Waiting to Exhale

I feel like I am getting through this pregnancy one “landmark” at a time – always trying to make it to the next point where I can exhale. 

Here’s a snapshot of what  it has been like so far:

  • Just let me hear the heartbeat(s)….big exhale around 6 weeks (but still nervous because of my age and PCOS, my chances of miscarriage were still higher than 40%)
  • Just make it to 8 weeks for my first drop in miscarriage chances…only slight exhale because I lost one baby at 7 weeks and ALL the nerves returned
  • Now, just make it to 10 weeks to be released from the care of Dr. Reshef to the care of a regular OB…exhale. 
  • Get the genetic testing results…exhale.
  • Make it through the first trimester…exhale. 

I have officially made it to the second trimester with my next (and fourth) ultrasound on Tuesday, at which point I’ll be 15 weeks. I don’t know if I’ll ever walk into an appointment full of confidence. I think I will always be holding my breath until I see my baby moving around on the screen and hear the doctor say the words that my little one is looking good. But for this appointment, I can’t contain my excitement. I am hoping this will be the one where we finally find out the gender. 

As I mentioned earlier, we did the genetic testing more to rule out chromosomal abnormalities that lead to Down’s Syndrome than determine the gender. However because my pregnancy started as twins and I still am carrying both babies, there is no way to differentiate the gender of my healthy baby from the one I lost. Justin thinks it’s a girl. I am totally without a gut feeling. There are some days I am convinced it’s a girl and others where I am already calling the baby “him.” Either way, we will both be totally surprised. And happy. 

I know gender reveals have become incredibly trendy in recent years, but this is something I will not bend on. Maybe it’s because everything has been so public so far, or maybe it’s my introverted side, but I cannot wait to share this quiet moment in the doctor’s office with my baby daddy. Don’t worry, though…after we’ve had our time to celebrate together, we will share the news with all that are waiting to find out. This has been thirteen years (full of heartache and loss) in the making, so we are going to soak up every single precious moment.

I should also be getting close to feeling the baby move. This will be another BIG exhale. 

All in all, I feel incredibly guilty about how easy this pregnancy has been. I spend most of my time eating, sleeping, or peeing, but honestly, I feel really good. I do have frequent headaches, and I’m already having minor back pain, but these feel like a small price to pay and not anything I would ever complain about. 

I’ve had lots of questions about the nursery and if I’ve decided on a theme. Most of the time I  say we are waiting to determine the gender – which is partially true. We are. However, a large part of me has been too scared to start clearing out the guest room. This is a level of attachment that would be devastating if something happened. Just one more exhale and I’ll start working on it. 

14-week Bumpdate

(nine. fifteen. twenty-two)

Week 12 of 40

I have one more week left of my first trimester. Even as I type this and can look down and see a definite bump, I still have a hard time convincing myself this is finally happening. I can’t help but feel ill-deserving of this absolute gift growing inside of me. As we began this final attempt at fertility treatments, I mostly felt like it was a chance for me to be able to say that I gave it everything I had and be at peace with my family of two. 

I, honestly, don’t have a ton of news to share in this post. While I am so looking forward to officially being in my second trimester, just for the sake of being past the riskiest weeks, my first trimester was not nearly as bad as I had been warned. Yes, I had morning sickness and nausea, but not anything I would ever complain about. More than anything, I have just been completely exhausted. And hungry. 

About a week and a half ago, Covid hit the Weaver house full force. Somehow we have managed to stay well for two and a half years but could avoid it no longer. Justin and I have both been down and out, and still, though much better, not quite back to normal. 

Because Justin was still running a fever and several days behind me, I had to go to our first OB appointment alone. I was, however, able to video the heartbeat for him so he didn’t miss that magical moment. 

I love our doctor! He has declared the pregnancy high-risk but feels comfortable remaining our OB. Everything so far looks great with our baby. It had a strong heartbeat and was very wiggly. For the first time, it looked more like a human and less like a gummy bear. It was fun to watch it move around and see its little arms flailing about. It was, by far, the cutest thing I have ever seen in my entire life. 

Obviously, because of my age, we have a few added risks. Dr. Mitro gave me the rundown on all the possibilities. While this list felt extremely overwhelming, he ended with the fact that he has delivered many healthy babies to women in their 40s. We are still anxiously waiting on the results from our genetic blood tests and should hear back on those next week. 

The twin we lost has not changed in size. A part of me expected it to be gone by this appointment, but it is still measuring 7 weeks in size with no heartbeat. I’ll be honest, I still don’t know how to process this. 

My next appointment is in about three weeks. We are hoping at that appointment to be able to confirm the gender. As of now, I am not leaning either way. I have absolutely no mother’s intuition about what it is. Justin thinks it’s a girl and has since the beginning. I just don’t know and have zero preference. I just need it to be okay. 

I am overwhelmed by all of the love and support shown by family and friends through this entire process. I can’t wait to someday share this story with our child. 

