Monday, December 1, 2014

An Open Letter to St. Jude's Research Hospital *Updated*

Dear St. Jude's Hospital:

You do truly amazing and great work researching and treating serious childhood diseases; that research and those treatments are expensive. And with so many people's minds turning towards children or childhood memories this time of year, this is surely a major fundraising period for you.

I do, however, strongly object to your current television ad. It begins with celebrities saying "He doesn't want a new toy this Christmas", then "She doesn't want fancy clothes" as some of your young patients are pictured. It then goes on to say "They aren't as lucky as your children." They aren't as lucky as my child? Those children are suffering from terrible, life-threatening diseases, but they are alive. My child never drew a breath, was never photographed, not even in a sonogram. My child never knew that he or she was loved. My child had no chance at life. Knowing this, which child is more lucky, the one struggling to survive, supported by family and surrounded by caring medical personnel, or the child who was never born? According to the American Pregnancy Association, between 10 and 25 percent of clinically recognized pregnancies end in miscarriage. Are those children luckier than those you treat? Are their parents luckier than those of your patients?

I know that you need to catch people's attention, especially this time of year when everyone is so busy. And I have little doubt that it can be difficult to get people to donate, when they have presents and travel and all the other holiday fixings to pay for. Tugging on people's heartstrings must be effective, since you wouldn't do it otherwise. You must be caring, compassionate people to do the work that you do; when planning your ads, please have some compassion for all of the people out there, like me, who are grieving for children who were not as lucky as those in your care.

Yours,
S.Z.

(A copy of this letter was mailed to St. Jude's on Monday. Though I don't expect a response, I will let you know if I receive one.)

Thursday, November 27, 2014

People Like Us


"Here's to the damned to the lost and forgotten/It's hard to get high when you're living on the bottom" 

I loved "People Like Us" the first time I heard it; it speaks to the loss, the pain, the isolation, the struggle to keep going ... the cycle of infertility. It's hard not to feel like IF leaves you living on the bottom. 


"People like us we've gotta stick together/Keep your head up nothing lasts forever."

I loved how it hits on the need for community, for understanding. For the longest time I was stuck on how much we infertiles need one another, as there is so little understanding and compassion in the wider world. ("Why don't you just...?" or "You must have so much free time and money." etc.) In much of the world we are freaks; we don't fit in. We are neither parents nor cheerfully child-free. Commercials focus on parents, on families with children; aging is so often depicted in the having of children, then grandchildren; healthcare commercials make it sound like we don't have reason to live. Or they focus on couples enjoying exotic travels and a life of material excess.

But who are "people like us?" Are they only other infertiles? Only other Catholics? We can split people up into so many categories, divide them so many ways, leaving groups of "us" and "them." Do we need people who have faced similar struggles? Of course, but that doesn't mean we should limit ourselves to just those who are most like us. 

Who are "people like us?" People of faith... and people of none. As Christians we are called to see all of God's children as "people like us." We can't ever focus so much on the "us" that we forget that those whose lives seem completely opposite. The family with 10 children? They're people like us. The young couple whose plans have been ruined by an unexpected pregnancy? They're people like us. They might not have walked the same road, but they, too, struggle and suffer. They, too, are created in His image. 

This Thanksgiving, as we enter into season that so often centers around family and children, I hope that each of us can find refuge with those whose suffering enables them to offer love and compassion while still keeping our hearts open to all of God's children, even those who annoy us, frustrate us, hurt us, and deny Him. 

Sunday, November 23, 2014

God is Not a Cosmic Oprah

Though years have passed since our Couple to Couple League NFP classes, one phrase stuck with me: "becoming co-creators with God." This phrase, used to describe the miracle and profound responsibility of conceiving a child, led me to a deep misunderstanding of God's role in conceiving. It made it sound like God affirmed each and every conception, that He considered each potential conception, agreeing to or denying each and every one of them. Over time it led to me picture God as almost a cosmic Oprah: "You get a baby! And you get a baby! And everybody gets a baby!" (except you, and you, and you...) except with less jumping up and down and screaming. 

How can you not get angry at a God who deliberately chooses to give children to people who will kill them or abuse them but not to people who would be amazing parents? I couldn't; it wasn't until I saw the flaw in my thinking that I could quit being angry. God doesn't have to affirm each and every conception; more often than not, He simply permits natural processes to play out. While God always and everywhere has the potential to work a miracle in contradiction to the laws of science and medicine, most often He sees fit to work within the rules and framework that He has established. So, yes, it is easier for the 20 year old who "isn't ready" to conceive to do so; it is more likely that couple without endometriosis/PCOS/thyroid problems/adrenal fatigue/low sperm count, etc. will conceive. It is in the diagnosis and treatment of the underlying causes that those of us with IF are most likely conceive. 

God isn't saying "You get a baby!" to everyone else and "... But you don't." to us. He isn't picking out winners and losers; He isn't judging us less worthy. His plans for us may be wildly different from our plans, but He loves each and every one of His children equally. 

Saturday, November 22, 2014

More to Say

I know I've been quiet lately; it's not that there hasn't been anything going on here; if anything there's almost been too much going on, leaving me little time to write. First there was getting ready for Halloween, and the giant family birthday party we hosted the next day (5 birthdays, including Cindy, [our step-great niece] and 15 guests), then I had another rather nasty period, and most recently I've gotten sick. Somewhere in there was the nasty e-mail from the Neo-Malthusian (people are the problem; overpopulation is the root of all the world's problems, etc.) that sent me into paroxysms of rage; she was appalled that our alumnae group would even consider hosting an event on fertility. (To top it off, according to her sig file, she was a professor of pediatrics. Hmmm... hypocritical much? One would think that a Neo-Malthusian would best fit in the medical world as an abortionist.) Despite my emotional reaction, I refrained from replying to her message.

But at the root of my lack of posting is a certain ennui, a boredom and frustration, with the cyclicality of IF. While the number of times that it happens doesn't diminish the disappointment and hurt when P+16 turns into CD1, there is only so much I can say that I haven't said before. And if I bore myself writing it, I can't imagine that you particularly enjoy reading it. Our dance coach talks about learning as going around a pyramid in a spiral; what you are looking at and seeing isn't necessarily anything new, but you are seeing it from a different angle. There are certainly times when I am struck by a new insight or reaction, but much of the time my day to day IF struggle is routine and repetitive. I'm not going to stop writing about IF and faith, but I need to branch out, to say more than just the same old thing.

I've joined Blogging for Books. Alright, technically I joined months ago, but I finally finished my first book and will be posting my review of it soon. What is Blogging for Books? Free books, my friend! FREE!!!! (Yes, I get excited about free stuff.) I love to read, and I am certainly not shy about sharing my opinions. In exchange for your honest review, posted both on your blog and the Blogging for Books website, you get free books. There are fiction and nonfiction books, books on cooking, on faith, on business... Well, you get the picture; there are a lot of choices. My first book was on Catholicism, but my future book reviews will not necessarily be on religious topics. Basically, I'm going to choose whatever I want to read and treat you to my opinions on them. I promise to label book review posts, so you can decide if you want to read them. I also promise that getting the book for free won't affect my opinion of it (as you'll see in my first review). I hope you'll continue reading as I have much more to say.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Abnormal Bleeding

We had a phone consult with Dr. P on Nov. 7. He has been happy with my blood work, with my mucus cycles, with our timing of intercourse. The fly in the ointment is the abnormal bleeding; he had hoped that surgery and removal of the polyps and endo would clear that up. (For perspective, May had 8 days of bleeding; June had 10, July 8; August, which featured surgery during my period, had 10. Since surgery, September had 11 and October 9 days of red stickers.) This cycle I thought I might be done with excessive bleeding; it looked my period stopped on day 7, until spotting returned for days 9 and 10. So much for that thought. Also on the negative side, those two days of spotting have featured some brown bleeding. At this point Dr. P doesn't have many ideas of what else to try with regards to the abnormal bleeding, though he has some things he plans to look into. He mentioned the possibility of adrenal fatigue, though he seemed to think he had checked that before (DHEAS, I think he said); I need to rummage through my lab work paperwork, since I have no recollection of that particular test, especially since many of you have written that adrenal function is best tested through saliva and at different points during the day. 

