Wednesday, September 30, 2009

fertility crone

I have reached a new stage in my infertility life: fertility crone.

I remember the first time I went onto a "trouble conceiving" message board, stepping carefully into a world of completely unfamiliar acronyms and words and a whole lot of, "wow, I would never do that." What the heck is RE? BFN? HSG? They do WHAT to your uterus? Endo? FOUR YEARS? Sperm can be the wrong SHAPE? WHAT THE HELL KIND OF WORLD IS THIS?

Fast forward to yesterday, when I had lunch with a woman from church who had a miscarriage a few months ago. She had told me, at the time, that she just couldn't talk about it yet, so I told her to give me a call when she was ready. She called a few weeks ago.

Normally I don't share a lot about myself when I'm talking to a parishioner, because the point is for them to get support from me, not the other way around. Also, I really hate it when you're trying to tell your painful story to someone and all they do is top every comment you make with an even worse one of their own. "Oh, you had an ectopic? I had two." "Oh, I had that surgery too but I was allergic to the pain meds and it was just horrible." "Wow, you got hit by a bus? I got hit by a bus last week, and then I got run over by a train and two cars AND one of Santa's reindeer!" (Okay, that last one has never happened. But it's been close.)

So my intent was to giver her support - and, before I knew it, the conversation had turned into a mutual consolation society. She has had two pregnancies, both of which turned out to be a blighted ovum. She had her first IUI that very morning.

It was as if we were two ex-pats, having been separated from our home country for years, who happened upon each other in a strange city and started speaking English to each other after speaking only a foreign language for what seemed like forever. "I can't tell you what a relief it is not to have to explain all this stuff," she said at one point, and I completely understood what she meant.

(As an aside, "I completely understand" is not one of my favorite phrases, because people use it all the damn time, and most of that time, it's not truthful at all. Maybe we can never say that we "completely" understand anybody, actually. But when you do connect with someone who really, really gets your situation, at a very deep level - it's pretty great. It feels as "complete" as understanding ever gets.)

She and her husband have been trying to get pregnant for not quite two years, while we're coming up on anniversary four. And after all this time, it occurred to me after lunch that now I'm the one who knows all the lingo, all the acronyms - I'm the one doing things I never imagined doing, spending money I swore I'd never spend, becoming someone I occasionally don't recognize anymore. How is this my life? we both asked. How did I get here?

We both confessed how much blogland means to us now. And how we always assumed we were the sort of people who would be completely, totally open to adoption - and how it still baffles us, even in the midst of it, that this pull toward biological parenthood is so unbelievably strong. How bizarre it is to lay on a cold, vinyl table while your husband is at work miles away, waiting for a nurse with a catheter to knock you up (you hope). How you always imagined lying in bed after sex, cuddling with your spouse and thinking about whether your act of love just conceived a child, and instead you're spread-eagled on a doctor's table waiting for the little timer with the sperm on the ticker to 'ding' so you can GO TO THE FREAKING BATHROOM, MY GOD I HAVE TO PEE.

It's a weird world we live in, the world of the infertile. I've become one of its crones, I fear - the person who has watched a hundred thousand other sisters come in to our little society and then leave, while I wait here and hope it will be my turn someday. Every once in awhile I speak our language to someone who looks like she might understand. Sometimes I get a blank look, or bad advice.

But sometimes you get a fellow traveler, and you have enough time to stop for lunch and laugh through your tears at the sperm timer, and at the very least, you know you're not alone.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

why I have a small bruise on my forehead

Monday is my day off. I may be the only person in the world who LOVES Mondays. On the top of my list of things-I-love-about-Mondays is the fact that I get to sleep in, because I am not, in any sense of the phrase, a morning person. I have decided that this is one of the things that is built into you somewhere really, really deep, like in your DNA, along with eye color and your height and the length of your fingers. I have blue-y eyes, I have long fingers, I am 5'7", and I am a morning person. Ain't nothing I can do to change that. I've tried. It doesn't work.

So it was pretty unusual that I leapt out of bed at 7:00am yesterday morning. Here's why.

My husband, who leaves for work about 7:00am, came running into the bedroom yesterday morning and woke me up with a running commentary, the kind you have to say REALLY FAST because you were supposed to be in the car ten minutes ago, "Hey, there's something on the Today Show about IVF and I don't have time to watch it but I thought maybe you would want to get up and see what it is. I have to go. Bye!"

I figured it was probably bad news, because nothing fertility-related gets on the national media's attention radar unless it's some kind of disaster (OctoMom, anyone?), but, in spite of Morning Girl's natural aversion to pre-7:00am rising on her day off, I did indeed get up to watch said story.

Problem number one: it was not on until 8:00am. Stupid Today Show.

Problem number two: it was about a couple who received the wrong embryo. And now is about to give birth to someone else's child.

Okay. I have friends in journalism. I get the whole, "if it bleeds, it leads" mentality. The rarity of this particular circumstance and the enormity of the consequences probably does, indeed, warrant some national attention.

But I could feel every infertile woman in America do what I did: lower her head to the table (desk, steering wheel, whatever solid surface you could find when you heard this story) and bang it several times. (Hence the small bruise on my forehead.)

I had a whole tirade about the fact that all the media EVER FREAKING DOES is spread half-truths, misinformation, and salacious stories about fertility treatment and how, if Dr. Oz can do a whole FREAKING SHOW ON BOWEL MOVEMENTS FOR THE LOVE OF GOD (I was home a few afternoons ago and I caught part of it and I think it was the topic of the whole show, but I could be wrong) - how come said media can't be bothered to understand that not all fertility treatments result in "Jon & Kate plus Eight Embroys and, By the Way, Sorry About The Whole Wrong Womb Thing" situations?