11 week “bumpdate”
Baby Weave. (The thing on the other side of its head is a sweet little hand that, by now, has fingernails!)

(eight. twenty-seven. twenty-two.)

How I’m Doing

“How are you doing/feeling?”

I am asked some version of this question probably 10 times each day. That may be a conservative figure. I honestly love that people care enough to check on me. Upon returning to work after summer vacation, I have been overwhelmed and humbled by how many people have become invested in my story. 

I tend to answer the questions with a similar response each time: “Really good. Constantly tired and hungry, but overall, I feel good.” This is true. 

Partially. 

There is so much more to the truth though. 

It’s been five days since we learned that I miscarried one of the babies. Or perhaps I should say “will miscarry”. I’m still confused by the timeline of this loss as both babies are still inside my belly, but only one is alive. I have not yet learned how to process this piece of information. It is oddly both comforting and gut-wrenching. And no matter how many times and ways I have googled “Can a Vanishing Twin reappear?”, I am repeatedly met with the permanence of what happened. Which leaves me stuck somewhere between grieving and hopeful. However, I no longer cry every time I get in the car alone, and I’ll take that as a step in the right direction. 

Before our last appointment, I was finally enjoying my pregnancy without worrying constantly that something would go wrong. The worry is back with a vengeance. I have now lost two babies in 8 months, and I am scared to death of more devastating news. I know that I cannot live in this constant state of fear, but I also don’t know how to shake it. 

It took us twelve years, thousands upon thousands of dollars, and more stress and heartache than I thought one could survive to get this baby. I NEED it to be okay. 

When I said I was feeling good, it was not a total lie. Somehow I have been lucky enough to dodge intense morning sickness. While I often feel nauseous, I have not thrown up, and I can usually solve it by eating something –  anything really. The food aversions have also been few and far between. This should be a good thing, right? It should not be what it has become – another thing to worry about. Shouldn’t I feel sicker? Since I’m not constantly throwing up, is there something wrong with my baby?

I never said these were rational thoughts and fears. 

Despite all of these emotions and anxiety, I truly am, little by little, getting excited. I bought a car seat and a baby monitor, as well as a few other odds and ends. I have begun creating Amazon and Target baby registries. I truly never thought I would get to experience this. I never thought I would be researching which bassinet or baby bottles work best. I am in love with everything little. When I start looking at things it becomes clear just how much I have to learn. But, these are the things that are slowly edging out the sadness and worry. 

I love that because I started out pregnant with twins, I started showing much sooner than I would have otherwise. Since I can’t feel the baby yet, it’s something that makes it feel more real to me.  And while most of my clothes are extremely uncomfortable, I love the maternity shirts that show off something that I never thought my body would be capable of making. 

For the first time, I am proud of what my body has done. After more than a decade of infertility, these are words I never thought I would say. 

The effects of my infertility still have me feeling half broken. But, the hope of actually holding my baby has me also feeling half whole, and I can only hope that over the next 7 months that half starts edging out the broken parts so that I can truly answer how I’m feeling. 

“Bumpdate” from about a week ago.
Baby is now the size of a green olive– which is, coincidentally, my current craving.

(eight. thirteen. twenty-two)

a juxtaposition of emotions

I have written and rewritten the opening line to today’s blog probably a dozen times. In my previous entry I spoke about constantly feeling like the ball was about to drop on me since things seemed to be going too well. And because of all we’ve been through, I don’t know if I’ll ever go into an appointment feeling completely confident. 

However, I was pretty close to confident going into our last appointment. Overall, I have been feeling pretty well, especially considering I’ve been growing two babies. So far, I have been very lucky with fairly mild morning sickness. Honestly, my biggest symptom has been the most extreme exhaustion I could ever imagine. But a small price to pay! 

This morning we had our last ultrasound with Dr. Reshef, our fertility specialist. In two weeks I will begin seeing my original OB/Gyn – a fact that still seems surreal. 

When he began today’s scan, I immediately knew something was wrong. The entire screen looked “off”. There were still two babies, but they didn’t look the same. Dr. Reshef zeroed in on the larger of the two pretty quickly. Another giveaway that there was a problem. 

Baby A is looking fantastic. Though still only about the size  of a gummy bear, our first little miracle baby has quadrupled in size with a very strong heartbeat. I will never get tired of hearing that sound. 

Baby Weaver (aka the cutest blob I’ve ever seen)

Then, Dr. Reshef switched to Baby B. This little one had only doubled in size and unfortunately we were unable to detect any heartbeat. 

We are heartbroken. Completely.

Baby B is still there, but eventually I will miscarry. The devastating part is that I won’t even know when because there will, more than likely, be no bleeding. Between myself and the healthy baby, we will end up absorbing all of the tissue – which is why this type of miscarriage is referred to as Vanishing Twin Syndrome. 

