Saturday, April 30, 2005

Mark Your Calendar

Well, I am officially halfway through the 2-week wait. My mood is somewhere between defiantly pissed off and drearily resigned. On the one hand, why should I even care if I'm pregnant, seeing as how if I do get a BFP, it'll only mean I can count forward 5 more weeks and pencil in the date of my upcoming miscarriage in my daybook. And, on the other hand, with pre-partum depression this impressive, does it even matter if I ever get to experience the post-partum variety?

So, how soon should I start peeing on sticks? If Hallmark was the proud sponsor of my life, I’d wait until Sunday, *Mother’s Day,* to test, then present my husband with those two glorious pink lines as a token of my love. He’d blush and shyly pull out a gorgeously wrapped present, the one he bought cause he just knew in his bones we were having a baby. Cue the violins, you know how the rest of this fantasy goes…

Unfortunately, my life seems to be underwritten by a grant from the Waste Management Foundation. So I’m debating between Wednesday and Thursday. If I ovulated last Saturday, as I think I did, then using an early-prediction test, I could possibly test as early as Tuesday, four days before my expected period. Trouble is, the test is only about 60% accurate then and a false negative is only going to further mess with my head. So, it seems worth it to me to wait a few days. But how many??? And will the days pass faster if I spend most of the hours between 2 and 5 AM pondering this question?

So, Mother’s Day. Is there really any more depressing holiday on this earth? Did they make this up just to torture us infertiles? Yes, I have a mother of my own, and, yes, she’s lovely. But after just over two years of infertility and miscarriages, this is going to be my third dreadful Mother’s Day, and frankly I would just like to cut the day from the calendar. Add that to my custom order for the Infertile’s Page-a-Day. I want the one that notes the resumption of Standard Fertility Time but makes no mention whatsoever of Mother’s Day--or Father’s Day, for that matter.

Help me out here, People. We need to get creative here. The page-a-day people seem to have fallen under a glittery spell cast by baby dusters. Seriously, on offer at Amazon right now you can find:

∑ The Best of 14,000 Things to Be Happy About Page-A-Day Calendar 2005
* Cherish April 30th. You have no idea how long it will be until your next miscarriage.

∑ 365 Amazing Trivia Facts Page-A-Day Calendar 2005
* Percentage Likelihood of Miscarriage in Your Next Pregnancy after 3 Losses, No Live Births: 60%
* Percentage Likelihood of Miscarriage in Your Next Pregnancy after 4 Losses, No Live Births: 95%

∑ 365 Meditations, Reflections & Restoratives for Women Who Do Too Much Page-A-Day Calendar 2005
* Breath deeply. Visualize the baby dust. --Ack!--Cough-- Stop. Do NOT breath the baby dust!

∑ Believing In Ourselves : 2005 Day-to-Day Calendars
* The right attitude is everything. So you know it's your fault if you don't have a baby by now.

∑ Zen Page-A-Day Calendar 2005 (Page-A-Day Calendars)
* Sit straight, but comfortably, in the lotus position and chant "Waaanh!" over and over and over again.

∑ Make The Days Count : 2005 Day-to-Day Calendar
* Tick tock, tick tock. If you're over 14, you know, your fertility is declining every single day...

Thoughts about what we should include in the 365 Bitter Ironies About Infertility Page-A-Day Calendar, TM?

Wednesday, April 27, 2005

Venting Venti-Style

So, I wandered bleary-eyed into my local coffee place this morning, and the attractive looking European man in front of me leaned confidently over the counter said, “Uh’m gun to tek eh kep uf cuffee.” He didn’t ask, “Hi, could I have a cup of coffee?” He didn’t even say, “I’d like a cup of coffee.” No, he announced in clear and melodious tones that he was Going To Take a cup of coffee, apparently whether the counter girl liked it or not. The it was my turn and I said, “Hi, um, could I please, um, have a decaf coffee, um please?” It got me thinking.

