Thursday, April 30, 2009

Dear Private Practice

Continuing with this week's "open letter" theme...

Dear Private Practice, a show on ABC I watch only because it's right after Grey's Anatomy and I am too lazy to change the channel,

I'll keep this short.

If you keep using rabidly inaccurate medical terminology in your fertility segments, I will quit watching.

As in tonight, when the so-called "expert" on the show referred repeatedly to "implanting" embryos (and, by the way, let me add how SUPER HELPFUL it is to create a storyline about mixing up the embryos of two women, because there is already SO MUCH accurate, timely, thoughtful information out there about assisted reproductive technology that I just LOVE IT that you decided to give people EVEN MORE REASONS to have NO IDEA what the whole thing is about).

You do not "implant" embryos, dumbasses.  You "transfer" them.  If you are damn, damn lucky, they implant.  (In the right place.) 

Actually, if you keep using this verb, I will most likely "implant" my remote in the television, resulting in a.) much damage to my TV and b.) a very pissed-off husband.

Do.  Your.  Research.  You can bet that every fertility patient watching sure as hell has.



Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Dear Sarah Jessica Parker

Dear Sarah Jessica Parker,

Last night, during my fairly regular nighttime routine of checking out celebrity news on People's website, I read that you and Matthew Broderick are expecting twin girls via a surrogate. Pardon me for writing to you about this, since I realize you don't know me and I really don't know you either, although I do own the pink-velvet-boxed edition of The Complete Sex and the City series, and I did force my husband to traipse through the neighborhood of New York which contained your apartment on the show, even though it was a bloody hot day. (On the off chance that you were around that day, by the way, I just want to apologize for the tennis shoes. I was horrified to be wearing glaring white clodhoppers while visiting Carrie Bradshaw's apartment, but I don't think I have the same ankle strength you do. Sorry.)

Anyway. I'm not a stalker, I swear. I did read some of the comments on the People story, however, and I wanted to tell you to be sure to stay the hell away from that site. My heart hurt for you when I read "it's called adoption, egomaniacs." I hope that you know there are men and women out there who understand the torment of infertility and the pull toward biological parenthood, even when that seems illogical to others.

And then there were a bunch of comments about how you must have chosen surrogacy because you didn't want to "wreck your body" with a pregnancy, and someone who said, "maybe if you can't have kids, it's the universe telling you that you shouldn't, so why wouldn't you pay attention to that?" I'm not sure why on earth people feel the need to write this stuff on a public website, but I hope you don't read it. I mean, I can't imagine that you sit around your Manhattan apartment reading comments on the People website, but I suppose it's possible. It's even more possible that people have said these sorts of things to you in real life, probably without knowing the heartache you were enduring.

I'm hoping that you might be willing to talk a little bit about living through infertility. I don't know if you've noticed, but your profession seems to be full of women in their 40's who miraculously have twins and swear up and down that they never had fertility treatments. Which means that either a.) professional acting confers on one extraordinary fertility status and I ought to get myself into said profession pronto; or b.) they are lying. In the spirit of Carrie Bradshaw, I can't help but wonder if they know how much damage that does. There's nothing shameful about getting screwed over by your own body. It just happens. It's enormously difficult no matter what form it takes, but it's not your fault.

And to all those people who say, "well you shouldn't have waited so long, you're too old anyway," (yes, actual comment on the website) - well, there are things I could say to them. But I won't. Fertility declines with age; we all know this. But I'm eight years younger than you, and I started trying almost four years ago, and my body would have put these same obstacles in my way even if I had started trying when I was 21. Age isn't everything.

So don't read the People website. (Probably good advice for me too.) Pay no attention to the cruelty in the world. I'm delighted for you. I hope you might have the courage to speak about infertility and give it some kind of decent, intelligent, real-life voice in this world. I wish you all the best.


P.S. Have you ever called Matthew "Ferris" by accident? Like, if you can't find him in your apartment, have you ever gone around the house saying, "Bueller? Bueller? Bueller?" in a Ben-Stein kind of voice? No. I'm sure not. Clearly I am a child of the '80's.

P.P.S. If you have any extra Manolos in a freakishly-too-large-for-you size (like, say, size 8 1/2), I would totally take those off your hands. Okay. That's it.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

small good thing

Okay.  I need to focus on something else for awhile.  So I decided to try and notice some small good things around me - like the (periodic) sunshine today, and the truly tasty quiche I made for breakfast.

