Tuesday, September 28, 2010

seven

Seven years ago today, my life changed forever.

I was an innocent freshman in college. I stood at the entrance of my dorm on a warm September evening, and I smiled as Joey walked toward me. I'll never forget that moment, the moment of our first kiss. I didn't want to let go when I hugged him. I held him close, and I knew that I would spend the rest of my life with this man. We would experience wonderful times together - birthdays, holidays, anniversaries, family trips, vacations, weddings - and I would cherish each of them, especially when things got ugly.

And they did. I knew our relationship wouldn't always be a fairy tale. I knew there would be disappointment and heartache. Of course, nothing could have prepared me for the loss of our hopes and dreams of adding to our family and sharing our love for each other with a child. In seven years, I grew from a naive and playful 18-year-old girl to hardened, jaded 25-year-old woman. The playful is still deep inside. I know it is. Joey is the person who brings it out in me. It gets easier by the day to let it out of its cage, but I know that I will never be the same girl I was seven years ago.

But I also know that, for what has changed in the last seven years, one thing remains constant. Despite the hell of infertility, we are still standing. We are still in love.

I may never see what this love can create in a biological child. I may never share the experience of parenthood with the man I love. I may never hear my son or daughter say the word "dad." I may never see him walk our little girl down the aisle or watch him play catch in the backyard with our son. But I will always look at him and see the man walking toward me on that September night. I will always look at him and see the man who stole my heart. I will always look at him and see the man who has dried all of my childless tears.

And I will always look at him and see my happiness.

Monday, September 27, 2010

cycle #30

I appreciate the continued discussion, and - for the most part - civilized behavior of everyone involved in the debate about IVF in relation to the "a" word. That's all I will say here about it. There's no need for me to beat a horse that is already dead.

Moving forward.

AF arrived in full force yesterday after two full days of spotting. I'm paying the price for missing acupuncture this month, because she showed up with a raging headache, cramps, and enough bloat to float me to Cuba. I made an acu appointment for Thursday, so hopefully that helps. The weekends in October will be less crazed, so I'll be able to fit in some appointments. With school, work, and driving to Gainesville every weekend for football games, my free time is limited these days.

Joey and I also had our first "what's next?" discussion since deciding to break away from treatments four months ago:

January 2011: Yearly pap / follow up with the breast lump issue. This will be with a new gynecologist, since the one I saw this year has since relocated to the Panhandle. I may or may not ask for blood work at this appointment. I haven't had my FSH tested since early 2009, and I'd like to see where it's at now.

Summer 2011: If we don't see any results from the acu or if I do get b/w done in January and it comes back looking not so hot, we'll go back to the RE for follow up tests - most importantly, an SA for Joey and an u/s for me.

We want to make sure that, in a year, nothing has progressed to a breaking point. If it has, we'll reconsider IVF or maybe doing more IUIs. I don't know, and I'm not going to make plans until we get to that point. It's a strange struggle for me: loving the freedom of no appointments and the way my body feels off of medication, but desperately wanting to know what's going on inside of us and hoping that things aren't taking a drastic turn for the worse.

One step at a time. That's all I can manage.

Friday, September 24, 2010

the "a" word

Thank you all so much for the wonderful congratulations about my new job AND for letting me stand on my advocacy soapbox for a couple of days. I was hoping to write a lighthearted post today, but instead I decided to move from the soapbox to the snake pit. I have a feeling this post may get me into a little bit of trouble, but I can't ignore it. I have to discuss it.

Yesterday, my lovely blog friend Amanda posted a link to a controversial blog post comparing IVF to ab-or-tion. In it, and in the comments, ideas were thrown around about IVF-ers being murderers and IVF not being done out of love. There's no other word to describe the way this made me feel other than sick. I'm not going to link to the blog. The blog owner made it private this morning. Even if she hadn't, I don't think I want to encourage any more debate or frustration than I did myself by going over there and inserting my two cents.

