Thursday, May 26, 2005

Honest, Officer, I Never Saw No Signs

When you have your first miscarriage, you think, “Who me? Sorry, officer, but you’ve got the wrong woman. No really. Look at your profiles—we know you like those profiles—I’m much too young and cute for this to be happening. I’m only 30. And my hair is shiny.” The officer appears unmoved by the shiny hair. He probably prefers blonds. With curls. “I’m sorry, Ma’am,” he says, “but we got you red handed, er, red padded, er anyway, you’re definitely having a miscarriage.” Then he writes you up a warning ticket for some Percocet and sends you on your way.

For a while you’re too stunned to get back in the car. This can’t be real you think. Eventually, the evidence around you is too great to be ignored. “Fine,” you think, “OK, fine. I had a miscarriage. But it was an accident, a slip up. Could have happened to anyone, honest, and I barely had anything to drink.” Friends and family reassure you that it happens all the time. People you hardly know come out of the woodwork to tell you about the time it happened to them. And look at them now: three kids, six step kids, from two different marriages, more grandkids and step grandkids than they can count. “Right,” you think, “I’m gonna get my life back on track. I’m gonna turn over a new leaf. No drinking. No late nights. No tuna fish.” This happened once, but it ain’t gonna happen again and that’s a promise.

When you get pulled over for your second miscarriage, the officer cocks an eyebrow. “What seems to be the problem, officer?” you ask, sure that if you just bat your lashes and visibly blink away tears, he’ll have to take pity. “Do you know what the speed is supposed to be?” he asks. You search your brain frantically, trying to remember what the normal beat per minute range is for fetal heartbeats…”Um no, officer, I don’t,” you say as innocently as possible. “Well, this one’s too slow,” he tells you. Days later, he says the words you’ve been dreading: “you’re having a miscarriage.”

You accept the news quickly this time, but what does it mean? “Are they going to put points on my license?” you ask. “Yes,” says the officer grimly, making notes on his pad, “we give you 40 points.” FORTY points? A forty percent chance of a third miscarriage? Shit. Oh, and this time there’s a fine. You’ll have to pay up front for a D&C. Oh, you can go to traffic court and protest. Maybe eve get the fine reduced. But even if health insurance covers 80%, that’s still a hefty chunk of change. Once in court, you realize your life has changed forever. The judge tells you you’re going to be on probation through your next pregnancy. Furthermore, this is going down on your permanent record.

Come the time of your third miscarriage, the officer rolls his eyes, gives his siren a quick burp, and pulls you over to the curb. “All right lady, let’s see it, open up the trunk,” he demands. You wonder if you should tell him to get a warrant, but you’re too scared to protest. He slaps you around with the nightstick, shoves his flashlight in your trunk then says, “this is going down about like I thought it would.” Shit, shit, shit, you think. I cannot get this monkey off my back. His radio crackles as he speaks into it, “this is unit 666 to base, unit 666 to base. We got ourselves an NFHB.” No Fetal Heartbeat.

This time, the judge is not amused. “Type a situation ya got here, we call it habitual spontaneous abortion,” he says. Now you’re really ashamed. Everyone knows about your nasty habit. Once you have your third miscarriage, they label you a hopeless recidivist. They lock you in the airless cell of infertility where you meet your fellow prisoners, Rage, Grief, and Disbelief. The cruelest joke of all hits when you realize your own body is site of your incarceration. “Fuck,” you think, “am I in here for life?”

Monday, May 23, 2005

Infertility (and Illumination) in Unexpected Places

From time to time there are discussions in the IF blogosphere about literature that treats themes of infertility. I just came across a book that deals with the subject beautifully: The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini (Riverhead Books, 2003). The book, about a young man from Afghanistan, has little to do with infertility overall. But, midway through the book, infertility unexpectedly enters the life of a character-- as unexpectedly as it has entered many of our lives. Hosseini writes about it with such knowing detail (both medically and emotionally) that I think he must have some direct personal experience with it. I want to share one especially moving passage (but I'm blacking out the characters' names so as not to spoil the plot for anyone who wants to read the book):

"Sometimes, [with her] sleeping next to [him], [he] lay in bed and listened to the screen door swinging open and shut with the breeze, to the crickets chirping in the yard. And [he] could almost feel the emptines in [her] womb, like it was a living breathing thing. It had seeped into [their] marriage, that emptiness, into [their] laughs, and [their] lovemaking. And late at night, in the darkness of [their] room, [he'd] feel it rising from [her] and settling between [them]. Sleeping between [them]. Like a newborn child."

Tears filled my eyes as I read that passage and again as I transcribed it now. It captures a lot for me. Please, if you come by and read this, won't you leave me a comment and tell me about something, anything, a poem, a novel, an essay on infertility that has affected you too?