The first two periods I had post-surgery were awful, heavier and more painful than ever before. (If they had been like that before surgery I would have been eager for it.) This one was better, though still heavier than before; I suppose getting rid of the same volume of material in a shorter time would necessitate that they get heavier. Now if only they actually got shorter... 


Monday, October 13, 2014

Talking to Women About Fertility

I was scheduled to take part in a panel discussion this evening on (In)Fertility and Pregnancy; I organized the event for the local chapter of my alumnae group (Yep, I went to a women's college, one of the Seven Sisters). Instead the event was canceled due to lack of interest; not a single person expressed interest in attending. 

To say I'm disappointed is an understatement but not primarily because of the wasted time or effort. I'm disappointed that my fellow alumnae weren't interested. I don't think most women have given much thought to their fertility, and the media certainly doesn't help. Sure, you hear about the latest celebrity to undergo IVF or the new world's oldest mom or the birth of babies from transplanted wombs, but the overall cultural message is that you've got time - get your career established first, then take some time to enjoy being married before starting a family. To use my cousin's wife's phrasing "you've got all the time in the world." Except you don't. It's a huge lie, and one that hurts many women. Regardless of whether you believe mankind was created in God's image or is the result of random evolution, the biological fact is that a woman's most fertile years are in her twenties, and the older a woman is when she tries to conceive, the greater the probability that she will experience difficulties. Youth isn't a guarantee of fertility, but it increases your chances of success dramatically. It also provides time - time to identify and treat any and all problems, time to take a break when you can't handle another round, time to make good decisions. 

Certainly not all women meet their spouse when they are young. I would say that I didn't, except I did - we just didn't start dating until very many years later. And certainly circumstances play a role in when a couple starts trying to conceive; unemployment and a precarious financial situation meant that we weren't comfortable starting to try until we had been married for almost 3 years. But I hate that so many couples make those decisions ill-informed or misinformed. I had some knowledge of the limitations on a woman's fertility, but there is still so much more being discovered. Recent research has suggested that the major declines in female fertility start earlier than previously believed, around age 25. 

If it were up to me, women would start learning about their fertility in their teens, when they are developing their ideas of who they want to be and what they want out of life. If a woman doesn't want children, then she doesn't need to factor her fertility into her plans. But if she does, perhaps she should be open to marrying younger, to having children younger. With our increased life and health spans, we have countless years to make a career; the number of years we have to make a family are depressingly short. Some of the best professors I had in graduate school were women who had their children, then went back to graduate school and became research scientists. These were women at the top of their careers, winning major NIH grants and heading departments; their careers had not suffered for their late start. I followed the culturally advised path of college, graduate school, then marriage. We started trying to start our family a few months before I turned 33. I try not to wonder if things would have been different if we had dated earlier, married earlier, started trying earlier. There's nothing I can do about that now. But if even one woman can learn from mistakes, then it won't have been for nothing. And that's why I'm disappointed no one cared enough to come to tonight's talk.

Friday, October 3, 2014

"I Am a Doctor's Son"

I loved "Forever" from the first episode, but that line made me fall head over heels for Abe. If you're not watching "Forever," the background is that our hero, Henry Morgan, cannot die. Well, he can die, but only for a moment, then he comes back, naked, in a body of water. He doesn't know how or why he ended up this way. He's lived for over 200 years and has always been a doctor; he is currently a medical examiner in New York City. 

Through flashbacks we have seen Henry meeting his (late) wife during World War II; she was a nurse, and he a doctor with the US Army. In one scene, they are talking about an infant, rescued from the camps, for whom no relatives could be found. Henry asks "What will happen to him?" Abigail answers "Unless someone falls in love with him and adopts him, probably an orphanage somewhere." The shot then cuts to (adult) Abe, and you realize that he was that infant and that Henry and Abigail fell in love and adopted him.

Abe is now in his 70s, while Henry still looks to be in his 30s. In this most recent episode, Henry finds Abe's name on a client list at a sketchy youth and vitality clinic, sending Henry dashing to find out if Abe took the formula. Abe's response was (more or less) "Of course not! I am a doctor's son." As far as I can remember, this is the first time that either Abe or Henry has referred to other in father/son terms; they have mostly been shown living like roommates. In that same discussion, Abe says he worries about Henry and who will take care of Henry after he dies. It's an interesting take on familial relationships as one person ages and the other does not. But mostly I loved how solidly Abe identifies Henry and Abigail as his parents. There was no distinction that they were his adoptive parents; they were just his parents. Certainly adoption was different back then, but I still love Abe's response.

(Note: so far there has been very little reference to religion in the show, though Abe seems to believe in something greater. At one point when Henry is mourning Abigail and trying to figure out how to die permanently, Abe makes the point "What if you were made for something more?")


Tuesday, September 30, 2014

St. Jerome

Back at the start of the liturgical year, I drew a patron saint for the year, using Jen Fulwiler's saint's name generator. I meant to write about it at the time, but time slipped away with other things and other posts. Eventually I decided that I would wait until my patron's feast day to post, rather than just putting it up randomly.

I'm glad that I've had most of this year to reflect on and learn about Saint Jerome. When I first drew his name, I was confused; though I have a library, I'm certainly not a librarian. Though I have some level of knowledge of three languages, I am far from a translator. Instead of arguing, or going back again to choose a different saint, I prayed that the reason why St. Jerome was chosen to be my patron for this year would become apparent. Hmmm... a love of books and a passion for learning? That was the first connection I saw. After further reading and reflection, I began to see what I needed to learn from him about a time to retreat into solitude and a time to answer a summons back into the world. When I first quit working, I needed the time to not be involved in anything, to completely devote myself to recovering, getting healthier, and dealing with everything related to IF. Though it certainly wasn't the Pope calling me, Husbandido and the Holy Spirit both had something important to say about me re-engaging with the world. Husbandido strongly encouraged me to get involved with the local alumnae group for my college. Then over several weeks late last summer the Holy Spirit started urging me to answer a call for applications to the parish pastoral council. I wasn't sure that I wanted the job, but I put in the application and went to the interview. It's now been about a year since I started on pastoral council, and while it has been known to drive me bonkers at times, in my more rational moments I know that what I am doing is important. (In some of those Clomid-induced less rational moments... well, at least Husbandido is good at listening to me rant.) 

As the amount of time and effort involved in both the alumnae group and pastoral council became more apparent, I started to reevaluate whether I was trying to do too much, given the side effects of my medications. When we were told that I would need surgery and that the following months would be our best chances, I knew I needed to cut back; I stepped down from the vice presidency of the alumnae club. I have continued to serve on pastoral council, but I decided to pass on a bible study this year. With pastoral council meetings going from once a month to twice a month to three times this month (plus requiring all of us to be at every Mass this weekend), I have questioned whether this is a time to retreat into my personal desert or a time to continue answering a call; I am still trying to discern what to do. Saint Jerome, pray for us! Pray that we might know when we are called to solitude and when we are called to serve!

Monday, September 29, 2014

"The Goal is to Leave the Island"

Me: "Hello?"... "Yoohoo?"

