Saturday, January 29, 2011

Opening Up

Today, I had two of my good friends from church over so that I could share with them my infertility struggles.  We're slowly letting people in on our struggles.  It felt good to let it out.  One of them -- let's call her D -- is pregnant with her second child (not the one from my last post), and the other -- we'll call her K -- has three boys.  They were great about listening even though one of them did say that maybe I just need to relax, stop thinking about it, and just let it happen when it happens.  (I hate being told to relax!  At this point, I need to be on medication to relax because my brain is not going to spontaneously stop thinking about infertility every other second of the day, it's just not going to happen!)

Sorry, I just had to rant.  Rant aside, we spent a lot of time talking about how it really is God in control of our lives.  We think we can plan the course of our lives, and it's at times like these when God steps in and reminds us who is really in control.  Our lives never turn out the way we think they will.  D and I were actually talking about how our lives are sort of flip flopped.  She and her husband dated five years before they got engaged.  She went through a hard time before she got engaged because her life wasn't where she thought it would be at that point.  She thought she'd already be married.  And as far as I can tell, she hasn't had any problems getting pregnant.  Me, on the other hand, I was convinced I wouldn't meet anyone and get married until I was 30.  Up until I'd met my husband at the age of 23, I'd had one boyfriend whom I dated for a whole 2 months, and hadn't dated anyone in the six years since.  But from the point when I met my husband, we were married within less than a year and a half, when all was said and done.  On the other hand, while I worried about ever getting married, I never thought I'd have issues getting pregnant.  Look where I am now.

We also talked about how the pain will some day go away.  K was telling us a story about a friend of hers from back when she lived in Sydney who'd gone through five miscarriages.  They used to commute to work together in the mornings, and her friend would cry during those bus rides, talking about her pain, and sharing with K how hard it was to be around K because K had a little boy at that time.  Years later, K's friend now has two children of her own, and when she and K talk, she can barely remember the heartache she went through. When K brings up that period of time in her friend's life, her friend remarks with some wonder that she can barely remember those teary conversations they used to share every morning.

I wonder if that will be me some day.  I hope that will be me some day.  But still.  It's hard to imagine that some day something that seems to consume so much of my head space and fill every corner of my day with its uninvited presence could be just a vague, distant memory.  It seems laughable from where I'm standing now.  But then I think about my days as a single person before I met my husband.  There were a number of weepy nights spent alone in my apartment listening to sad CDs about love -- love lost, unrequited love, every single permutation of blighted love.  If you could count it up, I spent hours on the phone with friends bemoaning my single status.  And then I met my husband, and the agony and worry and heartache just went away, instantly.  Every once in a while I'll think back to those days, and part of me has to laugh at the foolishness of my young self.  I was only 23 for crying out loud!  If only my 30-year-old self could reach back in time and comfort that lovelorn young woman.

I'm hoping that my 35-year-old or 40-year-old self has something similar to say to my 30-year-old self at this moment in time.  It will all work out.  Just have a little faith.  I've read my fair share of infertility blogs at this point, and there are a number of infertiles who have made it out onto the other side, one way or another.  It's interesting to read their entries pre and post baby.  The darkness and despair prior, and the joy, however quivering and tentative, as each day of their pregnancy passes until that wonderful, transcendent moment they lay eyes on their babies for the first time.  And then the entries about the early days of parenthood and the sleepless nights, the feedings, wondering what type of stroller to buy.  Did they ever imagine that they would make it to the other side?

What makes the journey so hard is that we don't know the ending.  We don't know if it will be a happy one or not, if we will get the babies we so desperately want.  I wish I could be ok with that, but I'm not.  I hate the uncertainty.  But if I may be so bold as to say this, I do think there is a happy ending for most of us.  Because one way or another, we will go on to have our babies some day.  Or we may adopt, and meet our children somewhere down the line.  Or we will decide that we will live child-free.  But one day, we will be ok.  We'll make it through this somehow.  We may even look back and realize that this was the life we were meant to live.  Have faith.

In the meantime, I want to do more than just cope or survive.  And that was another thing that K, D and I talked about.  How in our culture, we're trained to live and plan for that next thing.  And all the while, we miss out on the now.  It's easier said than done, but I realize how true that is.  When I think back on 2010, the majority of it seems like a blur.  I can only remember that I waited each month to ovulate, and then I waited each month to see if I got my period or not.  We're talking about 24-some days of last year that I can really remember.  What happened to the rest of the year?  There must have been other things that happened, that were important or eventful or happy, but I have a hard time recalling them.  What a waste of a year.

