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?

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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.

The Big F

*from Decibel Magazine* This is pretty much EXACTLY how I feel today. Except that I’m pretty sure it’s even less cute on a grown woman.

WARNING: angry shouty (wo)manchild full steam ahead.

Epic FAIL.

Not now? Not yet? NOT EVER??

Not now? Not yet? NOT EVER??

For the last couple of days, I’ve been walking around with a ticker-tape displaying repetitive bursts of the F word. I’ve been so irate and annoyed that it’s a miracle I haven’t ground my teeth to nubs yet.

AF is 3 days late, but of course only to torment me before eventually crash-landing today with a resounding thud to remind that, no – for ME, a delayed period just means that something is wacky this month. Or maybe I inhaled something weird. Or the stars aligned to punish me for some long-forgotten misdeed.

Whatever the reason, I really feel like S-C-R-E-A-M-I-N-G – because, quite frankly, who needs this hassle? Part of me felt like shouting at my own body and saying, FINE, you don’t want to stay on the clock? Then tell that b**** to pack her bags because, as far as I’m concerned, I’ve put in more than enough time after over 2 decades of MISERY without so much as a blip on the radar that would indicate that it will EVER pay off. 

I’m so angry right now that I want to send nastygrams to all the a$$hats who make “Happy Period” commercials and tell them that they can stuff those products where the sun doesn’t shine. Because, aside from the fact that IVF isn’t covered in the majority of states – last I checked, I also can’t write off all the crap I have to buy so I don’t look like a victim of a slaughterhouse on our tax return as a medical expense. Meanwhile, Viagra is covered – because, OF COURSE, getting a boner is more important that procreation. “Oh, I know, this must be so hard. My wallet’s too small for my fifties AND MY DIAMOND SHOES ARE TOO TIGHT.” (*)

So I will most likely have to spend an inordinate amount of time at home for the next 10 days or so – lest I suddenly turn into an eerie reenactment of The Exorcist when someone annoys me by, oh I don’t know, breathing.

It doesn’t help when the idiocy of others that would annoy me under the best of circumstances now seems even more aggravating. This is especially true of the heathens involved in preparing my coffee – and, somehow, despite remuneration, performing said job in a decidedly sub-par fashion.

Exhibit A: Since my husband works long hours, we usually try to go out for breakfast and/or coffee on the weekend. Yet, apparently, when I ask for a simple thing like a wet latte – you know, what with a latte NOT being a cappuccino, which should render my request unnecessary…and yet I invariably end up with HALF A CUP OF FOAM if I don’t say anything. Sorry, but I’m not interested in paying top dollar for AIR BUBBLES ON MY COFFEE.

Also? When you burn your coffee beans or (re)use substandard coffee and my caffeinated beverage of choice tastes like what I assume it would be like if I decided to lick asphalt instead, I’m going to get a little annoyed. If you then give me attitude, an exagerrated eye roll you don’t feel self-conscious about at all – what with me, the customer, paying your damn wages – or some kind of backtalk, consider yourself lucky that I’m not crazy enough to throw the coffee right at you.

I’m not an unreasonable or rude cafe patron – I’m polite, I’m friendly, I make just enough chit chat to show that you’re not a robot in my eyes – so KINDLY refrain from shouting talking about some stupid football match with a coworker so loudly that I can’t hear myself think, never mind have a conversation with my husband. Otherwise that fork you gave me for my bagel (??!!??) may end up spearing the thick part of your brain, since you obviously use it for insulation rather than to, you know, WORK. And shut the hell up. Because, I’m thinking? When you’re at work, you should display a modicum of professionalism – it’s not my fault that you’re over the hill and working as a barista.

