Thursday, March 27, 2014

Carrots & Closure

Some time ago, my 2 year old daughter threw an unexpected temper tantrum over dinner at Disneyland. This may not sound like an unexpected thing to you, after all this is a a 2 year old we are talking about, a 2 year old being forced to interact with actual food at the happiest, tantrum capital on Earth. So you're right, the fit itself was absolutely to be expected, it was the impact it had and what it taught me that was so surprising. 

It all started with a carrot. Snow Pea was dining on peas and baby carrots quite happily during dinner, carefully chewing each bite in hopes of scoring dessert at the end of her meal. Then, just as she was opening her mouth and about to tip the last carrot in, it fell to floor. She lost it. Completely melted down. "My carrot! I need my carrot!" Doing what any well-meaning but absent minded parent would do, I explained that the carrot was gone but it would be ok. Look! You can have dessert now! You didn't finish the last carrot but you get chocolate pie! But she didn't want chocolate pie. She only wanted that carrot. That last bite she was so ready for, but that had been taken away by an unfortunate combination of gravity and unrefined motor skills, was all that mattered. It was the first time I saw my daughter truly sob. Big, fat tears rolled down her face as she bawled, "my carrot! my carrot!"

I did not know what to do. I kept trying to comfort her, calm her down, but nothing helped. Until finally, I picked up the poor, lost carrot and let her hold it in her hand. I explained that she couldn't eat it and she just looked at it, took a big sigh and then put it on her plate. She stopped crying and asked quietly for a bite of the pie. And then I realized, it wasn't the carrot itself she needed, it was closure! My 2 year old reminded me, in what may seem like the silliest way, just how crucial of a need that is to all of us when our heart is set on something that we no longer get to have. 

Since our third failed FET at the end of last year, I have struggled with my emotions and the unrest at not being able to decide what our next move will be. Chad and I had originally agreed that if December failed, that we would be done with trying and just live as a family of 3. But when I met with my RE we discovered that I had a uterine polyp that was a very likely culprit for the previous failures. After that I was very quickly scheduled for surgery to remove it and have my also potentially damaging tubes removed. 

That was in January and my brain has been a yo-yo ever since. To cycle again or not? To be focus solely on my one, wonderful child or to do this just one more time? That last failure left me feeling so broken, so defeated, I really haven't wanted to go through it again. But then there was the surgery and with it that possibility that my body actually is capable of doing this again. I have gone back and forth a million times. More than anything, I want to be done with this phase of my life. I want to be out of the limbo that infertility creates and move forward to something else, whether that is with one child in my arms or two. But what I learned from the carrot is that I need closure to do that. And I know deep down that with the surgery success and embryos still in the freezer, that closure will never come unless I take the plunge again. I will always wonder "what if?" and I can't truly move forward with that in my head & heart. I have no doubt that I will be crushed if this still doesn't work. I will cry, I will hurt, I will mourn but I will find peace knowing that I can allow myself to let go. I can pick up that carrot that is my dysfunctional body, heave a big sigh and grab a bite of chocolate pie instead.

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Super Sappy Mushiness

Looking at my recent blog posts, it seems as if pretty much nothing has gone right for me the past few months. True, the end of last year pretty much sucked and I started this year in a bit of a depression but that doesn't mean there hasn't been anything worth smiling about. And that's what I want to do now- share the positives. As expected and as usual, they pretty much revolve around the amazing, loving, supportive people I have in my life. I quite honestly find at least one moment in every single day that makes me feel humbled and grateful for the love in my life. I really do feel so privileged to know the people that I do and it makes me emotional and gushy- so bear with me. (I can't even get through this paragraph without welling up!)

