Numbers and Letters

The other day it occurred to me how, once you are firmly entrenched in fighting the battle of IF, your life is almost back to where you were as a child: learning to speak. Only this time, it’s a “language” that make little sense to your average layperson – a language that requires lengthy explanations, hours of research and ultimately makes you feel almost as tired as you did cramming for finals in high school. Or worse – because now you’re older, you’re less naive, you’re not bouncing around happy-go-lucky thinking about back packing through Europe or trekking through the Himalayas. You’ve got baby on the brain 24/7 – and everything seems ridiculously hard to understand for some reason. Your heart is pounding, your head is hurting – so many conflicting theories, so much data. So, so many heart-breaking stories. In dealing with infertility, it all becomes about numbers and letters as you get bombarded by lab results full of values and acronyms that mean nothing to you – and God forbid anyone take the time to explain anything to you beyond the bottom line of “good” or “bad”.

For some reason, your brain seems to shut down periodically. You were never that good with science and math. Now all these numbers – even though they’re not equations – are scary. They’re a big jumble and these stupid figures, black on white, are what may well determine whether or not you will ever become a mother by anything approximating “traditional” means (in this case referring to biological offspring, since there’s obviously nothing “normal” about IF). Your palms get sweaty at the RE’s office, you nod your head as you try to understand what exactly is going on – and taste blood as you bite your tongue because you will not cry in front of this stranger who just told you at your first appointment that, based on your lab results, you may need to use donor eggs. You want to scream, I don’t understand this, any of this, why is this happening to me??? – but you don’t because that’s not how you were raised. You try to remain outwardly calm while your hands dig into the sides of your legs. Every part of your brain is screeching like a wounded animal.  

I don’t know how you can explain or make someone understand exactly how awful it is to be in this kind of situation. I don’t know how you can even start a conversation with someone and explain to them what it feels like when someone tells you, point blank and without feeling, that your chances of having a biological child with your husband – something that most people not only take for granted but don’t even think about beyond the moment at which they’re ready to “make a baby” – are very slim at best. I don’t know how to explain to someone what it feels like when the same person mentions donor eggs to you like it’s the most natural thing – like someone didn’t just make you feel like you were hit by a freight train in the space of 30 seconds, before moving on to act like carrying a baby that, biologically speaking, is half your husband’s and half some other woman’s is totally normal while you’re trying not to have a mental image of your husband sleeping with someone else because you know that, obviously, that’s not how that happens – but none of this is rational because your heart is bleeding and you feel like you’re having a brain aneurysm.

I don’t know how to explain any of this to someone else because I can’t imagine how anyone could be so dense that they couldn’t understand how not being able to have a biological child with the man you love feels like the end of the world.

I thought about this as I was reading someone’s “TTC timeline” – and almost snickered (subconsciously) when I got to her AMH levels. I felt like saying, consider yourself lucky – mine is #$^&%#$#$#~!!! I didn’t, in the end, because I suddenly thought – whoa, I bet this is what the proverbial “sizing up” between guys in the locker room is rumored to be like, only in reverse. “Yeah, but your AMH is higher, so my situation is worse. No, your FSH is better than mine, so my situation is gloomier. Yeah but your estradiol levels are much better so…” 

OY.

At what point did I become this person who flinches are even a hint of a pooch or reading the “stats” of someone’s IF and/or TTC journey? At what point did I become so bitter, so judgmental – like this black gremlin sucking the joy out of my soul? I took a long, deep breath and thought – yeah, this is not the kind of person I want to be. Because that’s not the kind of mother I want to be – and if I’m going to get serious about creating life, one way or another, I’m not going to get into a pi$$ing match over numbers and letters. NOT. GOING. TO. HAPPEN. I don’t want to be this angry, bitter and resentful person for the rest of my life – because no matter what happens, I know that I have much to be grateful for and my husband deserves a wife who doesn’t stare daggers at random strangers or randomly yells at the computer screen. Which I totally don’t do, of course. 

Ahem.

I’m sad. I’m scared. I’m freaked out, anxious and terrified. So many bad things had already happened in my life before we even got to that first appointment with the RE – and when I thought we were finally going to be in “good hands”, in turned out that we weren’t. Maybe we could’ve sucked it up and stuck it out, but as much as I wish we were further along with this process – how could I not? – I’m glad we didn’t stay with this person who I had no faith or confidence in. You don’t expect a doctor to be a magician; and in this day and age, you don’t expect them to treat you like family. But when it’s so apparent that you’re just a number with dollar signs attached, and the person is lacking any kind of sensitivity in dealing with such an obviously emotional, raw situation? I know someone else might have made a different decision, but there was no way I was putting myself through the rigors of IVF and all the befores, afters and in betweens with someone like that at the helm.

In the end, though, the decision to stop seeing the RE was one we obviously made together because, when it came right down to it we both didn’t like him. We didn’t make a big scene – we simply requested our medical records. You would’ve thought we were asking the CIA to hand over classified information for all the huffing and puffing that ensued – most of which I initially had to deal with, until I got fed up and let my husband handle the situation. Which, thankfully, expedited the whole ordeal. Still, when we did finally get them, I had the distinct impression that there were things missing, notes perhaps deliberately omitted or “misplaced”, lab work that didn’t show up (just like they couldn’t bother to call after a biopsy or lab work). What little there was had sloppy notes scribbled in the world’s worst hand-writing and in short-hand, so was basically useless to us – again making me wonder whether there was deliberate intent behind complying with their mandatory requirement to release our medical records while, essentially, giving us NOTHING. I may have started bawling when I realized this.

But I started thinking that I’m here for a reason – writing this blog, trying to connect with other women going through some version of the same thing. I’m here not just to tell my story, say my piece, vent, cry and soldier on – no, I’m also here to learn, to grow as a person. Because sometimes I need a big kick in the you-know-what – and because my whole life has been a long, messy winding road of low self-esteem and self-loathing, the whole “I am woman, hear me roar” sometimes has to come through the inspiration of someone else’s words of encouragement. I will not let this get the better of me. I will not let infertility define me as a person, or my life as a whole.

So, for all of you out there – thank you for being there, thank you for sharing your story, your feelings, your heartache and answering my many questions. Thanks to you, when we finally get to a new RE and they start throwing all those scary letters and numbers at us again, I can look them straight in the eye and say: BRING IT ON!

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5 thoughts on “Numbers and Letters

  1. Took so many words right out of my mouth–obsessing over numbers, the way making so many high-stakes decisions about treatment in an industry where there’s so much they don”t know causes my throat to close, the world-altering hammer blow of the DE conversation, the way it smacks of adultery, the way coming at this from past trauma makes it so much harder to cope, etc., etc.

    What can I say? Hang in there. Xo

  2. I wish you all the strength and presence of mind needed to find the right person to help you with your journey. What you have said are some powerful realisations and that in itself brings strength.

  3. What a thought provoking post. 🙂 You’re right, although I never thought about it that way; this is like learning another language. I have my Master’s degree and this is by far more learning than I did throughout my entire education. I guess it’s the hardest because it also matters the most. I feel like that too when I read other posts and then I feel like, who am I to compare? I don’t know what else they’ve been through. It’s not fair for me to judge and that’s not the person I want to be either. It’s good that you fired your old RE and now you are equipped with the knowledge needed to say “BRING IT ON!” 🙂 I’ve learned so much from all of the ladies (and a few men) in this blogging world about IF. I’m just a sponge right now with everything I read.

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