Wednesday, July 18, 2012

A day in the life of this infertile woman

The following post originated yesterday as an email reply to my best friend’s inquiry of how I was doing. As a result, it is extremely long, personal, raw, transparent, and chalk-full of TMI regarding our struggle with infertility and everything that comes along with that. It has been slightly modified, and posted with the permission of my friends that are involved in the content. Emily and I exchange these “email novels” on a regular basis, and sharing our lives with each other serves as a very effective form of therapy for me. But after I recapped this past Sunday for her, I realized that it provided a good snapshot of what a day in my life of infertility is like. Not every single day, of course, but a typical bad day. Already, this week, I feel much better. But Sunday was a different story.

If you are interested, please read on, but do it at your own risk. And also, I ask that you please be kind and patient with me and hold off on hasty judgments, as I bear the worst parts of my soul, originally only intended for my very best friend, to the whole world. I’m not proud of everything I thought or said on Sunday, but that does not negate the authenticity of the thoughts and actions in the moment. Most of this post is just hasty word vomit I spewed without much thought. It’s not my best writing, and I say “and then” way too many times, speak in fragments and run-on sentences, and have paragraphs that are entirely too long. This is my heart on display, as is. Again, proceed with caution.


First of all, before I even go into how I've been feeling, I made it up to the 97.8's this weekend, and I decided that's when the hormones really start going super crazy. So that sets the stage. (Emily knows my chart like the back of her own hands, so this makes sense to her. But for the rest of you, my temperature generally falls in the mid-96 range prior to ovulation when estrogen is the reigning hormone, then with the influx of progesterone, it jumps up a full degree to the mid-97 range and continues to rise until my period begins and brings with it the lower temped estrogen to begin the cycle all over again.)

Church this past Sunday proved harder than I had expected. It had been so long since we were able to go to a service for various reasons, and I was just so excited to finally get to go again that I completely forgot to mentally prepare myself for being in the midst of so many sweet babies and children. I never anticipated that it would be a challenge, because it hasn't necessarily been in the past, as long as it's babies whom I personally know and love. But this time it was hard. There were times when I couldn't even look toward the pulpit, because I easily saw three babies out of my peripheral vision. Instead, I just stared out the windows on the doors. But even those doors hosted multiple moms taking their children out for various reasons throughout the service, so I then directed my gaze to the bright red Exit sign.

During the prayers, which were wonderful and heartbreaking and about God's timing being perfect and not condemning the challenge in order to quickly receive the blessing, all I could hear over the sound of my breaking heart were sweet babies laughing or asking for more snacks or turning pages in sticker books or even screaming in a far corner of the auditorium. It was like my baby radar was so heightened that I could have heard a giggle from the neighborhood across the street ringing in my ears. What in the world? I absolutely loved seeing the three babies in front of me, and the two further down our row and even the three others behind us, and I love each of the families they belong to... But it just reminded me that we don't have a sweet child to occupy during services.

Brad was sweet and held me. He alternated putting his arm around me or holding my hand the entire time, and I appreciated the comfort he provided so much. But it just emphasized that he was the only one I have to hold in my life right now... Blah, dramatic, I know. It’s just that I spend so much time trying to think of other things and focus on something other than the fact that we’re childless, that these kinds of reminders that force me to remember what I'm so desperately trying to put out of my mind are tough on my already tender heart.

And then after the service, I couldn't wait to talk to a couple with whom we're friends but haven't gotten the chance to visit with in a long time. I was especially anxious, because he had mentioned that they went to NYC recently. Holla! I could talk about that great city all day long, and it was something other than sad things for me to focus on. A topic that I enjoy and that makes me happy. Brad and I talked with him about it for a while before his wife joined us. Then she and I chatted while he and Brad carried on their own conversation. I was secretly glad to be talking to a friend without a baby and who is not trying to conceive, so we could discuss other things, and we didn’t have to have the conversation over the head of a sweet baby who was propped on her hip. She asked about my dad and wondered how he is recovering from his motorcycle accident, which was very nice, and we talked about him and that whole situation for a little bit. And then she mentioned how thankful she was that I wasn't pregnant at the time, because of the added stress a pregnancy would have compiled on top of all of that. ........ (Thankful that I wasn't pregnant??? Because a pregnancy is just added stress?????) I just said, yeah, it was definitely a pretty stressful period of time in my family's lives.