I realize that everyone has differing opinions on the "a" word and religion, and that they are more than welcome to post those ideas on a blog or Web site. That's one thing. But it's an entirely different thing to accuse people of murder, people who don't necessarily practice your religion OR share the same radical beliefs about the religion as you do. I've posted this before, but I was born and raised in a very strict Catholic household, and I have never seen the kind of judgment that I witnessed yesterday - particularly in the comments.

I'm also appalled by the way they (in my opinion) twisted and bended the rules of the Church to fit their own, personal scenarios, while at the same time damning others for their methods of action against infertility. The blog owner admitted to using medication to induce ovulation yet criticized couples using IVF because it interfered with God's will. One commenter admitted to using a condom to collect her husband's specimen, but when I questioned her about the Church's stance on using contraceptives, she quickly replied that they would poke a hole in the condom allowing "life to flow through." Forgive me, but a condom is still a condom, no matter how you manipulate it.

As I posted in one of my comments yesterday, I believe that if you are going to argue religion as a reason for or against fertility treatments, it has to be all or nothing. Either you do something to interfere with God's will, or you don't. By ingesting hormones and other supplements, I believe that the original poster interfered with God's will. Whether she wants to believe that or not, that's her issue. But you can't "half ass" infertility treatments in that way. At least that's my take on it.

So, I'll ask all of you: What do you think? Do you think that IVF is comparable to the "a" word? Why or why not? I'm not trying to get into a political or religious debate here, or create more hatred, or piss people off. I just think this is a legitimate issue in the IF community, and I'd like to hear people's thoughts on it. I promise not to delete or censor any comments if everyone promises in return to keep it civilized.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

why we should share (part 2)

It’s a sticky subject: to tell or not to tell. But this is the battle every infertile couple must face at some point in their journey, and it’s something I thought about a lot this week since my experience at the conference.

Believe me when I say that I understand the fears involved with coming out of the infertility closet. Some of you mentioned them yesterday in your comments. Joey and I made the decision to tell after our initial diagnosis in February 2009. Or, I guess I should say that I made the decision to tell, not Joey. He was less enthusiastic about sharing the details of our current and future struggle to our friends and family members. Looking back, it makes sense. It was (and is) like opening the door to your bedroom - a place that is supposed to be private and intimate - and letting everyone you know inside.

To me, letting people into my bedroom was easier than building a bulletproof door. Realistically, I knew it could take months or even years for us to resolve our infertility, and I didn’t want to spend that time in hiding. I’m a horrible liar, and if I didn’t tell people the truth about what was going on, I knew it would only make things worse. As our marriage went on, our friends and family members would continue to (or be more likely to) ask us questions about having children. Telling them what was going on from the beginning would more than likely curb those curiosities.

It did, but it didn’t stop the stupid comments from some, and it didn’t stop others from avoiding me like the plague and refusing to speak to me altogether. I’ve blogged numerous times about the hurtful comments I’ve received, some from very close friends and family, and I will never forget those words. More than that, I’ll never forget the SILENCE of some. I think situations where people refuse(d) to speak to me about what we go through hurt more than the inconsiderate, unintelligent comments. But I do forgive, because people don’t know better. And people don’t know better because infertility is not talked about.

Sharing is not only about turning other infertile couples on to professional resources. Sharing also involves sharing yourself and your story. I’m not saying it’s easy. None of this is easy. It can be incredibly painful to repeat the details (or even the vague summary) of your personal reproductive story. Do I enjoy telling people I can’t conceive? No. It’s not fun for me to talk about how many IUIs have failed, how difficult it is for me to get out of bed every morning, or how I’ve had complete emotional breakdowns just walking past the baby aisle in a grocery store.

But telling others about infertility helps the people who are going through it. It also helps to set the record straight. I want people to know that the reason my husband and I can’t get pregnant is NOT because we don’t relax. Trust me: I have at least one glass of wine a night, take bubble baths, go out to dinner, and plan more vacations (even just weekend getaways) than most of my girlfriends. This has nothing to do with relaxation. It has everything to do with biology. Infertility is a physical disease that brings with it mental and emotional heartbreak.

