Thursday, November 29, 2007

The Million Dollar Question

I think that the most difficult thing to face (aside from losing my baby) as I walk my way down this road is the dreaded, “So, do you have any children?” question from people. One thing I have learned from my infertility journey is about the level of personal questions one should ask a stranger. Let’s face it if you’re asking me if I have children, then we’re pretty much strangers. The people who know me well, know I do not have any children, know about my IF journey, and know about my loss.
That question, of all things that we have to face everyday, is the worst. The conversations about children and pregnancies can be drown out by focusing attention elsewhere, or using the suggestion I found on Pamela Jeanne’s blog. (post from 9/10/2007) Thanks, by the way, for that wonderful idea! The pregnant bellies, I can choose to only look the person in the eye and not allow my eyes to move downward toward the belly. Seeing babies or hearing them cry, I can look the other way or run away as fast as I can. But the question is inescapable. It is asked directly to you, most of the time with other people around.
Our society defines people by the number of children they have. I don’t know why after explaining to someone I’m meeting for the first time about myself, my hobbies, and my interests, they still feel the need to ask about children. Is that the only thing that matters? Isn’t who I am just as important, even without children? I suppose people are just looking for some commonality and most people my age do have children who consume a big portion of their lives. So that’s what they ask about. That’s what they talk about. But I think the world could use a little etiquette lesson.
I’ve been asked the question lots of times and still have not learned how to answer. I haven’t learned how to hide my humiliation or hurt when it’s asked and I’m stammering. I haven’t learned whether or not I want to share with these strangers that I do have a child, he just was never born, he’s just not living. Most of the time, I simply answer no and try to move on as quickly as possible. But it doesn’t always feel right to do that. At times, I feel like if I don’t speak up, and help people to realize how uncomfortable it makes people to have to go around a room full of people and tell how many kids you have then nothing will ever change. I won’t be doing anything to reach my goal of working to educate people about the emotional toll infertility takes.
Sometimes, I can anticipate the question being asked and those are the times when I feel like I should be more open. Now the dilemma occurs when I try to decide which approach I should take for this game. Should I try to be the first one to introduce myself and set the tone by talking about my hobbies, and my interests and not making any reference to children or families? The question could still be asked. Or should I let the other person (or everyone else in the group if that is the case) give their bios and when it’s my turn say, “Hi, I’m L. I don’t have any living children. I do have a cat who I treat like my baby, he often sleeps right between my husband and I, we love him dearly, would you like to see pictures? Oh, and I spend my free time cycling (fertility treatments, not bikes), reading books and blogs about infertility and pregnancy loss and trying to advocate for insurance coverage for all infertility treatments.” Seems snarky, but why is it ok for the infertile person in a group to be made to feel uncomfortable and not ok for others to feel that way?
There has got to be a happy medium between not saying anything and my (maybe) overly dramatic remark. Where do I find the middle ground?

I will bet my house that I will be in this situation next week at a work staff meeting. We have a new employee starting and the meeting is her first day on the job. I’ll be pondering this topic until then. (**suggestions appreciated**)
And, I’ll have the added benefit of being under the influence of Gonal-f at that point so who knows what will happen! Could get crazy! Fun times, fun times.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Today was NOT funny

If I had to hear the story of M's new son's birth one more time today at work, I think I would have put a gun to my head. Ugh. I tried like hell to avoid it, running to the bathroom, water cooler, copy machine, etc. each time someone else came by and asked if the baby had been born yet, how much he weighed, what the labor was like, blah, blah, blah. But there was no escaping it. Then T, pregnant co-worker #1, is having a conversation with someone about how she has the baby's room decorated. Arh!! 4:30pm could not have come fast enough and when I left the office today I could feel the tension leaving my body.
It's over now though and K is out for the rest of the week. She'll be back on Monday with pictures and stories I'm sure. I feel like I've just got to find something to do outside of the office on Monday AM. But that will probably just be prolonging it because eventually I have to see her - and she'll ask if I want to look at the pictures. And, I don't know what to say. I don't do well with newborn pictures. Little kids, fine, but not babies. Just another thing for me to stress about for the next 5 days.

