Wednesday, January 28, 2009

about the eight

Oh, woman who just had eight babies, what were you thinking? Seriously? Did you not consider how much worse this was going to make it for every woman who is trying, valiantly, to explain to her in-laws, nosy neighbors, well-meaning colleagues, and super-fertile friends the truth about fertility treatments? Did you not know that now, every person we might confide in will automatically respond, "you'd better be careful, you might have eight!" And how much this will irritate an already fragile population of women whose reproductive health is roundly misunderstood by, oh, 98% of the population?


(What? I'm overreacting, you say? Are you suggesting that this is not, in fact, all about me? Humph.)

This reminds me of the weight-loss commercials you see for programs like Nutri-System and Jenny Craig, where the featured celebrity tells you that she lost "forty pounds in a week and a half! And it's so easy! You can do it too!" and you notice, maybe, in the corner of the screen, a sentence in The World's Tiniest Font announcing that said celebrity's weight loss is "not typical." Of course, the typical weight loss customers don't make for exciting commericals. Nobody wants to see your next-door neighbor on a commerical announcing, "I lost two pounds in a month! And even that was way harder than I thought, and this packaged food tastes like crap!"

So, one easy blame-factor here is the media. For every successful high-order-multiple birth, there must be hundreds which don't go nearly as well. But we don't hear about those. In the equivalent of tiny font, broadcasters tells us that risks in these situations are very high, but let's face it - that doesn't really sink in when you see eight tiny, reasonably healthy, very sweet babies on the screen.

I always believed that I would not choose to do in-vitro. I thought that if I had fertility trouble, I would go straight to adoption. And yet here we are, at the precipice of IVF #1, and my perspective has changed. So, on the one hand, I really can't cast too many stones at this mother (and father). We can surprise ourselves. You can't know with 100% certainty what you'll do in any given situation until you're in it.

But, honestly, I do believe their decision to have all eight was horribly irresponsible. As much as I enjoy watching Jon and Kate Plus 8, when they start talking about how it was "God's will" for them to have these six babies, I just shut down. I believe in God. I go to church every week, actually. I've been pretty pissed off at God during this whole infertility thing, but I believe God can take that.

As far as I can tell, this particular couple hasn't thrown around the "God's will" thing (yet), and maybe they never will. But, seriously - is that what people really think? If so, how come nobody says, "well, we're infertile, I guess that's the will of God." If you find yourself in a situation that can be changed, how come you think that God's will always lands on the side of the change you want?

I don't think infertility is the will of God. But I'm equally unconvinced that you can take fertility drugs, find yourself pregnant with a litter, and then say, "oh! It's the will of God!" At the very least, you have to think about what kind of shitty theology that produces. If God really goes around interfering directly in people's reproductive systems, then what about a couple who tries IVF seven times and never succeeds? Is that the will of God? What about someone who gets pregnant with six babies, who are born prematurely and all die within the first month? Where's God there? And where's your personal responsibility?

Well. Enough of that for now. Their decision is entirely personal, of course, and it doesn't matter a bit what I think about it, as far as they're concerned. But infertility is such a misunderstood reality that I get frustrated when the little information that's actually out there leads to even more misunderstandings. Just for the fun of it, I'd like to clear up a few things. In honor of the eight babies, here are eight truths about least for me:

1. Not all fertility treatments will lead to having eight babies.

2. In-vitro fertilization is actually the best way to AVOID having eight babies.

3. Saying "just relax" is not helpful. Infertility is not caused by not relaxing. Go tell a cancer patient to "just relax" and see how that goes over.

4. We, the infertile women and men of America, do not want to hear about how your "best friend's cousin's neighbor's co-worker" got pregnant right after she gave up trying to get pregnant and adopted instead. These stories are 1.) largely apocryphal and 2.) not helpful anyway.

5. We are not being bitter when we remain convinced that someone who has not endured infertility simply does not understand the heartbreak of it. It's just true.

6. It is not the responsibility of the infertile to adopt all the needy children of the world.

7. Requiring fertility coverage on insurance plans actually decreases the cost of health care. Infertility is a medical condition. Any insurance plan that covers Viagra ought damn well to cover fertility treatments.

8. It is not at all inconsistent that I keep my fertility struggle largely secret and yet expect every celebrity who just happens to give birth to twins at age 43 to admit to any and all fertility treatments. I know this sounds totally inconsistent. Trust me. I have a little magic formula in my head to make this all work out.