I wander on. "Is anyone here?"

And then I spot Rebecca, PolkadotKat, Mary Beth, Lora, M, and a few others. "Weren't there more of us here not that long ago?"

-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Clearly I'm not the only one who has been feeling like this. For all my talk (and knowing) about being last, I don't like feeling left behind more than anyone else does. As I was grumbling about it to Husbandido, he reminded me of something important: "The goal is to leave the island." Or as I later phrased it - this isn't Survivor; we don't want to be the last one standing. 

We dream about what it would mean to leave; we hope and pray to leave, as well as for the others here to be given that "Get Out of Jail Free" card. But then it happens to someone... or more likely, to several someones at once, and we're overwhelmed, shocked, lost, hurt, happy, a giant cauldron of mixed emotions. (And if you're really lucky, you've got fertility drugs supercharging them all, too.) 

As I've reached a point of mostly being okay* regardless of what happens, I have to remind myself "the goal is to leave the island." Hard as it may be to believe, I don't often think about or daydream about a life with children. I've acknowledged that I don't begin to know what our life would be like if we ever did have a child. Should that day come, I know I'll be sending messages in bottles, telegrams, and care packages to those still on the island as I try to navigate the minefield that is a changed friendship. Even if I leave the island, I will be bringing part of it with me, since it has changed and molded me. 

* I'm mostly okay, except for my bitter moments, and when this song comes on (as it did on my way home from running errands this morning). I love it, but it brings me to tears on a regular basis. (For those who don't know, Husbandido and I are ballroom dancers.) The thought that because of me, Husbandido may never have a daughter to dance with used to reduce me to a sobbing mess; the volume of tears has at least been reduced with repeated exposure.


Wednesday, September 24, 2014

A Screwy Cycle

(Apologies in advance for what may be TMI; I'm confused [and a little whiny] and hoping someone can help.)

This cycle has been downright odd. Though it started out normal, it turned into the heaviest, most painful period I have ever had. If my periods had been like that before surgery, I would have been eagerly lining up for it! It looked like the bleeding had stopped by CD9, but the spotting resumed after our first I. So I have a total of 11 days of red stickers. By CD18, there was also 12 days of fertile CM. (And yes, long fertile windows do get exhausting! Both Husbandido and I have been hoping for that window to close.) I thought 9/21, CD18, would be Peak Day, especially since I had a positive ovulation predictor test on CD16. (Peak Day is usually within 2 days of a positive OPK for me.) Then yesterday I had one observation of 10C, leaving me totally confused. Was the 21st Peak Day? Or am I still waiting? CD18 would already be late for me to hit peak; it's more typically around CD14-16. I have an e-mail in to our FCP for guidance, but in case I don't hear back from her in time, any advice/suggestions would be great! I need to know whether today is P+3, so I know whether it's time to start the HCG injections. (Oh - and not that it really affects anything, but yesterday I started with what are usually late post-peak symptoms, such as nausea. The chest tenderness started even earlier.)


You can't read it very well, but 9/20 says 10CLX3, 3."

Thank you!!!


Sunday, September 21, 2014

The Number of Our Days and The Content of Our Hearts

Not one of us knows the number of our days. And not one of us can know what is in another's heart.

We were in Michigan for Labor Day weekend, at my godfather's (D's) lake house with my parents, my brother and his family, my godfather's oldest son (E) and two of his sons. It had been years since I had seen my godfather, but he and two of his sons had gone out to Arizona to visit my parents this past winter, and he wanted to return the favor. My grandfather first got to know my godfather as his lawyer, then he became a family friend. My father even clerked for him for a while when he was in law school. (Dad eventually decided law wasn't a good fit.) 

My godfather's family has seen a lot of tragedy. His daughter had leukemia as a child; though she survived it, she died in her late 30s from a stroke. E's wife passed away a number of years ago from tongue cancer, while their three boys were still relatively young. (Tongue cancer is incredibly uncommon in nonsmokers like her.) Within the last year or so, D's wife passed on; she was in her 70s. 

It was so good to see D again, to spend time with E in a non-business situation, and to meet two of E's boys. I was reminded of how much D is like my grandfather (my father's father), warm, outgoing, charming. Husbandido and I spent a lot of time talking to E over the weekend, discussing board games, family, IF, autism (one of his sons is autistic, as is one of our nephews), the lake house. It was a beautiful weekend, peaceful and fun.

This past week we received word that E had died. There was some confusion at first - it was not D, my godfather, who is 80, but E, his son. In time we heard that it was from carbon monoxide poisoning; Husbandido wondered if it was suicide, but I firmly wanted to believe that it was an accident (perhaps a furnace malfunction?). Over time I started to see holes in my theory, but I clung to it. My parents went to the funeral yesterday; D told them that E had committed suicide. His three boys are all in their late teens/early twenties, now without parents. D has moved in with his grandsons; they will need him more than ever now. In this day and age a parent doesn't expect to outlive his children, but D has lived longer than two of his four children. 

Yesterday was the first time I truly understood how profoundly selfish an act suicide is. I know what can drive someone to long for death; years ago I tried repeatedly to commit suicide; I was fortunate enough to do no lasting damage to myself. More recently there have been nights where I prayed for God to take me in my sleep, waking in tears because I was still here. Despite my brother being hospitalized for suicidal thoughts about 15 years ago and needing to comfort and calm my parents during that time, I hadn't really understood what destruction suicide leaves in its wake. I understand the despair and pain that can make you long for death, now I know the anger, hurt, and pain of those left behind. 

We saw E just a couple of weeks ago; he seemed normal. Certainly not over-the-top happy, but quietly content. It is such a shock to realize how little we know about what is going on in another's heart. 

Besides his father and his three sons, he leaves behind two brothers and a fiancĂ©. 

May God grant them peace.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Choices

Sometimes it seems like choice is a bad word in Catholic circles. Part of it may the way the word has been co-opted, used to refer to one particular choice; another part of it may be a sense that "good Catholics do x." (Lest I be misunderstood, you can certainly identify plenty of values of x where that formulation applies, such as go to Mass, pray, learn more about their faith, go to confession, etc.) At first glance Catholicism can seem pre-occupied with rules and following them, though there is plenty of room for individual choices if you look deeper. Heck, we even have a word for how to make good choices when making major decisions: discernment. The simple truth is that what is right for one person or one couple may not be right for another. (You see similar attitudes with family and friends giving singles "suggestions" about how to meet people, e.g. "you have to try" online dating/speed dating/volunteering, etc. Um, no; just because it was right for you doesn't mean that it's right for him or her.) Each of us has our own individual circumstances that we must adapt to and live through. 

There was one lady in the FB group who conceived after many cycles of trying and having real doubts about continuing that after succeeding started telling everyone else "You can't give up! I persevered despite how long it took, and I'm now x weeks pregnant." Quite frankly, that attitude drives me bonkers. First of all, no one else can speak for how treatments are affecting you or your marriage. Though children are good, destroying your marriage trying to have them is not. One person may have no side effects; another may tolerate them comfortably; someone else may barely tolerate them, and yet another person may find them unbearable. No one else fully knows what your limits, resources, or priorities are. What is right for one person/couple is not necessarily right for someone else. What worked for someone else may not work for you, even if your diagnoses are similar. Please note, I am not remotely against sharing one's experience, saying "this worked for me, it may help you." What I am opposed to is the attitude that "there is only one right way to do this; you have to do it this way." There may well come a day when medicine (and nutrition) are tailored to each individual's unique genetic and physiological makeup, but that day isn't here yet. For now, our best options are learning from one another, even if the situations aren't completely comparable.

