Monday, November 28, 2016

Chateau d'If, Toujours

"Qu'est que ce ça?"

"C'est Château d'If. J'habite là. J'habite là toujours."

It's hard to believe that almost 8 months have passed since Husbandido and I made the decision to stop infertility treatment and trying to conceive. While acknowledging that God can, at any time and in any place, work a miracle, it has meant accepting that in all probability, we will never have any biological children to hold, nurture, and raise. Château d'If is my home for all time. (Or at least this earthly life.)

Why now?

One of the biggest questions that any couple struggling with infertility faces is when to stop. How do I know that it really is time to stop? In truth, we had been struggling with this question for more than a year before it became clear that it really was time to stop. We had been ready to stop before our FCP convinced us that we should try PPVI in spring 2015, but our FCP was very persuasive. We very nearly didn't go through with the surgery at PPVI, but once the surgery was done, we planned to give them 6 months of trying. We only made it 4. When my dose of Femara was doubled in December I missed Christmas. The increased dose left me so exhausted for several days that I was either sleeping or resting on the couch. Husbandido texted me pictures from the family celebration, and I slept through Mass. My appetite and digestion were off; the only food that sounded good was wonton soup. In February both Husbandido and I were on Cipro for 21 days. He had no side effects, while I was so dizzy the first several days that even sitting up left me scared of falling. This was on top of the regular heightened emotions, nausea, breast tenderness, fatigue, and monthly rounds of diarrhea and constipation. With all the side effects I battled I wasn't exercising regularly and had gained weight; PPVI suggested trying Contrave to help with weight loss. Contrave is designed to be introduced at 1 tablet in the morning for the first week, then adding a second dose in the evening the second week, working up to two tablets morning and night for the final dose starting week 4. During my first week trying to take Contrave, the nausea was so bad that I would frequently stand over the sink with dry heaves. I used all of the Zofran left over from my surgery in October. When I contacted PPVI to ask for more Zofran, I was told to try taking the Contrave at night (never mind that in just a few days I was going to have to double the dose) and with food. That was the final straw for us. In those months of treatment I had received no support or encouragement for dealing with all the side effects, only being instructed to discuss any side effects with my pharmacist. I was tired of feeling terrible all the time, of not being able to do anything, and Husbandido was ready to have his wife back. Neither of us had any faith that the treatment would work. We spent roughly five years trying to conceive. 

Better

Over these months I have been learning how much the last 4.5 years was colored by the heightened emotions induced by fertility drugs. Even though I had to go to the annual family reunion without Husbandido due to a work deadline, it was nowhere near as bad as I had been dreading. I might not be ready to try a baby shower, but pregnant women and stroller filled events don't affect me anywhere near as much as they once did. It's been such a change not spending days sobbing every cycle.

Over these last months I have started taking better care of myself, first finally doing another bout of PT for my knee, then starting a walking program, buying a treadmill, and joining a gym. It feels good to move again, and it's helping me sleep better, too. I'm doing a research study looking at blood pressure and sleep, which has also helped me conquer insomnia. As a result of their recommendations, I now have more hours in my days. It hasn't been a straight line, but I'm starting to lose weight. Now that I'm not queasy as often I can eat better, focusing on eating more fruits and veggies. In trying to tune out the side effects, I ended up training myself to ignore my own body. I'm re-learning to listen to it, to pay attention to the basic signals of hunger, tiredness, and desire.

It's a very slow road, but Husbandido and I are working to reconnect our physical relationship to desire, pleasure, and connection. Through our years of IF almost all of our intimacy was timed in the hopes of achieving pregnancy. Regardless of if we were interested, we did it; we had to (Doctor's orders!). He was able to get past that aspect more easily than I was; there were more times than I care to remember when I either encouraged (or worse, screamed at him) to just hurry up and finish already. In my mind sex became tangled up with feelings of failure, of being less than a woman, which made it awfully hard to feel desire. In my mind sex = baby making, at which I was a complete and utter failure. I wouldn't say we used one another, but rather the only unitive aspect was being united in pursuing a goal, not the physical act bringing us closer. Since we've stopped TTC, our love life has been a lot less frequent, but it has been much more organic and fun. I still need to work on my spontaneity; I'm far too prone to thinking "Wait! How long has it been? Do I need to pencil in time for sex?" But it's a work in progress, slowly improving. 

In addition to physically taking care of myself again, I've started working on rediscovering me, going back to things that bring me joy. I've spent so many years focused on following doctor's orders, doing everything I possibly could to achieve pregnancy that there wasn't much room left for me, for what I wanted. Quite frankly, there wasn't much room for enjoyment at all; much of our years of TTC were miserable. I'm still not Suzy Sunshine, but I have been much happier getting off the roller coaster of IF treatment and TTC. 

Worse

Toujours - forever - that is the word that I cannot escape. Despite doing everything that I could, following almost every doctor's recommendation despite the effects on me, this house, this castle of infertility is my home. It is my forever home. For whatever reason, God has not seen fit to grant our prayers for children. At times I have struggled with a crushing guilt, that it is my fault that Husbandido cannot have biological children. Had he married someone else he almost certainly would have the children that he desires. Though he argues with me every time I say it, the logic seems inescapable: medically, biologically speaking, I am the one with problems preventing us from conceiving and carrying a child to term, therefore it is my fault. His response is that I didn't do it deliberately. But the quotes, the phrases that keep circling my brain are "through my own fault in my thoughts and in my words, in what I have done and what I have failed to do" and "What's wrong with the world?" "I am." The feelings of guilt, of letting Husbandido down, have at times been inescapable. 

Worst has been feeling like God hates me, like I have nothing. Yes, I have a house (where something always seems to be breaking and that has often felt too large for two), a husband who adores me (which then leaves me feeling even more guilty that I have failed him), and three wonderful cats. I have no career, no family. Meeting new people is agony, as the first two questions people tend to ask are about one's work and one's family. I hate saying I'm a housewife, and I don't always feel like getting into the details of our infertility. Logically I know that the good things of this world like success, money, and children are not signs of God's favor, that thinking that way leads to the Prosperity Gospel. I know that He calls each of us to pick up our own cross and follow Him. And yet I'm pretty certain that people with jobs or careers that they love, with children they adore, are still able to get to Heaven. Am I so uniquely horrible that all I can have is endless pain? We're taught that God loves all of his children equally, but then why do some seem to have so many gifts, so much joy? It certainly doesn't seem equal. And so I am left asking "Why does God hate me?" 

These dark thoughts aren't all the time; in fact the better is probably greater than the worse since stopping, but the guilt and feeling abandoned and despised by God are frequent struggles.

3 comments:

  1. I can so much relate to your words. I was in that place almost two years ago when we stopped everything, TTC medically and adoption pursuits. My life has taken an interesting turn but the most interesting turn has been my relationship with God. It has changed in so many ways and I no longer feel that He is going to pull the rug out from under me at any moment. Yes, I fight feelings of fear, distrust and guilt but it is not nearly as much as it used to be. A good therapist and spiritual direction have really been helpful for me. There is a peace and joy that I have that I had not had before, even in the midst of frustrating TTC cycles (yup we are back on that crazy train) or foster-adopt stuff. My prayer for you is that you have that same peace and freedom <3

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  2. It sounds like there are many good things, and I am so thankful for that. I know from the outside, I can completely see what your husband is saying... But logic doesn't help much with those deep underlying feelings. I love your list of good things, though!

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  3. Forever. Ugh. So so so hard. Sending hugs and prayers your way!

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