Maybe I’m going about this wanting-a-baby thing all wrong. Maybe instead of asking the gods if I could please, pretty please have a baby, or wistfully nattering on about how much I’d like one, I need to stand up and say, “I’m going to have a baby. “ Do you hear that universe? I don’t know how it’s going to happen, but I’m going to have a baby. Give me one good viable pregnancy, send me a surrogate, open an adoption application, whatever. I’m not picky about whether there’s cinnamon or coco or nutmeg sprinkled on my foam, but dammit, I’m going to take a latte.

Monday, April 18, 2005

Thinking-of-England Sex

Well, folks, it's cycle day 10 here, which means it is that time again already. To say that I am hopefulanxiousscaredapprehensiveexcitedoptimisticpessimistic does not begin to capture the psychological meltdown I'm heading towards as we get set to try. We had one last lovely carefree romp yesterday. Now the real work begins. Is there any drudgery more dispiriting, undignified, downright anxiety-producing, and all-out awful than conception sex after prolonged infertility and loss? From here on out, I’m going to be about as sensual as the brides told by Queen Victoria to "lie still and think of England." Except I'll be lying still and thinking of children. I will keep you posted…

Thursday, April 14, 2005

Empty Lunchbox

I was six years old in 1978 when I was given my first metal lunchbox, a smart aluminum case with a red plastic handle, a silver latch, and colorful Peanuts cartoon characters painted on the sides.  While Linus tended his blanket and Charlie gripped his football, Lucy spent her enameled life marching in ceaseless circles around the box, picketing for something called "Women's LIB."

“Lib” was a confusing word for a first grader, so much shorter and easier to sound out than the counter-intuitive "wimin," yet so much less familiar in meaning.  Though proud to be the owner of a big-kid lunchbox, I spent the first week of school baffled about that word.  Shy in the midst of the cafeteria hubbub, I'd sit silently rolling it around my tongue. I'd scroll through my mental glossary, trying out “lib” next to “hop” and “spot” and “sam” and “ham,” without getting even a glimmer of recognition.

Finally, I asked my mother about it.  She explained that "lib" was short for liberation.  Women's lib meant that I could do anything.  Unlike unlucky little girls born before me, I could overcome the limits of my sex.  True, lunchbox Lucy wore a dress, but it was colored blue.  Together we were charged to stride forth freely, oblivious to the flapping of our skirts.

For over two decades, I clung to that promise. I balanced every frill and ruffle with a mortarboard and tassle.  Through prom nights and true love and a classic white wedding, I never wavered in my determination to buck the status I was born with.  Eventually I earned three degrees and found success in a man's profession.

I did not exactly live my life in drag.  I always knew that to pick up Lucy's picket meant managing to be a wife and mother while also pursuing a serious career.  I promised myself that I'd try for a baby as soon as I turned 30 and sure enough I did.  Still, deep down, I felt that I could have enjoyed life as a man and a father with far greater ease than I could as myself.

My first suspicions about that strange word lib faded completely from mind until about the time of my third miscarriage.  Only then, as my plans failed again and my body spewed out my dreams, did I start to grasp that I'd gotten things a bit mixed up.  I began to feel that the sum of my life made me less than, not more than, a woman.

As I clicked through the unabridged dictionary of my adult mind, women's lib began to take on new meaning.  I suddenly understood first hand that liberation from sexism need not and should not imply elimination of the female sex. There were crucial things I wanted to do because of, not in spite of, my female status.

My grief for those three spirits lost mingles now with another sadness. By some cruel accident of fate, the womanhood I so long sought to overcome has instead eluded me.

Somewhere, that lunchbox lies empty and dented, much like me.  Still, Lucy continues ceaselessly with her cheerful circumnavigations.  I think, now, as I gather my strength, and promise my husband that we'll try once more, that I'll link Lucy's arm again.  This time, though, I'll hum a lullaby as she chants.

Tuesday, April 05, 2005

The Importance of Being Earnest

Oscar Wilde accidentally spread the idea that the earnest are far more ridiculous than the flippant. What he actually meant was something more along the lines that false piety is even worse than honest irreverence.

