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.