(I’ll make an exception to the poor hapless soul who was forced to contend with a customer who wanted a wet cappuccino “but not latte wet” – which made even me want to spit in his coffee: http://twrage.blogspot.com/2008/03/wet-cappuccino-on-fools-and-possible.html. However: all you little s***s on ihatestarbucks.com – you can get bent, because if no one were willing to fork over the money for the overpriced concoctions you’re sick and tired of making and/or using dishwater, decaf or whatever else to make because you hate your life and yourself so much that spouting off about ruining someone else’s day on your little site makes you feel less impotent, YOU WOULDN’T HAVE A JOB. Get that, dumba$$? So I don’t give a fig if you hate making holiday drinks for months – last I checked, you’re getting paid to do just that, so kindly keep your piehole shut. That’s the only tip I’ve got for you.)

So I’ve come to the conclusion that the best thing for me is to (a) make my own coffee; and (b) ween myself off of it entirely in favor of herbal teas. I’m thinking; something calming/soothing laced with heavy dose of Valerian Root Extract. In the meantime, I’ve managed to find a bag of whole beans that are supposedly both fairtrade AND organic (although judging by the way both the USDA and FDA deal with the general well-being of the population like a theoretic problem in the script for a bad reality tv series, it’s anybody’s guess whether what I bought isn’t just the same crap they cram into the El Cheapo coffee bags).

I’m sure that, at this point, you may be thinking that someone ought to force-feed me a copious amount of prescription drugs to induce a less belligerent state of mind. I would concur – except that I’m trying really hard to take as little medication as humanly possible in my perhaps useless, senseless attempt to reboot my body and make my reproductive parts WORK, DAMMIT, WORK!!!

(Sidebar: As if I wasn’t already so angry that I had a mental image of ripping my own arm out of its socket, cartoon-style, just so that I would have something to use as my Captain Cave(wo)man club – I spent the last half hour continuing the write this post until I tried to save it…and was logged out of the site for some random, inexplicable reason. The same reason that, somehow, the auto-save had not engaged and so I lost about 3 paragraphs worth of postulating on my descent into wildebeest mode.)

I’m so annoyed that, while preparing veggies for the dinner I’m planning to make for my husband tonight, I cut myself with a serrated knife because I was impatient and not paying the kind of attention you should be paying when wielding sharp instruments. Everything is somehow going wrong and everything is irritating me to a degree that I have a hard time putting into words: the dogs barking, the fact that there’s never anything on tv when you really need something to distract you (and, for that matter, the incessant DRONING ON of commercials that seems to underpin the notion that, yes, parenthood is the badge of honor to strive for, the call to action for heroes) the remote control that aggravatingly not just slips out of my hand but then lands in the trash can full of fur from when I trimmed one of my dogs; the fact that I just want to wake up in a different life on days like today.

On the flipside of all this anger and aggression I’m feeling is, of course, a free-fall into grief. Isn’t it pathetic that, at my age, you can still sit there and feel totally sorry for yourself? I don’t even know why I’m expecting anything else at this point. I mean, talk about deluded! My period is a few days late and, apparently, this idiot was deluded enough to think that, somehow, Aphaea herself had flicked my unresponsive body and kicked it into high gear, suddenly – and inexplicably – giving me the gift of fertility.(Cue derisive snorting from the peanut gallery.) I am so incredibly STUPID that, despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary, apparently Homer Simpson is at the helm of my brain because there’s no other way to explain why I keep coming back for more heartache or why, WHY WHY WHY WHY I keep returning to the bottomless pit that results from imagining what our child would look like. The child that I’m more and more convinced will just never be conceived and born. The child that I want but am beginning to wonder if I’m just not meant to have, if I’m so unworthy that not ONE single act of love has resulted in what other people treat like so much garbage.

I’ve been trying so hard not be bitter. I figure that I can’t really complain if nothing is happening since I’m not even undergoing any ARTs etc at the moment – and yet, the resentment I feel when there are so many people I’ve known who have conceived multiple children without so much as having to try for more than a couple of months; or people who got pregnant without trying or even consciously WANTING a child just then…it makes me want to put my fist into a reinforced steel door just so I have something to distract me from all the pain I’m already in.