So I talk. I talk to the point where I’m sure some people would like to tell me to shut the fuck up. But I talk in hopes that I stop the rumors and the misinformation. I talk in hopes that someone is listening and, whether they say so privately or publicly, and will admit they have trouble too. I talk because I want that person who tells his or her child or friend to “relax” that he or she is wrong. I know what I’m going through right now, what I have been through, and what I will continue to go through until my infertility is resolved. I don’t want anyone else to have to go through the same thing.

Two days ago, I went out to lunch with a group of coworkers. A woman in the group spent 20 minutes talking about how badly she wanted grandchildren and how she kept asking her son and daughter-in-law, “What are you waiting for?” Another woman jumped in and said something about how women can have babies now at older ages - fertility doesn’t end when you’re 40. This is what we have to stop, and what we can stop. If we stop the silence, we can stop the rumors. If we stop the silence, maybe we can make the people around us more empathetic to our journeys. If we stop the silence, maybe we can make the pain for one couple just a little bit more bearable.

You might be asking yourself about that husband, who at the beginning felt uncomfortable sharing our story? Now, I barely recognize the man. He’s the first to tell me not to attend a baby shower, or tell me not to attend a function if I don’t feel up for it. He fights me for speaking time at our Resolve support group meetings. And when people ask him if we have children, he says, “No. We’ve had problems trying to have kids.” He is an advocate for me, just as much as I am an advocate for him.

Let’s be advocates. Let’s no longer assume that people know about infertility. Let’s put an end to the Kate Gosselin and OctoMom stereotypes. Let’s come out of the infertility closet. And let’s stick up for ourselves and each other.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

why we should share (part 1)

About a month ago, I offered to work the Resolve table at the 2010 Paths to Parenthood conference here in Orlando. Our local leader was going out of town on a family vacation, and I was eager to kick off my journey as an official Resolve volunteer. This was my first solo adventure. I’ve shared my story at meetings before, but this was an entirely different ball game. It was an exciting ball game. I looked forward to bringing more couples into our support group and letting them know about the other resources Resolve has to offer.

I assumed most of the conference attendees had probably heard of Resolve. After all, you don’t exactly attend a fertility conference after two months of trying to have a baby. Most of the men and women at the conference, I imagined, were gearing up for treatment or weighing their options between IVF and adoption. Therefore, they should know all about the fact that there is a national organization out there to support them and advocate for them throughout their journey.

Turns out, I was a little bit “off” in my assumption.

When the first few couples walked up to the table and I asked if they knew about Resolve, they said no. I thought, “Surely this is a fluke, right? Maybe they are at the beginning of their journey. Yes, that’s it. That’s why they don’t know about Resolve.”

But the morning went on, and more often the answer was “no” rather than “yes.” A lot more often. I would say 90 to 95 percent of the couples who approached the table never heard of Resolve. By the end of the third hour, I got ballsy during conversations and started fishing for more information (which, for the record, everyone was just as eager to talk about their personal stories as I was to hear them): “If you don’t mind me asking, where are you in your journey?”

Four failed IVF cycles
3 failed IUIs and onto a laparoscopy
No ovaries
Pursuing adoption
No uterus or ovaries
Tubes tied

These were women or couples who were not on the first leg of this hike up the mountain. Some of them were nearing the peak and they didn’t know about Resolve! It blew my mind. How is it that there are organizations out there to help us through the most difficult life crisis most of us have ever encountered, and people still don’t know about them?! It angers me how some of these women have suffered silently for years without knowing there are groups and people to turn to. I’m not angry at the people or the organizations. I’m simply angry with the situation. It shouldn’t be like this. People shouldn’t have to sit broken down on the side of the road, waiting for help to arrive.

How can we change this? How can we make things better?

