Killingmesoftly-One woman's quest to survive infertility

Killingmesoftly-One woman's quest to survive infertility

Tuesday, September 24, 2019

Still on the bench

I was never an athletic child.  More of the nerdy braniac in fact.  I'm also a child of the 80's, which means I grew up in a time before everyone got a ribbon at soccer tournaments and before their was a collective national concern for our self-esteems.   So I have distinct and somewhat painful memories of middle school gym class.  Maybe some of you who are old enough remember it.  Two teams are created and team captains elected.  Then everyone stands in the middle of the room, and the captains pick who they want on their team.  Harmless enough in theory.  Unless you're one of the last people picked.  I remember the feeling of panic as the desirable athletes were invited to join each team and the crowd got smaller and smaller.  I remember the shame of feeling unworthy to be chosen, of be unwanted, of being left behind.

Fast forward 30 years, and although so much distance has been put between myself and those days, that feeling of being "different",  "defective", "unworthy" has resurfaced as a result of this fertility journey.   Each and every time someone announces a pregnancy, I am brought back to that place, to middle school gym class.  I am twelve again,  awkward and hopeful, waiting to be picked,  trying not to show everyone how much I want it, scared that I will never be chosen.  

Pregnancy announcements are always tough for me, and each one stirs up different emotions.  When a dear friend announces a first or second pregnancy, I am filled with joy for them but it is a joy intertwined with envy, disappointment, panic, and grief.  Visions of being pregnant with them, of  being on maternity leave together, and of celebrating our children's milestones together fade away.    The joy I feel for their miracle stands in sharp contrast to the pain being left behind on the journey.  If it is someone who has multiple children already I find myself resentful of their good fortune, and then of course, embarrassed by that resentment.   Seeing how effortless getting pregnant seems to be for them when it it clearly out of reach for me taps into my feelings of being defective.   If it is a friend who has been struggling with infertility it is the easiest for me to celebrate.  I understand the trauma they have been through and I rejoice with them.  It also hits me the hardest, because it's lonely on Infertility Island, and it's hard to lose the people standing there by your side.  They still love and support me of course, but it's different.  Their focus shifts to their babies as it should, and I am left shouldering the burden of chronic infertility on my own.  

So, how do I handle this so that I can feel gracious, joyful, and present around my pregnant friends and coworkers?  By honoring and respecting where I'm at, and by giving myself the grace and space I need.  I am working on acceptance- of myself, my situation, and my emotions- and I have been using affirmations to help myself with this.  I say things like, "I accept and respect all of my emotions",  "I accept the space I need to heal", and "I accept myself completely in every moment." That may mean that I need to give myself permission to cry, to take Facebook holidays, to miss a baby shower, or to skip out of baby focused conversations in the hallways.  I take my time to process my feelings and lick my wounds so that when I am around pregnant women, I can give them the best of me. 

I am still on the bench, and it's not easy, so I just let myself feel the muddy mix of happiness, pain, gratitude, and longing.  That complexity, that depth of feeling, that capacity for love in the face of pain- that's what makes us human, and that is the richness of spirit we will impart on our children.

Monday, July 29, 2019

The Space In Between

The act of labor is a powerful act of creation.  The effort it takes both body and mind to bring a new soul into this world is unparalleled.  It is not for the faint of heart.  It is difficult, but it has a wisdom all it's own, and I realized through conversation with a friend recently that it is rich with lessons that can guide us through this infertility journey we are all on.

As you may know from my last post, none of the embryos we created from our donor in the Ukraine this June made it to blastocyst stage due to sperm issues, which was a crushing blow.  Right after I received the news,  I jumped into "doing" mode to fix it.  I researched new clinics, had skype interviews several times a week with doctors, and contacted my local ivf doctor about ways to improve sperm quality.  I got lab orders for tests we needed, got medical records sent to the new clinic, and arranged all the travel for my husband to head overseas for our next attempt. This was all incredibly time consuming and each task felt so urgent.   So what have I been doing since I sent my husband off to do his part?   Well, I've done.... drumroll....nothing.  Absolutely nothing.  I haven't contacted the doctor to see how things went.  I haven't done any research about fertility topics.  I haven't created any new fitness/health routines to prepare me for transfer.  I haven't looked at any fertility forums.  I haven't obsessed about this round of ivf or worried about the outcome.Some days I've actually forgotten about it most of the day.  I've literally done nothing.