And then, with that perfect segway, she was caringly curious of how we're doing with the baby-making process. We proceeded to talk for maybe 15 minutes in which she said every wrong thing on a list of wrong things to say. I tried to extend a magnitude of grace in the situation, because she (thank goodness) has no idea what she's talking about when it comes to this particular topic. I know her well, and I know her heart, and I know that she was hoping to comfort, console, and encourage. So I tried not to take offense or get irritated. Or cry. She told me that I'm still so young, and that if I was 38 instead of 28, then I'd have "a right to worry." She told me that it only "seems hard" because we got married so young and "have been trying for so long." (Well, yeah, that trying for so long does play a big factor.)

She said that thanks to America marrying older and older, the average age of having a first child is in the 30s, so I'm luckily still way ahead of the curve and shouldn't worry. She said that those people who don't get married until they're in their 30s don't get this "luxury" of having so many years to try. Even if everybody in my life has kids, regardless of some statistic. Even if my life-long dream was to have three by 30 and now even one by 30 seems like hardly a possibility. She said she understands what it's like to be frustrated that things don't go according to how you have it all planned out in your mind, but you just can't help it. (It's not like I had a specific plan, just a hope, a dream, and dare I say, a naive expectation.) Her mom didn't "plan" to have cancer (which is even worse). She said I just need to let go, and let God. God's in charge, and I need to not try to control everything. She, of course, was right on all accounts. But still, boo. She said many things. Many, many, kind-hearted, well meaning, very correct, unknowingly insensitive things.

She told me that many people who adopt then have kids afterward, so maybe we should go that route. (Who? Who are these people??) She told me how her aunt tried and tried to get pregnant. After two failed attempts with IVF, she finally gave up at the age of 36. She mourned and moved on. And wouldn't you know it, just two short years later, they got pregnant with "regular ol' sex! So see?? If you could just mourn this and move on, it will happen! If you can just stop thinking about it and focusing so much on it and worrying about it and relax, it'll happen on its own! Maybe you guys just need a relaxing vacation..."

I knew she was so well-intentioned. She meant to relieve some anxiety and provide some encouragement. And I know that's all the information that she had on the subject. But I had to cut her off. I couldn't be told to "just relax" one more time. I said, "Don't. Just don't. Please, don't say that to me." She looked a little shocked as I continued, "I understand that you've heard those stories, and I'm grateful that it has worked in those situations. But we tried that route. We tried that method for three years. We tried just chilling and having sex and letting God handle it. And it didn't work. It won't work for us. Please don't tell me to relax and stop thinking about it. I don't think you understand, and that's okay, and I love you, and I'm grateful that you're willing to talk to me about it, and I don't expect for you to understand not having lived it, and I'm thankful that you haven't had to experience this, because I’d never wish this on anybody. But I can't simply stop thinking about it. I think about it every day. Every single day. I have to think about it when I take a pill every evening. Oh, yeah, I have to take medicine every day of my life. I have to take another, additional type of medicine on different, very specific days of my cycle. So I have to constantly be aware of where exactly I am in my cycle. I have to take disgusting prenatal vitamins and refrain from any form of alcohol, 'just in case.'

"I have to take my temperature every morning at 5:30 a.m. in order to gauge my hormone levels. I have to pee on a stick for ten days in a row just to predict when I might ovulate. Then Brad and I have to have sex at the exact right times, the exact right amount of times, and the exact right length of time apart from the last to increase our chances. Then, a specific number of days later, I have to go to the doctor's to get blood drawn, so it can be tested to determine whether or not I have enough of a particular hormone in my system to even maintain a pregnancy. And then I have to wait weeks which feel like an eternity, trying to keep hopeful while trying to not get my hopes up. Two weeks where I monitor every symptom my body is showing, and trying not to convince myself that the increase in appetite, the decrease in energy, and the breast tenderness are actually pregnancy symptoms, but are just side effects of the progesterone raging through my body. And then being absolutely devastated and heartbroken when my period comes, and with the sight of that horrid blood, my dream fades a little further into the distance. Again. And furthermore, because all of our current methods have failed, starting next month, if we can afford it, I have to do all of that, AND go to the doctor's office when I have a positive pee stick, so they can unceremoniously take Brad's sperm from him and inject it right into my uterus. It's very romantic and ideal, and it's definitely not just relaxing and stopping thinking about it."