Be well, eight babies and mom. As much as I disagree with your decision, I hope with all my heart that you're healthy and thriving. And God knows I hope never to have to face a decision about reducing the number of babies in a pregnancy. Right now, I'm just hoping for one.

ready, set, go

I have a love-hate relationship with roller coasters. I love the parts where you're rocketing down a hill, tearing around a corner - I'm terrified in those moments, for sure, but I love them all the same. On the other hand, I hate the moment when you're crawling up that first big incline, realizing it's now too late to get off, listening to that "tick, tick, tick" sound which means the big drop is just about to happen, and you think, I'm an idiot for being on this thing, I'm insane, why on earth did I do this, get me the hell out of here. Love-hate.

We've been on the infertility roller coaster for awhile, but I think we're finally on the big incline. Monday we met with our doctor and agreed to an in-vitro schedule. Three and nearly-a-half years, a laparoscopy, two failed IUI's, and here we are: on the big hill, climbing up toward IVF. I am completely excited, and completely terrified, and still a little bewildered by the fact that we've finally gotten to this point.
I still think, three years later, that this is not actually happening to us.

My period should start in a week or so, and then...big hill. BIG hill.

Hang on.

That facial expression in the photo? Worth a thousand words. Exactly how I feel, my friend.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

if and when

"Do you have any children?"

I hate this question.

There are a myriad of potential answers, some more appropriate than others:
"Not yet."
"No, we haven't been able to."
"No, I have a rather severe case of endometriosis, for which I had a surgery in September, and my husband's sperm appear to be mostly the wrong shape."

I have never gone with the last option, though I have been tempted every once in awhile.

I know that every woman who struggles with infertility also struggles with how to answer that question.  Sometimes, I think of people I have known who did not have children, and I wonder what their stories are.  I think about my great uncle (a delightful man) and his wife (a, no kidding, seriously crazy woman) and although, in their case, I think it was probably best that they didn't have kids (see earlier comment about crazy woman), I still wonder what their story was.  There weren't many options in the 1940's and 50's, when they would have been trying.  I think about couples I know now, in a fairly cursory way, so that there's not quite the intimacy level required to ask about one's state of fertility.  I wonder how many brokenhearted almost-parents are out there, 'concealing great oceans of pain,' as one friend has written.  Maybe we ought to have a secret handshake.

It's hard enough to answer the "do you have kids," or "when will you have kids" questions from other people.  But right now, the hardest answer to give is to myself.  Do I think of it as, "when we have kids," or, "if we have kids"?  I want to choose "when."  "When" is the hopeful choice, the one which makes a huge and, might I add, expensive, assumption.  It's the future I want, no question.  It's not the future I am guaranteed.

"If" is such a tiny, frail word.  I've never liked it.  It's so...iffy.  It's a dreaming word: "if we get married," "if we move," "if we vote for Obama," "if we make the right choices" - it's a hopeful word too, but the hope is further away.  On your tiptoes, from 'if,' you can see the past, and you can see the future, but there's not quite enough room to stand for long, and you could fall off onto either side.

WHEN is a much broader word.  Twice as much room to stand.  You can stretch out and look calmly at the future from 'when.'  I like it better.

But it might not be as honest.  

I do say 'if' to myself every once in awhile.  More, lately.  It nearly steals the breath from me.  I can see the same struggle in others who know about our fertility struggles, who are giving me advice about future children.  I saw it in my friend's face the other day, my friend who had several years of fertility treatments and a post-IVF miscarriage at 13 weeks, who then adopted two darling boys.  She was trying to make an innocent joke about preschool.   Her lips started to say, "if you have kids..." but she quickly changed it.  "When you have kids," she said, and I knew what she had almost said, but neither one of us acknowledged it.

I wish people would stop asking if we are going to have kids.

On the other hand, the day they stop asking...

maybe I'll just live with the questions.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009


Okay, the President wasn't talking about my reproductive system today, but I feel the need to make a connection.

HOPE, people!  YES WE CAN!  Did you hear that, eggs?  This is the year!  This is the time to EMBRACE CHANGE and that means you need to CHANGE your stubborn refusal to get pregnant, because in this winter of our hardship, we are going to FORGE AHEAD and with our eyes fixed on the horizon, we are going to have some CHILDREN'S CHILDREN to look forward to!  Got it?  HOPE!  CHANGE!  YES WE CAN!

Right.  Carry on.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

thank you!

First off, thanks to all those who have been reading and commenting - after such a short time in the blogosphere, it's delightful to be generously welcomed.

And thank you as well for the birthday wishes! I enjoyed a FABULOUS sushi lunch and will have a great big glass of wine with dinner. Perks of the fertility-challenged, my friends. I'm enjoying them today.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

what you don't know

The older I get, the dumber I get.  I believe this is true - in a profoundly helpful way some of the time, and in an equally profoundly frustrating way the rest of the time.  