Anyone who knows me will tell you this is a huge departure from how I've handled my fertility cycles in the past.  Waiting periods felt endless, and I filled the time with mental and emotional busyness.  I was constantly on fertility forums.  I was always coming up with plans to improve my fertility and health to be ready for treatment.  I was always, always stressed, worried, or sad, and I never stopped thinking about my fertility.   I think I felt somehow that putting anything less than 110% of my effort and heart into every minute of every day was in some way giving up on my child, or communicating to the universe that I wasn't completely committed to him/her.   That somehow my level of emotional pain and stress proved my dedication and worthiness to having this baby; as if I could just will him/her into existence through the sheer act of wanting.   Maybe that makes sense to you as you read this, maybe I sound crazy, but in a process that has often felt so out of my control, all the planning, and researching, lifestyle modifications, thinking, obsessing, and worrying made me feel like I was DOING something to bring my child here.   As my conversation with my friend turned to childbirth though, I gained some insights and realized that my approach needed modifying.  I know childbirth can be a touchy subject for an infertility blog, but let me explain.

I am blessed to have a son via IUI who is three, but bringing him into this world wasn't easy.  I went into labor on a Wednesday night, and he didn't arrive here until Friday morning after 42 hours and considerable effort.   I discovered though that contrary to the movie version of labor, giving birth is not as chaotic as it seems, and actually has a predictable rhythm to it.   Periods of intense effort, pain, and discomfort are followed by periods of rest, relaxation, and yes.. even sleep! This cycle repeats itself over and over until at long last one final push brings the baby into our arms.   And that is how it has to be, because to exist in a constant state of effort during a long, drawn out labor wouldn't be possible.  The body would tire, the mind would fatigue and rebel, and we would hinder our own efforts.  As much as I wanted to meet my son, I had to flow with the rhythm of effort-rest-effort-rest in order to bring him safely into this world.

We are all working to bring our children into this world right now.  We are in labor here on our fertility journey.  For many of us, it has been a long hard labor, with no end in sight.  We understand the effort involved in our labor-we push, we cry, we hurt, we give our all.  We are so good at working hard,  but most of us don't recognize or embrace the part of labor that is rest, restoration, and renewal so that we have the courage and strength to carry on.  Every act of guiding a new soul into this world  us to honor birth's rhythm.  There will be plenty of periods of pushing and heavy work- picking clinics, rushing to appointments, administering injections, going through egg retrievals, having transfers, surviving miscarriages- but there should also be the spaces in between  where we allow ourselves a break.  These periods are the two week wait, where we can actually... wait.  Those times between cycles where we are grounded by a cyst, or a delayed period and all we can do is wait.   Those times when we are recovering from a loss and need to give our bodies time to recover before we can start again.  Those are the times in between contractions, where we can quiet our minds, rest our bodies, refill our souls with those things that bring us light and joy so that we can move into our next cycle prepared to push again. 

So right now I rest here, in the space in between, secure in the understanding that rest is as deep and meaningful a way to prove my love and dedication to my baby as the effort is.  Rest tells my baby that I have faith she is on her way.  I am building my strength because I am certain of her arrival.  I am preparing myself to receive her.

Saturday, June 15, 2019

Learning to Lean In

Have you ever had a week that caught you off guard, knocked you off your feet, and sucker punched you in the stomach?? That, in a nutshell, has been my week:( 

When I last wrote you my lovely readers, my husband was on his way to Europe to create the little life that was meant to be with us, and I was preparing for a June transfer.  I knew that the first transfer doesn't always take, but I was sure that with a batch of healthy young eggs, eventually we'd hit the jackpot and one would stick. Such an exciting plan!  I started to show pictures of my donor to my friends, and imagine what my little one would look like.  Everything was lining up perfectly, and then- the unthinkable. All of my embryos degenerated.  No blastocysts.  No frozen babies waiting to be chosen.  No transfers.  No chances.    The clinic suggested donor sperm.  It was a bitter loss that I never saw coming.

In the face of this newest loss, this latest closed door, my first instinct was to push back.  I wanted to fight the clinic who offered a guarantee but didn't follow through when it didn't work out.  I went into fixing mode for my husband, looking for ways to improve sperm quality, ordering supplements, emailing past IVF doctors.  I looked up new donors, new clinics, sperm shipping companies, sperm testing companies.  I was in a frenzy trying to push away from this reality, and push into a new one.  But it was exhausting. 

And what if I'm missing the point?  Perhaps there is something I need to learn from this- some way I need to grow from this.  What if the lessons I need to learn are at the heart of this, and instead of pushing away, I just need to lean in and go deep? What does it mean to lean into our struggles?  For me, it means to acknowledge my emotions, to really FEEL them- all the scary,wounded and disappointed parts.  It means to move away from the busyness of doing and fixing and strategizing, and to sit with those parts in silence, with my journal, with friends, and to give those feelings a compassionate space to be.   It means to create a more flexible version of myself who is open to a wider range of possibilities than I thought were available.   

