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


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.