We can start with this: no more assumptions. I am making it my personal vow not to assume that other infertiles are getting the help and support they need and deserve. I will not assume that others suffering through infertility know about the groups, Web sites, and books that are out there to walk them through this difficult time. And I want all of you to take on this challenge with me. If you know someone who is going through treatment, waiting to adopt, or struggling with loss (of either a child/children or their reproductive organs), please reach out to them. Let them know that there are hundreds of resources out there, not just Resolve, to help carry them for the rest of their hike.

Point them in the direction of Conceive magazine. Send them a link to Mel’s site, or talk about Faces of Loss, Faces of Hope. Make sure they know they are not alone in this ocean of pain.

This isn’t all we can do, but it’s a start.

To be continued  . . .

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

a change will do you good

2010 has been the year of change: changing REs, changing treatment plans, buying a house, going back to school, and choosing (temporarily) to live childfree.

This week, I decided to add one more change to the mix.

Tuesday, October 5, will be my last day working in the publishing industry. I've worked in some form of publishing for the last four years, and I am leaving it behind to start fresh in academics. I'll be working as a program coordinator in the faculty training/development department at a local university. This position comes with less money, but also less of a commute and more of an opportunity for growth - especially as I continue to work on my master's degree.

I have no idea what to expect, but I'm excited. This is a chance for me to start on a new path. I needed to be honest with myself: I love editing, but I don't want to work in publishing anymore. The first step toward my future career goals was going back to school. I just needed to add a change in work environment to the mix. This position felt right from the beginning, and I knew that this is why I turned down the job offer several weeks ago.

Everything happens for a reason. Right? Now if only I could learn to apply that saying to my uterus.

Friday, September 17, 2010

chin on the ground

I'm a giant sack of "blah" lately when it comes to infertility. 

It's weird. I'm not actually depressed, but I can't find a way to be positive about my situation. What is there to be positive about? We've been at this for nearly 2.5 years. We have no means with which to do IVF. I refuse to put more money and effort into IUIs. And I'm one pregnancy announcement away from buying a sailboat and disappearing to some deserted island in the middle of the Caribbean.

It's unrealistic, I know, but it feels like the walls are closing in on me: Am I going to be the last person in the ALI community to get my baby? Every announcement makes it seem that way. Sometimes, I feed myself little sayings, like:

Good things come to those who wait.

and

When you feel like giving up, remember why you held on for so long in the first place. 

or

Just remember that ant. 
(Drinks on me if you know what this line is from. Phillies fans should know this.)

Then anger hits me like a freight train. I think, "Haven't I been patient enough?" or "Why AM I still holding on to hope? Shouldn't I realize that hoping is pointless?" It's as if Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde have shacked up in my brain, and I can't get them out. They continue to bicker over my emotions, while I sit here like a third wheel on a bad date. 

I'd like to say that I'm trying, and some days I am. Some days feel good; I'm focusing my energy on helping others by volunteering with RESOLVE. Then some days, it feels worthless. Some days I wonder how I can help others when I can't even help myself. Some days I get jealous. Some days, I just don't have the energy to be happy about anything.

Over the past couple of months, I've had the sneaking suspicion that my endometriosis is back. I've mentioned it here a couple of times, but now I'm fairly positive about it. I chose not to use OPKs this month (too busy; too lazy), but I'm pretty sure any attempt at ovulation was thwarted by whatever is growing on my left ovary. There's a cyst. I can feel it. I've debated calling the RE, but what's the purpose of that? Birth control? No thanks.

I guess I just ride this out. I continue with my Groundhog Day-esque bad date until there's a breakthrough. I keep swimming. I keep plugging along. I keep hoping that either Dr. Jekyll or Mr. Hyde give in before the walls do. And I keep searching for my positivity.

If you find it, do you mind returning it to me?

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

stranded

I'm still swimming. It's difficult. The current is constantly changing, leaving me to paddle and fight even more furiously to keep up. But this is what I have to do to keep from drowning. Some days I feel incredibly positive about making it to shore. Other days, a huge wave hits, and part of me wants to stop paddling, stop fighting.

