Desperately positive and hopelessly negative

When you’re infertile, there rarely seems to be a middle ground in anything. Emotionally, I am certain that my next fertility treatment will be successful one moment, and I’m a dumpster fire of despair the next. Nothing will ever work, I tell myself as often as I silently say this is it.

Starting this last round has probably amped up these disparate feelings. I’m two days into my estrogen (Estrace) regimen to build up my uterine lining pre-transfer, and my emotions are already on 11. Plus, my feeling nauseous. I asked my husband last night if he remembered me feeling sick during my last FET cycle when I started the estrogen, but neither of us recall it. It’s funny how every cycle is just a little bit different. Funny in an oh lord what’s next way, not in a haha way.

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As I’ve written about before, I see signs in everything. There’s already so many in this last round. Despite my best efforts to plan, my transfer of Olaf and Anakin will be after my husband has left for a three-month new job training. One day after. This, of course, makes me sad. If the transfer does work, he missed it, and he’ll also miss almost my entire first trimester. Which means I have to get my own damn ice cream at midnight. If it doesn’t work, I’m alone to process it. If it works and then I miscarry again, then just commit me to the psych ward because I’m likely to break.

Another sign in the positive column is that my husband got this new job at all. He’s been stuck in a crappy job that he hated for years and no leads had panned out in a very long time. In fact, the last time he got a new job, we were also apart. Two days after our wedding he left New York to interview in North Carolina for his (still) current job, and less than two weeks later he moved here. We spent the next five weeks of our newlywed lives hundreds of miles apart until I could move South as well. Major life change seems to equal time apart for us.

The final sign is that, if this transfer sticks, my due date would be sometime in April. And previous Aprils have sucked hard. The birth of a rainbow baby would certainly have a lot of meaning during that difficult month…

Nothing can prepare you for this

When I was in my mid-20s I briefly considered donating my eggs. At the time, my motivation was primarily financial, although I was not ignorant to the idea that I could help give a baby to someone who desperately wanted one. I’ve always wanted to be a mother, and I had no doubt that being told you couldn’t have one “naturally” could be crushing to a woman.

After some consideration I deemed my motivations too selfish and my work schedule too hectic to move forward. I didn’t give egg donation another thought.

I didn’t give another thought to that woman I could have helped either. I wish I could rewind. I had no idea, ten years later, I’d be the woman struggling to force her body do the thing that it was built to do. No one ever thinks that it will be her. No one ever wants to be the one running out of time, money and options.

My husband and I began trying to conceive right around the time we got engaged, four and a half years ago. We weren’t naive that given our age, both 31, that we were shorter on time than some of our counterparts to build a family. We certainly didn’t consider ourselves geriatric, but we could do basic math. We planned a July wedding and I sincerely thought I could be pregnant before I walked down the aisle. As long as I still fit into my dress, I would be happy.

Two years later, after many life changes, but none of the baby variety, we reluctantly were referred to a fertility clinic. After the prerequisite testing, we were given an unexplained infertility diagnosis, and I began the first of several rounds of Clomid + IUI. While an unexplained diagnosis was intimidating, I was still so unprepared for what was to come.

In March of 2015, only a few months into fertility treatments, I wrote this:

When I wonder how much longer I can go on like this, in this state of mind, it makes me feel guilty. I would give anything to be pregnant. And I’m trying to give everything I can. I am trying. But I am so tired, too.

I had no idea what it meant to be tired, then.

Less than a month later I would become pregnant for the first time. A month following the happiest moment of my life, I miscarried for the first time.

More than two years, another miscarriage, five more IUI cycles, two failed IVF rounds  and a bout of chronic endometritis later, I know what it means to be tired. I read “not pregnant,” again, on that little stick just this weekend.

When I wrote that early post I was still so full of faith in my own body. I knew I would get the job I coveted of mother, and it would all be okay. The bloated, achy, overly hormonal side effects of Clomid would be a distant memory as I rocked my son or daughter to sleep at night.

But it hasn’t happened that way. Our infertility story is much longer than we could have ever expected, and we’re still very much in the thick of it. Infertility demands so much of your time, money, body and brain space. No woman or couple has any idea just how tiring this can be.

