Curtain Removal

I held off on writing anything over the weekend in anticipation of this post. I knew it would be the happiest or the hardest one I’ve yet to write. Recently, we decided there are so many people “in this with us” at this point, that if it works out, it would be cruel to keep it a secret for too long. Plus, the whole point of this blog is to tear down the curtain that keeps infertility struggles a secret. 

Well, I wish I had better news. But, I do not. 

Round two failed. And, I’m working really hard at saying “this round” failed, because as I sit here this afternoon, it feels an awful lot like I failed

I went in for blood work yesterday, and this morning my doctor’s sweet nurse called with the  results. I wish I could put into words the feeling you get when you’re sitting in a meeting and see the fertility clinic’s number pop up on your phone. Excusing myself, I ducked into the nearest empty classroom and prepared to meet my fate. 

“Hey Stephanie, it’s Beverly. So, I have your lab results …(long pause)… and it’s negative. You’re not pregnant. I’m so sorry.”

What do you say to that? Thank you? Okay? Are you sure? But why not; I did everything right

To be honest, I don’t really know what I said. I think it was some jarring combination of “okay”, “it’s fine”, and those weird hiccupy tears that hit when you try too hard to fight them back. You know the ones that sit at the back of your throat with the sole purpose of disrupting the cadence of your voice giving away that you are not, in fact, “okay” or “fine.” 

There was some more information and numbers shared, I agreed I wanted to continue, and then we hung up and I just sat in that empty classroom and cried until the bell rang. 

The cruelest twist of fate is that the side effects of fertility hormones (coupled with stress) present themself in your body VERY similarly to pregnancy symptoms. And, in my heart of hearts, I knew I was pregnant. So much so, I would have bet the house on it. Over the course of the last week or so I have purchased five (gender neutral) baby onesies, the most precious little booties you have ever seen, and a tiny baby stocking. (Because how cute would that be to surprise people with an extra stocking on the mantle?) 

It’s a good thing I’m not a gambling woman, because I kinda like having a roof over my head. While I may be emotionally tough… physically, I am a wimp and totally wouldn’t survive in the wild. (Also, don’t ask me why if I bet my house and lose it, I go straight to the wild, Naked and Afraid style. That’s just the way my mind works.)

Turns out, 2021 just didn’t have it in the cards for me. I hope 2022 is more agreeable. 

Thank you to everyone who continues to read my words week after week. And whether you believe in prayer, positive energy, or the kindness of an encouraging word or a smile, I appreciate it all. More than you’ll probably ever know. 

I feel like this post lacked the eloquence of its predecessors, but that’s what happens when you tear down the curtain. It’s not always pretty.

(twelve. fourteen. twenty twenty-one)

Don’t Judge Me, Google.

How did we do things before Google? No, this is a genuine question. Maybe, as a society, we “wondered” more? Who was that one guy in that movie where he had a baboon heart? (Answer: Christian Slater) I know I did it–survived on gaining knowledge through card catalogs and an encyclopedia set purchased at a garage sale. I am part of the Xennial generation- a micro-generation of those born between 1977 and 1983 that, trait-wise, doesn’t fit with either GenX or Millennials.  We grew up analog and were the first generation to get computers in our houses “as kids”. We are the generation adept in both worlds. 

I say all this because I find myself Googling EVERYTHING. I am in the infamous and dreaded TWW. 

Every community has their own lingo recognizable only to those who are a part of it. The infertility, or TTC*,  community is no different. I don’t remember online support groups through Facebook being “a thing” the last two times we went through all of this. Maybe they were and I was trying too hard just to handle it all on my own. This time, I am embracing everything throughout this entire process. I am talking about it, writing about it, and accepting help and support. When I joined these online groups, I felt like they were speaking a different language. These ladies conversed almost entirely with acronyms and colloquial slangs which left me Googling every other word in an attempt to translate. At first, I thought that these people must be “more infertile” than me. They’re knee-deep in it, and they know how to talk the talk. I didn’t. 