I have been thinking about this a lot today because two of our favorite bloggers (I think I’m safe in assuming they’re your favorites too) have just offered up highly apologetic posts, in which they confess that they still feel acute anxiety and/or engulfing depression even as they live the dreams of frustrated infertiles everywhere. Julie feels guilty for not being happy after enduring sleepless months in the wail of a small human fire alarm. She feels guilty for telling us she feels sad. But I want to thank her and Grrl too.*

Because no one ever told me what pregnancy was really like and I sure could have used some earnest information going in.

In my imagination, pregnancy went something like this: swelled with the secret of budding life, I would spend the first couple of months indulging in delicious and languorous late afternoon naps before waking up to indulge my wild attacks of the munchies with whatever strange delicacies my fancy commanded. I’d be a touch queasy on the occasional morning, but that’s when I’d exercise the excuse to ask the dear husband to deliver a light breakfast in bed. Out on the town, my husband and I would exchange secret winks and loving glances when we encountered new babies in strollers or in those cute little baby backpacks. Before long, I’d begin to show—my radiant skin and inner glow would be the real give away, along with my amazing spurt of second trimester energy. This would be the time for drooling over baby catalogs and planning one last romantic get away together, a vacation devoted to good sex and the excited contemplation of impending joy. Not long after that, just when things were becoming the teensiest bit crowded and uncomfortable chez moi, we’d start having marathon sex, eat lots of fabulous spicy Thai takeout, and, before you could say “coconut chicken curry,” I’d be delivered to the land of maternal bliss. The single funniest part of this fantasy, of course, was my na├»ve assumption that pregnancy would result in a baby.

In reality, my three unsuccessful experiences of pregnancy have gone a lot more like the “recreational” acid trip that Anne Lamott’s character Elizabeth (in her fab novel Rosie) takes with her boyfriend shortly before they both go into rehab and sober up. First Elizabeth takes the tab and sits on the porch swing thinking (I’m paraphrasing here), “La, la, la, nothing happening. Bet this thing didn’t really work.” That is, the pregnancy test is positive, but you don’t believe it cause you really don’t feel anything much different, apart from the slight increase in urinary urgency, and heck you’ve had many more emphatic UTIs. Then all of a sudden, “Whoosh, wham,” the trip begins. At first you’re delirious with excitement. The world is in Technicolor. You did it! You’re going to be a family. You are the embodiment of love, of life. But then, not very long after, the paranoia part of the trip back down begins. You realize that you are absolutely positively literally and figuratively f-cked, that you’re pregnant and there’s no turning back. Life will never be the same. Elizabeth vomits the morning after the acid trip--and so ends the pregnancy, only the sickness lasts and lasts. Your body is flooded by wave after wave of nausea tsunamis. We’re talking 24/7 misery that has you loosing bladder and bowel control while you’re throwing up into the toilet and seriously considering suicide as a practical alternative to pregnancy. The physical suffering ends only after the heartbeat does—and that’s when the emotional misery really begins.

I’ve been a little less scared of parenthood, a little more desperate to become a mother, and a little more anxious about the probability of miscarriage with each successive pregnancy. But other than that, the pattern of physical torture followed by emotional devastation has been more or less the same every time. No one tells you pregnancy itself will be so utterly awful. (And of course for a few women we hate, it’s not, it’s everything my fantasies said pregnancy should be.) You’re not supposed to be so selfish as to hate vomiting your guts out. And, especially if the pregnancy didn’t come easily, you’re not supposed to be so ungrateful as to resent living through hell. Well, that’s nonsense.

I, for one, really wish I’d realized what I was getting into. The elemental all-encompassing desire to be the loving mother of a living child does not mean one can’t be honest about the fact that pregnancy and parenthood may bring some of life’s worst moments. Obviously I’d do it anyway (here I am about to embark on my 4th try). But I’d have appreciated the chance to get my affairs in order first, before dying the little death of pregnancy.

As Oscar Wilde himself put it, “the truth is rarely pure and never simple. Modern life would be very tedious if it were either, and modern literature a complete impossibility!” So here’s to honest, earnest blogging, allowing the most modern form of literature to tell complicated truths.


