Thursday, December 22, 2011

Reminiscing

As 2011 is drawing to a close, I find myself feeling anxious for a clean slate. I've said more than once that I just want to go to sleep and wake up next year. This year has been so sucky, and I keep daydreaming that I will wake up on January 1, 2012 and everything will be different. I know that's not actually what's going to happen, but I like to hope that as the calendar flips to a new year, I can shed some of the sadness I feel and embrace 2012 for what it is: a new start.

I feel like I'm saying good-bye to a phase of my life. I'm feeling more and more at peace with being a family with just Buddy, but I admit there are things I miss about that time: the intimacy I felt him, the discussion of baby names, the imagining of the future raising children.

At the same time, 2011 has given us closer relationships with both each other and with some of our friends and their amazing children. I feel that 2012 will be filled with wonderful things, hopefully including strong bonds with the supportive people in our lives. I hope it will also bring with it strength to continue going through this process and to be stronger as a couple because of it.

2011 was so much about devastation for me. It's been a long 6 months since June, when we first found out about my progesterone. It's been marked by tough decisions and many tears. I am optimistic that 2012 can be about hope: for a fun future, a happily married life, and prosperity for our friends and family.

Happy Holidays, everyone, and a Joyous New Year to You :)

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Bah Humbug

I have always loved Christmas. I love decorating, baking, picking out the perfect gifts. I love the excitment. It's kind of a family joke that even at the age of 25, I would wake up my sister at 6am, excited to open gifts and start the day. For a long time when I was young, my dad had to work until early afternoon and it was a painful wait. For the few years when he didn't have to work, the rules were that my parents had to have their coffee, and Dad would have his traditional gift-opening Guinness. Then we'd open stockings first, followed by gifts. Then we'd have a big brunch and spend the day relaxing. The first year Buddy and I were together, we went to see Christmas lights that evening. It was the first time we'd talked about getting married. It is my favorite Christmas memory. I've always loved Christmas.

Until now. I can't help but feel there's something missing. I'm apathetic. I haven't even shopped for my family yet. For friends? Yes. But the more my family goes on and on talking about what we want for Christmas, the more I just feel... nothing. I just want to curl up and wake up in January, after the holidays are over. After the stores have put away the "Baby's 1st Christmas" stockings and after the Christmas themed Facebook pregnancy announcements have fallen off the page of my newsfeed. I tried to open up to my mom about how I was feeling about this Christmas - that I just didn't have the joy I usually feel, that this Christmas is very different than how Buddy and I imagined it a year ago. She just said, "oh." As if feeling crappy wasn't enough, now I feel brushed off, too.

Two months ago, the message board was already asking about how fellow IFers dealt with the holidays. Some ladies mentioned they were going away on vacation or were avoiding family functions with their pesky, "when are you guys having kids?" questions. And I judged, I admit. I said I would never avoid family or a holiday I loved because of IF. And then, I walked in to Target and saw the store dressed up in it's festive marketing and walked by a Baby's 1st Christmas bib, misplaced in the wine aisle of all places. And I teared up. A few days later, I was shopping at Old Navy with Buddy, carrying around a hugely discounted white pea coat I'd had my eye on when my sister texted me, "what do you want for Christmas?" I put the coat back, grabbed Buddy's hand and left the store, barely making it to the car before bursting into tears.

Something about the holidays, even with all the magic and wonder, makes me remember what's missing. I'm in a far better place after reading Sweet Grapes. It's helped me immensely. I was able to buy Baby's 1st Christmas pajamas for two friends' babies. I proudly ordered, wrapped, and shipped gifts for my friend's 10-week-old. I have more resolve and peace with things than I did two months ago. Yet there's still a pang of sadness when I think about visits to Santa and The Elf on the Shelf and Christmas morning. It's mixed in with the apathy towards shopping for gifts and wanting to hibernate and anticipating our friends' kids opening the gifts we thoughtfully picked out for them. It's a mess of emotion where there used to be pure joy. I was naive to think that IF wouldn't affect Christmas.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Talking It Out

A few weeks ago, I took a big step towards calm and mental health and went and spoke with a counselor about our IF and how it's affecting our lives. I can't say enough good things about what talking to someone has done for my psyche. I realize it may not be for everyone, but I highly recomment at least considering it. I want to share a little of my experience with you in case there's anyone out there thinking about it. I'm not trying to talk you into anything, because it's a personal choice, but it's worked out well for me.

First, I found a great counselor. I got pretty lucky, I think. I was very worried that if I didn't find the right person, I'd be told to relax, the same way the general population of fertiles tells me to do. I used Psychotherapy Today to find a counselor in my area, then narrowed down the choices by insurance companies accepted and specialty. Mine lists her focus as family issues, with everything from LGBT parenting to IF to grief counseling as topics she works with. I emailed her and got the conversation going. She invited me to either call or come in and chat to see if I felt she was a good match for me. I liked that she emphasized how important she knew that level of comfort was. I chose to make an appointment in her office, and I'm glad I chose that over the phone option. I really was able to get a sense of her energy. I knew I liked her presence right away. I really think finding the right counselor is essential to working through anything, but especially something so personal and life-changing.

One great thing about counseling is that I go alone (though Buddy is welcome at any time and does plan to join me in a few weeks). I know that Buddy and I are in this together, but there are some emotions that are just my own. And there are some fears and other emotions that are hard to share with him. IF can be all-consuming, and I can easily see how it could tear a relationship apart over time. Something that is important and valuable to me in this is having an outlet to express the thoughts that weigh on me without having to dump them all on Buddy all the time. He feels badly enough about the MFI and low T. While I do talk to him about some things, there are just some things I don't feel I need to burden him with. Or, sometimes, there's something I want to talk to him about, but it's difficult to put into words he'll relate to or I don't know how to broach it. My therapist has been excellent at helping me put some of those more complex emotions in simpler terms so that I can bring them to Buddy and have a constructive conversation.

Something wonderful therapy has given me is some validation. While I'm thankful to be a member of a wonderfully supportive group of women also dealing with IF, no two cases are identical. We're in a stage of moving away from TTC, where most of the ladies are still going through treatments. In fact, we never did any treatment, so I can't even relate on that level. I feel very alone at times, and worry about people thinking we gave up. Buddy and I feel we made a rational decision for ourselves, considering the chances, treatment costs, and possible outcomes. My therapist has helped me work through those feelings. There are times when I don't feel like I've gone through enough to justify the sadness or grief I feel. But between my therapist and Sour Grapes, I've come to realize that there are no easy decisions in IF, and no matter what, when we hit that 12 month mark, things changed. We received damaging news in our test results. We had to face the fact that this is a crisis - dreams of parenthood were in jeopardy. Our reaction was and is normal. While our choices regarding treatment may not be typical, they are no less valid. Similarly, our pain is no less real. There's no such thing as having to "suffer" enough to justify grief in this situation.

My counselor is also working with me on tools. We've discussed things like how to answer questions. She deals with other IF couples and knew without me even having to tell her how intrustive "are you guys trying?" and "when are you having kids?" can be, especially if people don't know about our situation. She's helped me come up with some ways to both politely and snarkily (depending on the situation) shut down conversation if the topic comes up. I was recently very anxious about Buddy's aunts coming to Thanksgiving. Buddy was the first cousin to be married, and we've been asked about kids since our wedding day. While we know people ask because they're excited for us, I was worried about my Thanksgiving Day reaction when I was feeling like there was something missing from my "things I'm thankful for" list this year. Having one liners that can appropriately convey that the topic is not open for discussion was empowering for me.

