Thursday, July 28, 2011

Caught In the Undertow

Life's a beach.

Yesterday was a bad day.   I left work early, on the verge of a nervous breakdown.  I had one of those moments where not only did I feel the pain of losing a pregnancy, I felt like I was drowning beneath the weight of all these years of wanting and trying and praying and wishing and failing and failing and failing.  The phone call from Memphis was just one frustration too many and I was completely overwhelmed.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

This isn't Me

If you're just getting to know me here, you might think I've always been like this: indignant and self-pitying, angry at the world.  Some of you might think, "she's never going to attract a baby into her life with an attitude like THAT."  Some might even think that I'm such a hateful person, I don't deserve a baby.

Well, I haven't always been like this.  I struggled, but through three and a half years of failed fertility treatments I remained largely hopeful for myself and generous towards others.  I tried to be the kind of person that deserved a baby.  I believed in positive thinking and karma and that whatever you put out into the universe returns to you.  I recited affirmations as I walked on the beach and visualized holding my baby in my arms.  I offered my experience, support and encouragement to other infertile women in an online forum.  I donated money to every charity that asked, especially anything having to do with children.  Gave double to the Children's Miracle Network because hey, it has both Children AND Miracle in the name, and that might bring double good luck.   You never know.

As the failures piled up, I faced each disappointment with my head held high and a fierce determination to try again.  I believed things happened for a reason.  I believed things would work out.  I looked for the bright side.  Because that's the kind of person I am.  Or was.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Normal is a Four-Letter Word

"Normal is not something to aspire to, it's something to get away from." - Jodie Foster

When I was in high school, I pinned little buttons printed with sassy sayings and the names of my favorite bands all over my denim jacket.  (There I go, showing my age again - yes, I wore my button-encrusted jacket with neon-colored jelly shoes and Guess jeans while dancing to Duran Duran.  I'm OLD, ok?)  My favorite button asked the all-important question: "Why Be Normal?"    Normal was boring.  Normal was average.  I was Unique!  Creative!  Fascinating!  I had an asymmetrical haircut and wrote angsty poetry and knew I would never aspire to "normal."

And now here I am, over 20 years later, and normal is still a dirty word. 

Normal people are happy when their doctor calls to say their test results are normal.  But when you've fallen down the rabbit hole of infertility, sometimes normal test results are bad news.  Like today:  the RPL tests that were supposed to give us a clue as to what caused the miscarriage all came back -- you guessed it -- normal.

Normal means there aren't any obvious or easy answers.  I don't have blood clotting issues or any of the other conditions that commonly cause miscarriage.  So now what?

The baby was normal, and I'm so-called normal, and still the baby died and no-one can tell us why it happened or how to keep it from happening again.  My body is having a critical malfunction on some deep and fundamental level.  We don't know how or why it short-circuited and rejected my baby and I feel so frustrated and lost. I know I'm NOT NORMAL. I need answers.  Where do we go from here?

As it turns out, we go to Memphis.

My RE referred me to a specialist in recurrent pregnancy loss, (I've only had one miscarriage, but apparently it was so spectacular and inexplicable I qualify for this advanced level of care)  Dr. K in Memphis.   As soon as I can get an appointment, Mr Wren and I will find a way to get there and find a way to pay for it.  For my own peace of mind I have to see if Dr K can give me some answers.

There have to be answers.   There ALWAYS are answers - you just have to ask the right questions and look in the right places.  Right?  I refuse to believe anything else.  Yes, I know there's the possibility that modern science just isn't asking the right questions yet, and we won't find an answer no matter where we look but holy crap that is a terrifying thought and I'm just going to put it away for now.

For now I'm simply trying to take this one step at a time and focusing on planning our trip to Memphis and starting to look forward to it.  I've never been.  Regardless of what else happens while we're there and whether or not we find any answers, I'm going to Graceland.

Is it abnormal for me to be a little bit excited about that?


Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Eyes on the Prize

I'm angry.  If you've read any of my other postings I guess you know that already.  Even though it makes other people uncomfortable, I refuse to be ashamed of my anger or apologize for it.  Fuck that, I earned it.  I paid for that anger with my dreams and hopes and tears.  It's mine, I own it.  I embrace it.  I look it straight the eye and stare it down.  And each day, it gets a little bit smaller, a little bit weaker, because anger thrives on neglect and only grows when you ignore it.  If I continue to shine light on my anger it will eventually shrivel up and die. 

But I want to take a minute today and ease up on the anger just long enough to remember why I've put myself through all this in the first place.  Why I will endure more testing, get a second opinion, have this new fibroid removed--whatever it takes to improve my chances of success--and undergo another IVF cycle just as soon as I am able.

I want to be pregnant.  I want to start protecting and nurturing my baby when it's still nothing more than an amorphous blob.  I want to bond with my baby before it's born, and hear its heart beating inside of me.  I want to sing to it.   I want to see ultrasound pictures of my unborn baby and laugh about how much it looks like an alien.   I want to puke my guts out.  I want total strangers to come up to me in the grocery store and touch my belly.  I want to waddle.

I want a baby.  I want a sweet little lump that's completely dependent on me.  I want to feel my heart melt the first time the baby recognizes me.  I want to make funny faces until the baby smiles.  I want to see my husband gently holding our baby in his arms, and toting it around in a Baby Bjorn.  I want to be jolted awake in the middle of the night by the sound of a squawking baby monitor.  I want to sing our baby back to sleep knowing that he or she doesn't care that I'm tone deaf because they've known my voice since before they were born.  I want to change stinky poopy diapers and clean up projectile vomit.  I want to google "how to make a baby stop crying" out of sheer desperation.

I want a toddler.  I want to play peek-a-boo and sing "wheels on the bus."   I want a small person running around the house getting into everything, and I want to stick those little plastic plugs in all our outlets and put breakables out of reach.  I want there to be brightly colored plastic toys scattered through every room.   I want to teach my child the names of all the things that make up their world and I want him or her to think I know everything.  I want to read the same bedtime story over and over until I can read it with my eyes closed.  I want to be mortified when my toddler has a meltdown in the middle of Target, or bites another kid on the playground.  I want to read all those parenting books and figure out how best to discipline my otherwise perfect offspring.

I want a child.  I want to teach it to love the great outdoors and to know right from wrong.  I want to be Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny and to leave tiny gold glitter footprints on my child's pillow the first time the tooth fairy comes. I want parent-teacher meetings and after-school activities and science fairs.  At the risk of further aging myself by referencing the movie Splash, I want to go see my kid play a tooth in the school play.  I want to be given birthday presents crafted from popsicle sticks and dried macaroni.  I want to encourage my child's interests and talents, and celebrate when they succeed.  I want to dry their tears and reassure them of my unwavering love when they fail.  I want to bandage boo-boos and chase the monsters out from under the bed.  I want to be asked "why?" over and over and over and over again, and I want to say, "because I'm the mommy, THAT'S why!"

I know it won't be easy.  But I want it so badly I ache.  I want to face all the challenges of parenting:  the good stuff and the bad.  I want there to be something in my life that is more important than me.  I want us to be a family.  And it breaks my heart to think that it may never happen.  But the hope that maybe, one day, it will....well, that's what keeps me going, even through the darkest days.  That's the prize on which I keep my eyes.

Friday, July 15, 2011

The Pinball Machine of Grief

I've been reading up on grief lately.  I knew there were five stages, and had always thought that you passed through them sequentially, like a train moving from station to station in a linear fashion.  All aboard!  Now leaving Anger, next stop: Bargaining.  (I'd like a ticket on the express train to Acceptance, please?)

Turns out it's not that simple.  Grief isn't like a train, it's more like a pinball machine.  You bounce around from one stage to another with very little control over the situation.  Sure, you can take your best shot and aim for the targets of stoicism and equanimity, but more often than not you end up getting thrown all over the place, knocked back and forth between rage, despair and denial.  You can slam those flippers and nudge the table all you want, that little silver ball has a mind of its own and you're just along for the ride. And grief lasts a lot longer than you expect it to:  just when you think your time is up and the game is over and you can walk away from the machine, you score a replay and start all over again.

