Pity Party for one, please

I have mentioned my sister is pregnant. Leah is 2 years older than me and we’ve always been close.  This is her first child, the first grandchild in our family in 12 years, and everyone is very excited.  Everyone except me.

I was at a family gathering this last weekend, Leah and her husband were there, and all anyone wanted to talk about was her baby. Her pregnancy has been harder for me to face than I expected, and I’m ashamed and annoyed that it bothers me as much as it does. I’ve had one frank, tearful conversation with Leah; the moral being Infertility Sucks.  It sucks for Leah, since this joyous occasion for her is tainted by my pain.  It sucks I can’t genuinely be happy for her; I try to, and I make an effort to inquire about her health, the baby, and I say “that’s so exciting!” even though it’s all out of obligation.  I want to do what I can to make this as un-awkward as possible for all parties involved, and that means sticking a smile on my face and faking it.  It sucks that this lifelong bond with my sister is suffering at a time when she least deserves it.  It sucks that my mom and my other sister, Alexis, are also roped into this dual role of celebration with Leah and sympathy for me.  It sucks that Leah knows they are showing restrained enthusiasm because of me, and that Leah doesn’t get to be the recipient of unbridled family excitement.

And it sucks for me. It’s been easier for me to dig deep and find sincere happiness and joy for friends’ and coworkers’ pregnancies.  It’s different with Leah, I suppose because I feel some possession over the family’s reaction and everyone’s interest in her growing stomach.  Those well wishes and inquiring questions were supposed to be for me.  It sucks that I had hurt feelings from the beginning, when Leah announced her pregnancy to me in front of other people, and I had to bite back the emotion for hours until everyone left. That week no one reached out to see if I was ok with the news; even when I called my mom and we talked about “Leah’s pregnant! So exciting!” she didn’t even mention ANYTHING about how this might be hard for me. I don’t need my aunts or uncles or friends or coworkers to walk on eggshells around me, but I do need my mom and my sisters to proactively support me in my grief the same way they support Leah in her joy.  And it sucks that they didn’t offer this freely, and in my bewilderment I thought maybe I was being selfish, and it took my husband calling my mom and admonishing her that she finally picked up the phone and asked “how are you doing with this?”

Even though we talked it out, it sucks those wounds still hurt, and that I’m jealous and I’m sad; I know it’s not a good look. It just sucks.

We are doing IVF at the beginning of August and the timing is precarious. We aren’t even sure if Ryan’s sperm will make viable embryos or if they will implant.  We are hopeful, but the month of August will be one hurdle after the next through an egg retrieval, embryo transfer, 2WW and beta counts.  My mom has declared August to also be the month of Leah’s baby shower, and is already group texting us about plans and details.  She went as far as to offer my house for the location, which will happen on a cold day in hell.  I think it comes from a good place; my new house and lovely reno being the one bright spot in our lives, and my mom maybe thinks I’d feel pride at showing it off? But a house hardly makes up for the inability to have a baby.

When Leah’s baby is born, late September, I will either be newly pregnant or perhaps grieving a loss or failed cycle.

There is no way around any of this but through it. My emotions and well-being are at stake, and so are my sister Leah’s.  Our mental health and need for family’s support is not mutually exclusive, and we will be competing needs.  I truly hope I have reason to celebrate in the next few months, but I know I have to go in with eyes wide open.  Hoping for the best, but preparing for the worst, and knowing that August and September might be the best month’s of Leah’s entire life, and some of the worst for me.

Last Natural Cycle

“Was thinking it would be awesome if somehow by the grace of God you got pregnant.”

I went away for the weekend with some of my girlfriends. While I was crushing grapefruits and limes into my tequila and peering out at the expanse of blue lake waters off the patio, my phone buzzed on the countertop and this was the message that appeared.

According to my app, last week I was ovulating.  This was my last natural ovulation before starting BCP, hella hormone injections, and ultimately completing an IVF cycle.  So like any good couple who is trying to conceive, we tried.

You see after almost 5 years of negative pregnancy tests, next-to-nothing sperm counts, and doctors telling us “you are not a candidate,” we still hold out hope.  A part of both Ryan and I still think maybe this month will be different.  Maybe we will be that lucky couple who tried and failed and tried and failed and waited years and finally signed up for IVF and just weeks before starting we got pregnant naturally!