I also feel insanely guilty after these amazing people come through for me the way they do and I find myself unable to sufficiently thank them. I mean, sure I say thank you, I cry, I gush over how much their kindness has meant to me, I give hugs to those I can. But it is never enough. How do you properly thank the friend that remembered your upcoming surgery and had a special treat delivered right to your door at just the right moment? Or the one that despite being inundated with her own stresses with a new baby & toddler sends you a heartfelt letter of empathy? Or the very pregnant friend that shows genuine care for your feelings at HER baby shower and then follows it up with a spa gift card? And then takes care of your daughter while you recover from surgery and sends over homemade soup? How do you properly express your gratitude to the caring friends that put up with your long twitter and blog absences yet are still there to support you the moment you need them- no questions asked? Or to the family members that listen with an open mind but also understand and respect your desire to not talk about it? And this is just the tip of the iceberg. 

Dealing with infertility, there is never a shortage of horror stories about the wrong thing said or the insensitive comments endured. I have had my share of those and they still cause that bit of nervous tension before I open my mouth to someone new, not quite knowing what to expect in response. But I have also experienced so much love and support that it is possible for me to choose to focus on that instead. Without a doubt the most profound (and tear inducing) act of love and kindness came from my closest friends this holiday season. 

My sister, my husband, my two best friends and another very close friend all have a hangout chat that we have been engaged in for a couple of years now. We aren't all in the same place and this ongoing convo between us is a fun way to be together even when we can't do so physically. These are pretty much my favorite people in the world and I love knowing that they are always there. For much of the cycling we endured recently, they were the first, and sometimes only, to know what was happening. These are the people that know me in every aspect- my faults and flaws along with my strengths. They understand why I'm doing something before I do. They know me in that way only people you have been close with for a long time can. 

So I shouldn't have been so surprised when they knew, that despite my insistence that I was ok with being done cycling and that all those failed cycles weren't a huge deal, that I was actually hurting more than I even realized. I also shouldn't have been dumbfounded when Chad and I received the immensely generous, supportive gift they got together to give us at the beginning of the year. They, along with my mom and my sister's boyfriend, showed us a level of support that I still can't think about without getting overwhelmed with emotion. And they didn't do it to be flashy or to get lots of attention and thanks. They did it quietly and simply said- "We love you, we are here for you". And followed it up by making me laugh. What could be better? I just wish there was some way I could repay them and the level of support they've given me. 

I have this whole wealth of stuff about having had surgery last month and all the emotions that came with it that I still need to get out and work through. I also have been riding an emotional roller coaster of ups and downs about what our next steps are and whether a second child is in our future at all. I have at least 3 blog posts in there somewhere. But right now I just need to again say thank you to anyone and everyone that has supported me through all of these ups and downs (and if you are reading this, then that probably applies to you!). I feel like a broken record, but if thanking my friends for being there for me is the repeat I am stuck on, I figure at least in that regard, I'm a very
lucky girl.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Remembering to Feel

Struggling through trying to have a child with infertility for the second time never stops surprising me with its ability to hurt in new and different ways than it did the first time around. It is as if all of the coping skills I thought I had found the first time have disappeared. Or maybe what has happened, is that my life has changed so drastically that I have no choice but to learn new coping skills that fit with the life I have now. 

The biggest problem I have realized, is that I keep forgetting that I have a problem. When I was trying to have a child the first time, absolutely everything else stopped. The only thing in my life that mattered was my endeavor to be a mom. I put all of my mental, physical and emotional energy into it. There was nothing else that really needed my attention and it mattered so much, so it was easy to do. And when I was feeling heartbroken due to a failed cycle or a loss, it was easy to throw myself into that pain- to really feel it, cry, mourn and work through it. Everything is completely different now. Now there is so much in my life that I happily devote my energy to. My daughter, my marriage, my volunteer & advocacy roles, my network of friends- these things keep me busy and give me just enough things to smile about that I keep forgetting that I actually am in pain. 

