Microblog Monday: February infertility

The doctor told us we are a go! But first must “eat like a monk” for 4-6 months.  This is more for Ryan’s sake than mine, and he has taken it very seriously, probably the greatest indication that he wants this.  I am still eating like it’s the holidays.  We have two date options: early June or late July.  We haven’t decided yet.

The buyer on our house backed out, though we are still on the market, still in contract for the new place, not giving up on our dream.  It kind of feels like infertility all over again, getting so excited when someone comes to see it, thinking “this might be it! After today everything will change!” But the longer time drags on and no offers roll in, we start to wonder if our house will ever sell.  However we are no strangers to waiting, and so we wait.

My sister Leah announced her pregnancy yesterday.  Ouch.  Forgive me for saying that.  Of course I am happy for her and would never in a million years wish hardship or infertility upon her and her husband.  Most of me sincerely celebrates this exciting news.  I suppose it’s mostly “ouch” for the way she did it – she dropped by unannounced when I was having a tax meeting with a family friend. I would have preferred her speaking with me alone, giving me a chance to speak about it and honestly process my feelings. It was the tail end of a long, tiring weekend and was hard to hear, and I felt very put on the spot.

I am learning a lesson about the vault I’ve kept of this infertility journey full of grief and tears.  I’ve made it clear to my family I don’t want to talk about it, and they have respected my request.  However, with Leah’s announcement, I would have liked to hear from my mom or sister Alexis.  I wondered if they would call to see how I was doing or if I was ok, if the big family news was hard for me, but they didn’t.  These are the boundaries I have set, and I see now maybe they weren’t the best.  I will rethink going forward.

IVF Doctor 2.0

Statistics say those fighting infertility will not have success with their first doctor.  If that makes me a statistic, I’ll take it.

Ryan and I visited the Kaiser IVF clinic in the SF Bay Area this week.  Why Kaiser?  I suppose we were both ready for a more corporate, big business approach to Ryan’s bent-neck sperm.  The first doctor, a small, local office, turned us away because she wasn’t sure IVF would work.   Since then, I’ve read some reviews stating she tends to back out of tricky diagnoses to keep her numbers up, and specifically isn’t well-versed with male factor issues.  Perhaps we just got the wrong doctor the first time? A larger office must naturally have more resources, more institutional knowledge and more cycles under their belt.  For a second opnion, we felt comfortable casting the net wide in the expansive network that is Kaiser Permanente.

The Good News:  We both liked the doctor straight off, he was personable, relatable and easy to talk to.  He told us Male Factor is one of the easier to treat diagnoses in the infertility world.  He said as long as sperm are moving, regardless of shape or morphology, IVF with ICSI usually works just fine with a healthy egg.  I distinctly remember the last doctor saying “They have a bent neck and swim in circles.”  Ryan has 0% motility, but obviously, under the scope, some were moving.  Also – this new doctor doubts whatever is up with Ryan’s swimmers is genetic.  He thinks it was a one-time thing in Ryan’s development along the way.  He also heard out our ethical concerns and shared what couples in the past have done.

The Bad News:  The doctor could not help us immediately, and told us first we need to go have an in-depth appointment with the Kaiser urologist.  Ryan already had a phone appointment with the urologist, but now we have to go in person and let Ryan get the ol’ physical exam and give another sample.  Any chance of moving forward with IVF depends entirely on what the urologist says.  Another downside is this office is a solid TWO HOURS AWAY.  In bay area traffic more like 3 hours.  And should we move forward, there isn’t much I can do to be treated locally, and will have to somehow schedule in regular time off and drive all the way there and all the way back a number of times.  Also, we have insurance through Kaiser, but IVF is not covered.  And during our appointment we learned this would run us $15,000-$17,000 including drugs.

But there is More Good News:  Kaiser apparently has the best of the best Urologists in the nation right here in the bay area, and Ryan likes him.  If anyone can fully understand our scenario, get Ryan to relax and open up and hear out all our questions and concerns, I have faith in this guy.  Also?  We sold our house – for more than expected – and suddenly there is easily $5 or $7 G’s we can set aside for our IVF fund.  If we don’t use it? Bathroom remodel.

That Valiant Efforts post of mine is mocking me.  For so long I’ve felt stagnant, like all my efforts at life just don’t get anywhere.  And suddenly the house sold.  We have positive encouragement from a  fertility doctor.  Ryan booked some cases with a new doctor now that he lost the last one.  I mean, I will move forward with trepidation, as usual, but it kind of looks like the dam is starting to leak and perhaps break away….

Valiant Efforts

“Nothing ventured, nothing gained” only applies when you’ve gained.

Obviously.

When you venture and things fall flat on their face, it’s hard to look back and say “Boy that failure was worthwhile!” Luckily, we (ahem – I) don’t seem to ever learn.  My years on this earth are numbered, and so I continue to wake up each morning and embrace new things, new avenues, a second try, even at the end of a year that seems marked by the absence of gains.  It’s not a failure by any means, but just a lot of work that got me nowhere.

2016 kicked off sad and depressing, facing a childless existence, and trying in vain to get used to that.  I pursued therapy, books, prayer, let time do it’s thing, and today?  Nope.  Still not used to it.

