The War on Negativity

I’ve decided to issue a moratorium on bitterness, resentment and fear.

I know I’m far from alone in having been subjected to these terrorizing emotions for so long, it seems they’ve taken over every waking second of our lives. I know we’ve been struggling, grappling, trying to make sense of it all and desperate to regain some sense of our former, happier, selves. Like a wounded animal, we retreat to solitary confinement as it feels like our hearts become blacker and shrink with every month, every year, that goes by without our most fervent dream becoming reality: motherhood.

I feel like I keep slipping and sliding around in the muck that my emotional, mental and physical “well-being” has become – a misnomer, at this point, because I obviously DON’T feel well. I haven’t felt well in a really long time. I don’t sleep well, I don’t eat well, I’m angry all the time. I’m jealous, bitter, resentful, sad, scared – all the time. I don’t do anything I used to enjoy doing. I don’t go anywhere. I avoid people. I avoid leaving the confines of my little cocoon of self-imposed isolation because it’s too scary “out there”. I feel trapped in a prison of my own making.

And I’m so sick and tired of feeling this way.

It’s easy for me to blame it on my circumstances, on infertility, on my ensuing isolation, on the words and actions (or lack thereof) of others. I’ve been stewing in a sense of failure, of self-loathing, for so long that I apparently stopped fighting back. At some point, it felt like everything got to be too much; my world caved in and I got buried under all the rubble. I lost my sense of self, I lost the belief that I have skills, talents, and that I’m a good person. I let the actions and words of others define who I was, who I became, because I felt like I was fighting a war on so many fronts that I just got too damn tired to swim against the stream. We have no support, no one to turn to – so I convinced myself that it was all our fault: our fault that we couldn’t get pregnant; our fault that people we put our trust in deceived us; our fault that we’re hurting, angry, sad and alone.

The truth is that I’m at a crossroads, and I have a choice to make. I can keep feeling like crap, I can keep beating myself up, I can let my inner critic convince me that it’s my fault we don’t have any children yet, it’s my fault that we might not be able to, it’s my fault this, that and the other. I can get angry at the world, angry at everyone else’s fecundity, IVF coverage, supportive relationships. I can throw in the towel and just exist in a vacuum of misery that will become a never-ending pity party. I can wait for my marriage to disintegrate because I can’t snap out of it, I can drag my husband down with me as every ounce of love is drained from my heart because everything is dark, angry and bitter – and watch him blame himself for not being able to help me, to make me feel better. I can keep beating myself up about my shortcomings and comparing myself to others with the end result that I feel bad. I can let things I have no control over make me feel like I’m weak. I can despair to the point where I stop getting out of bed altogether.

OR…

I can stop fighting with myself. I can stop pretending. I can stop lying to myself. I can stop comparing myself to others, berating myself for the choices I’ve made. I can stop thinking, and feeling, like not being perfect or not having the same way of doing something as someone else makes me worthless. I can stop hating myself for the fact that my life isn’t exactly the way I thought it would turn out. I can stop judging others just because they’re not having to walk a mile or three million in my shoes, because they haven’t had the same experiences, because they don’t care, because they don’t get it, because they’re doing/saying things that hurt me.  I can stop blaming myself for the things others say and do because, really, it’s not my fault and it’s not something I can change. At the end of the day:

“Holding onto anger is like drinking poison and expecting someone else to die.”

Some days, I feel like I’m dying – both emotionally and physically. I feel raw, I feel beaten down to the point that I don’t even want to try to get up anymore. I just want to tap out. I know those feelings won’t just go away. I know I’m not suddenly going to wake up tomorrow, a reformed pessimist suddenly chipper like I’ve had a lobotomy or a Walt Disney makeover. But I realized, with strange clarity, that I’ve been playing the victim – instead of actually remembering that I’m not weak; I’m not pathetic; I’m not hopeless, hapless, stupid, or a failure.

I’m human.

A few days ago, I got really worked up about a site that I felt had a bunch of posts by women who’ve clearly never had their reproductive abilities called into question. I was so angry at what I felt was a set of completely insensitive, selfish posts that showed absolutely ZERO consideration for women who struggle to conceive. But then I thought – hold on a minute. Why am I getting so angry? This site is clearly run by women who don’t have these problems. Why should they think about infertility when it obviously hasn’t touched their lives? I mean, you don’t see me writing posts about Asperger’s, to throw out some random medical condition. It’s my choice whether or not I read these types of things – so getting angry about something that, technically, I’m not the target audience for is just plain ridiculous. It’s also pointless, because the end result is inevitably detrimental to ME.

I feel like having a family should be considered an inalienable, constitutional right – and that, consequently, all 50 states should be required to carry mandatory IVF insurance. However, the fact that this isn’t actually the case and that the current state of affairs makes me angry does absolutely nothing to change MY situation. I don’t live in a state that has IVF insurance, nor is IVF covered by our medical insurance – not even a portion of it, no cap, nada. But this doesn’t make my situation unique at all – I know there are many others who are in exactly the same boat. It also doesn’t mean that I should get angry at other IFers who do have IVF coverage – it’s not their fault that, apparently, our society considers it more important for a guy to be able to have a boner than for a woman to be able to get pregnant. 

I realized, these past couple of days, that I am so incredibly lucky to have had some wonderful experiences in my life, to have choices and freedoms, to have a roof over my head. I have a husband who loves me to the end of the earth. My life is far from perfect, and I myself am definitely a work in progress. But I know I’m not alone – even if it feels like it. I know that there’s hope, somewhere, out there, for all of us. We can’t know which bend in the road will lead to the next chapter in our lives, but I’m tired of feeling consumed with negativity. I’m tired of getting worked up, seething silently and letting all this crap fester as it chips away at my very soul.

