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I’ve been weepy the past few days. I’m sure it’s partly hormones and exhaustion (Lupron, AF, the holidays, J’s family, 5 days of Southern food-induced constipation – that’s PLENTY of cause for tears). It started in earnest on my cab ride home from the airport, and then I crumpled into a red-faced, teary mess when I got home. It’s a good think J stayed down South a couple of extra days, because he would have been so worried to see me that upset. There’s something about coming home to an IVF cycle that can really do a number on a girl’s emotional stability. You’re away, distracted by other things, feeling like a normal person, and then the reality smacks you in the face – YOU’RE INFERTILE. It’s a tough one to assimilate, because no one ever anticipates ending up here. When I was in that cab, a blanket of sadness descended on me: “My eggs are crap. I’m not ever going to be able to have my own biological child. It’s something most people take for granted, but it’s not in the cards for me. EVER.” It’s kind of mind-blowing. I had this petulant 3-year-old-like thought, “But I have some GOOD qualities that might have been nice to pass on.” You have to imagine it with a whine and a stomped foot for the full effect.
So, I thought I’d list the traits I’m sad not to pass on. Maybe I can argue away some of that sadness. It’s debatable which of these are inheritable, anyway, right?
1. I’m sad not to pass on my eyes. It’s one of the traits I like best about myself – kind of large, round, blue eyes with thick eyelashes. I could have tried to search for a donor with similar eyes (we found one who looked more like me than the donor we finally chose), but eye color didn’t come near to trumping intelligence, temperament, and interests for me. This is the most superficial of my regrets, but it hits me the hardest when I see other mothers with their children. I scan the adult face and the small one, looking for similarities. Of course, J’s eyes aren’t blue, so our kids could have easily ended up with brown, green, or hazel eyes, anyway. It’s silly, I know.
2. I have a passionate love for beauty and a sensitivity to it. Now, I don’t know if that’s something that can be taught or not. Maybe a little bit, but I think it’s also just part of my make-up. It’s the ability to be really moved by things – a combination of words, a color, a photograph, a piece of music. I guess that’s one of the qualities that feels most essentially “me”. That’s something I would have liked to have shared with my child. I really hope I still can.
4. I have a strong sense of empathy. It’s not always the easiest trait to have, but I still value it. I think that can be taught, though. J is pretty damn empathetic for a man, and our donor seems to be, so that’s reassuring.
5. I love to dance and am pretty good at it. I got this from my dad and my grandmother. In the scheme of things, not so important, though. I can teach my kid to enjoy dancing – that’s the important thing.
6. I think I have strong drive to try to be a good person, to treat people well, and to try to do something worthwhile with my life. Sometimes I’m more successful than others, and I don’t know how much real good I’m doing with my life right now, but at least it’s a drive that’s a part of me. I guess it’s a sense of altruism. Can that be taught? Probably.
7. I’m curious. I’m interested in a lot of things and always like learning. That’s definitely teachable. I believe kids innately have this quality and then it’s unfortunately pounded out of them by peer pressure and crappy teachers.
When I look at it carefully, I think the qualities that I really value about myself ARE teachable qualities, or they’re qualities that my donor also has. They’re things I still can share with my child. And then there are the things – either serious or trivial – I’m happy NOT to pass on:
1. Possible risk of infertility. My cycles have always been irregular, so I’m not positive it’s only age-related.
2. Sensitive, fair, delicate skin. SUCH a pain.
3. Hips and thighs that make jean shopping a pain in the ass. Petite and curvy is not easy to shop for.
4. Allergies and asthma. J has asthma and food allergies, and so do I, so it’s good that we have a donor who won’t add to that genetic risk, at least.
5. There’s a good chance my child would have ended up being a Cystic Fibrosis carrier, because I have two mutations – luckily minor and non-symptomatic (a surprise fun fact I found out when we first saw an RE – that’s a whole OTHER story).
6. It wouldn’t hurt to give my kids several more inches in height than I have.
7. A decent amount of anxiety and insomnia seems to run in my family. It’d be nice to spare them that.
I always feel comforted when I read our donor’s profile. Her temperament and outlook on life are very similar to mine, actually. I believe she has a sensitivity to beauty like I do and that she’s constantly curious. She seems to want to make a difference in the world (she’s an ER nurse), and to help people. She seems kind, warm, and generous. She’s maybe less tightly-wound than I am, which would definitely be a plus. She even loves to read the classics, is interested in the arts, and is left-handed, like me. All in all, I’m not giving up that much, when I really look at it carefully. Will it matter that my child’s eyes are almond shaped instead of round, that he or she has olive skin instead of pink and white? Not so much. I’ll be able to teach my child to view the world with wonder and to live with integrity and passion. That’s what really matters.