Another tool we've started to touch on is dealing with the dichotomy of my fears. There are two parts of life that currently elicit great emotion: pregnancy/young childhood and end-of-life. Obviously, not getting pregnant and having a baby have caused an emotional roller coaster. For some reason, I don't feel as much grief over not having a teen or adult child as I do over not having a baby and young child. A lot of my grief is centered around visions of Buddy teaching a kid to ride a bike and celebrating Christmas with a little one with eyes full of wonder not coming to fruition. On ther other side, assuming there are never children and Buddy passes first, who will be with me? I'm terrified of being alone at the end of my days. While couples should plan for retirement and elder care while relatively young, my therapist is supportively getting the ball rolling with thinking about those things now. She recognizes that it's important to me to know in some sense what that time some 40-50 years down the road may look like for me, in addition to helping me deal with the here-and-now losses of IF as I see my peers announce pregnancies daily.

So that got kind of lengthy. I just wanted to share a few of the valuable things I've already been armed with in meeting with a counselor. There is so much to IF and the way it affects our lives, and there are issues and fears that we may not know how to deal with. Therapy is one way to help us handle it, and I wanted to share my positive experience.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

IF Reading: Sweet Grapes

On my list of 101 things to do in 1001 days was to read 3 IF books - I know, not a lofty goal, but I have other books I want to read and I figured 3 IF-related books was a good place just to start. So I read Sweet Grapes: How to Stop Being Infertile and Start Living Again by Jean and Michael Carter. It's about how to make a conscious choice to live childfree and embrace both the gains and the losses of being a family of two. Essentially, it states that "infertile" means trying to get pregnant, and by making a choice to walk away from that journey and in no longer trying, a couple is no longer infertile. It describes in great detail the difference between being childfree and childless.

I'd been wanting to read this book for a while, and I'm glad it did. Even if an IF couple isn't facing a childfree life decision just yet, I think it's helpful to read to see what it means to be childfree after infertility. The book discusses the grieving process as it is specific to IF. It explained the steps of grief that a couple must go through, the process for making, affirming, and sticking with a decision to be childfree. For me, it justified many things I've been feeling. First, there is no right or wrong decision. We all have to make a decision based on the weighing of facts, risks, and outcomes. This goes for any decision, and two couples may never come to the same conclusion given identical situations simply because we each value things differently. So while I've been feeling strange about the fact that we essentially chose to not pursue treatment before it even started, Sweet Grapes affirmed for me that Buddy and I made the best decision for us based on many factors. And it's okay that someone else would have done things differently. I don't have to justify our decision to anyone but us. That was a big point for me.

Sweet Grapes covers a variety of topics, including adoption, which is often a difficult subject for us IFers. Oftentimes, we are labeled as selfish for choosing to either pursue infertility treatments or live childfree over choosing adoption. The position of the authors is that choosing childfree and choosing adoption are not mutually exclusive, meaning being childfree is not being anti-adoption. It's just a different choice. Adoption is not for everyone and that's okay. Adoption and choosing childfree are simply two of the possible positive outcomes for the end of the infertility struggle, along with the birth of a biological child. All three choices are equally viable and good, but they have to be conscious choices and not events that take place because one of the others didn't pan out. This is how I felt about adoption from the start, but to have it written out in a more eloquent manner than I could ever express is helpful.

I'm not good at book reviews, it's never been my strong suit. But if you're an IF couple and are interested in educating yourself on all three of the possible outcomes for an IF struggle, I'd definitely encourage checking out Sweet Grapes. It's not the choice for everyone, and it's not an easy decision, and it comes with a long process. However, I think this reading brings a number of topics to light to give IFers at all stages a good look at what childfree means in a true-life account of a couple who found their way through it.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Angry

I’m angry that insurance and money play such big roles in our choices. I don't know for sure that it would necessarily change our course of action, but we wouldn't feel as stuck.

I’m angry that people keep asking “when are you guys having children?” and “Two years of marriage, eh? Time to have a baby!” I’m angry that people think this is any of their business and anything they have a right to talk or ask about. I’m angry that my lady parts seem to be an acceptable topic of conversation.

I’m angry that I overhear people saying, “we’ll have a baby a year or so after we get married” and my first thought is, “don’t be so sure about that.”

I’m angry that my husband’s infertility leaves him with nearly no desire for me. I’m angry that it’s taken away my sex life, too.

I’m angry that when I put enough trust in someone to tell them what’s going on, I hear, “just do IVF,” “you need to just adopt, “ or “stop trying, you’ll get knocked up for sure!”

I’m angry that no one can just consider my feelings and give me a hug and say, “I’m sorry.”
I’m angry it’s so easy for other people.

I’m angry that I have to even worry about my reaction on the day in the unknown future when either my sister or sister-in-law announces they’re expecting.

I’m angry that it consumes my thoughts.

I’m angry that we’re preparing to turn our guest room into a craft room instead of a nursery.

I’m angry that everyone assumes it’s something I’m doing wrong.

I’m angry.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

"How do we go back?"

I love the discussion and thought-provocation that being part of an online community provides, especially when the members are all in the same proverbial boat. A couple of days ago, someone asked, “how do we go back?” meaning, how do we go back to the time of naivety and carelessness of trying to have a baby and forget all this junk that’s been added to our race to the invisible finish line?

It’s a good question, and I’ve pondered it often, as well. How do Buddy and I ever forget the things we know now? Can we even? Would we want to? Obviously, we can never un-know something, realistically, and I can’t just forget the last 18 months – or more crucially, the last 6 months – of IF and its impact on us. We can’t go back to the days of timing sex and thinking hopefully, “maybe this is the day we added to our family.” It more than likely isn’t going to happen that way anymore. The days of planning how I would tell him and how we would surprise our families have passed. The wonder and innocence of how two can become three is gone, and it’s replaced by an understanding of science, hormone levels, and luteal phases.

The fact of the matter is, as much as IF has taken from us, we’ve gotten something back. I know without a doubt, more so than I did before, that Buddy is the perfect man for me. Without all this, I’m not sure that we would know so much of the most tender parts of each other, especially at this point in our marriage. He wouldn’t probably know my deepest fears, and I wouldn’t know this comforting and compassionate side of him. I mean, I knew he was a good man and compassionate, but I’ve gotten to see him as a caretaker of my heart, not just of our home. I’ve seen his patience and his hurt. There is no life event like IF to compare all these resulting emotions to. I’ve seen a side of my husband that I never would know without IF, and I love him more for it.

I also wouldn’t have the knowledge I do, or the compassion for others. If I’d just gotten pregnant a few cycles in, I wouldn’t have needed to research the things I do. I wouldn’t know my body and my cycles as well, if at all. I wouldn’t have knowledge to share with others. I wouldn’t have sensitivity for other women who are dealing with IF, and may have made thoughtless comments. As much as I hate why I know the things I do, I can’t help but be thankful for all I’ve learned over the past year and a half.

I also wouldn’t have some of the friendships I do with other women. There is a community among those of us who struggle for children. There’s a sweetness and understanding for others who have to endure testing and treatment. Even without treatments, there’s an unspoken bond among us who have to wait while we watch others be blessed with what we wish for the most. Without them, I’d be alone. Lost. Without a sense of belonging or understanding or compassion. I’m eternally grateful for their kinship, and I simply wouldn’t have it without the last 18 months.

