Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Something Changed

Three years ago today:

We're not on the road we expected to travel...but then again we never did follow the rules. We've gone through so much in these three short years and life has often been hard. We've taken it out on ourselves and on each other. We haven't always lived up to our potential as a couple.

But we've kept those promises we made, three years ago today, and we're stronger for it. These three years have sometimes felt endless and yet, thank god, they are only the beginning. The rest of our story is yet to be written.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

bippity boppity boo

I’m a crier. Full blown, mascara streaming, red nose and hiccupy breathing kind of crier. Everyone cries at Steel Magnolias or Beaches (everyone with a soul, anyway), but it takes a special person to cry like a little baby at Untamed Heart – a 1993 movie starring Christian Slater that left me hysterical for DAYS, although at this point I have no recollection as to what the movie was about. Songs bring me to tears on a regular basis, and not just sad ones. Fairytale of New York can usually get me going. On the Radio usually provokes a tear or two. Don’t even get me started on Fix You. But it’s not just pop music – even the right Christmas carol will have me whimpering (keep in mind, I’m not a religious person).

I don’t think I’ve ever attended a wedding without blubbering like a baby. Always out of sheer joy for the new couple, of course (except for that time my mom married that guy. But not to worry, the subsequent divorce brought joyous weeping from everyone involved.) I obviously cried at my own wedding: in mourning for my new husband’s sister who died suddenly a few days prior, in bliss at the traditional vows we shared, in frustration at the DJ who just wouldn’t follow direction and in embarrassment at a groomsman’s speech that I still get asked about.

And my miscarriages. Well. To say there were tears wouldn’t begin to explain. To say there still are tears gives you some idea of where I am…and might always be.

I knew my IVF cycle had failed a few days before the beta. I’d decided to test out the trigger but didn’t get around to peeing on a stick until 11 days past trigger. I was surprised at getting a faint positive, even then, but didn’t think much else of it. When the next day, at 12 days past trigger, I got a slightly darker positive I started Googling about super early BFPs. One more faint positive and I was convinced I was having triplets. Until they started fading. Soon I was getting clear BFNs. It was really too early for even a chemical pg (and I should know) – I was just a cautionary tale of letting your mind and heart run away with your sanity when testing out a trigger.

But I didn’t cry.

I got AF the night before my beta. I was still on progesterone but there was no mistaking AF’s nasty appearance. By that point the HPTs were starkly white and I *knew* without a shadow of a doubt that I wasn’t pregnant.

But I didn’t cry.

The next morning I drove 45 miles for the blood test that I had to take, even though I knew the result. The nurse tried in 3 veins before finally getting the sample she needed. I sat stoically as she explained that my number would be very low – it was only 11dp3dt, after all. And I told her not to worry; it didn’t matter; I wasn’t pregnant. The phonecall a few hours later confirmed what I knew to be true and the cycle was over.

But I didn’t cry.

I was sad. I was devastated and miserable. All my hopes seemed futile and all my dreams seemed lost. The faces of all the babies I’d lost, faces that I’d never see, came floating back to me in visions of a life unfulfilled. But I was ok, relatively speaking. My husband stayed home from work that day (more upset than me, really) and we sat with each other quietly. We ate McDonald’s. We even laughed some. And I didn’t cry.

That night I opened an email from a girl whom I’d never met face to face, but who was enduring her first IVF cycle as well. (A cycle that mirrored mine in too many unfortunate ways.) She shared with me how sorry she was that I wasn’t pregnant and confided that she felt she was headed for the same outcome. And tucked into the end of the email was the most generous offer I’d ever received: generous monetarily and generous in spirit. She had recently gotten a job with infertility insurance coverage, and therefore had a plan for IVF #2. Over her years of battling the infertile beast she’d done a number of cycles with injects which she had paid out of pocket for. Over the course of too many cycles she wound up with extra meds; lots of extra meds. And this girl (who was always so sweet and generous with kind words) offered them to me. No strings attached: she had coverage and I didn’t, so she wanted me to have all the meds she’d bought over the past year.

And finally I cried.

I cried like a baby at her pure, giving spirit. And I cried for knowing that she had given me a gift so much bigger than the thousands of dollars of medication. She was giving us the chance to try again and if things went as planned, she was giving me the gift of a child. I didn’t feel (don’t feel) that I’ve done enough good in the world to deserve such an offer, but she insisted. And so, like my life had been tapped with the wand of a true fairy godmother my day was turned around, my life was turned around and what had started with a morning of grief ended in an evening that renewed my faith in the goodness of humanity. Which is, of course, a gift unto itself.

This gift is the main reason we will be doing IVF #2 in September (before the meds expire), rather than waiting until next year…or the year after that. The meds I’ve been given will cover an entire cycle and maybe more. I still come to tears every time I think of what we’ve been given; and I will continue to do everything I can to pay it forward.