I HATE, and I mean hate with a vengeance, not just being in this situation in the first place. I hate that I can’t come to terms with it. I hate that I’m angry and bitter, that I’ve never felt more lonely in my entire life and that I’m only one of thousands of women going through the same thing while NO ONE CARES. No one gives a crap about the fact that the majority of people struggling with infertility will have to mortgage themselves up to their eyeballs if they can even come up with the financial resources for a single cycle of IVF. I HATE hate hate running errands and seeing a woman so hefty that the best descriptive term would be the Hindenberg – who is also pregnant. Of course. Because you know, it happens to all these people all over the place – people who somehow DON’T EVEN REALIZE THAT THEY ARE PREGNANT until the baby pops out. Or people who, despite weighing somewhere in the vicinity of 500 lbs and not even able to get a standard seat belt across their bodies, or who poison their bodies with every illegal drug known to mankind, are apparently still more fertile than me.

I want to scream. I want to cry. I want to run away. I want to punch things, throw things, beat something to a pulp. Because on top of all the crap that’s at the heart of today’s diatribe, there are other things I can’t talk/write about that make all these issues even worse, even more painful, even more long-lasting. And all I can think about is how I wish I would just hit my head somewhere and have amnesia. Or a total change of personality where I don’t even want babies at all. So I spend the better part of everything morning and evening trying to remain as even-tempered as possible, trying not to turn into a weepy mess in front of my husband because if I had told him that my period was even a single day late, I know he would’ve gotten his hopes up, would’ve thought, dared to dream, maybe this is it. And then I would’ve just failed him, failed us, again – over and over, every single month for all these years that I have to fight the urge to get a hysterectomy so I can just say F YOU STUPID PIECE OF NON-FUNCTIONAL EQUIPMENT THAT KEEPS PUTTING ME THROUGH THE RINGER EVERY DAMN MONTH WITHOUT GIVING ME ANYTHING IN RETURN AFTER I’VE BEEN POKED AND PRODDED FROM HERE TO ETERNITY. I know I should learn to love my body despite its shortcomings, but today I hate it.

Dark days. Sad days. Pathetic days. I want to tear the screen of my computer and throw it at the tv because they’re all in cahoots in making me miserable. My body feels like it’s going to convulse from the warring emotions; bile rising in my throat, making me feel like I’m going to vomit. But the sad, sad truth is that I know there’s nothing I can do about any of it. I can sit here, typing, big fat tears stinging my eyes until they drop like anchors down my face – and it won’t change a damn thing. So I let it eat me up inside because we have no one to turn to, because no one cares, because we’re alone in this.

No one cares.

So if anybody’s asking – I’ll be moping on the couch, watching Family Guy and eating cookie dough. At least for today.

(*) partial quote from Chandler in Friends.

A Crack in the Glass

This weekend has been one of reflection for me. I’ve spent a lot of time reading about the struggles of other women who, like me, face the uncertainty of what life has in store for them as they muddle their way through, trying desperately to cling to a sense of themselves instead of letting infertility redefine them in a new, hollow sense of “normal”.

I wanted to wallow in self-pity. I wanted to go and buy myself a self-indulgent cinnamon roll (or three), scarf it down while fat tears rolled down my face, burning in my eyes as I pretended, for a second, that processed sugar could melt away my pain. But I didn’t. Not because I suddenly had a great proclivity towards nutritious food (I’m still working on that), but because I thought to myself, this is what I’ve always done, what I’ve BEEN doing: feeding the pain. Stuffing food on top of it until I’ve shoved it so far down that it’s been replaced by guilt or self-loathing – at times, unbelievably, a preferable choice over the constant screaming in my head that reminds me of the very real possibility that I may end up being one of the unfortunate ones, the ones who never make it across the finish line. No baby. Not now, not ever. Too painful to contemplate – especially when I realize that I miss my husband when he’s at work but am secretly glad for the time alone, when I can cry without seeing the pain in his eyes as he sees my misery, unable to do anything to help me. Sometimes I look at my husband and I think, why does he stay? Why does he still want to be here? I’m broken. There’s no 24-hour repair shop, no super glue, for this.