I know quite a few people who have made dietary changes and felt better, as well as had improved test results. A friend (who also has Hashimoto's) received the recommendation to go gluten-free, tried it for a month without seeing any effect, and said "The heck with that! Plenty of crack whores get pregnant." Though I didn't necessarily say it, I admired her gutsiness and willingness to draw a line, to say "enough." That is something I struggle with - knowing when to say "enough." Their situation is somewhat different from ours, as they also have some male factor issues. Since I am the only one with medical problems, I often feel like I have to keep trying these different suggestions and medical regimens. Do I really owe it to my husband? No. They're choices we need to make together, without me letting my feelings of guilt rule my decision-making. 

Some decisions we can make in advance; others we must face when we get there. Before I had surgery, we agreed that this would be the one and only surgery I had for fertility reasons. I know plenty of you have had multiple surgeries, and I admire your courage and sacrifice. Factors that affected our decision that it would be a one-time event were my age, diagnoses, and previous surgical experiences. I in no way, shape, or form judge anyone for choosing differently than I have chosen. Over time we have back and forth about whether we could make our decision about adoption before we stopped TTC. At one point we expected to be working on both simultaneously, but then the agency we planned to use closed. We have found another agency we may consider, but we have decided that adoption is a choice we will need to make later, after we are done with all the medicines, cycle reviews, and regular doctor appointments. Trying to do both would be too much for us at this time.

It can be hard to remember that someone else choosing differently in no way reflects on your choice. It doesn't mean that they are judging you or think your choice is wrong; it just means that the right choice for them is not the right choice for you. Even if people ask why, they are likely just trying to understand how you made that decision - what made it the right choice for you? How did you know it was the right choice? It is so hard to make good decisions as we go down this path with its ups and downs, emotional highs and lows. Even more than the details of treatments and diagnoses, we can learn from each other how to properly discern what He is calling us to do. 

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

When Does IF End?

I first started writing this a long time ago, but Amy's post about her new identity brought this question back to the forefront for me. When does IF end?

Are those who never conceive doomed to be IF forever? What if you conceived but miscarried? If you conceive and bear a child, are you no longer IF? Many have said it over and over and over again - adoption does not cure IF, though it remedies childlessness. Does IF ever end?

I think each of us has a choice to make, not just once, but many times during our journey. To what extent does IF affect our identity? We should never let it be the sole definition of who we are, though at times it may be a primary characteristic. We are more than our diagnoses. We should think about how we describe ourselves: I am infertile, but I have endometriosis. In comparison, someone would probably say "I have cancer," later "I am a cancer survivor." I am not my disease, though that disease is a part of me. My experiences dealing with it helped make me who I am. The decision of how much to let IF affect our self-definition may be related to where and how our energy and time is focused at the time. With so much of my energy and attention focused on treatment for IF, it is a major part of how I see myself; at times I struggle to remember who I really am: a reader, gardener, biochemist, investor, wife, Catholic, homeowner, child of God, cat lady, coupon clipper, daughter, sister, aunt. I am infertile, but that is not all that I am.

Many of us know someone who went through IF and once pregnant eagerly shut that door behind her, almost refusing to acknowledge that she went through infertility. Sometimes she becomes the annoying pregnant lady/new mom who will not shut up about their pregnancy/new baby, disregarding the pain of those around them. Some almost view their child as a talisman that will fix everything; I'm not (was not) really IF - who I really am is a mother. Some days I worry for this type of person, wondering if they have recovered from and dealt with the stresses and losses they experienced; I should remember to pray for them more often. IF forces us to accept how little our plans matter, how vulnerable we are; it is frightening to accept, but trying to deny it doesn't keep it from affecting us.

For others IF more obviously remains a part of them, coloring and affecting what they do and how they live. If they remain childless the pain and loss may diminish over time, but it is still part of them. It might show up most on holidays and special occasions or it might be at unexpected moments. If they have children or adopt it alters how they see their children and their expectations; it may not appear daily, or even frequently, but it is still be there. 

Despite having once conceived, I still see myself as IF. If asked, I usually say that I don't have any children. Most people asking are enquiring about children I am raising, not those in heaven. Do I deny being a mother? No, but it is a very small part of who I am; my only real experience of motherhood was the joy at seeing "Pregnant" on a home pregnancy test. Even if I am able to successfully carry a pregnancy to term, IF will still be a part of me. I might adopt Marie's phrase of "infertility survivor," but IF will never quit being a part of my life. No matter what happens, in time it will have less effect on my daily life, but these years have shaped and changed me. 


Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Waiting for CD1 - and Feeling Like an Idiot

Slowly but surely I'm getting the plan for next cycle straightened out and all the prescriptions at all the pharmacies. (Okay, slight exaggeration since there's only 3 to get sorted.) It didn't help that my doctor's office kept calling my cell phone, which a) I am bad about remembering to charge and b) I don't always hear because it isn't always on me (it's a big house); I finally talked to the nurse yesterday. It's P+14, so CD1 is around the corner. I didn't want to get out of bed this morning... because, of course, hiding in bed solves everything (or not). Granted, hiding in bed would have avoid breaking a glass bowl while trying to rearrange the dishwasher, and I might have avoided screaming at my computer. (Because cussing out the computer fixes everything, too, right? Ah, hormones. I've been having memory usage problems, which Husbandido has been trying to help me trouble-shoot, but it seems like changing one thing just leads to a new cascade of problems.) It's just been a rough couple of days; I'm still a little tired from our weekend trip, and I've got a bunch going on this week. Last night's council meeting featured ~ 1.5 hrs of quibbling over commas and wording; it now looks like we're doomed to have 3 meetings this month, then we have to be at every Mass the first weekend of October. I'm definitely having "why did volunteer for this?" moments. 

Some part of my brain is (was?) stupidly hopeful about this cycle, which is ridiculous, since there was only 1 I in the fertile window. Yes, it would be amazing if somehow we succeeded without Clomid or a marathon of I's, but the probability is ridiculously small. Not nonexistent because I was on post-peak HCG, but small. I tend to have a harder time the last few days of a cycle, waiting, always checking for spotting than I do once the start of a new cycle has begun. 


Thursday, August 28, 2014

Drama

Lately there's been some drama in Husbandido's family, caused by our step-niece, K. (For a complete guide to Who's Who, you can now go to the handy dandy Cast of Characters tab at the top.) 

To be blunt, K is a flake; she's not very good at managing her life, but this latest crisis is a doozy. Here's the backstory: apparently while K and her scummy ex were still together, he got to be buddy buddy with the neighbors. He would go over there drinking at night and would try to get K to go with him. In this case, K showed some sense and wouldn't go because their young children were home, sleeping, and she didn't want to leave them alone. So the neighbors got treated to all the ex's complaints about K, and when they split, he apparently asked the neighbors to "keep an eye on her," but in a "report back to me way" as opposed to a "make sure they're okay" way. So the neighbors ended up nosing around K's business more than is healthy or she was comfortable with. So she decides to move. (In and of itself, that wasn't a bad decision.) Here's where it gets bad, though. Instead of trying to sell the house, even if a short sale was required, she decided to rent it out. Being a landlord is a lot of work and headaches, even at the best of times (my brother owned an apartment building for a few years); trying to juggle it in with working full-time and having split custody of a five year old and a three year old is not the most reasonable option. Then she puts all of her belongings in a pod before she knows where she is moving to. Even worse, the things she doesn't put in the pod are books, not an abundant supple of clothes or basic cookware. Then she moves to a place that the pod company doesn't normally deliver (because she didn't check that before committing to the new apartment) and without having the money to pay to get her pod delivered and her things back. Oh, and then she went and changed jobs from one that paid decently and had regular hours, at a bank, to being a home health care worker. Her new job requires her to work hours that she did not have child care set up for; at one point she was having her ex's mother baby-sit for her, until she found out that her ex is considering going back to court to get full custody.