I said most of it without getting too choked up, and she was so loving and sweet. She compassionately hugged me tight and said, "I had no idea it was so involved." I said that of course she didn't, and how would she, and I hoped I didn’t offend her in any way. But, regardless of her lack of awareness and extremely kind heart, it was still such a hard conversation to have. It was hard to hear all that stuff in the beginning from yet another person and keep my emotions in check. Then it was hard to relive all of this experience with someone who simply doesn't know a thing about it. It was hard because even though I know her intentions, the message she was trying to send and the message I actually perceived in my fragile state were drastically different from each other.

I felt like she was telling me that I didn't have a right to be worried, since I was so young. Even though, if my body's fertility isn't on my side when I am the age of an average fertile woman, how in the world is it going to get better with age? That's the opposite of how that time clock runs. Reminding me that I’m young only reiterates how awful and hopeless it is that my body is already not working properly. I felt like she was saying that "all I need to do" is go through this whole process, and in ten years after thousands and thousands of dollars are wasted, then mourning for two more years, then everything will miraculously be okay. Well, that's not very encouraging! I felt like she was telling me it was my fault for not getting pregnant, because I've put too much emphasis on it in my life and if I could just do the right thing and handle it in the right manner, then I wouldn't even have this problem. She was acting like IVF and adoption are just simple tasks to check off a to-do list, and are not expensive or taxing and are only a quick means to a happy end. Like it's that easy.

I know she didn't mean any of those things. I know that. I know her heart and I know her intentions. But that's what I felt. And it hurt. And I figured, when it got to a certain point, if she was willing to have that sincere of a discussion with me about it, then she deserved to be educated about it as well. It became my responsibility to inform her on the true struggles of infertility. If she's willing to discuss it, which is a blessing, then she also deserves to know some more details. But it was not a fun lesson to give. And I was exhausted by the end of it. Besides being 97.87 degrees worth of exhausted already.

Brad and I ran some errands in Smyrna after church. He needed a haircut, so I ran to Target while he did, killing two birds with one stone. I tried to avoid anything baby or child related in my favorite store, but the stupid Sam Ridley Target is laid out differently than my usual locations in either Mt. Juliet or Hickory Hollow. So in my quest for paper towels and toilet paper, I ended up walking straight through the baby section. I panicked when I realized what I had done. So I quickly fixed my eyes on the end of the long row and didn't look down any of the tempting, damning aisles. I thought I'd break down with jealousy if I saw an adorably pregnant woman choosing the perfect, cutest onsie known to man for her precious bundle of joy. With my tunnel vision, I managed to survive my Target trip with my still fragile heart intact. Then we went and got some lunch and headed home. Immediately, I laid down for a much needed long afternoon nap.

I woke up when the Jordans asked if we wanted to join them for a walk at Long Hunter. Well Brad and I were planning on going and jogging anyway, so we just went a little bit earlier to do a lap with them before we got our real jog in. Now, I could have changed the situation if I really wanted to, but... Instead of walking the trail, we ended up just sitting on a picnic table at the nearby park and watching a bunch of sweet families with their adorable kids playing on the playground. Just sat there. And watched them. I tried to distract myself with the babies I was with. (Honestly, when I'm with Hill Ridge kids, it's personal and not "some kids," so it doesn't affect me the same way.) So I fed Hannah her bottle. I love her, and she was so sweet. She fell asleep in the middle of the feeding. Dumb Aunt Deedee forgot to burp her! It's been so long since I’ve fed a newborn. She gave a good burp, and didn't spit up on me any. Whew! I loved her and held her and focused only on her and the conversation amongst the adults. Then I needed to hand her back. And I watched the quickly filling up playground full of sweet kids and crazy kids and laughing kids and hyper kids and sweating kids and all kinds of wonderful kids innocently playing to their heart's desire. And I watched their mamas help them up the ladders and their daddies catch them at the bottom of slides. I watched parents laugh as they picked up kids and swung them in a circle and then wiped the sweat off of their little faces before sending them back off to play some more. I watched a sweet dad helping teach his little girl how to ride a bike. I watched a family across the way sit down for a picnic together. I watched all of these people living the life I've dreamed of for years, and I watched the longing in my heart swell two sizes too big.

And then, luckily, Charles asked if one of us could hold Liv. Oh hallelujah! I jumped at the chance and looooved her! At first, she was quiet and just looked at me. But then she started laughing as I tickled her, and as Brad was "getting" her, and as I bounced around with her fitting perfectly on my hip. She laughed and held onto my arm so tight as I spun from side to side. And I shifted her over to the front of me, and she leaned forward onto my shoulder and had her arms around me as far as they could go. And I was happy. A real happy. My heart melted in a peaceful way that reminded me of why we're even going through all of this in the first place, and that it's all worth it just for this very moment with my own child(ren) someday. And during these precious moments, I was able stand with my back to the playground, so she could still see her daddy playing with Charlie, and I didn't have to watch the hundreds of kids taking turns on the slide. Hannah and Liv distracted me, and made the playground more bearable. I was glad for that. But my heart was still aching and on guard...