The conversation made me realize that I want to be more present this year.  I want to try to live in the now, and savor the days as much as I can.  I don't know how I'll do this -- with God's help -- but I would like to try.

Your eyes saw my unformed substance;
in your book were written, every one of them,
the days that were formed for me,
when as yet there were none of them.

Psalm 139:16

Monday, January 24, 2011

So Tired

I had a terrible weekend -- the worst that I've had since I found out about our infertility.  I woke up crying on Saturday, and pretty much cried the rest of the weekend.  I just couldn't stop.  All I could figure is that I'd ovulated some time over the weekend, and that my hormones dipped as a result.  I don't normally suffer from depression, but I think I was experiencing real symptoms of depression this weekend.  It was downright scary.

I could hardly drag myself to church on Sunday, but my husband was moderating the service, so I wanted to make a show of support.  Although I was on the edge of tears much of the time, I made it through the service relatively unscathed.

But at the end of the service, I was standing next to a pregnant friend of mine, watching her watch her one-year-old son toddle around, when she asked me, oh so innocently, "So what about you? When are you going to have kids?"

I started with the standard reply from the infertility textbook, "We'd love to have kids, but it probably won't be for a while."

I was hoping she might drop it, but she kept pressing on.  "Why not?  Come on!"

Ok, take two.  "We'd love to have kids, but we can't."

She looked puzzled.  "You mean, because of your husband's work?" (DH has been freelancing on a major project, the release date of which has been pushed out again to this summer.)

"No..."  I was starting to wonder if she was really daft, and if I was going to have to spell it out.  But then I realized something that hadn't really dawned on me before.  Infertility is not foremost on everyone's mind, least of all a fertile person's mind.  I don't think this friend even considered that we might be going through infertility.

So being absolutely exhausted with keeping up this strong facade, of having to hide my infertility, of feeling beaten down by life in general, I was just honest with her.  "We're infertile."

I wasn't sure how she would take it.  She and I aren't super close, but we're part of a small church, and so we get to chat often.  She gasped, and put her arm around me, and said, "Oh Christina! I'm so sorry."

I just broke down.  I started telling her our story and, of course, cried while I did.  When we first started talking, there was no one in the room with us.  It was right when the waterworks started that, wouldn't you know it, everyone decides they need to come into the room and straighten up or gather their stuff.  Anyway, my friend was supportive and kind about the whole thing.  Sometimes she said daft things like, "I understand" (I doubt she did), but I know she meant well and her heart was in the right place.  Overall, I did start feeling a little better after that.

The important thing that I realized from my conversation with her, and from my crappy weekend, is that I'm so tired of hiding the truth of our infertility.  I'm so exhausted with carrying this burden by myself and feeling like I can't talk about it with anyone in my real life.  Feeling like I always have to put on a happy face and pretend that everything is alright, that nothing gets to me.  There are times -- and none magnified as strongly as within these past couple of days -- when I just feel like my world is crumbling all around me, like my life is skidding out of control.  When the life that I'd always imagined has disintegrated into ash, blown away by a puff of air.  I wonder if I will ever be me again -- just me -- without the shadow of infertility as my constant twin.  Is it scary to say that I honestly don't remember the person I used to be before infertility?  Before the constant worry?  Before the perpetual low-grade sadness that's draped itself over my life like a constant film of dust?  They say that this pain will one day go away, and in my logical mind, I know that's true.  This too shall pass.  But regardless, I'm still terrified I will never get back to that old me again, that I'm lost forever.

Over the weekend, I downloaded the new Deerhunter album, Halcyon Digest.  I've been playing one track over and over again -- "Helicopter."  The lyrics are haunting.  They make mention of drugs, but I don't get the sense he's talking about illegal drugs.  It seems like he's talking about legal drugs for a medical condition.  I can't figure out what the exact meaning of the song is, but it resonates with me if I put the lyrics in the context of infertility.  It's suited my mood and mindset, so below are the video and lyrics.

I am thinking about seeing a counselor to talk through my feelings. This all may be worse than I've been admitting to myself.  Maybe it's time to talk to someone.