So much for trying to laugh - I did not find much humor in today.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Finding the Humor

I have come to the realization that the fertile population is completely and utterly oblivious to what people living in the IF/Pregnancy loss world are feeling. It is like we are living in some sort of parallel universe – each existing side by side, but never really in the same place. Maybe more like living with a constant two-way mirror. As an IF’er I can see through but the fertiles can not see me. I can be empathetic to their sorrows and pains but I don’t feel the same in return. For a long time now this has made me angry, furious even. Many a time I have wanted to reply to their comments or conversations with mean, hurtful remarks, to help them understand how they make me feel so often. I was however raised not to be mean and hurtful to another person, so I do my best not to be.
I noticed today though that it is becoming something other than anger for me now, something almost comical. I am no longer amazed by how ignorant our world can be. I have become desensitized to the ignorance. Like a child watching too many violent movies and not viewing violence as something out of the ordinary, so too I am now. After numerous hurtful comments I no longer feel shocked by things that people can say or do.
I received an email from a well meaning relative the other day asking where we were in our trying to conceive journey, and whether we’ve made any further decisions about what steps we’re going to take. By steps she means whether we’re any closer to deciding on moving toward adoption rather than continuing fertility treatments. She doesn’t really believe in fertility treatments, because of her religious beliefs. She won’t say it directly but it’s clear if you know her. Plus her son and daughter in law adopted from Kazakhstan a few years ago (after two failed IVF attempts). The thing is J and I have researched adoption and it just is not going to be do-able for us. We simply do not have the financial means to do it. Of course we could adopt from the foster care system but that is not something we want to do. I admire people who do, but it is just not us. Selfish? Maybe. But I want an infant, and that is nearly impossible through the foster care system, as we learned at our one and only adoption seminar. What this relative doesn’t understand is that we have used all of our financial resources on treatment, we don’t have any more and probably would not qualify for loans, and also we don’t have the liberty to take off of work for 4-7 weeks for travel to complete an adoption. At one point we thought maybe we could swing the cost of a China adoption but with the new net worth requirements we’re no longer in the running for that. Now I know she means well, and is genuinely interested and prays for us all the time. But I don’t know how to respond to the questions from people anymore. Everyone around us sees us banging our head against the figurative wall. I think they must think we are crazy to continue on each month. But J and I feel at this point it’s our only choice - it’s better than nothing. It’s made me laugh at what other people must think of us.
Another thing that made me chuckle today was when I arrived at work and found out that my co-worker K’s daughter had gone into labor. She’s expecting her 2nd child - she’s 19 and now has two children by her past two boyfriends. Apparently both “accidents”. She lives at home with her parents too. Now, my feelings on how we might need some better sex education in schools today is another story but I certainly don’t want to hear about her labor details. How my other co-workers could think I’d be interested in that after what we’ve been through is beyond me. I walked into the lunch room to get some coffee and was told, among other things, that M is at the hospital, her water broke 3 weeks early, she just waiting now, nothing too much happening, not dilated fully yet, should be soon. Um…and you think I care why? The comical part is that people think that a year after losing a baby is enough time to get excited about pregnancy again. What they don’t realize is that each conversation like that makes me wonder how my pregnancy would have been had I made it that far, makes me think about how old my baby would have been today, makes me sad that J and I will spend another holiday without a child in our home, and makes me wonder why our fertility treatment cycles are not working.
I don’t really understand ignorance. I mean I understand that fertile people have never had to face the things I have so they couldn't possibly understand. What I don’t understand is how people, some of whom I’m close too, can not take the time to educate themselves on the subject, even if just as a way of better supporting their friend, family member, or co-worker. I probably never will understand it, so I will just continue to laugh and try to find the humor in it all.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Half-way to Healthy

