Infertility |

Infertility has been a huge part of my life for the last 3 years. I started this blog in an attempt to find an outlet for the frustration it has brought us. If you're over 35 and faced with infertility, you'll find answers to your infertility questions here. Read my story from diagnosis of secondary infertility, to fertility treatments and IVF. Know that you are not alone in your infertility struggle. I hope I can help you. Maybe, just maybe, it will all be worth it in the end - if not for me, for you.

Another Painful Mother’s Day

skyIt’s been 4 years since our last attempt at IVF – I think – so long that I’ve lost track of the time that’s passed. Does it get easier? I’m not sure. I guess? I still cry, I still feel a twinge of disappointment every month – maybe that has lessened because I’ve come to expect it. More than anything, I think, what still hurts the same is the days leading up to and the day itself of Mother’s Day.

I lost my mom, and I miss her, I mourn that she can no longer be on the other end of the phone anymore. I miss her hugging me, smelling of Oil of Olay, and telling me everything would be okay. But that’s normal. It’s something I expected to happen my entire life, for as long as I can remember, since before I was even a teenager. Having older parents, I was constantly aware of the fact that they would die before all of my friends’ parents would. I was painfully aware that I might lose them at any time, maybe even before I became an adult. I was thankful to have them when I reached 30. Mom barely saw me turn 35, and dad was already gone.

I remember writing an essay in elementary school about artificial insemination – test tube babies I think it was called. I was supposed to write my personal feeling on the topic, and explain why I thought it was ethical or not. I probably still have it somewhere in an old dresser drawer, but I don’t need to find it to know that I wrote that it’s not right to try forcing the hand of God, and that “those” women should adopt. Pretty zealous for a 7 year old. I never thought I’d be writing an essay that applied to myself. I never prepared for infertility and never expected to face this demon.

Still, 35 years after that essay I still write, only now it serves as my therapy. I somehow let the emotion bleed through my pen/keyboard and it consoles me even if it’s just a little at a time. I didn’t write this year on Mother’s Day. I think I’m getting to the point where I feel like it’s time to let it go. I should get over it and accept that ‘that happened’ and this is life. I will likely not ever have children unless I adopt. I’m not sure we want to adopt. I’m getting old for kids and I think my personal cut-off limit is 45, the same year my mother had me, but in the meantime I’m still just trying to shake off what ripped my heart out. So I pretended to somewhat ignore the day. Although I didn’t. Not inside me, and not among my family, ie., my husband.

I came across a post through a share from a friend on Facebook. Someone who has also faced the infertility demon. I read it and thought anyone who reads my blog may find this resonate as much as I did when I read it, so I wanted to post the part of it here.

“I hate the way (Mother’s Day) makes all non-mothers, and the daughters of dead mothers, and the mothers of dead or severely damaged children, feel the deepest kind of grief and failure. The non-mothers must sit in their churches, temples, mosques, recovery rooms and pretend to feel good about the day while they are excluded from a holiday that benefits no one but Hallmark and See’s. There is no refuge — not at the horse races, movies, malls, museums. Even the turn-off-your-cellphone announcer is going to open by saying, “Happy Mother’s Day!” You could always hide in a nice seedy bar, I suppose. Or an ER.” (Anne Lamott)

Something else she said in another post that I think is very smart, and something I am trying to do. It’s all we can do, or curl up and die inside of ourselves.

“…writing is about paying attention. So is life. Wake up and look up, and then scribble it down. Don’t look at your tummy. Look at the sky.”

I wish for you to see the sky today my sisters. Much love to you.

God and Infertility

empty blueI’m not sure about others who have experienced infertility or loss of an unborn child, but Christmas is damned hard for me – even now, years after our last failed attempt at IVF, and my ‘babyover35’ blog should be called ‘nobabyover40’.

I don’t have any more family gatherings with my many siblings like we did when I was little. Now, we’re all grown up and dysfunction wedged a gap too wide in our family that getting together just isn’t a consideration for anyone. We all sort of just have our own lives and there’s no ‘normal’ expectation of togetherness, torturous or otherwise. I miss that we were never the Brady Bunch, but I digress.

One of the things that makes it so hard around this time of year for me is Facebook, where everyone puts on their ‘face’ and shows the world how fortunate they are. That includes some that were blessed with the gift of a child.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m happy for my friends and family who have beautiful children. I want to see them grow up and I want to see their school pictures, cute outfits and birthday cakes. I’m genuinely happy for anyone who’s wanted and gotten such a gift.