Obviously, we can’t go back in time. We can never go back to April 11, 2010 – the day before cycle 1 began – and know what our race would have in store. Our relationship is changed forever because of it, just as we are each changed as individuals. We can’t be carefree and na├»ve and always assume that sex makes a baby and that everyone always gets their chance to be a biological parent. We can’t just close our eyes to all we've seen, or our ears to all we've heard. The anxiety, fears and sadness can’t be un-felt. It’s a part of mine and Buddy’s marriage. Even if we someday have a baby, we’ll always have this to look back on as a part of the glue that holds us together, and we’ll always know it made us stronger. We’ll know how lucky we are and remember to be grateful. If there is never a baby, it’s a part of our story. A painful one, but a part of it nonetheless. What matters is what we do with it, and how we move on from it.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Confirmed

As promised, Buddy had his blood tested last week for a myriad of things, including thyroid function, low testosterone, liver and kidney function, and cholesterol. The results, as suspected, showed low testosterone. Not quite as suspected was a high level of triglycerides. We can fix that - he's been exercising, we eat low carb. We'll just have to be more conscienscious and work with the doctor to get it righted.

What's not such an easy and clear cut answer is the testosterone. If TTC wasn't an issue, the treatment would be supplements, likely via injection. The problem is, when foreign testosterone is introduced, the male body stops producing it on its own, thinking the levels are high enough, and shuts down the factory. The result, generally, is a decreased sperm count. Clearly, with very low numbers already, this could be disastrous for conception. The fertility-friendly treatment is made difficult by our insurance options and isn't guaranteed to be successful, particulary with IVF off the table.

We find ourselves at a crossroads, one we feel we've been at - at least mentally - for a couple months. What do we do? I've researched the issue, but obviously I realize that only a doctor who knows Buddy's test results and medical history can weigh in on what they think will happen. Even that may only be an educated guess. Quite frankly, we don't know how we feel about moving forward lately. There was a time when we were all about fixing stuff and moving forward to pursue IUI. Now, we've had time to weigh the benefits of life without kids. Some of it is very appealing. Okay, a lot of it. We don't know how we feel about having to put so much effort into something that's supposed to be so easy, or if it's better for us to just let life happen. There's some mind changing going on, and there's also a defense mechanism kicking in.

I know nothing has to be a final decision, but I also don't know what to hope for, honestly. Right now, I'd rather have my lover back, my complete husband. I don't know where this will take us, but I know that things just got that much more tangled.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Will I Ever Grow Up?

This may not be TTC related, but that may be a welcome break from the focus on my ute and Buddy's swimmers. I've been thinking lately that it seems weird to be trying to have a baby. Weird, because it's such a grown up thing to do.

I remember thinking when I was young - like 14 "young" - that 30 was so old. Yet, here I am, 30 years and 3.5 months old, and I feel like I'm still a kid sometimes. I have a career, two dogs, and a husband. We've bought cars, furniture, a house and custom artwork. I've found grey hairs. I cook almost every night, wash sheets weekly, and mop floors. I have a life insurance policy. All the things "grown ups" do. Still, I think about some of those things and feel that I'm playing house in a way. Seriously, who let us buy a home? It boggles my mind sometimes that some bank lent me over $100K to buy a house. And I have a meal plan? That doesn't involve take-out? Who am I? Don't get me started on the whole being married thing. Don't get me wrong - I adore Buddy and I love our marriage, but sometimes, it's like, "I'm a... wife?!" There are times when it still feels like we could just be playing house... in a house. With a mortgage. And a sprinkler system. And a garage door. Eeek.

It makes me think about trying to have a baby and if that's what it will take for me to finally say, "yep, I'm an adult." I wonder if - if we ever have a baby - we'll leave the hospital with me thinking, "you're letting me take this home? I'm not old enough for this. Are you nuts?" I don't always feel responsible enough for a baby, despite the fact that Buddy and I have both taken care of ourselves for years. I know we'd figure it out - even without manuals - and we'd be fine, but I just wonder how long there will be a part of me that will think we're just kids ourselves.

Will I ever feel grown up? What's it going to take?

Sunday, October 9, 2011

The Lemonade

As much as IF sucks, I can't deny that there are some things I feel fortunate (?) to be missing out on. They're kind of stupid, in the grand scheme of things, but they're still things I'm glad at times to not be dealing with. And hey, you have to make lemonade when life hands you lemons, right?

Maternity Jeans. From observing the pregnant women in my office and their selection of jeans, I'd be screwed. Has anyone else noticed that maternity pants in general seem to only come in one length, and that one length seems to be 2" too short so everyone seems to be waiting on a flood? I don't have incredibly long legs, but I always by long length jeans. Maternity jeans would be an issue for me, I think.

Mom Wars. Breastfeeding, cloth diapering, vaccinating, baby wearing, circumcising, homemade organic fooding. It seems like any and every topic in terms of babies these days starts a mommy war. Everyone has an opinion, and no one else with a differing one can be right. On some things, I have an opinion, on others, I don't. Mostly, I am open-minded to whatever would work best for me, Buddy, and our offspring. If breastfeeding doesn't work, fine. Formula feed. I'm not opposed to changing plans when our chosen method doesn't work for our family. But it seems like there's always someone who would be ready and willing to squash that thinking and say, "no, it has to be done this way or your baby will grow three eyes/be autistic (for example since it seems like everyone wants to link everything to autism the last few years)/be behind in development." I can honestly say I'm perfectly fine with not having to have anything to do with any of that right now.

Control over life. With a baby comes loss of control, especially in the early days. I don't sleep in often, but today I lazed in bed cuddling with Buddy and the pups until 9am. I ate cereal when I was hungry, and I haven't showered yet because I don't feel like it yet. Last night I spent over an hour doing crafts and sipping wine before settling in to play video games with my husband. That would all change with a wee one. I'd gladly rather have a howling little thing to keep me awake and out of bed, give up breakfast and not shower for a week, but I love that our life has freedom to do what we want when we want.

Childcare. I'll be honest. One thing that really freaks me out about the thought of a baby is childcare. I would never be able to not work financially, and I'm not even sure I'd want to be a stay-at-home mom. But something about having to find someone to trust with my baby for 9 hours a day is daunting. How would I even do that? And what if it falls through? A fellow blog friend recently had to find new childcare for her son and it was really stressful. I'm honestly glad I don't have to worry about that.

Splitting attention with the pups. Everyone says that you can love your pets whole-heartedly before kids, but as soon as baby comes along, they get forgotten. The thought just breaks my heart. I can't imagine not giving our girls the love and attention we give them. I get sad when I allow myself to think from their point of view, wondering if they would be sad that we would push them away or shush them in favor of the comfort of the baby. I don't ever want our dogs to feel outed or demoted in importance in our home.

Also, on a side note, it discourages me when people tell me that my dogs aren't kids and I have no concept of loving a child because my dogs aren't humans. I get that I have no concept of that (thanks for the reminder), but without children, they're the closest thing I have. I care for them, protect them, keep them healthy and happy. I'd be devastated if something happened to them. They are our babies, and they'll always be the first little creatures we were ever responsible for.