It’s hard to see the forest for the trees sometimes. Without the child my husband and I so desperately want, I’m not yet to a point where I can say, yes, everything was worth it. I’m still waiting. I’m still tired.

We’re nearing a crossroads. I’ve given my body, my energy, our money and more than four years of our time to science. Soon, we’ll need to decide how much longer we can continue, if at all. Facing that decision is parts scary, parts sad, and a small part freeing.

My husband and I are supposed to be parents. No one could have prepared us for what that would take, when it comes to others so easily. But we will be what we’re meant to be, someday.

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The someday nursery

There’s a mostly empty, unused room in my house. It’s the someday nursery.

My husband and I bought our first home last fall. It had been one of our primary goals since leaving New York City (other than the obvious one). We closed on our house just two days after we found out that our last FET didn’t work. At the time, that was probably the best thing for me. I was so busy trying to prepare for the move that the grief I felt over another failed IVF didn’t hit me right away.

I’d, of course, hoped that we’d get that positive pregnancy test just in time to move into our new home. We were literally leaving the place where we’d experienced two miscarriages and many more failed attempts to go somewhere new. It’s drenched in symbolism. I’d mentally planned to organize a specific room as our guest room, and leave the third bedroom a fresh canvas for the baby that was sure to have found it’s cozy home in me.

The room is still empty.

Last week, when I was feeling especially down on myself and stuck in this limbo of endometritis treatment, I decided I needed to do something about the room. I did have plans for that Saturday, so I made the room my plan. I was going to unpack the few boxes in there, set up our desk, hang some art on the walls.

I did none of that.

I didn’t even walk into the room.

Among the absurdly complex emotions I have about infertility is the idea that my whole life is on hold. That’s partially on me. I’m afraid to move forward for fear that it will just keep on moving without a baby. I don’t want to just accept things as they are. I don’t want to be comfortable in this uncomfortable place.

But, sometimes moving forward helps. Buying the house and all the logistics involved helped occupy my mind and kept me busy. Wayfair and West Elm occupied my time and my wallet. It felt really good to be doing something.

I constantly ask myself, what’s the balance here? How can I be okay with where I am right now without being complacent? How does anyone go through this sh*t and not be completely changed by it?

That stupid, empty room.

Anna and Elsa

This week embryos Anna and Elsa take the stage. All eyes (and ultrasound wands) on them.

In the time since my first IVF’s failure, I’ve carefully considered when to do my next IVF and how many embryos would come along for the ride. These thoughts have never been far from my mind in the months that have passed. There wasn’t one reason that I decided to move forward with transferring two embryos, but I suppose that if I have to single something out it would be this: I’m tired of not being a mom. I’ve been through too much and have worked too hard. I’m tired. So, at this point, I can’t say in good consciousness, well, two is just too many at one time. It isn’t.

My FET cycle has been a bit bumpier than I anticipated. The estrogen has hit me hard. While physically I’m okay, emotionally I am basically a dumpster fire. I’m probably not what one might call the most emotionally sounds person off-meds, but the Estrace causes me to openly weep at the slightest hint of emotion. Sadness, sure. Also happiness, excitement, anger, pride… it’s been a fun few weeks.

The PIO is another fun, jabby adventure. This is my first time on PIO and I was more than a little surprised by the thickness of the needle. Since I do my own injections (my husband is petrified of one thing, and that thing happens to be needles), shoving that mammoth needle into my butt can prove to be a bit of a challenge. Thank goodness for large bathroom mirrors and reasonably steady hands.

Naturally, I’m rooting for Anna and Elsa. I’d like to think these two embryos have the same sass and spunk as the characters, helping them stick around.

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Settling into failure

A few days have passed since we officially found out that our first IVF cycle was unsuccessful. My anger at the situation has tapered, although still rears its head in flashes. I’ve since settled into disappointment and a general feeling of being lost. Much of my last three-plus years has left me in a similar place, so, unfortunately its rather familiar. It’s hard to make sense of that sometimes — that this is my new normal — but I’ve begrudgingly accepted it.