I’m now in week #2 of this Get Healthy Challenge and I must say I’m doing really good. I have to take some time to pat myself on the back for a minute or two.
OK, I’m done. Seriously though, usually I am the kind of person who forever beats themselves up for things that happen, things that don’t go my way, things I may not even have any control over. I guess my controlling personality gets the best of me and I somehow feel responsible for everything that happens to me – whether or not I’ve had any control over it. When my fertility treatments don’t work, I tell myself I should have been more positive, when I lost my baby I told myself that if I had just been more proactive in my care maybe it would not have happened, when things don’t go my way, I feel like I have just not tried hard enough or put enough effort into making things happen. This kind of thinking is terrible for someone facing infertility. I always feel inferior, not good enough, not deserving enough – to or for what I don’t exactly know. I somehow have to learn that not everything is under my control, not everything that happens is my fault or could have been prevented, or changed based on my actions. It’s a very difficult thing to do.
So when I chose my three things for the healthy challenge I chose things that would set me up for success instead of failure. Easy things – you may think so, but for me they are a challenge but still do-able. The second week ends on Sunday – here’s the low-down so far: Week #1 – ate my two servings of fish and took fish-oil supplements every day, flossed every day (Can’t believe this myself!), and exercised the three days. Week #2 – only have one more serving of fish to get in (plus took fish-oil nearly every day), have flossed daily this week so far, and exercised once so far.
The challenge has also helped my mental outlook too. Maybe it’s the fish I’m eating, or the fish oil supplements, or maybe it’s just doing something that I can feel good about, to feel like I’m re-gaining some control in my life, even if it’s just a tiny piece of my life. Thank you
dmarie for starting the challenge. I’m so glad that I got involved. Almost half-way though now and I think I will continue on after the 30-days is up.

On the IF front:
I don’t know what cycle day it is, and I am trying not to care. If I keep track of my cycle days then there is always that little voice in my head telling me that J and I should have sex on a certain day, that there is always a chance (no matter how remotely impossible that would be). I can’t take that pressure anymore so I decided I will do my best not to keep track of what cycle day I am on, if I am not in the middle of cycling. Hard when I know my body signs for ovulating but doing my best.
We’ve decided to make that additional change in our IUI protocol next month so we’ll see how this goes. We’ve got a few more IUI's left to do before the insurance runs out and we’re at the end of the line for us.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Day 4 of Gettin Healthy

The get healthy challenge is going really good. So far this week, I have had my two servings of fish for the week, and I have flossed every day! Whoo Hoo! Now I've got three days of fitness still to fit in this week but that will be today, tomorrow, and Saturday.
Not too much else happening here. On the fertility front we're just playing the waiting game again until we can do another IUI cycle. I'm hoping for next month but if the holiday expenses get too high then we'll have to wait until January. Ugh. I don't even like thinking about waiting that long.

On another note, I'm working on filling out J's new health insurance forms for next year. He's going to have Illinois P.P.O plan. (We do not live in Illinois though) I have been trying to do some research into whether IVF is a covered benefit but can't seem to find any info. Any thoughts?

Monday, November 12, 2007

The Three F's

OK, so I decided on choosing these three action steps for my get healthy challenge -
1. Eating at least two servings of fish a week to increase omega-3 fatty acid intake.
2. Floss teeth daily (I am terrible at this and it will definitely be a challenge to do this!)
3. Fitness -Cardiovascular/Strength Training 2x per week, Flexibility 1x per week

I'm excited about doing this! I really think I can stick to this plan for the next month. For the real age plan I'll need to follow these steps for three months, but the fitness one will increase in frequency in months 2 and 3.
I didn't choose stopping smoking as one because J is still smoking and I wanted to pick something I know I can be successful at. I've decided that I will cut back even more - to only smoking if I am out having a cocktail - which I only do about once a week. Then maybe I'll pick that as a step at the 3 month mark - when I review my real age.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Getting Healthy

I am embarking on a 30-day (and beyond) get healthy challenge thanks to dmarie. I'm glad to see that there are a few other bloggers taking the challenge with us. It's always helpful to have someone to go through these things with; a little extra support.
I figured out my
real age and it doesn't look good right now. It's not terribly bad - just 6.5 years older than my actual age but it really got me thinking. Obviously the BIG reason my real age is higher is because I am a smoker. Yes, I know it's terrible. And, I've always stopped completely after transfers and while I was pregnant. But for the rest of the time - when I'm stressed over stimming, follicle checks, blood work results, and the worry over how we will ever have a family, I enjoy my cigarettes. I only smoke about about 5 cigarette a day. Please don't tell me that that is the reason I have difficulty getting pregnant - because I don't believe that. There are plenty of people in the world who smoke and get pregnant easily.
My other big agers are being overweight and my stress level. I have gained about 50 pounds since J and I got married and started ttc. I know that I need to lose some weight - not a huge surprise to me. And my stress level, well, in the past year I have miscarried my baby, lost my mother to breast cancer, and pursued fertility treatments. Stressed? Who me?
The realage website gave me a detailed plan on how I can get healthy and lower my real age. It suggests choosing 1-3 action steps over the next three months that I can commit to doing every day. At the end of 3 months I am supposed to go back and re-take the test to see if my new lifestyle habits have lowered my real age.
I am starting this challenge tomorrow so I'll let you know which three action steps I pick as my new healthy habits. Maybe if I can get healthy and lower my real age then my crappy eggs will be younger too, and maybe the next IUI will work.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

A guest blog entry, brought to you by the Great Blog Cross-Pollination

This is a Guest Writer- Cross Pollination Day!!