This has caused no end of consternation for the wider family. MIL and W, her mother, have been out thrift store shopping so the kids would have something to sleep on and clothes to wear. At the birthday party for our nephews this past Saturday, K's kids, Mark and Cindy, were dressed in clothes they had been wearing for three days. On the way home for the party, I started thinking about ways to help. We offered a couple of extra dressers and some spare linens, as well as mentioning the idea of "family-sourcing" the cost to get her things delivered. At first we weren't sure what was in the pod and if any of her furniture had been left behind in the house for her tenant (who may or may not be paying rent), but reportedly everything is in the pod. The last we heard was that E, Husbandido's oldest brother, was going to contact other family members to see who was willing to contribute and how much. On top of it all, E and W are not sure that K has been giving them complete or accurate information; they were hoping to be able to talk to the pod company directly before committing the funds. That was Sunday; we're still waiting to hear back.

Honestly, I have about a million emotions going on regarding the situation. If it were just K, both Husbandido and I would be less inclined to help; we have our own financial problems to deal with, and at some point, she needs to grow up. (K is only 5 years younger than me. If she were younger, we would probably be more inclined to help.) There were so many bad decisions that led to this point that it's hard to count them. But neither of us want Mark and Cindy to suffer. It's not their fault that their mother is a flake and their father can be verbally abusive. If their father was a decent adult, I would say that perhaps him ending up with full custody could be a good thing. But he's not. (At Cindy's second birthday party, he was belittling K to his friends and family in front of her, her friends and family. It was so bad that I turned to Husbandido, saying "If you ever tried something like that, your things would be out on the lawn in under an hour." [And I don't believe in divorce, except in extreme circumstances.] Another example was when he was dropping Mark and Cindy off for a family birthday party, he spent a lot of time griping to K that Cindy, who is 3, would get moody and upset on Sundays, the day they swapped custody. The rest of the time she was fine, but he "was was not going to put up with that kind of behavior." Bear in mind that Cindy is 3, and each week she is being passed back and forth to households with very different rules and environments. It also seems not unlikely that a sensitive little girl might pick up on the fact that Mommy and Daddy don't seem to like each other much anymore.) And so even though we're not spending money on things we might want or could use, we're volunteering to cover up to $100 of the approximately $550 needed to get the pod back. We've also volunteered to help unload, so that process can happen quickly and costs can be kept down. I know it's the right thing to do, but part of me resents it and feels like a doormat. I kept being reminded of the phrase "A failure to plan on your part does not constitute an emergency on my part," which is also true. There are also times when I feel like there ends up being a subsidy flowing from my family to Husbandido's, through us, which makes me a little uncomfortable. For now, we are waiting to hear back from E; I decided that we are not going to follow-up repeatedly to see if they have it sorted out and when they need the money. We do not need to chase them down to hand them our hard-earned cash. It doesn't mean we won't help; it just means that it is not primarily our responsibility. 


Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Performance Pressure

Dr. P (post-surgery): "The next three to six months are your best chances to conceive."
Me: *gulp*

So maybe that's not quite what comes to mind when the phrase "performance pressure" is used. I guess it's more common for that phrase to bring to mind feeling a need to turn in a performance worthy of, er, adult entertainment, or possibly a romance novel. That's not my concern, since the quality or exoticness of the act of intimacy has no (or little) effect on the probability of conception. The performance pressure I'm feeling is a pressure to make sure that there are plenty of well-timed I's on the chart over these next several months. Mustn't waste the best chances, right? On one hand, absolutely! I didn't go through this surgery for kicks and grins. On the other hand, I have a bad habit of "to-do-izing" things, even things that shouldn't be treated as something to cross off the to-do list. And intimacy really shouldn't be just something to cross off a to-do list - unitive as well as genitive, right? 

So then the problem is this: how do we maximize our chances by getting plenty of well-timed I's on the chart without making it into a task to be accomplished? My first step has been to acknowledge that I am most likely to "to-do-ize" everything when I feel overwhelmed or have a lot going on. That means I need to pare down what I'm doing so that I have as much time as possible unscheduled and uncommitted. You would think, being a housewife, that I would have plenty of time already, but I started opening my mouth and volunteering for things. I have recently been walking back those commitments; I resigned from serving as VP of my local alumnae club; I decided not to do bible study this year. We'll still be doing our ballroom dance classes, though we might not go to quite as many classes as we otherwise would. I'm still on parish pastoral council, but we're preparing to roll out the new pastoral plan, so we shouldn't be meeting quite so often in the coming months, thankfully. 

The second part has been making sure that we are communicating our expectations to one another clearly. We've all heard tales of couples who had 10 (or more) straight days of I's when they conceived, and Husbandido and I agree that aiming for that frequency is beyond our capability. Too many times in a short period makes it far too difficult. Our current plan is every other day once I start observing fertile CM. If I continue using OPKs, we will aim for smiley day (the day I get a positive) and the next 2 days, most likely. (I have found that smiley day is usually within a day of peak day.) As we go through the process, we need to make sure that we keep the lines of communication open and don't start making assumptions.

Lastly, I need to pay attention to how Husbandido is doing at work. He is heading a key project at work that is perhaps the biggest update of his company's biggest product, and the deadline for it to be finished is the end of the year. I need to be aware of how much overtime he is working and how tired he is. Conversely, he needs to be aware if I start flipping out or worrying too much about money. Granted, his OT helps deal with the money stress (unlike most programmers, he gets time and half when he works OT), but it can leave him staying up too late to get his down time in (and fatigue can affect performance - just saying!). So we have to be careful to strike the right balance. 

If you have any thoughts on how to get those I's on the chart without pressuring yourself (each other) too much, please share!

Monday, August 18, 2014

Being Last

Let's face it - none of us wants to be last. We don't want to be the last one chosen in class, the last one with a date for Prom, the last to leave home, the last to get married, the last to have a child... It hurts. It hurts a lot to feel unloved, unwanted, undesirable, unworthy. The hard part is remembering that not wanting to be last is a worldly, earthly, human way of thinking. (That I do, too. So don't get me wrong - I'm preaching to myself as well here.) The exact verse from scripture (NIV) is "So the last will be first, and the first will be last." (Matthew 20:16) I can't claim that I want to be last off Infertile Island, and I freely admit that I threw I gigantic hissy fit when my kid brother and his wife had a child before we did (after having a snit fit about him marrying first, too). I'm as guilty as the next person, but what I am trying to remember right now is Jesus' reminder in the parable of the vineyard workers that we are to take what has been promised to us and not compare it to what He has given others. Now if only it were that easy to do...

Sunday, August 17, 2014

“O woman, great is your faith! Let it be done for you as you wish.”

Am I the only one who doesn't like that like out of today's Gospel reading? Though truth be told, it isn't so much that I dislike that line - I have a seething hatred of the fallacy that sometimes get interpreted into that line. Yes, Jesus compliments the Canaanite woman's faith; yes, Jesus grants her petition as a result of her persistence and her faith. That does not mean, however, that if God did not grant your petition it was because you didn't have enough faith or pray hard enough. Sometimes you see that implication: you just need to pray harder; you need to have a deeper, stronger faith; you need to petition this saint, say that novena. I find that implication deeply offensive; I actually prefer the clueless but painfully offensive "Maybe God didn't mean for you to be parents" to "you need to pray harder." None of us here on Earth know how or when God will answer a prayer; it is nothing but hubris to presume to know how, when, or why He will grant a particular petition.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Surgery Says....

