February 17, 2013

BACKDATED POST

I realized that I had forgotten to post something here about mindblowing information I learned before I did the IVF.  I backdated the post for the sake of chronology.  The post from January is here.

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February 16, 2013

THE INCOMPLETE LOCKET

I cannot imagine what it's like to live through a lot of things.  I cannot fully grok losing a parent, or losing a child, or losing my husband.  I can approximate the emotions and try to put myself in those shoes, but I know I cannot conjure the depth of that agony.  Nor can I wrap my brain around being homeless, having cancer, or any number of life's difficulties.

 

One thing I've tried to explain to people over the years is the slow, aching agony of "trying to make a baby."  It is life lived entirely in two-week chunks.  It is a neverending timeline in the back of your mind.  It is a rollercoaster of death by hope.

 

And I know it can't fully be understood until you've lived it, but I keep explaining it because I need to get it out.  I need to beat it into other people's brains, just to prove that it is a real thing, that it is something painful to experience, that it is not in the least bit fun or romantic.

 

So let me beat your brain one more time, please.

 

You get your period and you are bummed; you are not pregnant.  And so the clock starts again.  Two weeks later, it is Time To Make A Baby, and you alternate between feeling nervous and stressed that your timing might be off, and exceedingly hopeful that maybe This Is It and you have nailed it and will be adding to your family.

 

And then you have to wait two weeks, with your hope building to a crescendo, for the results.  You roughly calculate a due date.  You think about what season maternity clothes you'd need to wear.  And then the test is negative and your crescendo crashes.  Hope flatlines, the clock starts over again, and the hope slowly builds again for another two weeks.

 

Sometimes, in my case, the pregnancy test is positive and hope spikes to record highs at the end of the month.  Forget calculating due dates, now you're calculating when the child will graduate high school and marveling at how futuristic the date sounds.  Hope soars.  And then three weeks later, the ultrasound without a heartbeat sends hope plummeting to the floor again.

 

I can explain all of this but I cannot make anyone else feel what it feels like to live on hope for two weeks.  Perhaps if you've awaited scary medical tests, you know what it's like.  The constant feeling that you need to Do Something even when there's nothing that can be done.  The way you anticipate both scenarios and play them out in detail in your head.  The way you swing wildly between hoping for the best news of your life and dreading the worst.  It is emotionally exhausting.

 

I have lived that way for six years, minus a chunk in the middle when I was pregnant with perfect-DNA BabyGrok and when she was a newborn.  (Ha, but that's stressful in a totally different way.)  For six years, I have lived my life in a holding pattern.  Five and a half years ago, I saw a help wanted sign in the window of a doggy bakery.  I thought that job would be so fun, but I was trying to get pregnant and thought it was a bad idea to take a job and then turn around and quit.  It would be nine months before I even got pregnant...and three years before I ever had a baby.  The doggy bakery was out of business before my pregnancy would've ever made a difference.

 

So many things are like that when you're trying to build a family.  You can't see a dentist when you're pregnant, and when you're trying to get pregnant every month for six years, you put off calling the dentist's office and scheduling an appointment.  I've been having some other minor pains and health issues for years, but I've put off seeing a doctor because I can't really take medication.  Every time I need to call to schedule something, I do the math in my head to see when it's time to take a pregnancy test.  And sometimes it seems to make more sense to wait five days and take the test and know for sure before I call to schedule...and then it's always negative and I should've just called months ago and gone to the damned dentist.

 

On the one hand, I am lucky to even have hope that I can have children; some couples don't even have that.  The cycle of hope keeps me trying -- hoping I'm pregnant, hoping the baby lives, hoping the IVF works -- but it's also what keeps me perpetually stuck.  Stuck in time and unable to move forward, unable to even go to the dentist, because I am always hoping that there's a baby around the corner.

 

That hope kills me.

 

And I have to let it go.

 

At Christmas, I bought a locket from my cousin's Origami Owl business.  I chose a baby's footprint and Baby Grok's birthstone as the charms.  And then I told my cousin that I wanted to choose the number 6 to represent the other lost members of our family, but that I couldn't bear to purchase the 6 and then find out I needed a 7...or 8...  So I bought the other two charms and said that I would complete the locket with the appropriate number charm once our family was complete.

 

After my IVF cycle got cancelled, I thought a lot about my incomplete locket.  It is the perfect metaphor for how I've been living for six years: stasis.  I've been living as if my heart, my locket, has a missing piece, and I keep thinking that once I fill that slot, I can move on.

 

And I decided I have to let it go.  I have to complete that locket.  

 

Last weekend I asked my cousin to send me that number 6 as soon as possible.  It was such a relief to receive it yesterday and click it in place.  I need to be OK with that locket representing our complete family: BabyGrok and six others in our memory.  If that changes in the future, then I can change the locket, but I can't continue to live in stasis.  I can't keep treating my heart like an incomplete locket.

 

And I felt good with that decision, and at peace.  It may not seem like much if you haven't lived your life in two week chunks for six years, but for me it was a giant step forward.  I was ready to accept things the way they are and be happy with that, come what may. 

 

And then as soon as I made progress and moved on, as soon as I was ready to accept that our daughter might be an only child and our family might actually be complete already, hope reared its head again.  I went back to Walter Reed to return the stockpile of IVF meds that I still had.  The nurse told me that I could keep them, thousands of dollars of medicine, and consider doing IVF back at home, which would reduce my costs and travel woes.  So just when I thought I was moving forward and putting hope behind me, I'm presented with another angle to consider.  Another niggling hope to take root in my heart and make me second-guess my choice to move on.