God, if only this will work. Please let it work.
A couple of years ago, when the baby-making journey had just started to become an out-and-out, tooth and nail struggle, I spotted a bunch of boxes in my in-laws’ guest room closet. These boxes were labeled on the outside with marker, and appeared to be full of hand crocheted baby blankets, booties, and bonnets, stacked away gathering dust. Seeing those carefully labeled and stowed boxes not surprisingly brought up a ton of complicated emotions at the time. It felt wonderful to know that J’s family was waiting with so much love for the children we would someday have. I was incredibly sad, of course, that we still didn’t have a baby to wrap in those blankets (ok, “sad” doesn’t begin to touch it, but you all know firsthand what I mean). I was also thankful that J’s parents respected our privacy enough not to say anything about our continual childlessness (Other than J’s mother wanting us to drink holy water that one time. That was interesting. We declined, but looking back, maybe we should have given it a shot. It probably would have been as effective as the 2 IUIs and 4 IVS…and a lot cheaper and less painful). The months and years of failed attempts went on, and every once in a while I’d think of those items carefully, silently, and patiently laid away for us.
Then we arrive at his family’s house for this Christmas visit. As I set my suitcase down I see a cardboard box made into a dog bed – with a baby-sized afghan wadded up inside to pad it. I think I brought it to J’s attention in a sarcastic, joking kind of way. I’m sure he didn’t realize quite how much it bothered me. I’m not sure I did at first. It rankled, though, and my discomfort about it grew in intensity as the days passed. Every time I looked at it, I felt angry that someone used that blanket – the one meant for our baby – for the dog. It felt like they gave up on us. Like they wadded up our hope and trashed it.
J’s family (like most families) has a black sheep – his younger brother. He’s an unemployed, sulky, self-involved guy who mopes around and mooches off of everyone. As long as I’ve known him, he’s refused to contribute to anything (cooking or cleaning or any adult conversation). He just shows up to eat the food other people prepare and then skulks off afterwards, leaving his mess behind. This black sheep had recently installed himself into the room that contained those future-baby boxes. I knew he had moved a bunch of things out of there when he made that room his unemployment base of operation. I decided (not with any real proof, of course) that he was also the one who desecrated my baby’s blanket. Now, that’s one DAMN good way to piss off an infertile!
There were other things that put the Black Sheep in my bad books this visit. His shameless refusal to contribute to the family in any small way was particularly blatant this year. And then he “accidentally” took and used my cell phone to call his girlfriend. I’d have leant him my phone if he’d asked, but he just took it and then lied about it. It made me feel really vulnerable and violated because of all the IF-related tweets, voicemails, and contacts on my phone (and then there’s the fact that he told me such bold-faced, unbelievable lie). Despite all that, I don’t think my fury would have had the heat and laser-like focus it developed if I hadn’t thought he also did away with my baby “hope chest”. I relished the glares I shot across the room at him, and I wouldn’t let him eat ANY of our best gingerbread men. Take that, you Black Sheep Baby Blanket Desecrator!
Later on, J and I were actually able to take a look in the closet. My love for my husband grew exponentially because he didn’t once try to tell me I was overreacting about the baby blanket. Luckily, stacked up high behind the Black Sheep’s piles of junk were those same, familiar, precious dusty boxes – intact. We peaked in them and saw the sweetest, most delicate white baby blankets and tiny bonnets, carefully folded in tissue. It seemed that our hope chest was still safe, so I didn’t mind letting the dog use that one little blanket. And I decided to spare the Black Sheep my most scathing wrath (which can be pretty formidable). I downgraded him from “Mortal Enemy” status to “Seriously Annoying Loser Brother-in-Law” status.
It’s been a pretty emotional and exhausting several days. I got to spend a lot of time with my little niece, which was great. We baked cookies, drew pictures, and made Christmas decorations. I kept myself together when she asked me and J if we wanted to have kids. J very deftly started joking about something to keep the mood light. She (who is 8) offered to babysit.