But today's photographic small good thing is what really made my day:

We finally hung the clothesline.  We bought it four years ago, had it up for two, moved to another house and never found the right place for it, then moved here, and eight months later...clothesline!  The smell of freshly dried sheets - there's nothing better.

Small good things.  They keep you going.

Friday, April 24, 2009

one percent.

I'm trying to think of other things today, but it's not working.  The only thing going through my head are these two words:

"One percent.  One percent.  One percent."

One last test showed another abnormally rising beta number yesterday, so I've officially been diagnosed with an ectopic pregnancy.  I had a conference with the doctor today, and she typed it out in my chart:

"Empty uterus.  Abnormally rising betas.  Presumed ectopic."

"This happens rarely, right?" I asked the doctor.  "Yes," she said ruefully, "in one percent of IVF patients."

One percent.  One percent.  One percent.  It's like a freaking broken record in my head.

The treatment at this stage is a shot of methot.rexate, which is a drug used for chemotherapy.  It kills "rapidly developing cells," such as those in the placenta my badly-placed embryo is trying to create.  "Probably," I won't require surgery.  "Probably," there won't be too many side effects.  "Probably," I will need only one dose.

Yeah.  Forgive me if I'm not big on "probably" right now.

The idea of a miscarriage was bad enough.  This - this one percent anomaly - makes me bitter.  One lousy, crummy, god-damned (I mean that literally) percent.  I am very, very tired of being on the wrong end of statistics.  

I was more comfortable feeling sad.  Sad felt right.  It was okay to be sad, because sad goes away after awhile; sad is how you should feel when you have a miscarriage.

But this wave of bitterness swallowing me right now scares me more than any reaction I have ever had.  I am really, really fucking pissed off.  A LOT.  The intensity of it freaks me out.  I hate the world right now.  I hate my doctor.  I hate that we built up our hopes only to have them slowly killed over a god-damned two week period.  I hate people who are pregnant.  (Don't take this personally if you are.)  I hate everything.  

I also hate feeling this way.

I'm sure the intensity of this will die down over time.  But it's going to take awhile.  At this point, if my bitterness decreases one percent each day, I'll be lucky.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

in which statistics bite me in the ass. again.

Let's review some statistics, shall we?

According to the CDC's website, up to 10% of the general population has fertility problems.

So, let's take 10 million people.

1 million of them have some kind of fertility problem.

Generally speaking, 40% of fertility problems are male; 40% are female; the other 20% are either unknown, or both partners.  Let's split the number and say that 10% are both partners.

Now we're down to 100,000 people.

The CDC estimates that about 85% of fertility problems can be solved without extreme medical intervention (read: IVF).  So, up to 15% of those 100,000 people will try IVF.

15,000 people.

Let's say they all go to my clinic and they're all in my age range.  In which case, they have a 50-60% chance of success.  We'll split the difference: 55%.

2250 people.

Of IVF patients, approximately 1-2% will end up with an ectopic pregnancy.  Again, we'll split the difference: 1.5%.

That's 34 people.

So, today's three-part lesson is as follows:

Part one: I have an ectopic pregnancy.  Damn it.

Part two: I am one of maybe 34 out of TEN FREAKING MILLION PEOPLE to whom this will happen.  DAMN IT.  (That is a .0000034% chance, in case you were wondering.)

Part three:  I should seriously consider buying a lottery ticket.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

get lost

"When the safety net has split, when the resources are gone, when the way ahead is not clear, the sudden exposure can be both frightening and revealing. We spend so much of our time protecting ourselves from this exposure that a weird kind of relief can result when we fail. To lie flat on the ground with the breath knocked out of you is to find a solid resting place. This is as low as you can go. You told yourself you would die if it ever came to this, but here you are. You cannot help yourself and yet you live." (Barbara Brown Taylor, An Altar in the World)

I do not pretend that this miscarriage is the worst thing in the world that will ever happen to me. Maybe it is, which would be great, because I would certainly prefer not to sink any lower than this, ever. But human life being what it is, there is undoubtedly plenty of loss ahead.