So, a post on someone else's blog. To create a few more links and catapult us all to find some different people to visit. Sounded like such a good idea but the reality is quite scary!! I guess the problem is what to write about? In my own blog I just record my journey and feelings about such, for me. The fact that others drop by is such a bonus (and amazes me). Some company on the lonely road and some very sound advice.Rather than go into my story, for this one off post I think I'll just list some of the things I have learned about myself on this IF journey. I'd love to hear what others have learned about themselves too.

1. I HATE waiting. Waiting to ovulate, waiting to test, waiting , waiting, waiting. Enough already.

2. I want to be one of these woman that is happy for pregnant friends etc. It's not that I'm unhappy, I just don't cope well. I accept that I can't but I wish I could.

3. I an over a stone heavier than I was before we started TTC a few years ago. I'm sure I've done nothing different. How does that work??

4. Even though I have little reason to believe I will spontaneously become pregnant and carry to full term, I still plan everything around the fact that I might be pregnant. And then beat myself up about missing opportunities.

5. I am now a lot more empathetic in all sorts of situations I wouldn't have thought twice about before. Strangely enough, however, I can also lack patience when people moan about stuff that I think is nothing. Not a nice trait. Who made me the score keeper on suffering?

6. I had great difficulty in accepting this could be happening to me. Funnily enough, once I managed to accept that it was, I started to cope much better.

7. I am now fairly blase about who I get my pants off for. In fact, just the other day, I was mentally noting the diversity of the people who have been there and I was kind of amazed!

8. I love the knowledge I now have of how my body works (apart from the getting and staying pregnant, of course) I can't believe that after a decade on the pill I had so little idea of what should be going on.

9. I love my husband way more deeply than I did before. He really is my rock.

10. I now care about the lives of such amazing woman all over the world. I cry at their sadness and worry about their situations. I am overjoyed when things go well for them and shake my fist at the universe when they don't. I am part of a virtual community that has taken away my isolation and helped me to cope with the most difficult times in my life. I would never have thought it possible. Never.And for this I really am grateful.

Thank you all for reading, and to Geohde for organising. I hope to catch up on loads of these swap posts.

So, can you guess who wrote it? Leave a comment with your guess and then check here to see if you're right and to find my post for the day.

Post-Halloween Witch

Another big ol' BFN for me. AF started yesterday - 14dpiui. This is all so hard. J and I don't know what to do anymore. We thought that changing the IUI protocol would be our answer. But this was IUI#5 and nothing.
Each day I feel like I am getting closer and closer to having my fear of never being pregnant again become a reality and it scares the crap out of me. I don't think I have ever been more afraid of anything else. Why in the world would God finally answer my prayers for getting pregnant after 5 years, snatch it away after only a short time, and never let me feel that happy again?
I honestly don't know how I would live my life if we use up the remaining 7 IUI's that we have some insurance coverage for, they don't work, and that is the end of the road for us. I don't want to live child-free. We can't do IVF again (unless by some miracle we get some insurance coverage for it) and I know that soon Dr. RE is going to want to schedule a consult to discuss it again. We don't have money for adoption, and with J's medical issues I don't even know if we'd get through a homestudy. I just don't even know what to do at this point. I wish I had been more insistent last year when I asked DR. RE about getting put on the list for the donor embryo program. She said the wait was two-three years long and discouraged J and I from putting our names on it. Now here we are a year later and we could have been that much farther on the list. If next month's IUI doesn't work I want our names on that list!