I also got to be with J while he visited his very old and ailing grandmother in the hospital. He’s her favorite, so even though she’s not always conscious now and isn’t recognizing people, her face lit up when she saw him. He spent a lot of time sitting with her and talking to her, very gently stroking her cheek with his finger. I was overwhelmed with gratitude to have a husband who knows how to love so generously and so well.
Today I’ve been super weepy. I was chalking it up to exhaustion and then I remembered I took my last BCP two nights ago. Cycle day one is likely to be tomorrow. And here we go…
I’m waiting for my new charm pendants to arrive in the mail. I got one that says “L’esperance me soutient” (hope sustains me ) with an anchor on it, and a tiny mother sea turtle pendant (thanks to Plum and Posy and Hint on Etsy). The superstitious part of me feels like I have to mix things up this time so that I get a different result from all our other attempts. Of course, the rational part of me knows that the shift to younger, healthy eggs is the one thing that’ll (hopefully) make the difference (I’m not a total wack-job), but what the hell.
The past couple of days I’ve become increasingly aware of my wish that there was something I could DO to help make it work this time. I felt an itch to search “how to prepare your body for a DE IVF cycle” on the internet. I was wishing there was some diet or tea or yoga pose that could push the odds in our favor. I really think it’s that frustrated desire to help things along that gets funneled into my desire for these magic charms. Believe me, I’ve had it rammed into my consciousness by now that this is completely out of my control. The embryos will either stick around or they won’t. It won’t really matter whether I get acupuncture, cut out sugar completely, meditate once a day or not. They’re either healthy embryos or they’re not. But being passive is just not fun. I’m not very good at it.
I’m fine most of the time these days. Still mostly hopeful and productive on other fronts. It’s the moment when I relax in bed at the end of the day. Then the fear and sadness creep in a little. The knowledge that it might not work, the discomfort of it being out of my control. I expressed this to J last night, and he was very sweet. It’s interesting, because his response is often “We have to remember we’re doing our best.” I guess that thought is comforting to him, but it does nothing for me. It drives me crazy that our “doing our best” makes no difference at all in the end. All we can do is wait and hope.
My meds arrive today. They’ll be here a little ahead of time, since I want to make sure I have my Lupron well before needing to fly for the holidays. I’m a little stressed about having to travel with the meds. It used to be that Lupron didn’t have to be refrigerated after you started using it, but I guess (because of the shortage) they’re now not made with preservatives, so they have to be kept cold all the time. Luckily, I bought a soft lunch bag for a previous mid-cycle trip that I can fill with mini ice packs. I’m not as concerned about security at the airport; I’ll make sure I have a letter and that everything is labeled. I don’t exactly look like a shady type, so hopefully it’ll go smoothly. I’m most nervous about dealing with the ice packs at J’s family’s house. They don’t know about the IVF at all, so I’ll have to be sneaking ice packs in and out of the freezer and hope that no one will notice or ask why I’m doing that. Not fun. J tells me that I have nothing to worry about, but that’s his usual response. Luckily, I’m less sensitive and stressed about cycling than I have been at the past, and VERY luckily, J’s family seems extremely respectful of privacy and boundaries. Otherwise, that situation would cause me some serious anxiety. Now, it’s just a little minor uneasiness.
Our donor contract has been completed and our attorney sent legal clearance to our clinic. Yesterday, I got a list of all the meds our donor will be taking. It’s crazy to see for the first time how much the IVF meds really cost. Follitism is over $3000. Menopur is about $1700. I never forget how incredibly lucky I am to have had insurance coverage for most of my cycles. It’s such a crazy, lucky accident that we happened to move to Massachusetts before even knowing we had to deal with IF.
It was strange hearing the guy at the fertility pharmacy talking about calling my donor to schedule delivery. She’s so intimately connected to us, but we’ll never speak to her. I’m starting to put together a little thank you gift for her. It makes me feel really good to do this. It makes the upcoming cycle real to me, and it feels good to express the gratitude and fondness I feel towards her. I know I’m incredibly lucky to have found such a wonderful donor. I can honestly say to our child/children that we searched through hundreds of profiles to find the perfect donor, and that she’s a kind, warm, smart, intellectually curious person we felt was the perfect person to help us make our family. Her profile says that she loves to read, so I got her nice hardcopies of two classics (one my favorite book). I’m also putting together a care package of treats for her post-retrieval time – an assortment of teas, cookies, and chocolates. And a thank you card – unsigned, of course.