Dr. Reshef did point out that, as hard as this is, this doesn’t happen to a healthy baby and that there was something genetically wrong with Baby B. So, I suppose this should offer some peace. Also, since this occurred in the first trimester this loss should have no effect on Baby A. Things maybe I can appreciate tomorrow.

I apologize, I know this post is absent of my usual metaphor and clever rhetoric. I also know this is why they caution you in “telling people” too early. I don’t regret sharing the news though, because we all got to experience the excitement of twins together for two full weeks. 

Don’t get me wrong, we are still thrilled beyond words. We are just grieving at the same time. 

(eight. eight. twenty-two.)

The Much Anticipated Update

 

“Now, Justin…be prepared. I’m probably going to cry either way – if we hear a heartbeat, or if we don’t. I’m just warning you now. And when I do start crying, just hold my hand, so I don’t look like an idiot crying on the table alone. ” 

This was me trying to prepare Justin for the surge of emotions I was sure to experience at the doctor yesterday when we had our first ultrasound and viability scan. 

To everyone’s shock, there were no tears in the room. But I’ll get to that part later. 

The impact of infertility and pregnancy loss did not end when we finally got our two lines on July 2. And, in a way, it actually stole the joy of that moment. I never really told the story of us finding out we were pregnant, but it was not a tearful, jumping up and down moment. It was a “let’s not get our hopes up just yet” kind of excitement. Even after several consecutive days of positive tests, we still were guarded. Me, especially. 

It’s hard to explain, but I feel like I am constantly waiting for the ball to drop. Bad news has got to be lurking around the corner, because there is no way that good things are finally happening. 

Over the course of the next few weeks, repeated lab tests showed that my HCG levels were growing quite rapidly – doubling every day or so as they should be. Still…I had not seen the heartbeat, and therefore was remaining cautious in my excitement. Don’t get me wrong, I was all smiles on the outside, but a nervous wreck on the inside. I obsessively checked for blood every time I went to the restroom. And since I was now peeing every 5 minutes, I had ample opportunities to obsess. 

Yet time was passing with no ball dropping. 

About a week ago, I had one of the most scary moments of my life. The morning was totally normal. I had some work meetings which ended around noon. I stopped and picked up some egg drop soup (a totally random craving as I don’t know that I’ve ever even had it) on my way home. All in all, I was feeling pretty good. Even though I had planned on saving half of the soup for later, I devoured the entire thing in one sitting and then crashed on the couch for my daily nap. 

Without warning I was startled awake by a horrible cramping sensation. I had still yet to throw up, so I thought: this is it – this must be what it feels like. I ran to the bathroom, where I promptly fainted. I have no idea how long I was out, but when I came to, I was sitting on the toilet, slumped against the wall, and my foot was in the dogs’ water bowl (I think this is what snapped me out of it). 

I called my husband hysterical and freaking out, but actually feeling, other than a little weak, physically okay at this point. The cramping had passed and there was no blood. However, as it would of course have to happen, my doctor was already closed for the day. I convinced Justin that I did not need to go to the ER, and that I would call them in the morning. 

Again, some terrifying time passed with no ball dropping. 

We never really figured out what caused me to faint. My nurse that I spoke to the next morning said it was probably a vasovagal response to the pain I experienced. She gave me a few things to watch out for and reassured me that everything was okay. 

I still had almost a week to go before my first ultrasound, at which point, based on my HCG levels, they determined I would be about 7 weeks. 

Then time essentially stopped. I just wanted to hurry up and see it for myself – that everything was okay.

The night before our appointment, I couldn’t sleep. I spent the majority of the night with my hand on my stomach just trying to sense the heartbeat. 

When Beverly called my name in the waiting room, my heart literally jumped into my throat. 

And maybe the reason I didn’t cry was because it was still in my throat when the doctor said, “What we have here is twins. And before you ask if I’m sure, yes, I’m sure – two babies, two heartbeats.”

“Excuse me, what?!”

“Take a deep breath and hold it, and we’ll listen to Baby A’s heartbeat.”

We listened to the swishing sound in total shock while he took all the necessary measurements, before moving onto Baby B. 

So, when I say there were no tears it was because both Justin and I sat there, the entire appointment, looking like that emoji with the saucer sized eyeballs. 

At this point we are still not out of the woods. We go back in two weeks to make sure both babies are still viable. He said we have about a 20% chance of Vanishing Twin Syndrome. However, both babies had a good heart rate, and are measuring the same size, so we’re taking that as encouraging news. Also, it turns out, we’re not as far along as we initially thought. Those high HCG numbers were not due to how far along I was, but rather the fact that there are TWO! 

As of today, we are 6 ½ weeks along, with a due date of March 18th. 

For the first time, I can say that I am incredibly happy. An over the moon kind of joy. I am still worried and in desperate need of all the positive vibes for the next two weeks. 

And, it appears, despite all my worrying about dropping balls, we’ve finally caught our break. 

Life is good. 

And as I type this, I am finally crying. Happy tears, y’all. So many happy tears. 