And I do not pretend that this loss of ours is worse than any other loss. I mourn for a child who was not anywhere close to being born, and it helps me to understand a tiny, tiny portion of the grief parents must feel for a born child who dies, for a child who "should" have been born but died instead. There is no winner in an Olympics of pain. Every loss hurts.

I find myself consumed by the desire to get this over with, which struck me yesterday as a particularly crass response. I do not like this in-between place: not pregnant, and yet not un-pregnant, yet. This is "not a viable pregnancy," the doctor said yesterday, but what kind of not-viable pregnancy is this, exactly? How is it going to end? How long is it going to take? Nobody can answer this for me. I do not like it here. I want to be clearly something, whatever that is: clearly pregnant (not this time), clearly not pregnant. Pregnancy purgatory sucks.

I've been reading the book I quoted above off-and-on for about a month. Barbara Brown Taylor is one of my very favorite writers. I realized recently that she never had children, which she mentions every once in awhile in her books, though she never explains why. I would like to ask her about that someday. There is a knowledge of grief in her writing which makes me wonder if infertility is part of her story.

This particular book is about awareness of the world as a spiritual practice. For someone like me, who tends to like sitting in the office reading about God and the Bible and other people, the challenge to actually go outside and walk around and pay attention and experience my own body is a good one. Especially now, when most of my thoughts revolve in some way around the current state of my own body. People who know about this have asked me how I feel, and I've been trying to describe that, but I can't find the words for it. This is frustrating for me. I'm good with words. I pride myself at being able to describe human life well and honestly and thoughtfully. I try very hard, in sermons, to choose the right words, the ones which will bear the joy or the hope or the grief of the moment.

And right now, if someone asked me how I was doing, the only thing I can come up with is this: "I don't know."

When I was a kid, I fell off the swingset in our backyard (more than once) and I remember vividly the sensation of lying on the ground with the wind knocked out of me. It's scary, because even when you are old enough to have survived that once or twice and so you know, intellectually, that your breath will come back, the actual experience of being breathless is still terrifying. You have no control. You are suspended in time for a very brief second which feels like a year and a half, until you cough and choke and take the deepest breath you have ever known, and then you peel yourself up off the ground and start over again. Or go crying inside to find your mom.

"To lie flat on the ground with the wind knocked out of you is to find a solid resting place. This is as low as you can go. You told yourself you would die if it ever came to this, but here you are. You cannot help yourself and yet you live."

That's how I feel, I suppose. Wind knocked out of me. Lost. And even if I know that this is a temporary state, I am still trying in every way to catch my breath, because I hate lying here, staring up at the sky, wondering when life will go back to normal.

I am not sure that this current state of lost-ness could be a spiritual practice. About the most spiritual thing I can conjure up lately is a one-word prayer, "Help," which is often preceded or followed by the even-more spiritual prayer, "Screw you, God." (I actually do think that particular combination of prayers is a succinct summary of several of the psalms, but it still doesn't feel great.) The real truth is, of course, that whether or not this lost state could be a spiritual practice is not the point - I don't want to be here, that's the point. Screw spiritual practice. Just get me the hell out of here.

But. Apparently we're lost here for awhile. Might as well try to make some meaning out of it all.

If we ever have a child, I'm not sure we should get a swingset. Or maybe we should. Maybe I'll think about that for awhile.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

something else my body does not know how to do.

Things I do not know how to do:

1. Change the oil in a car.
2. Speak Italian.
3. Eat french toast without gagging.
4. Estimate the number of people in a room.  (Seriously.  I suck at this.)
5. Use power tools.
6. Complete a miscarriage.

So, today's ultrasound revealed nothing.  Which means that if this is an ectopic pregnancy, it was too early to see it.  I'll have another beta on Thursday and we have our fingers crossed that the number will decrease on its own.  If not, then...well, we'll cross that bridge on Thursday.

Right after I learn how to change the oil in my car.

Monday, April 20, 2009


The saga continues.

First beta: 125.
Second beta: 131.
Diagnosis: ecoptic pregnancy or miscarriage.

Third beta: 72.  Diagnosis: Miscarriage.

Today's beta: 147.

Diagnosis: WHAT THE F&CK?

Not sure what's going on.  Maybe ectopic.  Maybe "abnormal pregnancy," according to the nurse - whatever that means.  Don't get me wrong: we're past hoping this will turn out well.  I really just want to get it over with.