I took a stroll down memory lane as I sat in an arm chair and opened a journal I kept in 2008 – a burst of color, full of vibrant life, appointments and parties, social events, names I don’t even recognize anymore. I sat there and let my eyes rove over the pages, slowly going through the first few months of the year – the year that I know we wanted to get more serious about “trying” but that eventually started a cascade of personal tragedies in our lives. I stopped when I got to April – having wandered past entries for cards sent and received, birthdays celebrated, pictures glued in haphazardly because it didn’t matter if it wasn’t perfect. My life was messy, and I loved every minute of it.

I closed the journal and felt like I was in an empty hall, hearing the echoes of my past. The deaths that came, without warning. The people I thought were friends who turned away – too busy with their own lives, it turned out. Or maybe it was because I stopped being who I had once been. Maybe it was because they saw death reflected in my eyes. First, I felt nothing. Then I was hurt, angry, and felt betrayed. Where were the people whose children I’d comforted, whose birthdays I’d celebrated, whose pregnancies I’d cheered for?

Now, looking back, I think it wasn’t anyone’s fault. I couldn’t function, couldn’t cope – too many lossses in such quick succession. I couldn’t talk about it – still can’t – because I thought, who wants to hear about it anyway? Who would understand? Just like a woman who’s had a miscarriage talking to a young girl in college, or a women in her 80s whose friends have all died trying to explain the passing of time to a child. We can’t understand the experiences of others, and empathy – I’ve learned – isn’t something that comes easily to many.

I tried to fake my way through it. I tried to smile, “get back out there”. But I felt nothing. Surrounded by people, I felt as alone as on a deserted island. As someone who’s not religious, I found myself struggling to such an extent that I contemplated, not once, but several times whether I should talk to a minister. I needed…something. I knew, deep down, that God, religion, wasn’t the answer for me – but there was nothing else, either. I had no child to keep me connected to the cycle of life. All I saw, all I see, is death.

I’m supposed to reach out to others. I’m supposed to try to make new friends, to connect with other people. But I don’t know if I still have it in me. I feel like I’ve been trying to climb the same mountain forever, the end nowhere in sight, and every little progress I made the proverbial “one step forward, two steps back”. You’re not supposed to admit defeat. You’re not supposed to ask for help. You’re supposed to smile, take medication if necessary – but, as a woman, you must function at all cost. You must keep smiling, through the tears, through the pain, no matter what. It’s what you’re expected to do. We’re daughters, sisters, wives, friends if we’re lucky – and we’re expected to shoulder the burdens passed onto us as well as our own. Where others feel no empathy, no sympathy, no guilt or remorse, we pick up their lot and carry it too. We question our place in the world, our lives, our relationships – are we good enough? Are we worthy? Maybe if we just try harder. Smile just a little wider.

But after a while, there are signs of strain. I remember reading something about how continued, long-term stress actually frays the muscles of the heart – or something to that effect – and I had a mental image of electrical cables being severed, sparks flying, injuries ensuing. My heart is hurting. It has been hurting for so, so long. I’m not doing enough to heal it because I don’t know how anymore, I don’t know how to make it better. We retreat into ourselves when we hurt, and eventually, it seems, people just forget that it was ever any different. They forget that we were once vibrant, engaging people – interesting, loving, funny. I was funny! I was hilarious! I laughed all the time – unabashedly, unreservedly, without apology. I was open to meeting new people because it was my favorite part of being alive: the promise of new ideas, new friends, new adventures.Now all I see are strangers all around me.