Monday, April 04, 2005

Fertility Savings Time

So, daylight savings time began yesterday. I’ve never quite understood the whole strange system of moving the clocks backwards and forwards. Every spring I lose an hour. Where does it go? Does it take a relaxing vacation somewhere? Is it just too much stress for that hour to have to work every day of the year? Sure they give it back to you in the fall, but what do you get in exchange? You get an extra hour of darkness, that’s what. I know, I know that’s not how it’s supposed to work. But unless you’re the proud owner of the cutest little pig farm in Iowa, you’re probably not up by dawn most days. No, it feels like a loss coming and going to me.

I feel just about the same way when it comes to the biological clock. They start off stressing family planning. Planned parenthood. You must not have a child till the time is right. Finish school, get married, achieve emotional stability, financial solvency, and oh spiritual enlightenment wouldn’t be a bad tool to have in the kit. Almost gives you the impression you can time the creation of your family. But don’t you wait too long, oh no. That biological clock, it’s more reliable than the atomic clock. Those ovaries, they are set to Greenwich Mean Time and they mean business. Tick tock, tick, tock. Don’t forget to wind your watch girls. So, just when exactly is that perfect moment between too soon and too late? It seems as elusive as this hour I seem to have just misplaced…

Could it be that the biological clock somehow gets set on fertility savings time? Is Perfect Timing off on the beach somewhere, lying beside Extra Hour of Daylight, perfecting a tan? If that's the case, I'd like to see that hour get back on the job. I've waited long enough and I'd like to put my biological clock back to standard fertility time.

I just need to find the right calendar, you know the one that comes marked with moon phases tied to ovulation and marks the day when standard fertility time resumes? Because it feels like I’ve somehow lost years of my life to these multiple miscarriage losses. And I want that time back.

Saturday, April 02, 2005

R.M. (Reproductive Musings)

Come on, admit it, you want the medical details. Just how hopeless is this case? It ain’t good. Here’s the thing. Somewhere between one and two percent of women will be diagnosed with recurrent miscarriage. Of those so diagnosed, about half will eventually be found to have some underlying medical issue (a clotting problem or autoimmune disorder, a hormonal imbalance, an anatomic abnormality, or lesions, adhesions or damage from anything from endometriosis to a botched D&C.) But another half will be “idiopathic,” meaning that the idiots making the diagnosis can’t figure out what the idiot patient did to get the Idiot in charge so pissed off. That’s my case folks, the ugly angry half of the last percent: idiopathic recurrent miscarriage.

Allow me one more longer aside on terminology. I vastly prefer the term recurrent miscarriage to HSA. Take the politically-charged A-word. I support a woman’s right to choose without reservation; I’d just like keep it crystal clear that, when it comes to miscarriage, no choice is offered. “Spontaneous” is accurate as far as it goes, but come on. My idea of spontaneous is a quick skinny dip on a hot day in a sparkling secluded lake. Miscarriage, on the other hand, is a plunge into despair. And habitual? Please. Just because something happens over and over doesn’t make it a habit. Surfing blogs? Now there’s a habit. Drumming your fingers? Yeah, OK. Chocolate? More please, my favorite addictive habit! But miscarriage? I promise you, I am not addicted to losing my dreams. Quite the opposite, in fact. So let’s all play nice and agree we’re going to call it RM and leave it at that.

Right. So. My husband and I are ready to try again and we’ve consulted with a slew of doctors. There’s Dr. Smart-Cookie Sweetie-Pie, my personal favorite, one we’ve been seeing for a while. She couldn’t stop my last miscarriage, but then again neither could God. I think I’d like to keep working with her, even though she doesn’t take my insurance. (Here in Manhattan, where M.D. stands for Material Development and R.E. stands for Really Enriching, it seems that no one does take my insurance.)