Thank you, Gretchen, for bringing me to tears the day of that negative beta. You truly are my fairy godmother.

(Go wish Gretchen luck. She's in the middle of IVF #2 and deserves all the good wishes we can muster! And more!)

Friday, July 18, 2008

the truth is out there

It's been said that there is no such thing as "TMI" in the world of online IF chat. I'm not convinced of that. Sure, I may have discussed my sex life and mucous and pubes (oh my!), but there must be topics out there that are too much, even for the haggard, old ears of the barren. We show each other photos of 8 cell embryos and pictures of needle-induced bruises. We help one another interpret lines on sticks we've actually urinated on. And once initiated in the Success After Infertility club the braver among us might even discuss hemorrhoids - with people we've never met, in a forum that can be read by anyone on earth. We're a brave and open bunch, that is for certain.

So why, then, has nobody ever mentioned the Alien Ass Pods?

How many of you reading right now have been diagnosed with PCOS? Oodles, I imagine - it seems almost as common a diagnosis as MoTHerFuckeR. I've seen countless discussions about the symptoms, endless cycles, treatment options and diet suggestions. Girls are open about the side effects of the medication they're prescribed to combat PCOS, although the daintier "stomach upset" is a more common complaint than the more truthful "diarrhea from hell". And yet there is no talk of Alien Ass Pods.

I was first put on Metformin last summer. I'd had a few failed Femara cycles (O, but no BFP) but wasn't ready to move on to the big, bad world of injectibles. My RE and I powwowed and decided to approach the next cycle with a "kitchen sink" mentality. We were sticking with Femara but using Endometrin (over the possibly less-powerful Crinone of previous cycles). We were moving on to IUI over TI, even though my husband had managed to knock me up 4 times already. And we were throwing in Met. "What the hell," we thought. Why not. I didn't really show signs of PCOS (aside from a predilection towards moles), but Met was cheap and it couldn't really hurt.

I started my prescription on a Friday, just before leaving for a camping trip. I was diligent in taking my pills that weekend. I'd pop a few just before grabbing a beer and sitting my ass in a river with girlfriends. I spent all weekend in that river; laughing, relaxing and reconnecting after another failed cycle. When I returned home to my hubby a few days later I was dirty, tired and a bit hungover - the indoor plumbing was a welcome sight.

When I used the bathroom the next morning I thought I saw...something, just before it was swept out of view. I wasn't really certain I hadn't imagined it and tried to forget. I popped my pills and life went on. The next morning I knew it wasn't my imagination. There was definitely "something" in the toilet. Oval. Yellow. Big. Floating. I tried to ignore it, but my mind began to whir. The next day there were two - no, three! - of these objects, these Alien Ass Pods! They looked like eggs; eggs coming from an area that should not be laying eggs. And how big was the animal that laid eggs that size? What the hell had crawled out of that river and into my intestines???

I scoured the internet for answers, but how do you Google "big f'ing scary pods in my shit!"? I wasn't getting any relief and fearful that the aliens might that very moment be feasting on my duodenum, I asked my mom, who had accompanied me on my trip to the river, if she was having any "issues". Free of A.A.P.s herself but concerned about my insides she started Googling with me. Talking through it ("they're BIG") and dissecting the events of the week prior, talk turned to meds. And suddenly I realized - those pods looked an awful lot like my Metformin ER tablets. They were bigger and yellower, but there was a definite resemblance...

A little more interwebs digging and I had my answer. No parasite had taken refuge in my bowels (or in my uterus, for that matter, damnit!). I just had a very common reaction to a very common medication. The meds are absorbed but the outer casing isn't and thus, Alien Ass Pods are born. I was relieved to have an explanation and thankful to avoid another trip to another doctor. But I couldn't help but wonder why my RE didn't mention this? Why didn't the PCOS girls on my message boards warn me? Shouldn't there be a big, flashing neon light above the pharmacy counter that prepares patients for this terrifying side effect? But nobody was talking. Guess some things *are* TMI - even for the IF community.

A year later and I'm back on Met. Just one day in and the pods are back. All you silent sufferers of Alien Ass Pods, rest assured: You Are Not Alone.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

miracle on 61st street

There was a time when I was a frisky, frisky girl. My number might be quite low, but my unwillingness to go "all the way" (or even most of the way) didn't hamper my desire for a hot makeout session. My first high school boyfriend and I spent the first 2 weeks of our "relationship" talking about anything and everything, but the next 5 months our tongues were tied, literally, sometimes for hours. I was devastated when he dumped me and got over it by systematically breaking the hearts of all his friends. Anything for a (relatively tame but nonetheless) steamy afternoon.

My second boyfriend and I had a more intellectual connection than the first, but the kissing was even better. We found time for both by spending every waking moment together, smooching for hours wherever we could and then slipping each other long, heartfelt notes before saying goodnight. All the conversation without sacrificing any of the action! Eventually I suffered another broken heart, mending it in the usual manner: lots of flirtations, hours spent liplocked with the boy of the hour.

