Friday, March 25, 2011

as i heal

I’ve noticed a personal mentality shift recently. I can’t pinpoint exactly when it began, but I think I realized it was happening this week:

I’m not upset anymore about the possibility of never being pregnant. In fact, I don’t want to be pregnant. Not that I would be mad if it happened, but I certainly don’t desire it anymore.

Before this shift, I used to look at pregnant women and stare in awe of the miracle inside of them. I wanted that. Why couldn’t I have that? Now, I can only focus on the downfalls of being pregnant:

Stretch marks
Pain, pain, and more pain
Complications (sometimes many complications)
Hospital bills
No sex
No wine
No sushi
Never-ending visits to the doctor
Anxiety (times 1,000)

and the list goes on . . .

I used to walk past Motherhood Maternity in the mall, and I yearned for the day when I could put on one of those cute maternity dresses. Now, I think about how I never have to spend the extra money on clothes I’ll likely wear just once.

All of this sounds wrong, doesn’t it? I feel like a terrible person for thinking these things. And on top of running through a laundry list of negatives, I think about my own, personal fear with pregnancy:

I do not, under any circumstances, want to pass my shitty genes along to my child.

Repeatedly, I’ve thought about what would happen if we got pregnant and I had a girl. How would I feel if, 25 years later, my daughter came to me and told me she was infertile? Would I forgive myself? I don’t know if I could. I’ve often thought about the risks of further fertility treatments on my own body, especially after the breast lump last year, but that doesn’t come close to preparing for the risk of passing along these same issues to my children. It’s difficult enough to watch friends and family members go through the pain of infertility. Watching my own kid go through it would be too much to bear.

I struggle writing about this, because I don’t want anyone to assume I think badly of them for going through or continuing treatment. This is my issue; it is something that has surfaced for me in recent weeks as I heal from yet another surgery. I also know that there is no guarantee our biological children would have fertility issues – or that any child we adopt wouldn’t.

Maybe this is closure to all of those years I spend wanting desperately to carry a child. I don’t know. I'm still working through it, so it's hard to tell if the door is closed and locked or if it remains open just a crack. What I do know is that while I will probably always roll my eyes at the women who get knocked up when their husbands look at them the wrong way, I don’t know that I will envy them anymore. I don’t know that the green monster will ever be as strong as it once was toward pregnant women.

Maybe this isn’t the healthiest way to cope. But it’s a start.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

dear silent

You are hurtful.

When I told you we were adopting, I thought you would be excited. I thought we would finally experience that same reaction couples get when they tell others they are pregnant and expecting their first child. I thought I would have your unconditional love and support of everyone. Instead, it all feels the same.

I thought that people would stop saying stupid things or asking stupid questions, but that still happens, too. They are just different from the ones experienced by my infertile "sisters" who are going through fertility treatments or who are pregnant after long battles. They have to deal with issues involving embryos and ethics, ignorance involving the baby's biology, and remarks about lightening up and not taking their pregnancies so seriously. Meanwhile, I'm fielding questions about whether I plan to adopt a crack baby or if I'm going to be pissed when the birth mother changes her mind, because, "you know that always happens." (For the record: no and no. I also have no current plans to adopt a black teenager. Maybe in a few years.)

But, even with all of this, I must admit - the dumb questions are better than your approach of none at all. I'll take 10, "Are you going to adopt a kid with one leg?" inquiries over your complete non-interest. I felt the exact same way going through infertility treatments. The lack of phone calls, text messages, and emails hurt far worse than the stupidity. Silence, in my heart, equals not caring. Deep in my mind, I know this isn't true. I know you might just not know what to say. So you assume it's better to say nothing at all.

You're wrong. If I'm having a bad day, and I don't feel like talking about our journey or next steps, I'll tell you. But I'd rather have you ask and me defer than have you not say anything at all.

