what I make of my life

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Yup. Still pregnant beyond all expectations.

Officially 8 weeks pregnant today. Saw the heartbeat about 10 days ago. Going for another ultrasound tomorrow (isn’t it nice how much you get coddled at fertility clinics?) and then presumably another one another week later.  It’s been a wild past couple weeks since my last post. Well not really on the outside, but emotionally and physically it’s been kind of intense.  I am sleeping 10-11 hours every night after a lifetime of sleep issues. Thank you progesterone. I am so off sex, thank you again progesterone. I am peeing like a small puppy.  Eating has become a part time job…thinking about what I want, purchasing what I want because inevitably I have a full fridge of food with nothing appealing, and then eating it in small increments, and then 1-2 hours later eating more, lest I get the queasy-jeebies.  I have not thrown up thankfully but if I don’t eat constantly I probably would veer over the edge into Barfland, USA.  My boobs are already outgrowing their normal bras…which for me is exciting because I’ve always been an A, and just recently B cup (thanks to IVF weight gain)…so I bought myself a “buff” colored grandma wireless bra…ahhhh, relief. My clothes are definitely getting to the point of way too tight, wearing a bella band is looking inevitable. It probably doesn’t help that I’m pretty much eating whatever I want (minus the obvious sushi, unheated deli meat, etc.) and definitely eating for two before I need to be. I just am truly hungry all the time. And food…oh my gosh, food, when it’s the right food, is orgasmic. What else…my blood pressure is low normally, and it’s gotten even lower with the blood vessel dilation and increase in blood volume…so it’s been 85/45. Eek. I’m half dead! It makes me feel really cold, dizzy, and breathless. Not fun. Doc’s advice to drink more water (pee more yay!) and more salt. No problem there.  I hope it evens out because I am not used to being so cold…I am normally always dripping sweat. 

I’ve been a sloth, ripping through the Lord of the Rings triology (and sobbing at points…hormones anyone?) and mostly staying in yoga pants and sweatshirts on the couch. This has been hard for me. I am pretty great at relaxing and just “being” and am not someone that overschedules myself whatsoever.  However, I do like the options of being able to get up and do a house project, or bike ride, or whatever, but that’s been out the window. That coupled with all the emotional stuff I’ve been feeling has made it more difficult.  My fears about miscarriage fluctuate. The risk has gone down seeing the heartbeat but really, there is no guarantee of anything to me. I probably won’t really believe it till the baby is in my arms ya know? I go between getting excited and then feeling scared to get attached.  Some of my fertile friends are shocked by my trepidation. Really? After everything I’ve been through? I’m really practicing being in the moment as much as possible. Today I am pregnant. Today that is very exciting and amazing that it even happened.  And that’s all I can do. 

It’s been fun telling a few select people. I broke down and told my mom and that was exciting as I’m pretty sure she was adjusting to never being a grandmother. I’ve told some of my best friends and a couple people at work (mostly because I’m feeling so crappy at work and since we are all therapists, I knew they’d sense something was up easily) and my husband has told a few close friends.  We’re still waiting till 12-14 weeks to really announce it publicly though and that will still be scary even then. The people we have told have just been beyond excited for us after all our heartache though and that does feel really nice to have their support. It was so hard to not have anyone know, as I felt so vulnerable and alone in all these feelings and needed to share with some females.  

Other thoughts are that I’m into really just trusting myself and intuition about what I need and what the embryo/soon to be fetus needs. I’m not into buying tons of pregnancy books, joining message boards, etc.  I mean, I’m sure there’s important information out there, and I’m sure I’ll have more questions along the way…but for now it feels better to only stick to the basics.  Rest when I’m tired, drink when I’m thirsty, emote when I need to, eat as healthy as my tummy will allow but don’t feel guilty for the occasional salt and vinegar chip (really helps the queasiness!), and let my husband do a lot of extra stuff around the house. So I feel good about that. 

I’ll check in every week or so…thanks for your comments of support. It is really miraculous, but I did (and do) have feelings of guilt too to be in this boat when I know others that would give anything to be pregnant. 

Are you kidding me?