(I couldn't find an appropriate video, but those of you of a certain age may remember the host of Family Feud saying "Survey says..." That's what the post title is supposed to evoke.)

It's now a little more than a week post-surgery; I'm still amazed quite how much it took out of me. Today is the first day I've worn contacts again; Tuesday was the first day I didn't nap. I'm still wrapping my brain around the surgery results. Uterine polyps were found and removed; we're waiting on the pathology report to come back on them. Stage I endometriosis was found on my bladder, ovaries, cervix, and behind the uterus. And my right fallopian tube had higher than normal pressure and needed to be opened up. Oh - there was one benefit to having the surgery so early in my cycle; apparently there was a very good quality corpus luteum observed during surgery. 

All together there are 4 incisions (two on the left, on on the right, and one in my belly button). Healing is slower than I would like, though I've seen noticeable progress. It's a bit disconcerting seeing my belly button glued shut. By mutual agreement, we are taking this month completely off, though I was instructed to still take HCG post-peak. Since it was so early in the cycle, we were given the option of trying this month; we were both firmly of the opinion that it would be better to take this time to just concentrate on healing. 

Tomorrow is my first day really leaving the house. I have an appointment to get my hair done, and Robin has his annual vet appointment. Fortunately I can collapse after those appointments.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

NFP... When There's No Chance of Conceiving "Naturally"

With it being NFP Awareness week, tons of Catholic writers are discussing NFP, from explaining why newlyweds are afraid of the wrong thing, to when is it licit to use NFP to avoid, to what NFP actually is. It reminded me of this discussion that Amy started, about what might persuade more people to try NFP/NaPro. Many of the commenters focused on emphasizing the "natural" aspect, how it doesn't involve putting "chemicals" that could be carcinogenic into your body. (As a chemist, I take issue with how those words are sometimes misused, but that's an entirely different post.) Kat raised the issue of how NaPro uses many of the same medications that a reproductive endocrinologist would use to treat infertility, which doesn't fit the "natural" aspect being emphasized. Someone may have asked something to the effect of "does it really matter if it's a NaPro doc or an RE who puts you on Clomid?" I know someone else in the discussion said that women struggling to conceive just want a baby and don't necessarily care about treating the source of the problem.

Maybe I'm weird.... hold that thought, I know I'm weird. However, I also don't think I'm the only woman who was diagnosed with "unexplained infertility" and was frustrated by the lack of answers. (I've talked about this with a friend who saw a different RE in the same practice and was also labeled unexplained.) Maybe it's all those years of scientific training, or maybe it's just my personality, but I knew something was wrong, and I wanted to know what it was. Contrary to some of the comments in that discussion, I don't think RE's are skeevy or only out to make money; there are good and bad doctors of every stripe, just as there are good and bad lawyers, auto mechanics, etc. (There are probably even some really good people that are used car salesmen, despite all the jokes.) We had a really great RE, who we worked with for about a year and a half. Before we started seeing her, I was convinced that something would show up in the tests (probably my thyroid), and we'd be pregnant in no time. Getting hit with the diagnosis of unexplained infertility was a major blow, but we trusted our doctor. After 9 rounds of Clomid, we were given the option of switching to Femara, which might or might not improve our chances, or moving to injectables, which she thought would improve our chances, but would cost about $5,000 per cycle. Femara was described as more of a lateral move, whereas the injectables would be stronger medicine. That was the point where we decided to switch to NaPro. We were both fed up with the lack of answers, side effects, and "just push harder" mentality. (Our RE was interested when we gave her some information on NaPro and wished us well; there was never any hard sell or strong push to do IVF. She asked us to send baby pictures; I'm still hoping that some day we will have pictures to send.)

Here I am, approaching a year after our first NaPro visit, and I'm on more medications and supplements than I was with our RE. I'm even back on the same dose of Clomid as I was with our RE. Is there a difference? Does it matter who put me on 50 mg of Clomid CD3 - 7? I would say yes. In our RE's words, her approach was about "pushing the reproductive system harder." I can, and do, grumble about my growing list of diagnoses, but NaPro has truly focused on identifying the problems that I have and specifically treating them, not just pushing my body harder. If it weren't for the extended hormone profile that NaPro does, I would be at a much greater risk for an early miscarriage (or implantation problems). There are times I wonder whether my estrogen and progesterone levels dropping prematurely contributed to our early loss; I feel confident that if it did, the post-peak HCG that I am on will provide the necessary support for the beginnings of pregnancy if we conceive again. 

With my long list of diagnoses and medications, there may not be much "natural" about our NFP-coupled attempts to get pregnant, but it has made me much more aware of my fertility and health. (I think there's a lot to be said for re-branding NFP as Fertility Awareness.) I can't say that I am super hung-ho about NFP and plan to chart forever; if/when we stop trying, I may stop charting, but I would certainly recommend NFP to both couples of normal fertility and infertility. 

Simcha's week of giveaways continues, here and here. And that's another reason to be happy for NFP! (Who doesn't love free stuff?)


Monday, July 21, 2014

Little Happies (1)

Apologies to all my gluten-free friends, but this week's Little Happies features quite a few gluten containing foods (feel free to skip this post!). Since I have returned to eating gluten, Husbandido has been eager to treat me to many of the foods I missed.

1) Sarris Chocolate Covered Pretzels


Before going gf, chocolate covered pretzels were my absolute favorite candy; they have the perfect mix of salty and sweet, and Sarris chocolate is wonderful. (They do make a gf version, but the pretzels were just a hair too crispy and not salty enough. Plus, they're $17.)

2) Pizza Hut Stuffed Crust Pizza



This picture isn't actually of the pizza Husbandido surprised me with last Tuesday; ours was pepperoni and sausage. Beside making a yummy dinner, I had leftover pizza for lunch most of the week! (Husbandido had tried repeatedly to make me a stuffed crust pizza, but the cheese usually leaked out a little. The best pizza crust recipe or mixture we found that was gluten-free was Cup 4 Cup, which is pricey, but worth it for a special treat.)

3) Saturday morning I woke up to breakfast in bed... of Chik-Fil-A Spicy Chicken Biscuit and Hash Browns. Husbandido thought I might be super hungry, so he got me two. The second one reheated really well, and we split it for a fast breakfast on Sunday. Previously he had tried to make a gluten-free version, but the problem was getting the chicken right. 


4) I don't remember exactly which day it was (might have been the weekend before the one just past), we went out to eat at Red Lobster. We hadn't been there since I went gluten-free. Those biscuits are so good! (And again, I had plenty of leftovers to make lunch for both of us the next day. Yay for easy meals!)


I will now cease taunting you all with gluten containing foods that you can't have. (And I'll get my final GF product review post up soon!)

5) Synthroid - I know there are some people who think that Armour is the only way to treat hypothyroidism, but Synthroid has been a miracle drug for me. I have the energy to do things again (including deal with a downed tree), and I've lost 5 pounds in the approximately 2 weeks I've been taking it. I'm keeping a close eye on the weight loss, especially since losing too much too fast is problematic. I also have a definite idea of how much is too much to lose, though it is fun seeing my Wii Fit Mii shrink.

6) Free stuff! Who doesn't love a good giveaway? In honor of NFP awareness week, Simcha Fisher is hosting major giveaways, including a copy of her book. Here's the post for today's giveaways. (I know, I know... we may all be a lift too aware of our fertility or lack thereof, but not all of the items are fertility related.)

