Words to keep me sane

Sometimes the only action you can take is to let go.

Saturday, September 29, 2007

In Support of Support Groups

I am lucky to have found a group of local, supportive women who unfortunately are also weathering the storm of infertility. Last spring I took a class called Mind/Body for Fertility and Family Building, taught by a local psychologist. Possibly even more valuable than the relaxation techniques we learned or the cognitive exercises we did were the connections we made with each other. My class was made up of fourteen ladies whose lives have all been touched/altered/impacted (I'm sure other verbs apply) by infertility. Class lasted ten weeks, but since then we have continued to come together to talk, commiserate, and generally support each other on our journeys. We got together again last Wednesday in what has become our good weather meeting spot - a local city park with a restaurant - to catch up on each others' lives. Some of the women have become pregnant (ironically mine was the first pregnancy in our class, and also the first miscarriage). Others are in the process of adopting. Others have gone through surgery, unsuccessful IVF cycles, and other life struggles. A few of us are about to try IVF for the first time. I will actually be doing my first cycle at the same time and at the same clinic as one of my friends from class. Overall, the members of this group support each other and validate each other's feelings, hopes, and fears. We are different ages and have endured different circumstances but we are all in the same boat. Speaking for myself it has been enormously comforting to be in the presence of these women. At a time in my life when I feel like other friendships and relationships have suffered because I have had to pull back and protect my infertile self, I have had the good fortune to find these friendships. I look forward to our get-togethers because I feel like I don't have to suppress anything or put on the armor I normally wear when in the company of other women my age who have no idea what it feels like to walk under a dark cloud day after day. I am thankful for the difference they have made in my life and my infertility journey. I hope I have been able to help lift them up and make things a little easier for them to bear, too. As the stirrup queens say, "connections abound." I wish the circumstances were different, but I am happy to know them. Between them and the wonderful women I have met in the IF blogosphere, I feel like I have been able to spin a safe cocoon inside a fertile world where I can exist as myself and not feel so alone.

Friday, September 28, 2007

7 Things

First I need to apologize for being a little behind in posting. Work craziness took over my life this week! Due to my lack of presence on the web I missed Pamela Jeanne tagging me to share seven habits/quirks/facts about myself: http://coming2terms.com/2007/09/19/the-magnificent-seven-hardly.aspx . I must preface this by saying there is no way I can hold a candle to Pamela's list! I consider myself (unfortunately) about as vanilla as they come. However, try I must!

1. There are four girls in my family and all of our names begin with "K." My parents would tell you this wasn't really intentional. It provided entertainment when one of us was in trouble and my mom or dad had to struggle through all of our names before reaching that of the guilty party.

2. My husband is first generation Italian (OK this is more of an unusual fact about him but I am claiming it by marriage) and holds duel US/Italian citizenship. The majority of his relatives are still in Italy and we have been fortunate enough to go visit family there a few times.

3. When I come home from work I love having some quiet alone time to decompress. On nights when husband isn't home he likes to call and chat, usually about nothing in particular. I try to do my best to feign interest but really I like nothing more than to be left alone for a while. I think it stems from talking on the phone all day at work. I crave quiet when I get home.

4. I'm a bit of an entertainment news junkie. I think the mindlessness of entertainment news is more palatable to me than hard news. Also, in a strange way watching stories about the exploits of young, silly celebrities with too much money and not enough brain cells or moral fiber makes me feel better about myself.

5. I like being tall. While I'm not overly or ridiculously blessed in the height department, at 5'9" I am a fair amount taller than most of my friends. That being said, my "little" sister would take issue with my claiming to be tall as she is just a shade under 6'.

6. I HATE mayonnaise! This includes 'Miracle Whip' and any other mayonnaise-type product ever invented. I also detest sour cream and most other savory, white, creamy substances. When I was growing up I would gag if I had to wash a dish with mayonnaise on it.

7. Fall is my favorite time of year. I love everything about this season: fall leaves, apple orchards, Oktoberfest celebrations, football season, warm clothes, pumpkin patches. Even though a few of these are positively riddled with families withstrollers and babies being photographed by corn stalks, I still can't help myself. Where I live it comes and goes so quickly that I try to enjoy it while it lasts.

OK, that's about the best I can do. Now to tag a few others, I choose peesticksandstones and Kami of Are We There Yet . Hope everyone has a great weekend!