But then I read this post by Mel and it said what I wanted to say in much better words, so you should go read it. If you haven't already.

I'll be over here putting ice on my forehead. (And saying prayers for the couples involved who, despite the frustrating news coverage, are in a heartbreaking situation.)

Friday, September 11, 2009

mastering the art of infertility

I am the very worst sort of bandwagon-hopper, because I am the kind of person who will completely hop on a bandwagon but will then do everything in my power to hide the fact that I succumbed to popular influence.

This is how it works. I go to a movie, which is based on a book I might have wanted to read, or have read but don't own, or maybe have never heard of...whatever the case, it turns out that I really like the movie. Which makes me want to read the book. Except that I refuse to buy the no doubt newly-released version of said book prominently featuring the stars of the movie on the cover, because somehow this would make it look like I am the sort of person who only reads books as recommended by movies, which is a bad thing. In my tiny, crazed, snobby mind.

So, I went to see Julie and Julia. Which I loved. And I decided, snobbery be damned, that I would order her cookbook - because, for one thing, I am now bound and determined to make Boeuf Bourguignon. I fancy myself a decent cook, but I learned some things in this movie: I learned that I should pat my meat dry before browning it, for one thing, which will certainly pay off when I finally get around to the recipe-trying.

But I learned something else, too. I've never known much about Julia Child, to be honest, except that I think she once appeared on Sesame Street. I vaguely remember this from my childhood. (Or was it the Muppet Show? My childhood is basically a blurring of those two.) There were a hundred great moments in the movie: Julie trying to cook the lobsters, Julia and her fierce determination to CHOP ONIONS LIKE A MAN, Julia's sister falling in love with a short, rather dumpy guy who turns out to be her heart's desire.

But two moments meant more to me than all the cooking tips in the world. Early on, when Julia and Paul have first moved to Paris, they come across a family with children. And Julia and Paul exchange a glance which my husband and I have shared with one another a million times over. I'm betting most movie-goers didn't entirely know what that moment meant, but I did. Maybe you did too. That one glance tells you more than a file of medical procedures, more than a thousand nights of tears shed, more than ten boxes of pregnancy tests thrown away - that quick glance contains the heartbreak of an infertile couple, who look at other people's children as if they were the oasis in a desert. You don't need words.

So after Julia's sister gets married - Julia's long-single, equally-tall-and-gangly-yet-totally-charming sister - when she gets married quite sudddenly, I knew what was coming. A scene where Julia, sitting in her kitchen, gets a letter from a friend. And the friend tells her that Julia's dear sister, whom she loves deeply, who has been married for all of ten freaking minutes, is - you guessed it - pregnant.

My husband reached over and took my hand in that scene, and squeezed it, and because there's no way to describe the moment in words, we'll just stop there. For the countless amazing roles Meryl Streep has played in her career, I'm grateful - but for none more so than that 10-second scene which, among other things, bound me to Julia Child for life. I have no idea if Julia herself tells more of that piece of her life in My Life in France (which, because I can't take too much change at one time, I ordered in the old version rather than the one with Meryl and Amy Adams on the cover). Maybe so - maybe not. It doesn't matter, really. That scene was enough. It was enough to say to thousands of men and women who have replayed that very moment in their own lives, you are not alone. You can still go forth and make fantastic Boeuf Bourguignon and you can blame your tears on all the onion-chopping, at least for awhile.

Up got a lot of attention from the infertile community about its delicate and heartfelt handling of infertility. I haven't seen it yet, though I will. Which means we have two movies in one summer which both, in kind and real-life ways, acknowledge that infertility is real. And that it hurts. And that there is not always a standard happy ending.

But which also remind me that there can be joy nonetheless. I'll drink to that, Julia. Thanks for the reminder.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

back in the saddle again

Whew - vacation over, which means I've spent the last three days meaning to update this blog, but have instead been sorting my way out of the pile o' emails and other mail which arrived while I was on my 3-week break. YOWZA. Not a lot of extra time lately.

I have quite a few blogworthy (we hope) moments simmering away, but not nearly enough time - quite yet - to compose them, so I've made a list and hope I can manage to remember what ON EARTH I meant by these frenetic scribblings when the crazy time finally comes to an end. Which should be, I believe, sometime next week. Maybe.

For now, just a quick doctor-related update. I saw my RE last week and asked him for some advice about the timeline for IVF #2. For a variety of reasons - including some overseas travel this fall and a tax benefit for my generous parents who are giving us money to proceed- we'd rather wait until January to start treatments again. However, being a fully logical and cool-headed infertile woman, my desire to wait is accompanied by nightly visions of my ovaries drying up completely on December 31. Because, although I realize that fertility tapers off gradually as one ages, the idea that OH MY GOD I AM 36 AND THAT IS OLD AND WE HAD BETTER GET MOVING RIGHT DAMN NOW OR IT'S ALL OVER GIVE ME THE LUPRON TODAY is still pretty powerful.

My delightfully calm and kind doctor assured me that January would be fine. By which, I take it to mean that he was saying, "a few months more won't hurt you," not, "oh, you're screwed anyway, so who cares if you wait for the IRS?"

Also, I have this post brewing in me about Julie and Julia, but wow - I really have to get back to work. How terribly inconvenient. Thanks for hanging in there while I ignore my blog - I promise to get better. Really. I swear.