I haven't started to believe I am feeling better, instead I have kept myself busy enough to forget there is even anything to be unhappy about. My brain keeps forgetting, but my body remembers. It isn't until I am sitting on my couch, wishing I could make my to-do list disappear, turn off my phone, curl into a ball and stare into the abyss for the rest of the day that I start to remember that maybe there is a reason for it. And even then, I first spend half a day wondering why it is that I don't want to talk to anyone or do anything before I think that just maybe this whole infertility thing is the problem. Because that's the thing- I am not thinking about it everyday. I am not disinterested and lethargic everyday and when I do feel that way, it is not in response to any sort of external trigger or even any internal thoughts. It just comes on and I feel helpless to understand it. I am not even sad. I'm just numb. Yesterday, I enjoyed dinner & wine at a friend's, laughing and conversing the whole evening in a genuinely good mood. Today, I can barely crack a smile or even fake excitement about scheduling a weekend vacation that I should be thrilled about.The back and forth is confusing & making me realize I still haven't properly allowed myself to wallow and then work through the hurt as I know I should. 

The problem is, I am not sure how to access my feeling and get through them. I have inadvertently forced myself to push them down & now have no clue how to bring them back up. Do I watch a tear-jerker movie just to get the ball rolling? I know from experience that the breakdown waiting for me if I don't figure out how to deal with this, will be far more explosive than it has to be if I can just get it out now. It's so weird, knowing that I should cry, feel pain and emotion but instead I just feel numb and hollow. I have nothing close to tears or even the sadness I felt even a week ago but I know it's all there under the surface. Last week, it was so accessible that just hearing a triggering phrase in my yoga class had tears flowing down my cheeks. I felt slightly crazy, but it was also mildly cathartic to feel that direct connection to my feelings and to healthily express them. Today I am just empty. I even went to the same candlelight yoga class tonight, hoping that the stretches, breathing and moments of peace would just help me feel more like me- more in touch with myself. Instead, I could not wait to get out of there and kept wishing I could be home on my couch, curled under a blanket. Writing this post is my last attempt to force myself to be in touch with, at the very least, my numbness if I can't tap into the cause of it right now.

Is this what depression looks like? Or am I just having "one of those days"? I am always so hesitant to even think about that because I don't want to assume that just because I am sad and numb today that I will be sad and numb tomorrow. I am a forever changing yo-yo lately. Plenty of my days since that last BFN have been genuinely good ones. Maybe this is my new way of working through it. Instead of putting my life on hold to focus solely on infertility, my current struggle and my feelings about it, maybe I just have to take it one day at a time with one step forward and two steps back. A few hours of very good feelings followed by half a day of sad, numb ones- experiencing these things little by little as I face each new moment as it comes. Hopefully, I will slowly find the place within myself and my life that I can be at peace with my body, my struggle and with whatever happens next.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Heartbreak 2.0

I can't even begin to tell you how many blog posts I have written in my head the past 6 weeks but never gotten around to actually writing. The biggest reason of which is that I have been too afraid. We have been so secretive about our FETs this past year, and I have opened this blog up to so many people in my life- I guess I just wasn't ready to share yet. But now it's becoming too much and I am finding myself feeling more lost than I did the first time around, and I realize how desperately I need to stop trying to keep it all in.

Infertility 2.0 was supposed to be easier, less painful and traumatic somehow. We have already endured the years of trying on our own, the tedium of temping, the anxiety of testing & diagnosis, the marathon of IVF, the hell of miscarriage and finally the joy of successful FET. We knew what to expect. We knew the problems and how to treat them. There was no reason this shouldn't work. No reason this time shouldn't have been smoother, simpler than than the first. Oh how very wrong we were. 

In 2013, we had 3 failed FET cycles. With the 5 embryos lost to these failures added to the 3 that didn't make it the first time around, that puts the viability of my embryos so far at 1 in 9- far below the 1 in 3 my RE predicted based on my age, hormone levels and our combined egg/sperm quality. 5 transfers, 9 embryos, one child- I am beating the odds in a terrible way. And I was not at all prepared for this or for how it would affect me. 

When we started infertility treatment 2.0 this past summer, I not only felt fairly confident we would have an easier time achieving success, but that if for some reason we didn't I would be more ok with everything than I was the first time. I think I even said so on my blog. After all, I wasn't a mom last time and now I am. Who cares if I have one baby or two? I'm a mom when I wasn't before and the headcount of my household doesn't change that fact. Which is still true, of course. In so many ways it is not as painful, it doesn't cut the same way the fight for motherhood did. But it still hurts and cuts in new ways I never saw coming. 