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Accepting a Gift as Given

The phone rang; I didn't recognize the name or number on the caller ID, so I handed the phone to Husbandido. (I intensely dislike talking to strangers on the phone. I have no problem happily chattering away to friends and family on the phone or talking to strangers in person. Just one of my many quirks, I guess.) I went back to doing whatever it was that I had been doing; washing and putting away dishes, I think. He seemed to be on the phone a while, though, so I quietly asked him who it was. It was that older couple from church; they had seen us at Mass the previous Sunday but hadn't had a chance to come over and see how we were doing, so they called. It could have seemed nosy (or nebby, as Pittsburghers would say), but it didn't. Their compassion and willingness to support us and suffer with us leaves us feeling more like we have a third set of parents. They are truly living out a spirit of adoption, which is a tremendous gift to us. Especially knowing how many others suffer from a lack of support, we acknowledged how fortunate we are to have generally supportive family and friends.

It got me thinking about some of the other gifts we have been given by family and friends. A while ago I was chatting online with an old friend. We've known each other since high school; there have been times that we were very close and times we haven't been as close, but we have managed to maintain our friendship despite very different directions our lives have taken. I was telling her about our IF struggles and some of the side effects I've been going through. In the middle of our discussion, she volunteered to serve as a surrogate for us (I think her words were "As far as I know, I have a perfectly good womb that I'm not using."). My response was a simple "thank you." While we wouldn't use a surrogate, what she was really saying is "You're my friend; you're hurting, and I want to help however I can." To her, this was something she could do to help. My friend isn't Catholic, and it wasn't the right time to get into the reasons why we wouldn't use a surrogate. It was the right time to acknowledge and appreciate the gift she was offering. 

It's the same type of gift we receive whenever someone offers to pray for us. Regardless of whether they're Catholic, or even Christian, their offers of prayers are a gift; they are trying to intercede on our behalf with the divine, however they see it. Months ago, when talking to an old friend (and former fiancĂ©, but that's an entirely different story), we were comparing notes on our fertility problems. He and his wife have tried twice, gotten positive pregnancy tests twice, and twice had the pregnancy be a anembreyonic (a blighted ovum). He would like children, but his wife is reluctant to try again. It got to the point where they were living more like roommates than spouses, to the point where he considered divorce. They managed to improve their relationship, and he concluded that he wouldn't find someone else who suited him as well as his wife and that a disparity in their desire for children wasn't reason for divorce. Though he was obviously hurting from their situation, he listened and offered compassion for what we have been willing to do in our attempts to have children. He asked if I was okay with him praying to his deity for us (he is now pagan, was formerly Catholic). It wasn't the time or place for a theological discussion, especially not one of whether Catholicism considers pagan gods demons. Prayer was one of the few things he felt he could offer. (That doesn't mean I can't hope and pray that he will someday return to Christ, which is, again, an entirely separate issue.) Saying "Can I pray for you?" is really a way of saying "I care and want to help."

We finally received the results of the re-test of my thyroid. Back in September my anti-thyroid antibodies were 288.8, where normal is 9.0 or less. Because of those levels, consistent with Hashimoto's thyroiditis (a diagnosis I had been given previously), our doctor recommended I go gluten-free, which he expected would bring that value down. Upon re-test, after 9 months of being gluten-free, my anti-thyroid antibodies were 287.6, which isn't an appreciable difference. To say that I had mixed emotions at that result would be an understatement. I hadn't felt any different after going gluten-free; while I had lost a few pounds, the results had generally been underwhelming, compared to the results others have had. After some debate, we decided that I should go back to consuming gluten, since removing it had not had much effect. In some ways being gluten-free worsened my eating habits, as it became the focus of what I could and couldn't eat. I had expected being gluten-free to help, but I am trying to see the lack of effects from it as a gift. I am now much more focused on portion control and generally eating better than I was before. I could be upset about the lack of results - I wasn't the biggest fan of going gluten-free; instead I am choosing to take it as a gift, of again being able to eat food that I missed. 

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Blerg...

I got my P+7 blood work results yesterday. Of course our doctor is on vacation this week, so I have yet to hear his interpretation, but I can't say that I'm thrilled. For my own reference, I decided to compare them to the last couple of months, where he has been happy with the results. If anyone has any wisdom to share, I'm eager to hear it (for reference, this was on 25 mg Clomid and 2,000 IU HCG P+3,5,7 and 9). I was told to do the blood work on P+6 if P+7 is a Saturday and Monday if P+7 is a Sunday. I'm suspecting that there will be messing around with dosages either for next cycle or after surgery. Granted, I was a bit of a stressed out mess this past cycle, but that estradiol level looks low to my untrained eyes. 

                             5/1             5/30        6/30
Estradiol            15.20         21.03       9.52
Progesterone     37.9          23.1           20.8
Actual CD           P+7          P+6           P+8

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Adopt-a-Blogger: July



First of all, if this is your first visit, courtesy of Amy's Adopt-a-Blogger program, welcome and thank you! I cannot begin to describe how much this means to me, and it could not come at a better time (but I'm getting ahead of myself here). If you're curious about the name and heading picture, I explain in my Welcome to Chateau d'If post.

Background: Husbandido and I first met in the summer of 1999, though we didn't start dating until 2007, partly because he looked really young (like 12, though I assumed he was an undergrad) and partly because he was trying to get his life in order. Having known each other for so long before we started dating (and the fact that we covered religion, politics, and children on our first date probably helped, too), we went from starting to date to married in 13 months. I turned 31 on our honeymoon. Four months after our wedding Husbandido lost his job; in addition to losing his income, we were also suddenly faced with bills for COBRA and his tuition (which had previously been covered by his employer). I was working in a temp position, and we didn't know how we were going to get by. It wasn't until March 2011, almost three years after we married, that we started TTC. Though Husbandido had not yet found a job, he had completed his degree in computer science, and we had both felt nudges from the Holy Spirit that it was time. We had learned sympto-thermal NFP shortly after we were married, so I started to get concerned after about 6 months of TTC. (The fact that 35 was starting to loom didn't help.) We started working with a reproductive endocrinologist (RE) in November 2011. We had a positive pregnancy test my third cycle on Clomid, October 2012; unfortunately the pregnancy proved nonviable.

Diagnoses: According to our RE, we were "unexplained," which frustrated me to no end. On the other end of the spectrum is our NaPro doctor; it seems like every time we talk to him, I gain at least one more diagnosis. The current list includes vitamin D deficiency, iron deficiency, poor quality ovulation, type 3 luteal phase deficiency, and, as of our last appointment, probable endometriosis. 

Plan: Now that you're all caught up on our background, the reason that this couldn't come at a better time is that our NaPro doctor thinks that the next step is surgery, which is scheduled for August 6.  Today is my final HCG shot of this cycle (P+9); based on my last few cycles, I expect CD1 to be around July 6. Based on that assumption, we may have one more cycle left before surgery. I'll be on 25 mg Clomid (CD3-7), Biaxin (CD7-20), low dose naltrexone, and HCG post peak (P+3,5,7, and 9) for the fifth time. Barring a miracle positive this cycle or the next, August 6 will have me in Columbus for a laparascopy and selective hysterosalpingogram. I'm not enthusiastic about having surgery, but at this point, it is our best chance at success. As much as I would love to be one of the stories of women who end up pregnant right before surgery is scheduled, I'm certainly not counting on it. As we prepare for my surgery, please pray that I may find peace in the decision and that we may have the grace to accept whatever may come. 

