December 30, 2011

"HAVE FUN TRYING"

I can't believe I forgot one of my least favorite things people have said over the years...

7) "Well, at least you get to have fun trying!"

Trying to have a baby sucks.

If you have never had to "try" before, you have no idea.  And since I'm now way beyond keeping any secrets from the public...I will try to illustrate how "trying to conceive" is very very very different from "making love."

I remember a fight way back in 2007, it was babymaking day and I convinced myself that we ought to try to put some spice back in our life.  We had been methodically trying to have a baby for months, and on a whim I decided to be adventuresome and suggested that we do it on the stairs. And my husband vetoed me with a bored voice and wanted to just do it in the bed and get it over with. Then I got all butthurt that I was trying so hard to be sexy and spontaneous and he didn't appreciate it at all. We had a big fight...but then we had to have the sex anyway because it was babymaking day.  I vividly remember glaring at him and saying "Just because I'm doing this doesn't mean I actually LIKE you right now."

"Trying" means doing it on a schedule, whether you like it or not.  Whether you're sick, whether you just worked a 14 hour day, whether the toddler has been naughty, no matter.  You're doing it.

And that schedule weighs on you.  THE DAY gets all built up and awkward and burdensome.  Here's an example that I emailed to a friend recently after she told me to "have fun trying":

Today is day 14 of my cycle. For me, it seems the best chance of getting pregnant is after day 16. For a man, the best sperm output is after 48 hours of abstinence (so, ahem, wait 2 days, then that's the good stuff.) But yesterday my husband got home from TDY. I missed him. My body is getting hormonally ready for ovulation. I wanted us to be together...but that screws up the rotation. For our best chances to work, being together on Friday and Sunday is ideal, not Thursday. So...you have to avoid being intimate on the day when you really want to be and hope that the feeling is just as strong the next night. Many times this has backfired, where the pressure of "it has to be Friday!!!" ruins the mood: someone is grouchy, someone says something hurtful right as you're going up to bed, whatever.

Or the reverse is true: you decide to go ahead and do it Thursday because you're lovey-dovey and just hope for the best, which wrecks the best odds...and then if you don't get pregnant that month, you blame Thursday for it and vow to never stray from the cycle again. Which means you resent yourself and your husband for giving in to temptation when you knew better and knew you should wait til Friday. Even if there is no empirical evidence that you would've gotten pregnant if you'd just waited til Friday...your brain messes with you.

So that's what I meant by "trying." Once you know all this info -- which day you ovulate, what your cervical mucus is supposed to look like, the 48 hrs of abstinence, the possible effects of orgasm on likelihood of conception -- once you know all this, it's so hard to un-know it and just relax. You scientifically second guess every decision. Which makes the whole process a science experiment instead of being nice and magical.

Not to belabor the point, but I thought I'd add one more anecdote from the same month.

So we knew for two weeks that Sunday night was the best night, because you just know these things when you're in tune with the whole process. Every time you get a period, you know which day that month will give you the best chance of getting pregnant.  You can't un-know it.  Anyway, I was right and the ovulation predictor pinged in the afternoon. And then in the evening, I got diarrhea. Fun. So my stomach was hurting and having sex was not really high on my list, but we trudged up to bed. Also I was freezing cold, so we lay in bed a bit to warm up. And we started an argument. One of those dumb ones where I was asking about X but he was telling me about Y and I didn't care because I was asking about X and he thought X was irrelevant and Y was what I needed to know. Stupid, but it sure killed the mood when we ended up irritated at each other. So with the mood killed anyway, I asked him to get me some socks because my feet were freezing. I asked for my hospital socks -- between D&Cs and BabyGrok's delivery, I have about five pairs of the free fuzzy socks with grips on the bottom that the Army hospital has given me. He had no idea what I was talking about and brought some other socks. So then I was doubly irritated thinking "How do I know every single piece of clothing you own and when you got it and whether it fits or not, and you know NOTHING about me..." Romance was about the furthest thing from my mind at this point.

And then we had to have sex anyway because it was day 16.

And that's why "trying" to have a baby sucks.