 

We can keep trying at home, maybe give it another two years, of death by hope in two-week chunks.  And maybe get pregnant, or maybe not...and maybe the babies will die, or maybe not...  Or we could try IVF again here in DC, either in April (a logistic nightmare because my husband will be gone) or July.  Or we try IVF at a local clinic, with a doctor who might be more receptive to helping me personally instead of herding 100 women through like cattle.  But at twice the cost and perhaps less chance of success.

 

Or we bury hope altogether, call the locket complete, and decide we three are a family and start moving forward together from today.


There is still hope that we could have a baby someday.  But it's hope that has made this entire journey so hard; it's feeling like there's a baby just out of reach, just around the next corner, that causes the agony.  I imagine that if the situation were hope-less, I could accept things and move on.  

But I'm certain that people who live in hope-less situations would tell me that I don't grok their lives either... 

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February 08, 2013

IVF -- Conclusion

Game over.

 

I got a call this afternoon that they are cancelling my IVF cycle.  Today's bloodwork revealed that I am now lagging where they want me to be by a factor of 10.  I am not responding as desired to the meds, and there is little chance of getting many eggs, much less getting enough to where we could weed some of them out via genetic testing.  So we can stop now and they can offer me a $7000 refund, or we can keep marching towards near-certain failure.

 

But we have plane tickets...and an apartment...and vacation time booked...

 

Half of me wants to go home tomorrow and throw my arms around BabyGrok and never ever think about making babies again.  I hate this.  Hate it.  I am two steps from feeling completely unable to shoulder this weight any longer.  My very first thought when they called me today was that I am done.  My spirit is completely crushed.  I want to live life moving forward instead of constantly living in depressing two week intervals and focusing on what I don't have.  I want to leave it behind.  I want to shrug.

 

But I also want another baby.

 

This decision will only be made by how much I can endure.  We are not limited by time: I perhaps have another ten years before I really cannot bear a child anymore.  We are not limited by money: we have enough to do IVF 30 times if we wanted to.  We are only limited by how much longer we choose to torture ourselves.

 

I want to stop.  I want to accept the fact that our family is complete and move on.  But I can't bear the thought of watching BabyGrok grow to adulthood and looking back and thinking that we perhaps could've had another if only I would've toughed it out a bit longer.

 

I don't know what the right answer is.

 

Heck, I don't even know what I'm going to do tomorrow.  My plane home doesn't leave for another two weeks...

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IVF -- Day 9

If I am ever forced into a homerun derby, just let me hit the balls alone.  Please don't put me in the lineup right after Prince Fielder.  It's cruel.  I can handle being lousy at baseball, but don't make me watch a superstar and then publicly fail.

 

But that's how my journey goes, every time.

 

When I have ultrasounds, I have to hear other people's strong heartbeats right before I find out mine is dead.  I get to learn that CaliValleyGirl is having a boy on the day they take my dead baby out.  I never stack up.  I always seem to have these monumental juxtapositions that make me feel like an even bigger failure.

 

So the problem with having to have a chaperone is when she goes first, and I write down all her fabulous numbers.  And then it's her turn to write down my numbers and they're shitty.

 

There's a target number they want me at, and I am only measuring at a fourth of it.  On the maximum allowable dosage of medication.

 

I envisioned a scenario where I wouldn't have any embryos with good DNA to work with; I never envisioned a scenario where I might be so lousy at the actual IVF process itself that I wouldn't even make it to the step where we get embryos.

 

I am trying not to despair -- it ain't over til it's over -- but I am coming to the head of a six-year experience in which I have been failing miserably at things I have zero control over.  And I keep feeling surrounded by people who are effortlessly knocking it out of the park.  Meanwhile, I am juiced up on everything I've got, and I still can't stack up.

 

As the hormones coursed through me and I fought desperately to compose myself before I escalated from tears to sobs, all I could repeat to myself was "At least I have BabyGrok. At least I have BabyGrok."

 

I don't know how on earth women survive this process when they don't have that to cling to.  You women are much stronger than I am.

 

Things are not ideal.  We re-assess the progress in three days.  


At least I have BabyGrok. 

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February 06, 2013

IVF -- Day 7

I've been doing the shots for a few days now.  They're tolerable.  They were fine the first day, I balked the second day, and now it just is what it is.

Five injections a day though.  Oy.

There was a snafu this morning with everyone's blood draw (how Army is that?), so I had to give myself my injections in a public restroom in the hospital. Another girl from the program noticed me and said, "I have to go do the same thing in my car. I just feel too funny to do it in a restroom; I feel like a drug addict." I laughed and said, "But I don't have a car...and I think doing it in the Metro would definitely make me feel like a drug addict!"

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February 01, 2013

IVF -- Day 2

I made fun of the injection briefing, but it really did turn out to be quite helpful.  I have never filled a syringe before or given anyone a shot, so I learned a lot.  Overall, I feel much calmer about the process now.  The needles are thin and short.  One of the meds is supposed to burn a bit, but we'll see how it goes tomorrow.  I imagine the shots are not fun -- after all, it's four injections a day -- but it's the power of the hormones that will really get uncomfortable.  We shall see...

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