One of my greatest challenges in this process is to release control.  To learn to wait and move with the rhythm of the universe- in a calm and trusting space instead of in a panicked and worried space.  I have seen those parts of myself unfolding already(while my eggs were developing I didn't call the clinic once to check on progress!), but I want to cultivate them further.    In the past I worked so hard to control things.  To create the perfect conditions for success.  To do everything in my power to ensure the outcome I wanted.    I always believed that if I worked hard enough, I could achieve anything I wanted and bend the universe to my will.  But roadblock after roadblock is showing me that I can't control the outcome, and that I only exhaust myself trying. 

I am still taking steps to bring our baby to us, but I am trying to remember to lean into the experience rather than to fight it.  To tread lightly, to act with faith in the goodness of the universe, and to find peace in the middle of the storm.  Namaste.

Sunday, May 12, 2019


Hello my lovely readers- it's been a long time since I've written.  I haven't been gone, I've just been becoming.  Preparing to emerge.

My last IUI cycle failed, and with it, the last hope for a second genetic child.  I was emotionally exhausted, and I knew was time to move on to donor egg, but my heart just needed time to embrace this path wholeheartedly, and in order to do that, I needed to re-invent my worldview, to expand my consciousness and to deepen and broaden my understanding of love.  This is what I've been doing in my absence from you.

Last month three long years of yearning and striving ended for me.  Three long years of heartbreaks and grief so deep I felt that it would swallow me whole.  I knew that to climb out of that place of sadness, that I would need to dive deep into the heart of my pain.  So I cried.  And journaled.  And cried some more.  And meditated.  And meditated.  And meditated.   The deeper I went, the closer I came to connecting with the heart of life.  I started to understand that we are all part of the same beautiful ocean of love and energy coursing through the universe. I recognized that my baby was as much a part of the ocean as I was, and that because of this she was already, and had always been, deeply connected to my energy and my heart.  Its true that my baby won't arrive in the way I imagined, but whatever vessel brings her to me, I am already hers, and she is already mine. She is on her way.

This realization allowed me to finally emerge from that place that I inhabited for so long- a place of fear, of worry, of panic, of failure, of sadness, of shame, and of self- judgement.  Day by day I continue to step out of that shell, and step into the skin of a more powerful, a more whole, and a more peaceful woman strengthened by her struggle.   I brush off the dust.  I look in the mirror.  I am not the same.  My face is weathered but strong.  My heart is bruised, but wide open now.  I have learned to walk through the fire.  I have fought sorrow tooth and nail and now I find joy and gratitude in the simplest moments.  I had to pass through that dark night of the soul to see my true worth and realize that it isn't dependent on my fertility.

So I will seek out my baby this June overseas through the gift of life granted to us by an unknown angel.   I hope it will work on the first try, but if not, I know  on a gut level that the right baby is waiting for me and will come at just the right time.  That baby will be a child of it's donor, of it's father, and of me, but most importantly this baby will be a child of the universe and will be loved with a love as infinite as the universe itself.

We will never be the same, all of us travelers on this long road of infertility.  There is no return to the time "before", to our former lives and our former selves.  We can't go back to that moment before our diagnoses, before the needles, before the losses, before the grief.  We are fundamentally changed at our core, but there is so much beauty that arises out of that process.  Transformation can be hard, but metamorphosis is the process by which we learn to spread our wings and let our soul soar.

I send love and support out to every woman walking this painful path and undergoing her own  transformation. You are brave and you are strong.  You are heard.   Your tears matter.   Your sadness matters. Your struggles matter.  I know this isn't the path any of us hoped for or imagined walking, but I hope that it is leading us, and transforming us into the beautiful mothers we are all destined to be:).   Trust.  Love.  Hope.  Namaste. 

Monday, April 1, 2019

Waiting to Exhale

It's been seven days since my most recent, and final, IUI and I'm hardly breathing.  I'm not filled with the gut-wrenching anxiety that I usually have during the two-week wait.  Hours don't feel like days this time around.  I'm not combing fertility threads analyzing my symptoms which usually turns into my full-time job during the two-week wait.  I'm relatively calm this time around, which is a new and foreign feeling for me.  Maybe it's because after a year and a half of losses and failures I've finally accepted the option of donor egg, and have begun to see it as a gift.  Maybe it's because my heart and soul  are exhausted and I don't have the energy or strength for the hoping and longing.  Regardless of why, I still imagined that this last two-week wait would be filled with more angst and grief.   Instead, I feel frozen -unable to move.   I am waiting to breathe, waiting for the answer that is on the other side of this pregnancy test so that I can know how to move forward.