So I’m just going to keep working on ME and try to change my perception of the world around me. I’m going to try to remind myself that I have a choice of how I’m going to receive information and how I’m going to deal with it. Instead of focusing on all the things that make me unhappy, I’m going to focus on the things that make me happy – and work on finding more positive ways to deal with the things I struggle with. Because, at the end of the day, I don’t want to end up being a mother who can’t find the good in small things, the sunshine in spite of the rain, the proverbial silver lining.

Carpe Diem, my friends!!

PS: It goes without saying that reserve the right to occasionally think that someone is a total a$$hat and deserves to be poked in the eye with a really hot french fry rolled in ghost peppers. I’m not bucking for sainthood.

Hope S(t)inks

I’m going through a bit of a rough patch. Ok, that’s kind of an understatement. I can’t even find the words anymore. I lie awake at night, half-heartedly composing blog posts that never make it because I don’t even crack open my computer, never mind type, edit, and then send my blatherings out into the Great Unknown…shivering, wondering, wavering. Does anyone care? Does it matter to anyone what I think, what I feel? Why would it matter to strangers who don’t know me when it doesn’t even matter to my own family.

Yesterday, the bitch landed on CD40 with a resounding thud – five days late which, even though I knew there was absolutely zero chance of it being anything but an untimely delay to once again screw with my brain, I dared to hope. HAH! Me? What a joke. I’ve never even gotten pregnant. At times I think I’d rather deal with anything that gives me any hope whatsoever that my body is even capable of conception at all – because, at present, I have zero indication that this is even in the realm of possibilities for me, ever.

Sometimes, hope really stinks.

Sometimes, instead of lifting me up, it just makes me feel like I’m sinking…because when hope isn’t realized by the goal you set your sights on, it just falls flat and leaves you feeling sad, tired, and broken.

I’m drowning.

My cycles have been pretty eratic, ranging from 28 to 40 days. I can’t help but feel completely freaked out – partly because I think, how on earth could I even hope to time anything au naturel when my periods are so damn unpredictable; partly because I keep wondering if I’m teetering on the edge of being perimenopausal (perish the thought!!). I know it’s stupid, ridiculous even, to worry about any of that since, according to Dr. McGreedy, there’s pretty much no chance in hell that I could ever get pregnant on my own. But until we’re in better hands – how can I not try, right? I can’t just throw my hands up in the air and say, oh forget about all that, let’s just wait and see what happens if/when we find a new RE! And with my husband’s crazy work schedule, I’m starting to think I’d be better off just asking him to make a “donation” and hand me a turkey baster (please accept my profuse apologies for this crass mental image – I blame it on the hormones that are apparently only good for giving me monthly cramps and assorted indignities).

So if you’ve been wondering why I haven’t posted (I know – so presumptuous of me) – it’s not because I’m gone or because I’m bored with blogging, busy with fun things, etc. It’s because I sound like a broken record. Woe is me. I’m sad. I’m angry. I’m lonely. I feel despair and despondency. What else is new? At this point, I feel like anyone reading my blog must be rolling their eyes thinking, “Seriously? This again??”.

Please forgive me. I feel like I’m lost at sea without a compass. I’m drowning.

The news here is…oh wait, there is no news. Unless, of course, you count being a pathetic 30-something year old believing in miracles and fairy tale endings news. Didn’t think so.

I want to be part of a community, part of life, part of something – but I feel like I’m frozen in place. I don’t even know how to have a conversation anymore. I even dread turning on the tv because everything, and I mean everything, is just reminding me about how I’ve never gotten pregnant in my entire life – and how, around me, everyone else is moving on. All these commercials that are all about baby this, mommy that, super hero daddy. I’m so sick and tired of it. I feel like screaming – and, honestly, if it wasn’t for my husband, I probably would’ve thrown the remote at the tv and felt a wave of relief right about the same time as a satisfying crunch indicated the death of that dreaded monster and harbinger of Fertile Myrtle Daily.

So I watched documentaries on Netflix. I watched Amelie, which is one of my favorite feel-good movies – not only because I kind of love Audrey Tautou but because I have a bit of a weakness for French cinema. I mean, the French have a knack for drama and what I would consider “real people” story telling that, in my unvarnished opinion, is simply unparalleled. My only irritation came from not being able to disable the entirely distracting subtitles, though I was glad that, at least, it hadn’t been dubbed (perish the thought!). There are so many aspects of this movie that I love and relate to; it makes me want to jump on a plane and spend a few months in France…mmmm, le fromage! I watched cooking shows that made me struggle with envy: the fresh, healthy produce I can’t hope to find in this place (because, really? Zesting a citrus fruit is all fine and well when it comes from an organic farm stand, freshly picked just days before you use it. I’m going to go out on a limb and assume that none of us dealing with IF want to put any additional pesticides in our bodies if we can help it.); the boon of laughing children, family and friends. I finally got around to tackling my “mending” basket – fixed a hat and three cardigans that all had undone seams or holes…from about a year ago. Anything to keep my mind off THE ISSUE. You know, the hollow emptiness I feel pretty much every waking second of my life.

Meanwhile, I’ve set up a “battle station” on my nightstand with about a dozen IF books and a notebook. I’m working on finding my way through the maze, trying to formulate a plan. I keep struggling, I keep fighting the tears (and losing the battle), I keep getting angry and running scared. But I know I can’t keep hiding. I can’t keep worrying about whether or not my story is original, relevant, interesting. I can’t keep judging myself and finding myself falling short of self-imposed standards of perfection. I’ve been doing that my whole life, and clearly it’s not really working for me.

Anyway. I’m still here. Still hurting, still trying to find my way…Not giving up yet.

Where did IT go?

When one of our nephews was very little, he had this really funny, super cute way of saying “where did it go?” whenever you played ball with him. Because he was so little and couldn’t enunciate very well yet, it sounded more like “wheredeego?”. He’d look at you with his big eyes and actually shrug, his arms at an angle and his hands in the air. It’s was so funny and so adorable that, well over a decade later, I still remember it. I also remember that it was the first time I felt that pang in my heart, the thought of having children with my husband.