I’m a quick learner, though. I found charts of the acronyms, read them repeatedly, and kept them for reference. I now can read the posts without assistance and I realize that infertility, though different for everyone, is not measured on a Richter scale. We’re all stuck in the same bucket of suck together. 

Have you figured out what the TWW is yet? No? Let me help you out. The TWW is the Two Week Wait. Among those in the TTC community, this is basically purgatory. During this part of each round, there is nothing to do but wait. There is nothing scientifically proven that I can do to increase chances of conception. Nothing. I am, admittedly, a bit of a control freak, and this is a tough pill to swallow. 

Shouldn’t that be easier, Stephanie? You’re not having to chart and graph every spike in temperature, dose of medication, and BD*. First of all, tell that to my mind. Second of all, look at you using the lingo already. You’re obviously a quick learner too. 

I would be embarrassed to show you my Google search history, but let me just give you a small sampling of the types of things I have Googled this week:

  • What are the earliest signs of pregnancy?
  • Can the sniffles be an early sign of pregnancy?
  • Does constipation post ovulation mean I’m pregnant?
  • Are vivid dreams a sign of pregnancy?

And those are just some of the least embarrassing things I have Googled. 

I know all I can do is wait. Think positive thoughts. Continue with my life and don’t stress. I am no Hallmark card though, and I am never not thinking about it. And while I’m not stressed, per se, I am anxious. I am wondering how two weeks could possibly be passing this slowly. But I am also relishing this time that I can be positive and hopeful. Those moments are hard to come by. In the meantime, I am crossing every finger and hoping every hope for a BFP* while trying to prepare my heart for another BFN*. 

Key:
*TTC: Trying to Conceive
*TWW: Two Week Wait
*BD: “Baby Dance”…also used to mean “Baby Dust” when wishing someone good luck
*BFP: Big Fat Positive
*BFN: Big Fat Negative

(twelve. four. twenty twenty-one.) 

Synonyms and Pumpkin Pie

I sat down at my computer this morning, cup of coffee in hand, intent on writing a motivational(ish) Thanksgiving-related post. I even began with a Google search for: Thanksgiving Quotes, saving a few aesthetically pleasing images to my desktop. But, I opened this document to begin typing and, I’m not going to lie…it felt fake. Forced. And, the most important thing to me, as far as this blog is concerned, is authenticity. 

I am an appreciator. Honestly, I think it is in the marrow of my bones. I appreciate everything: a smile from a stranger I pass repeatedly in the grocery store because we are walking opposite, but the same, paths, a kind word left on a post-it note, the simple piano melody of Clair de Lune (my favorite song), the way lobster bisque, sourdough bread, and a dry red wine create the absolute perfect flavor combination (this is fact, and you cannot change my mind). 

I am pretty sure any thesaurus would list appreciative as a synonym for thankful–two combinations of letters to be used interchangeably. But, that’s like a sixth grader writing: I walked outside to find the sun shining and it felt prodigious. *Insert mini-lesson on the nuances of the English language, and why, just because prodigious is listed as a synonym for amazing (and you’ve already used amazing in your story thirteen times), we can’t just pick it because it “sounds the fanciest”. 

With the onslaught of motivational posts as I scrolled through Facebook this morning, I realized that appreciative and thankful, though not quite as divergent as amazing and prodigious, are not always synonymous. 

Sometimes being thankful is complicated. And, I think that’s okay. This isn’t to say I am not grateful for the life I have. I am. Unquestionably. But sometimes, that which is immediately in front of us casts such a large shadow, it makes it hard to see anything else. And sometimes the beginning of a shadowy journey falls at the time of year that “being thankful” (and even more so–being publicly thankful on social media) is apropos. The holidays seem to be a subliminal reminder that family is everything. I am incredibly lucky to have one of the best. But also…I want one of my own. And honestly, the holiday season can make it hard to think of little else. 

Fertility drugs don’t play. I have had a headache that hasn’t taken a break in two solid weeks. Most nights, when I am trying to fall asleep, I get what I can only describe as restless legs…of my entire body. These are just a few of the physical by-products of the (hopefully) miraculous medicines. I’ll admit, they are not the worst side effects I could possibly have, and the more difficult ones are undoubtedly mental and emotional. Even those are, by no means, permanent roadblocks to my thanksgiving. But, they’re there. And, in the spirit of candid authenticity, I can’t pretend they’re not. 