Ultrasound tomorrow.  Hopefully more information then.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

don't ask, do tell

I almost told the grocery-store checker yesterday.  And also my hairdresser.  Both of whom asked in that very perfunctory way, "how are you?" and I had to stop myself from saying, "I had a miscarriage."  Or, more accurately, "I am having a miscarriage.  Right now.  As we speak."  

This is not my style.  I am generally not a small-talk kind of person, particularly with store clerks and hairdressers and other casual presences in life.  When you go into a hair salon and you see five or six clients and they're all chatting away with the stylists and then you see one client who is sitting silently with a stylist who doesn't talk at all - that's me.  I used to wonder why I was always the only customer who seemed to get the quiet stylists, until I finally realized that it can't be coincidence: I like it that way.  And it's true.  I'm a private person.  I do a lot of talking in my job, and so when I can be quiet, I prefer it.  It could be read as unfriendly at times, I realize.  But it's mostly the introvert in me, who needs to get out every once in awhile.  Or stay in, as the case may be.

The point being, I would never reveal personal details to a grocery store clerk.  Or hairdresser.  Or guy at the video store.  It's just not my thing.  

Then I almost told a guy who was sitting behind us at the baseball game last night.  Who, I kid you not, talked to his friend the entire nine innings, in a voice which was hard to ignore.  I almost told him because, in inning six, he starting talking about how he and his wife had tried so hard to get pregnant, and how they had done IUI's ("the turkey baster thing," he called it, which is what we had called it too), and then she had gotten pregnant, and then there had been some complications in the pregnancy, but it all turned out okay, and then, he said, "you know, you wait for it for so long, and then all of a sudden, you're just another set of parents with a kid."

Maybe I should have been grateful for the happy ending of another person who struggled with infertility and now is on the other side.  Mostly, I wanted to tell him to shut the fuck up.  I imagined myself standing up during the seventh inning stretch and turning around and saying, "I'm sorry, but I cannot handle you talking about your wife's pregnancy anymore.  Because we have been trying for almost four years, and we did have to do "that in-vitro thing," which you so summarily dismissed in your earlier comments, and right now, I am having a miscarriage from that very thing.  So.  Could you please stop talking about it?  RIGHT NOW?  Also, could you pay attention to the game?  For thirty seconds?  Thanks."

I'm sure that would have made for a charming evening.

I've been puzzled at this piece of my reaction.  What happened to Introvert Girl, who prefers to keep things to herself?  What makes her want to say the word "miscarriage" out loud, practically to any stranger who walks by?  What is THAT about?

It's doubly odd because it's the opposite reaction I've had during our whole struggle with infertility.  I haven't told many people about that at all.  It took me damn near two years to acknowledge it to myself.  And while I've become slightly more open in the last six months, I still prefer not to talk about our infertility with others.  So why on earth do I want to shout MISCARRIAGE from the rooftops?

I think it's this.  For the first few days, I could not talk to anyone about it.  At all.  I could not talk on the phone, or in person, without bursting into tears, which is understandable, but also embarrassing and exhausting.  I emailed a few friends.  My husband called the few family members who had known about our positive test.  I only said the word out loud once or twice.

Then there was silence.  My friends emailed back initially, and some more than once.  But a few of my closest friends for many years (who do not read this blog) have done nothing else.  They have not emailed me.  They have not called.  And I am, truly, hurt.  They have said nothing.  I don't understand that.

My husband's family has not called us again.  I think they are trying to respect my inability to talk about it.  And I, in my selfishness, am simultaneously grateful and irritated.  How dare they do as I ask and not call?  Don't they care?  I know I said I couldn't talk about it.  Can't they read my confused little mind and know that a bit of acknowledgement would still be welcome?  

Grief really fucks you up.  I've always known that.  It's just very, very true.

I think I keep wanting to say this out loud - I think I am writing this entry - because I need to know that this was real, and it really happened, and it really matters.  I was pregnant.  I was.  And then I had a miscarriage.  I did.  I can still hardly believe the whole sequence myself.  And to look at me, you'd never know any of it had happened.  I feel like getting a t-shirt: "Please be careful with me.  I had a miscarriage."  Because, somehow, Introvert Girl wants some public recognition.  I want people to know that my heart still hurts, even if I don't cry all day anymore.  I want my friends to know how devastating this was.  