April brought a very real possibility that my husband’s job would move us out of state.  We gripped our grieving, tired hands to that sparkling new future, and jumped in feet first.  We traveled back and forth so much, wining and dining his potential clients, that Ryan’s company got him a temporary apartment.   Business didn’t pan out as expected.  We moved out of the apartment around Thanksgiving.

In November Ryan and I attended an adoption agency orientation.  It was a long road to get to this point – and through lots of prayer, research and gentle conversations with Ryan, I went into it feeling so optimistic.  We spent the following 2 days arguing and crying, and long story short, I learned with absolute certainty that Ryan does not have the heart for adoption.  And much like infertility and IVF, a couple cannot walk the treacherous adoption road unless both are 100% mentally, emotionally and physically on board.

On December 1 we put an offer on a house and – hurrah!! – had it accepted! We SCRAMBLED to list our 100-year-old craftsman that we’ve lovingly poured our time and money into over the last 5 years.  We live in an area where it’s pretty common to sell in a day, for over asking price, and our agent assured us it would be a quick weekend sale.  Well, here we are on December 29th, 3 days away from falling out of contract on the new house unless SOMEONE MAKES AN OFFER PLEASE. It’s not over yet, I know – and at least I can say we tried.

We are talking about IVF again.  The adoption debacle sliced open all kinds of old wounds.  Ryan wonders if perhaps God’s plan is for us to remain childless, since he can’t reproduce and can’t get on board the adoption train.  I wonder if perhaps God’s plan is for us to fight a bitter battle until we find our miracle, because I just cannot find peace in my heart at the prospect of childlessness.  I got blood work done (again – everything normal, again),  and Ryan goes to Kaiser for more tests tomorrow.  We have a referral to Kaiser’s IVF clinic in the San Francisco area, a long drive for us, but neither want to go back to Dr. Mean who told us we had no chance.  It’s just a second opinion, really.  Can’t hurt to hear another expert’s assessment of our unique situation.  Maybe it took us a year to work up the nerve to do it, but better late than never.

Nothing ventured, nothing gained.

Waiting a Year

I think it’s AA that says you must wait a year to make any big decisions after getting sober.  Your judgment can’t be trusted when reeling from a life change of that magnitude.

Ryan and I are approaching the year mark, and without a doubt I needed the time.  For so long I couldn’t even think about it, couldn’t talk about it, just had to le my brain process.  Ryan’s job offer in Oregon never came together, which is ok.  For a while there, it was a great distraction to hunt for real estate and fantasize about a whole new life in a city where no one knows me.

So a year later, here we are, still in our little California craftsman, facing the end of 2016.  I am finally making peace with our canceled cycle.  Here and there over the last 10 months I had moments of wanting to just GO FOR IT, take the risk, sign up, and blindly foot the bill for something we’d already decided to put behind us.  Obviously we never did, and I’m ok with that now.  I can say with conviction that IVF was not right for us.  For many people it’s a wonderful solution, but for us, it was probably not going to work, full of ethical compromises we couldn’t agree on, expensive, and not worth it.

Today, I’m thankful I never let my fits of passion get the best of me, and stuck to our decision to not pursue IVF.  What I still have not made peace with is living “child-free.”  For those who battle infertility and learn to be content with a childless existence, I envy you and I applaud you.

Adoption has been heavy on my mind.  I’ve been deep in prayer and thought, and did some preliminary research.  But I hesitated to start the conversation.  Have I grieved our loss long enough that adoption isn’t just a Band-Aid?  And I’m aware Ryan isn’t totally interested.   I will heartbroken if this doesn’t work out, either.

So over margaritas and chips and salsa on probably the last boiling hot Saturday in October, Ryan surprised me by bringing it up.  Well, he brought up his regret over being unable to have kids at all, and I put it out there:

“We could adopt.”

“We could.”

And over discussion of the pros, we made plans to start looking into it.  And then some of the cons came up and Ryan said he’d have to think about it more.  But we ate up each other’s lead, so eager to hear the other talk about a baby, a boy or a girl, daycare, a family.  Ever since Saturday I’ve had a weight lifted off my shoulders – a lightness to my days.  It’s hope.  I feel hopeful.  I may very well be let down again, but here is our last chance, the final option, and I feel so blessed that we have one more avenue to explore.

Talking about it

I don’t like talking about infertility, which probably doesn’t surprise anyone who has read my blog posts before.  It’s actually the most uncomfortable and dreaded part of the whole childless existence these days: acknowledging my loss.  For me, it’s not even a topic of health or my body.  It’s my husband’s body, which for his sake I try to be very discreet, and my loss.

However, talking it out is usually a fool-proof way to heal, which is why I started this blog (a somewhat anonymous way to vent my feelings) and why I went to speak with a counselor.

About that – I don’t think I’ll be back.  She gave me some good tidbits and perspective regarding my “grieving period,” but also made a few references to if infertility becomes a “deal-breaker” eventually. Like, I might eventually choose to leave my husband for someone who can have kids.  Leaving my husband is not, and will never be, part of the plan or healing process here.  Thankfully, Ryan never knew I went to speak to someone, so he won’t ask about why I didn’t go back.