My body has now failed me more than it had in 2010 when we were going through IVF/FET. Then, I just couldn't get pregnant without help but after the hormones and the procedures, my body did a pretty good job of behaving as it should. I felt damaged for sure, but I didn't feel quite as broken as I do now. Today, I met with my RE and discussed the possibility that fluid in my fallopian tubes may be creating a toxic womb environment and destroying what would otherwise be healthy, viable embryos. The thought that my own body is responsible for literally killing my embryos is soul crushing. 

How do I maintain a healthy self-esteem when my own body is so broken and dysfunctional? How do I stave off the despair, self-blame and depression that comes from infertility when I think about my own body actually poisoning my attempts to further build my family? How do I control my anger when I realize that we have spent thousands of dollars, I have forced myself through hundreds of injections, and we have tolerated months of anxiety, false hopes and heartbreak all with absolutely nothing to show for it? How do I hold back the flood of tears when my daughter comes running into the room to show me that she has been practicing her sign language so she can teach it to the baby brother or sister she keeps begging me for? How do I manage the guilt and shame at letting all of this hurt so much when I know I am lucky to have such an amazing child, even if she is my only one? Infertility as once again made me feel like a failure, this time as a woman, a wife, an advocate and a mother. I just wasn't prepared for all the new ways my heart would break when we set back out on this road. 

Monday, November 4, 2013

Another One Bites the Dust

Writing and blogging really is such a cathartic way to deal with everything that happens in life, and I don't know why I don't make more time to do it. Mostly, just the regular excuses about being busy and distracted I guess. I mean, yeah I actually am busy and I do get distracted but I should make more quality time for myself. Especially now. 

After September's chemical pregnancy, I realized how very much I want to have another child so Chad and I plunged straight into another cycle. I was already in the habit of nightly injections, so might as well keep them going. And yeah that cycle ended badly, but this next one was sure to work, right? I won't keep you in suspense, the answer is no. Today was beta and my official BFN. 

Not that it was a shock. I poas'd earlier this weekend knowing Chad was leaving town for work today, and neither of us wanted to be apart immediately after getting the results, so we decided it was better to find out sooner rather than later. Both our hopes were much higher than either us had confessed though, so seeing that single, lonely line Saturday afternoon was crushing to say the least. Still, I don't regret it. Testing early didn't change the outcome and it gave us both time together to process. What knowing didn't change is that it still hurt like hell hearing the nurse say the word "negative" on the phone this morning. I knew that's what she would say. I was fully prepared for it. So why did it still sting? Why does infertility continue to find new ways to make me hurt? 

When I became a mom after so much pain and heartbreak, I knew that trying again one day would be hard, but I also knew it would never hurt that same way again. It would never be as raw and intense as the pain of having empty arms. When we finally started our FETs for baby #2, I was confident that I knew what to expect, that I wouldn't be surprised by pain like I had been in the past. But here I am shocked by all of the unexpected ways infertility wracked my emotions yet again. I was still right that it isn't as extreme of a pain as I endured before motherhood, but it is still pain nonetheless, and it still tears at all of my old wounds even as it rips open new ones.

This is my first IVF/FET cycle in which no implantation at all took place. Granted I've only had one child, but I have had 3 "pregnancies". I haven't stared down a straightforward BFN, with no confusing betas or possible positives since my clomid days 4 years ago. And while this complete failure is making me question whether I could have done anything different to get a better outcome, it has also verified a long held suspicion that even though a BFN hurts like hell, it isn't as unbearable as thinking I might actually be getting what I want and having it cruelly ripped away from me. So I guess I have that as a silver lining this cycle? Yeah I am not pregnant, but at least I never was? Honestly, when you are facing this heartbreak, you have to take what you can get when it comes to finding the good in it. And as pessimistic as I sound there is some good. Or at least some hope, anyway. We are very lucky in that we still have frozen embryos left so we can keep trying without having to worry about the time and expense of a fresh IVF cycle. Although, after two failed cycles, we seem to be investing quite a bit of time and money after all.

