Getting Duped By Hope

I know this was only my first full cycle after my loss. I know we didn’t really try to get pregnant. I know it takes time to for one’s cycle to return to “normal” after a loss.

Still, I was devastated to get my period today.

I decided at the start of my cycle to use OPKs to have at least a general idea of what my body was doing or trying to do. I didn’t get a positive until CD 26, and we didn’t have sex until the day after that. Not avoiding trying to get pregnant, but certainly not making a valiant effort. Assuming I ovulated the day after that positive OPK (probably, since I also had fertile cervical fluid at that time), good old Aunt Flow’s arrival today means my luteal phase was a whopping 7 days. Or I didn’t ovulate at all, I suppose. Either way, it’s shit.

I had no right to hope for anything better than that, to be honest. I mean, back when we were TTC the old fashioned way, I always ovulated late-ish, around CD 20. And my LP was only 10 or 11 days long. So, not too far off from this cycle. Expecting my cycle to magically morph into that of a normal fertile person is simply ridiculous. Yet, I think subconsciously maybe I did expect it. Or at least I had hoped for it. You read so many stories about previously infertile women spontaneously conceiving, especially after a loss. Why couldn’t I be one of them? Didn’t I deserve to be one of them? Damn hope, once again reeling me in.

I don’t know where to go next. Maybe I would be happier not testing or tracking my cycle until we decide to really try to get pregnant (as unlikely as it may be). In fact, I know that’s what I should do. I should shut it down and not give it another thought until after the holidays. I should just enjoy Christmas with my family and work on healing my mind and body. Should….

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Charlie Brown Was a Fool

I know I promised to try to be positive about this pregnancy, but it’s impossible turning off the bitter infertile screaming in my brain. Every time I mention one of my symptoms, a voice in my head says Boy, are you going to feel stupid for talking about symptoms when you find out there’s no baby in there. Or when I think about buying a belly band or maternity pants, the voice says Don’t bother, silly girl, you’re not going to need them. Ever. 

What bothers me the most is that it’s my voice. (Of course it is! If it were anyone else’s voice, I’d have a far bigger problem.) So, I should be able to shut it up, right? The $64,000 question is How? Or maybe it’s Do I really want to shut it up? 

I’m still very much jaded by miscarriage and infertility. How can I trust that this pregnancy can and will end with a baby in my arms when the last one didn’t? It’s not about trusting my body. My body knows how to be pregnant and to stay pregnant. That much was evident when my body refused to give up the empty sac last time, and I had to force it out with medication.

This is about not trusting that life is finally cutting us a break. It’s like Charlie Brown and that damn football. Eventually, I become the fool for trusting that it’s going to work out, even though time and again I’ve landed on my ass. How many times do I let that mean bitch (Life) convince me that this time things will work out in my favor? Outsiders like to tell the infertile to never give up, to keep the hope alive. But would they say the same to ol’ Charlie? Keep your chin up, Charlie Brown! One of these days she’s going to let you kick that ball! 

No! You tell Charlie to remove his head from his ass, and tell Lucy to shove that football where the sun don’t shine. Who doesn’t believe that Charlie Brown is a damn fool for being tricked time and again?

I guess what I’m trying to say (not very eloquently) is that I’m not ready to take down my guard and trust that I’m finally going to kick that football. Maybe there’s a chance, but I’m not ready to start running towards it yet.

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photo credit: niallkennedy via photopin cc

Feeling Like a Fraud

First, a huge THANK YOU for all the love on my BFP post! It means so much to me.

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I feel like a fraud telling people we’re pregnant. Before you get your panties in a bunch: We’re not telling everyone, just a handful of family and friends who knew our test date (and my Twitter peeps, of course). When I texted M with the beta results, and then my family later on, I felt really weird typing the words “We’re pregnant!” It’s the truth, but it still feels wrong somehow. I feel like I need to qualify every positive statement. For example:

We’re pregnant! There’s no guarantee that it will last (as we all know), but for the time being, we’re pregnant.

And when someone jumps too far ahead, I’m quick to bring them back to reality.

So, who will you have as your OB? 

Well, if this turns out to be a viable pregnancy, I suppose I’ll have to think about that.

Part of it is my own fear of losing this one, too. Part of it is trying to avoid letting down my loved ones again. I don’t want to get their hopes up.