That’s the worst part of infertility, in my opinion.  No matter how slim your chances, how long, how broke, how much the hope and optimism has been beat out you, you still naively wait for your period every damn month and think “maybe this could be it.”

But if not, at least I know we didn’t go down without a fight.

Maxing out the credit cards

Today I purchased one fresh cycle of IVF + ICSI.  It cost $13,200.  (This does not include medication, which they say will be $3,000 – $6,000.)  I split it between 3 credit cards.  We have about half saved already, so we will pay that off, transfer the remaining balance to a credit card with a no-interest promotional period, and pay it off slowly over the next year.

Ryan asked “Does this mean there is no turning back?”  Well, not really.  If we happen to get pregnant naturally, the whole thing is refundable.  If we change our minds, we lose a $500 deposit, but that’s all.  Both of us have a healthy dose of cold feet and feeling slightly nervous, but not like last time.  As big a commitment, decision, and purchase as this is, we know what it’s like to not have the option.  In this life you get one lap and you’re done, and I know taking the IVF plunge is part of my journey.

We are on the Kaiser calendar for the week of July 30th.  My next step is to call on the office on the first day of my next period, which should be May 20th.

Onward!

Good News + Good News

I had a doctor’s appointment yesterday for a saline sonogram and trial transfer – essentially giving the doctor a chance to go up the hatch and make sure everything was as expected.  I had 9 follicles on one side, 12 on the other, and my lining was 6.8.  I have no idea what any of this means, but I am including it since I hear so many infertility blogs reference these things. The doctor tells me I passed this part of the process with “flying colors” and everything looks great.  We did expect my reproductive health to be a non-issue, but good news is good news so I will take it.

However, as a couple facing male-factor infertility, the big unknown was Ryan’s appointment today.  He drove the 3+ hours in rush hour traffic to visit the clinic’s man room full of nudie mags and produced a sample to put on ice.  The plan is for him to do this a couple times prior to IVF so there is something to fall back on should his fresh sample not be sufficient the day of.  One of the possible diagnoses the andrologist mentioned is that Ryan may have a system that fluctuates wildly in sperm production.  Some times it’s not good, but sometimes it’s really, really bad.  It’s been all over the place – though always low – and there’s no telling what you get.  I asked the doctor to please examine this sample before freezing.  After all, we’ve been this far before only to hear the shocking news that Ryan is incapable of producing viable swimmers.  So… can we please be sure that won’t happen again? I have been worried this will happen again.

We just got the results, bless this Dr. for sending them just an hour after the appointment, and we have count at 1.5M and motility at 17%.  This is HUGE, people.  Last time I want to say count was under 100 (not 100K or 100M, but 100) and motility 0%.  The puritanical diet is paying off!! Dr. says this will be fine for IVF with ICSI, and it will be frozen and waiting for us.

So much peace of mind! Having a decent, usable sample on ice means we at least won’t face the devastation of a cancelled cycle last minute.

I have to praise God for this one.  It has dawned on me recently that God may be using my infertility struggles for his glory.  After all, if there were no infertility in the world, God wouldn’t be able to really show his power and his strength and prove true all that positive scripture about how he cares for us and will make the childless woman a mother of children.  Life can’t be perfect if Jesus wants to step in and do some great work.  So if that’s what this battle is all about, this public display of grief and disappointment, then so be it.  Because I know God will deliver us, and he wants to be sure others know, it, too.

He gives the barren woman a home, making her the joyous mother of children. Praise the Lord! Psalm 113:9

He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds. Psalm 147:3

 

Reluctantly Waving My NIAW Flag

NIAW

A blog I read recently challenged those fighting infertility to “be brave” and “out yourself” by leaving the #NIAW on social media this week.  I rolled my eyes.  Infertility is the LAST thing I want to draw attention to.  I write an anonymous blog.  I kept my infertility a secret until we were told we were “untreatable,” at which point I was forced to confess our diagnosis, and while I’m happy a second opinion ok’d us for IVF, I find myself bitter that I had to make public all my issues in the process.  I don’t like being pitied or talking about my feelings.  Infertility is not a cause I want to fight; it’s a club I want out of.