Monday, October 3, 2011

The deal with health insurance

A few weeks ago, I was lurking on a message board and found a thread of confessions. They're not uncommon as a Friday feature, and they sometimes get heated. One of the confessions on that board was something along the lines of thinking that health insurance shouldn't cover IF treatments when there are babies and children out there who already need homes. My jaw dropped - first at the insurance issue, and then at the implication that adoption should be favored over IVF or other ART. I couldn't let it slide and had to comment. I have already discussed our stance on adoption, but here's some insight on the health insurance part of it.

What many people don't seem to realize is that IF coverage isn't as common as they think. I am very fortunate in that my company gives a lifetime max of $5,000 for treatments, and most of my testing was covered as well. Most meds used in treatment are covered on my prescription plan. Buddy, on the other hand, has no IF coverage, and many meds used in treatment of MFI are also not covered. I'm lucky in that my company is headquartered in a state which requires at least some coverage. It's part of why, even though I ache for new challenges and am underpaid, I'll exhaust all opportunities within the company before looking outside and risking IF coverage. My point is, people who gripe that insurance is covering IVF and other treatments really don't know what they're talking about, because many couples lack coverage and are either completely out-of-pocket, or have coverage for only the testing but not any treatment. Sleep tight, critics, your insurance premiums are more than likely not being driven by infertiles taking advantage of IF coverage.

Another thing people don't consider is the very thing that health insurance is supposed to be for: health. Infertility isn't generally spontaneous. There's usually a reason, whether it be MFI, PCOS, endometriosis, blocked tubes, or anovulation. These are all issues that cause the reproductive system to perform sub-optimally. Even unexplained IF is an indication that something in one or both partners' systems isn't working right. Sub-optimal health is precisely how I would define illness. Therefore, infertility is an illness, and is often driven or caused by other illnesses. Just like cancer, high blood pressure, diabetes, osteoporosis, and any other illness that you might consider a health problem. So why should my health insurance not cover me for my health issue, but it should cover treatment for cancer or diabetes?

Additionally, many health problems that drive IF have other symptoms, such as very heavy or painful periods, weight gain or inability to lose weight, fatigue, hormonal imbalance, or depression. If someone with any other health problem was experiencing these things, they'd be advised to be treated. Whether or not a woman is trying to conceive, I feel we all have a right to be treated for health problems and feel our best. I fail to see how it is any different when the treatment of these problems also is for the purpose of fixing the cause of lack of procreation.

I don't really have a clever or clean way to wrap this up. It's an emotional subject for me, because I see women every day who have to choose their treatment based on what will be covered. I don't feel that anyone should have to choose financial stability over their health.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Mourning Sex

Last week, just before I woke up, I had a racy dream. It was the kind that – if I hadn’t had to get up for work – I would have coaxed Buddy out of sleep for some frisky cuddling and maybe a little somethin’ somethin’. Instead, my first thought was “ha, like that would happen.” By the time I got out of bed, I was near tears and stayed that way all day. You see, there’s just not a lot of sex going on in our house lately, and it’s been almost as emotionally difficult for me as the IF stuff has.

To be honest, we haven’t always been super active in the bedroom, even as newlyweds. We were always a twice a week couple, maybe more in the very early days. Sunday mornings especially used to be guaranteed to start off with some loving. But when it came to ovulation and my fertile week, we always got the job done with sex every other day or even every day. There was only one cycle I can think of where I counted our chances as zero because of bad timing. Still, outside my fertile week, our sex life was more about quality than quantity.

And then, we were given our MFI diagnosis. Since then, much has changed. We’ve gone the length of an entire “textbook” cycle without a single act of intimacy… on two occasions. Buddy isn’t interested in anything. He has no urges and no desires. I don’t know if it’s the blow to the ego or the suspected low testosterone (he’s supposed to schedule an appointment for testing by Friday) that’s driving it, or both, but it’s got me feeling downright undesired.

It’s a rough situation to be in. I love my husband more than anyone in the world, and wouldn’t want to not be having sex with anyone else. His mental and emotional well-being is of the utmost importance to me. I can only imagine how much the MFI diagnosis stung for him, and I’d do anything in my power to make that not hurt. That said, I still have urges, and I miss my sex life. I miss eye contact lasting a little longer, a kiss being a little deeper. I miss everything about seduction and foreplay and the act itself. I miss pleasing him and being pleased. I miss my Sunday morning sex. I miss my lover.

I know it could be easy for people to say “maybe something’s wrong in your marriage that you’re not owning up to.” It’s not the case. Nothing else is different. I still get many kisses and hugs each day. He still asks and listens about my day and praises my cooking. He helps with the dogs and cleans my car weekly. On the surface, life is unchanged. But behind the bedroom door, there’s a black hole of intimacy. He acknowledges it and feels awful about it. The rejection has been the most difficult thing. I’ve tried all I can think of to get things going, and the lack of interest is really hard. I try very hard not to blame him because I know he doesn’t want it to be this way, but sometimes it’s all I can do to not want to shout, “just suck it up and let’s do this!” It’s sometimes hard not to withhold non-sexual affection and cop an attitude when I feel my intimate needs aren’t being met, but that would be hurtful and my intention is never to hurt my husband.

We’re 4 weeks from our second anniversary, and this year has certainly been harder than the first. IF has taken away a lot of the bliss that was supposed to come with that relatively easy second year (our first year was amazing, BTW, but if it was supposed to be the hardest, this one should have been like walking on a cloud). I didn’t imagine a year ago that I’d be feeling so lonely, on top of everything else. I never expected that rather than engaging in morning sex, I’d be preoccupied with mourning sex.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Childfree vs. Childless

I recently posted on the board on The Knot that I frequented very regularly when Buddy and I were engaged. An old reg noticed my forum signature - which has similar info to the sidebar with our diagnoses - and asked what it meant. I believe my response was something along the lines of "it means we have are having a difficult time getting pregnant and due to some other circumstances, we're currently moving on and trying to come to terms with a childfree life." A pretty decent, yet shallow, explanation for someone not familiar with fertility, and it seemed to be enough of an explanation for her, as she expressed condolences and the discussion moved on.

A bit later, I checked back, and another old reg - one who I've never had a conflict with yet we're not really friendly, either - said that "childfree" isn't the proper word to use for our circumstance and that we're instead "childless." I explained that there is a board on The Bump that was labeled "Child Free Not by Choice" and that the phrasing had been chosen - from what I remember - to reflect that though the posters there wanted children, they were unable to do so, and thus "enjoy" the merits (extra disposable income, uninterrupted sleep, freedom to travel, etc) of a childfree life. I believe that "childless" was avoided as it implied there was something lacking or negative in the connotation.

The old reg counter-pointed that those who were truly "childfree" were so because they chose the lifestyle and didn't feel there was anything lacking in not having children. To couples who are in this way childfree, the term emphasizes the free choice to not have/raise a family, and should only be used for couples in their situation, and not for couples in mine. I respected her opinion and explanation and promised to be mindful of my terminology.

Here's the thing, while I don't disagree with her, it's very hard to refer to ourselves as "childless." It feels so negative, and so permanent. It makes me think of a sad couple who've missed out on life with children and haven't had any joys to balance the sorrow. Though we are sad now, I have hope that with time, life without children will feel fulfilling. I think we'll always feel as though we're missing something, and perhaps even the "childfree" couples will have moments where it can be admitted that the presence of a child could add to the experience. I don't know. I've never not wanted them, and this old reg has never wanted them and/or had problems having them. I can't truly understand her view, and she can't understand mine.