I just started this blog. Literally less than two weeks ago.  If you haven’t looked at my first post with my entire infertility history, well, let’s just say I have had a heck of a time. I’ve had 4 surgeries for endo, I’ve had 3 operations on my cervix, I’ve been through 3 fresh IVF cycles and one frozen cycle.  I’ve gone to acupuncture for 2.5 years, changed my diet, my thoughts, my lifestyle. I’ve gone to hell and back.  And then I gave up. And now I’m pregnant.  Not even joking right now.  I am about 6.5 weeks along, the fetal pole has been seen, going back in a few days to hopefully see the heartbeat.  I am full of pregnancy symptoms already and feel like crap.  I JUST FOUND OUT A WEEK AGO.  I was that clueless.  After using a Clearblue Easy monitor for 2 years, following my cycle, knowing every hormonal shift in each cycle.  I was a regular 27-29 day cycle kind of gal.  When my period didn’t come when it was supposed to…did I immediately think I was pregnant? Nope. I continued my hormone creams (estriol and progesterone creams which I have since stopped) and thought wow, I really am going into perimenopause (my hormones and AMH levels have been low for some time) at age 34.   I had just started a blog for cripes’ sake, on embracing a childfree life. I was having fun, exercising again, drinking, even smoking cigarettes (ack!) and using spray paint for a project. I was most definitely not having sex around ovulation. We had sex 3 times in October (yeah I haven’t been feeling it much lately after all we’ve been through). And only once during a time that was even remotely close to when I’m guessing ovulation was.  So how the hell did this happen? I was given a 1-3% chance of this happening on it’s own, and that was 3 years ago when I was presumably more fertile. After four years, four IVF’s and no baby, I really had given up on ever having a biological child and I really was coming to terms with either being childfree or getting excited about using a donor egg.  Honestly, who knows….I still may embrace one of those.  It’s still so early and as an infertile, it’s really hard to be carefree and easy when I know the risk of miscarriage.  Somehow though, this feels so miraculous that I can’t help but feel hopeful.  

Now, all that being said…secretly or not so secretly, I’m already annoyed at the reaction I am getting, and will get I’m sure for years to come, about how I conceived. “You got in your own way!” “You just had to stop thinking about it!” UGH!!! Once an infertile, always an infertile.  It is a disease and my chances were ridiculously small. Did I stop thinking about it? Umm, no because I was writing a blog.  Did I stop feeling so upset about it, yes.  But I was still going to acupuncture, avoiding foods not good for my fertility, had 4 endo surgeries and 3 cervix surgeries, etc.  I don’t think it was any one thing…just a culmination of things.  Can I be humble enough to think that maybe there is some mystery to the universe I can’t conceive of (bad pun) and maybe this timing is perfect in some divine way? Perhaps. 

Now that I am pregnant, I feel thrust into a whole new world of uncertainty.  There are good things too, for sure, but wow…there are so many fears. And I know deep down that they will never truly abate, that being a good parent in some ways means being afraid for your child.  Not in a ax murderer kind of way, just in so many small ways. I’m also afraid of all the changes happening already and that are to come.  I can acknowledge and honor these fears while also embracing the excitement and joy. My husband and I’s relationship is already changing.  For 10 years now it has just been us. He’s been my baby and I is. I can’t help but look at his sweet face and feel like I’m abandoning him and he feels it too. Call me dramatic if you want! Friends that are parents tell me it will bring us closer, and I’m sure it will, like every other big life event we have travelled, but this is like introducing a third party into our relationship! I know we will always prioritize our relationship, but I also know the practical demands of a child can often supersede the best of intentions. 

In some way I do feel like every experience I’ve had in life has helped prepare me for the next one.  Being infertile and struggling so painfully for so long, and learning patience and acceptance has taught me that really there is no one road that is better.  I’m pregnant now, YAY, but there is also loss in that.  When I was not pregnant, there was loss in that, but also many YAYS.  I’m able to find some zen in my fears about miscarriage because I know that there’s nothing I can do…that I am not in control. Just like I wasn’t in control of my fertility.  Whatever happens, I know I find my way. 

If this pregnancy continues, I plan to continue this blog in the spirit that I started it. Motherhood won’t define me just like it didn’t before.  I wish everyone peace and strength in finding their happiness under challenging circumstances. 

 

What narrative helps you cope with infertility?