This two-week wait is always a place of limbo, but this one has been even more intense because the door with my own egg baby behind it may shut for good this time around.   In one version of this story my test is positive.  I am overjoyed, but worried.  Will this baby be ok?  Will I lose anrtother pregnancy to my translocation?  In this world I am fearful of loss, but filled with hope and possibility that this pregnancy could be a miracle.   I make plans to travel to see my family a during the summer since I won't be doing donor egg treatments.  I sign up for a wellness retreat with my best friend that we have been talking about. We buy the car we have been holding off on since we no longer have to pay for more IVF.  I dream of how my child will look, what parts of my genes he or she will inherit.  I am lost in reverie imagining it all.    In the other version of my story I am heartbroken.  I ride the wave of grief that was unexpected knowing this would probably fail.  I select a donor and pay the deposit to begin this process.  I plan a trip to the clinic overseas.  I tell family and friends that I am busy, but I don't say why (I don't want to talk about it with anyone who hasn't been through it- it's exhausting to explain, and devastating to answer questions if it fails).   I book my flights. This version of my story is much harder to imagine than the first since I have never lived through it before.  I don't know how my heart will respond or what joys and challenges will await me on my donor egg journey.

Right now though, I don't know how the story ends, and I am caught in the middle.  I can't process.  I can't grieve.  I can't plan.  I can't move forward.   In the middle, I am cautious.  I tiptoe around my feelings.  I avoid talking to friends.  I am afraid that my longing will be obvious.  I am afraid that people will ask about my fertility journey,  but I don't know where I stand right now, and talking about the two endings to this story would make them feel too real.  The middle is such a frustrating place, but it's also a magical place where anything is possible.  Life hasn't said "yes" yet, but it hasn't said "no" either and I want to hold on to that as long as I can. I take so much comfort in those slightly cracked open doors.  I am not ready to think or talk about them shutting right now.  Just a few more days to hope.  So I put off my mother when she asks about my summer plans.  I avoid my sister's phone calls.   I talk vaguely with friends about meeting up for a vacation, but I don't offer any real dates or places.    I check out car loan rates, but I never visit a dealership.    I drink one glass of wine, but not too much.  Everything is on hold.  I am waiting for the news, good or bad.  I am waiting to exhale.

Sunday, March 17, 2019

The Last Good Egg

“At the center of your being you have the answer; you know who you are and you know what you want.” – Lao Tzu

It's March 2019, and I'm on day 6 of my cycle.  I'll be doing an IUI cycle this month, and I've just started medication.  Every new cycle is filled with stress- the hoping, the hormones, the appointments, the waiting- but this cycle is especially heavy for me.  That's because it's the last one for me.  It's the end of the road with my own eggs.   The last encore from a long concert.   Roll the credits.   It's done.   The finality of it echoes through my heart.   My search for the last good egg is coming to a close.

How did I get to this point you ask?  Well, after 3 miscarriages, 3 IVF cycles, 2 IUI cycles, 4 attempted IUI cycles, and a diagnosis of chromosomal translocation in the past 2 1/2 years I'm just exhausted body, mind, and soul.  Even after my diagnosis, I kept hoping that if I just tried hard enough and gave it a shot every single cycle that I'd eventually hit jackpot.  That's how it was supposed to go, but it didn't.  Instead, life threw me every possible roadblock, and in the past 8 months I've only had two viable cycles.   Life threw me a stomach virus, a yeast infection, and a bladder infection- all at moments in my cycle key for conception.  It threw me months without any follicles, and months where my hormones didn't rise at all in response to medication.  Month after month obstacles rose up and I kept fighting and hoping, but now I'm weary.  I'm tired of having my life on pause.  I'm tired of the crying, of the losses, of the endless waiting. I'm tired of the ups and downs my body, my mind, my life, and marriage goes through each month.  I feel like all these obstacles are the universe's way of shouting at me that it's time to seek my baby elsewhere.  My body simply is refusing to come along for another ride on the fertility roller coaster, and I'm tired of trying to drag it along.

I'm an avid reader of fertility forums.  I love the idea of a community of women lifting each other up and carrying each other through the hard times.  One of the questions I often see from women is about the decision to move on to donor egg.    "I know it's the best decision, but I just don't feel ready.  How will I know when I should move on?" they ask.    I'm sure it's different for every woman, but for me, it was my last failed cycle.  Something in me broke, and I just knew.  I felt at peace.  I even started to feel excited!  Things moved pretty quickly then.  I found a clinic overseas.  Connected with the clinic director.  Had a Skype appointment with the doctor.  Got a list of donors.  Sent over all my paperwork and test results.  Made appointments for additional tests they required but didn't have  Picked a transfer day at the end of June.   Looked at day tours for the city I would be in.  Imagined my baby in my arms.