I just feel it's kind of a sensitive subject, but I get that it's more than just a difference of semantics. I may get flamed for this, but it reminds me somewhat of the use of the term "marriage" among gay couples. There are the staunchly conservative and heterosexual couples who, like the old reg, feel the term should be theirs and theirs alone because of the way it's defined somewhere (in the case of "marriage," the Bible is cited). On the other hand, there are the committed and loving gay couples who, like me feel that their feelings are every bit as legit and see the end result is the same, so the label should be as well. This might be a stretch, but I do see some similarity in the two situations.

I haven't decided how I really feel about it. On the one hand, I want to be respectful of the "childfree" couples and the of their lifestyle, and on the other hand, I want the right to label us as we see fit. I feel that at some point, every couple without children has to make a decision about their "childfree" life. For some, it's prior to marriage (I assume) and is just a way of life from day 1. For others, it's a decision made often after testing and treatments and hours of thinking and thousands of dollars and tears shed to not move forward and to move on. In the end, none of use have children, and we're all in the same boat. I feel it can be transitional. At this time, we are "childless." Once we make our final decision, don't we become "childfree," since we made a free choice to accept the hand that's been dealt and make the most of it?

What do you think about the "childfree" vs. "childless" distinction? How do you define those couples who are with out children but not for lack of trying and wanting?

Monday, August 29, 2011

A letter to my friends

I've written this letter over the past couple of weeks, and it's essentially what I wish I could say to my friends when they ask about when we're starting a family, how things are going, etc. It's basically everything I wish I could say if I had the time and their attention, and if I felt brave enough to be truly honest with my friends about what's in my head.


Dear Friend,

I may or may not have shared this with you, but Buddy and I have a sort of secret. We are two of 7 million Americans (one in eight couples) with fertility issues. Both of us are affected – not only do we each have our own issue, but even if it was just one of us, we’d still be in the same place. One of us can’t make a baby without the other, so we’re in this together. We’ve been through testing, we have diagnoses. We have a realistic understanding of our options and our chances. What’s going on isn’t a result of not relaxing or not doing something right or not wanting or praying hard enough. It isn’t about timing, positions, or old wives’ tales. It can’t be fixed by adopting or not trying. I know it seems that everyone knows someone who got pregnant when they stopped trying or started the adoption process, but it’s not the case for everyone. Adoption is not in our cards, nor is IVF. Buddy and I have made a decision we feel is right for us - as hard as it may be - for the time being, and that’s to not move forward with any testing or treatment. Because of fear of miscarriage made more likely by my issue, we are actively avoiding pregnancy while not in the care of a specialist. We are in full agreement in this decision, and it’s a necessary break to get us to a point where we can re-evaluate if we will be trying again.

Please understand that though we made this decision together, it wasn’t easy and it’s still very raw. There is a lot of grief in our home right now. Our hearts are heavy. My emotions are intense and irrational at times. There are good days and awful days. I want you to know, friend, that despite all this, I am happy for you as you grow your family. I am excited for you as you announce your pregnancy, and I look forward to spoiling your child and seeing you as a mom. That said, it isn’t easy for me to watch you experience things I long for. I fear I won’t get to tell my husband we’re expecting, see the ultrasound, hear the heartbeat. I may never get to decorate a nursery, feel the baby move, or give birth and hear that first tiny cry. My husband may never be a father, and my parents may never have grandchildren that aren’t my sister’s kids. So while I am happy for you, dear friend, my heart aches when I see your announcements on Facebook. Baby shower invitations make tears spring to my eyes. Pictures and videos of your little one, though sweet and appreciated, often make a lump rise in my throat. Little moments and glimpses into your life as a mom-to-be can make a good day go bad in a matter of seconds through no fault of your own.

My goal through all of this has been to grieve privately, and celebrate your joy publicly. It doesn’t always work that way, though. While I may not appear sad when you show me pictures or share something cute your husband said about the baby, inside I’m just holding it together. I would never want to take away from your moment. I will not skip baby showers, and I will not dismiss you as a friend for having what I desire. But sometimes, I need time. Sometimes, I may cry – know that if I do so in front of you, it means I trust you with my feelings of grief. Please understand that if I have to walk away or take a day to myself, it isn’t because I don’t love you. It’s because I need that for me. I’m constantly torn between not wanting to be handled with kid gloves, and needing some sensitivity. I don’t want you to not feel free to express your joy and share this experience with me, but I need you to know that sometimes it’s too much and I need a minute, an hour, a day to hash it out. I’m very conscious of my fear of becoming jealous or “bitter.” I’m not asking you to change how you express your happiness and share your family experiences, just to have a little awareness and understanding of how I may react if my emotions get to me. Because it truly is a case of “it’s not you, it’s me.”

There may be times when I withdraw into myself. I go through periods of days or even a week or two where the safest place for my emotions is within me. I may not call to hang out, or talk or text. I may be vague on Facebook. I may just be generally distant. It doesn’t mean I don’t want to talk to you or hang out, I just feel that I lack the energy and motivation to make the effort. I want to spend time with you, chat, and have lunch. Sometimes, though, I feel that I’m experiencing more reminders of our infertility and keeping to myself means less opportunities for that to happen. Sometimes, not talking about IF is achieved by not talking, period. So please, don’t mistake my distance for lack of care. Your friendship is still important to me. I’m just being guarded, and I’ll come around if you just give me time.

I value you, friend. I’m excited for you, and happy for your family. That happiness for you is a distinct emotion from my sadness, yet the former often reminds me of the latter. I will do my best to be a supportive and loving friend as you prepare for and experience motherhood. Just please understand that I am mourning something I never had, and even if Buddy and I are successful in having a baby one day, this will have forever changed us. We’ve already had to accept many changes since we started trying to start a family. I fear that everything will change, in fact, including my friendship with you. I worry immensely that you being a mom and raising your family will create a divide between us. I don’t want to lose my friends, too. I don’t want to be left out and left behind. Both Buddy and I want to be special people in your kids’ lives and spoil them and love them, as we know you would do for our children.

Thank you for being a supportive and wonderful part of my life.

Always,
Brooke

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Calm

After the ridiculous emotional roller coaster of last week, this week has been remarkably calm. Last week, I was a ball of anger, crying at the drop of a hat, and barely able to even think of anything baby related without a lump in my throat.

This week is totally different, and for no apparent reason. Despite 4 pregnancy announcements on the Bump, an ultrasound pick from one of my dearest friends, and an emails of "hilarious" baby expressions photos, I managed to keep my cool. Sure it had me a little "ugh, this is too much for Monday before 9am" but it didn't get to me in a way that ruined my day. It's getting through those things that reminds me that I'm still with it and able to be happy for others and compartmentalize my sadness.

I also contacted a counselor. I've been thinking about it for a while, and finally pulled the trigger. However, you know how you can hear someone's voice on the phone and not feel very comforted? Yeah, I have that going on. We've been playing phone tag, so I haven't actually had a conversation with her, but I feel like her voice mails are very abrupt and... I don't know. Maybe she's just not the right counselor for me. Or maybe I'm not as ready as I thought I was. Maybe I'm worried all those emotions from last week will come flooding back if she asks me what's wrong. Last week sucked, and I don't want to go back there purposefully. I want to stay in this calm, even if it means not moving forward with getting this all off my chest.