So I decided to inflict it on the internets.  On you, reader, whomever you are.  You're my substitute Grocery Store Clerk and Hairdresser and Irritiating Guy at the Baseball Game (though I'm sure you're not irritating).  Thanks for listening.  

I think I'll go outside and do some yardwork.  Though I might wait until Neighbor Guy is done mowing his lawn.  I've never actually met him.  And I'm pretty sure that, "Hi!  I'm your neighbor!  I had a miscarriage!" is not quite what he's expecting.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

for the birds

There are these birds outside our front window. They've been there about two weeks now.  I don't know what they do during the day - they seem to commute someplace else - but in the morning and the evening, I can hear them from any room in the house.   They're hurling themselves against the window, over and over and over again.  They sit on the fence perpendicular to the window, and they throw themselves at the glass.  Twenty, thirty times.  Eventually they give up and go away.  And then they come back a few hours later.

Until Monday, these birds were irritating the crap out of me.  My God, I would think, how stupid ARE these birds?  How many freaking times do they have to hit the glass before they figure it out - you can't get in here, you morons?  And what the heck is in here that they want so badly?  Don't they know when to admit defeat?  Any intelligent person (or bird) would realize by now; it just ain't gonna happen, buckos.  LET IT GO.  Move on.  

And also, they are shitting all over the window.  And the fence.

I think about them all the time now.  Except when I am thinking about what on earth might be happening in my body, or how we are going to find the money for additional IVF cycles, and how terrified I am that I will have another miscarriage, or never be successful at all, or trying to stop crying.  Again.  I keep thinking about the birds and their foolish determination to get in here, no matter what.

Forty-one times I have thrown myself at the window and hit the ground outside.  Any reasonable person (or bird) would start to think, doesn't she get it?  Doesn't she understand that it's just not going to happen?  How much more does she have to shit on the window before she realizes that she's still on the ground, outside, dazed and cold and with a massive headache?

I heard the birds again this morning and I lay in bed and thought, keep trying, guys.  Keep going.  If I could open the window for you, I would.  Shit all you want.  I'll clean it up later.  

Someday they'll move on, I suppose.  Not anytime soon, I hope.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

the only prayer I have left. for now.

My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?
Why are you so far from helping me, from the words of my groaning?
O my God, I cry by day, but you do not answer;
and by night, but find no rest.
(Psalm 22:1-2)

Seems about right.

Monday, April 13, 2009

...and now I'm not.

Second beta number: 131.

Not enough.

Either a chemical pregnancy, or ectopic.

Either way, I'm numb.

Friday, April 10, 2009


I know, I know; you're not supposed to say "Alleluia" during Lent.  BUT I DON'T CARE.

Because I'm pregnant.

Wait, I'm going to type that again because I screamed it out loud in the car forty times on the way home, and I still can't quite believe it's real.

I'm pregnant!!!

Beta was at 125, which the nurse said was good for a first number.  The second test is scheduled for 9:15am Monday morning.

Oh, my friends, I can hardly believe this.  Best.  Good.  Friday.  EVER.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

tomorrow, tomorrow

I can't decide whether I'm eagerly waiting for tomorrow to arrive, or whether I'm dreading it. Both, I guess.

On the one hand, this whole belly-of-the-whale/waiting torture/inbetween-time thing just can't go on any longer. It's not sustainable. I cannot keep feeling like my period is coming any second now (I don't feel this way all the time, but more than enough of it). I cannot keep imagining the best and worst scenarios tomorrow might bring, over and over and over again. These have been the longest two weeks of my life.

But on the other hand, the only advantage of dragging out this time is that, while I'm still waiting, there's still reason to be hopeful. Tomorrow will be the end of the hope: either it will be fulfilled, or snuffed out. And the stark reality of that scares the life out of me. My desire to keep hoping is what's prevented me from testing early with a home pregnancy test: unbelievably, there's a part of me that simply doesn't want to know.

But tomorrow will come, whether I want it to or not. Fortunately, I have plenty to keep me busy during the day.

A million thanks to all of you who've been commenting - your support means more than I can say.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

yay! a distraction!

The wait continues - somewhat more hopefully today, for no apparent reason, but still chock full o' wild mood swings.  Now punctuated by a slight headache.  Stress-related, you say?  Surely not.