But their hopes are already up. WAY up. On the drive home from my embryo transfer, my mom giddily said, “Oh, I think we’re expecting twins!” I couldn’t bring myself to tell her that there was a greater chance of this not working at all.

Then there’s the guilt. It’s a form of survivor’s guilt, or so I’ve heard it described. Not that I think I’ve survived infertility just because I got a positive pregnancy test, but I have come much further than a lot of other women who have suffered longer and harder. Our first IVF cycle couldn’t have been more perfect. It’s more luck than I believe I deserve, and that makes me feel really guilty.

It doesn’t help that I had to schedule my first prenatal appointment already. Thanks to the oil boom, there’s a HUGE influx of people to this part of the state, so doctors are booking way in advance. I was lucky to get an appointment for the very last day of January, when I will be (gods willing) 10 weeks. I wanted to wait at least until after the first ultrasound with the RE, but the OB’s office warned that that would mean mid-February at the soonest.

Oh, and get this! My OB’s clinic has started conducting prenatal orientation GROUP appointments. Basically, a group of barely pregnant women meet with a nurse to go over their medical history, then learn all the dos and don’ts of pregnancy, 4 weeks before they see the OB for the first time. I’m sure it works brilliantly for the average fertile, but I’m not her. There’s no way I’m going to sit among normal fertiles as they chatter with delight about pregnancy boobs and complain about not being able to eat sushi for 9 months. I’m happy to go through the orientation one-on-one, but this group thing is not for me.

A month ago, I promised to open my heart to our potential baby, so in that spirit, I’m trying my hardest to quell my negative thoughts, and to actually think positively about this pregnancy. I want to think about baby names and nursery decorations without feeling like I’m jumping the gun. A friend and fellow loss mom told me, “Don’t let the loss fears overcome your joy. You’ll never regret being excited and hopeful, no matter what happens.

Infertility: Joy Killer

Up until recently, I had been doing a fairly good job of dealing with my bitter thoughts, acknowledging them and then letting them go. Lately, however, I’ve been having a hard time with the letting go part. As I’ve said before, I’m not proud of these thoughts, but I refuse to beat myself up over them. I know they are a normal part of infertility.

On Easter, my sister-in-law had her baby, a girl. She is their second child, third pregnancy (she lost her first). I mentioned in a past post that she had placenta previa and was worried about an early delivery via c-section. Fortunately, the placenta moved and she was able to have a vaginal birth, as planned. As far as I know, there were no complications. Mom and baby are healthy.

The news of the birth came via text message while M and I were two time zones away on vacation. We sent our congrats via text message, asked for details, and asked when would be a good time to call. Later that day, we talked to my brother-in-law and learned that her name is “C,” very, very similar to my grandmother’s name, which I’ve had my heart set on giving to my first daughter (should I be so lucky). Now, I’ve never “claimed” the name–that would be ridiculous–so it’s not as if she “stole” it. But it kind of feels that way. I really hope the name has meaning for her, beyond popularity or just liking it.

The thing is, I expected someone in my family to use the name by now (I’m one of the last grandkids to have children); in fact, every time someone has a girl, I hold my breath that they won’t use the name. Frankly, I’m surprised and disappointed that no one has. It’s a beautiful name, and my grandmother was the matriarch of our family. What better way to honor her memory than to keep her name alive. I know my mother and my aunts–her daughters–would love that.

M has already made the comment that it would be too confusing to have first cousins with nearly the exact same name (they will also share a last name) and he thinks we should take it off the list. I told him I disagreed, but I haven’t dug my heels in… yet. It may never even be an issue. I may never have a daughter. But, if I do, I will fight to name her after my grandmother. I’ll cry and play the infertility card if I have to. It won’t be my finest moment, but this is important to me.

My sister-in-law has been trying to FaceTime or Skype with us since the day C was born. I assume the reason is to “introduce” us to the baby, which would be fine, except that we’re planning to meet her in person on Saturday, less than a week after she was born. We’ve had these plans for at least a month (to celebrate my father-in-law’s birthday), so I’m not sure why she’s being so insistent. I know she’s happy and excited and wants to share–I would be, too!–but I wish she were more sensitive to how hard this is for me. It kind of feels like she’s shoving her fertility and success in my face. Yeah, I know, I’m a bitch for making it about me, and for expecting her to take her excitement down a notch for my benefit.