I like the calm. It's been missing from our lives for a while. For 15 months, we were focused on mostly one thing. Over the last 6 of those months, fear and feelings of failure crept in and took hold. Sadness, panic and anger followed. While I still feel sadness, I don't feel like that delicate person I was for the last few months. I know it may not last. I know nothing is certain or set in stone, so I know that there will be other episodes of emotional instability. But for now, I just want to enjoy this calm feeling I have.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Tonight, I wept

I cried. I sobbed. I wept.

I wept for my husband, who very well may never be a father. His kind and loving soul, his beautiful blue eyes, his perfect smile, his humor. Things that may never be passed down, exuded in a tiny mini-me or a female representation. No little person to share the mischevious glimmer in their eye as they cleverly prepare to pull the best practical joke ever. No huge fan of burritos made of spaghetti. My husband will likely not be a dad. It's so very different from our wedding day and before, when we envisioned an idealic family of four... painting, creating, riding, swimming, laughing. He'd be an amazing dad, and an amazing partner to a mom, which is different than husband to a wife. He'd be the most supportive dad-to-be, procuring the objects of my cravings, rubbing my back, making sure every groan and ache was taken care of. When the baby came, he'd get up early, taking care of the 2am feeding, kissing us good-bye as he shlumped off to work at 7, bleary eyed and exhausted. To support us. He'd be the one to teach our little one to ride a bike, to crack a joke, to blow kisses. He'd be... incredible. I wept for him.

I wept for my dad. He's so excited to someday be a Grandpa. And he will, but pretty much not from me. There may be no rendition of me sitting next to him in overalls and pigtails at Rose Canyon Lake, waiting hours for the tiny fish to bite. When I was little, he'd play baseball with me in the front yard. I'd make him crawl the bases so that I couldn't be beat. He taught me to shoot, he taught me to drive. He taught me 5-card draw and 7-card stud, betting with uncooked pasta. These are memories and traditions that will likely end with me.

I wept for me. Long hard sobs. A decision made and agreed upon that means that we'll just let things be. A decision that means there's only a 5% chance the guest room will ever be anything more than the home of my craft and baking supplies. I wept for feeling awful for not being able to fix it. A string of IUI and IVF failures among Bumpies not nearly outweighed by successes. A group of friends, strangers, peers, fellow IF strugglers whom I had the highest of hopes for. I sobbed for them and their sadness. Seeing the darkness outweighing the light made the weight lay heavily on my heart to continue with anything. We're admitting defeat by fear and hesitation, and accepting that at least for the long time being, that we're done. I wept for what I just may never have.

Tonight, I wept.


Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Taking a rest

This is a difficult day, followed by a stressful couple of months. In talking to Buddy last night, we decided to give things a rest for the indefinite future. A lot went into the decision. Some things I agree with, others I don't. However, I can't proceed without him, and he can't without me, so if taking a break is what's right for him (and us) then I'm on board.

His back has bothered him since high school, when he played football. Since I've known him, he's suffered from back aches, some times minor discomfort, sometimes full-on pain that requires him to get up from the dinner table. Things were better after moving from the apartment - he wasn't spending as much time driving, one of the major sources of pain. However, he's been in discomfort more and more often. He visited a chiropractor and then a specialist earlier this year, and though he didn't return, x-rays indicated degenerative disk problems. The solution - according to him (I know nothing about it) - is surgery. Unfortunately, we only have so many resources, and we just can't handle the cost of surgery and recovery AND infertility treatments. Neither of us can see going on with treatment if he's in pain and wants to do something about his back first. I've always said I wanted him to enjoy fatherhood, and back pain would be a hindrance to that.

He's also very upset about the SA results. At first he seemed hopeful for improvement, but that hope seems to be waning. I try not to push, because he's a guy who doesn't talk about feelings easily, but his comments indicate a deep hurt and guilt for our troubles. He's said "what's the point?" in regard to having another SA done in October as we'd planned. The truth is, he may be right, considering how much improvement needs to be made and the percentage of men who experience the increase in counts we'd need for IUI. As many times as I can tell him that it's worth it to try, I don't think he's willing to face the possibility of another "failure." It's a feeling I relate to all too well. Lately, I've had thoughts of walking away from all this for a bit and even just moving on. Call it self-preservation, I suppose. I'm not a risk taker by nature (neither is Buddy) and the thought of spending a lot of time, money, and emotion on IF treatments (and even just his potential treatments to get to the IF treatment phase) and still coming up empty-handed is very daunting.

Essentially, we're in the same place, and expressing it in both similar and different ways. We need a break. We need to focus on his health (and mine, but I think my needs are more mental and emotional) and take the time to regain confidence to face our race again, if the decision comes to that. I honestly don't know how I feel. I'm very sad, but I also know that we are thoughtful people who make good decisions. The break from thinking about the next SA and the results and what do we do next will hopefully be a relief. We're lucky to have a strong and happy marriage, and hopefully we'll be able to spend a weekend away and spend time thinking of other things.

Monday, August 1, 2011

"Just" adopt

It seems as though one of the things that comes up frequently for couples having trouble with fertility is adoption. When my mother-in-law found out 8 months into trying that it had been that long, she said "well, you could just adopt if it doesn't work." The simplicity with which she said it surprised me. "Just" adopt. As though it's the end-all, cure-all to what ails my uterus. For any couple struggling with infertility, adoption is something that will be brought up by the well-intentioned at least once. I should preface this whole post with the fact that I respect what any couple chooses for themselves. By the same token, I hope for respect in expressing our views on the subject.

I read on a message board that someone had posted the following excerpt from Adopting After Infertility by Pat Johnson:

"... there are multiple losses which are a consequence of permanent infertility: 1) control over many aspects of life; 2) individual genetic continuity linking past and future; 3) the joint conception of a child with one's life partner; 4) the physical satisfactions of pregnancy and birth; 5) the emotional gratifications of pregnancy and birth; and 6) the opportunity to parent."

It was a very poignant passage for me, and sums up how I feel pretty well. Though pregnancy is only 40 weeks of motherhood, it's an important part for me. I have always dreamt of pregnancy, from discovering its existence, to telling our families, seeing the flash of the heartbeat on the ultrasound, feeling the first kicks, finding out the sex. Though labor and delivery are terrifying, I want the experience of bringing a child into the world. I want to have those first moments as a brand new family with Buddy, and to learn to breastfeed and waddle to the car at the hospital for our first ride home together. Though they're all a "stage" in the grand scheme of child-rearing, they are things I dream of and long for just as much as teaching our kids to swim or ride a bike, and watching them go off to kindergarten and prom and college. They are things I mourn when I think about the possibility of life without a biological child. Adoption doesn't fill those voids.

Adoption is also a costly endeavor, both financially and emotionally. Adoption comes with many legal and financial costs. I can't even begin to tally the financial costs when medical expenses, legal paperwork, and other aspects are added up. Emotionally, I think it would be more difficult than IVF. With infant adoption, we'd have to be chosen by a birth mom. That means we'd have to convince someone with just a few pictures and paragraphs that we are the best fit to take care of their newborn. The thought is incredibly humbling, and I think it would feel devastating to wait month after month and not be chosen. If we were chosen, we'd both be paranoid the whole time that the bio mom would change her mind. I think we'd worry about that for a long time even after we brought any baby home. It just sounds emotionally exhausting. We just agree that it's not the route we want to go.