But back to the hope. As negative and angry as I feel at the moment, I know hope is still there. It isn't over and there is still a good chance that this will work in the end. Although, if I am being honest, I am not really certain of my belief that it will work, and in fact, I am kind of terrified that it won't. I am already crushed that my so many of my family dreams have had to be re-written or let go of altogether, I am just not ready to let go of this one yet. So for now, I am not going to. Thanks to travel and holiday schedules we won't be able to transfer again until next year, which kills me, but hopefully I can use this time off to relax and recharge before subjecting myself to hundreds more needles. I can only hope that the new year brings realized dreams along with it. 

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Hope & Loss

Yesterday was October 15, or as it is known in the infertility and loss communities- Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day. Each year on this day for quite a few years now, I have stopped to honor each of the parents that have faced the heartbreak of saying goodbye too soon. All over the world, fellow miscarriage, ectopic and infant loss sufferers send messages of support, light candles and remember the babies that live on in our hearts, despite us being unable to hold them in our arms. We say their names out loud, we share our stories with others, we mourn the lives we'll never know. It is simultaneously, a difficult and uplifting day. Every year, I am saddened by how many new members have joined the wretched & hellish world of loss but I am also awed and inspired by how many new supporters I discover. Each year there is a little bit less stigma, a tad less awkwardness and lot more love. It is amazing to witness in real time the growth that happens within society as a whole the more we talk about the realities of loss. And the reality is that it can and does happen to anyone. With an estimated 1 in 4 pregnancies ending is miscarriage or other loss, it is crucial that we are able to speak about these losses and the feelings that come with them. 

It has been three years since my first miscarriage when Chad and I said goodbye to the dreams we had for our Sprout. My heart still can't help but wonder sometimes what life would have been like if that pregnancy hadn't ended in heartbreak. And now that my "Big Fat Maybe" is officially a Big Fat Chemical Pregnancy, I am already wondering what could have been if that embryo had continued growing instead of resulting in an early miscarriage. I probably will always wonder a bit about both of those pregnancies, about what could have been and I will always have cracks in my heart as result. 

Those few hours of blissful hope after my positive home pregnancy test last month and then the devastation I felt once I learned the pregnancy wouldn't last, opened my eyes to how deeply I actually do want a second child. I have spent nearly three years shielding my heart and mind from believing it mattered to me as much it actually does. And seeing how much it also matters to Chad and Eliana, I can't help but dive back in, despite my earlier fears that I would need a much longer break before trying again. Granted, the actual transfer is still a little ways away, so there's still time to change my mind (and I have definitely already considered it) but for now I am moving forward to FET #3 with hope that this cycle will result in a much happier outcome.

And although October 15 is just one day and that day has come and gone this year, I will continue to honor the memories of all the little ones gone far too soon. The names of so many precious children are etched in my heart and I will carry them with me always. Ayla, Juliet, Thomas, Bayli, Rudyard, Desmond, Oscar, Audrey, Logan, Brody, Wyatt, Sophia, Caydence, TT and all the others we have lost- you are cherished, remembered and missed.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Big Fat Maybe

Today was the big day: Beta day. Oh how I dread beta day! The agony of waiting for that damn phone to ring after my blood has been drawn is one of the big reasons I kept putting of this FET. The day started out hopeful-ish. I went in for my blood draw early and was assured of a call before lunch. I have always waited for that call with my past cycles. I never poas (pee on a stick). Ever. I used to do pregnancy tests at home all the time back in my temping, charting, clomid days. I would squint and tilt and take photos so I could change the light & tint until I maybe saw a ghost of a second line. In reality, those sticks were always pure, stark white minus that one cruel line. And because it "could still be early", I would never truly lose hope until AF arrived and left me crying on my bathroom floor. It was a hell of a roller coaster and I have been terrified of it ever since I moved on to IVF so I always waited for beta. Until today. 