National Infertility Awareness Week is coming up next month. RESOLVE, the National Infertility Association, is asking us to focus on busting infertility myths and, of course, breaking the silence. I think both of those are wonderful topics to discuss, but I want to focus on YOU. I want to encourage you on breaking YOUR silence. I've been more than open about our journey with infertility and now adoption, but I can't force you to bring up the subject. I can't force you to ask questions. I can't force you to sympathize with I'm going through. But if you love me, if you care about me as a friend or family member - which I hope that you do - I sincerely hope that you understand how your actions have affected me. More importantly, I hope you understand that I am not the only infertile person on this planet. Infertility affects 1 in 8 couples. Odds are, you know someone else who is suffering.

Don't let them suffer in silence. They deserve better.

We all do.

Aren't sure where to begin? Start here and here.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

a breakthrough

I had my post-op appointment yesterday. It was scheduled for 10:45, but we ended up waiting almost an hour and a half to see the doctor. By the time he walked in the room, I was annoyed. I was missing time from work, I was hungry, and sitting up on an exam table for that amount of time with nothing to support my back were all combining to turn me into the ultimate "Katie Cranky Pants" (as Joey likes to call it).

But, surprisingly, the wait was worth it.

Let me remind those of you who forgot or those of you who don't know: this was only my second visit to this doctor's office. The first one didn't go so well and days later I found out that this person would be CUTTING ME OPEN to try and remove the large cyst before it completely swallowed my ovary. And while my time spend speaking with this doctor on the day of the surgery was extensive, I still wasn't necessarily convinced that this guy would say anything new or groundbreaking.

He did. He actually attempted to diagnose what's going on. FINALLY! After seeing nearly half a dozen doctors in just three years, I have an explanation for why my left ovary makes cysts every month.

They are all follicular cysts. None of them are endometriomas.

Almost all women get follicular cysts. They are the kind that bench you for a cycle or two - just long enough to piss you off and make you go crazy for taking a break in treatment. It's common, and it occurs when your dominant follicle fails to release an egg. Instead, it keeps growing larger and large until:

- your doctor gives you birth control to shrink it
- it ruptures
- you need surgery
- it simply resolves on its own

No big deal, right? Only my left ovary does it all. of. the. time. Sweet!

So, what does this mean? It means that I need that ovary to completely shut down/stop making follicles in order for this to stop happening. The decision to place me on birth control was a good start, but it wasn't enough. The pill I'm currently taking isn't strong enough to suppress my ovaries. This leaves us with three options:

1. Take two extra progesterone-only pills a day (total of 3) to help further suppress.
2. If option 1 fails, a monthly shot of Depo-Provera instead of the recommended "every three months" dose. They can special order a subcutaneous version of this that I can give to myself at home.

And if neither of those work and we end up needing more surgery? Good-bye, lefty. He's already said he doesn't want me having a lap every year, and I certainly don't want one every year.

I feel good about the plan. It's not the most ideal situation, but I'm comfortable knowing there are back-up plans in case this fails. I also feel like this doctor cares. When I asked him if he wanted to see my back, he replied that not only did he want to see me back, but he wanted me to call the minute something changed or didn't get better. He said, "I don't want you to come in after three months and still be in pain. Because then I'm going to ask you why you didn't call me and come in sooner." He also told us, semi-jokingly, that the reason why he wasn't driving a Porsche is because he wasn't an RE and wasn't interested in making money. His ultimate goal is to make the pain stop.

We share the same goal.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

the price we pay

I've been struggling with my emotions since the surgery. But you will all think I'm stupid when you hear the reason why. It has nothing to do with getting cut open again, having a longer recovery, or even the painful reminder that I'll never carry a child.

It has everything to do with money.

I knew that, since I have no available sick or vacation days yet at my job, I would lose money for being out of work. I was prepared for that.

What I was not prepared for was the money I had to hand over at the hospital.

If you've ever had surgery or been to the hospital before, you know that the first thing they make you do is register. Registering requires you to hand over your insurance card, fill out what seems like 8 million forms about your life, and usually pay a co-pay. With my previous surgeries, I had no co-pay. None. I didn't pay a dime out of pocket to be cut open. I knew that may not be the case going into this surgery, but I couldn't think about it. I needed the surgery, right? What else could I do? But somehow my days of reasoning couldn't override my shock when the registration representative told me how much we owed. My reaction went something like this:


Put it this way: the amount of money we paid for my surgery is the exact amount it will cost us for our homestudy.