What made me think about this today is the fact that I feel like I’ve lost my zest of life. I feel gray and drab pretty much most of the time. I try hard to lift my spirits and count my blessings, to move forward in a more positive way – but, honestly, I kind of feel like I’m down for the count. I keep dusting myself off and getting back up, but rather than standing tall, I feel like I’m crouched like an old, arthritic woman. I can’t remember the last time I actually wore lipstick, heels, jewelry or anything else I used to revel in doing. My skin and my hair look lackluster to me, and so on top of all the other mental crap, it’s like another nail in the coffin: I feel like a loser.

Today, I’m trying to get back to my motivational journal. I started it about 6 years ago – and even the way I wrote it in it back then conveys so much more energy and “attitude” than I can bring to the table these days. I sat at our dining room table after breakfast and thought, ok – I need these visual cues. I need to remind myself of who I am, deep down – and make myself a “scrapbook” of sorts to get me back on track. But I’m flailing.The motivational cues and sayings are falling flat before my eyes because I just don’t believe any of it, right now. I can feel it because I’m not enjoying the process like I used to. I feel like I’m faking it. I don’t know where IT went: my life force, for lack of a better term. I’m not really a weak person, generally speaking; but in the past year or so, I often feel like the fight is just drained out of me and I’m too tired to keep trying to make my life into something I can love, again – even if it’s not the life I thought I’d be leading at this point.

I keep thinking about a quote by Margaret Thatcher that I read somewhere a long time ago:

“Watch your thoughts for they become words.
Watch your words for they become actions.
Watch your actions for they become habits.
Watch your habits for they become your character.
And watch your character for it becomes your destiny.
What we think, we become.”

It gives me pause because I feel like none of my good habits have survived the onslaught of IF, the family strife and the grief following the death of several of them. I feel like I’ve become more closed-minded, resentful and judgmental – none of those things are what I want to be, obviously. Sometimes I don’t even realize how much of myself I’ve lost until I see it reflected in the eyes of someone else – through their words, their perception, of how I come across to others. At times, I want to cry and say, THIS ISN’T ME! I’m not really like this!! I used to be funny – so funny, in fact, that when I was in college people kept telling me I should be on Friends. I made people laugh – and that, in turn, made me happy. I enjoyed being around others, talking about anything and everything, learning about their experiences without judgment.

This, in turn, brings me to the other issue that I know is playing a big role in my state of mind right now is how isolated I’ve allowed myself to become because of IF. I’m so terrified, at this point, of having to field questions about our childless state that I haven’t tried to make new friends or socialize in a long, long time – longer, in fact, than I can believe or admit. And this is a vicious circle: the more time I spend alone with all those thoughts and anxieties, the more I turn into a nervous wreck – to the point where, as horrible as it is to fess up about something I’m incredibly embarrassed about, I honestly don’t know how to connect with others anymore.

It used to be so easy for me. I was always really outgoing, vivacious – one of those people who loved “getting out there”, mingle, meeting new people, having fun. Shy, me? Not on your life! Social situations never really worried or scared me. But now, as both of us are heading down-hill towards 40 at what feels like an alarming speed (propelled, I’m certain, by the time pressures of our combined IF issues), I just don’t know how to act anymore. I feel like admitting to wanting children with a response of “not YET” to inevitable questions about whether we have children will invite derisive snorts. I’m also uncomfortable with people who ask a lot of personal questions – especially when you’ve just met them – and don’t really know how to deal with that without coming across as…mmm, a battleaxe, shall we say? (picture me cringing at this point, btw).

So what I do is avoid those situations altogether, because I know that, at the moment, my knee-jerk reaction would be to go on the defensive – either by pretending I’m “sort of vaguely” considering motherhood “at some point in the as yet to be determined future” (in other words, a complete lie); or by snarling. Yep, that’s right, snarling. Because I feel like I have to justify myself and our childless state – completely ridiculous, of course – to what I assume would be smugness of women my age with a gaggle of kids. It reminds me of one of my favorite quotes from one of my favorite movies, You’ve Got Mail:

Do you ever feel you’ve become the worst version of yourself? That a Pandora’s box of all the secret, hateful parts – your arrogance, your spite, your condescension – has sprung open? Someone upsets you and instead of smiling and moving on, you zing them. “Hello, it’s Mr Nasty.” I’m sure you have no idea what I’m talking about.

I can’t allow myself to believe that this is what I’ve become without thinking that there’s still hope for me, that there’s reason to carry the torch for who I really am beneath the rubble of what used to be my life.

Which is why I really wanted to take a moment to thank my fellow bloggers and IFers – your encouragement and comments are more valuable to me than you know. Even if you (politely but firmly) disagree with me on some issues or my approach to certain topics – I appreciate the time you take to read my posts, to comment, and to share you own thoughts and experiences with me. Sometimes I let fear cloud my judgment; I let the dark clouds of self-doubt and anxiety take over my heart and soul. But I’m a fighter, and in the words of a woman far more eloquent and insightful than myself:

I AM NOT AFRAID OF STORMS FOR I AM LEARNING TO SAIL MY SHIP. (Louisa May Alcott)

The Box of Denial

On Sunday, I finally did something I kept meaning to do but couldn’t bring myself to: I unearthed The Box. The pretty patterned one I’ve been hiding for an inordinate amount of time given our predicament; the one I’d started filling with my “battle gear” several years ago. Filled with shiny covers and brimming with the promise of delivering the ultimate goal: a healthy, sustained pregnancy. When I first started buying some of these books, about 5 years ago, I told myself that it was just “in case” – I didn’t really need them because I wasn’t really that serious about getting pregnant just then (newsflash: that’s totally not true – I was just kidding myself. Flat-out D-E-N-I-A-L. Unsurprisingly enough, I’m sure.).