There’s not much I can do right now but make myself reasonably comfortable in this lost space. We’ll meet with the doctor in two weeks to go over key learnings from my failed first cycle and then make a plan to move on. Financially I need to figure out what that will look like and how soon we can feasibly start round two with an FET.

I’ve run out of things to say when people who knew about the IVF ask how I am. I don’t have a new way to say, well, I’m kinda used to this. Or actually, sometimes my whole body hurts because I want a baby. Sometimes I’m really just going through the motions and maybe I always will be.

Even though I feel this way now, I’m cautiously optimistic to try again. Infertility is a complex web of emotions that demand to be felt. It’s lonely and scary. All-consuming. But I’ll keep doing it over and over again for the foreseeable future. I don’t have a choice, right?

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Image from The Refined Investor

When your heart keeps breaking

Going into my first IVF cycle I didn’t understand just how high my hopes would be. I thought, as long as we come out of this stim cycle with frozen embryos, I’m good. And we did.

But I’m not good. I got my period several days ago and have been stewing ever since. I went through the stages of grief. Spotting is normal during implantation and this is only a little more than that… Then my period would all but stop and I’d feel relieved and silly that I overreacted. Then, hours later, more red.

Little 3AB didn’t stick around and that sucks. It really just sucks. I’m angry that for what I’ve put my body through over the last several weeks I don’t have much to show for it. I’m still waiting. How am I still waiting?!

How has this thing that happens for a majority of the population — often by accident — not happened for me after three and a half years of time, money and effort? I’m angry. I’m sad. I don’t understand it. I can’t understand it. I can’t let it go.

I’ll focus on the positive — a future Frozen Embryo Transfer (FET) — later. I’ll dust myself off and gather the pieces… later. For now my heart is broken again. It’s my new normal and I hate it.

An unlucky sisterhood

I’ve found at times that it can be difficult to talk to other women about infertility who have never experienced it. They got pregnant quickly or easily. Perhaps accidentally. If you watch their faces as you tell your story of waiting, loss, pain and aching, you might see a small flash of relief that they didn’t have to experience what you do. I’d probably have it, too. It’s not hurtful to me because I completely get it.

Just as often their faces show compassion and genuine sadness for your story. They shake their heads in empathy. A lot of women I’ve spoken to choose their next words carefully, which I appreciate. If you haven’t been through this, please don’t tell me that everything happens for a reason or that we’re not given more than we can handle. You may believe those things, and that’s fine. But I don’t. Not now. Maybe I never did. It doesn’t mean I’ve lost faith; it just means that those words have little comfort for me, and many other women experiencing infertility.

Those of us in this unlucky sisterhood have been burned. I choose the word unlucky here merely to illustrate that there’s often no rhyme or reason for our infertility. I check out fine, as does my husband. I don’t necessarily think “luck” in the traditional sense of the word has anything to do with it; but here we are, together, maybe huddled in the corner of impending parenthood, trying to make sense of what we have to deal with.

In this sisterhood many of us are guarded and know the value of choosing our words carefully. We know that a positive pregnancy test can mean hold our breath during the entire first trimester. Our “I’m pregnant” is often followed by “I hope this sticks.” Unless you’ve said aloud or thought that phrase in context, you can’t really understand the gravity of it. Many couples will never know what it feels like to be both happy and completely unsure if that joy will change on a dime. What placing a bet of thousands of hard-earned dollars down of hormones and ultrasounds will get us. Going all-in to nurse an infant at 3am. To be a human pin cushion and relying on science to see our eyes or our spouses looking back at us from the safety of our cradling arms.

I recently had conversation with a fellow sister who told me of another who’d been rejected as a prenatal patient by an OB because she “wasn’t excited enough about her pregnancy.” In hearing this story, I was shocked that a doctor — an obstetrician, no less — could be so unfeeling toward a woman who’d had a tumultuous time even getting to the point of needing an OB. Clearly that would not have been a good patient-provider fit, but it hurts my heart that a fellow unlucky sister had to hear that from a professional.

The women that I know who are experiencing this with me are so strong, so fierce and so very deserving. I feel connected to this vast network of women that are every shape, size, color… I never wanted to join this unlucky sisterhood, but I’m here now, and sending support from the very bottom of my heart. We can do this.