(seven. twenty-six. twenty-two)

Another Letter to HB

Dear HB, 

Someday I will give you these handwritten blog posts as a gift. A collection of my writing over the past 9 months (and all the months to come)  that will tell the story of how loved you were before you were even you. Maybe you were expecting keys to a new car when you saw this small box, but this is so much better. Now hear me out.

The story of you is one of hope and perseverance – but most of all love. It’s a story of two imperfect people who refused to give up on you, no matter how hard the challenges became. 

You should also know that your story helped a lot of people in so many different ways. You helped women like your mama feel seen and that their story matters. You helped others walk in shoes that they wouldn’t have otherwise tried on. Before you were even conceived, you were growing compassion within others. 

I can’t wait to see all that you will accomplish when you have an actual voice of your own. I’m not talking about how much money you will have in your bank account or what kind of car you drive. I’m talking about you making the world better for somebody other than yourself. You see, that’s what it’s all about. 

When your mom gives you her 2014 Ford Edge as your first car, and you’re bummed because all your friends have flying cars that drive themself, find the kid that has to walk to school and give him a ride. Unless you’re a girl…in which case you’re not allowed to be alone with a boy in the car until you’re 30. Maybe go save a stray cat instead. 

I would say that I hope life is easy for you, but that’s not the way it is. Character is born from struggle and whatever life throws at you, you can handle. I promise. Just look at your mom. (wink wink) She went through hell and high water to get you and came out a badass. Okay, okay, maybe that’s pushing it. But she lived to tell the story, and THAT’S what truly matters. 

I am terrified that if you are a girl I will pass on my genes to you and you will find yourself exactly where I am someday. If you do, I am so, so sorry. But, also…you can do this. Perseverance is in your blood. Hell, I even have a guidebook of sorts for you. Who knows, by the time you’re old enough to have kids there may be so many medical advances that this won’t even be a thing. I hope that’s true. If not for you, undoubtedly for someone you know. 

You know, I’ve referred to you as HB this entire time I’ve been blogging – my Hypothetical Baby. I guess it’s about time I change that since you’re now about the size of a grain of rice. This last week has been the happiest of my entire life. Yes, I am constantly simultaneously feeling nauseous, hungry, sleepy, and needing to pee…but I couldn’t be happier. 

You’re no longer my Hypothetical Baby. You’re just my baby. 

And Baby, I can’t wait to meet you. 

See you in eight months! 

Love, 
Mom

A “P.S.”  for all my readers: Things are looking good. Really good. I am currently 5 weeks pregnant. I go in for a second set of labs in a couple of days to make sure things are progressing as they should, and next week we will have our first ultrasound. 

We are far from being out of the woods. Every day feels like a gift, and we are enjoying every single one. Who knew morning sickness could be so glorious? Call me crazy, but I have waited for this so long that I actually LOVE it. 

I’ve gone back and forth on posting this. This is actually the first time I’ve been hesitant to post something because I know it’s a bit untraditional to share the news this early. Every published work says to wait a certain amount of weeks so that you don’t have to retract your pregnancy announcement if something goes wrong – suffer in silence, if you will. I know the whole point is to protect your heart. But, the whole point of this blog is to be open. To tell the story as it’s happening – the good and the bad. 

If you could, continue to send us all the good vibes – we definitely need them in the coming weeks. 

(seven. ten. twenty-two)

Cat Distractions

About a week ago, Justin and I went out to dinner. The topic of our infertility journey came up when I mentioned that I was somewhat dreading all of the 4th of July festivities. Typically we love this holiday. In fact, Justin often claims it’s his favorite. However, this year it is falling at the same time that we will find out if this cycle worked or not. The Monday of the 4th of July is the two-week mark from our 3rd IUI. For the life of him, this statement did not make sense. I think I confused him more when I said that I am utterly exhausted from putting on my pretend smile and faking it all the time. 

He took this to mean that I am never happy, which is not the case. I sat there, silent tears falling in the middle of a restaurant because I was completely unable to express myself. And it was in that moment that I realized that this is something that is wholly unable to be understood unless it is happening inside your own body. Don’t get me wrong, we are in this together and he has been an amazing support for me. But I have realized that even those closest to you, and even those in the thick of it with you, cannot fully understand the all-consuming emotions. 

Even after all that we have been through in the last year, I consider myself to be a happy person. I think I have a can-do attitude that pretty much makes me feel like I can take on the world. I know this isn’t going to make sense when I say it, but just because I cry a lot does not mean I am not happy. I know, I know. It didn’t make sense to Justin either. 

He told me that I have to stop letting it control my life.

“I don’t know how. I really am doing the best I can.” This was all I could think to say. 

I know he was just looking out for me. And I know it can’t be easy for him to see me get my hopes up only to be heartbroken month after month. But this didn’t come with an instruction manual.  And even though I often feel like I am doing this all wrong, I don’t know that there’s a “right way” to do it either. 