And that is what has me upset. It's bad enough that we have to suffer for nearly three years to be parents, but on top of this, our bank account must suffer, too. Anyone who has been through infertility treatments knows that it's difficult to recover from the financial aspects of this, no matter what they are. Unless you are lucky enough to have insurance that covers IUIs and/or IVF, you understand how it feels to watch your savings dwindle and rest comfortably in the hands of a doctor who, for many of us, just can't get you pregnant. When we stopped treatment in May, we built our savings account back up considerably, and we set ourselves into a budget that would allow us to file paperwork in August. This surgery - while necessary - caused us a little bit of a setback.

In the grand scheme of things, or in the grand scheme of "cost of adoption," this amount isn't a lot. The principal behind it is what bothers me. It's the fact that normal people don't have to pay someone thousands of dollars to come into their home and judge whether they would make fit parents. Normal people don't have to write huge checks to doctors offices, lawyers, adoption agencies, etc. to have a baby. They just fuck and it's over. Done. A new life is created no matter how much money they have in their pockets.

I usually don't like to question whether all of this is fair anymore. Those days are long gone, sitting in a shallow grave with my dreams of a honeymoon baby, my ideas about surprising our family and friends with ultrasound photos, and my eagerness to feel our tiny baby's feet tapping on the inside of my belly. But the idea of "fair" feels so fresh right now - raw and painful like my incisions. It hurts.

We'll recover. We have ideas about raising money this fall. I'm getting pretty good at coupon-ing. We also may dip into Joey's 401k if we have to. Losing this money was (I hope) for the best for me physically. It just served as a hurtful reminder for me, mentally, about how unfair this journey is for all of us.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

making progress

Wednesday was good. Thursday, I hit a wall. Yesterday was better.

The recovery from this lap has been significantly different from my last. With my last, I was more alert, but the gas and constipation pains were UNBEARABLE. I also had significant bleeding with the last surgery. With this lap, my main issues have been nausea, pain in my left ovary (probably from the stitches IN my ovary... just a guess), and fatigue. No bleeding whatsoever, and minimal gas and constipation. The fatigue isn't fun. It hits me very suddenly. I'll be fine one minute, and the next I feel lightheaded and I HAVE to lay down.

I managed to get out of the house for about 10 minutes yesterday and take a (very slow) walk around the neighborhood with Joey and Danica. Today our goal is to get me out for a longer period of time. We're going shopping for comfy pants that I can wear to work next week, since my belly is currently swollen to the point where I cannot see my feet, and probably grab some dinner. Tomorrow we'll go grocery shopping, so that will get me out of the house yet again before I have to return to work on Monday.

Progress. That's all that matters.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

the story of lap #2

I'm still hopped up on Vicodin, so I apologize in advance if some of this makes no sense or if there are typos.

He didn't take out the ovary.

We had a long conversation before surgery: me, the doctor, and Joey. The doctor was great. He had a much better demeanor than the first time I met him on Wednesday - didn't seem as egocentric. I think looking at my ultrasound photos changed his tune a lot. He told me what he planned on doing while inside of my abdomen, including his plan to remove the ovary if it did not look like it was salvageable. We agreed to that plan, and after the surgery, he said it didn't concern him enough to remove it. There was no loss of blood flow - a good sign. And as irritated as part of me was that he kept it in, I understood and trusted his judgment in doing it.

However, he did cut off some ovarian tissue when removing the cyst. I guess when I had my last lap, my RE only drained the cyst without removing the cystic tissue. This doctor did that. He also saw no endometriosis, confirming that it's not my endometriosis that is causing the cysts. I go back one week from today for a post-op appointment to discuss in more detail what he did and what my options are going forward. For now, I do have pictures of my insides to look at. Since they are slightly more graphic than my ultrasound photos, I think I'll refrain from sharing them here. :)

After surgery was rough. It took them a long time to get me out of anesthesia, and when I came out, my breathing was not normal and my oxygen levels were low. To put it nicely, my post-op nurse sucked. She was too busy chatting with the other nurse to notice I was having trouble. Of course, the fact that I couldn't get her attention made me panic and made my breathing even worse. I started to feel tears rolling down my cheeks. Luckily, the anesthesiologist walked through at that same time and told the nurse I needed immediate attention. He calmed me down and the nurse gave me an injection through my IV to help me relax.