There is more to it than simply the emotional and financial burdens. The truth is, and the shortest answer is, that we don't feel called to do it. I wrote a piece for a fabulously supportive group blog the day after we found out about Buddy's SA, and more than one commenter replied that I should at least consider adoption, because that's how they became a family either by adopting or by being adopted. While that's all well and great for them, it's just not for us. I realize there are children that need to be fostered and adopted and they desperately want to be a part of a family. But I also feel like there's this unspoken (or maybe it is spoken, since it's suggested so often) that we, as a couple dealing with infertility, are expected to adopt, like it's our job or that it simply comes with the hand we've been dealt. I resent that and don't think this is fair. Biological parents who have their own children aren't expected to adopt the children in need, why are we? Why are we made to feel selfish for voicing that we would chose a child-free life over adoption?

We all have our choices to make. It isn't an easy one. None of this is easy, but "just" adopting isn't the path we want, and we feel we have a right to have that choice be respected.


Edited to Add: As I posted this link to Twitter, I was answered almost immediately by a new mom and fellow blogger that had seen ridiculous debates on a message board we both frequented about how not pursuing adoption equals not wanting a child enough. I have to say that want isn't even a factor. We want a baby more than anything in the world. However, that also has to be balanced with what we can afford financially and emotionally. This is also why we've ruled out IVF. Trust me, if IUI doesn't work, I wonder if some day we'll look back and wonder if we limited ourselves. But we also know that we have to set limits, mostly for our sanity. As easy as IVF and adoption have been made to sound, we're not the only couple who've had to set these limits. The costs of IVF and adoption are prohibitive for many couples. Not to mention, we can't run this race forever. At some point, we have to create our own finish line so that we can move on with life. For us, that's IVF and adoption.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Unexpected support

Back in November of last year, I went to urgent care for an ear ache and was told my blood pressure was high. Not surprising considering my dad has been medicated since he was 24. She told me to follow up with my doctor, and I also started going to my on-site office nurse (my site has a manufacturing plant, so we have a fire department as well as an RN) for regular monitoring. She knows about us TTC because we discussed my medication, which was chosen specifically because of TTC. In general, the medication seems to control my blood pressure well. At our RE appointment earlier this month, my reading was really high initially. It was lower at the end of the appointment, and I've felt okay since. Today, though, I feel off, and my heart feels as though it's racing. So I went downstairs for a reading.

I told RN that I'd had a high reading at a "specialist appointment" (to indicate it wasn't my PCP) but that I was very anxious going into it, so I expected it to be high, but now I felt off so I just wanted to see where it was. Initially, it was high, but we sat quietly for a few minutes and the next reading was much closer to normal. Without prying too much, she asked what specialist I'd seen. I told her about RE and how we knew the test results going in and we were worried about what our treatment options would be.

Her demeanor softened and she told me that she has premature ovarian failure and that she knows about the fear and the anxiety. I had to keep myself from tearing up talking about it, but it was wonderful to have some understanding from someone. She gave me a big hug before I left and told me I could come vent any time. Bonus: I even feel so much better, and much more calm than I did a half hour ago.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Bitter fears

Lately, there's been a lot of talk on my favorite message board about those of us with trouble TTC being bitter. It's a hot button for many of us, because it's not how we see ourselves at all. Granted, many of the posters that toss it around nonchalantly do so to get under our skin, but it does indeed hurt, because it's certainly not anything nice to be called. Additionally, for me, it's a reminder of my worry that they may some day be right.

My dear friend told me she was pregnant a few months ago, and I was so happy. We were bridesmaids in each other's weddings and have been friends since we were 7 years old. Why wouldn't I be happy for her and her wonderful husband? I felt honored that she told me even before her parents. I was so excited when the first sonogram photo finally showed up on Facebook. She called me from the anatomy scan to tell me it was a girl, and I just felt so special to be sharing in this with her. I can't fly out to Illinois to be there for her baby shower because of other things going on, but I received the invitation in the mail on Saturday. It was shaped like a baby girl's top, with adorable little buttons, and the text in pink. "K is registered at Babies'R'Us."

Baby registry. I didn't think a baby registry would be what threw me for a loop. I got on at my lunch break and looked up her lists. It was all the typical stuff I would expect to see. I found myself thinking "oh, that would be cool to have." And then at some point, I realized that turned into "I hope some day I get to register for this stuff." I had to stop myself from choking up, because the thought of never having to shop for baby goods for myself is sometimes just too painful. And it's moments like that that fears of bitterness creep in.

There are so many other words to describe what I feel about all this. I'm mostly sad. It is sad to think of all that's already taken place. We've lost out on the surprise of a pregnancy, and getting to be carefree about conception. There's a lot that I mourn because of IF. I'm scared of what the future holds and the stresses and emotions that we may face. I'm devastated at the thought that my amazing husband won't get to be a dad. I'm angry some days, because it sucks to admit that life just isn't fair sometimes. I'm worried that our issues won't get better and we'll be stuck between a rock and a hard place with decisions. I'm also worried that the happiness I have felt for K will someday replaced with bitterness. That's one of my deeper long-term fears: that someday, I'll be in a place where I won't be able to find something positive to say. That I won't be able to congratulate and celebrate and happily give a gift to the mom-to-be.

Call me any of those other adjectives you want. I am a scared, worried, angry girl lately, depending on the day. But don't call me bitter, because the sting of that simple word runs a lot deeper than the surface.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

When Mother means best

Surprisingly, in my journey to becoming a mother, the relationship that sometimes causes me the most stress is the one with my own mom. I think we have a pretty typical adult mother-daughter relationship: I aim to please and want both independence and her approval, and she just wants what's best for me. That's what moms are supposed to do, right? But sometimes, her efforts don't have the effect I know she's hoping for.

In our very first cycle of trying, long before anyone knew we were, I was on the phone with her one day and mentioned something about due dates because a friend was pregnant. She asked me, "are you pregnant?!" and when I was all, 'pshaw, no,' she said "oh good, I was afraid you were going to tell me you're pregnant." Ouch. Especially since I was currently in the 2WW and hopeful that I was. I, of course, was in the middle of Target with Buddy and got upset and that's just bad. It really stung that my mom would have been afraid, disappointed, upset, whatever to hear I was expecting. Here I was, 28 years old, married with a good career, and far more stable and ready than many expectant moms, and my mom wouldn't have been happy?! That sucked. More than I would have imagined. Since then, I've been fairly guarded with what I tell her, and that's made our relationship feel less close at times.

Originally, we kept TTC completely under wraps, but that only lasted about 8 months, at which point I accidentally let too much slip one night and my mother-in-law overheard and told my mom. Neither my mom nor Buddy's mom ever had trouble getting pregnant, so for my mom to understand all that can go into making a baby - or the low chances each cycle, the need for perfect timing, etc. - is kind of difficult to fathom. Add to that that I'm not comfortable talking bodies and sex with my mother (nor have I ever been) and it can make for a frustrating situation for me, especially since I feel the need to keep some things private. It's hard for me to draw lines without her getting defensive at times.

Infertility has changed things with us even more. I know that she's just trying to be supportive because she knows I'm sad, but I feel smothered some days. I know that as my mom, it's her job to be concerned for me and to show me love and support. However, I also don't know how to ask for space without making her feel bad. She sends me a text every day (which she didn't used to, before all this) to let me know she's thinking of me, which I do appreciate. But (I know, there's a 'but') it always asks how I'm doing. And when I talk to her, it's always "are you okay?" or "how are you doing?" in a suggestive sad tone. The problem? I feel like I can't win with my answer. I have two options: either I tell her truth - that many days I have sadness at some point, or worry - and she tells me I need to be positive or that we don't know anything yet. Basically, that I should cheer the hell up. Or, I say I'm fine, and then she asks "are you sure?" Fudge. Got me. I'm not fine, back to telling the truth. A vicious cycle if there ever was one.

