish and bumpy, although I can’t seem to find what a good endometrium looks like to compare it to.

 

So there didn’t seem to be any one, clear reason why we’re not conceiving, but a bunch of little factors that may be contributing.  He gave us a 50% – 75% of conceiving assuming my husband can take some supplements.  I was hoping for higher, but I’m not even sure how he came up with that number.  We have a few directions of where he wants us to go from here but I think I’ll save that for later.

Ok, so feel free to comment on this post so I don’t feel like a weirdo for putting all this out there.  Anyone ever heard of this stippling and how serious it is?

Oh yeah, and this being the 4th day after surgery I feel MUCH better.  Hopefully the rest of our 30 hr car ride out west will be tolerable…

Random things from our trip

1. I now look pregnant.  Seriously, like at least 12 weeks.  Mike keeps telling me its practice.  So I guess I’m practicing being pregnant with this fluid baby.  At least until I adsorb it.

2.  I used to have what I considered to be a cute outie belly button.  Now I have  a Franken-belly button!

3.  Being treated at a Catholic hospital by Catholic doctors where you can talk freely about NFP as a reliable medical method is probably the coolest thing ever.

4. PPVI nurses are secretly angels.  They are the nicest, sweetest nurses ever and I couldn’t feel more respected in their office.

5.  Going back to my hometown was surreal.  And awesome.  I loved growing up there and so many things were the same!

6. Apparently I get pretty nauseous on anesthesia.  So I was totally zonked out all day yesterday and last night.  Think maybe its worn off by now, so I’ve been able to eat today.  Still in some hefty pain.

7.  Had our post-op appointment today.  So, now I have that information.  I guess I’ll write more about that later.

Made it through

So much for not getting too personal on this blog.  Just wanted to update that I made it through the surgery and got back home safely this afternoon.  To my knowledge they lasered off some endo, which must be a good sign because they wouldn’t have done it there was too much, right?  We also  got a sneak peak at my thyroid panel the other day and it looked a little funky, so I’m looking forward to putting all the puzzle pieces tomorrow and trying to figure this out.

Dr.  Hilgers told us the other day that they once did a survey of the occupations of their clients and engineers were the most frequent occupation.  I’ve long thought that engineers were attracted to NFP for the charting, but it makes sense that we engineers like to “figure it all out”…and that includes through NaPro!

Anyway, thanks for all your prayers.