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Warning, metaphors ahead

So I sort of feel like a diver who is beginning the climb up that really long ladder that leads to the high-dive platform. Did anyone else feel like this when they were on the brink of starting their first IVF cycle? I am being slammed by so many thoughts and emotions racing through my head. I thought it might help to get some of them (whatever the blog equivalent is) down on paper. We have been leading up to this for a long time. Our eighth wedding anniversary is in a few weeks, which makes almost exactly seven years since the goalie was pulled. Yes, we did that “we’ll have a year to ourselves before we get pg” thing, which seems so very quaint now. As the calendar pages have flipped and flipped and no baby has joined our family, the thought of IVF began peppering our conversations. Mostly it was in terms of how nice it would be if a giant bird dropped a pile of money on our front lawn (possible bastardization of the whole stork metaphor but more fitting for our situation) and we could then afford to roll the in-vitro dice. Still no bird, still no large sum of money…instead the realization that I’m not getting any younger and we will just have to take a deep breath, close our eyes, and dive in. It is a very strange feeling to be at once so excited that we are finally taking this step, and so scared that we are playing the last card in our hand. As long as we hadn’t tried, it was always still a possibility. Now the tests are done, the calls are made, the paperwork has been sent, and our names are on a calendar somewhere in our RE’s office. With the recent rush of IVF cycles at our clinic, the first available time was late November. We took it. If the frantic notes I took while speaking to the nurse can be trusted, it seems this date is roughly when the transfer will happen…if everything goes according to plan. That’s where that long ladder comes in I guess. At least we’ve taken the first steps.

Monday, September 17, 2007

"Come one, come all!" But not you.

I wish I was making this up:

Attention Preggos: Fun Event Tomorrow!
Once again MOFAS is hosting their Pregnant Pause event. This is a fun, free event where pregnant women can win some great door prizes! The event includes a non-alcoholic drink making competition, where “mixologists” competed for prizes and the recognition of having made the best drink. Pregnant women will serve as judges and drawings will be held to award door prizes to the pregnant women attending the event.

I found this in the online version of my local paper. To be fair, it was part of a parenting blog which I read from time to time because they once had a guest blogger who was going through an IVF cycle. When my eyes landed on this announcement I felt like a lonely kid in a dorm who had just walked past a big party while on the way to the library on a Friday night. If someone who knew my situation asked me to sum up feelings toward the pregnant women of the world, I would simply refer them to this event. It says way more than I ever could about the “outside looking in” pangs I get far too often living as an infertile in a fertile world. We are having a party and you aren’t invited. To comfort myself I imagined a room full of us infertiles (who I picture as much more fun and interesting people) drinking real drinks and not complaining about swollen ankles and daycare costs. My defense mechanisms are predictable but they serve me well.

Now for a confession of sorts. If I’m completely honest, I also read the aforementioned parenting blog sometimes due to simple, morbid curiosity. The women who write this blog have made it to a place I long to go and I wonder what the scenery is like. They are mothers juggling children, work, friends, social lives, and marital relationships. As an infertile woman and a sufferer of recurrent pregnancy loss, sometimes I think I focus so much on attaining the pregnancy part that I forget about what would come after. Hypothetically speaking of course, I would have a real live baby and I would be a parent. How would I contend with this? What would it look like? Could I handle it? What is my capacity for multitasking while sleep deprived? Sometimes in the middle of this whole IF battle I think I forget that two lines on a pregnancy test sometimes mean that the arrival of a human being is imminent. Just because it has never meant that for me I think I discount it (and damn it who can blame me?!). If at the end of all the heartache, the spent money, the invasive procedures, and the wellsprings of pent-up angst I end up with “a baby in the basket” (as my RE puts it), what then? The answer, of course, is I have no idea. The only thing I do know is that it turns out I am a lot stronger than I thought I ever could be and I have the battle scars to prove it. If the day comes, I will do the best I can, just like I’m doing now. We all rise to the occasions put forth before us in our own way. Sometimes that might involve throwing imaginary darts at a room full of celebratory pregnant women judging non-alcoholic frou frou drinks. Sometimes it means knowing when you have enough on your plate to deal with right now and turning away from the “what ifs” of the future.

Friday, September 14, 2007

One hurdle down, many more to go

We heard back from our doctor's office and we have, after further consideration, been accepted for the shared risk IVF program. This came as a big relief to us but as with any hurdle in the IF world, once you clear it your mind is already on to the next one. We are extremely grateful that we have the opportunity for a monetary safety net. With no insurance coverage and still some debate as to exactly how we will shoulder this debt, any financial reassurance is a boost. We are now looking toward the next steps, which are complicated by the fact that an infection showed up on Husband's SPA test. This is the second time an analysis has revealed infection for him and the doctors don't know why it is happening. His side of the equation suffers from the presence of the infection so we need to wait until it is out of his system before we get down to the business of IVF (now with ICSI). This being said, timing becomes a bit of a puzzle with a few possible solutions. Do we start the BCPs and hope that we get the all clear from the urologist or do we wait 100% until we know he's good to go? We can't seem to reach an agreement on that. Of course I'm the one who is anxious to begin. For now we are cooling our heels and letting Cipro do its job (we hope).