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December 29, 2011

WHAT NOT TO SAY TO AN INFERTILE FRIEND

I really enjoyed the book The Empty Picture Frame.  It struck just the right tone between mild sarcasm and heartfelt anguish.  CVG got it for me a long time ago, and I held on to it and then read it at just the right time, I think.


I have scoured the internet for a summary of the last chapter, but no luck.  I hope the author won't mind if I copy excerpts here, because she did such a good job writing a chapter about what not to say to an infertile person.  And I think everyone should read that chapter, not just people who have the need to buy that book.

OK, things not to say to your friends who are having trouble conceiving.  Ever.  Just really, don't go to these topics unless you've been having a conversation for over and hour and then you very tactfully work them in.  But it's probably safer to just avoid it altogether.

1) The story of "the person I know who was in your situation and it worked for them"

Jenna's words:

I think it's part of the human experience to want to connect with those we love.  We want to let them know they aren't alone and that there are others out there who have gone through this.  The problem is, unless you were one of those people, the anecdote about the friend of a second cousin who had twins after her IVF isn't a story that's going to help.

She goes on to explain that if you have to resort to your second cousin's friend, you really don't understand what the experience is like in any meaningful sense.  Plus, telling someone an anecdote about success while she is still living the journey of failure just makes her feel worse.  I also think it's dismissive of the agony.  Glossing over a story by saying "they had to do IVF twice but then they had twins!" cannot possibly convey the years of heartache and struggle and pain and expense that couple had to go through to get those twins.  And how lucky they were in the end to have it work.

2)  "You are so stressed out about having a baby. Why don't you try to relax; go on a vacation, take a break from thinking about this."

My least favorite by far.  

Jenna's words:

Many infertiles, like me, live in a perpetual state of fear, excitement, and crushing disappointment.  To suggest that a vacation is going to fix their problems does nothing more than trivialize those feelings.

She goes on to accurately say that many fertility problems, like irregular ovulation or balanced translocations, are actual medical issues and not something that going to Hawaii will make go away.  If there were some magical place on the planet where my chromosomes would get sorted out, trust me, I would fly there tomorrow.

It's also rude to suggest that infertility is all in someone's head.  Telling them not to stress out, or to relax, implies that they are somehow creating their own infertility.  When you want a baby very badly, being told that you are causing the problem by stressing out makes you...stress out.

3)  "I know someone who adopted after years of trying, and then they got pregnant on their own."

Yep, we've all heard of someone like this.  My own grandmother did this: my mother was conceived after her older brother was adopted.  It does happen.  Unfortunately, anecdotes are not statistics.  As Jenna writes, "Adoption isn't a cure for infertility, no more so than a wig is a cure for cancer."  I am lucky that my translocation only affects my ability to procreate.  Some women who have severe endometriosis or other medical issues, their infertility affects their entire medical wellbeing, not just their ability to have kids.  They have to manage their pain and disease all the time.  Adopting a baby may solve the "not having a baby" but it doesn't solve the "having to have repeated surgeries to scrape unwanted growths from your guts" problem.

Furthermore, it is completely insensitive to offhandedly suggest adoption as a solution.  It is offensive to everyone involved.

Jenna's words:

Adoption is a lifetime commitment to a child.  It is not a consolation prize for the loser of a game show.  Children are a blessing, and adopted children are as much of a blessing to infertiles as they would be to fertile people.  Yet many assume that adoption is reserved only for those who cannot conceive naturally.  If you are a fertile parent to biological children and have made a suggestion of adoption to someone who is working through infertility treatments, you should ask yourself why you didn't adopt.

Word.  If it's so easy for you to throw it out there as a solution, why didn't you consider doing it?

I also might add that it's just simply not that easy.  "Why don't you just adopt?" sounds like you think you can just waltz into the Baby Store and pick up a kid on discount.  Adoption is expensive.  It's time-consuming.  It's a personally invasive process where your whole life is under scrutiny to make sure you're "fit" to raise a child.  And it's not a guarantee either: adoptions can fall through, biological parents can change their minds, a lot can happen.  You don't just decide it's time to adopt and then get a baby next week.  It should not be mentioned as "the easy way out".