(Does the fact that I just compared my grief to a pinball game reveal that my infertility issues may be age-related? )

Also, I had always thought that grief's bargaining stage was just about trying to make a deal with God, which never made much sense to me.  What, do people really try to negotiate having their loved ones brought back to life?  That sort of thing only happens in stories and never ends well.  Have they never read The Monkey's Paw

But no.  Bargaining also includes all the what-ifs and if-onlys, the "coulda, woulda, shoulda" thoughts, and the accompanying guilt.  Oh, I know all about that.  If only I had insisted on having those blood tests done a year ago.  What if I hadn't stopped taking progesterone when I did, would the baby still be alive?   My body is defective and this is all my fault.   Right now my pinball is mostly bouncing off the bumpers of hindsight, guilt, fury and blame, and every so often it slinghots straight down the middle, into the pit of depression and hopelessness.

Oh, and I coulda, woulda, shoulda been exactly 12 weeks pregnant today.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

The Relentless Self Absorption of the Chronically Infertile

it's what's for dinner

It's all about me.  It's not just the miscarriage.  The waves of anger, loss and despair that currently consume me do leave me even more inclined to turn my gaze inwards, but I've been like this for a while. The past 3+ years of fertility treatments has left me with a bizarre sort of tunnel vision.  In other words, I have my head so far up my uterus I can't see straight.

The quest to conceive has taken over my life.   My infertility has become a filter through which I view the entire world.

My take on current events:   What's wrong with a world where Casey Anthony can have children and I can't?   The fact that she's talking about wanting to get pregnant again, and most likely could get knocked up in a skinny minute if she wanted to, makes me ill.   Why are messed-up women always so fertile?

Future plans:  Sorry, can't commit to anything beyond 2 months from now, because something might be happening that involves my reproductive system, requires frequent trips to offices where people sample my bodily fluids and peer at my lady parts, and causes me to have a refrigerator full of hypodermic drugs.

How was my day?  I saw six women with big pregnant bellies, five with newborns, two sets of toddler twins, and one 4-year-old girl in a rumpled flowered dress running on her tippy-toes in purple shoes and my heart ached every single time.

What's new at work?  I'm so burned out on my job.  But I can't quit because I have all this leave time saved up and I'll need that if ever I get pregnant.  And they're good about letting me have time off when I need it for a doctor's appointment, emergency d&c, or just because I'm crying too hard to get my puffy-faced self into work.  I fantasize about using up all my vacation and sick time after the baby's born and then quitting to be a stay-at-home mom.  Then I realize just how far removed from reality that vision is, get depressed and spend an hour mindlessly surfing the web instead of focusing on work and as a result I'm falling behind on all my projects and kind of stressed out about it but still too paralyzed with grief to comprehend tackling any of said projects, thanks for asking.

Sure is hot, isn't it?  And yet my feet are cold.  I think my lousy circulation means there's not enough blood flow to the uterus.  Maybe that's contributing to my infertility....

How are your friends?  One of them just had a baby.  I'm jealous and bitter.

What are we having for dinner?  Grass-fed beef, organic kale and lentils if I'm gearing up for or in the middle of an IVF cycle, pineapple for dessert if I'm in the two-week-wait post transfer, no peanuts if I'm pregnant, bacon cheeseburger if I'm wallowing in misery and disappointment after a failed cycle.

Someone please bring me a cheeseburger.  And yes I'd like fries with that.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Oh Baby: It's Not You, It's Me

It's all my fault. 

We found out today that there was nothing wrong with our baby.  It was chromosomally normal.  (It is, however, still an "it," since the doctor didn't reveal the gender and we decided we didn't want to ask, because what's the point?)

It's like being in a neverending heavyweight boxing match.  Every time I start to get to my feet, I get knocked on my ass again.  I've been physically and emotionally pummeled beyond recognition.  The doctor had anticipated that the results would show a genetically abnormal embryo, and I was holding on to that hope.  It would mean that the miscarriage was not my fault, that I was capable of getting pregnant, and if we just could just get a healthy embryo then we could have a healthy pregnancy.