I have tried to take his advice and “be less obsessed with the process” during the last couple of weeks. This is admittedly difficult when you’re still taking hormones twice a day, charting temperatures, and everything else that goes along with infertility. I took a short break from the blog, and I haven’t been analyzing “symptoms”/every tiny fluctuation of my body. 

I have, however, found a substitution for my obsession in the neighborhood stray cat. 

Yes, you read that correctly. A cat. I should preface this story with the fact that I come from a family that is openly, and quite strongly, not a cat family. I never really formed my own opinion because it was just something that was. I’ve never disliked cats, I’ve just never been around them. By default (and maybe a little by design), I too became “not a cat person.”

On the other hand, I (like my husband) am a complete sucker for any kind of animal. So when this stray cat showed up in the neighborhood, we had no choice but to feed it. I think this all started during the winter months when I just assumed her hunting options would become limited. We would see her watching us fill her bowl from across the street. Once we went inside the house, she would scamper over and eat up the food. 

A little over a week ago, as I was filling her bowl, she was sitting across the street, supervising and meowing….loudly. I assumed this was a critique of my speed, so I assured her that she would get her breakfast. 

At the sound of my voice, and to my complete surprise, she darted across the street and came up to me, rubbing against my legs. I was even more surprised when she let me pet her and followed me to the porch. 

Fast forward a week, she now has a name, is super affectionate, and lives on my front porch full time – which is fully furnished with a raised bed, toys, and of course food. And last night, Justin built her a wooden cat house for her to retreat to when she needs some shelter. I call her Gypsy because she still likes to wander. She always comes back though.

I’d like to say that I’ve been taking care of her, but I think she’s been taking care of me. She’s given me something to focus on – something new to be excited about. And I didn’t realize how badly I needed that. 

I honestly don’t know how this month is going to go. This morning began with a negative pregnancy test. And although there’s still a little time before we can officially count this cycle out, I really have no inclination one way or the other. If I’ve learned anything, it’s that your mind can be very deceptive.

Gypsy Weaver.

(seven. one. twenty-two)

5 Reasons Infertility is Like Being Stranded on a Deserted Island

  1. It’s not as glamorous as people think.

Seriously. Tell me you haven’t, at one time in your life, daydreamed about being stranded on a deserted island. There are even conversational games surrounding this idea: What are the three things you would take? Who would you want with you?  The allure may be subconscious, but there’s something there, right? I mean, no one is playing the game where they decide who you want with you when your boat sinks in shark-infested waters. 

There’s no secret that infertility (like being stranded) sucks. However, you would be shocked at how many times someone has given me the raised eyebrow and said “come on, at least you’re having fun trying, right?” Maybe you wouldn’t be shocked because maybe you’ve been thinking that same thing. 

Disclaimer: I’ve never been stranded on an island. Something tells me, though, that it will be less drinking piña coladas out of a pineapple (obviously one of my items was a magically endless supply of rum) while swinging in a hammock (item #2)*, and more trying to keep bugs from crawling into every opening on your body. 

(*Before you start doubting my ability to survive in the wild, my third item is obviously a two-in-one machete and fire-starter. Wait. Did I just invent something brilliant? Back off, REI.)

Likewise, sexy time during infertility is light on the sexy and heavy on schedules and stress. Basically, like gathering and boiling water on the island, it becomes a chore. In addition to worrying if you’ve correctly timed the fertile window so that you can start early enough, but then still have enough “gas in the tank” to get through ovulation and the two days following, there are other added layers of burden. Reproduction is a natural function of the female body. So, when that doesn’t work, there is no other way to put it…you feel broken. Defective. We’re following the user guide, but it’s still not working. 

  1. Life becomes about survival. 

I am not a fragile person. The cards I have been dealt have built a fortitude within me that I am damn proud of. I feel like I can push through most things with a smile – even if it’s a fake one. When things get tough, I remind myself, over and over again, that pain is temporary. The problem with infertility is that though drug side effects, painful procedures, and even negative tests are all temporary, the actual scope and sequence of infertility is unknown. I don’t know that there’s an end to this. While I know I won’t be undergoing treatments for the rest of my life, I don’t know that this is ever going to end. Statistically speaking, there is about an 85% chance that I will end this whole thing a lot poorer and empty-handed. (And honestly, that’s a generous number.) 

When I think about these things, which I do every single day of my life, I begin to feel fragile. To combat this, I have developed a list of coping strategies. I control the things that I can. I feel like if you were stranded, you would develop rules and rituals. Things you do to make you feel like you’re focused on survival. Keep the fire going. Boil the water. Collect palm fronds to patch the roof. (I’ve obviously thought this out.) 

There’s much about my body that I can’t control. This has led to an obsessive control over the things that I can, and drives my husband crazy. “You still have to live your life,” he tells me daily as I am sorting out my 23 different medications and supplements I take every day, or turn down a second cup of coffee because I’ve already had the one cup that I allow myself each morning. Even my nurse tells me to loosen up and that it’s okay to have a glass of wine or a margarita. What people don’t understand is that survival is a mental game. 