Friday, June 27, 2014

My Blisters Have Blisters (And Other Unhappy Moments)

It's been a rough (checks calendar) almost three weeks. This stretch started June 8, when a 2 ww ended, reaffirming my infertility on the day I was having Mass said for all couples suffering from infertility and miscarriage. (Was it ironic or just appropriate? I have yet to decide.) On top of that, a family with five children, where the wife/mother looked almost a decade younger than me, came in late and sat in the pew right in front of us. At the end of Mass as they were filing out, the mother left first with the first couple of children, then the dad and the other two older children; it almost looked like they were leaving the baby behind. (Of course they didn't.) Normally I prefer not to bawl in public, but there was no stopping it. I just turned and buried my head in Husbandido's chest, sobbing. It wasn't pretty, and boy did I need to clean myself up afterwards. The one semi-redeeming moment came as we were leaving; an older couple that we had met during the Seven Deadly Sins, Seven Lively Virtues program during Lent came up to talk to us. To have them truly grieving with us, offering comfort, made a world of difference on a difficult day. As the young family that had sat in front of us walked out, this older couple approached them, let them know that we had requested the Mass, explained that them sitting in front of us was difficult, and asked them to pray for us. It's certainly not something I would have done; they did absolutely wrong (in fact, Husbandido later commented on how good of a job they are doing; the kids were following along, mostly paying attention [no snacks, toys, etc]), but it felt so good in that moment to not be invisible, to have someone acknowledge and recognize our suffering. And it never hurts to have more people praying. (How many people bother to read the bulletin for the Mass intentions, I do not know.)

Around that same time, my aunt caused a whole bunch of drama by announcing (less than two weeks in advance) that the Saturday picnic at the family reunion would be potluck. And by the time I got the e-mails (we had been at a dance class), there were already more than 10 e-mails, claiming all the easy stuff. I was pissed off to no end because attending this family reunion was already costing us a lot, and I had to bring my own food for much of it. Now, I was being asked to also bring food for 24 that somehow would not spoil or melt despite the fact that we were traveling 10 hours, spread out over 2 days. It would probably be accurate to say that I threw a gigantic hissy fit. To be honest, I was not enthusiastic about going in the first place. At a previous gathering my grandmother had explicitly commented on how seeing the little ones was the most important part. (Mmmmkay, so I'm traveling 10 hours and spending hundreds of dollars why? Yeah, yeah, yeah... good old guilt. My grandmother turned 89 this year, so there is not guarantee that she will be around much longer; I would feel horrible if she died, and we hadn't seen her in over a year.)

Somewhere in there, Husbandido's sister caused a stir on that side of the family by suggesting, a week before Father's Day, that there should be a fishing trip for Father's Day and that her husband was out of town for work, so somebody else should organize it. Oh and that there should be going out to eat, never mind that we had previously arranged with Husbandido's parents that we were making enchiladas. Yeah... Eventually that got scaled back to bowling, but all the last minute decision making was driving me bonkers.

In the midst of all that, I managed to get royally mixed up about when our follow-up with our FCP was, missing the appointment and effectively doubling the cost. (No, I didn't have anything else I might have wanted to do with that money, really.) It didn't help that my phone and computer weren't playing well together with my calendar, which still haven't completely fixed.

Father's Day itself seemed like it might not be too bad, except I wasn't feeling very well. Queasy just doesn't do good things to my patience levels. And of course that would be the day Husbandido's oldest brother's wife (one of these days I really will put together a cast of characters post, to better keep track of who is who) brought up politics and then tried to bait our MIL about the Pope changing everything, especially with regards to gays. Needless to say, my patience for such things was nonexistent. I kind of injured Husbandido digging my nails into his hand about the political discussion, but totally erupted over the whole "the Pope is changing everything" thing. Yes, the Pope did say "Who am I to judge?" but that was in the context of someone who is genuinely seeking God and trying to live a holy life. (I get really sick of people playing gotcha games with what the Pope has said, speaking off the cuff.)

Last Wednesday we were scheduled to have someone come in and fix our bay window, which  keeps fogging up; of course the only time he could come was the first time in 5 months that I was scheduled to have my hair done. I initially canceled the appointment, then got into an argument with Husbandido because he didn't want me to cancel the appointment. He ended up calling the salon back to see if I could have my appointment back; I felt bad for the poor receptionist. He took a half day, and I had my hair lopped off (and colored). I do mean lopped off; it was past my shoulder blades, and now it's short. Not chin-length, not a bob, but short short. It's taken me a little while to get used to it, but Husbandido and everyone else has liked it. (And really, why does it take longer to style short hair than long hair?) 

Thursday I got up horribly early to drop Husbandido off at work, then come home and finish packing. An accident on I-79 meant I was late for picking him up from work and thus late for our rescheduled follow up. Fortunately our FCP didn't mind too much. Then our journey took us to Columbus, in anticipation of an 8:50 doctor's appointment. After not much sleep, we got up and headed to the doctor's office, only to find out that he was tied up with a delivery. Our appointment was moved to 10:00; I made sure that they now had my cell phone number, and we went for a walk. While we were walking around I got a call saying that the appointment would have to be moved back to noon. I wouldn't have minded quite so much except we had stayed overnight to be able to make the appointment (traveling for 3 hours before a 9:00 am appointment was not going to happen) and we had 7 hours drive to get to the family reunion afterwards. I think I ended up getting a bit sunburned as well as developing blisters in our three hours of walking around. Graeter's Ice Cream was wonderful, as always. Somehow it seems like every appointment we have with our doctor there is a bombshell dropped. This time he announced that he thinks there is a 60 to 70% chance that I have endometriosis, and it's time to schedule surgery. Part of me is resistant to the idea that have endometriosis; I have no family history of it, and I don't really have any of the symptoms (except infertility and possibly long periods). This will be my fifth surgery total, and I'm not particularly enthusiastic about getting cut open again. It doesn't help that I tend not to do well with anesthesia or strong pain meds. (It would be an understatement to say that I dislike throwing up.) 

We didn't get to my grandmother's in western central Illinois until late in the evening. I will say that I ended up making something of a dramatic entrance; my mother asked if I had had my doctor's appointment (she hadn't listened to any of the 5 voice mails I had left), and I promptly announced that I was having surgery in early August. I'd call that an entrance. Plus there was the whole lack of hair thing, too. Saturday was the picnic, which went well despite the heat and humidity. We had brought charcoal and bought sausages at the local grocery store. I had been volunteered to run the gag gift exchange, which most people enjoyed. It wasn't until Saturday dinner that I ran into problems. It started with my aunt mishearing something my oldest cousin's wife had said. My aunt then asked for clarification, wondering if she had missed that my oldest cousin's daughter was getting married. His wife answered not with a "no," but with "She has all the time in the world." Having just been told that my age was a risk factor for endo, as well as freely acknowledging the decline in fertility that comes with age, I took issue with that. Sure, if she doesn't want children, she has all the time in the world. But if she wants children, she would do well to be aware of the strong correlation between age and infertility. I got a bit heated about the topic, especially since my cousin's wife seemed to have sympathy for our plight (and yes, I got into the doctors, costs, surgery, that insurance covers next to nothing). Now granted, some of that may be related to the fact that cousin and his wife wanted to borrow money from my parents; my parents would have lent it to them, but they would have had to learn about managing money and get better at it. Said cousin and his wife have been pissed off at my parents ever since, and that happened several years ago. Walking around after dinner Saturday was when my blisters grew baby blisters. Sunday lunch was the final event of the family reunion, and the focus was clearly on the great grands. It's getting a little easier for me as they grow and develop more distinct personalities. The drive back was long, but spending roughly 22 hours in the car between Thursday and Sunday will do that to you. (And of course, in the midst of all this, Sunday was peak day.)

Oh, and to top things off Husbandido's family has a huge family and friends cookout on the Fourth of July, and of course, the little ones are always the center of attention.

Thank you for putting up with my whining for so long! I'll try not to complain so much next time.