I would like to add another one here that was not in Jenna's book:

4)  "Why don't you just do IVF?"

I have been getting asked this a lot lately.  As if it's simple.  As if it's a no-brainer.  Just do IVF and then you'll have a baby.  Except it's not that simple either.  IVF is expensive.  The form I would have to do with the preimplantation genetic diagnosis costs about $20,000.  And there's no guarantee of success.  Poor Julia did IVF with PGD three times.  People keep acting like it's a simple process of tossing out my bad eggs and implanting the good ones.  It has really started to upset me, because there is nothing simple about it.  IVF is painful.  It is "unnatural" (in the sense that you have to pump your body full of drugs to create extra eggs and then you have to force your body with more drugs to become a receptive home for embryos.)  That is not easy, and I am amazed by the women I know who have gone through it.  It is not simple at all.  And it's not a suggestion to throw out there offhandedly, unless you have 20 grand lying around that you'd be willing to contribute, and you'd be willing to give the lady all her shots in the backside.  And take shots in the backside yourself.

And please, it's not a suggestion to bombard me with 30 minutes after I learn this current baby is dead.  If the old baby is still inside your friend, please don't harass her with your ideas of what to do for the next time.  It's too soon.

5) "Have you tried..."

Jenna is right: if your friend is serious about conceiving, she has read every tip there is to read.  My body has gotten better at getting pregnant over the years, but back before BabyGrok I was reading obscure data from a study about the optimal timing for both male and female orgasm, to give the best push for sperm forward before the woman's body releases a hormone around her cervix that prevents new sperm from competing.  So yeah, your suggestion of "are you sure you're timing intercourse with ovulation?" is pretty basic.  I was well beyond that in knowledge and experimentation.  Ask your friend what kind of things they've tried before you offer Conception 101 advice.

Oh, and that brings us back to stress: when your friend is so desperate for a baby that she cries because the timing is a bit off and they missed the window for the best time for her to get pregnant (within two minutes after female orgasm, less than 24 hours before ovulation), then we're well past her being able to Just Relax! and Enjoy Yourself!

6) "Be grateful for what you do have" aka "things could be worse"

Jenna's words:

Minimizing someone's experiences is no way to be a good friend.  Everyone has a story to share and a struggle that, to them, feels like the most they could possibly handle.  Telling them that their issue is essentially not that big of a deal...isn't the way to make them feel validated or empowered.

Most people with infertility issues have done enough googling to know that it can always be worse.  I have a translocation and have had six miscarriages that end in the very beginning.  I know of a worse translocation even: Julia's had 11 miscarriages that drag on for weeks longer than mine do.  With heartbeats and everything.  I know of many ways it could be worse; I don't need other people to remind me of it.

7) Don't use the "look on the bright side" approach

Jenna explains how someone tried to point out all the silver linings to never having kids, like that you could always sleep in and you won't have to save for college tuition.

The only thing I can equate to this would be to suggest that if your house burned down, and someone said to you, "Well at least you won't have to worry about a heating bill" or if you lost a loved one and someone said, "Think of the money you'll save on birthday presents."

Absolutely never ever ever use this line of reasoning.

This applies to miscarriage as well.  Just last week, one response I got to telling the news that our baby was dead was "At least now you can drink on New Year's!"  Really?  Really?

Jenna goes on to say that it probably sounds like nothing you say will be right, and I have written before that sometimes this will be true.  But her advice is to listen and to ask questions.  Don't give advice, don't recount anecdotes, just be a friend and let her talk.

And ask her how she's doing, instead of waiting for her to bring it up.  

Some people are private about these things.  I am not.  I love cashing these chips.  I need to, repeatedly, as many times as you'll let me.

And I appreciate that you listen.

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December 27, 2011

"MERCURY-LADEN LIFESTYLE"

This post is so good.  I was like that this time: accepting the wine and the tuna.  But I managed to convince myself in the final days that things were going to turn out well this time.  So so stupid.


I run to Julia's blog after every miscarriage.  I don't know her, but I feel like I need her.  I wish I didn't pattern her so well.  I didn't want to be like her: have a handful of miscarriages, a baby, and then a boatload of miscarriages before success again.  I wanted success again quickly.  I am on my way to boatload.

