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.

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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.

“We need some light”

I totally nerd out for musicals. I would stare in awe and stammer if I met Lin-Manuel Miranda more than I would George Clooney. Musicals have always made me happy, since I first fell in love with “Phantom of the Opera” when I was in seventh grade. While I’ve found all types of music resonates with me, I’ve always felt the closest connections to my own life and feelings through musical theatre.

When I saw “Next to Normal” last year it changed my life. The story follows a family coping with the mother’s bipolar diagnosis, through the highs of mania and the lows of depression. The music is so striking and so powerful. It hit me in the gut while reminding me that we’re not alone.

As the countdown is on to starting IVF (T minus four days), I’ve drawn strength from a few key lyrics in the show’s finale, “Light.” I’ve listened to the cast recording of this show ad nauseum, but have only listened to this song a handful of times because it makes me cry (this is not an unusual pattern for me — I regularly skip the last songs of “Rent,” “Hamilton” and “Les Miserables,” too, because the waterworks start). It feels applicable now, as I take this next step in trying to have a baby.

We need some light.
First of all, we need some light.
You can’t sit here in the dark.
And all alone, it’s a sorry sight.
It’s just you and me.
We’ll live, you’ll see.

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Playbill.com

In April I only see showers

Some days I’m not sure my heart can take it. I want to turn it off. On the radio I hear of a mother who left her child to die – simply neglecting him. On Facebook I see another story of parents accused of abuse. A friend tells me of her own child who, before she adopted her, was sexually abused by her biological father as a toddler. Biology has allowed these people to have a child, yet me, not.

The other night I was at a work event and remarked to a coworker that I was drinking my first glass of wine in more than a year. She asked if that was by choice. I guess I’d forgotten that she didn’t know. I don’t have any problem discussing my history with people – friends – that see me every day. I told her that no, it wasn’t really by choice. I was pregnant last spring, then on fertility medication, then pregnant again, until recently.

I’ve just had my second consecutive miscarriage, one year apart. In April I only see showers. Dark clouds roll in and the rain that follows washes everything I hope for away.

Physically this miscarriage was much more difficult than my last. In both cases I required medical intervention, but I chose to forgo the D&C this time in favor of pharmaceutical assistance. The pain and bleeding lasted much longer than I’d anticipated – six days – but emotionally my brain shut it down. It flipped the switch, sort of knowing what to expect. I’ve talked about this at length in therapy since, and I find it pretty remarkable what our brains can do. While I was more emotionally invested in this pregnancy, I transitioned quickly into a protection mode. The day of and following the diagnosis of a collapsed sac (when one week prior everything looked very promising) I was in disbelief. But the acceptance of another miscarriage happened within a few short days. My brain sort of said you know what happens now, and you’ll make it through.

And I have. I still experience the waves of sadness and fits of anger that I do not have the child that I desire. Some days are better than others. Today my heart and body hurt from another loss. But tomorrow may be better. My brain is pushing me forward.

I spent much of 2015 in a very dark place with my depression over my miscarriage. I didn’t say the word aloud very often for fear that I’d well up in tears. When the situation called for it, I’d often say my surgery. It spared me, sometimes, the few moments of remembering what I’d lost.

This year had more promise. I found out I was pregnant for a second time while in my hometown visiting my family and meeting my then-six-week-old nephew. I told him he was going to have a cousin, and then quietly sang him “Dear Theodosia” from Hamilton, thinking that before year’s end I could sing it to my own baby.

When this April ends I’ll begin IVF. I am 20 percent hopeful, 40 percent scared of what it will do to my body and brain and 40 percent resigned to feeling like all of those other people have a privilege that they don’t deserve.