Tonight, I thought I’d have some iced coffee. I had already poured the dry contents into my very favorite glass and was boiling water, which I use a little bit of to dissolve everything first before adding milk. I wasn’t thinking about anything in particular as I poured just enough into the glass…and heard a loud, unmistakable crack. I held up the glass, and sure enough, the boiling water had obviously caused it to crack. Now, this isn’t an ordinary glass – it’s a pretty hefty, thick glass, so I was shocked that it had cracked in the first place. But as I turned the glass in my hands and saw the extensive crack – splitting the bottom and running clean upwards diagonally about 2/3 to the top – I had another epiphany. The water was like a metaphor for all the crap that’s been happening in my life – all the drama, the ups and downs – and the closer it got to the boiling point, the more I was getting to my wit’s end. And when I poured the boiling water into the glass, it was like all the things that have happened in the last 5 years came together in a visual display of my broken heart. 

But then I realized something else. This is my favorite glass. Obviously, I’m mad that there’s a huge crack in it now – but as I ran my hands over the crack, over and over again, I marveled at the fact that the glass remained intact. In fact, no liquid spilled out at all.

And I realized that there may be a crack in the glass, but if it’s strong enough to hold together – so am I.

In The Trenches

For the past week, I’ve been fighting a head cold that has been leaving me feeling really awful – depleted of both physical energy and mental acuity. Nothing I tried would make it better: not chicken soup, not orange juice, not Benadryl or the rest of the medicine cabinet. It’s a miracle that any one of my desperate concoctions didn’t kill me – because, honestly, if I’d thought arsenic or rat poison would’ve made me feel better, I probably would’ve tried it.

The upside of feeling really crappy physically is that it took my mind off a lot of the mental anguish for a while – at least to some extent. AF with her perfect timing chimed in to make it all a big mess of aches and pains – a nice preview of old age, if I ever make it that far. And while I’m still trying desperately not to freak out about how my period has suddenly taken a dramatic change since my single Clomid cycle in early summer – going from its usual 7-8 days to 4, which I would normally find a great cause for celebration, were it not that I’m one of those hapless women dealt the dastardly card of DOR (diminished ovarian reserve) – all of these things coinciding together made me feel sick as a dog.

But! Great excuse to lounge on the couch and watch crappy tv – which is really all that Netflix has to offer (I won’t even elaborate on that, since anyone who also has a Netflix subscription will undoubtedly have noticed all the bizarre crap on there that NO ONE in their right mind would give a fig about, never mind want to watch).

Mostly, though, I pretty much just schlepped myself between the couch and the bed, possible moaning like an octogenarian as I shuffled between resting places with a variously stuffed up and dripping nose, my head feeling like an over-sized, overripe watermelon begging to take first prize at a county fair. I slept A LOT. I hurt even more. I wanted chocolate, but there wasn’t any at home – and I was in no condition to leave the house, and DH has been working way too much for me to ask him to make a detour on his way home. He would have, if I had asked him – but, c’mon. I’m not that self-indulgent. I figured if I was THAT desperate, I could always eat the baking chocolate. (FYI: I didn’t. I’ve tried that before – and it basically tastes like what I imagine licking an ashtray would taste like.)

Tonight, I finally got a chance to catch up on some reading – and came across a post on someone else’s blog about friendship. Or, rather, the ending of it.

It’s a pretty raw subject for me. In the past few years, DH and I have lost almost everyone in our lives to either death, estrangement or some version of IF-related “amnesia” – which is what happens when people learn of your predicament and suddenly lose your phone number, address, and/or other identifying characteristics. To say that we’re operating without a support system would be a huge understatement because we basically don’t have one anymore.

In the past few months, as I’ve read more stories from others – I’ve been shocked to see that the amount of people whose experiences mirror ours largely outweigh the stories of people who have warm, caring and supportive friends & family. In most cases, people try to be open about their struggle – and find themselves suddenly bumped off the invite list, excluded from parties or other social events.

Some stories I’ve read have been much, much worse than what we’ve been through. I won’t repeat them here to respect the privacy of others, but let’s just say that there have been times where I’ve cried for someone else that I haven’t even met – and times where reading what someone else had been put through at the hands of a family member made ME want to slap the crap out of the person in question.