I was embarrassed to admit that I wanted to have a baby – or just how badly – and that the “magic” wasn’t happening. It would’ve been easy to glow with happiness if I’d gotten pregnant – then, only then, was it “safe” to admit how much I’d wanted it. But no such happy event for us. While everyone, it seemed, around us was getting pregnant again and again, I pretended that it wasn’t even on my radar – filled with the growing pain that only receded when it was punctuated by even greater heartache as people around me started dying (five in the space of two years, in case you’re wondering).

As time went on and all the other crap in my life came to a head, the unspoken issues that continued to keep us in our childless state became buried for a while – and so did the box of books. Periodically, I stealthily added another title – maybe something I picked up at a discount store or a used book store. Always when I was alone. Why? Because the books – just as the deceptively beautiful box they’ve been housed in – were something that needed to be hidden. Almost as if, just by being out in the open, it was a jinx – or inviting the prying eyes of others who wouldn’t possible understand in the boon of their own fecundity.

The truth, I finally realized this weekend – in one of those panicky-painful moments that make you get so choked up that even tears freeze before they can fall, so despairing and raw is the emotion – is that I was ashamed and in denial. I kept thinking that if I ignored the box and all the problems inside it, then like the mental trick for putting something out of your mind, it would just disappear.

Ridiculous, right?

But then, if like me, you’ve never been pregnant and are in the Mojave Desert of fertility (the cringe-worthy age bracket of 35-44), it’s hard not to panic. And I mean full-on, ripping-out-your-hair-biting-your-fingernails-to-the-quick-screaming-crying-sleep-depriving PANIC.

On Sunday, right before I went in search of the Box of Denial, I had a no kidding panic attack. I started sweating, my heart was pounding like a jackhammer, and I felt like I was either going to throw up or faint. I wrote in my journal. I tried to watch a bit of tv to distract myself. I tried to talk myself off the ledge. For what seemed like an eternity, I felt like I was going to let out a guttural, animal-like scream just to relieve the tension that made me feel like I was having a heart attack.

I’ve read – or half-read – a couple of infertility books in the last couple of years. One of them was so dysjuncted that I found myself having a hard time following the chronology of events. Another one – that I’m still trying to work my way through – keeps making me feel like gasping in exasperation and rolling my eyes.

The one that I’m actually responding to, though, is a book called Making Babies: A Proven 3-Month Program for Maximum Fertility; co-authored by Sami S. David and Jill Blakeway. To say that it makes me want to pick up the phone, book two respective appointments and get on the next flight to NYC would be an understatement. I started reading this book Sunday evening – and it’s definitely been eye-opening. It made me feel so, so incredibly vindicated about not sticking with Dr. Greedy McMoneybags (the RE we didn’t like but that, in the last couple of months, I was almost tempted to make a new appointment with – how’s that for despair??). As I continue reading, I feel both reassured AND freaked out: we waited too long; we don’t have convenient, easy, or even reliable access to the type of medical care (both Western and Eastern) of the kind that the authors favor: medical detective work.

I know from a lot of blogs and/or IF community forums that many women are frustrated by doctors who are proceeding too slowly for their liking – and if such delays are caused by greed (hey, let’s run a few thousand dollars worth of unnecessary tests, k?) or trying to disguise what is really actually a lack of knowledge, then I agree. However, so far I have found that the approach these two authors believe in is so much more in keeping with what I need and want (but am, honestly, petrified to consider because of my “advanced” age and previous DOR diagnosis): investigating the root of the problem(s) and looking for the least invasive way to fix them.

I found myself thinking back to the RE who never even suggested an IUI (even though I’d never taken Clomid in my life or had a previous IUI) and wanted to go in, guns blazing, telling me the only way we’d conceive was with IVF + ICSI (most expensive treatment outside of external issues such as egg donor or surrogacy – quel surprise!) and that he was planning to use the most aggressive protocol. Meanwhile, my anxious questions about side effects were met with something between a disinterested shrug and dismissive snort – answered as “just some minor bloating”. (Yeah, I didn’t really buy that, either.)

So now I’m in a bit of a weird, uncomfortable situation: on the one hand, I’m enjoying this book – as much as you can while feeling a metaphorical gun being held to your head – and learning about things I, quite frankly, didn’t have the faintest clue about; on the other hand, there’s that nagging voice inside my head saying you don’t have time to mess around anymore; should’ve thought about that years ago. I’m trying to calm myself down and think that investing in their suggestions may take time, but without doing so, I may not only be subjecting myself to repeated treatments in the future that may or may not succeed (to say nothing of the financial, physical and emotional trauma that IVF really represents) but also setting myself up for a lower chance of success than if I actually make the commitment I was starting to make at the end of 2012 before another part of my personal life went to hell in a hand basket last year.

Is it crazy to press the pause button at this point in my life? Is it insane to think, let’s take 3 months to really focus on our health, to consider Eastern medicine (acupuncture, Chinese herbs etc)? Do I want to do this for the right reasons or because I’m scared: scared of the uncertainty, scared of not knowing where to turn at this point, scared of the whole impact of IVF?

The two warring halves of my brain keep being locked in what feels like a deadly tug-o-war: between the “do it, DO IT NOW!” panic side and the peacenik that wants to try and approach this with a modicum of conservatism, meaning in this case to not overlook less invasive treatment options. Did I mention, previously, that no one has actually bothered – at all – to explain any of my labs to me, except to inform me that as a DOR “candidate” for IVF, I’d probably need donor eggs in the foreseeable future? That no one asked me about my cycles, about whether I’ve ever done a BBT chart (I haven’t), that no one bothered to actually do more than 1 set of labs to see if the values were consistently the same; that no one actually checked whether my pituitary gland was/is functioning properly at all, whether my progesterone levels are “normal” in the different phases of my cycle? Initially, I was told I didn’t actually ovulate, ever, at all – based on a single, solitary blood test. So is it really surprising that what I want, what I’m looking for, is an RE who’s going to put all the cards on the table – not just the ones with the highest dollar amount?