The good part is that you realize, with time, that all your well-meant youthful enthusiasm (read: arrogance) was largely misplaced.  All the things you ABSOLUTELY KNEW - like, for example, that your parents were the DUMBEST PEOPLE EVER - are not so certain any more.  If you are fortunate, you realize that your newfound ignorance is actually a gift, leading you to throw up your hands and end up with a little humility in them as a result.  This part is good.

On the other hand, you also have to come to terms with some of your just-plain-never-going-to-know-that problems.  I am never going to understand how a car works.  Mostly because I don't care.  I am also very unlikely to learn Spanish.  Or to be able to design a website.  You can only know so much stuff.  And this might also keep you humble, but it also gets pretty irritating.  

You'd think this would help you be more patient with other people's ignorance.  Like, for example, the fact that you never knew until the last few years that IVF is specifically NOT the way you end up with a litter of babies in your womb: you'd think that remembering your former ignorance on this topic would give you some patience with all the other people out there who still don't know this.  It doesn't seem to be working that way.

One of the great problems with infertility, I believe, is the secrecy which surrounds it most of the time.  I am contributing to that by maintaining only an anonymous blog.  Some of my reasons for that are very important.  Some are not.  

With secrecy comes ignorance.  You can't know everything.  But you can know some things.  And what I am trying to know, this year, is how to live with our infertility and remain patient when people say well-meant but equally dumb-ass things about fertility and children.

This will take some work.  That's the one thing I do know.

Sunday, January 11, 2009


I have a slight addiction to Home and Garden Television.  Slight.  Take no heed of the small shrine to Candice Olson in my laundry room.

Has anyone else noticed that she is pregnant in every second episode of the show?  For some reason, that became ridiculously apparent today.  I would like to focus on the green glass tile and the extra-fabulous shower in "Top Five Divine Bathrooms," and yet all I can see is her super cute maternity wear.

The fuckwittage continues.

Friday, January 9, 2009

one more thing

One of the things I truly love about my husband is his ability to stay calm and be thoughtful while I am an emotional wreck. Coincidentally, this is also one of the things that drives me insane about him, as generally I respond to his calmness in my wreck-ness by wondering WHAT THE HELL IS WRONG WITH YOU, DON'T YOU HAVE ANY EMOTIONS AT ALL, WHY AREN'T YOU FREAKING OUT LIKE ME, ARE YOU A ROBOT?

Fortunately he stays calm during most of that too.

A few years ago, my mom was having a lot of trouble with sleep deprivation related to menopause. The woman did not sleep through the night (hardly slept at all, actually) for, like, four years. She tried everything. She was on those "oops, these cause cancer" drugs for awhile and then, naturally, stopped taking them once the whole "oops, these cause cancer" thing came out. She tried sleeping pills of various kinds, but didn't want to get addicted. She tried sleeping in a different bed, at different times, black-out curtains, white noise machines...everything. Her last resort, she said, was to try acupuncture.

So four years go by, and she still hasn't tried acupuncture, and at one point I asked her, "why haven't you tried that yet? It can't hurt, it's worth trying - don't you want to give it a shot?" And she said, "the only reason I haven't tried it is because it's my last hope, and if I try it and it doesn't work, I have nothing left to try. As long as I haven't tried it, I can still hope it will work."

She finally tried it. It worked. Completely.

I sort of got it at the time, her slightly crazy logic. But now I really, really get it. In-vitro is our last hope. As long as we haven't tried it, we can still hope it will work. Once we try it - well, what if it doesn't work? What if we try it all the times we can afford to (which will be, probably, twice), and it doesn't work? We are probably not interested in adoption, for various reasons. (I'm working on a post about that for later). So, in these two weeks of waiting for our IVF consult with the doctor, I am starting to consider the very real possibility that we will not have children. Ever. That I will never be a mother. Never. That this might not work. And that, if it doesn't, we will have nothing left to try.

(If, by the way, you suggest that there might be a miracle, I will kick your ass. You will be right, of course, but that will not stop the ass-kicking. So be careful.)

This realization is causing some serious emotional breakdowns for me, in which my husband - coming around to the beginning here - has remained his usual calm, collected self. Last night, my emotional wreck-ness finally collided with his calm-ness, and there was a blowup. We came through it okay. I feel slightly less wrecked today.

But just when I think this whole infertility thing can't get any harder, it does. Infinitely so. And that really freaks me out, because I cannot even begin to imagine how it will feel if IVF fails. Our chances are quite good. But they're never one hundred percent. And, until now, I have been able to tell myself there was always one more thing we could try. We could try getting tested. We could try the lap surgery. We could try an IUI. We could try one more IUI.

Now, we're down to our last one more thing. And I am terrified.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

there are some things money CAN buy.