Monday, May 16, 2005

Smoke Gets in Your Eggs

Haven't you always loved that old jazz standard, you know, the one with the lyrics by Bryan Ferry? The words go something like this:

They ask me how I knew
What I want to do
I of course replied
Something here inside
Cannot be denied
They said someday you´ll find
Maternal instinct's blind
When your heart´s on fire
You must realize
Smoke gets in your eyes
So I chaffed them and I gaily laughed
And kept up my maternal plans
Yet today my hope has flown away
I am without my babes
Now soothing friends decry
Tears I cannot hide
So I smile and say
When Granny smokes her cigs
Smoke gets in your eggs

Wait. What? You say that's not the way you remember the lyrics? Well, you clearly have not been reading the Wall Street Journal lately. (And more power to you; their editorial page gives me hives.) But if you had accidentaly come across a copy over the weekend and just happened to turn to the May 13, 2005 "Science Journal" section, you'd have stumbled on the article:

"Grandma's Behavior While Pregnant Affects Her Grandkids' Health"
— by Sharon Begley.

Read my excerpt and weep:

"Scientists are discovering that nature...can visit the sins of the grandparents on the children... Transgenerational effects are the latest focus of a growing field called fetal programming, or the fetal origins of adult diseases. It examines how conditions in the womb shape physiology in a way that makes people more vulnerable decades later to cardiovascular disease, diabetes, immune problems, and other illnesses...Last month scientists reported that a child whose grandmother smoked while pregnant with the child's mother may have twice the risk of developing asthma as a child whose grandmother didn't flood her fetus with carcinogens. Remarkably, the risk from grandma's smoking was as great or greater than from mom's...The harmful effects of tobacco, it seems, can reach down two generations even when the intervening generation—mom—has no reason to suspect her child may be at risk...What causes the grandma effect? One suspect is DNA in the fetus's eggs (all the eggs a girl will ever have are made before birth). Chemicals in smoke might change the on-off pattern of genes in eggs, including genes of the immune system, affecting children who develop from those eggs. Men whose mother's smoked don't seem to pass on such abnormalities, probably because sperm are made after birth...When immune compromised girls become pregnant, they have less chance of having a healthy pregnancy and a healthy baby. Score another one for the grandma effect."

Are you angry yet? Are you crying? I am. Because my grandmother (until her premature smoking-related death) smoked a good two packs a day every day of her life and all through her pregnancy with my mother, even as my then-embryonic mother was busy in utero making the egg that would one day make me. And I, despite being in overall good health and testing negative for every damn disorder that a hematologist, four reproductive endocrinologists, and a rheumatologist can think of to test me for, don't seem to have much "chance of having a healthy pregnancy and a healthy baby." Indeed, they tell me my best hope is probably to act as if I DO have an immune disorder, one they simply cannot find or diagnose, and go on anti-coagulation therapy in my next pregnancy.

One of the "luxuries" of suffering from UNEXPLAINED Recurrent Miscarriages is that you get to grasp at any and every possible explanation that comes your way, no matter how hazy the details. So I'm singing through angry tears this morning, "Smoke gets in your eggs."

Friday, May 13, 2005

Compass Points

Thank you all so much for your comments.

I logged on today with a post already half-written in my head, knowing that I had a bit a free time to type my thoughts down. But I'm so moved by your comments that what I meant to say has flown out of my head. I think I sort of thought in the back of my mind that this might be what it would be like to blog, but I really had no idea.

On Wednesday I wrote a post about feeling lost on the path to parenthood. I didn't even realize that I was asking for help in knowing where the heck I am. I just sent a smoke signal into the ether. "Helllooo. I'm heere. Can anyone hear me? Can anyone tell me where is here?" One by one, you arrived. No one could necessarily point the way north, but each came bearing something: a magnet, a needle, a cork, a cup, the last water in the canteen.

Bugs writes a blog that I love, how great to have her say that something I wrote sums up just how she feels.

Ann moved me to tears with her recognition of my story, with its unwritten ending, and even more with her offer of her story, in which infertility has become a closed chapter. I long for the day when the last paragraph in this chapter of my life will be written.

Journeywoman's name says it all. She knows how hard this trip is.

Sarah and Alisa understand the sense of accidental sisterhood that binds infertiles. Getup Grrl has said she once thought of calling Chez Miscarriage the Miscarriage Club to capture exactly that feeling.

V's Herbie just got out of the car for a second and hopes to get right back on the road. I wish you Godspeed, but in the meantime I'm glad to have you here in the clearing.

Sol traveled through a lot of cyberspace to get here. I'd love to know where you're writing from.

Angela's metaphor about trying to retrace her steps moved me deeply. Where is the damn trail of breadcrumbs when you need it?

Each of these comments is like the strike of a needle across a magnet. And while I may not yet know the way North, I feel so heartened by the needle's feeble wiggles. Someday, somehow we'll find a path out of here.

In the meantime, the extraordinary experience of writing what I'm feeling and having perfect strangers "materialize" (etherize?!) to say, yes, they know what it's like to face in just this direction is something I'm very grateful to have.

"Compass" has so many meanings. As verb it can mean to draw an enclosing line, to measure a curve. And I wonder if it might not also be related to the word compassion. Because what I feel in having written and then gotten your responses is that I've been circled, compassed with compassion. I hope that people reading this will feel that too.

Each of you is a compass point.

I'm glad I decided to take a try at this blogging thing.