And…with that I also realize that I’m driving myself crazy. Last week was a bit of a haze – I was under the weather, feeling emotional even though I’m not yet anywhere close to my next period (which I no longer dread so much as I resent and pretty much hate it). Wrapped up in sweaters and blankets, feverish, I threw myself a pity party by watching Sex and the City. I cried when Charlotte had a miscarriage; I cried when she tried to put on a brave face at Miranda’s son’s first birthday party…until she came face to face with the silver Tiffany’s rattle her first husband had bought before she found out about her fertility issues. Got angry at the scene where this one woman swears by an acupuncturist and highly recommends him in between saying something about how all the IUIs and IVFs had driven her crazy – which made me think: really, how nice it must be to (a) not have to worry about the money part of ARTs (which, let’s face it, is a HUGE consideration) and/or (b) living in a big city where you’re not only spoiled for choice, whatever the type of medicine, but also nowadays in the case of New York City in particular, actually have IVF coverage if I’m not mistaken.

(Gremlin. Ugh. Still working on that…)

Needless to mention, I’m trying to stave off another pity party to coincide with the PMS that, I believe, has RSVPd for sometime next week. I’ve been feeling cranky all day, but I know that’s due to the mute terror I feel without knowing, really, how to find the kind of doctor (and I’d settle for a general one to start out with) who can actually be bothered to look at the person, not the dollar signs. Old-fashioned, you say? I know time is of the essence – believe me, I never thought I’d be one of those “biological clock” women, but there’s nothing like someone putting a question mark on your ability to have biological children that’ll not just make that clock tick but turn it into a dinner gong. Yet, personally, I’d rather have someone who isn’t all about turning you into a pin-pricked receptacle for toxic medications that may or may not turn you into Godzilla, Attila the Hun, Jack(ie) the Ripper etc. from the ensuing renegade hormone spin cycle.

Translation: I don’t want someone to waste my time but also not recommend a course of action before or without investigating other less invasive/costly options. I’m not saying that there’s a chance in hell we could conceive without the previous RE’s “recommendation” for IVF with ICSI (and I use that term lightly, since he might as well have been holding a gun for the amount of choice his “recommendation” left room for). But that book made me so glad, despite our continued struggle, that I didn’t agree to put my life, my body, my health, into the hands of someone who probably wouldn’t have had time to fit me into his busy schedule if I’d thought I was having symptoms of OHSS or some other serious side effect with the treatment.

So here’s my question: how far are YOU willing to go to have a baby?

Is it just about experiencing pregnancy for you? How important is the biological connection to your child(ren) to you/your spouse? And how far would you travel, how much would you be willing to spend, how many different doctors, supplements, medications, procedures would you be willing to endure to get to the sought-after goal?

I’m not being facetious – I really want to know. Because I’m thinking, is it really any crazier to travel out of state – or, even, the country – in the quest of motherhood than it is to contemplate being held ransom to the tune of $25-50K if you have to contemplate domestic infant adoption?

Get Healthy Challenge 2014

Ah, Sunday. This most conflicting day of the week. It’s the day before you have to go back to school as a child or to work as an adult. It’s the day where plans for the week ahead are forged – but also the day where you sleep in with your sweetie and have a nice, leisurely breakfast or brunch. Steaming waffles, a nice strong cup of coffee, freshly squeezed orange juice, and maybe a newspaper or other weekly item to peruse at length.

For me, it’s one of the few days that I can spend some quality time with my husband. It’s also a day where I sit down to make a lot of lists – for the week, the month, and just general bullet points on my endless list of things to do, ever.

The first item on today’s agenda is my desire to participate in a fellow blogger’s Get Healthy Challenge 2014. I’m still trying to figure out exactly how it’s supposed to work, but one thing I do know is that it couldn’t be more apropos for the things that I desperately really, truly want and need to get done this year. I was especially drawn to her contemplation about the mind/body connection – in so far as “getting healthy” isn’t just about losing weight but also about tending to your emotional well-being. As I’m rather flailing in both areas, this challenge is just what I need to keep me focused on the big picture by breaking it down into smaller, more manageable bite-sized tasks.

In the past, I’ve been rather…ineffective at enforcing my own New Year’s Resolutions. I actually happened across an old list from something like 20 years ago just last month – and it was both laughable and shocking that I still, unbelievably, want to get many of the same things done. The ubiquitous “get healthy/lose weight” is an obvious one – that’s pretty much been the headliner for, oh I don’t know, 25 years (sad, I know). Coming up behind it is the whole carpe diem, goosfraba deal – meaning my perennial desire to dissolve my negative feelings and accept myself and those around me with more grace and calm (you know, without resorting to a super-size helping of narcotics).

I decided to write my updates – to see how the week has treated me – and weekly goals on Sundays instead of Fridays: what challenges I faced, overcame (hopefully there won’t be too much drama as the result of the inevitable setting of lofty goals until I actually figure out what I can, realistically, tackle and accomplish inside of a week), and what’s on the table for the next week.

So as I am preparing to launch myself into a goal-driven challenge to help me keep my eye on the proverbial ball (instead of, you know, constantly freaking out about the mountain of things I should do but am too petrified, worried, anxious and cranky to deal with), I received a message from a cantankerous family member with whom I have not spoken in some time. Said person has caused a great deal of heartache in our lives and was therefore expedited to the emotional version of Siberia – because, honestly, as I’m approaching 40 in the next couple of years, I really have less and less desire to deal with emotional vampires and people who constantly act like your heart is their own personal trampoline. I’m still smarting from the tone and wording – clearly designed to aggravate and guilt me into a response, which I have decided is not only beneath me but not worth the time and effort to compose.