I do understand awareness is unbelievably important, and I know infertility is a growing issue and knowledge base.  I am so thankful for the information out there on the web, and owe my sanity to the blogging sisters sharing their war stories and testimonies.  So I do support NIAW, but from the sidelines, as a closeted, reluctant participant, hoping to quietly step out a side door one of these days. 

I tip my hat to you, infertile community, but that’s all.  I don’t invite a lengthy heart-to-heart where we stay up all night and talk about our feelings.  I don’t want to cry on your shoulder (but you can cry on mine if you have to, just not in public, please) and I don’t want to say out loud that we share this ugly common ground. But nonetheless I tip my hat to you, because I know your hurt and shame and deepest, most searing disappointment.  I know you aren’t asking for much, and I know how hard your marriage and your bank account have been hit.  I know you put these things aside every day and go to work, show up, and do what is expected of you in life, even though you don’t get to realize the most basic of expectations. I tip my hat to you, because you are fighting the good fight, and you are not alone.

I like to think if I pass you in the street, today or on any other day, we will make eye contact, nod, and continue walking by.  At a baby shower or gender reveal, or when the millionth person is announcing that millionth pregnancy, I like to think we’d see each other across the room, silently make eye contact, and nod.

Maybe this sounds miserable to you, because you need a lot more support in life, and want to talk it out and feel all the feelings and have community around you, and that is a-okay.  Everyone is different.  This blog, however, represents my journey, and how I prefer to acknowledge NIAW and this ever growing battlefield.  You see, I know you and I are both capable and strong and will find the resources and the roadmaps to keep going.  I don’t need your phone calls or your hugs along the way.  But I do feel a wave of relief when you tip your hat back to me, because we are in this together.

“But as for you, be strong and do not give up, for your work will be rewarded.” 2 Chronicles 15:7

T-3.5 Months

Mondays are always NUTS at my job, and it’s really inconvenient that I need a good day or two to get myself back into work mode.  There is a ton on my to-do list, far too much for the next 3.5 hours, but instead I’m blogging.  And for the record I’ve already online shopped, facebooked, zillowed, texted, and read all the advice columns I can find.

So this blog has been silent lately mostly because there has not been much to tell.  Ryan continues to feed his body clean foods and steer clear of alcohol.  He hasn’t been perfect, but he’s lost 20 lbs!  This has been good for me, too, since it’s teaching me how to live the clean-eating healthy lifestyle.  If all goes as planned and we have a kid, I want that kid to have the best in utero health and the best education growing up on how to feed it’s body.  The hardest part for me has been staying away from sugar and desserts.  Red meat, fried foods, potato chips, none of it really calls my name.  I love fruits and vegetables and whole grains. But I really love chocolate, frozen yogurt, cake and pie even more.

Anyway, I’m supposed to start my period in a week, which is maybe why listing off desserts sounds like a good idea.  Once I do, I’m supposed to call Kaiser and schedule a “trial transfer/ saline sonogram.”  Then, assuming all goes well, we sign up for the IVF schedule in the last week of July, and pay $13,200 up front for one cycle of IVF with ICSI.

Perhaps as we get closer to it we will feel more nervous, but for the time being Ryan and I are cool as cucumbers.  It’s been a looong road to get to this point (and we’ve gotten farther than this in that other cycle in Fall 2015), so we just aren’t ready to let our emotions go haywire. What’s another few months?  What’s another unexpected delay?  We’ll get the when we get there.

We FINALLY sold our house.  It took us 4 months and 3 escrows, and miraculously the owners of the new house patiently waited for us that whole time.  We moved in two weeks ago, and are surrounded by lumber and tools and sawdust and heinous wall paper, but it’s totally ok, because the construction zone won’t last forever, and we have the most serene, jungle-like back yard.  In the mornings I can hear the creek and the birds chirping through the bathroom window, and it’s pure and utter peace.  Ryan and I are still looking at each other in disbelief.  We half way expect someone to show up and say “Wait a minute, that was a mistake, this transaction needs to be reversed.”  How we traded in our urban 900 sqft, 100-year-old Craftsman for a 3bd/2ba Ranch with a sprawling, totally private backyard is beyond me.

We had to wait for it, and it was hard.  But it was good for us, since our waiting muscles are really strong right now.

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.