But no.  Something is wrong with me and we don't know what and that something killed my baby. 

I'm so frustrated I could scream.   My self-loathing knows no bounds.   My other-loathing is fairly boundless, too.  I'm angry at God, every pregnant woman on the planet, and especially my doctor.  Today he ordered a series of blood tests that I've been requesting for over a year.  Every other time I asked about them he said it was a waste of time and money.  Now, however, he thinks they are indicated.  If one of them turns out to be positive, and I have a clotting or other immunology issue that could have been addressed before now, possibly preventing this miscarriage from occurring....well, wouldn't that be just my luck?

I've filled in my infertility bingo card.  I've gotten one or more items in every column:  failed IUIs, failed IVFs, fibroids, chemical pregnancy, and now miscarriage/loss and likely immunological issues.  Bingo!  Did I win a baby yet?   No?   Fuck.  I'm so tempted to quit the game, just walk away from it all.  But by now I've invested so much (time, energy, money, emotions) that I really have to see it through to the bitter end.

Although, if I become any more bitter, I'm going to turn into a horseradish. 

Don't Tell Me

In two hours, Mr Wren and I will go to the fertility clinic for yet another WTF meeting.  It will be the 8th time that we have dragged our defeated selves through those doors to sit in Dr S's back office and discuss why our expensive, invasive, complicated fertility treatment didn't work as anticipated.  Science has failed us and we've failed it.

This will be the first time, though, that we have to discuss a might-have-been.  After 8 different procedures, I only got pregnant this once.   This was my first miscarriage.  I had the d&c so baby could be tested for chromosomal abnormalities, because I want to understand why it happened.   If there was something wrong with baby, then there was nothing I could have done to save it.  But if that turns out not to be the case, and baby was normal, then, well, it's pretty much my fault, right?  For some reason my body rejected baby.  Or baby rejected me. 

Baby stopped growing the same day I stopped taking the additional hormones, the estrogen and progesterone I had been taking 3 times a day to help me stay pregnant.  Did the hormones sustain an ultimately unviable pregnancy longer than nature intended, or did my little one just need more time and help than we gave it before it started producing those hormones on its own?   Would staying on the meds for another two weeks have kept baby alive?  Some fertility patients take progesterone through the entire first trimester (or so people on the internet tell me.)  I stopped at nine weeks.

I'll find out the answers soon enough.  I'll probably even find out what gender baby was so I can start using the appropriate pronoun when I talk about it.

But here's the thing:  I don't want to know.   

Well, that's not entirely true.  I want to know.  I always want to know.  I've been hungry for information since I was a little kid - I was that annoying little kid who was always asking WHY?   I need the world to make sense.  I need to understand.  

But I don't know if I can handle it.  I'm beyond humiliated to return to that clinic, where just 3 weeks ago everyone was cheering and hugging me, all so excited that I was graduating to the OB and telling me to bring my baby back to visit them.  I know they'll all be giving me the sad eyes today and that makes me cringe.  But I can feign stoicism for long enough to get through the awkward encounters with the receptionist and lab techs.  The thought, however, of sitting in that back office and finding out what went wrong - or possibly finding out that WE DON'T KNOW for certain what went wrong which in its way is even worse - either way, having to discuss how my baby lived and died, the entire arc of its too-short existence, well that just makes me want to put my head in the sand and blow off the appointment entirely.

Friday, July 8, 2011

I Hate Your Baby

and I hate this baby too

I hate your baby.   I hate your precious little birth announcements and the hospital room photos of you nuzzling your newborn.  I hate his squishy little cheeks and her sweetly pursed lips and that downy fuzz of hair.  I hate all his adorable monkey pajamas and all her darling pink blankies.  Keep that thing away from me because I hate the way the top of its tiny little head smells.