Still- there is this last IUI.  I had one more cycle of medication in my house.  I didn't want to waste it, and I felt like I needed this one last cycle for some final closure.  Maybe my last good egg is waiting for me this cycle, but if it's not, I'm honestly ready for what's next.  I want my child so deeply, and I'm ready to come for him/her now, even if I have to cross oceans to do it.     I've had nine months since my last miscarriage to grieve my own eggs, to go through a healing process, to cry, to let go, and finally, to dream of the baby waiting for me.  Nine months is long enough to create a baby, and it seems like it was just what I needed to grow myself into a woman who could view motherhood and family through a different lens.  Nine months was what I needed to let go of what was "supposed to" happen, and embrace the beautiful reality of creating a child through egg donation.

So to all the women who are asking how they will know if they're ready for donor egg, or surrogacy, or adoption, or any other less traditional path to motherhood- I think the answer is in your heart.   We feel pressured to listen to doctors.  To listen to statistics.  To listen to "logic".    But love, and longing and the creation of new life are not logical- they are soulful, and so it only makes sense to listen to our souls.  When you tune out all the other voices, and listen only to your own, you will know when you are ready.   And who knows- maybe on that journey to acceptance you might bump into your last good egg, but whatever the outcome, when you listen to your heart and honor your own voice you can't go wrong.

Sunday, March 3, 2019

Heart of Life

I cry a lot these days.  
Sometimes over things that are clearly sad- a friend’s struggle, a negative pregnancy test.  Other times over things that simply evoke a powerful emotion-a mournful song, a tender memory, a poignant movie, the sound of my son breathing as he drifts into sleep.  Case in point- right now listening to a soulful song and crying in Starbucks as I type this.  
This is odd and new for me.  In college I was known for being the girl who never cried at even the saddest movie.  I’ve always prided myself on being tough and logical.  Crying in public was not something I ever imagined myself doing.   So when the wave of tears sneaks up on me, I’m always taken aback.   Have I changed?  Has infertility made me into a weepy woman tearing up in coffee shops and grocery store lines?  I don’t think so.  
I think that infertility has actually uncovered the parts of my heart capable of the deepest and most meaningful feelings and experiences.   I didn’t realize how deeply I had  buried that part of me as I worked so hard to protect myself from the bumps and bruises of life until month after month of failure and loss started chipped away at my exterior.  My layers of protection were peeled back each time my heart broke, and I haven’t had the time or strength to build them up again before the next wounding happens.  My heart pulses right below the surface now.   I used to think this would be the scariest place to be, and it is, but it has also given me such a rich appreciation for everything life has given me.  That deep soulful tender place that cries and mourns and yearns is also the birthplace of joy.  My challenge is to find a way to hold space for my grief instead of trying to push it so far beneath the surface and ignore my voice.   I like how close the joys are now.  I like how much more authentic I feel, and I don’t want to lose that.   I don’t want to return my heart and soul to it’s secluded fortress. I want to let my heart live closer to life, with all messiness, joy and sorrow that comes with that.

                                       " Pain throws your heart to the ground
                                                Love turns the whole thing around
                                                No, it won't all go the way, it should
                                                But I know the heart of life is good”-
  John Mayer

Saturday, February 23, 2019

At the Intersection of Joy and Sorrow

This weekend I attended the baby shower of a dear friend of mine.  After struggling with infertility for many years she had been through it all- own egg IVF, donor egg IVF, multiple miscarriages, and finally donor embryo.   This baby represented years of hoping and striving, so I was determined to be there, even though it was 85 miles away.  It was a long journey that took me far from home but when I finally arrived, I realized that I had ended up right back in a familiar and frequently visited place.  The intersection between joy and sorrow. 

Deep emotions tend to inhabit the same spaces in our hearts and this is true for joy and sorrow.  I'm surprised at how often it catches me off guard though.  I was truly and sincerely happy for my friend.  My heart had ached for her during her struggles and loss, and this baby was a hard won blessing- a true and miraculous gift!!  Her baby was not only a wondrous gift for her, also a beacon of hope for me in the darkness of infertility.  But that same baby who stirred up feelings of joy and excitement in me also triggered feelings of pain and loss.  Watching my friend open baby clothes reminded me of the newborn clothes sitting untouched in my home- clothes I had lovingly purchased when I heard my second baby's heartbeat.   Seeing those clothes reminded me of that baby I had lost, and the ones after.  Seeing her round belly made me painfully aware of my empty one.  I went to the bathroom.  I cried.  In the midst of all that excitement and beauty, pain had snuck up on me and made it's voice heard.