In the four years I have been trying to conceive my first child I have had many different “tapes” play in my head about why I wasn’t conceiving.   I have always been a balance of emotions and logic. Spirit and science. My father would probably say otherwise since he is UBER rational science man but I like to think that I balance my right and left brain fairly well.  So, it would follow that my range of “tapes” have gone the full spectrum.  From the most emotional “it’s my fault that this is happening because of x, y or z” to the most logical “you have a disease that causes infertility regularly and it is what it is”. From “maybe what people are saying IS true, that I’m not meant to be a mother!” (which incidentally is one of the crueler things said to me more than once…I’m a therapist for fuck’s sake and have 4 pets…I nurture 24/7) to “does this mean that I am destined for a different life and by not being a mother I have to fully utilize my other gifts?” (pressure anyone?) to “maybe you just got a shit hand reproductively and you can do with that what you want, but don’t spend your whole life being upset about one area of your body not working well when the rest works fine”.  Thoughts like “nobody gets everything they want, nor should they” have been part of my more recent repetoire, meaning some of us get true love, some of us get great kids (or heck, kids, period) , some of us get a great career, some of us get to live in a great place, some of us get a great childhood, some of us get good looks and a healthy slim bod, some of us get a great sense of humor, some of us are great at math, some of us make perfect SAT scores, some of us are great athletes, etc.  But the point is, noone gets all of that. And if they did I’m pretty sure I would have zero interest in knowing them.  I have friends that have kids that have shaky marriages (and no not just because they have kids) or divorced, I know people that are incredibly intelligent but don’t have a lot of friends, I know people that are perfect looking but lack any real spiritual depth/self-knowledge.  The list goes on. It doesn’t mean that we can’t all ASPIRE to have everything…but really…that would be foolish. Some traits are just in-born.  Not everyone is going to be really smart, no matter how hard they try. Sorry but even the most gifted plastic surgeon can’t turn everyone into a Cindy Crawford or Brad Pitt. I like to think that we all have some gifts.  I feel it’s important to work with what you’ve got.  So I got a shit reproductive system. Okay, yes I acknowledge that I’d rather have a great reproductive system then let’s say have my sparkling smile (hey I got voted best smile in my senior class, whoo hoo!) but in all seriousness….I have a lot to be thankful for.  My marriage, despite many tests, and some definite challenging times, is viewed by many as an extremely strong, happy and loving union, most of all by us.  My husband is aging like a fine wine…getting more gorgeous, sweet and strong by the year. I have a master’s degree in a field I am passionate about and absolutely love what I do (I am a therapist with a focus on PTSD).  I have pretty damn good hair. And teeth.  I have a pretty killer style. I’ve got some great friends and family. My dog has a fan club he’s that wonderful.  I have a really cute house on an island in Florida by the beach.  I could go on. No I’m not bragging. Maybe I’m overcompensating 😉 but it really gets harder and harder to compete in the Olympics of Pain when I have so many things that I DID get. I think complaining and being a victim felt good for awhile. Infertility isn’t the first big slap I’ve gotten in life incidentally.  I don’t know what I thought complaining would get me.  Sympathy? Attention? Perhaps.  I also think it just became a habit. To focus on how life had wronged me.  Missing for so long, how life had righted me.  Is there a balance in the universe? I really don’t know. But for now, after all the twists and turns of my thought processes, it feels like a better place to be. 

I know it feels like this turned into a “be grateful” kind of post that minimizes the pain of infertility. Believe me that is not my intention. Although I practice cognitive therapy with many of my clients as well as myself, I am not a Pollyanna who believes that if you just think good the bad will “poof” disappear!  I have suffered a hellish level of pain due to infertility.  However I have decided that infertility is not going to beat me, EVEN IF I NEVER HAVE A CHILD. I have this one precious life to live and the thought of letting infertility define my feelings for the rest of my life terrifies me.  I am fighting tooth and nail to dig myself out of this pit and find and reclaim myself and happiness. 

What thoughts have you found to be the most damaging to yourself during this journey? The most calming? The most helpful?

The Not Mom club. Not a bad place to be!

As I am currently in a state of limbo regarding the decision to move forward with infertility treatment (donor egg ivf would be our next step) or stopping this crazy train and choosing a childfree life I am neck deep in researching both sides.  What motherhood is REALLY like.  The regrets that mothers have (yes, their life is not perfect just because they have what I have wanted for years!).  Right now I am obsessed with role models of women that never had children. Whether by choice or by circumstance. I am hungry for testaments from these women that a satisfying and happy life is more than possible.  Yesterday I found a cool site called thenotmom.com and upon perusing the site came upon a very long list of women in history, current media, fiction, etc. that didn’t have the title “mother” on their bio/resume.  Some of these women I was very aware of their childfree existence (hello Jennifer Aniston whose uterus has been documented continuously for 10 years now), but others I found myself pleasantly surprised by such as:

Gloria Steinam

Sonia Sotomayer

Diane Sawyer

Dolly Parton

Stevie Nicks (I did know this, but I love her!)