What rips me apart is that some people feel compelled to remind the world that they are so thankful to have been blessed with their children. Yes, they should be thankful…God is not on Facebook, that I know of.  To proclaim this thankfulness and feeling of being blessed in public is not equivalent to be thankful to God or whoever you give thanks to for your blessing. Rather it comes across as a way to exclaim and italicize how very special you are because you were chosen for such a gift — while I was not. It is, in it’s purest, a dance with conceit, superiority and condescension.

Strong words, maybe. But to recognize winning implies there is a loser. Being blessed implies there are those that are not blessed. It would follow that those of us who were not given this gift of a child were those that lost. Those that were not chosen, were not blessed.

That feels slightly worse than being the last kid to be picked for the team in school.

I don’t believe that my prayers for having a child went unanswered. I believe the answer was just ‘no’. I didn’t like it then, I am not sure if I accept it yet, but I surely don’t feel like I am any less than you, oh fertile one, because of it.

In reality, infertility makes us really examine who we are on a spiritual level, what we believe and how far we can be pushed. It made me look at my relationship with God. It’s easy to get along with someone who does things and gives you things as you’d like. When you get into a disagreement with anyone, that’s when the real test of your relationship comes. In that vein, I dare to say that Christian women who find themselves infertile and can continue to have a thriving and loving relationship with God – the one who holds the reigns – is much more blessed than someone who just … simply got their way.

Another thing I see, and this bothers me any time of year, is proclamations by those that have been sick and recovered. For example, someone who had cancer but, quite wonderfully, it went into remission. Praise Jesus!

As. If.

One of the best men I have ever known in my life was torn to pieces, suffered and finally died at the merciless hands of cancer. Not to mention the torment suffered by his wife, daughter and me who stood by helplessly waiting for it to end.

I guess he wasn’t a winner? I guess he wasn’t blessed? I find that extremely impossible to believe. He was a good man to his very core – a good Christian, if I ever knew one.

I say to the fortunate mothers of the world, be proud, be thankful, but don’t put a flaming torch in my already painful wound at Christmastime. The alternative to your idea of not being blessed is being me. So tread carefully with my heart, Christian woman.

I say to you that are healed of sickness, praise your God in Heaven and be thankful in private, where it belongs – I promise He will hear you even if you don’t post it as a status update. And for the love of God, please save me from thinking you believe you’re more deserving or more blessed than the man that I lost to the devastation of cancer.

In the meantime, I think I’ll be putting a few more people on my naughty (ignore) list this year on Facebook. There’s not enough time in life for negativity, and there’s certainly not enough space in my heart for extra sadness.

Bless you, sisters of this struggle. Bless us all.

Mother’s Day after failed IVF

angelsSeems so shallow, my post title – ‘after failed IVF’. What it says is medical, what it feels like is such deep emotion.

My sister called and left a message today. She’s disabled, mentally, and doesn’t know anything about our infertility journey. She called to wish me a happy mother’s day. I don’t really know her rationale for it, but I do know she didn’t mean anything hurtful. Regardless, I cried as soon as I hung up from voicemail. I have been teetering on the edge of losing it for the last couple of days on the road to this Mother’s Day, but had been able to ‘suck it up’ until just then. Then the floodgates opened. It still – hurts – so – much. I don’t feel it getting easier.  Read more »

IVF round 2 : 8. IVF Results

Oct 22, 2011

The day of my nephew’s christening, as we got ready to leave, I noticed a spot of blood. It hadn’t been 2 weeks, but there it was. We decided immediately that I wouldn’t go to his christening, but instead I’d get back into bed. Numb, we waited to see what would be. My mother in law cried as she left for the christening. She didn’t know whether to stay or go. I told her there was nothing to do but wait and see, and that she should go. So logical, I was. So unaffected.

Maybe I was spotting. I googled the hell out of it. What else can you do but watch the clock tick away the seconds until enough time has passed to check again?

What did google tell me? If it’s brown it’s more likely to be spotting than if it’s red or pink. If it’s red or pink, it’s probably not very good news.

Yes I think it was brown, of course it was brown. It had to be brown. I’m sure it was.

I went to the bathroom again, with hubby this time, and there was a very round, very red spot of blood on the paper. I swallowed the lump in my throat as we exchanged looks – that silent interaction we shared, both wondering if that was one of our babies. We knew logically it probably wasn’t, but at that moment, the way it sat on the tissue looking back at us…there was no logic in our hearts.