The unexpected intersection of these two seemingly opposite feelings- joy and sorrow- often happens for me now   The joy of a positive pregnancy test is immediately followed by the pain of knowing it will likely be unsuccessful given my age and chromosomal condition.  My son's birthday fills me with delight which is followed quickly by sorrow of knowing that he is getting older and I haven't given him a sibling yet.   The joy I feel as I imagine giving birth to a donor egg child is met with the grief of my lost biology and all my years of failure.   

In these moments I find myself at a crossroads, and I know need to make a choice.   This odd intersection where my emotions collide is just a place to pass through, not a place to stay.  In one direction I  see joy stretched out before me.  In the other direction I see the path of pain, sorrow, loss, and grief.  I know that I can't move in both directions at once.   I have to choose, and for the sake of my future child, I know that I need to move towards joy.   So I take the time I need at the crossroads to fully feel my pain, and to honor it in my life.  Then I pick my head up wipe my tears, take a step in the direction of joy, and start walking.  

Sunday, February 10, 2019

Collateral Damage- Part 2

It was a beautiful wedding.  A warm perfect summer evening in June.  A small group of beloved family and friends.  A heartfelt exchange of vows framed by rolling hills and a small lake.  A hopeful start to a wonderful life.   Happily ever after. 

Fast forward 3 1/2 years, and we're fighting again.   This time about a new car he wants us to buy.   I want to hold off for a few months. Donor egg is on the horizon-a huge cost.  The car would eventually become my main car, so I want to be involved in picking it out, but I’m overwhelmed at the thought of making several big decisions at once.  We have to pick a clinic, a program, and a donor.  I have to process through the pain of letting go of my own egg.  There is no bandwidth in my mind for anything else right now.  I want to wait until summer when the big decisions will have already been made, and we'll be moving forward with DE treatment.  Our original argument about the car eventually and predictably circles back to the real cause of our discord.   He’s upset that we‘re always stuck in a holding pattern.  That we can’t make plans or big decisions.    That we spend all available cash on treatments that never work.   He feels that we are trapped by this quest of ours.  He questions if we should stop.  I don't disagree with anything he says, but every cell in my body knows that I can't stop until my baby is in my arms.  We are at a stalemate.

This is just one of the many many fights we find ourselves in with fertility at its core.   We have fought about everything from how undesirable sex has started to feel, to work time that he has to miss for our many appointments.  We have fought about family visits that we haven’t been able to make because we need to stay near our clinic, about opportunities we have had to pass up to continue treatments, about general restrictions on our time, money, and we even argue about the stress than a new baby would bring since we have no family here and would have no money left to hire help.

It didn't start out this way.  At the beginning I was sad, he was supportive, and we were hopeful.  But this is a long journey, and we didn't train for a marathon.  We have been on the fertility roller coaster since one month after our wedding in 2015.  We started right away with the appointments, tests, grim news, stress, treatments.  Not exactly the lighthearted romantic kickoff to married life I would have liked.  Our son was conceived via IUI, and just when we were starting to find our stride as parents and reconnect as a couple we started treatments again.  What followed has been two years or living by my cycle, spending our cash on treatments, timed fertility sex, and lots and lots of changes to plans.  This fertility journey never goes the way we thought it would, so we’re always readjusting plans and expectations.  We handle the stress in different ways and have different supports.   Our feelings of loss are different.  Our moments of crisis don’t align. Sometimes it is hard to connect, even as we are both hurting.  Perhaps the worst part is that there's no end it sight, so we don't even know how long we have to hold on for and when we can hope for relief.  It’s eating away at us day by day, month by month, year by year- a slow corrosion of what we brought to the alter on our wedding day. 

My husband is a wonderful man, and I hope we’ll be ok, but I’ve seen the statistics on divorce and infertility, and they scare me. I don’t know what his breaking point it, what mine is, or what ours is as a couple.  We are in uncharted territory here, and as hard as it is to navigate survival individually, it’s seems even harder to navigate survival as a couple.  These were supposed to be our first blissful years of marriage-our honeymoon period.  Infertility took that from us, but I am hopeful that walking through the fire like this will forge an even deeper and more loving lifetime bond.  I dream of how it will be in the other side of this.  I will never be the same person I was before, and I know we can never be the same couple we were before, but hopefully we can transform into something better, richer, and deeper than we ever imagined.