"Helicopter" by Deerhunter

Take my hand and pray with me
My final days in company
The devil now has come for me
And helicopters circling the scene

And I pray for rest
Could you pray for us?
We know he loves you the best
We know he loves you the best

The light's inside my cave
I'm tired of my pain oh 

Oh, these drugs, they play on me
in these terrible ways
They don't pay like they used to pay
I used to make it day to day

No one cares for me
I keep no company
I have minimal needs
And now they are through with me

Now they are through with me
Now they are through with me
Now they are through with me
Now they are through with me

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Expanding My Thinking

In the past few weeks, I feel like God has been opening my heart to adoption.

Let's just back up and appreciate that statement for what it is.  Because the three-years-ago me would have been aghast at that statement.  The before-infertility-existed me would never ever have considered adoption in a million years.  But lo and behold, the game has changed drastically for DH and me this past year, and suddenly IV-wuh? me can teach a Harvard Medical class on reproductive cycles and ovulation.

When we first learned that we were dealing with infertility, my first thought was, "how do I do Clomid/IUI/IVF and how much is that going to cost?"  Adoption still wasn't a consideration.  But now as I follow along over the blogosphere with the fertility treatments that so many of you women are going through, I am realizing that these treatments don't guarantee a baby.  Not by a long stretch.  They're hard on the body, hard on the wallet and, most of all, hard on the heart.  I've been forced to ask myself, is this really something I want to go through?

The New York Times had a 2008 audio series on infertility that surfaced when I was browsing around the internet a few months ago.  It's actually a phenomenally moving series, and totally worth a listen.  I think so many of us will relate to the emotions and the experiences.  One of the women interviewed had been through a series of unsuccessful infertility treatments, including IUI and IVF.  She said something that really stuck with me, "I didn't want to force my body to try and do something that it wasn't interested in doing."  This really made me pause and think.  I haven't been through any treatments yet.  I don't know what it's like, but having read a number of your accounts, I can see that it's extremely taxing and nerve-wracking.  Is this really something I want to do?

How we each respond to infertility is so personal.  For some, adoption is just not right.  On the flip side, neither is IVF for some.  I'm not saying that I'm ready to bypass ART in favor of adoption.  I'm not saying adoption is easier than infertility treatments, or more foolproof (we've all heard of adoptions that tragically fall through at the last minute).  But in some senses, I can see how adoption could be easier.  Because for a lot of people, adoption is seen as a last resort.  And if we were able to make peace that adoption was right for us, then I feel like we could stop worrying about the next step because it would be the end of the line for us.

For me, I feel like God is using our infertility to nudge open the door of adoption for us.  He's not pushing us through it.  He's just propping it open with his foot.  So I'm just taking a peak inside.  Just a little one.

I'd be interested in hearing your thoughts on adoption.  And for further reading, and what got me thinking about adoption some more, check out Hillary's blog, Making Me Mom.  She's written a couple of blog posts on adoption -- Part I and Part II.

Monday, January 17, 2011

4% Morphology is the New Normal??

This report on sperm morphology made me feel better.  My hubby isn't quite there yet, but he's not too far off at 3%/1%.  Now we just need to get his count and motility up...

Report is courtesy of Dr. Licciardi, a fertility specialist at NYU.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Raise Your Hand if You're NOT Pregnant

Is it just me or is every other celebrity out there now pregnant?

I have to admit that I keep up with celebrity gossip, and I can't help but notice that a ton of celebrities have been announcing pregnancies these past few weeks -- Natalie Portman, Kate Hudson, Devon Aoki, Jewel.

This plus the fact that I have two friends who are now on pregnancy #2.

I seriously feel like I'm the last non-pregnant person on this earth.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011


If you can believe it, I've been so swamped at work (new projects, staffing issues, etc.) that I have not been thinking about infertility as much as I usually do.  So instead of dwelling on infertility 24-7, I only think about it about a few times a day.  Hey, if you're an infertile, you'll know that this is incredibly little!

I don't know if this is good or not because the work stress is starting to overwhelm me.  I had a moment of clarity this evening where I realized that I can't let work consume me.  My life is about more than work.  I have a wonderful husband, family, dog, home and friends.  I guess I could extrapolate this to infertility too.  I'm more than just my infertility.  As hard as that is to remember, it's true.