Chad and I have both been so pessimistic, so afraid to even entertain the idea that this FET might really work that we agreed we wanted to find out together and on our terms. If it was negative, fine, but at least we'd be expecting it when the phone rang. So we left the RE's office & rushed to buy tests. I was too scared to look, so at first I just glanced out of the corner of my eye. One line. There was one line. But it had only been 30 seconds. So we both looked again and slowly a 2nd line was coming into view. It wasn't dark but it was clearly visible. No squinting, tilting or altering required! A second line! It was really happening! We were relieved and ready for the phone to ring. We didn't want to get too ahead of ourselves before we heard the numbers. But the call never came. Lunch came & went and the phone didn't ring. I've learned that clinic staff delays making "bad news" calls. They call their good news patients early. It only took 2 hours from blood draw to phone call when I got pregnant with Eliana. 1st beta- 737. Today, six hours had passed so finally I got sick of waiting and called them. The nurse did not sound cheerful or excited. She started with "congrats" but in a way that sounded like it had a question mark at the end of it. Then she told me my beta was 17. One freaking seven. My hope has plummeted to nearly zero. Either this is a chemical pregnancy/early miscarriage or the hCG booster I did last Monday still hasn't totally left my system. I have another beta on Thursday to see if my beta changes at all and yeah there is that small sliver of a chance that by some miracle it will shoot up but I'm not counting on it. 

Honestly, it sounds awful, but I'm mostly hoping for a big drop. If this FET isn't the one, I just want to know. I don't want to ride the beta roller coaster again. Back in 2010 when I did my fresh IVF, my emotions were yanked in every possible direction with betas that rose but didn't double, then slightly rose again, then tripled. It was hell never knowing if that pregnancy was going to last. When I finally made it to ultrasound and there was no heartbeat, I was devastated and angry. If the cycle was not going to end in a baby, why did I have to endure that torture? A BFN would have hurt but it would have been easier to mourn. No ups and downs, no D&C, no miscarriage. That loss was painful and the merry-go-round that preceded it was hell. I do not want to do that again. I just want to know. Bad news hurts, it's awful, but it is better than maybes and we'll sees. Limbo sucks and I don't want any part of it. 

I am so mad myself for peeing on that dumb stick and letting it get my hopes up! For those few, short hours, despite my attempts not to, I started to get attached. I began imagining whether Eliana would have a baby brother or sister in the spring. I started thinking about how it would feel to have a big round belly. I contemplated the number of weeks I would wait before telling my friends. I wasn't jumping up and down but I was truly hopeful. And I'm pissed at myself for that. I should have known better. It hurts more this way. It feels like someone offered me what I want most in the world and as soon as I reached to pick it up, they snatched it away and shouted, "Nope! Not this time!". The no sucks but not as much as hearing yes first and having it taken away. 

My heart is slowly breaking. Nothing chips away at that crack quite as much as Eliana's sweet face and her requests for a baby brother or sister. Yesterday, totally out of the blue, she asked me if she could please have a baby brother or sister to hold. She wants it so badly. She tells me she will help with the baby and push the stroller. The hope and love in her eyes when she talks about it is indescribable. It kills me that I almost believed I would be able to fulfill that request nine months from now and now I am not sure when it might happen. I don't know for sure how quickly I will be ready to try again. My emotions just can't handle it. But no matter how sad or hurt I am about this cycle, I am nowhere near the point I was before Eliana was here. These are the same hurts, the same wounds, but they have scar tissue now. I will cry but I will have her to make me smile. I want another baby one day, I want her to have the sibling she craves, but she is enough. This is painful, yes, but it is nothing compared to the hurt of not yet being a mother. So, I will push through the next two days and hope that I have real, solid answers by then. I may cry, I may worry or panic, I may get pissed and hate most of the world, but in the end I will be OK. I just hope that end comes sooner rather than later.