Then there was Dr. Awards-All-Over-the-Walls, a bad combination of insecure and arrogant in my opinion. Plus I didn’t like his advice. Among other dumb ideas, he recommended I do a Clomid-challenge test. As another doc put it, 3 genetically normal fetuses are all the proof you need that you ovulate. After him came Dr.Well-Connected, who knows everyone and everything, but still couldn’t come up with anything very new in the way of treatment suggestions. Also he thought the ultrasound wand was a light saber. He was so aggressive with the wand that when I finally screwed up my courage for a hysterosalpingogram or HSG (that’s the Hot Searing Green dye test for anyone lucky enough to remain among the unitiated) it actually wasn’t half as bad.

Finally I went to see Dr. Eminence Gris, bringing my complete fat file of negative results from all of the tests the first few doctors had ordered and hoping to get some definitive recommendations. He turned out to be a graying old guy who instructed me to strip completely for my exam (my husband wasn’t there for this one) then opened my paper gown to the waist, pulled it down off my shoulders in a fetching “oh my, this crinkly lingerie just keeps slipping off on its own” pose and left me hanging there in the open air for several minutes while he checked my pulse, listened to my breathing, etc. Amazingly, that routine did not lead him to any stunning new insights about the causes of my miscarriages. Instead he, like the others, said “well, since we have no clues it must be autoimmune. So let’s give you heparin.”

That is where the treatment plan stands, pending another consultation with Dr. Cookie Pie. I’m around day 21 of this cycle (we’ve taken enough precautions that there will be no anxious testing this month, I promise) and am already starting to feel incredibly keyed up about the next one. Day 14 (or 16 or 18, my body will not be rushed) is D-Day as in do the deed day. This is where you come in. Please, if you wander by and read this blog any time in the next few weeks, leave me a comment and tell me your story. I’m especially interested in hearing the one about your aunt’s friend’s sister, who had a great and wholly unexpected success with delivering a live baby in the fourth attempt. Cause from what I hear, and yes I've become a statistics junkie, my chance of another miscarriage now hovers somewhere around 60%.


Like so many others out there in the IF ether, I've been inspired to start this blog by the great triumvriate: Julie, Tertia, and Grrl. Julie's was the first blog of any kind I'd ever read. I found her two Christmases ago immediately after my first miscarriage. I was in shock, I was in grief and I was in pain looking at all the cherubic Christmas photos of children sent by friends and acquaintances. None of them knew about the miscarriage, which was a deep secret in those days.

In the midst of all-night google misery madness, I magically stumbled onto Julie's blog and her sarcastic Christmas letter. My God, the relief! I became an instant fan and constant lurker. After Julie came Tertia—what grace, what strength, then Grrl—what sheer brilliance. I admired them all immensely, but I thought that I'd been through so little compared to them I didn't really have the "bonafides" to be part of the pack.

Is fate still laughing at that? Or could it be fresh laughter from my first reader? Yeah, be careful what you wish for. More than a year later I have 2 more miscarriages under my belt (beneath my sash? under my skirt? In my panties?) and an official diagnosis as a Habitual Spontaneous Aborter. HSA! Huzzah! Hurrah! Hooray for me! Part of the pack, like it or not, I think I'm now ready to blog.

By now, real world friends know all about my sorry saga. Trouble is, most of my dear old friends can’t really relate. In fact, half the time they can’t even come to the phone, what with Little Miss crying to be fed and Junior trying to feed peanut butter to the dog. I’ve met some wonderful women through a support group. There the problem is that they can relate too much. The first one of us to become pregnant knows she’s going to inadvertently cause all the others’ pain. I’d like a place where I don’t need to be discreet in either joy or sorrow.

Over time, I’ve begun to read more and more and more blogs, as infertility has suddenly become my all-absorbing hobby. When I first started this entry, I thought I’d try to include a dedication to each blogger that has really inspired me. But I had to stop in terror when I got to 17, realizing that there are so many amazing women out there that I’d hate to accidentally leave one out.

Anyway, many many thanks to all the members of the IF blogosphere, from those that are just day-tripping here, to those like me who feel they’ve embarked on an impossible round-the-world expedition in a leaky canoe, and to those who’ve found their destination. If I can add the smallest spark to Julie's heart & humor, Tertia's tender courage, or Grrl's megawatt style, I’ll be proud to count myself a member of the barren bitch brigade.