I am not so naive to assume that infertility is the only cause of holiday stress. So, I am writing today to say this: if being publicly thankful feels like a prodigious feat (see what I did there?) for you, for whatever reason. I see you. That doesn’t mean we can’t appreciate a cheesy casserole and a slice of pumpkin pie together. Cheers. 

(eleven. twenty-four. twenty twenty-one)

Plastic Snowflakes Don’t Melt With Time

Sometimes I know exactly what I want to say, and sometimes I stare at a blank document and type and delete 47 different opening sentences because nothing sounds right. At this exact moment, my blog is sitting at 618 views. I can barely comprehend that number. I’ve said before, this whole thing started as something I didn’t really intend to share. As I wrote my second entry, a small part of me started thinking that it could be something big. I don’t mean “big” as in reaching a lot of people; but rather reaching some people in “big” ways. I think my tiny piece of the internet is doing a little of both. There are so many people following my story now, and when I say I can feel you in my corner, I mean it. 

Infertility is damn lonely. It makes you feel stuck in time, like that Christmas snow globe that you unbox every holiday season. You give it a shake and watch plastic snowflakes rise and fall over the same scene–year after year. In the beginning, you watch your friends and (close-in-age) family members begin families of their own. For a while, you tell yourself: There’s still time for me. If I have a baby in a year or two, our kids can grow up together. You stomach the baby showers. You listen to all the woes of pregnancy with a sympathetic look on your face. You convince yourself there’s still time. 

Then time, being the cold-hearted bitch that she is, keeps going without looking back. Not even for a second does she bother to glance in her rearview mirror. So, you peer out of your frozen-in-time snow globe and keep telling yourself there’s still time; just maybe with a little less confidence now. With plastic snowflakes on your eyelashes you fake a thousand smiles. Then, the generation behind you starts having babies and you can’t attend a baby shower without triggering a full blown panic attack, and you find yourself begging to be put back in the box of Christmas decorations and stored in the attic. 

I tell you this story, though, to say thank you. Thank you for making it less lonely. Thank you for every kind comment and word of support. I could not do this alone.

So, just a little update for those that are interested: today was the last day of the fertility drugs for round two. It was a much stronger dose and taken earlier in my cycle. So now I wait, stomach the side effects, and continue to monitor and test and cross every finger on my hand that it actually triggers ovulation this time. I tested too early last cycle and the false positives did a number on my spirt. This time I am being patient. You see, in addition to all the testing, there’s also a lot of waiting in infertility. 

Once again, thank you for reading my words. And thank you for shaking my snow globe and reminding me how beautiful the snowflakes can actually be. 

(eleven. seventeen. twenty twenty-one)

Here we go again.

Sometimes you can follow all the rules and things still don’t work out. Sometimes the only words you can think of have four letters.

I did everything right. I have the charts and graphs to prove it. I took the correct medications and supplements at the precisely right times. I used color coordinated pens to make sure I kept track of 6AM temperatures, results of every stick I peed on, every pill I took, and every time my husband so much as looked at me for longer than 3 seconds. (Okay, maybe that last one is a slight exaggeration, even though it feels about right.) I ate the right foods. I drastically cut sugar, caffeine, and alcohol. I did all the positive thinking a girl could possibly do. 

I did all those things (and more), and it still didn’t work. 

I know you’re probably thinking: But wait, didn’t you just start? How do you already know? You’re not wrong. I did just start. Today was supposed to be day 12 of my cycle–the official day to start watching for ovulation. This is the day that has been circled on my calendar. It was supposed to be the turning point. Instead, it is day one of a new cycle. 

I woke up to minor bleeding yesterday. While the logical side of me knew it wasn’t a good sign, there was a tiny part of me that thought it might indicate actual ovulation. According to my trusty friend, the internet, this does happen for 3% of fertile women. Today proved otherwise when I awoke at 2am with intense cramps and more bleeding. 