On that note, and maybe in contradiction, I had my husband move his urologist follow-up appointment out to February 4 because something came up at work.  I'm kind of bummed that we're moving it out a week than originally scheduled, but what is another week in this whole journey anyway?

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Infertility is Kicking Me While I'm Down

Just got a bill for $883 for my HSG.  I was shocked.  I guess it was my own stupid fault for not doing more research.  I just thought that the test was covered.

I called the insurance carrier to ask, and they confirmed this.  The HSG is covered...after the $1,000 deductible.  I started crying on the phone after the agent told me this, and she was very apologetic.  It's not her fault, but still...I have to go through infertility AND this?

Shortly after the call to the insurance company, I had to call a friend from church to remind her of something.  She just announced she is pregnant with #2, so I was congratulating her on that.  She was telling me how great she feels and how much she loves being pregnant.  She also told me that our other friend at church who is also pregnant with #2 just found out that they are having a boy, which is what they had been hoping for.

How is it that everyone else's lives seem to be going swimmingly and ours just feel like they're falling apart at the seams?

I know God has a plan for me in all of this, but I'm having a hard time finding peace with this.  We all have our difficulties in life, and God gives us different paths, but I just can't help wondering why my path has to be so particularly rocky right now.  I think it's times like these that God tests our faith and endurance.  If that's true, I can't help but feel like I am failing miserably.  I am not finding much joy or peace in this test.  I do feel some acceptance, but it's mostly a numb acceptance, like I'm just waiting for it to all be over.

I pray that God would help me find joy amidst the trial, that he would remind me of his everlasting love and goodness.  I don't have the strength to get through this, but I know that He will be my strength in this time of weakness and helplessness.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Urologist Appointment - Finally Some News!

Finally!  Something to report!

I feel like this past month has been agony, waiting for this appointment with the reproductive urologist, and finally it came today!

So here's what DH heard (I wasn't able to make the appointment, but I made DH swear up and down that he would get all the nitty gritty details for me):
  • DH has varicoceles.  For real???  This was surprising to us.  Doc said they weren't blatantly obviously because they're in the mild to moderate category as far as severity.  The reason we found this surprising is because DH's father had examined him over Thanksgiving and told him he didn't think he had varicoceles.  (DH's father is a general surgeon.  So he's a doctor, but not one specializing in this area.)  Doc said that if DH gets surgery to correct this that there is a 70% chance that it will improve his sperm.  By how much, we don't know.
  • Other than the varicoceles, he said that DH seemed normal and healthy otherwise, however...
  • DH has to get bloodwork done tomorrow.  This will include genetic testing, and probably testing of hormone levels.  This is what I'm really worried about.  I'm praying my brains out that everything will be ok here, but deep down, I'm afraid that something will be wrong.  While the varicoceles helped explained some of the situation, DH said that he got the sense that Doc thought something else was at play.
  • DH gave a urine sample today.  Don't know what that was for.  I think to see if there is any sperm in it?
  • Doc did not seem concerned with the low morphology.  What the heck?  Really?  It's at 1-3%!!  Going to ask for more details on this the next time we meet with him.
  • I asked DH to ask about taking zinc, natural supplements, acupuncture, and TCM to see if he thought any of that would help.  He said there really aren't any solid findings around any of that stuff, and that it probably wouldn't help enough.  He said the main thing he needed was Vitamins D and E and that was already in DH's multi-vitamins.
  • I asked DH to ask if the doc thought we could get into the IUI range.  He said there was a chance.  I don't know how to take this since I didn't hear this first hand, but I suspect he tried to be judicious when answering.  Maybe we could do IUI.  But we'll probably end up doing IVF (my hunch).
  • Doc said DH needed to be eating red meat to help his swimmers.  He said he should be eating red meat every two to three days.  That's a LOT!  Right now, we probably eat red meat on average once every week or two.
We have a follow-up appointment scheduled for end of the month.  Doc wants both of us to be at this appointment because we will have all of the results of the tests, and will be discussing treatment options and next steps.

Wow, wow, wow.  I can't believe something is actually happening!

I'm more optimistic than I should be.  I know that whatever treatment route we take, we'll need to wait at least 3 months for the sperm to develop before we'll know if anything worked or not.

It's going to be a long, slow road.  But at least we're moving, and that's a start.