Yet, here I am - still trying to make the best of my situation out here at sea.

Monday, September 13, 2010

no longer waiting

There comes a time in life when the waiting has to end. 

Waiting ends with the accomplishment or fulfillment of whatever we were waiting for. Or it ends with nothing. Every single one of us knows what waiting feels like. We wait for our periods to end. We wait for a smiley face on our ovulation kits. We wait two weeks until our periods arrive, or we get that elusive positive test. We wait for our beta results. We wait for the first ultrasound. We wait to make decisions and choices that will shape the future in our quest for motherhood. We wait to find out if we are homestudy approved. We wait for an agency to match us with our future children. We wait. And wait. And wait.

Some of us have waited months. Some years. 

I have written before that it doesn't matter how long we wait - we are all equally deserving of success in this journey. But today, the waiting ended for a very incredible, very special, VERY deserving person.

Please head over to Lisa's blog and wish her congratulations on the birth of her son, Jayden. Lisa has waited a long time to bring Jayden into her home. Lisa is an amazing person and friend. She's been there for me, personally, through a lot this past year. There are some people you meet during this journey who touch your life in a way that you never thought possible. I've gained some amazing friends this way, and Lisa is one of them. She's battled infertility and cancer, and come out on top. She's an inspiration to all of us. 

She is living proof that nothing can stop you from achieving the dream of becoming a mother.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

letter to a fertile grad student

[Note: I hope this goes without saying, but this is not directed at any of my readers.]

Dear Mommy of the Year:

While I have a deep respect and admiration for your desire to further your education, I do not have respect for your excuses as to why you cannot or will not contribute to group or course assignments 1) on time or 2) at all. Here's a little newsflash: The universe does not revolve around you. Just because you grew/are growing a life in your uterus does not make you any more or less busy than the rest of us. I have a full time job, a husband, a house, a puppy going through her terrible twos, a two-and-a-half hour commute per day, and a neighbor who thinks 3 am is a good time to have a rave. I get no more sleep than you, and yet I still suck it up and pull my shit together. You should have thought about the amount of work you were taking on before entering a graduate-level program.

Also, when you do get around to contributing your work or your input to the class, I am offended by your pompous attitude. What, being a mom makes you the smartest person on the planet? I had no idea that a PhD and a lifetime of wisdom and experience came out of your vagina following the birth of your child. That's simply amazing. I guess if I ever become a mother, I can add, "Smartest person on the fucking planet" to my resume. You are the type of fertile I love to hate: you always have to be right and you always have to be the best. Oh, and let's not forget the fact that your child is the next coming of Christ, yet you are quick to bitch and moan that he or she doesn't allow you enough time, energy, or sleep. How about I trade you: you can have my neighbor's techno music at 3 am, and I'll take your crying baby at 3 am? Sounds like a sweet deal to me.

Will you do the rest of your classmates and me a favor? STFU, do your work, don't make excuses, and please don't act like you already have a master's degree in this subject area. I have no desire to hear about how your crying baby/morning sickness/breast feeding makes you late or incapable of performing your school work, OR how it makes you better than me. Because, let's face it. It's distance learning. You can breastfeed your kid and no one ever has to know or care. Then, I wouldn't feel the urge to give you the middle finger/blog or tweet how much you annoy the shit out of me. And as for your level of knowledge, though I'm sure cleaning up shitty diapers has some correlation with intellectual ability, I'd like to think that an inhabitable uterus has given me something a little more important than that: common courtesy.

Sincerely,
Your infertile classmate

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

i am terrible

I am terrible, horrible, craptastic blogger and blog friend.

I'm not trying to make excuses, but grad school is kicking my ass. I just haven't had time to read everyone's blogs or sit down and write a coherent/meaningful post.

I did have a chance to read everyone's comments on my previous post, and I want to thank all of you for your support and kind words. It's been a tough time the last couple of weeks as I read more BFP stories and my Google reader becomes flooded with baby updates. Don't get me wrong: I'm happy for all of you. I know how hard each of you worked for your babies. But it doesn't make me absent of pain. I'm working on it.

