Tuesday, October 21, 2008


I am one of the youngest looking 35-year olds you'll ever see, five feet tall with a cute round face and big baby eyes. I see the signs of my own aging clearly in my face, the ever deepening under-eye shadows that are the curse of the sallow-skinned, the frown-lined brow calling out for Botox. But apparently what everyone else sees when they look at me me is a totally exhausted and very grumpy sixteen-year old inexplicably decked out in Eileen Fisher.

I was carded last week. When I laughed and told the waiter I was old enough to be highly flattered, he shrugged only half apologetically and said, "listen we have to card anyone under 30." When I told him I'll be 36 next month, he looked genuinely flabbergasted.

As a working woman, I have mostly found my exaggerated youthfulness to be a serious annoyance. Whatever one may say about the cult of youth in this country, the fact remains that age equates with experience and competence for most people. Look young and they may proposition you at the corner bar, but they won't promote you to the corner office.

With an outer appearance that makes everyone assume I'm much younger than I am, I was totally unprepared to be given news so terrible it has taken my breath away. Flattened me bodily. I appear to have entered perimenopause at the age of 35.

From the beginning of my fertility struggles, back in 2003 at the tender age of 30, I have always had one thing on my side. "Don't worry, you're still so young," everyone told me. And so my secret fear has been losing the one straight arrow in my quiver, the ability to conceive with relative ease and to produce genetically sound embryos. As an archer, I've been working with a broken bow, a body almost unable to shoot straight and send a baby out into the world. Four dead embryos. Four missed miscarriages. One live birth. Hitting the target that one lucky time meant everything, of course. It meant a child. And it meant that if I could only manage the strength of arm, if I could only muster the will to try again, I could seize another arrow from the quiver and I might, just might, score the pot shot that would bring another child. Now I have only broken sticks and shreds of feathers, dreams in dust.

When I didn't conceive last month, I went to Dr. Cookie Pie and said: "Let's do day three blood work." She said, "Are you kidding me? You're absolutely fine." I said, "I'm an information junkie. I'm about to turn 36. Let's just do it and see where we stand." I'd had a couple, that is two, episodes of night sweats over the last 4 months, and it had given me a little nagging worry. I wanted to reassure myself. And I thought that if my FSH had edged over 9, it might be time to think about IVF, to freeze some embryos from 35-year-old eggs, to give myself a fighting chance to carry to term with a viable embryo.

To my utter shock and grief, my FSH cam back at 15.5. Cookie Pie, always the optimist observed that my LH was 4.5 (when it would typically also be elevated with elevated FSH) and insisted that it must be a lab error. They ran it again and the numbers came back 16.5 and 5. They ran them yet again, and they came back 17.8 and 6. Cookie Pie will not believe it and says we'll try again next month with a different lab. Maybe it is a false alarm. But I feel devastated. These are the numbers of premature ovarian failure, numbers so bad no IVF clinic would even touch me.

The first thing I did, after hanging up the phone with Dr. Cookie Pie, was consult Dr. Google about premature menopause, whence I quickly discovered that it's associated with, you guessed it, hypothyroidism. And that information makes me feel enraged. Because no one, no one, not one person ever mentioned this fact to me. No one ever said, you had better try to conceive again the very instant you give birth cause your days are numbered. On the contrary, everyone spouted platitudes about primed pumps. Somehow, in all my googling on Hashimoto's, I never came across that little factoid. Or maybe I believed the hype about how I'm actually 16.

I am soo sad I am moving through my days in an utter fog. Tears come unbidden whenever I let my mind wander, and so I mostly try to pretend this is happening to someone else. I've told no one but my husband and my mother, but I have the oddest sensation walking down the street that everyone can sense I'm barren, that I'm a walking black hole.

Only here, in the safe virtual world of my fellow infertiles on the internet, can I stand to take this news out and run my fingers lightly over it. Thank you, thank you from the bottom of my heart for your comments last week. It means so much to know I am not utterly alone at a time when I feel so forsaken.

Further Surprise of Hashimoto's.
Fantastically Shitty Hormones.
Failed Second-child Hopes.
Fucking Sorry History.