We'll be taking this month off again. Even though the waiting between cycles causes me a lot of stress we thought a break would be good financially and mentally too. So at least I can look forward to a few big glasses of wine for the next 30 days.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

My Story Project

My husband J and I have been battling infertility for almost 6 years. In the beginning we guessed that there may be some difficulty in our conceiving a child but never imagined it would lead us to where we are today. Most people in the world do not understand how infertility can impact someone’s life – 87.5% of people conceive their children without difficulty, and go on to have uneventful pregnancies, without complications. But that leaves 12.5% of our population who do have to struggle with infertility and pregnancy loss. It is a struggle that you can not escape. It permeates every aspect of your life from your emotional health, to your physical health, to your financial health.
Infertility bombards you every single day. You have to constantly think about what cycle day you are on, take medication which wrecks havoc on your emotions, take time off from work for medical appointments, work your way through unknown diagnoses, treatments, and procedures all the while trying to navigate your way through a world which views couples without children as almost second-class citizens. We are told by people who could never possibly understand what we are going through that we should relax, stop trying, just adopt. We are questioned about our treatment decisions. We have to face a constant battle between hope and despair. And, after spending all of our money on treatments, we are often asked how we could possibly afford children anyway. We live in a constant state of heightened stress, sometimes extreme, often internalizing that stress, always trying to act like our struggle is not bothering us because people think it is a lifestyle choice. We are told that what has happened to us – our infertility, our pregnancy losses – are God’s will, they are a blessing, we are lucky not to have children. Imagine the struggle within oneself when your rational mind knows that you have a medical condition that is preventing you from having children, or carrying a pregnancy to term, and trying to quiet the demons in your emotional mind that tell you that maybe you are a bad person, maybe this is God’s punishment for you. Imagine having a disease and one day your doctor tells you that you have a great chance at recovering from it, and the next day you’re told you will never recover from it. Imagine that scenario every day for months, and even years. Imagine what this all must do to our overall health, physically and emotionally, now and in the future.

Our partial insurance coverage has allowed us to pursue treatments to some extent. We are thankful for that – some people don’t even have that. We have been able to use IUI as a treatment, even though our chance of success is rather slim. We were even able to pursue IVF treatment, because of a grant made possible by New York State. Still, without coverage for the most efficient treatment we basically gamble our money away each month pursuing treatment with a low chance at success, just because that is all our insurance company will cover.
In our quest to build our family, we have taken out numerous loans, as even co-pays for covered treatment each month, begin to add up eventually. Currently we have 4 outstanding loans we are paying on for previous treatments, as well as using our monthly income to fund current treatment cycles. We spend about 15% of our income each month on fertility treatments. That does not even include the times we have taken money out of our retirement accounts to pay for medical expenses. We have virtually no savings, which frightens me when I think of our future, and it also leaves us out of the running should we consider adoption.
Insurance companies should be mandated to provide coverage for all infertility treatment. Physicians and patients should be the ones deciding which treatment option makes the most sense. It would save money in the end – for the patients and for the insurance companies. People struggling with infertility should not be punished for having a disease, just because someone else views it differently. And, our government should make adoption more reachable for people. While there are adoption tax breaks from the government, people still have to find a way to come up with money that they often do not have, and then are reimbursed after the finalized adoption. What about having guaranteed adoption loans, similar to student loans, backed by the government? Sure I can apply for an adoption loan, or home equity line, to fund an adoption, but for a couple with little financial means, this is often impossible. With proper insurance coverage, or better adoption coverage in our country, J and I, and millions of other people may be able to someday realize our dream of having a family.

Wait's almost over

Well, I have spent nearly the entire 2ww focusing my attention on the book tour. I have tried to get to everyone's posts, and am almost there. A few more days. It was nice to read everyone's insights into the book. And, most surprisingly, it helped to keep my mind off the hellish wait.
Tomorrow is 14dpiui (13 1/2dpo).
I'm scared. I'm afraid that AF is going to show by this weekend; right when she's supposed to. I don't know how much longer I can keep going, keep cycling. It is really wearing me down. I always thought that I would fight until I succeeded, but the time, the miscarriage, the debt, it is all becoming too much. I feel like I am starting to lose this war with infertility. Why can't I just have one baby?
I don't feel very hopeful at this point. I know it is still early and most people don't have symptoms at this point but I feel completely normal. I always compare my symptoms to the cycle when I did get a BFP. And, I don't feel anything I felt then - no irritability, no bloating, not really sore boobs (except for progesterone induced), nothing.
If no AF by Saturday (16 day luteal phase) then Sunday I'll test - but I don't hold out much hope for lasting that long before the witch shows.