I'd like to find the time to go read her whole blog from cover to cover...I really need to do this for myself.

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December 22, 2011

WHERE WE GO FROM HERE

My bloodwork yesterday, along with past personal experience, indicates that my body is still very much pregnant, despite the fact that no baby is growing in the yolk sac.

So I get to spend the Christmas weekend still morning sick, and then I get to take the miscarriage meds and spend the New Years weekend in pain.

Happy Holidays.

My new doctor suspects that there might be more at play than just my translocation.  The two genetic counselors I've spoken with seem to think that might be possible as well.

I might be lucky enough to have TWO forms of infertility.

Three tails, a heads, and three more tails is within the realm of possibility...but it's much more lousy than the predictive models say it ought to be.  I have spent the past five months cursing the name of the woman who created the predictive models.  She has been contacted with my "real world data" to see if she can explain it.

The new doctor also wants to run some more tests soon to check for other factors that can cause blighted ova, to see if something else is happening.

I need to get more math and science focused because I have started to feel a little nutty.  I don't normally believe in superstition, but I'm starting to think goofy thoughts like "Every ultrasound my husband has ever attended has been a dead baby.  He's the jinx; maybe I should leave him at home next time."

And in case you've ever wondered, rum makes morning sickness worse.

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December 21, 2011

ANOTHER DEAD BABY

This morning I woke up very morning sick.  I was hoping it was getting stronger.


Outwardly, I had been nonchalant about this pregnancy to people.  I don't let on about the optimistic side.  Our new doctor even noted how much we kept hounding her to plan for the worst.

Inwardly, I was hopeful.  Lord, I even let myself pretend that I might find out I was having twins.  Where did I get that from?

I should've known it was another dead baby.  It always is.

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December 19, 2011

RONERY

The last thing I had time for was baking a cake, but dictators croak on their own schedule.  So I baked a butterscotch Hennessy cake today.  Too bad you'll never taste your favorite booze again, Kim.  We'll enjoy it for you though.



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December 10, 2011

FADING HOPE

I got my levels tested and they were not ideal.  So I told people that.  And people told me to keep up my hope.


Easy for you to say.

This game is death by hope.  And I can't help but think that I have had fruitless hope 5 out of 6 times in the past...so I wonder why people think it's just that easy for me to keep hoping.

My HCG level was 87% of what I'd like it to be.  For comparison, Dead Baby #2 was 89% and Dead Baby #4 was 81%.  And Dead Baby #5, the dirty trickster who fooled us all into thinking he was a real baby, was 106%.  And he was still dead.

So that hope...it's not much to numerically hold on to.

I would love to eat crow in two weeks and be wrong.  I'd love it.  I'd love nothing more than to have everyone tell me I was wrong.  But can't they see how hard it is to keep hope alive?  It's easier to fear the worst and steel your heart against it than it is to let hope lift you up to where you will fall hard.

No, it's not OK that the hormone levels almost got to where they should be.  This isn't grenade throwing.  Almost has historically never been good enough.

I'd love to eat my words, but we'll see...

BabyGrok was 119%.  That's a number that might make me hopeful.  But not so much 87%.

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December 02, 2011

ETERNAL HOPE

Last night I dreamt there was a cell phone app pregnancy test; you pressed the phone screen to your forehead and it registered whether you were pregnant.  I got the big plus sign and woke up with a rush.


Except today was the day I was taking a real pregnancy test.  I was mad that it was going to be a huge letdown after the dream test...

But we did it again.

We're getting good at getting pregnant.  I just hope we can stay that way.

Now I need to buckle down and pick a doctor this weekend, which feels really random.  Just pulling a name out of a hat and hoping for the best.  I guess that's kinda the way the old Army system worked for me, but back then I had no choice.  This time I might kick myself if I make the wrong choice.

But here we are.  Does seven feel lucky?

It's also amazing to me that even on the seventh time, even after so much bad luck, hope springs eternal.  As soon as I took the test, my heart was off and running: calculating the due date, imagining BabyGrok holding her sibling...

It's amazing how resilient and hopeful the heart is.

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