But those are the extremes. Far more common, it seems, are the friendships that fray at the edges as the friend struggling with IF continues to do so over an extended period of time. It seems that – as I’ve experienced first-hand with grief – people expect there to be a time-limit on how much they’re expected to give or invest on a particular “problem”. As though your struggle is a sort of community service – and after X amount of hours spent listening and/or discussing the topic, it’s dealt with and moved “off the docket”. NEXT!

Of course it’s not like that for us – for those who continue to struggle through the first, second, third pregnancies of friends, family members, coworkers. Years go by, and we are like waylaid passengers on a platform, watching as the trains pull into the station, people getting on and off, trains pulling away again…but we remain the same, rooted in place, unable to move forward.

I imagine that dealing with infertility is somewhat similar to a street urchin from the days of yore peeking in through the windows of a fancy restaurant or butcher’s shop – tantalized by the smells of rich foods…so close within reach, and yet still denied access to it. I think it’s quite the same for us – surrounded by women who are pregnant, who have babies, multiple children, and it’s all right there in front of us, taunting us, mocking us – from the pages of magazines, tv commercials, the back of a catalog. Everywhere you look, companies are turning to The Mother and Child images to sell us on everything from band-aids to pencils, shoes to breakfast items.

So what do you do, when you struggle with infertility? You keep your chin up, you smile, you trudge on. You’re a warrior! You’re a woman of the 21st century – you’ve got this! You confide in your friends, help them plan their baby showers, ooh and aah over their baby pictures, attend kids birthday parties, sign up dutifully as the doting aunt, godmother, best friend in attendance etc.

But time doesn’t stand still for you – it goes by. Slowly, at first, it seems. I’ve got plenty of time, there’s no rush, you tell yourself. Little by little, your friends start dropping off – they now have new “mommy” friends, and they now go on play dates with their mommy friends and all their kids. They’d invite you, they say, but they don’t want you to feel weird, awkward, left out. You smile, say thank you for considering your feelings. Soon, they stop trying to make excuses – they just stop calling. And you stop calling too – because you know you feel it too: you’ve reached the end of the road. There are no sad good-byes here. There is no acknowledgment of the hurt, the pain, the sorrow of the one left behind without a baby of her own – because how could there be? It would require everyone else to stop thinking about themselves, to interrupt the happiness in their lives to allow the sadness in your life to affect them in any way, shape or form.

This is the part where you find yourself feeling as though you unwittingly contracted a highly contagious disease, or like you just stepped into a dog turd and walked all over someone’s antique Persian rug with it: you’ve become persona non grata.

Not all relationships are like that though. Some people you meet later in life – when they already have children. It wasn’t so weird, you told yourself, because it’s not like you were going to have to worry about which one of you would get pregnant first. But then there’s a surprise or unplanned pregnancy – and you’re devastated. Or one of you moves away, and has an “out of sight, out of mind” mentality.

Friendships are hard to maintain, under the best of circumstances. When we’re young, we’re thrown together with others all the time – it’s easy to make friends, even if you’re not the most popular, the prettiest, the smartest: there’s still someone out there for you. Whether it’s in school, church, at camp, after-school activities, in college…you’re constantly around tons of people. How could you not make friends? But as we get older, move, get jobs, move again, get married, move yet again etc…you lose contact with people. Sure, some people think they have lots of friends. See how many of those friends they’ll still be in touch with after 6 months if they got rid of their FB and/or Twitter accounts.

The trials of infertility are many – but the first casualty is the belief that your “friendships” will last forever. For a lucky few, they will have friends and family who will be there for them for as long as it takes. They will go to appointments with them, be a shoulder to cry on, hug them when they’re in despair, take them out when they don’t want to face the world.

But for most of us, it becomes like a war that’s fought in the trenches – and you find out who your REAL friends are.