Monday, September 10, 2007

Denied But Still Fighting

As I write this, someone somewhere in an office probably far away is deciding my reproductive fate. Husband and I having recently completed the requisite tests for a shared risk IVF program, our clinic faxed in the paperwork and the waiting began. I got a call from our clinic coordinator this morning with what turned out to be an update. We were denied. They were scared off by our six early losses and wanted to shut the door. Our RE, however, has gone to bat for us and appealed to some higher authority within the shared risk company (which we are hoping involves a physician). Our losses have all been very early and two were ectopic. This means that we have never had a confirmed intrauterine pregnancy. Our RE feels this is a horse of different color (picturing the painted horse scene in The Wizard of Oz) and has told them as much. In recurrent pregnancy loss, as in real estate, location is everything. If given the chance to take up residence in the legal dwelling rather than in the air shafts of my proverbial home, it is possible that our microscopic offspring could thrive. That’s the idea anyway. Whether that would happen is anyone’s guess but we were/are hoping to be given the opportunity to try. We know that we can still attempt IVF on a pay per shot basis but none of this is covered by insurance (unless by some miracle husband’s new job has a spectacular benefits package) so we really wanted to have that financial net under us before descending into more debt. Perhaps it’s not too late to pull up stakes and move to Europe or at least one of the few states in this country where coverage is assured. I keep repeating my catch phrase/mantra/sanity saving sentence in my head: “control what you can and let the rest go.” We have done what we could do, our RE and our clinic are doing what they can do, and the rest is totally and completely outside of our control. All that is left to lament are the conditions which exist that have brought us to this point. Should we have somehow known to rein ourselves in after say, three losses and take a stab at IVF? Really not financially feasible at that time. Should we have been on birth control to prevent the spontaneous pregnancies that started occurring in the last two years? The way we saw it, each one was a very real chance at having a child. The only silver lining in the way they turned out was that they provided another clue to our situation – ectopic is now in our vocabulary. I know, I know, lamenting the past (or pointing out its irony or injustices) isn’t letting go. I guess I had to get a little of it off my chest before I can exhale and attempt to truly relinquish my inadequately human hold on this whole situation. Exercises in futility have always been my cardio of choice. I’m trying to be better about that.

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Milestones and why I hate them

I finished another bottle of pre-natal vitamins today. Yep, that's right...like the kind pregnant women take. Anyone who is trying to conceive is probably taking these vitamins or maybe should be. I myself have been taking them for seven years now. I will admit I'm not 100% consistent. Some days I forget and some days I'm too crabby to touch the bottle. Each time I purchase a new giant jar of them and break the seal I wonder if possibly a healthy pregnancy will take shape while I'm working through them. No surprise when yet another bottle is empty and so am I. I don't know why I focus on these milestones but there seem to be so many of them in the minefield of infertility. I know others have mentioned on their blogs about the start of the school year and how it begins the rapid, downward slide into Halloween goblins, Thanksgiving dinner gatherings, and the Christmas/Holiday photo card campaigns that seem to be starting earlier and growing more elaborate by the year. As each milestone comes and goes it is a giant reminder that nothing has changed, except possibly like this year, we have another pregnancy loss under our belt. Not exactly the kind of thing you put in a Christmas card. I know part of my disappointment and pain is self-induced. If it weren't for the fact that I never fail to say to myself "by next year at this time" I wouldn't have to face up to the reality that my yearned-for prediction hasn't come true.

Allow me a bit of a tangent on the aforementioned Christmas card for a moment since I doubt I'm the only one who cringes when these begin to pile up in the mailbox. Of course the worst offender of them all is the brag-o-rama Christmas letter. The dark side of me would love to write a "Christmas Letter from an Infertile" and send it to all of the smug parents in my address book. It would be equal parts honest depiction of pain and overly embellished descriptions of a glamorous child free life that I don't really live. Just a little something to make the recipient feel like we do when we read yet another encapsulation of a year's worth of little Riley or Ava's accomplishments and accolades. Thank goodness Santa was kind enough to bring me a high powered shredder last year.

Returning to my original train of thought, my road through infertility seems to be marked with more milestones than I care to deal with. Each is a reminder of how much more life has passed with a dream as yet unfulfilled. Turn a milestone on its side and it becomes a stumbling block. Some days I am strong enough to climb over and others I am the like the group of ants in the animated movie of the same name. I stare at them in dismay and can see no way to overcome them. Today is one of those days. Here's hoping tomorrow I find a ladder.