Of course there’s a little “secret” behind this – a confession that pains me to make but that, in light of preparing for this challenge, I know I have to own. The truth is that I hate conflict of any kind. I hate arguing. I hate the mere fact of not getting along with someone. I’m the product of many unpleasant experiences that involved being yelled at, beaten, chastised, humiliated and otherwise being generally treated like the square peg that wouldn’t fit in the round hole. The overall message was that I wasn’t pretty enough, smart enough, skinny enough, to be loved without some major “renovation” and caveats. Needless to mention, I’m still trying to rise above things that happened a long time ago – and even just admitting them in the first place makes me want to run away and hide under a rock while meekly pleading to be informed of if and when the storm has passed.

Because of all those experiences, I always tried to be nice to everyone. I tried so, so hard to be pleasing, to be “good” – whatever such a subjective term can ever mean. And I fell for promises and assurances over and over. I trembled and walked over metaphoric eggshells for years and years – always tacitly trying to maintain the frail balance for whatever period of time was granted until there was another blow-out. Each time the tears came, hot and salty, I swore to myself that it was the last time: the last time I would try, the last time I would believe, the last time I would let someone else treat me like I wasn’t good enough.

But reading the experiences by so many others in the last few months, I’ve realized two things. First, Eleanor Roosevelt was right: “No one can make you feel inferior without your consent” – and that consent has just expired, been revoked and will not be renewed. Second, I am done with trying to please and appeased people who do nothing of the sort for me. I won’t bore you to tears with the tedium that has been almost my entire life – with family members who treated me like garbage, or who were nice just long enough to get what they wanted and then went all Jekyll and Hyde on me. I AM DONE. I’m not going to placate someone else insecurities that they chose to abuse on me. I’m not going to be conned into trying to maintain relationships where I’m the one always trying to be nice, trying to do the right thing, trying to help and put myself out there for people who – clearly – by their words and actions have long since demonstrated just how little they truly care about us. And while I know that this will be an uphill battle for me, that I will struggle with conflicting emotions, that sadness and regret will wash over me periodically, I know that it’s time I actively work to overcome this lifelong struggle.

So, without further ado, here are my Get Healthy Challenge 2014 goals for this coming week:

  1. No tv during the weekdays (and only 1 hour per weekend day).
  2. Make the phone calls and appointments I’ve been dreading for months.
  3. No caffeine on weekdays other than in herbal tea (meaning no coffee, chocolate etc).
  4. Deal with emotional turmoil and/or adversity through creativity (writing/journaling) and diversion (chores, bubble bath, walk the pups)
  5. Do some type of physical activity each day, even if it’s just for 15 minutes.
  6. Try or do something new.
  7. Take my supplements every day.

I decided to pick 7 items to correspond with 7 days in a week – not because I plan to do those things only on one day (some obviously apply to the whole week) but because I wasn’t sure how many goals to pick…and this seemed like a befitting number. I think #3 is going to be the hardest because, omg, I love my coffee. Did I say love? I meant I’m mildly obsessed with it. I mean…just opening a bag or can of the current favorite and deeply inhaling the scents wafting up…it’s like nirvana for me. It’s the thing that I relate to relaxation the most – the one thing that makes me feel like I can get through a tough spot. But I also know that (a) I’m consuming way too much caffeine (which is especially ironic given that I absolutely never have or do drink sodas); (b) I might as well ween myself off it before we even find a new RE because, eventually, when (yes, my instinct wasn’t to write if for a change!!) I get pregnant, I’m not going to be able to guzzle the stuff at the current rate anyway.

In line with the whole challenge idea, DH and I also agreed to make time to have lunch together once a week. It the past year, it’s been more like once a quarter – partly due to his hectic schedule but also in consideration of the added expense of eating out. We used to love going out for dinner – the dressing up, the ambiance, maybe a cocktail if it was appropriate. But in recent years we’ve all but become social recluses, as we both recoil from anything that could open us up to questions about our continued childlessness – not to mention the inevitable heartache of thinking we’ll have a nice, quiet and romantic dinner – only to be surrounded by families. (Sidebar: I can so, totally relate to this blogger’s post about almost crying in the grocery store – because I’ve had those moments in virtually every. single. public. location. It’s unbelievable and shocking – even when it’s happened more than once – how gut-wrenchingly painful some of these moments can be; and how hard you have to fight the tears. I’ve had moments where I tasted bile in my mouth and seriously thought I would actually, no kidding, vomit in a public venue. NOT something I would like to experience, e-v-e-r, if I can avoid it.)

Of course this brings me to an issue that I keep meaning to address and that I keep, ahem, failing to deal with in a – shall we say – “mature” way: I am way, way too stressed out. I mean, I have anxiety in the capacity of a medical condition. I’ve taken anti-anxiety medication and anti-depressants at various points in the last few years – until I decided that I didn’t want to live a life where I had to rely on medication for anything that wasn’t immediately life threatening. Of course the truth is that, at this point, my ticker is decidedly unhappy with me – and the heart palpitations have become disturbingly frequent, so that when I lie in bed at night, I sometimes have a hard time falling asleep just because my heart is pounding like a jackhammer, thundering in my ears to such an extent that I’m tempted to yell “keep the damn noise down!”. 

It goes without saying that I know what’s to blame. I know I need to get out more. I know I need to stop worrying about things that I can’t do a darn thing about. I know I need to think less and act more – which may sound like a bad idea, if you weren’t someone like me who has a propensity  slight tendency to overthink, like, everything. If you’ve ever seen the movie “I Don’t Know How She Does It”, you’ll probably know what I mean: lying in bed, staring holes into the ceiling and making lists. Only – I completely disagree that this is something particular to the working mom. I think it’s specific to a type of person – someone who (a) worries too much and (b) isn’t that good at prioritizing actionable items on their to-do list. In other words, I know that I need to work very hard to overcome my tendency to worry rather than tackle.