But, thanks to the generosity of my friend Barefoot and (Not) Pregnant, I have a distraction! Woo hoo! Something else to do besides analyze the twinging sensations in my reproductive system!  

Which means I get to do this:

1. Put the logo on your blog or post.
2. Nominate 10 blogs with great attitude and/or gratitude.
3. Be sure to link to your nominees in your post.
4. Let your nominees know they have received the award by leaving them a comment on their blog.
5. Be sure to link this post to the person who nominated you for the award.

Not a problem - especially finding others to send an award to.  In a very short period of time, I've found the infertility-related blogging world to be a life-saving place.  Since I've been at this particular blog a short time, I don't quite have 10 nominations - but they're increasing every day.  So, my heartfelt thanks to the following bloggers, and many others, for keeping me sane and hopeful on a bumpy road.

1. A Little Hope
2. It's a Zoo Around Here
3. A Real Life
4. Tubeless in Seattle
5. Square Peg, Round Whole
6. In Vitro Veritas
7. The Great Big If...
8. Conceive This!

*And a special note to The IVF Diaries, who hasn't been updating lately after her negative IVF cycle a few weeks ago.  Still thinking often of you.  

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

in the belly of the whale

Yesterday, I took my emotionally fragile self to the acupuncturist. I've been better since my pity-party on Saturday morning; the feelings of doom have subsided, for the most part, but I still find myself swinging wildly between certainty that it worked, and certainty that it didn't. "Breasts are sore again! It worked!" quickly becomes, "oh, crap, period is coming. Can feel it. DOOM! DOOM!" which morphs into, "Ooh! No period! Surely it worked!" which goes back to, "but wouldn't I have implantation spotting? Which I have not had, so...DOOM! DOOM!"

I'm exhausted.

I told all of this to the acupuncturist, who smiled in an understanding fashion and said, "everything you're going through is normal. This is just a big black hole that you're in. It's the hardest part, by far. It's just a huge, gaping black hole of time." And then she said other reassuring things about how breast tenderness is not necessary, and how not spotting is a good thing, and how the progesterone completely fucks up your emotions (she did not use that term, but trust me: it's the truth).

And then I laid on the table, and she felt my pulse and said it feels nice and 'slippery,' which is a pregnancy symptom - but could also be the progesterone. And she put in the needles, and left the room, and I laid there and thought about the black hole. Which reminded me of a poem I had read months ago, having landed in my inbox through the good graces of The Writer's Almanac on NPR. I couldn't remember the whole poem. What I could hear, faintly, in the back of mind, was this line:

be thankful that you are here, swallowed with all hope, where you can rest and wait.

The poem comes from the story of Jonah, one of my very favorite bible stories. I love Jonah for a million reasons. For one, it's the perfect example of how the bible can tell you a truth story that does not have to be a true story. Was there a historical guy named Jonah who fled from God's call and got swallowed by a whale? Who cares? That's not the point. Can this story tell me something true about myself, and about the world, and about God? Well, then. That's the point.

The bible doesn't actually say it was a whale that swallowed Jonah: it was a "great fish," but since I'm not sure that the author of Jonah was familiar with the whole fish/whale/mammal distinction, we'll not bother with that part. For now, in this week of my life, the image of a whale works perfectly. Jonah offered to jump off the boat to save the lives of his fellow sailors. He landed in the ocean, where he surely expected to die, there being a terrible and dangerous storm at the time. He was swallowed by a whale, which always sounds like a punishment, and if nothing else, a horrible fate to endure for three days. It can't have been nice in there. Stinky, slimy, no windows, no control - probably just waiting for death in a different form. Death by digestion instead of drowning.

It turned out, however, that what Jonah thought would kill him was the instrument of his salvation. The whale carries him safely through the waters and spits him out onto the other side (technically, it says that the whale "vomited" him onto the shore, which reminds you that the whole experience was probably not great for the whale either). He finds himself right where he was supposed to have gone in the first place. He thought the black hole would kill him. But it saved him instead.

