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, four more IUI cycles, two failed IVF rounds later 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.

52

Today and tomorrow

Two years ago today I found out I was pregnant for the first time. It feels like it could have been a lifetime ago. At that time, my husband and I were still noobs of infertility. We were already a little more than two years in to “trying,” unsuccessfully, but still so hopeful that we were seeking medical intervention and would, no doubt, solve the underlying issues quickly, whatever they might be. We’d just done our second IUI, but as the TWW drew to a close, I wasn’t optimistic that I’d be pregnant. My husband, unbeknownst to me, suspected it had worked because he’d noticed a change in my boobs.

When I saw that stick read pregnant early on a Tuesday morning, I laugh-cried. It was such a happy moment. Later that day I stopped at Target to pick up “What to Expect…” because I was so excited to buy it and need it.

Of course, by later that April things had changed so much.

Last April we were dealing with similar circumstances.

April sucks.

Tomorrow we’re doing our seventh infertility treatment. Another IUI — the thing that has worked — now that my endometritis has cleared. A big part of me hates that this is happening in April. It’s too full of bad juju. The flip side is that maybe this April will turn it all around. Maybe it’s supposed to be April.

Or maybe I just need to stop looking for a sign in every damn thing.

Later days, endometritis

The super annoying, potentially infertility-causing house guest in my uterus is finally gone! Following my third (and heaven willing my last) biopsy earlier this month, my chronic endometritis has cleared. Boatloads of antibiotics did the trick.

The day that I got the good news, I was actually terrified that it would be bad. I just had the worst gut feeling that the condition was still lingering, and had, perhaps, gone too long untreated leaving my my uterus permanently inhospitalable.

I’m incredibly thankful that doesn’t appear to be the case.

While the coast is currently clear, I’m eager to move forward as quickly as possible. “Quickly,” though, in infertility land almost always means waiting for your next cycle to begin. After some back and forth with the doctor and input from the most amazing nurse in the world, my husband and I landed on returning to IUI for just one more cycle.

That decision was primarily driven by financials (IUI is pocket change compared to IVF), but also by the tried-and-true approach of “well it worked before…” Said with a shrug, of course.

giphy

Both times that I’ve been pregnant were a result of IUIs. Since both of those pregnancies ended in miscarriages, though, we’ll this time supplement the IUI with progesterone shots (Crinone suppositories historically haven’t worked for me).

I’ve started the Clomid regimen. In previous cycles Clomid has flattened me like a pancake, although it has done what it’s intended to do. I decided I was willing to deal with the side effects one last time.

Mentally, though, I’m already checked out of this cycle. Although it has been successful in the past, Clomid + IUI has failed me twice, too. I expect it will again. My expectations are low — where I hope they will stay.

This will be my seventh attempt to get pregnant with medical intervention. That number seems very high, but also not high enough given that we’ve spent more than two years and thousands and thousands of dollars doing it.

All hail me, the antibiotic queen

The last two months have been, shall we say, a bit confusing in Infertility Land. Following my second unsuccessful IVF transfer in November, my doctor was puzzled why three seemingly good (day 5 and 6) embryos had failed to implant. Statistically, given both my and my husband’s genetic screening are normal, it is extremely unlikely that they were all abnormal.

My doctor:

c869de79b728f8de041470b8f8e2ff14

The most likely candidate for failed implantation in my case (to recap: two failed IVFs, two miscarriages, and a boatload of IUIs totaling more than four years of unexplained infertility) is endometritis.

WTF is that and why does it sound just like endometriosis?

Endometritis is inflamed uterine lining, and I have it. Chronically. And how did we land on this diagnosis? With the most painful biopsy of my uterus I could imagine. I do not mince words here. I have a reasonably high tolerance for pain. I’ve had sporadic kidney stones since I was about 17 years old. I bite down and bear it. A uterine lining biopsy is no joke. I, in fact, nearly fainted. I sat up following the procedure, felt weird, and then hear my doctor and nurse yelling into the hallway for juice and a cold compress as they each grab my hands and check my pulse. It had slowed to about 50/bpm.

This endometritis thing is wack, but at least we’re starting to get some answers. I was asymptomatic, so there was no real reason to test for this before. It’s possible that I contracted the initial infection that lay essentially dormant when I had my D&C for my first miscarriage. The timing of that makes complete sense, actually. Nothing has worked since then. The number one complication of endometritis is infertility. Check! I got that.

I was relieved to have a diagnosis and something to blame the stress of the last few years of fertility treatments on. And thankfully, chronic endometritis is treatable. Just a course of antibiotics should clear it right up! Yes, there would be another painful biopsy waiting for me on the other side of that treatment, but so what?

I dutifully took my two pills a day for three weeks (thanks to a sinus infection prior to my treatment, my course of antibiotics was more like four and a half weeks). Then tried to keep my anxiety at bay for the next invasion of my uterus. You know what helps, though? Valium! The most wonderful nurse on the planet gave me one about an hour before the procedure and I’d slide that pain scale on down to a seven this time around. I was also pretty high most of the day, so I joyfully spent the following few hours in my bed.

Fast forward one week to yesterday… results day. No bueno. The tissue remains inflamed. Three weeks of antibiotics is no match for MY chronic endometritis!

giphy

So, ya know, that’s not fair. The next step is a double dose of antibiotics for two more weeks. And then we biopsy again. Cannot wait for that good time.

In all seriousness, I’m sad. Sad that this easy treatment for this condition we didn’t know I had didn’t work. Sad that the timing of all this effectively prevents us from having a child in 2017, even if I were to successfully get pregnant in my next FET cycle. Which, sure, is fine, but it’s just one more thing that sucks. I made an effort to start the year positively after the last few have beat the crap out of me, and it makes me question why I’m ever positive.

Yes, I’m selfish — I want a baby and I’m pissed that I’ve waited so long to get what I want. Only to just keep on waiting. Now I’m waiting with boxes of probiotics and Monistat to quickly clear the inevitable yeast infection.

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.

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.