I can’t speak highly enough of my doctor. They were able to see me this afternoon and we are jumping right into round 2. I have stronger drugs and we’re moving the timeline up. 

I received a fresh clean chart. My colored pens are ready. I’m still following all the rules. (Could I sound any more like a teacher?!) I’m doing all the right things as best as I can and trying to only think of one four letter word: hope. 

(eleven. eleven. twenty twenty-one)

Dear HB,

Dear Hypothetical Baby…or HB for short, 

I originally started this blog as a future gift for you–a love letter of sorts. I had no intention of ever sharing my thoughts with the world (or my tiny corner of it, anyway). But shortly after the first “installment” of your present, I changed my mind. And Love, even before your existence, you’re making a difference. And I cannot wait to tell you all about it. 

Someday I will tell you the story of how so many people were rooting for you before you were even you. I know that thought is going to seem strange to you at first. “How can people be in the corner of someone who doesn’t exist?” you’ll ask. “What was I before I was me?” 

First, I will tell you to go ask your father. Then, I will tell you how the story of “how you came to be” provided comfort for so many people who were also aching for their own HB. You will grow up knowing that you don’t give up just because something is hard. If you care about it, you keep fighting. You will be brave, my child. You will be brave because you came from fighters. And before you were anything, you were a fighter. 

Someday I will read you my favorite children’s book: Walk Two Moons. The entire book centers around the Native American proverb that says “You shouldn’t judge a man until you’ve walked two moons in his moccasins.” I will tell you about how your story (and this love letter to you) helped others walk in moccasins they would never have otherwise known. To be able to bring light to something so many people fight in the dark…that’s a big thing, little one. 

I don’t know when you’ll get here. I don’t know when I’ll hear your heartbeat for the first time. I don’t know when I’ll get to feel you kick. I don’t know when I’ll get to find out if you’re a boy or a girl. (Your name is already picked out, either way.) I don’t know any of these things, HB. But, until then, I’m waiting. I’m doing everything I can to make sure you hurry up and get here safely. 

Oh, baby, I have so much I want to tell you. But until you get here, I’ll just keep writing it down here so that I don’t forget anything. You see, your momma may be a storyteller, but she is horrible at remembering details. 

Earlier, I said that before you were anything, you were a fighter. But even before you were a fighter, you were loved. 

Love, 

Your Hypothetical Mom…or HM for short

(eleven. eight. twenty twenty-one)

It’s, like, hard.

Turns out getting pregnant is hard. Like, really hard. There are charts and graphs of basal body temperatures (taken precisely at 6:00 every. single. morning.) and LH surges (whatever LH is). There are specific dosages of medications at specific times of the evening. There are ovulation predictor kits and prenatal vitamins. There are fertility superfood diets and all sorts of supplements. And I’m not even going into all the other things that must be impeccably timed. While I would be the person to organize the hell out of my uterus, it begins to feel like a bit much–even for me and my color coded outlining habits. 

Our official journey began this week with another appointment at the fertility clinic. With Justin standing beside me, we stared at a black and white fuzzy screen as the doctor pointed out my empty uterus. “And this is where we hope to see a baby soon.” 

It was in that moment that everything changed. 

Up until then, I kept telling myself that I have to do this because I would always wonder what could have been if we didn’t give it one last chance. This was a “peace of mind” adventure with a possible fantastic outcome. But in that moment, staring at the back and white screen, this became more than a wish. As he marked and measured a ring of cysts in each ovary, I had a glimpse of what it would be like to have him point out a heartbeat instead. It was then that I realized that all of my eggs are (quite literally) in this basket. 

We left the hospital with drugs, charts, and a list of directions a mile long. But we also left with a whole lot of hope.

(eleven. three. twenty-twenty one.)

To Be, Or Not To Be.

I don’t know how to not be infertile. It’s truly all I have ever known. I don’t know how to not make myself physically sick over whether or not I can stomach attending another baby shower. I don’t know how to walk down the center aisle at Target–the one that passes the baby clothes. I’m almost 40 years old, so you would think I would eventually get over it. But, for the last decade of my life, these conscious and subconscious decisions have been a constant ache in the back of my mind. Like a bad knee, it doesn’t really stop you from doing things, but you always know it’s there and sometimes it hurts like hell. 