Helen Mirren (aka one of the hottest women over 60)

Harper Lee

Hoda Kotb

Frida Kahlo

Lauren Hutton

Angelica Huston

Katherine Hepburn

Deborah Harry

Gabrielle Giffords

Jane Austen

Harriet Tubman

Jane Addams

Coco Chanel

Julia Child

Ella Fitzgerald

Ava Gardner

Billie Holiday

Ayn Rand

Florence Nightingale

The list was actually much longer but these were some of my favorites. These are standout women in our history! Women that made a difference, impact, or entertained the masses.  I can’t help but wonder, would these women have been able to be the person they are/were if they were mothers too? Maybe. Maybe not.  One thing to be sure is, there is no shame in being in the “not mom” category if it means being part of club of these members!

a word on the title of this blog

I struggled with choosing a title for this blog.  As I have been dealing with the difficult hand of infertility for four years at this point, I thought maybe it should focus on that. However, I am trying to move past this limitation, this damning “label” and diagnosis and make more of my life.  I am not just an infertile. I am not defined by one thing in my life. I am in a place currently of trying to reclaim the power infertility  has taken from me and live the mantra that “what I make of my life is up to me”.  I have been through some deeply challenging things in my life, but I remain a warrior. 

Why did I start a blog?

Hi there…my name is Anne and I’m an infertile.  I decided to start my own blog after *stalking* a gazillion other infertility blogs over the past couple of years.  They have often been my lifeline; proving to me that there are really other women out there that get it, that feel the way I do and above that, have had success despite massive amounts of disappointment.

A word on the title of this blog. I must have tried 20 names on wordpress before I could find one that was free.  I suppose it’s an okay title but deep down what I really wanted to call it was “infertility is the devil” haha.  But in an effort to be more *positive* I thought I’d try to keep the title a little more emotionally neutral.

I didn’t even do the tutorial on how to write this blog so we’ll see how it goes. I am a learn as I go along type of person. Bear with me.

Here is my journey so far:

2001-doctors found a massive endometrioma on my left ovary and removed it, dx me with stage 4 endometriosis. I was 21 and totally naive about what this meant, just grateful it wasn’t ovarian cancer at the time. Began Lupron for 6 months, then had another laparascopy after that. Had about 1 year pain relief

2002-started seeking out natural ways to heal my body…yoga, meditation, acupuncture etc.  This helped my mental state but sadly the pain came back full force.

2003-found endometriosis pioneer and expert Dr. Harry Reich and had him operate on my endo. He found stage 4 (it all came back!) and excised it all, or so I thought. He told me his cure rate was about 95%.

2004-met my loverbear and love of my life. Endo is quiet.

2006-got married! No rush to have kids as we didn’t feel mature enough to be someone’s parents. 

2007-2010-started grad school to pursue my dream career. Started TTC December of 2009, blissfully unaware and naive to what lie ahead of me. I like to think of this as a time of innocence. A time before shattered hope, before being a pin cushion, when simple things made me genuinely happy.  I will note that endo symptoms seemed to really be returning during this period of extreme grad school stress.  I pretty much just put my head in the sand and plowed forward…this was not a time to take care of myself, it was a time to get my degree damnit.

2010-After diligently trying for a year with the clear blue easy monitor with no success I was a mess. I was dumbfounded.  I ovulated every month, was so regular, and I was only 30.  With hat in hand we went to see an RE.  RE says endometriosis is reason for infertility.  But I say Dr. Reich cured me! Ha! RE says IVF is likely my only chance of conceiving.  Shock and devastation set in.

2011-Spent the next year dealing with a variety of other stresses in our lives, not to mention anxiety and depression started to really set in following the visit from the RE.  I had never thought I’d do IVF, that it was too much. Too much invasiveness, too much money, too much science. And that it was for 40 year olds. Not nubile 31 year olds. ;) There was a lot of sense of isolation during this time as a great deal of my friends were conceiving their 1st and 2nd children like rabbits around me…incredibly easy too.  I felt like a failure. I felt like I was being punished. I felt like it was my fault.  I cried all the time.  It was a dark time.  I did find an amazing acupuncturist during this time that specialized in endo and infertility and began seeing her weekly and taking all the chinese herbs my mouth could swallow.  It started to help my mood and sleep and pain levels.