We called the doctor and they told us basically what we already knew, that there was nothing they could do one way or the other and that I should just wait and see, and if I was bleeding heavily by Monday (it was Friday), I should go in early for the blood test. I was supposed to have it on Tuesday.

All day and every time I went to the bathroom we analyzed the tissue. The prognosis didn’t get any better. On Monday morning we went for the blood test. We waited all day for them to contact us with the results, and by 6pm we called the doctors office with the result we were expecting. Negative.

Once the quiet settled in and the results were indisputable, my husband and I held each other and cried. Bawled. Wretched death, pain, loss. I can still feel it if I let myself.

I wanted so much to write this entry in my joy, after having read blog after blog after blog of women just like me who go through this nightmare and end with a post just like this one. Some, determined to push ahead and do it again. Some never wanting to look back. All, scarred.

IVF round 2 : 7. The 2 week wait

Oct 21, 2011
The first time I went through the 2 week wait was child’s play. I had gone through a round of fertility treatments, and tried a ‘spontaneous cycle’. We were so young at this at that time, and had no idea the ride that was just beginning.
I spent a glorious 2 weeks – much of it in bed or working semi-horizontally at best. My husband, my angel and rock was as caring and protective as ever. We tried cautiously to enjoy the feeling that maybe this worked, that maybe I was carrying his child/children, and that maybe this wasn’t all for nothing. I listened so closely, felt every ding, ping and quiver, trying to translate them…trying to understand what was happening on the inside. It was impossible to know.
I was taking progesterone vaginally, 3 times a day. My uterus was very soft and low. There were definitely physical changes. My boobs were huge. Shortly after a week of waiting, my head started hurting. I refused to take anything for it. After a couple of days of a bad headache, we called the clinic. They said that it could be caused by the progesterone, which sometimes causes low blood pressure. They prescribed chips! I had a bowl of chips right away (I’m generally not a salt-eater), and sure enough, by the time I finished them, the headache had passed. Every day the same thing would happen. I’d get a headache, eat something salty and it would go away.  We did check my pressure at one point, and it was low for me, at 105/70 or so. I usually have between 120/80 to 130/90. So, it was likely the progesterone.

IVF round 2 : 6. After the Embryo transfer – bed rest

Oct 2, 2011
Bed rest was not very restful, really. I laid in bed and after a while my back starts to hurt, so I can’t lay anymore. I was allowed to get up to eat, to go to the bathroom, and to shower, so I did at least sit up leaning back for short periods of time. I washed down below on the day we got home, because I felt the need to. I didn’t shower until I hit day 4 (ugh), but wanted to do everything perfectly.I’ve cut back on coffee and have had, at most, 2 cups a day. I’ve been taking the vitamin religiously, and the ‘magic balls’ of progesterone (as the doc called them) 2 ‘globules’, 3 times a day. Gordon has noticed a big change in my internal topography, and says that it’s really soft, and the ‘flappy thingie’ is very soft and wide. I don’t know  if it’s a side-effect of the progesterone, implantation, or both. I tried googling it, but you know, it can take me away for hours, and my dinner sammich was awaiting me, so I stopped.

I’m in the ‘sitting’ phase now, and what do I feel? Pretty much nothing. The first day I felt some poking – kind of like the ovulation type poking, only it was around my uterus area. The next day and since then I’ve felt bloated, kinda gasey, but no kicking or anything. Nothing that screams out, ‘hey it worked! we’re in here!’.  We’re still living every day like we are pregnant, and I’m getting lots of belly love and kisses. We decided that whether we immerse ourselves in the joy of it, or move forward with ‘cautious optimism’, we’ll be just as crushed if it doesn’t work, anyway, so why not enjoy the possibility of that BFP while we can.

Next weekend is my nephew’s Christening, for which we’ll be travelling about an hour and change to get to. We’ll spend the weekend, likely, and come back in time to go for the blood test.  I’ve read that the progesterone may keep me from starting my period if this didn’t work. I also know that if I do start bleeding, it’s not necessarily my period, so either way, we really won’t know anything for sure until the blood test.  Although if I start bleeding heavy, the prognosis will be pretty grim regardless.

It’s 12:08 and officially the 2nd of October now, almost halfway to the 15 day mark. I hope I can hang on to my sanity.