Our big in-vitro appointment with the doctor is on January 26th. I really like my doctor. But, like most docs, he's not big into answering the "so, how much will this actually cost?" question. This is his standard answer to that: "call the financial services department."

So, yesterday I called the financial services department to get the lowdown. Should my life at any point need to be commercialized by the MasterCard people, here's how it might go:

In-Vitro Fertilization Procedure: $10,000 - $13,000.
Medications for Said Procedure: $2500 - $7000.
Baby: Priceless. And yet, HELLA expensive.

In a piece of allegedly good news (will get to the 'allegedly' in a bit), my health insurance has added a fertility benefit this year. $10,000 lifetime maximum (HA! chump change) can be applied to a fertility treatment(s) of your choice. Sounds good, right?

Allegedly. If you have this benefit, you aren't eligible for the shared risk program. Which means you pay the whole amount for only one try. ONE TRY. Our odds are good, but still - one shot. That's a lot of pressure. And $10K doesn't even cover the cost of one procedure.

So, we could try our one shot and call it a day. But even the realization that we might be at that point was like a punch in the gut. I simply cannot acknowledge, at this point, that I might never have children. I can't do it.

So we could try our one insurance-aided shot, and then spend the additional $25-27K to enter the shared risk program which, by the way, does not include the cost of medications.

Or we could try once and then spend another $20K to try once more, and then call it a day.

Or I could wake up from this nightmare.

I choose door number three.

congratulations! i hate you.

The only thing I hate more than other people's pregnancy announcements is the fact that I hate other people's pregnancy announcements.

The thing is, I never know how I'm going to react. One of my closest friends told me she was pregnant just a few weeks ago, and I was truly happy for her - a little twinge of jealousy, but nothing much. It flitted through my mind that we started trying while she was still pregnant with child number one, but I didn't dwell on it.

On the other hand, we heard from Husband's Aunt that her daughter is pregnant, and this threw me into a complete funk for days. I was angry and hurt and frustrated and bitter and super, super pissed off at the universe and God. I cried myself to sleep, when I finally did get to sleep.

What's the difference? Is it because my friend knows about our infertility and so was careful about the way she told me? Maybe. Is it because Husband's Aunt was so totally underwhelming in her response to hearing about our three-year baby quest? ("Well, sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn't," she said. THAT'S IT? You are a freaking NURSE, for God's sake. You, when hearing about someone attempting invitro, you should know fucking better than to say, "oh, goodness, you'll end up with six!" Excuse me while I beat my head against your kitchen wall.)


Or maybe it's just the emotional fuckwittage of infertility. This is what I have determined Bridget Jones would call it. Complete fuckwittage. You think you are one person, a kind and generally gracious person, and then you hear about someone else's good news, and you pretty much want to push them off a bridge. See? Fuckwittage.

I hate feeling that way. Every time I determine NOT to feel that way, it pops back up like a leak in the dam. Stick your finger in one place, stop the water - and it just shoots out someplace else.

Husband always sweetly tells me that it is completely normal to feel this way, and of course it is. I know he's right. But I'm tired of feeling normal. I want to feel happy. I want to feel totally, unashamedly, un-bitterly (new word alert) happy for pregnant people.

What I really want is to be the person with the pregnancy announcement. If that never happens, I have no idea what level of fuckwittage will ensue. Let's hope we never find out.


To the, no doubt, millions of fans who will be reading this:

I am 35. One week from today, I will be 36. (Side note: did you know that Princess Diana died at age 36? Of course you did. Everyone knows that.)

I have been married for four years. We have been trying to get pregnant for three years. Here's the quick and dirty summary:

Year One: The Year of Denial. In which Husband and I remind each other that it can take up to a year to get pregnant, and hey, we're not entirely spring chickens here, so let's not panic, and also, this is really good, because now we have more time for just the two of us, but as the year goes by, we start to get a little bit worried, especially me, because everybody I know is getting pregnant a lot faster than this.

Year Two: Problems With the Boys. In which we discover that Husband has some Swimmer Issues. Apparently, they're mostly the wrong shape. (SHAPE? We have to care about the shape of these damn things? Shit. In 8th grade health class, they don't tell you that. They just tell you that if you don't put the condom on the banana, or cucumber, or whatever, you'll get pregnant sure as look at you. They lie. And also, the Civil War was not just about slavery.) In which we are also told that in-vitro is probably our best bet. That was a bad day.

Year Three: Problems with the Girls. In which we move to a new city, find a new doctor, sell our house in the midst of a horrible market, live apart for six months (thus decreasing our already slim chances of pregnancy), discover endometriosis, have lap surgery, try IUI twice, fail both times, and now find ourselves back at in-vitro.

Three years ago, we threw away the birth control pills. I thought we'd have a toddler by now. This is how we've been interrupted along the way.