Sunday, February 3, 2019

Tales from the Other Side

This summer, after three IVF cycles over a one year period with no viable embryos to transfer and my third pregnancy loss (naturally conceived), we discovered that I also had balanced translocation in addition to my age/egg quality issues.  We decided that my age combined with my chromosome issue made continued IVF a very expensive gamble that we weren't willing to take.  The odds were just too low, and the doctors were clear that donor egg was my only realistic option.  In the months that have followed I have been working on coming to terms with letting go of a genetic connection with my next baby and embracing donor eggs, but I'm still in the grieving process and I'm not quite ready to move on.  I've done some low tech IUI cycles this fall and winter, and this month we tried a medicated timed intercourse cycle.  Most days telling this story of repeated failures and broken dreams would leave me in tears, but today I feel positive and optimistic.  Why?  It's because it's only day three of the TWW.  The first four or five days are my sweet spot and I'm always pretty upbeat.  I let myself feel free to believe that the cycle was a success and that I'm pregnant.  The pregnancy test is far enough in the future that I know I won't have to face any evidence to contradict my belief.   I'm dreaming of rainbows and riding high on hope! (week two of the TWW is a different story, but that's another post for another time).

So today, I want to showcase hope and pay tribute to some of the amazing women who have helped spark and sustain hope in me during difficult times.  All of these women have been incredibly brave in sharing their moments of pain with the world in order to uplift others who are struggling.  Each woman has a unique story, and has come to motherhood in a slightly different way.  They have all made it to the other side of infertility, and are here to light a way for those of us still in the dark night of that path. I hope that in their stories and successes all  of you are able to be inspired and find strength.

1)Meet Julia Idichova.  Her story is one of conception against all odds, and she has been a strength and guide for me since the very start of my journey.  Julia's story was similar to mine: advanced maternal age, low AMH, high FSH, mother of one child yearning for a second.   Julia documents her struggle to conceive in her book Inconceivable: A Woman's Triumph over Despair and Statistics, where she tells of  being turned away from IVF clinics because of her high FSH.  Julia proceeds to explore a variety of options from IUI to  surrogacy to alternative healing experiences.  After making sweeping changes to her diet and lifestyle and lowering her FSH, she  eventually goes to see one more specialist hoping for a better outcome.   Spoiler alert: Julia was never treated by the specialist.  He ordered a pregnancy test at the first appointment and she actually discovered she was pregnant naturally.  Julia is now the mom of two grown girls, and the founder of the Fertile Heart community.  She says that her journey was, "A pilgrimage that led me to re-claim my fertility in the most awe-inspiring way", and she wants us to be able to do the same. Her website has links to her books, visualizations, a host of success stories, and much more.  Julia encourages us to trust in our intuition and to believe in the power we have within to improve our fertility.

2)The second woman I'd like to celebrate is Maya Grobel.  This woman is badass.  She pursued her dream of parenthood fiercely,  tore down every barrier she came up against, and is now the mom of a little girl via embryo donation after a 4 1/2 year battle with the infertility beast.   I recently discovered her this past week while watching the Netflix documentary One More Shot.   I would recommend watching this 100 times over.  Maya and her husband Noah allow us into their infertility struggle with so much vulnerability and authenticity that we come away inspired to honor our pain instead of turning from it in shame.   I laughed with her, I cried with her, I hoped with her, and I rejoiced with her.  In addition to her Netflix documentary she also has a blog called Don't Count your Eggs.

3)Last but not least- Camille Preston.  Camille's TED Talk: A Journey Through Infertility: Over Terror's Edge resonated so deeply with me.  Just like most of us, she "coveted motherhood at such a cellular level".  She talks about the mounting intensity of effort and energy after each failed cycle, the rising desperation, and finally, learning to surrender control.  She shared how multiple failed rounds of IVF "kicked my tail and nearly broke me".  She didn't break though- after 8 rounds of IVF she welcomed a child into the world.   Camille's willingness to jump into the depths of longing, loss, and pain helped strengthen her sense of self and opened her up to a deeper and richer life experience.   Camille is inspiration for all of us living "on terror's edge.

        Happy Sunday everyone.  Have a wonderful hope filled week!!

Thursday, January 31, 2019

A Thousand Small Goodbyes

It’s Monday morning-Groundhog Day.  I walk into my IVF clinic for monitoring, just like I’ve done countless identical mornings in the past two years.  I wonder what they think of me when I show up.   I feel like a DMV customer who has failed the road test 15 times, but keeps showing up for one more shot.  Does anyone actually think I will succeed, or am I like I the beloved but hopeless case that has just become part of the fabric of their practice?   It makes me wonder, when do we say enough is enough?  When do we move on to the next alternative?   