The long weekend was fun and much needed. We went to the Gator game on Saturday and enjoyed our first row seats for the (ugly) win. Here are some photos from the game.
Sunday we headed over to Tampa for the evening to enjoy a night away. We did some window-shopping, ate dinner at Brio, and then met up with one of our good friends for drinks. It was a relaxing night away.

But the weekend wasn't all sunshine and roses. On Sunday, we received the news that an acquaintance of ours, Tom, was killed in Africa while serving in the Peace Corps. I first met Tom during my junior year of college and spent many weekends at his and our friend Andy's apartment "pre-gaming" before nights downtown. It's strange to think that a person you saw almost every weekend is now gone, his life ending in a senseless tragedy at the age of 24. It makes you think: about love, kindness, the goodness of people, and the purpose of life. Please keep his family and close friends in your thoughts and prayers this week. 

You can read the article about his death and watch a video about Tom here.

Friday, September 3, 2010

outcast

A close friend of mine and I recently had an e-mail chat about finding a place in this community.

You see, I'm struggling right now to find where I belong. Here is what I know:

I am infertile.
But I am no longer seeking treatment.
I am not seeking adoption.
I am not a beginner.
But I have never been through IVF.
And I am not "content" living the rest of my life without a child.

Finding (or keeping) identity is one of the biggest struggles in this journey, and it's hitting me hard. I no longer understand where I fit in. Do/should people look to me for advice? Or hope? I feel like I don't have authority or audacity to offer either. I'm not hopeful, and what advice do I have to offer if I've never had a child in my uterus? Or been through IVF? Or had to endure a home study visit?

I think this is part of the reason why the quote from Eat, Pray, Love hit me so hard the other day. Where is my place in this community? In my friendships?

In my family?

When you grow up as a young girl, you expect to one day become a mother. That will be your role until you become a grandmother, until (hopefully) you live long enough to experience the days of being a great grandmother. This was especially the case in my family: where cousins came in dozens. Where family reunions required renting space because there was simply not enough room in someone's backyard. Where funerals brought relatives from all ends of the earth to celebrate the life and legacy of the dead, and comfort his or her many children and grandchildren.

But what if I am able to become none of those things: a mother? A grandmother? A great grandmother?

For the first time, I'm beginning to realize that my husband's genes and my gene's may never be combined to create a new, unique generation for our family. I may never be a matriarch. I may never get to sit in a lawn chair in the shade at my family reunion, sip iced tea, look out at all of the faces and say, "This is the family that I have created. These are my children, and my grandchildren, and great grandchildren. Look how he has my nose. And how she has my husband's eyes. I am so proud to say that I created this family." What mark will I or can I make on the world if I am unable to raise a child? Who will share my stories? What will I have accomplished?

Who am I now?

Am I living childfree? Childless? I'm floating in this universe of nothingness. I am lost with no direction. This disease, this stupid fucking disease, has flipped my life upside down. And I no longer know where I am. Where I'm supposed to go. Who I'm supposed to be. In every aspect of my life!

This is why I am struggling to write about infertility. Because, what do I have to say? What encouragement do I have to give? If I don't even know who I am in this community or where I am in this journey, how do I write about it? It's not necessarily writer's block, but a life block. I feel like the older generation at the family reunion: observing, yet it's not my own success. Instead, I'm observing constant reminders of my own failures: the lady in Starbucks carrying her newborn, the mother rubbing her pregnant belly at the grocery store, another pregnancy announcement on my blog list.

Another person who is leaving me behind.

My dream has slowly turned into a nightmare. Instead of watching my family gather in my backyard, I am watching my future, and the generations that my husband and I should be creating together, slowly shrivel and die. One by one, each person in that backyard disappears. Finally, I am all alone, sitting in the shade, sipping my iced tea, looking at the empty backyard and thinking,

Who am I?