Which brings us to the poem:

Things to Do in the Belly of the Whale
by Dan Albergotti

Measure the walls. Count the ribs. Notch the long days.
Look up for blue sky through the spout. Make small fires
with the broken hulls of fishing boats. Practice smoke
Call old friends, and listen for echoes of distant voices.
Organize your calendar. Dream of the beach. Look each
way for the dim glow of light. Work on your reports.
Review each of your life's ten million choices. Endure
moments of self-loathing. Find the evidence of those
before you. Destroy it. Try to be very quiet, and listen for
the sound of gears and moving water. Listen for the
sound of your heart.
Be thankful that you are here, swallowed with all hope,
where you can rest and wait. Be nostalgic. Think of all
the things you did and could have done. Remember
treading water in the center of the still night sea,
your toes pointing again and again down, down into the black

This week is a horrible black hole. Sometimes the only things I can do to keep my sanity are all those mundane tasks: organize my calendar, work on my reports, review each of my life's ten million choices.

And hope against hope that this particular black hole is, in fact, carrying me safely to the other side. For now, I will try to remember to rest and wait. Tread water. Keep busy. Wait out the storm.

Saturday, April 4, 2009



Today, for no reason, I feel overwhelmingly as if we were not successful.  There's no real reason for this: I think my feelings of doom started last night, when my breasts felt less sore than they had for the first few days.  It threw me back to all those other cycles when my breasts were sore for a few days after probable ovulation, and then got gradually less so until another failure became evident.  I realize that, in this instance, the sore breasts were a result of the PIO shots, so it may easily be that my body is adjusting to that, in the same way that my bum is less sore than the early days of those shots.  But still - any whiff of failure, and I can't stop myself from skidding down to the very bottom.

I'm tired.  I'm emotionally exhausted.  I had a frustrating day at work yesterday.  I don't want to wait another week.  I feel weepy.  And yes, most of the above actually could be pregnancy symptoms - but they could just as easily not be, and I'm worn out trying to parse the difference.

I'm going to go outside and weed a bit of garden, because the only thing I really want to do is go back to bed and cry, and that won't do anyone any good at all.  So, weeding it is.

Waiting sucks.

Friday, April 3, 2009

don't mind me, i'm just randomizing

Everytime I log onto my blog and start writing a post, I see this tab on the top of the page that says, "Monetize."

And all I can envision is some service whereby Blogger will make your site look like a painting by an impressionist master, all daubs of sunset-y colors and haystacks and maybe some kind of Parisian scene.


Okay. Now my blog has been Monetized.


(This post brought to you by your local Overemotional, Progesterone-Addled, Slightly Stressed Infertile Woman Who Was An English Major and Does Not Understand Our Society's Need to Turn Everything Into a Verb.)

Thank you. Carry on.

one week to go

One week from today, I'll be waiting anxiously for a call from my nurse with bloodwork results.

Which means that next week will officially be the slowest.week.ever.

I'm dreaming of ways to keep myself occupied within the rules of beta-waiting behavior. No extreme exercise. And I read on another blog that someone's RE told them not to do any vacuuming for the first 48 hours, so I have conveniently morphed that into "no vacuuming for the entire two week wait until beta results." So, apart from skydiving or vacuuming, here are some thoughts on ways to keep busy until next Friday:

  1. Work on number of put-aside knitting projects currently sitting in knitting basket. (Check. Am already doing this. But am resisting urge to start new baby sweater.)
  2. Weed yard. (If ever stops raining.)
  3. Build ark. (If never stops raining. But would be fairly extreme exercise, so perhaps not.)
  4. Create menu with lots of new dishes so must spend more time cooking.
  5. Plan fun night out with husband.
  6. Read at least one book from huge pile by bed.
  7. Solve problem of evil in universe. (That should take awhile.)
  8. Babysit five-month old niece in hopes of furthering good baby karma-energy. And also for sheer delight of niece.
  9. Work. (Right. Shouldn't forget that one.)
  10. Pray. All the time. (Check.)
  11. Think positive thoughts. But also try not to be unrealistic. But not be pessimistic. So, be reasonably hopeful. But not start to plan nursery, or anything. But also not doom self before necessary. (That one ought to take awhile too.)
So. There we go. That should make the week go faster.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

IVF life lessons

To keep myself busy during these days of waiting (a nearly impossible task), I've been thinking about what this infertility journey has taught me. To be clear: I don't believe that God gave me this condition to teach me something. In fact, that assertion makes my skin crawl. But I do hope to learn something from it.