I hate you for conceiving your baby the old-fashioned way, the fun way, and that the only shots you took were possibly tequila.  I hate that your pregnancy was unplanned.  I hate that you were confident enough in your ability to carry to term that you put your 8-week ultrasound pictures on Facebook.  I hate that you posted status updates from the delivery room.

I hate the way you brought that baby into work and paraded it around like you just won the Stanley Cup.

I hate that you're taking your new baby home from the hospital at exactly the moment I'm leaving after my D&C.  I hate that your husband is bursting with pride and mine is sagging with grief.  I hate that your arms are full and my womb is empty.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

I Don't Want to Talk About It

 I watched exactly 5 minutes of the film Jennifer's Body and
what I saw was this scene, where she projectile vomits a river of tar.

I don't want to talk about it.

If you knew me, that statement would give you an idea of just how bad things are.  I've seen my share of  traumas over the years and through it all: tragic haircuts, crushing heartbreaks, financial devastation, personal loss... I've never not wanted to talk about it.  I've never not NEEDED to talk about it.  It's what I do. It's how I get through and make sense of things.  I love a good story.  I love an audience.  I have almost no boundaries and usually tell people way more than they want to know in my desperate need to understand and be understood.

This is different. 

This, I can't talk about.  It's just too much.  I can't let out the pain, frustration, misery and heartache that is welling up inside me. If I did, I picture it like a scene from a horror movie, gallons of toxic black goo exploding out of me:  oily and malevolent, taking on a life of its own and consuming everything in its path.  No-one wants to see that. 

But I can't keep it bottled up inside, either.  I'm not a good bottler.  Can't keep all this pent up sludge hidden away in the dark corners of my soul.   Like a bad batch of homebrew fermenting unattended in the basement, the pressure can only build up for so long before things start exploding.  And no-one wants to see that, either.

So here I am, finally making good on my threat to start a blog.  I don't know what to expect.   I don't know who, if anyone, will read this and that may be beside the point:  I have to let it out somewhere.  Hopefully I will, overall, keep the toxic spewing to a minimum.  But I make no promises.  At least not while I'm dealing with THIS.....

What is THIS?  Oh, I don't want to talk about it.

But I have to.  It happened and I have to find a way to deal with it.  I was pregnant and then I wasn't.  Life goes on.  Just....not for my baby.

We made it to 9 weeks.  Almost 1/4 of the way there. We beat amazing odds to get that far - the fertility doctor had predicted imminent early miscarriage just a few days after declaring me pregnant. But our little one was a fighter and held on long enough to develop arms and legs, fingers and toes, eyelids and ear canals, and a strong, steady heartbeat.  A heartbeat that we saw on the ultrasound when baby was the size of a grain of rice, then a kidney bean, then a raspberry, then a grape.

As it developed from grain to legume to fruit, the doctor called it our "miracle baby" and marveled at its on-target growth and perfect heartbeat and increased our odds of success from minuscule to hopeful. 

Until last Tuesday.   It was our first visit to the OB after successfully and triumphantly "graduating" from the fertility clinic the week before.  I was nine and a half weeks along, and baby should have been the size of a stuffed green olive.  But I had a bad feeling.  I had woken up in the middle of the night, rolled over onto my stomach and realized that, for the first time in over a month, that maneuver hadn't sent lightning bolts of pain shooting through my chest.

Three hours of obsessive Googling and breast-poking later, I was only slightly mollified.  Lots of people on the internet say that pregnancy symptoms decline at around 9-10 weeks and it's nothing to worry about.  But still, my boobs felt completely different.  Like a switch had been flipped and all the electricity that had been pulsing through them was completely turned off.

So I was worried about my little cocktail garnish, and prepared for the worst.  At least, I thought I was.

As it turns out, nothing can prepare you for having your ultrasound projected on a giant screen overhead and seeing, larger than life, your perfectly formed almost-baby, which actually LOOKS like a baby and not an amorphous blob for the first time ever, lying there motionless.  A still, silent, solid space where only 6 days earlier you had seen a pulsing beam of light and life beating inside its tiny chest.  A lifeless olive sunk to the bottom of the martini glass.

I can't get that image out of my mind and I DON'T want to talk about it.