Which brings me to the point of this post…I don’t know how to do this. This time, I have decided to be open along the journey. I don’t understand why infertility is “supposed to be” something you suffer in silence. Throughout the first decade of this nightmare, I was ridiculously concerned about burdening others with my pain. And while I’ll probably never be the type to just openly talk about “how I’m feeling” (I cringed just typing that), I do think there is value in understanding others’ walks of life–sometimes for the sake of knowing a path you will never experience, and sometimes to know you’re not alone when your path feels like the only one full of thorn bushes. So, here I am…telling my story. Or the internet-appropriate parts of it at least. 

In the spirit of sharing this story, I have told people what’s going on with me this time. I have posted about it on social media. Some people are interested and want to know more, while others want to quickly change the subject. For the record, I’m good with either. 

I have come to realize, though, that I speak my story with a tone of trepidation. I think this is a defense mechanism–an adaptation that has evolved over time. More than once I’ve been asked, “Aren’t you excited?” Answer: Yes. Also answer: Not yes. I find myself currently in this weird in-between stage. I want to be excited. I really do. I even find these short windows in which I’ll allow myself to ponder baby names or search nursery ideas on Pinterest. Hell, yesterday I found myself researching baby monitors (Yes, I’m an enneagram 5), before slamming the lid of my laptop mid-search and walking away in a panic. Because these windows…these windows are damn scary. When hope starts peeking in, that distance to fall becomes higher. And I don’t know about you…but heights can be terrifying. 

In summary…I don’t really know how to be infertile. I figured this road out on my own over the years, and I’m sure I didn’t do it right. But also, I’m learning I don’t really know how to not be infertile either.

(ten. twenty-four. twenty twenty-one.)

The Magic of Three

The phrase “third time’s the charm” is rooted in the ancient belief that the number three is magical. I sure as hell hope there is some truth to that. As I sit here tonight, I could use all the magic I can get.

Today, Justin and I began our third, and likely final, journey down the road of infertility treatment. The previous two attempts, being obviously unsuccessful, have left their fair share of scar tissue clouding my heart and mind when it comes to trying to conceive. I’m not sure what it is, but something tells me this time will be different. So, here I begin this blog. This story of Us: While We Wait.

For the sake of story telling, let me back up. At 39 and 41 years old, this is not something we planned to do again. Three months ago to the day (there’s that magic number again), I began experiencing frequent and excessive periods, with new cycles beginning every 13-15 days. Frustrating. Draining. Exhausting. Scary.

My first attempt at answers was with my family doctor who told me I was anemic (no shock there) and likely peri-menopausal. In a word, I was devastated. The periods continued and I was then referred to a gynecologist, Dr. Mitro. Here, after a series of tests, I was told it could be: cancer, fibroids, or a hormone imbalance. More tests confirmed a hormone imbalance likely due to my PCOS. Dr. Mitro said we could treat this with hormone therapy, which would take away any chance of ever getting pregnant. Or, if I still had the desire to become pregnant, he could refer me to a fertility specialist. So this is how I found myself in the care of Dr. Reshef, my third (3!!) doctor in the last three months.

Today we saw Dr. Reshef for the first time and developed an “aggressive and judiciously swift” course of action. In the world of fertility, 39 is geriatric. Literally. In less than a month, I will be back on fertility drugs. I have hope as this is a new one that wasn’t around the prior two times we attempted infertility drugs. We both really liked Dr. Reshef. We found him both competent and compassionate, and like I said…I feel good about it this time. Judiciously optimistic, to borrow his phrase.

I am a ball of emotions, feeling all the things. At this point, I don’t know if I am more terrified at the thought of my last attempt at carrying my own child being unsuccessful OR actually becoming a parent at the end of this. At forty years old, are we crazy?! Probably. But, that’s a story for another day. Today I am going to pray to the fertility gods and the “magic of three” that this actually works.

(ten. eighteen. twenty-twenty one.)

Here we go.