IVF round 2 : 5. After the Embryo transfer

Sep 25, 2011
The doctor came and said that I would need to come back in 15 days, and that if I bleed it’s not necessarily my period.  I asked what happened to the other egg cells, since we know we had 4 embryos, 6 were unaccounted for.  She said 4 hadn’t matured enough, and 2 didn’t divide. I think those are pretty good numbers. Had they waited until Sunday for aspiration, we might have had 6 mature follicles/embryos – but then again, this made it easy for us in a way. We didn’t have a choice about the 4th embryo, so we didn’t have to think about freezing.  Of course after the fact I started thinking maybe we should have insisted they put in all 4, since it wasn’t of high quality anyway it must not have had a good chance for survival, but at least it would have had the chance.

We paid the 90k dinars we were able to get out of the ATM over the last few weeks, and need to go back to pay the other 120. I still don’t get why they won’t take our card – they did before. Anyway, we’ll be going back to the atm until we get enough, and hopefully we have enough by the 15 day mark. I think we should.

When we left, the guy that’s been driving us to and from Belgrade, Darko, drove, I think, below the speed limit all the way home. It was like a weird dream. I laid back on some pillows and tried not to sit straight up.

IVF round 2 : 4. Embryo transfer, baby!

Sep 25, 2011
Sunday night, the 25th, we got the call that we needed to come in the next day for the transfer.  It was only at that point we knew for sure we had at least one embryo. We made a life together. Saturday was the conception day, and those little cells did done good and divided. We didn’t know how many we had, or how many we’d be having transferred. We just knew we had to be there at 2:30 to meet with the doctor, to have the transfer at 2:50. We knew they’d put back ‘up to’ 3, but we wondered if we’d have to decide how many up to three they should put back.  We got anxious about the thought of having triplets, because even though it’s a small possibility (5% according to our dr), it’s still possible.  We decided to let ‘the God’ decide, as my adorable husband put it.When we returned on the 26th at 2pm, early, of course, we sat anxiously in the waiting room. We were called in and the biologist and doctor met us.  We had 4 embryos. The fourth, she said, was not for freezing. They asked us how many we’d like to return, and we said we’d take all 3.  We signed some papers, and were returned back to the waiting room. In minutes, the nurse called me to the elevator, and we rode up to the familiar room where I changed and waited.

She took me down to the same room where they do the aspirations, and I hopped up on the table. Nervous, but for no good reason, really, other than this being the *IT* we have been waiting for, for so long.

She explained everything she was doing, and said I needed to try to relax as much as possible, which I did.  She washed me outside, washed me inside – I guess it was just hot water (and it was hot!), and put in the speculum. She showed me the screen where I could see a picture of the embryos. They looked like little flowers – how could I fall in love with blobs of cells? I don’t know, but I did. She said she was inserting the catheter. I barely felt anything. Next thing she said was okay, it’s done. I didn’t really feel it except that I could tell something was going on there.  She took out everything and said she’d now do a sonogram so she could see the location. She did so and I was able to see the precious blob inside my uterus. I wish I had that picture too.

I was like, okay what do I do now, get up? And yes, I got up, and walked to the elevator and rode up and laid in bed for about an hour and a half. I felt something pour out once or twice, probably remnants of the water she used to clean me.

I laid in bed, alone this time, and called Gordon to tell him it was done, and that We were okay 🙂 The whole process was so precious, even though you’d think it would be clouded by medical tools and big words. Underneath it all, we knew we conceived little lives together, and they were going to get the chance to come into this world…. and like I told Gordon the night before, even if they don’t get the chance to come into this world, and even if we don’t get the chance to meet them now, they exist, and they will always exist, and we will meet them someday. Parts of us as one.

When I came down we waited to be processed (pay) – mostly I wanted a copy of my embryo pictures, so I was patient. I leaned back in the chair while we waited. The nurse called us in, and I looked right at their credit card machine that I’m pretty sure said ‘slide card’. I don’t know why they didn’t want to slide ours. In any case, she ordered 3 days of bed rest, then I could sit 2 days and then light walking. I wasn’t prepared for all that resting, but whatever needed to be was okay with me.