So, here I am, again trying to figure out what to do with these feelings of bitterness and jealousy, so that I don’t completely go off the rails on Saturday. Not only did they “lap” us in the kid department, they used the one name I had my heart set on for my own daughter. What hurts the most is knowing that I may never even have a chance to use it.

I hate that infertility has killed the joy I should have over the arrival of a new family member.

On top of all this, I’m coming to the end of another cycle, and this time I don’t need to push hope away. This time, I never had any to begin with. Which I guess I should be happy about, since that’s been my goal for quite some time. I just never expected it to feel so sad.

Hope is a Virus

Many people in the infertility community talk about hope as a positive thing. We encourage people to Never give up hope!, to cling to the slightest chance that one may eventually conceive a healthy baby. Personally, I think hope is overrated. 

Hope is a virus. And I’m permanently infected. Every cycle, I try to dismiss hope. No hope, no disappointment, right? But, every cycle, something happens–something slightly different, something new–and it keeps the hope virus alive and well inside me, no matter how hard I try to get rid of it. This time it’s my thick uterine lining. As frustrated as I was about the rocky start to this cycle, it gave my medical team the opportunity to try something different to boost my lining–and it worked. So, even though I have pretty much everything else working against me, I’m hanging on to this little thread of hope of that maybe, just maybe, a nice, cushy uterus was the missing piece of the puzzle.

Last cycle, it was the addition of progesterone to my fertility arsenal.

The cycle before that, a higher dose of Femara and awesome response.

Before that was my first Femara and trigger cycle.

Before that, the diagnosis and removal of Stage IV endometriosis.

I could go on for a year’s worth of cycles, but I think you see my point: Every cycle presents a new glimmer of hope in the form of a new treatment or improved response. I’m happy that there have been improvements along the way, but it makes it all the more difficult to remain emotionally neutral.

You could argue that, hope or no hope, disappointment will find me. And you’d be right. But it’s more than just avoiding disappointment. When a cycle fails, I feel a little ashamed that I allowed myself to indulge in hope. What made me think this cycle would work? What makes me think any of these cycles will work? What is keeping me from accepting the fact that getting pregnant just isn’t in the cards for me?

Aha! There you have it. What really bothers me about this unrelenting hope is that it’s somehow preventing me from coming to terms with the inevitable. Or maybe my inability to come to terms is feeding my hope?

Sheesh. This emotional stuff just keeps getting more and more complicated.

Could This Bitter Infertile Turn Sweet?

Okay, “sweet” may be going a bit too far, but there’s a lot less bitter flowing through these veins lately. Maybe it’s the therapy, maybe I’ve exorcised most of my emotional demons through this blog, or maybe I’m just having a good week. I’m sure it’s all of the above. Grief is full of ups and downs; I’ve just been down so long that up seems… well… too good to be true, to be honest.

I keep checking in with myself to make sure I’m not suppressing or denying negative emotions. But, honestly, I don’t think I’ve had any for a while now. I’m still disappointed about my bum ovaries, and I still worry that my backfiring uterus will forever ruin my chances of getting pregnant. But it’s feeling less and less like the end of my world if things don’t work out in the baby department.

Don’t get me wrong: I haven’t accepted that I may have a future without children. Not even close. I’m still holding out hope that I won’t ever have to accept that reality. That said, I can see myself taking that step… one day.

I still carry a good deal of bitterness, but I’m happy to say that it’s no longer front and center. You know how after a really bad dream, all those negative emotions stay with you for hours or even days? Well, this feels a bit like I’ve woken up from a bad dream, and all the awful is finally starting to dissipate. I won’t ever forget the dream or how it made me feel, but the negative feelings themselves will eventually fade away.

So, what’s a semi-bitter infertile to do? I’m not giving up or changing my blog (in case you were worried). Bitter still fits, and probably always will, at least in part. This blog will always be my therapy, but, going forward, you may see less sad and angry infertile and more reflection on the past experiences and relationships that shaped who I am. I plan to write about my relationship with my father and his suicide, my past as a believer and what I believe now, my not-so-proud post-breakup moments (get ready for some juicy confessions!)…. Things of that nature which have yet to be dealt with in a healthy manner. I’ll sprinkle in some lighter moments, too.