Rather than worrying about the nastygram I received and the fear of whatever may be lurking behind it, I’m going to write it off. I’m not interested in maintaining the relationship’s status quo; and since I know for a fact that trying to have a frank, honest conversation with this person is simply not possible, there is just no avenue to address or redress the issues between us. Which means that, as hard as it is for me and as frustrating as I find it to be in this situation – I have more pressings things commanding my attention and I simply WILL NOT waste my brain power on this, anymore.

Toodeloo! 🙂

The Comeback Kid

After my last tirade diatribe blog post, I was so infuriated that I couldn’t think straight. I felt so churlish, and I hated both the issues that had prompted the post in the first place – and that I’d lost my temper that much. You’d think that, on the downslope to 40, I’d have harnessed my feelings into a calm and composed demeanor by now.

You’d be mistaken.

Then again, I could argue that the last few years haven’t exactly been a stroll in the park – and that, as an adult, I really don’t have any inclination to pretend that I have sunshine coming out of my you-know-what* all day. I’ve lost the majority of my family to death or estrangement, so that IF is just one more thing on my “let’s see how she responds to adverse conditions”  life stress test. And then, a few months ago, not one but two people I thought I was close to and could count on basically did such unforgivably horrible, evil, conniving, mean and backstabbing things that I had to end those relationships too.

So if I appear caustic at times, let’s just say that I’ve been making A LOT of mouth-puckering lemonade lately.

For the last couple of months, I kept thinking about whether I should just tuck my proverbial tail between my legs and slink back to virtual obscurity after deleting my blog. At times, as I lay awake in bed and listened to three parties snoring in concert (one human, two canine), I composed my comeback post. But somehow I just couldn’t seem to snap out of it – and as the holidays drew closer I realized that I was not only no closer to motherhood, I was now a year older than when we first went to see the RE we both hated. Or, in the most disparaging terms, a year closer to my body completely closing up shop in terms of any viability for reproduction (impaired as it has been).

Most of December was a bit of a mind fog. I tried hard not to think about the people who are no longer in our lives. I tried even harder to ignore comments from people about how they hadn’t expected or planned their very evident pregnancy (and tried, even harder, to resist the temptation to say how glad I’d be to take their unplanned/unexpected miracle home with me). I tried to muster every ounce of happiness I could feel for others as their lives lit up like our Christmas tree: new home in time for the baby; new addition to the family; travels across the country for a family Christmas. All things we would not have, yet again. 

And then more bad news came in. Home repairs came a callin’ – and of course not the kind that could easily be fixed with a DIY job. Strangers came into our home, traipsing through our bedroom with street shoes as I tried to bite my lip hard enough not to have a total hissy fit that would’ve made Teresa Giudice blanch. Our tv kept having problems; and then our internet seemed to be having a premature midlife crisis. More people came to the house. Equipment was repaired, swapped out, repaired again. I stopped counting the amount of “service people” that had dragged an entire quarry worth of invisible ick through my house. (Sidebar: as of this moment, I’ve decided that if someone comes to my house and doesn’t take off their shoes or put on those blue hospital footies, I will buy a guillotine. Or, failing that, a cattle prod. Because if I have to deal with one more person stepping all over my crisp white bath rugs – the same ones I stand on with bare feet – I. am. going. to. lose. it.)

As if that’s not bad enough, DH’s company is downsizing and he has no idea whether or not he’s going to make the cut. He might be ok. He might be ok for a little while. He might have to find a new job. Oh, and our insurance is going up! Peaches and cream, aren’t we just so lucky???

The cherry on top? I spent the entire week of Christmas sick as a dog.

It’s amazing how resilient you become through struggling with IF, though. You learn how to roll with the punches because you’ve already figured out that life isn’t fair. Good things don’t always happen to good people. Sometimes, bad things happen to good people. You almost manage not to throw up or dissolve into a puddle of tears after the gazillionth person tells you about their “happy news” (and remind yourself that an ingrate who can’t understand how grateful she should be for her blessing isn’t worth committing a felony – even if you feel like throttling her). You try not to think about how they can marvel at the life that is growing inside them even though they only just learned of it a minute ago and are still holding the plastic test stick. You almost convince yourself that you have so much to be happy for that you have no right to be so upset that something isn’t going your way. You almost forget that you weren’t always this angry, resentful, bitter, desperate, sad, lonely, pathetic shadow of a person.

Almost. 

Until, one day, you think about the day you hope and pray for with every fiber of your being – the day that you hope will happen sooner rather than later. And you realize that, unlike your fertile counterparts who can think of a million and one ways to tell their husbands the happy news, your “happy news” will be a qualified revelation. It will involve days and weeks of tension. It will be preceded by hours of jumping out of your skin every time the phone rings, every time your stomach growls, every time you feel anything at all.

In that moment, you realize that you will never have the quiet happiness; the elation that “normal” women feel. You will never be able to just be excited about getting pregnant – because, for you, it will have involved countless tests, a battery of invasive exams and medical procedures. While other women can think about how they’re going to outfit their baby’s nursery, you’ll be wondering what more you can sell of your personal possessions to buy the necessities for the baby you’ve dreamed of for so long – because all the resources and assets you had have long since disappeared in the ether.

I don’t dream about the day that I will find out I’m pregnant (and I’m still, infuriatingly still, trying desperately to replace “if” with “when” – yet another sign of all the things you do, irrationally, for fear of jinxing yourself). I don’t dream of being pregnant. Because I know all that stuff will be painful, scary and expensive. I know that, from the moment I get pregnant, I’ll be terrified of doing something wrong to jeopardize the pregnancy. I’ll be anxious to fight my increasing anxiety; worried that the wrong move, the wrong drink or food, the wrong activity (or even thought) will make my baby leave me.

So what I’m dreaming of isn’t the process of getting there; it’s putting all that behind me – not of conceiving but of having a baby. Because if I’ve learned anything from my fellow sisters-in-arms, it’s that the coveted BFP is only the first of many hurdles for us IFers. So you won’t see or hear me screaming from the roof tops when it happens; but you might see an agnostic clamor to any semblance of spirituality in a desperate attempt to barter for something, anything, to allow her to carry her baby to term.