What a strange, sci-fi experience to go through, though. The clinic nurse explained that when J goes in for his “donation” he’ll have to exit the clinic through a different passage, so that there’s no chance of their accidentally seeing each other in the waiting room. The donor’s husband and baby will probably be there, too. How incredibly odd to think that there will be half-siblings to my kids out there…
Every once in awhile my thoughts will creep to the possibility of this cycle not working. The thought is just too terrifying. It feels like the precipitous drop off of a huge cliff. I tell myself that we’ll cope with it the way we’ve coped with everything else. I reassure myself again and again that I have the strength. But there’s this nugget of fear buried in there – that if this DE cycle doesn’t work there’s a possibility that there’s some mysterious, unknowable, untreatable reason even egg donation won’t work for us. Just some mysterious reason I can NEVER GET PREGNANT. After trying for so many years and not once having (even an unsuccessful) pregnancy, it is really hard to believe it can ever happen. Frankly, the thought of my becoming pregnant feels like more of a miracle than the story of Jesus’ conception. Because of that, I’ve been thinking of the word “miracle” a lot lately. It’s not a word that your average agnostic thinks of often, but I guess that’s what infertility does to you.
So, I finally heard from the nurse manager at our clinic, and luckily she responded to my concerns in a really receptive and professional way. I guess our donor egg coordinator was getting overwhelmed by her workload. She’s new to the position, and it sounds like she needs a little more supervision and support. The manager also explained how their clinic protocol could have made her slip-up possible. They keep the donor’s file and my file completely separate, and never have one opened when they’re talking to the other person. This prevents accidental slip-ups revealing anything about either’s identity. Now, this isn’t an excuse by any means, but understanding this makes her mistake a little less troubling to me. I can see how it could have happened. The manager also told me that once my donor gets her next period and we begin the cycle in earnest, we move under the supervision of the IVF nurses anyway. So, that’s all reassuring.
I have an appointment with my therapist today to hopefully stop my Zoloft completely. I think I’ve been doing pretty well on the lowest dose, so it’ll be interesting to see how I do with nothing at all. I wouldn’t be surprised if there’s a little period of adjustment, especially where my sleep is concerned. I’ve been paying attention, though, and I think I generally feel pretty happy. I’ve been falling asleep easily, and seem to be able to get myself to recover and relax after stressful incidents. I wonder if I somehow just didn’t know how to do that very well before. That’s definitely something I want to teach my children. I think it’s probably often overlooked. Stressful and anxiety-producing events just happen in life, and the earlier a kid knows how to recognize those feelings and work on self-soothing, the better.
I got a little down on Saturday. I’m incredibly happy to be home and not traveling, but it’s really tough to be working from home and not having much contact with people during the day. I just got this feeling of pointlessness. I have things on my to-do list, and I have actual work to do, but I suddenly felt that most of it is just busywork – that it could happen today or tomorrow or the day after. It’s also not easy not having a reason to get dressed and look decent during the day. On the one hand, it’s nice to be able to stay in your yoga pants all day, but it’s not great for my self esteem (or my diet). I think this feeling of pointlessness partly stems from my impatience to be doing the work that really feels important to me right now – mothering. I feel like I’m just marking time until then.
Sunday I checked out a nearby Unitarian church and that helped me a lot. One, it was nice to have a reason to try to look nice. And coincidentally, the sermon really spoke to what I was grappling with. It was all about learning to live your life with integrity and searching for the path to becoming your best self. This quote really stuck with me, too: “The spiritual quest is learning how to live more fully now”. The more I think about any of these things, the more I think I should change careers and move to education. Of course, my main drive right now is raising and teaching my own kid, but I know I would feel like I’m doing something important and fulfilling with my life if I were teaching. It’s just that I need having a baby to be a catalyst for that transition. Chucking my current career and completely starting over is too scary without that…it just is. The thought of announcing that I’VE QUIT and refusing any incoming jobs without another career there to take it’s place – terrifying.
There was this other quote at the church service that struck me as being incredibly beautiful: LISTEN AND LAY YOUR HEAD UNDER THE TREE OF AWE. Stunning. That’s what I need to remember: if I can revel daily in the complicated beauty of life, I’m not just marking time until my baby arrives.