Once I was stable, the shitty nurse moved me to recovery and didn't tell my recovery nurse I was there. Cue panic after 20 minutes of lying there and no one responding to my call button. Finally, the curtain opened and there was Joey. It turns out that the same shitty post-op nurse never bothered to tell him he could come back. He finally just walked back on his own. Joey got the recovery nurse and they both helped me get my breathing under control again.

After that, we had to wait until I peed before they would discharge me. We waited for three hours. I kept drinking water, but nothing would come out. Instead, I was getting nauseous. I finally peed a little bit around 5 pm, and they released me shortly after. I was so happy to go home. Unfortunately, last night was rough, too. I ended up vomiting four times - mostly all of the fluid I drank to try to get me to pee. I did finally start peeing normally last night. I got up almost every hour to go because of the pain of my poor, swollen bladder, so I didn't get much sleep.

This morning was my first meal, which sat well. I think it's safe to say the nausea has passed. I'm sore today, but I don't feel nearly as bad as I did the day after my last lap, and this time I even have an extra incision. I also don't have the gas pains in my chest and back as bad as I did with the last surgery. The other "side effects" seem to be worse this time, though, like the nausea and trouble peeing. I've already started taking stool softeners. I do NOT want to go through what I did last time with the constipation.

Thank you all so much for the continued good thoughts and support. It means so much to have people behind me, cheering me on. And now? It's back to my semi-permanent spot on the couch for a nap with my hubby and my dog.

Monday, March 7, 2011

surgery is set

I'm having surgery tomorrow morning. It's another lap, and the doctor will remove the cyst. He'll also examine the ovary. I will make it clear prior to surgery that I prefer for the ovary to be removed, but I have no idea if that's in his mind or not. I haven't spoken to him.

This is all happening so fast.

Less than 20 hours and counting.

Saturday, March 5, 2011


I need surgery. It will be at some point this month - possibly as early as this week. I have a 5 cm cyst on my left ovary, which is enlarged (ovaries typically have a volume of 5-15 ml and my left ovary has a volume of 130 ml).

I have no idea yet what the surgery will entail. If it will be another lap or if they will take out the ovary. We are going to try desperately to convince them to remove it all together. If not, I will certainly ask for testing of the tissue and the cyst.

That's all I know for now.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

here's what i know

I know that I have a cyst, because I saw it on the ultrasound screen at the hospital yesterday.

Beyond that, I know nothing.

I went to the new doctor yesterday morning, and he gave me the same sad song:

"There's nothing I can do."
"I can write you a prescription for Depo-Provera."
"I don't want to put you through another lap."
"You are too young for me to feel okay with removing your ovary."

He wasn't going to do blood work. He simply wanted to send me off with a pile of prescriptions. When they told me I'd have to wait to get in for an ultrasound for at least another day, I lost it. I walked out.

Joey, fortunately, went back in and explained to the woman at the scheduling desk what was going on. I was in pain, and I had reached my wits end. She told him that we should schedule an ultrasound with a local hospital, and that they would send over the images in the morning for the doctor to review. Several phone calls later, Joey made arrangements for me to get the testing done at a hospital up the road.

It was there where I went through the longest ultrasound of my life.

One hour from start to finish. They must have taken at least 50 photos. The tech called in another tech to look.

Then, there was silence – except for the ticking of the clock and the occasional whooshing sound of my empty uterus when they wanted to record the sounds.

I managed to catch a glimpse of the screen long enough to see a cyst, but that was it. The two techs whispered about something being "posterior or anterior?" and they focused long and hard on the bottom of my uterus, near my pubic bone (almost at my cervix).

Then that was it. One of the techs escorted me back to the waiting room.

And now? I'm still waiting, over 24 hours after my appointment.

I’m waiting and trying desperately to calm that sinking feeling in my gut.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

bear with me

I know I've been absent.

I'm sorry.

But I'm sort of unraveling at the seams, physically speaking.

I have a doctor's appointment tomorrow morning.