It turned out that breaking *their* hearts got me in the mood just as easily. I capped a 2+ year relationship (my most serious to date) with a series of makeouts in a hammock (harder than it sounds) with a hot but balding boy, who was anything but my type. Wine and flirtation followed by muscles and groping on a warm summer night. To this day I can't help but grin when I spot a hammock...

So imagine my surprise when approaching my 3 year wedding anniversary I, the Makeout Queen, find myself in passionate embraces...infrequently. Rarely. Almost never.

My husband and I kicked off our courtship with a long conversation in a basement bar. I was enthralled by his British accent - he was enthralled by my weakness for a British accent. Before the night was over we were entertwined in a booth, being overwatched by coworkers and the boy who until that night was the center of my flirtations. Five days later after our first date I sated my need for the makeout (while no doubt inflaming other needs for him) with an overindulgent goodnight kiss on his doorstep. We found ourselves seperated by an ocean for the next 2 months of our relationship, relying on talk to keep us afloat. When he returned we resumed the connection, although admittedly with less urgency than we started.

For the next 6 years our sex life was solid. We weren't exactly swinging from chandeliers, but we certainly had our moments - and had them quite frequently. And then we began Trying To Conceive.

It all starts innocently enough - "we'll only do it when we feel like it; we don't want sex to become a job." But the months pass, worries mount and rules get established. Positions are considered, saliva is out, and the timeline - the dreaded timeline - is adhered to. Before long we're doing it out of obligation, not desire. "Let's get it over with" became a common refrain. All that matters at some point is getting the goods where they need to be, everything else is superfluous.

But at least we were still doing it.

When the MFI diagnoses came in everything changed. Sex had long since become a goal oriented procedure and learning that the goal was virtually unattainable changed everything. After almost 2 years of sex-on-command we needed a break. We were still affectionate, but passion just wasn't in the playbook anymore. Not only were we not doing it, I didn't want to do it. At all.

It's easy to make excuses: we're tired, it's late, what's the point. But eventually I couldn't help but wonder what was really behind my "cold-fishery". Was it that the quality had suffered so drastically when the strict limits had been imposed that I simply wasn't physically getting anything out of it anymore? Was I so emotionally exhausted that the idea of feigning delight (or even experiencing it) was overwhelming? Did I harbor some deep, unknown resentment against his organs that failed us like mine already had and couldn't bear to face them? Any of those might be true (and to some degree I suppose all of them are) but no explanation really touched a nerve.


One day it occurred to me, in the middle of cursing the spotting that was now starting 7 full days before my period, that maybe I didn't even want the hope of pregnancy anymore. The 2+ years of wondering, of hoping, of optimism against all odds was exhausting. The roller coaster of infertility was unavoidable, and yet I was trying my hardest to get off the ride. I want a baby but I don't want to hope for a miracle anymore when no miracle is coming. It couldn't be a coincidence that the few times we did it in a month were nowhere near my (increasingly infrequent) fertile period.

There's no doubt that I want to be pregnant. I'm just tired of wanting to be pregnant.


That was the post I planned to write.

Since before we went out of town those words were swirling in my brain. Makeout sessions of yesteryear would pop into my head; welcome reminiscing leading to wondering about the state of my marital bed. For weeks I considered this topic, and then:

we did it.

we did it again.

Next thing you know a week has gone by and more nights have been spent "on the job" than not. And more surprisingly, I initiated it every.single.time. Not out of obligation or some sense of wifely duties, but because I wanted to. Desire, longing, even a little passion. Where is this coming from, especially when I'm spending so much time mentally writing about my lack of interest? And then it hit me: after spending months with no real plans of how to proceed with IVF #2, suddenly things are moving. Doctor's appointments are being made, funding is coming together. It's clear that we're going to get to try again. (Try in a way that means something, not in the pathetic, desperate hope of a miracle.) Somehow the IVF planning has released sex from the chains of baby-making and returned it to the loving arms of a couple who ISN'T DEAD YET. We might not get our miracle break-cycle baby, but for the moment we've got our sex life. And that is a miracle in itself.

Can I get a HALLELUJAH?!

(by the way: longest post ever.)

Thursday, July 10, 2008

I'm so tired...

...I haven't slept a wink.

Sorry for the long silence. We went "home" for awhile, back to Wisconsin to visit family, attend a wedding and do our best to relax. But like so many vacations we've returned possibly more tired than when we left. My brain is barely up to laundry, muchless verbose musings about my vagina (a word I prefer to pronounce "vag-in-a", for the record). Hopefully I'll be back soon with a post about our sexlife, or lack thereof. I'm sure you're on the edge of your seat.

In somewhat exciting news, we might be moving forward with IVF #2 sooner than initially anticipated. If things go well, September could be a big month...