And while, given our predicament, the only thing I truly care about is having a healthy child with all limbs and organs intact and fully functional, there’s a part deep inside me that continues to dream of having a girl. Ever since DH and I got married, I always pictured a little girl with his eyes and hair. I don’t know why I didn’t picture a mini-me – maybe because, somehow, I wanted so badly to create another life with my husband that was almost like a gift, a homage, to the man I love. Silly me.

What I dream of isn’t the moment I find out I’m pregnant; or the moment where enough time has passed to believe that the pregnancy is viable enough to consider sharing the news with what little is left of our families. What I dream of is the moment that a nurse places our baby in my arms; the moment I’ll dissolve into tears of happiness instead of sadness and frustration; the moment I’ll feel whole again.

I hope that this day will come for me. And even though I want three children, I’ll be the happiest woman alive even if this blessed event graces our lives only once. Just once – that’s all I ask if it’s meant to be that way. Because without even that one time, I don’t know what I’m doing on this earth…

 

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* My New Year’s Resolutions may or may not have included swearing less. However, it’s early days yet – and the bottom line is that if you’re acting like an a$$hat, I’m probably going to tell you that ya kinda are in my best David Spade/Russel Dunbar impression. Just calling a spade a spade.

Would you like some cheese with that WHINE?

The last few days have been a blur of mind-numbing pain. As usual, AF is reminding me once again that, despite over two decades of monthly agony and the assorted ailments that come with it, I’ve still never gotten pregnant. It’s hard, at this point, to keep hoping this will ever change. And, as a bonus, my migraines kicked into overdrive and yesterday I woke up retching. Sometimes I think there’s no amount of morning sickness that’s ever going to be a problem for me because of the many, many times I’ve been vomiting in the past couple of years with no baby to look forward to as compensation.

So I have to admit that when I recently saw some whiny post on an infertility forum from someone who doesn’t just have one kid but actually has TWO, I just about had it. I realize that my perception is clouded by my own experience, and that there are other parts of my life that I have every reason to be grateful for. I have a loving, supportive husband. I live a comfortable, safe life in a house I love. I want for nothing other than the chance to become a mother, to have a child with the man I love. But yes, I know that even my problems seem trivial compared to others – people who have no home, don’t know how they’ll put food on the table, or in other countries, have to worry that a simple trip to the grocery store could end up in death because of an explosion or gunfire. So, yes – I know that everything in life is about perception, about where you’re at in relation to any given situation or problem.

But I HATE and resent it when people who already have children fail to grasp that they should be grateful – and it makes me beyond irate when they tell primary IFers, especially those who have experience m/c or, worse even, s/b, that secondary IF is either the same OR worse (puhleeze, don’t make me slap you).

I know we shouldn’t be getting into a proverbial p***ing match over who has it worse – where does it end? I wrote about this in another post, I think, because I kind of feel that way sometimes when I read about someone else’s AMH levels being much higher than mine. But none of that is nearly as irritating to me.

It may seem callous, mean-spirited or selfish – but I just don’t understand how someone can even think, for a split second, that there’s not a difference between having at least one child and NOT having even one? How is that the same, at all? How does someone who is struggling with secondary IF not get, for a split second, how horrible it would be if they didn’t even have the one child they already have – the one they can fawn over, cuddle, dress in a cute Halloween outfit and take pictures with while the closest we’re getting is yet another exam that shows an empty womb. Yay for us. 

I’m always incredible grateful when I read a post by a secondary IFer who acknowledges her blessings. I am so grateful to her because she is thankful, she’s aware of how much worse it could be. She understands.

So when I read the post from this woman who was comparing primary infertility to what, in her case is technically tertiary infertility, I really, really just wanted to b****-slap her. Let me tell you something. I would love love LOVE to have three children. I would LOVE to adopt an infant that someone else doesn’t want – if it didn’t come with such a horrendous price tag that it makes IVF look cheap. But at this point? I’d be so grateful if I even got pregnant at all that I’d be crying tears of joy. I have zero indication, so far, that my body is even capable of getting pregnant by any means whatsoever – never mind sustain a full gestation to result in a live birth. So as far as I’m concerned, even though I want three, just ONE, just a single, healthy baby, would be better than winning the lottery to me right now.

Today is the first tiny ray of hope that I won’t be spending the entire weekend wishing I had a way to blow out my own brains – because if you’ve ever had a real migraine (as opposed to people calling a barely noticeable headache a “migraine” – which, fyi, it is NOT), you know that it can get so bad that you literally want to die just to make the pain stop. The last time I had to take a trip to the ER because of them, it was so bad that they administered morphine. TWICE. Yeah, it’s that bad.

The silver lining of having these migraines is that, when they go away, I feel so grateful and happy that I almost have tears in my eyes. And it makes me more positive, it makes me happy – it makes me more productive. So right now, as I’m still laboring in pain and secretly worrying about the amount of medication I’ve taken in the last few days just to be able to get out of bed at all, I’m hoping that I’ll be feeling much better by the end of the weekend at least. It has to…

All of these considerations made me realize that I’m just as bad as the secondary IFers I keep complaining about. Sure, I still find it annoying – but that’s not the point. The point is that they’re coming at it from a different perspective, just like I am. The only thing I can do is to make an earnest effort to change ME, to change my lifestyle, to do the things I need to do to prepare my body for when we can afford to do IVF, finally. Of course I’m scared that it’ll be too late by then, but there’s no point in worrying about this when I can’t do anything about it right now.

I pledge to do better. I pledge to take better care of myself and not to blame my body for not giving me a baby yet. I pledge to treat myself with more love, more compassion, more consideration. And I hope those of you who’ve been feeling as crummy as I have will do the same – because at some point, our time will come.