IVF round 2 : 3. Egg aspiration

Sep 23, 2011
My aspiration was late in the afternoon Friday, I think 6pm. I wasn’t able to eat for 6 hours before then, because of the anesthesia, which was surprisingly easy to do. We arrived early, as usual, Gordon was escorted to the back for his ‘specimen’ and me and his mom waited in the waiting room until he got back. They took us both in to sign papers about the aspiration and bla bla, and we went back and waited. They took me up to the familiar room, which I shared with another woman who was also 39 (but looked a bit older, I think). There were 3 of us waiting for aspirations, and Gordon later told me that the waiting room and outside area were so packed that every seat was taken – and people were standing. It’s insane.The aspiration went well, I guess, I fell asleep and woke up, so I guess that was pretty good 🙂  Before the ‘professor’ started, he said he might have to go through my abdomen, so I might wake up with some stitches. I said it was fine, that he should do whatever he had to to get them. I woke up without any stitches, though, but I did wake up pretty sore.

The doctor came in to tell me we had 10 egg cells! I was thrilled. She said there would definitely be a transfer. I was psyched. I knew how much better the chances were with that kind of outcome. she said they’d call in 3-5 days, depending on what medium they used (?) to schedule the transfer.

Gordon propped me up in bed with the laptop and I’m good as long as I’m not sitting straight up or laying on my right side.

IVF round 2 : 2. Starting IVF cycle … again

Sep 1, 2011
When we returned we had a brief consult with the dr so we could prepare for the next cycle. Since they really wanted me to take a few months off before doing a cycle, they wanted me to at least have a sonogram to make sure everything looked hunky-dorey in there.  My doc was also going on vacation so I would also be changing doctors for this cycle…so I met her,We waited a very long week and some days after we returned for aunt Flo. Naturally, I mean why wouldn’t it be like every other month, we were hopeful that maybe the magic of our honeymoon encouraged our stuff to get together and that we’d gotten pregnant on our own. After all, they say a lot of women get pregnant naturally on their ‘off’ cycle. I think that’s like telling someone it’s lucky when they step in dog poo.

On September 12th she came, and on the next day we wen’t to Belgrade for another round. I remember sitting in the waiting room waiting to see the dr., leaning over to Gordon and whispering, “I really don’t feel like doing all this again.”  The trips, the sonograms, the shots, the blood tests, the waiting, the wondering, the stress of it all… but we had to. I mean, we had to.

Everything looked just peachy as it always does, so the doc put a theoretical gold star on my chart and started me on Merional. Whoa, we asked, why? We were on Menapur last time and she was going to increase my dose to 3/day instead of 2, but there was no mention of changing medicine. Well, new doc said it was written on my chart by my doc and it’s the same drug, but if we really want Menopur we can also take that. Naw, I said, you’re the pros and we’ll do what you recommend.

So off we went on our injection quest. I even took some pictures of the drugs and process, why, I’m not really sure. We had an appointment to go back for an E2 test on the 17th, and the level was quite high (in the 500s), so we went for another ultrasound on the 18th, a day earlier than planned. I had 9 follicles that are 9-10mm (some more that are 8mm), so it was a really good result. We only had 4 or 5 last time, and only 2 continued to grow – so now we hoped they all continue to grow (or at least most of them), and some of them have eggs and some of those eggs will divide when joined and one of those will implant when it’s put back. Wow, what a process. To think, some people just have to have sex for all that to happen.

I didn’t mention that through all this, Gordon was fighting to meet his September 20th deadline to submit his Master’s thesis. It was indeed an insane week, and he was working all kinds of crazy long hours.

On the 21st, we went in to see our doctor, who had returned from her trip to Boston. She was waving the American flag after having a great time there, which I guess worked in my favor, because she spent time talking to us and seemed to have some personal attachment for the first time to whether or not we were successful (like, really). she was happy that I had so many follicles, and they were all continung to develop. She said she’d keep me on the stimulation therapy for as long as she could so I would develop as many as possible, and that aspiration would be either the 23rd or 25th. I’d be going back on the next day to track progress.

When we went back on the 22nd, the doctor told us the aspiration would be the next day! She asked for help from her Professor, since my right ovary is hard to see in ultrasound, and I suppose even harder to aspirate. I was more than happy to agree to that, if she felt someone more qualified could do a better job.

So, after getting stuck for the ultrasound, I got stuck with a needle for the ‘stop injection’ (so the follicles would stop growing and finalize maturation), then we went to the lab where I got stuck for 3 tubes of blood from my arm, a pinprick to my finger, and to my ear. The ear is to test for coagulation. Not sure what the finger is for.  Later that afternoon we also had to go out again to the cardiologist for an exam and ekg. She was a little weird, but friendly. My bp was 120/75! She wrote that I am what translates as ‘easy chubby’ which really made me laugh. The exam cost us 1,000 dinars, equivalent to roughly $13. No zeroes missing.