Last night I met an old friend for drinks.  I was dreading the meeting because I knew she probably knew (bad news travels fast) and of course it was going to come up, because it always does.  Thankfully I was 1.5 beers in when she asked directly “What’s up with you guys and babies?” So I talked about it.  We talked about it.  It wasn’t easy and 12 hours later I’m still replaying the conversation over and over in my head, but I didn’t cry.  And that, my friends, is improvement.

In the last 6 months or so I’ve been able to entertain a life that would be impossible if I were pregnant or had a small child.  Vacations booked, new fitness regimes, etc. Most notably, Ryan’s job may be offering him a position in Oregon, and he and I are considering the move. A HUGE decision for this California born-and-raised girl, but also incredibly enticing.  Starting fresh, scrapping our losses here in wine country and building new life where no one knows us (and where we can buy super affordable real estate) seems like a salve to the wounds of these last tough years.

We’ll see what happens.

I don’t want to be defined by infertility.  I don’t want to be constantly asked about it or constantly pitied, like someone who has lost their leg and the obvious impairment is a constant source of inquiry from the well-meaning masses.  But I know infertility is something I can’t change.  It’s happened to Ryan and I, it’s a done deal and something I will live with forever, regardless of if we end up with kids on day or not (adoption, one day, is not off the table). It’s part of me now, and like it or not, I will always have to talk about it.

Self-Care

I presume I engage in a normal amount of self-care nonetheless thanks to exercise, sleep, play, healthy eating, etc. But apparently it’s not enough, because apparently the whole chasm of emotion and suffering from the anticlimax of our infertility run is stubbornly not self-healing.

About 7 months have passed since the fallout and I basically plan my life around avoiding the topic altogether.  Unfortunately, being 32 and married for 4 years means just about everyone asks.  “When are you having kids?”  It’s an absolute land mine of a topic that I live in fear daily will come up, because when it does, and when I can’t forcibly shut it down right away, I lose it.  At best I tear up, say I can’t talk, and awkwardly leave.  At worst I cry.  Hard. Every time, I’m left feeling raw and unhappy for hours, days or even weeks.  I don’t want to cry at the gym, or in the grocery store, or to my parents or to my grandma or to the new people we’ve just met.  I just don’t want to talk about it ever again.

Unfortunately, I’ve had to learn that is an unrealistic request.

So today I called the phone number in the back of my planner and made an appointment.  “Call Kaiser” has been on my to-do list for months, and finally I can scratch it off.  It’s not the fertility nurse this time, it’s the counseling department, and I have an appointment in a couple weeks to help navigate what they say is “symptoms of anxiety from dealing with some pretty heavy stuff.”

I don’t like to talk about it, including with a therapist, and I’m already nervous and full of dread.  But somehow I find the discipline to exercise and drink a lot of water and eat healthy and rest, so here is one more facet of self-care to check off the list, whether I like it or not.

Aftermath

On good days I think what a bullet I dodged in evading the responsibility of raising a child. I can’t even get Ryan to eat healthy, pay his bills and say his prayers.  How would I stand up to decades of rearing and honing a whole new individual? I pray for my marraige, cook us healthy meals, keep our house clean, and budget and re-budget our way out of debt.  That’s enough stress for one lifetime.

On bad days, though, I marvel at what a mess I’ve made of things. Bound for life to a sterile man who I married mostly for his fathering qualities. I sacrificed a glittering career because it didn’t jive with motherhood, and now spend my days in a dismal job tied to a golden retirement pension that would be extraordinarily costly to leave. This is not the lackluster scene I envisioned my life would fade in to.  Sometimes I’ll try to do something about it: peruse new jobs or plan a vacation.  But I’m weak and helpless at the moment, and I hope it’s temporary.  I can’t. I just can’t. I just can’t follow through, can’t execute, can’t do anything but drop my hands to my sides and breathe.

The only comfort I take in this disaster is that I tried my best. Given the circumstances, I did my very best to weigh the options, pray about it, and make good decisions.  I couldn’t have known any better than to marry Ryan.  In my 28 years I’d tried to meet eligible men: college, bible studies, travel abroad, online dating, you name it, and Ryan was far and away the winner.  We were in love, and he was unlike any man I’d dated before, even proving his intentions by putting off sex until we were married.  He wanted children, he wanted a dog and a house and a cozy life, and he prayed with me and went to church with me.  How could I have known?

I knew when I left public accounting it was a risk, but I thought about it, asked for advice, prayed about it, and now that all is said and done I’m not convinced I did the wrong thing.  But if I’d known at the time our infertility was incurable, I never would have considered giving up that career, not for a second.

We did our best in exploring the options of infertility treatments. We put years into seeking out doctors, following protocols and calendars, peeing on sticks, praying incessantly. And in the end we came to the point where the costs to pursue exploratory measures simply outweighed the benefits.

I tried. I took the cards life gave me, was thoughtful and careful, and did the best I could. So I will be thankful for that.

“I have told you these things, so that in Me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” John 16:33