This morning, I learned a particularly valuable lesson. And that got me thinking about some others. Such as:

1. You are much less in control of your body than you think you are.

I think anyone who has suffered a significant illness or condition begins to realize this, whether they want to or not. We are told, in our image-based, youth-obsessed culture, that we can and, in fact, that we ought to control our bodies. We can look younger. We can be more fit. We can eat healthy and run marathons and avoid processed meats and buy organic produce, and the end result is supposed to be a "better you," resulting in a "better life." Very Oprah-esque.

The truth is, your body can turn on you in a heartbeat. Literally. Or it can be harboring an anomaly for years, completely unknown to you. And there may be absolutely nothing you can do about this. Which means that it is not your fault. Some conditions have traceable roots: if you smoke, you're more likely to contract a number of things and yes, in that case, I think you bear some responsibility. But those cases are less common than we'd like to believe. Much of the time, there's no clear reason. This is both horrifying and freeing.

As someone who works a lot with people who are dealing with dis-eases of every kind - mind, body, and spirit - this is a good lesson for me. I'd rather have learned it from a book. In fact, I did learn this from books. But I know it in my bones now, in ways no book could teach me. My condition is not life-threatening, and to be faced with that reality is another situation altogether. But even non-life-threatening conditions can be a threat to the life you imagined.

2. And yet, in spite of lesson number one, you may turn out to be much stronger than you anticipated.

Three and a half years ago, when we started this baby-making journey, I spoke with a friend of mine who had done IVF to conceive her daughter. She told me about the details of it, and I thought, "wow. I could never do that. All those shots? And the drugs? I just couldn't do it."

Well. Yeah. Here we are. And, here's a little IVF secret: it's not really that bad. (Don't get me wrong: I know this is spoken by someone who's only done it once, and who is still in a position to hope that it worked. Multiple IVF'rs may have a vastly different perspective. Completely fair.) The shots? Not terrible. The retrieval? I was under anesthetic, and had just some minor cramping afterward. The transfer? Painless. And super cool.

I realize that I've been very, very fortunate in suffering almost no side effects. But I am the kind of person who tends to imagine the worst. I thought IVF would be a terrible, horrible, no-good, very-bad experience, and it hasn't. I'm not the injection wimp that I thought I'd be. My husband, who hates blood in every visible form, is doing just fine with the bum-shots. I did not turn into a completely crazy emotional wreck. (Yet.) Although this hasn't been easy, it also hasn't been as hard as I anticipated. Sometimes, things are not as bad as you fear. And part of that is because you are not always the wimp you thought you were.

3. You can look fine on the outside and be riddled with emotional shrapnel on the inside.

I knew this one already. But it's been reinforced for me: that not all wounds are visible. I spoke the other day with a woman in my church who is in the early rounds of diagnosing her breast cancer. Another woman in church is in the last stages of her chemo, which appears to have been successful. Newly Diagnosed Woman said wistfully, "the thing is, everyone knows to be careful around Chemo Woman because she has the turban, so she's obviously sick. Even if you don't know her, you know something is going on. Whereas, I'm freaking out but I look just fine, and I really feel fine, but nothing shows on the outside."

I knew what she meant. Again, completely different health problems going on for us, but the same dilemma: not all struggles are visible. Be careful with others. You never know what battles they're fighting inside.

(However, there is a caveat to lesson #3: it is okay to acknowledge that some people are just assholes.)

4. And, today's lesson, which appears at the end of this vignette:

This morning, I faced a new injection dilemma. For the past month, I've been remembering which side to inject myself/be injected in by the day: odd-numbered day = right side; even-numbered day = left side. This wasn't hard to remember for the stim meds, which I injected myself. I tended to remember which side I had used the day before. Plus, those were at night, when my brain is firing on all cylinders.

But for the PIO, which I can't see, and which must be given in the morning (not my best memory time of day), I needed this system. So, this morning presented a problem: yesterday = odd-numbered day. And today = odd-numbered day. Hmmm. What to do? Keep my neatly organized system, or go with the flow?

I chose door number one: keep the system. So, we injected my right side for the second time.

Which brings us to today's final IVF life lesson:

If you insist on keeping the illusion of control under uncontrollable circumstances, you will probably only end up being a pain in your own ass.