  1. You eat a lot of pineapple. 

Pineapple contains bromelain, an anti-inflammatory and anti-coagulation agent that *may* improve implantation by increasing blood flow to the uterus. If you’ve ever wondered why there are always pineapples on infertility gifts, trinkets, and social media posts, this is why. This is also why, during the two-week wait, pineapple becomes my go-to snack. I am pretty sure studies are inconclusive about the actual effects that pineapples may have on fertility, but, as stated in #2, sometimes feeling like you’re doing something concrete is enough to appease the mind. Therefore, bring on the pineapple! Not only is it delicious, its tough exterior protects the sweetness on the inside, and that feels a lot like infertility. 

  1. You feel a little bit crazy. 

No cheating. When I say the name “Wilson”, what initially comes to mind?

A. The neighbor on Home Improvement who is always peeking over the fence
B. Woodrow Wilson, the 28th president of the United States
C. Mr. Wilson, neighbor to Dennis the Menace
D. Wilson, volleyball BFF to Tom Hanks

Since this entire post is metaphorically about being stranded on a desert island, I may have been subliminally hinting that D is the correct answer. Which it is, obviously. A and C are too obscure for it to be the FIRST thing you thought of. And, if you chose B, you’re too smart to be reading this blog, so let me direct you to the Wall Street Journal

We all thought Tom Hanks was a little crazy for his attachment to the volleyball, but tell me you didn’t get a little choked up when his efforts to save Wilson proved futile. His crazy started making sense. 

The hormone fluctuations within my body do not have me talking to a volleyball…yet. I do, however, feel a certain brand of uncontrollable crazy.  

Prior to starting fertility treatments, I would have described my emotional state as “even keel”. Now? Now I’m a giant cry baby. I cry at everything. For the most part, I am able to conceal the mood swings that I feel raging inside of me. (Pipe down, Justin.) I am not, however, no matter how hard I try, able to control the tears. Some of my tears have been worth shedding. I will always cry at every single negative pregnancy test. So far, on this trip down Infertility Lane alone, there have been about 40. In case you’re wondering, they don’t get easier. I will never be calloused to seeing just one pink line. On the other hand, my days are also full of silly tears. For example, Justin can tell you about my complete and utter meltdown over news coverage of a cow stuck in the mud during some torrential rains a month or so ago. Inconsolable doesn’t come close.  

  1. It’s just so damn lonely. 

Unless you, first hand, know the pain of desperately wanting a family with every fiber of your being, but no matter how hard you try you can’t make it happen, there is no way to comprehend what this feels like. This is not a pity party. This is just the sad truth. 

Most days I feel like we’re stuck on this island while life is continuing uninterrupted for everyone else. I mean, here I am making a smoke signal and spelling out SOS in the sand, but the plane flying overhead is too busy scanning for a radio station that’s not playing a commercial to even notice. 

This is something that I have avoided talking about because, honestly, I feel a little guilty even mentioning it. There are so many kind people in my life who continually check on me. I chose to open up and share our story, and we are truly lucky for the outpouring of support we have received. Most people going through this are doing so in private. They, for all intents and purposes, are stranded on an island. I feel like we at least have email. 

I know the title of my blog is a self-deprecating joke, but there’s a little truth to it. I don’t know that there’s a way to be “good at” being infertile. It’s one of those “fake it till you make it” kinds of things. I also know that everyone on the outside kind of feels the same way and that my openness has made some people uncomfortable. Most of the time, people don’t know what to say so they just totally ignore it. And that’s okay, because, most of the time, I don’t know what to say either. I have learned that when most people check on me, they want the polished answer: “It’s a tough road, but I’m making it.” It’s easy to get behind the hero fighting a battle. But sometimes, I don’t feel very heroic. Sometimes I get really tired of kicking infertility’s ass. But I guess that’s kind of the point of this blog. And even though I often feel like I am sugar-coating things as I write, I feel like I am being about as vulnerable and open as I’m capable of being. I’m trying to paint a realistic picture for you.  

***

I suppose I should also include an update for those who are following along with my timeline. We have started the 8th round of fertility drugs. Since we had the miscarriage back in January, my doctor was pretty sure that I didn’t have blocked tubes. However, since we haven’t had any luck since then, we went ahead and did an HSG this week. The purpose of this test is to inject dye, via catheter, into the uterus and fallopian tubes. To quote my doctor, “This also acts as a ‘roto-rooter’ of sorts, and can increase fertility for three months.” This sounds like a simple procedure. All I have to say is that the next time a male doctor tells me it’s going to feel like period cramps, I’m going to be a bit more skeptical. To quote The Princess Bride, “I don’t think that word means what you think it means.” It was brutal but temporary. 