Then it was time for everybody to go, and Brad and I headed toward the trail for our planned work out. And wouldn't you stinkin’ know it, that we had to stop so that a dad racing his two kids to the car could pass in front of us! The kids were running so fast and laughing so hard, and "somehow" they both beat their dad to the car and ran into the doors with incredible force from their impassioned sprints. My inside fell to my toes. Since I was in high school, I've always said that I wanted to have kids when I was still young enough to have enough energy to race them to the car, because that fake competition was one of the simpler things I was most looking forward to as a mommy. (My mom always raced me to the car. And I always won.) I saw it happen. I had to stop to let them pass. I watched the kids' joy at the challenge and victory and their dad's false dismay at his defeat, and I died.

We started jogging and my chest was so tender that I had to literally hold my boobs with my hands for the first few minutes until I just sucked it up and jogged through it. Then my calves seized up and got so tight that I insisted that we stop so I could stretch them out more. It hurt so bad; I couldn't hold back groans of pain. Brad encouraged me to at least finish out the mile, even though I already thought I'd collapse with only one more step. I couldn't handle the physical pain on top of the emotional. So what’d I do? I just started crying in the midst of jogging. Tears were running down my face as I was running down the trail. Crying from the pain. The pain in my calves and the pain in my boobs and the pain my lungs and the pain in my heart.

Brad said, "It's okay to cry. Cry if you have to. That doesn't bother me one bit. Just don't give up yet. Cry and jog at the same time." (When I first started running years ago, I would cry every time, just because I hate it so much, and it's such a mental and emotional battle for me, along with the physical challenge. So Brad wasn’t really caught off guard by my tears.) He kept encouraging me, saying that running is a mind game and I just have to get past it. (He was right that the weakness was in my mind, but he didn't realize what form it had taken.) That I've done this before, and he knows I can do it again. That he wouldn't let me give up on myself and how much he loved me.

When we got to the mile mark, I just started melting down. I slowed my pace, caught my breath, and let the tears flow. He immediately told me how proud he was of me, and how great of a job I did, and how we can walk for a while now. And I responded to his kind words with venom. He told me he loved me, and I told him that I was pissed that we came to walk, and I ended up sitting watching (seemingly) happy families full of kids joyfully playing at the park, and that I have to hold other people’s babies and play with their kids instead of being able to love on my own. And I was pissed that I had to witness a dad live out my most basic dream by racing his kids to the car. I told him I was pissed that I had to have that conversation after church, both the first part and the last part. I told him I was pissed that I couldn't even dream in the baby section of Target anymore, but had to zero in on the wall and walk as fast as I could, because our future children are no longer a “when” or even an “eventually someday,” but are now an “if at all.” I told him I was mad that I felt crazy and couldn't help it. That I know better than all of the things I keep thinking, but it's still how I feel, anyway. That I can tell it's the hormones, and I wish that knowledge would make the emotions easier, but it doesn't. I seethed at my woeful lot in life and threw myself a glorious pity party right there on that trail. I didn't say hi to people who passed like usual or even make eye contact. I was fuming. It wasn't fair, and I was mad.

We walked about a quarter of a mile while I expelled all of those ugly demons, and then I felt like running. I wanted to run. That's never happened. I've always ran because I needed to or should or as a way to spend time with Brad or simply because that's what we were doing. But all of the sudden, I was mad, and I wanted to run away from it all. I envisioned all of our stress and struggles and hard times sitting on that bridge we just crossed, and I wanted to run as far away from it as I could. So I took off without saying a word. Brad silently quickened his stride with me, and reminded me to pace myself and breath slowly, because this was quicker than our usual, comfortable speed. But I just wanted to get away from that horrible bridge and all of that baggage on it. I was afraid that it might somehow be able to catch back up with me if I slowed down. I couldn't stop. I couldn’t face all of it again. I had to keep going. I couldn’t slow down. I was running for my life.