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

When Sartre Is Your Chauffer

Dearest Readers,

With the help of the fabulous Suzie of the aptly-named Not a Habit, I recently figured out how to make links, including an all-important link to the mother of all blogrolls Julie's big list. Thanks to Julie's recent update, I am now actually included on that big list, my very own star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. And because of that link, I have received dozens on dozens of visits today. But no comments. What gives?

Are you all ferociously shy? Bored to tears at the thought that another hapless infertile has started a blog? Just really not interested in the thoughts of this particular hapless infertile? I would really love to know YOUR thoughts.

So, I'm going to ask you a direct question and hope for some responses. Where are you on the path to parenthood? Cruising the blacktop with the hood down? Stuck in the mud? Crashed into the guard rail? What do you do to keep yourself occupied on the journey? Are you the kind who packs the car with lots of healthy snacks and classic books on tape? The kind who stops after 15 miles cause they have Nathan's at the rest stop & Nathan's sells those awesome crispy crinkled french fries with the mini pitchfork (the forks are red cause those greasy tasty fries are the devil's own food), plus that way you can pick up copies of Cosmo and People? The kind that drives all night, pees into a bottle, and coasts into each gas stop on fumes?

I am finding it a little hard to keep myself occupied on this damn road trip. We've taken so many wrong turns, the whole thing is lasting way longer than I thought it would. I've eaten through my homemade GONC (that's good old nuts and chocolate, cause who would ever waste their time on raisins). I've eaten some good, greasy fast food. I've driven in silence for grim determined hours. But we're still not there. And the road is so foggy, I can't tell if I'm getting closer, or driving in circles, or possibly heading straight for a cliff.

Objectively, I have a very nice life. But after a lot of debate and discussion, my husband and I decided we were ready to change that life. Yet, life decided to stay the same. Instead, I changed. I can't seem to get comfortable again in the life that I had, but I don't know how to get to the life I think I want. I'm on a road that seems to go nowhere and has No Exit. Eh bien, continuous. . . .

Sunday, May 08, 2005

On Surviving May 8, 2005

Mother’s Day

what a
Miserable Date
what a
Maddening Display
for those with
Maternal Desires
Much Delay

Moronic Demands
Mental Depression
Medical Deviants
Major Dejection

Misanthropic Disgust
only prevents
Mindful Deliberation
so better turn to
Mournful Daydreams
Maintain Determination

Wednesday, May 04, 2005

The Hissy Fit as a Form of Contraception

A student at MIT named Gauri Nanda has recently created a novel new form of alarm clock. Known as "Clocky," it's designed to act as a robotic pet, a kind of techno Fido that barks for you to wake up and play. The clock, padded and covered in brown shag carpet, has wheels and a navigation system. Once the alarm goes off in the morning, Clocky rolls off the nightstand and then into some unknown corner. The idea is that you'll have to get out of bed and find it in order to turn it off. My husband really needs something like this.

Every single morning, my husband's alarm goes of before dawn. He's got the kind of job where you have to get up to make the donuts. But he's a heavy sleeper, ergo, he needs an alarm. And every single morning after it goes off, he hits snooze over and over. Eventually, *I* become fully awake and team up with the clock to rouse him. Sometimes I have to physically push him out of bed. By that point, I usually can't fall back to sleep. Ironically, I'm a light sleeper that needs a LOT of sleep. So, even though I have a better schedule and a much shorter commute and could potentially sleep for more than another hour after he gets up, his routine leaves me chronically sleep deprived. This causes us a fair amount of conflict. In fact, it's one of our biggest points of tension. He claims that there's no way he can get up without an alarm. I say, yes I know, but you have to get up when it goes off, not hit snooze and go back to sleep till I force you up. He says he never even consciously hears the alarm and there's nothing he can do. I say constantly disrupting my sleep is a human rights violation!!!! Weekends are the only thing that save us. Otherwise, I'm cranky and sour in the mornings, Mrs. Jack Sprat on the grapefruit diet.

So, a couple of weeks ago, a day or two after I ovulated, I had a big performance review at work and I was nervous. Really really nervous. I wanted the day to go well. I worried it wouldn't. I keep losing babies, why not lose my job while I'm at it? I was an emotional mess. So, the night before my big review, we have a little talk about how I need a good night's sleep before the big day. I, of course, toss and turn and sleep even more lightly than usual until I finally drop off for real around 3 in the morning--only to be rudely awakened again by his alarm at 5:15 AM and at 5: 24 AM and at 5:33 AM. At which point I started screaming like a banshee. I am not kidding, it was ugly. I screamed and shrieked and sobbed and screamed. I pounded the mattress with my fists. I said all sorts of angry things. For an hour. My husband could not have been more contrite, more apologetic, more placating. Eventually, he got out the door, very very late for work. I got up, went to work, sailed through my review, regained my sanity, and apologized abjectly for my behavior when we got home that night. He has gotten up BEFORE his alarm every week-day morning since, and I had almost managed to forget the incident had ever happened.

Until I peed on a stick this morning... Clearly an animal in full-on, adrenaline-pumping, fight-or-flight mode is not going to be optimally primed for reproduction. I think maybe I wasn't quite ready to try this month...