2012-Once the dust settled in other aspects of our lives, including buying our first home and adopting our first doggie (yay!) I was finally ready to confront IVF.  We had still been trying *the old fashioned way* aka the *cheap, easy and fun* way this whole time.

March 2012- IVF #1. Antagonist protocol.  Meds aggravated my endo horribly and the whole cycle was super painful.  Nonetheless doc was pleased that I produced 12 eggs, 8 of which were mature…since I have elevated FSH and some signs of DOR as well (yippee ki yay!).  I think 4 fertilized naturally and 2 day 3 embryos were put back into my uterus after the most torturous embryo transfer.  Look up tenaculum on google images.  Yup. Doc found out I have a stenotic cervix. Soooo…wasn’t feeling too positive that the cycle worked after all that trauma to my uterus during transfer.  Still, the BFN that came 2 weeks later was devastating.

April 2012-WTF appointment (love that term), doc says I need cervix surgery before next transfer. Yes please. I say, there is no way I can do another cycle with that amount of endo pain.  Doc says he can operate on my endo too.  I say I want a 2nd opinion–as there was another RE in town who specializes in endo surgery.  When you’ve had 3 surgeries for endo you get pretty careful about who you let in there with sharp objects.  Doc seemed totally irritated that I wanted a 2nd opinion even though he doesn’t do excision for endo (the only proven way to treat endo effectively at this point).  Dumped first RE.

May 2012-Met with other RE in town that specializes in endo.  Not the greatest bed side manner like Doc #1 but who cares at this point. I want results! Set up surgery for June with another IVF to follow.

June 2012-4 hour laparascopy to treat stage 3 endo and repair massive inguinal hernia. Oh that’s what was causing that monthly sciatic nerve pain!  Recovery was a lot longer than expected but the months to follow show me great relief and peace from years of chronic pain.

November 2012-Finally courageous enough to attempt IVF #2.  This time with 2nd Doc. Antagonist protocol again, got 12 eggs, 10 of which were mature, 6 of which fertilized naturally. Thankfully my husband has super sperm.  Transfered 2 day 3 embryos under anesthesia.  Despite anesthesia transfer was still extremely difficult and I was put on terbutilane and valium for 4 days to try to control any uterine cramping that would prevent implantation.  Not surprisingly, another BFN.

December 2012-Buried my grief in christmas decorations and preparations for hosting my family. WTF appointment on NYE…doc says reason for failure is primarily an egg quality issue, not an implantation issue. Ask for endometrial scratch anyhow.  Doc wants to operate on my cervix again right before the next transfer so that it can go more smoothly. If that doesn’t work, he wants to try a TET (tubal embryo transfer). We have 2 embryos on ice from the 2nd cycle and 1 from the first cycle. Decide to proceed with an FET in January.

January 2013-Kicked off the FET process with a hysteroscopy to dilate my cranky cervix and get a partial D&C to help increase implantation likeliehood.  FET process…bcp, lupron, estrace, PIO, medrol, doxy, metformin, baby aspirin here we go.  Side effects quite brutal.  Stimming was easier.  Feel like I am on meds FOREVER. Still attending weekly acupuncture which at this point has been a true lifesaver mentally speaking.  I have reached a much higher level of coping with the pain and disappointment of IF and even have happy days/periods.

February 2013- Transferred 2 dethawed blasts. This is the 6th time I’ve been under anesthesia in 12 months. Oy. No wonder I feel like a zombie a lot. :) Saw two pink lines for about 8 days…then chemical pregnancy (nice term for an early miscarriage).  Cue emotional hurricane of grief.

Break March-July 2013. Took DHEA 75mg during this time. 

August 2013 Fourth and final transfer following 3rd fresh IVF cycle. Antagonist plus estrogen priming plus DHEA plus human growth hormone (whee this made me feel amazing!).  Transfer went perfectly. BFN.  Done with my eggs. 

October 2013. In a quite hellish limbo of deciding whether to embrace a childfree life and all the great things we already have or move forward with donor egg IVF next summer after a much needed break.  This blog will for the time being be focused on that decision making process, everything I have learned from infertility and my life thus far.