What really gets me is the pity in her voice. If I'm having a good day, it reminds me I have something to be sad about. If I'm already feeling down, it puts me over the edge or makes me even more cranky. Me being cranky plus her being defensive about how she's trying to be thoughtful equals a recipe for disaster.

And yes, I know she's just being my mom. I'm so lucky to have a mom who is loving and supportive and just wants me to know I'm being thought of and worried about. I feel like an ass venting about it, but I've painted myself into a social media corner and I have nowhere else to talk about it. Surely, someone else has had a similar experience too, so maybe I'm just trying to not feel so alone in having this difficulty in my relationship with my mother. If feels downright crappy to feel this way.

Has anyone experienced this with their own mom? Did you talk about it to her? How do I get myself some more breathing room without hurting her feelings?

Friday, July 15, 2011

If it's going to just be us

Even when there’s hope for success in the future, something about being told you’re battling infertility changes everything. I went from assuming we’d have two kids to hoping we’d even have one. I went from wondering how long our house would be big enough for a family of four, to thinking “we’ll always have a guest room.” To me, thinking about never having kids isn’t giving up hope or being pessimistic. It’s how I prepare myself. If I can come to terms with the worst case scenario, then anything but is a nice surprise.

I’ve thought a lot about what may be if it’s going to just be us. First and foremost, I want a baby, and I would gladly give these things up to be a mom. But a part of me has to make a list of positive alternatives, or I’d crumble.

I want us to get a motorcycle. Buddy and I love to ride his dad’s Harley, and I’d love for us to have one of our own. We would in time anyway, but the expenses of having another vehicle, particularly one that is essentially a toy, are not going to be feasible while we have a child in diapers, or maybe not even for quite a while after.

I want to travel. To Ireland and Paris, Italy and Australia. To see family and friends in New York, Seattle, Baltimore, and Chicago. Take an Alaskan cruise. Not Immediately, but eventually. Maybe well-timed around Mother’s or Father’s Day, to take our mind off the pain I’m sure wouldn’t ever really go away.

I want to go back to school. I don’t love my job. I do it because I feel it pays well and it’s stable, and I have relatively great insurance regarding IF. But if I’m not going to have to support children, I want to do something I love.

I want to make my baking hobby into something bigger. This may or may not have to do with going back to school. If we don’t have kids, I’ll have the time it would take to dedicate to growing a home-based business.

Not having kids would mean more freedom to live anywhere. With grandkids, it’s important for me to be near our parents; but if there aren’t any, I see less reason to confine ourselves to where we are.

I want a pool. We told our realtor 1,000 times, “no pool.” This was mostly because of the upkeep, but also because we didn’t want to have to worry about little ones around water in our backyard, especially when my in-law’s have one 10 minutes away that we’re welcome to use any time. I still don’t want one if we have kids, but if it’s just going to be us, I’d seriously consider putting one in for the hot summer days when packing up to go to my in-laws’ for cool relief sounds unappealing.

Like I said, none of this is anything I want more than a child. None of this would come immediately. But on days when I feel distracted with thoughts of IF-induced sadness, thinking of these lame-in-comparison consolation prizes helps.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

How we got here

My husband, "Buddy," and I got married in October, 2009 and decided to start trying for a baby in April, 2010. I'd been on birth control for 10 years and had no idea what my cycle would be like, so I bought Taking Charge of Your Fertility and a thermometer and decided to chart my cycles to make sure I was ovulating. After a few months without luck, I decided to try using OPKs, as temperature only confirms ovulation, but gives no indication of when it's coming. Still no luck. I stopped with the OPKs because it was added pressure and it wasn't helping anyway. In January, we avoided because my due date would be close to my best friend's wedding.

From February to April, the clock felt like it was ticking. I knew that at 12 months, I would be eligible for infertility testing, but I didn't want to have to make that milestone. We put in extra effort in those last few cycles, using OPKs again, trying to make sure timing was great. When my March cycle ended after only 20 days, I decided it was time to call the doctor to start testing, because something wasn't quite right.

I met with a new OB/GYN in May, and she ordered our testing: an HSG and bloodwork on CD3 and 7DPO for me, an SA for Buddy. I actually felt relieved. Hopefully, we'd have some answers as to why this wasn't easy for us.

We got the first blow when my 7DPO results came back. I had very low progesterone. Progesterone is the hormone that supports early pregnancy. Without enough of it, a woman's luteal phase is too short and an embryo may not have time to implant before the uterine lining begins to shed. I was heartbroken. All sorts of things ran through my head. I was officially infertile. What if we couldn't correct it? What if other hormones were out of whack and I was a mess? What if we'd achieved conception only for my body to have flushed away our baby? I cried hard in the shower that night, and frequently found a lump in my throat over the next few days.

I'd just had time to wrap my head around and accept the low progesterone and celebrate my 30th birthday the day before we got our second blow. Buddy's SA revealed low numbers across all three testing parameters: count, morphology, and motility. Diagnosis: severe male-factor infertility. We both were crushed. Thankfully, the appointment I'd made with the RE was only a little over a week away when we got the results from my OB/GYN, so we tried to just calm down. It was hard, though. The results on the test, and everything I found in my reading indicated that with no improvement in the counts, we would need IVF with ICSI; a costly treatment, both financially and emotionally. On top of it, any embryos created with the poor quality sperm would also be of poor quality and unlikely to thrive. Basically, we'd have low chances with a high cost. Because of these facts and other personal decisions, we solidified our previously discussed decision that if it came to IVF, we would instead be child free. That's been a pretty difficult conclusion for me and Buddy to be faced with at the ages of 30 and 26, respectively.

Our RE appointment was 4 days ago, and it went better than hoped. Dr. RE indicated that he thinks it's realistic to hope that - with vitamins, supplements, and lifestyle changes - an IUI procedure would be successful. We were very relieved, but we have a wait ahead of us. Dr. RE wanted us to re-tests Buddy's sperm right away, but it doesn't make sense to us. It takes sperm 72 days to mature. We'd rather wait the 72 days and have 100% of the sperm reflect the changes. If there are none, or not enough to make IUI feasible, I don't know what we'll do. Wait and test periodically, I suppose. If there are good changes, we'll move forward. We've decided to enjoy our summer and focus on something other than baby-making for the first time in 15 months and re-test Buddy in late September or early October. Until then, we wait.

The Invisible Finish Line

I've often compared trying to conceive as a race with an invisible finish line.

With other events in our lives - like weddings, for instance - there's a finish line. When I planned my wedding, I had a wedding date, and had to plan everything according to that one day. Favors, cakes, dresses, flowers, everything had to be ready according to a schedule in order to be ready to walk down the aisle at 11:30am on October 16th, 2009. That was my finish line. Technically it was the beginning of something new, but it was the end of my planning. The goal of marrying my husband was achieved.

With trying to conceive, the finish line is invisible, a moving target. We have no idea how long we have to run, or how far we have to go. We don't know what the terrain looks like, or what's around the next bend. Some runners have only a short race. Heck, some don't even know they're racing and suddenly find themselves at the finish line. Others of us, like me and my husband, have long races with hurdles and pitfalls. We're running a race with complications, diagnoses, conditions, infertility.

This is the story of our race.