Thankfully, the test results showed no blockages. On one hand, that’s a huge relief. But at the same time, it doesn’t answer any questions as to why nothing is working. We did get the green flag to go ahead with another IUI. So, our fingers are crossed that the ovary-stimulating drugs will continue to do their job and cause ovulation. If all works out, we’re looking at another IUI in about a week. 

I know this post was twice as long as they usually are, so thanks for sticking with me. I also know this process has been longer than you probably expected. So again I repeat, thanks for sticking with me. 

(six. twelve. twenty-two)

This Is Not My Idea of a Good Time

This evening as I was cooking dinner, I chopped a red onion – a simple act that, for me, typically leads to aggressive tears and smeared mascara. Tonight? Nothing. So, obviously, I did the only rational thing, and googled: “Can a person run out of tears?” This search was, in part, born out of genuine curiosity, but more so out of hope. Hope that there’s an end in sight, and at some point, they will stop. 

For the official record, and according to the wealth of knowledge that is Google, the answer is no. Which, honestly, feels a bit fitting, because the only adjective that is coming to mind to describe this heartbreak is infinite. However, if ever there were a day that I could officially run out of tears, it would have been today. 

It’s been a while since I have blogged. Over two weeks, to be exact – the day of my last IUI. Life goes on for everyone and the world has continued to turn, so I am sure most people didn’t notice my short absence. But I’m assuming some of you did notice and have been hoping my silence was full of promise and meant good things to come – maybe I had exciting news I was trying to keep a secret. 

I’m afraid it is quite the opposite. To put it bluntly, I just haven’t been able to find the strength to write. A part of me feels like I owe you, my readers, an apology that I failed again and there is no good news to share. 

I was recently asked, by someone who genuinely cares about me, if each cycle gets easier to handle. My answer was an unabashed no. Sometimes I do feel like I am getting better at hiding it, but that is usually a fleeting feeling. This cycle has, by far, been the toughest. And in the last two weeks, I have hit my breaking point – a few times. 

This is not a “woe is me” post. And I am not going to detail all the things that have happened this cycle, nor all the places my mind has gone. And, rest assured, this is not a cry for help. This is just a tiny peek in the window that is infertility.

To gloss over just a small fraction of the high points low points: During this cycle, there were three nights in a row that I did not sleep due to intense ovarian pain (possibly and probably a fertility drug-fed cyst rupturing), but we can’t be sure because the left ovary could not be located on my ultrasound today. There were meetings that I had to excuse myself from because I felt tears in the back of my throat. There was poor communication from my doctor’s office, unreturned calls, and rude office staff that clearly could benefit from some sensitivity training. 

PSA to office receptionists: Calling someone “hun” does not cancel out insensitivity. And newsflash, I am not doing this for fun. I know this may come as a shock, but monthly transvaginal ultrasounds are not my idea of a good time. I am not intentionally trying to make your life difficult when I start my period on a Saturday and have to be seen by the doctor to start my medicine on Monday. I am, quite literally, at the end of my rope trying to do everything I can to start a family. So, if you can’t have a 3-minute conversation with a fertility patient without bringing her to tears, it may be time to invest in the aforementioned sensitivity training. 

Can you tell I’ve had a day?

Today I started the drugs for cycle #8. That’s seven failed cycles. Six times (the first one was a total bust with no ovulation) I have sat on the table with my feet in the stirrups, handed over all of my charting, and heard the same words: “This is textbook perfection. You did everything right.”  But six times it didn’t matter that my body responded to the medication. Six times it didn’t matter how perfectly timed my intercourse and IUIs were. Because there I was today, sitting on the exact same table that I did 9 months ago when we began this journey – the exact amount of time it takes to create and bring a life into this world. But, here I am with nothing in my arms but a collection of perfect charts and a box of tests with only one pink line. 

On Friday morning I am having a procedure in which they will do an internal x-ray, insert dye, and flush out my fallopian tubes. This may give us more answers, and it has the potential to increase fertility for a few months. I have heard that this is not at all a pleasant experience, but if it provides insight and increases my chances, I’ll suck it up with a smile. Which, to be honest, feels like the official game face of infertility. 

Though it’s getting harder to visualize this ending the way I want it to, I’m trying to remain hopeful. I really am. I’m to the part of the cycle where I usually start psyching myself up. I have a fresh chart and a new cycle to conquer. This shameless hope usually results in my purchasing a baby item or two. That little box is now overflowing and the lid no longer fits, and it’s starting to feel like a silly ritual. 

I want to end this long-winded post with words of appreciation. Thank you to all who continue to reach out and check on me. This is, by far, the hardest and loneliest road I have ever traveled. The small things, tight hugs, and encouraging words mean more than you will ever know. 

(six. six. twenty-two)

At Least I’m Not as Crazy as Tom Cruise

Y’all, 

I am tired. I’m talking mentally, physically, and emotionally drained. I don’t even know where or how to begin this blog post. In fact, I’m currently typing this long-winded and unnecessary introduction in hopes that something creative comes to me. 

Nope. Nothing. 