When we were coming up to the last little bit (probably a little less than a quarter of a mile) where we nearly always jog this last portion no matter how our work out has been, Brad said, as usual, "Okay, when we get to the post, give it your all from here on out." I said, "I don't think I have anything else left other than what I'm already giving." He said, "That's okay. That's fine. Just try to make it to the end if you can." I said I would. And as we rounded the curve, a young couple came along the path pushing my three wheeled jogging stroller. I don't even know if there was a grinning toddler, a sleeping newborn, or a watermelon in that thing. All I know is the sight of it made me want to vomit. They passed, and I literally muttered "stupid baby!" to my feet and sprinted all the way to the end. I sprinted as fast as my legs could take me. I wanted to punish my body. I wanted it to hurt. It deserved the pain, because it has failed me. It has hurt me too many times to go unpunished any longer. My lungs burned, and I said, "That's what you get!" My legs cramped, and I said, "Sorry about your luck!” My arms grew weak, and I said, “Sucks, don't it??” And I ran full out. I wanted a physical manifestation of the emotional pain I couldn't grasp; something that I could finally control. Brad shouted from behind, "Don't forget to breathe, Mindy! Deep breaths! Pace yourself! You don't have to go that fast!" But I couldn't even hear him. The whole world fell into this other place. A bad place. A painful place. A dark place. And I wanted to run away from it all. Run until I died.

At the end of the trail, I literally collapsed on a large rock, heaving for breath. Brad caught up to me and asked, "Are you okay?? Take slow breaths. I don't want you to hyperventilate. Do you feel light headed? Are you going to vomit? Are you nauseous?" I just focused on trying to fill my scalding lungs with air. I sat there for a good three minutes just catching my breath, regaining consciousness, and becoming reacquainted with the faint world around me. Brad kept making me look at him, so he was sure I wasn't going to pass out. And then I heard it again. Right behind me at the pavilion. The best and worst sound in the entire world. A baby cooing. That brought me back to reality in a snap. I didn't care how much my body was screaming, I stood up, muttered "stupid baby" one more time, and looked Brad straight in the face, and said, "Get me the hell out of here. I can't stand it one more minute." And he did.

I'm not proud of my thoughts, especially toward innocent strangers who just happened to cross my path in the line of fire on an emotionally reckless day. I hate that I fell that deep into the dark pit. I hate that I can't control my emotions. I hate that I'm so sensitive, even around people I love whom I know love me. I hate this whole thing. Absolutely every single little thing about it. I want you to know that I don't always feel the way I felt on Sunday. It was a highly emotional, hormonal day. I don't support my attitude and definitely don't recommend my actions, but in those moments, it was real, and it was all I had to offer.

During a serious discussion over the weekend, Brad confessed that he's not sure we can afford an IUI this coming month. We may have to spend some time saving up for it, before we can go that new route. Just do the dye test (to confirm the health of my reproductive anatomy) this month and keep taking the ovulation-inducing medication for a while longer until we can afford the other procedures necessary to increase our chances of conceiving. I hate that money will ultimately end up being the reason that we can't start our family, which I so long to have.

Infertility. It is such a weird place. Such a weird feeling. Such a weird situation and circumstance. I'm constantly fighting with myself over being irrational and being reasonable. Of being overly sensitive and being sensible. Of taking things personally and being realistic. Of being overwhelmingly sad and trying not to give up hope.

I feel like every minute of my whole life I'm desperately praying for three things: a miracle to happen in my womb; God's will to be done; and that they can finally, finally, be the same thing..........

Monday, July 9, 2012

Patiently Waiting

Pinned Image
[pic via]

Baby, I love you, though God has not yet given you to me;
I have spent my whole life learning patience, and that is now what I am trying to be.

I love you though we have not yet met, and though you are not yet real;
Somehow you are in every thought, and love is all I feel.

You’re a dream I didn’t know I had, a prayer I didn’t know I would pray;
A song that I would sing to you, if only you would stay.

We want you in our life to share a love that is so strong;
And we will continue to wait for you – it does not matter how long.

We believe in God’s perfect plan, so you will come when the time is right;
And though you are not here yet, you are already Mommy’s delight.

I want to hold you in my arms and teach you to be great;
I want you to be our legacy, our destiny, our fate.

Your daddy and I love you, and we can’t wait for the day;
When we get to kiss you gently, and you will never go away.

We have a wonderful marriage, maybe this hardship is our test;
But holding hands together, we continue to pray for the best.

That you will grace our lives with greatness and make us a family;
So the love that is too much for two can soon be shared by three.

{*Excerpt from "Every Drunken Cheerleader... Why Not Me?" by Kristine Ireland Waits}

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