I’ll continue to write about my bumpy journey to conceive and my broken lady parts. If I’m lucky enough to get pregnant, I’ll write about that, too.

Basically, I’ll write about anything and everything that I need or want to let out. This is my therapy.

Vulnerability

During today’s therapy session, we focused on vulnerability, specifically how I tend to never show it, even when I want or need to. Learning to be vulnerable with the people I love will be one of the most difficult things I will ever have to do. But I am willing and eager to try. With that in mind, I offer the following message to my loved ones:

You wouldn’t know it from my sturdy shell, but I’m a big mess inside. This whole infertility thing is a bitch. It is seriously screwing me up and I’m not handling it well. I feel like a failure most of the time. I don’t expect you to understand, but I hope you’ll try. Knowing that most of you have achieved healthy pregnancies easily and without medical intervention makes me jealous, angry, and bitter. It’s not your fault. It’s not my fault, either. It’s just how I feel.

I know we’re not a family that often talks about things like this, but if any of you have had trouble getting pregnant or suffered miscarriages, now would be the time to open up about it. I feel so alone and broken. I am scared that I will never have children, that I will spend the rest of my life unfulfilled as a mother. Please don’t say “You can always adopt.” I’m not sure we can. Adoption is expensive and isn’t without emotional pain. Please don’t point out that I’ll always have my nieces and nephews to spoil and take care of. As much as I love them, it’s not the same as having my own. And, please, for the love of whatever you consider holy, please don’t point out that not having children means we’ll have more time and money to spend on our hobbies and vacations. Those things are small consolation for never knowing the unconditional love of a child, for never having the opportunity to live forever by leaving small pieces of yourself behind. Besides, we would never truly enjoy those things without children to share them with. I realize that I may one day be forced to accept that I will never have children. That scares the shit out of me. I’m not sure I could do it. At this point, I’m pretty sure I would live out the remainder of my days a bitter, angry, joyless person. I’m working toward acceptance, but I’m not there yet.

As much as I love every last one of you, it’s really hard to be around you these days, especially around the holidays. Every time we gather together, I fear a pregnancy announcement. No, I haven’t forgotten that at one time it was me announcing my pregnancy at a family gathering. I still feel guilty for doing that, not because I miscarried the very next week and had to tell everyone, but because I now know much it must have hurt a certain family member to learn of my pregnancy. I’m not saying that you can’t share your happy news just because I’m a bitter infertile. I just want you to know that I may react with tears rather than joy. I also tense up every time someone starts talking about being pregnant, giving birth, or raising kids. Those conversations almost always include well-meaning, though insensitive comments like “Be glad you don’t know what it’s like to push a watermelon out of your vagina!” or “You’re so lucky you don’t have to clean up projectile vomit in the middle of the night!” Yes, I know, parenthood is exhausting, terrifying, and gross. But, it’s also wonderful, awe-inspiring, and deeply fulfilling. None of you would trade it for anything. I wouldn’t trade those 3 months of pregnancy, for they are the only thing that gives me any hope that I will one day hold my child in my arms.

Sometimes it’s hard for me to accept that I was a mother (I  am a mother? Do you ever really stop being a mother, even after all your children are gone?). I conceived and carried a baby for 3 months, and when he or she left my body, it was a birth of sorts. I had all sorts of plans and dreams for my child, just like any parent. I was researching birth plans, reviewing breastfeeding information, and considering day care options. M and I seriously discussed names, and even talked about guardianship should anything happen to us. But we didn’t get to follow through on any of that. Does that mean we’re not parents, that we were never parents, or that we’re just not parents anymore? I struggle with these questions all the time, so I don’t expect my family to know how to treat me when it comes to this part of my identity. What I do know is that I don’t want anyone to forget that I did, for a time, carry a life inside me, and that I losing that life was the worst thing to ever happen to me. I don’t want to be looked upon with pity or treated with kid gloves. But I do want you to understand how hard this is for me, and to know that my strong exterior is just a facade. 

My family won’t ever see this message, because they don’t know about my blog. This was more for my benefit, anyway. Call it a practice run, if you want. Will I have the courage to say a few of these things to my family in the coming weeks?