Well, shit. I thought eloquent Stephanie might make an appearance tonight, but it looks like you’re stuck with exhausted Stephanie. She’s a lot more real, but at least she’s funny. 

I’m assuming that most of you probably already know that I work in public education as an Instructional Coach. In my district, this is the last week of school for students and teachers. I still work some next week, but for all intents and purposes, we have hit the home stretch. This is my eighteenth year in education, so I can say without hesitation that “End of the Year Teacher Tired” is a thing. The memes don’t lie:

I can also attest to the fact that I have never experienced complete and total fatigue like I am living through right now. When I say that I am holding on by a thread, I am not referring to a braided paracord friendship bracelet. It’s more like the strings that stretch across a ripped knee in jeans. The ones that you idly mess with until they come apart in your fingers. Honestly, even that may be giving the thread a bit too much credit. 

Today alone I have had a mini panic attack over the following things: hypothetical spilled sperm, my doctor’s choice of adjectives, and grey hair. 

Eleven months ago, this whole ordeal began with a big health scare. Eight months ago, we officially started fertility treatments. As of today, we are in the middle of the seventh medicated cycle. We also had our second IUI this morning. I know eight months may not seem like a substantial length of time, but as I sit here right now, it feels like an eternity. (Keep in mind that in reality, we are twelve years and eight months in, but I am just talking about our current trip down this road in this blog.) And thanks to these eight months, with a handful of workdays left in the 21-22 school year, I am feeling very Jack Nicholson-y. 

I should probably preface (or clarify) that, though experienced, we are by no means experts. And while we may be frequent fliers at the fertility clinic, we’re still just figuring it out as we go. I’m pretty confident in my ability to chart, graph, color code, and plan, but this cycle has put me in a bit of a tailspin. Leading up to this month, ovulation has occurred almost identically in every previous cycle. The timing on this one has been completely different. The tests have been reading less consistent and everything is occurring much later. One could argue that since all the other cycles have failed, maybe this is a good thing. Nevertheless, I’m still (maybe irrationally) nervous that something is not right. In fact, I have spent the previous three or four days sick with nerves thinking that the medicine has run its course and stopped working for me, as the previous types did. I am still holding my breath in hopes that ovulation has occurred today and the IUI was perfectly timed. Temperature charting in the coming days will be the only way to confirm this. 

Keep all of this in mind as you read the rest of my story. It might help you be a little less judgy over my crazy moments. 

Since we had an IUI this morning, Justin and I had different appointment times. He had to be at the hospital an hour earlier than me to “take care of business.” Last time, he called when he was finished to let me know everything went well and that he was waiting on me in the lobby. We didn’t talk about it, but I just expected the same phone call this morning. As I got closer and closer to the hospital my phone never rang. *Cue the overthinking.* My string of thoughts began with “what if he’s having performance issues” and ended with me being convinced he spilled the sperm. I was, however, NOT going to call because on the off chance it was the former issue I didn’t want to “interrupt matters” with a phone call. Turns out, he was finished in less than 20 minutes and just sitting in the hospital lobby waiting on me. Clearly unnecessary panic. 

The second overthinking-induced panic came from the word “fine.” In my defense, it was used twice. (Twice!)  Justin’s sperm count was “fine”. (Last time it was “good”.) Also, my cervical mucus was downgraded from “great” to “fine”.  Everyone knows that if you ask a woman what’s wrong and she answers with fine, she is not, by any stretch of the imagination, fine. Fine was not a word I wanted to hear being used to describe our reproductive conditions. So naturally, I did the expected “I’m-fine- woman-thing” and smiled and made small talk about Tom Cruise with my doctor. (Yes, my doctor was talking about Tom Cruise and Mimi Rogers as he was pulling the catheter from my uterus. I do actually appreciate that he uses small talk to ease the tension. And for background purposes, it all started when Justin checked the vial and asked if they had any sperm from better-looking men because we want a cute baby. The doc assured him that I would still choose his sperm over Tom Cruise’s. True. But mostly because Tom is bat shit crazy and I refuse to be part of an HBO special about Scientology and custody arrangements from sperm donors. Also, I doubt Tom Cruise goes to the sperm bank for a few extra bucks.) The second the doc walked out of the room, and as I’m laying with my feet propped up, I sharply looked at Justin and said, “why did he say “fine”?” 

The third mini panic attack came from looking in the mirror as I was getting dressed after the procedure and seeing far too many grey hairs glistening at my roots. I had the same thought as I always do when I look at myself in the mirror at the clinic: “I am too old for this shit.” Some days, time feels like my ultimate nemesis. 

Time and my own body: Two things that make me feel like I just can’t win. 

I told you exhausted Stephanie is real. But, I do hope my crazy gave you a few chuckles. Upon rereading my words, it’s quite possible the thread I’ve been holding onto for dear life, just broke. 

I’m sure Tom Cruise would agree. 

As would Jack Nicholson. 

(five. seventeen. twenty-two)