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?

Back to School

Image

Ever since I was a little girl, I’ve always loved the last couple of weeks during our long, long summer vacations from school. It was the time when the sun just seemed different – warm, still, but the light started to have a slightly different tint, and there always seemed to be a little breeze here and there, forecasting the arrival of fall: my favorite season.

More than anything, though, I loved that time because it hailed the arrival of a much-anticipated event: back-to-school shopping! My mother, who was quite frugal and certainly didn’t just give me a wad of money to blow on the latest gimmick, would nonetheless be cajoled into springing for a new pencil case (“But Mo-ooom! Mine has a broken zii-iipper! [insert pouting and whining] – my mother was only human, after all) and a brand-new, shiny planner from a popular clothing brand that just happened to cater to teenage girls dying to commit their innermost thoughts in between homework assignments and magazine clippings of their favorite boy-bands.

Then there were new notebooks – always new notebooks! – and the “fun” thing was that some teachers specified a particular kind, size and style, while other classes left it up to the students to choose…leaving it entirely up to YOU (read: your parents) what you might end up with. Inevitably, throughout the school year, my notebooks would end up with a bunch of doodles on and inside the covers, and it would probably not be entirely inaccurate to guestimate that about 1/3 of the paper inside ended up getting used to pass notes, re-write song lyrics or draw to avoid falling asleep during an especially doze-worthy installment of English class.

I relished college because, within the budgetary constraints set by my monthly allowance for books, food and other incidentals, I could go completely crazy on paper products – and what better excuse than to do so in the furtherance of one’s education? My favorite purchase became a beautiful, glossy and brightly colored plaid set of Unicef notebooks – which I filled with copious notes and still have.

To this day, I adore this time of the year – even though, at present, it’s somewhat bittersweet as I continue to hope that, some day in the future, it will be I who will be doing the back-to-school shopping with my own children. (Thankfully Justin Bieber, Taylor Lautner et al will be MUCH too old for anyone to care. Phew. I’d like to think any offspring of mine would have more sense but…you never know. Looking through my own school planners, there are definitely some questionable “heartthrobs” in there.)

One of my all-time favorite movies is “You’ve Got Mail” – and I think one of the reasons I so adore this movie (aside from the obvious reasons) isn’t just because I love New York City (who doesn’t?), and because movies in the 90s just seemed so much more optimistic than a lot of what makes it to the big screen these days (if I have to sit through one more preview for yet another movies featuring or combining zombie/apocalypse, crude slap-stick and/or profanity that would make a drunken rugby player go to confession, I’m seriously going to projectile-vomit over the next person to say “True Blood”).

But I also love “You’ve Got Mail” because it starts off in the fall. Did I mention that I love the fall? Maybe I should mention it again? I LOVE the fall. There’s almost nothing I don’t love about it. It probably started with back-to-school shopping, complemented by cooling temperatures (it’s entirely possible that I’m part polar bear, though there’s nothing in my birth certificate to that effect – and my dad looks totally human once he’s had breakfast). My absolute favorite moment in the entire movie – and there are many – is when Tom Hanks elocutes the line he’s emailing Meg Ryan:

“I would send you a bouquet of newly sharpened pencils [sic].”

Whoever came up with that line should’ve written a dating book for nerds and bookworms – and random people like me (because, really, I’m too unique to be stereotyped or fit any one particular “label” – yes, I really, am that awesome), because seriously? That line would probably have made me swoon. Just typing it now makes me sigh, smile – and, somehow, want to buy #2 lead pencils (which my husband would hate because, for some reason, he hates pencils – talk about unique and random. I still love him, though, because as I’m typing this and want to make sure I remember correctly that the movie does, indeed, start out in the fall, he says to me “Yes, fall – pencils, remember?”. Picture me with a goofy, sappy smile because I love my husband for remembering all those little things that make me happy – even though they’re not important to anyone else.)

But there’s more! The end of summer also brings one of my other favorite rituals to the fore: the infamous September Issue. For as long as I’ve been remotely interested in fashion, the September Issue of Vogue has been my absolute favorite piece of printed material. Yes, most of it is advertising – but WHO CARES? You can have YOUR bible, I’ll have mine – thank you very much. The mere heft and enormity of it is completely commensurate with the significance of Vogue as a publication. To me, the September Issue’s size is also proportionate to just how much I adore fall fashions – especially in recent years, where peplums have met tweeds, teal has finally been given its much-deserved center-stage, and other jewel tones have appropriately displaced some of the drab monotones of the past. (Plus, “oxblood” may sound creepy but the color was stunning. I’m marking that as a classic.) I can honestly say that fall fashions make me absolutely giddy – even though I can’t afford most of it.

But there’s something about the congruence of children going back to school, fall fashion, dropping temperatures…something about all those things coming together at the same time, in the same season that brings us changing leaves and seasonal spices. It’s the season that makes me feel the most relaxed, the most hopeful, the most at peace with myself and my place in the world – even if I’m still far from where I want to be.

So I was completely aghast when, after settling into my favorite squishy armchair to read the current issue of “Real Simple” magazine, I came across what I can only describe as blasphemy with regard to my own personal belief system. May I direct you to the horror that caused me to gasp, audible, and exclaim a resounding (and extended) “NOOOOO!”, found on p. 41 “The End of Cursive?”

At this point, it bears relevance to divulge that I didn’t grow up on the Upper East Side (nothing could be further from the truth). I didn’t attend Miss Porter’s (though, if it were remotely possible, I would move heaven and earth to send any eventual female off-spring there – SIGH). I did, however, not only learn how to write cursive – I did so using a fountain pen. In fact, using a ballpoint pen and/or writing in anything other than cursive was frowned-upon in my school. Also now in my current, marital home are several fountain pens that mark the different colors and patterns I favored over the years – and though I’ll never have anywhere near the resources to obtain a coveted Mont Blanc, I STILL write mostly in cursive. Even if, now, I often resort to using ballpoint pens simple because they’re easier to carry in my purse (and less chance of a leaking ink cartridge).

But when I read the very short paragraph – that, quite frankly, felt very much like a moratorium on civilized behavior when I discovered the following:

“Cursive is not part of the Common Core State Standards, the recently established academic guidelines now adopted by 45 of the 50 states.”

I am, in short, appalled.

I kept on looking at the page – with its very apropos ink blot and fountain pen – and thought about just how barbaric I thought children my own age were, 20 years ago, when I chanced upon someone who didn’t own or use a fountain pen. I thought about the incidence, a few years ago, where someone told me she couldn’t read cursive – which made me wonder whether there were any visible signs of the apoplexy I experienced upon hearing this.

So this year, “back to school” comes with mixed emotions. Part of me relishes the advent of my favorite season – anticipating the pumpkin breads I’m going to bake and the wonderfully spicy smell that will spread through the house as they cool on the wire racks. Part of me is sad that I don’t have a child of my own yet – as I do throughout the year – wishing that I could snub all attempts to subdue civilized society by teaching OUR children to read and write cursive, read lots of books instead of being glued to a variety of hand-held electronic devices, and take a walk outside where, for all intents and purposes, life goes on very much the same way as every other year.

(NB: In case you’re wondering, I found the lovely picture for this rambling post on the following blog: http://theenchantedhome.blogspot.com/2012/09/new-series-perfect-fall-day-with-leslie.html – I figured it would be nice to give props since I don’t know where the photo originated.)