I think a lot has to do with the stages of grief and where we are.  Elisabeth Kubler Ross developed a framework for helping understand the process we go through when we experience loss.    Although most people think of loss as the death of a loved one, with infertility loss is a constant part of our story.  We are always letting go.  First we have to let go of the idea of getting pregnant quickly and easily.   This may lead to losing our dream of being pregnant with all our friends, of joyful pregnancy announcements, of family gatherings with our baby in tow.  Some of us have to say goodbye to having a child who is genetically linked to us.  Some of us have to say goodbye to having the family size we dreamed of, or perfectly spaced siblings who will be the best of friends.  Maybe we end up saying goodbye to the experience of carrying a child inside of us.  Some of us will say goodbye to the idea of being parents at all.  Some are grieving babies lost during gestation or after birth.   Each loss is a little death,  and all of us are moving through these stages of grief in response.   The only way out is through, so instead of fighting these stages, let’s understand and embrace them so that we can heal and move on. 

I've gone through these 5 stages so many different times with each disappointment and loss.  I've been in denial about my diagnoses and convinced myself that I would be the 1% of women in my situation who ended up with a successful OE pregnancy.   When I hit the anger stage, I seem to feel  angry at the whole world.  I get angry at the women in the news stories who mistreat their kids when all I want is to love one.  I get angry at my husband for having poor morphology. I get angry at the doctors for not having a miracle cure. I get angry at medical insurance in America for not covering endless cycles until this works. I get angry at God for abandoning me, I get angry at myself for every choice I ever made that I think got in the way of my dream of motherhood.   This is an exhausting phase for me- it's hard to hold onto anger.   The next phrase is tiring for me too. Bargaining.  I'm a master at this.  In my mind I'm always promising that if I could just, just have this baby I would (insert grandiose goals).  I promise unrealistic things like never complaining about anything ever again, or starting a community service organization.   I promise anything I think will earn me this baby I'm longing for.  Depression hits when I realize that it's not going to work.  That I have to say goodbye to whatever I was hoping for this time. Then I retreat to warm pijamas, long cries, and lots of cookies.  I allow myself to grieve, and then finally arrive at acceptance.  Of course though, whenever one fertility dream is lost, there is always a new one that pops right up to take its place, so cycling through these stages is never really done. Right now, after several cancelled cycles due to poor response,  I am in the process of grieving the loss of my own eggs. I'm working towards accepting that loss so I can get excited about using donor eggs, but  I'm not quite there yet.  Some days I feel fine about it, and other days I'm right back to denial, anger, or bargaining.  Its comforting to me  to know that these feelings are normal, that they are part of our greater human experience, and that eventually I will reach a place of peace and acceptance with however this turns out.   We all will.  We grieve, but we hope.  We fall, but we rise again.  We push on through the tears, because our babies are waiting for us. 

Saturday, January 26, 2019

Collateral Damage-Part 1

Collateral damage. defines it among other things as “any damage incidental to an activity”.   Miriam-Webster calls it, “Injury inflicted on something other than an intended target”.  Today  I want to give some time and attention to the collateral damage of this infertility process, and to mourn for some of the things that have been lost or altered in my life.

I thought I was going into this with eyes wide open.  Really.  I had read about the effects of the fertility medications on my mind and body.  I knew what kind of damage was going to be inflicted on my bank account due to the treatments.  I knew that this was going to be hard on body, mind, and soul.  I was ready.  Or so I thought.  I don’t really think that I understood how many parts of my life would get caught in the crossfire though.  I was completely unaware of the injuries that would be sustained in parts of my life I considered to be far from the frontlines of injections and tear stained pillows.  One of those parts of my life has been my friendships.  The damage didn't happen all at once.  It was such a slow shift that at first it was imperceptible.  But now, as I peruse Facebook and see smiling faces at events I didn’t attend, with friends I rarely see, I  recognize the shifts that have occurred in my friendships, and I feel a surge of anger at Infertility and what she’s taken from me.

I’ve always been lucky to be surrounded by a group of incredible ladies that I’ve been blessed to call my friends.  Even after my wedding, my first bout with infertility, and the birth of my son, I was still intentional about creating consistent, meaningful space for my friendships. When I began my struggle with secondary infertility, I didn't think that anything would be different.  I was Superwoman- I could handle it all.  I could battle infertility and be cool and fun at the same time.  We had just started treatments, and since I already had a son, I figured it was just a matter of time.  I was in good spirits, and life was still pretty close to normal. 

As the months and years wore on though, my life as I knew it slowly transformed.  With each failed cycle, I increased my focus on my fertility.  The pursuit of fertility started to occupy more and more of my headspace, and each pregnancy loss and failed cycle became harder and harder to bounce back from.  As a result the rest of my life became smaller, more restrictive, more stagnant.  Instead of being “fun” and “cool”, I felt like it took every ounce of my strength just to stay on top of what I needed to do to conceive and to feel ok while doing it.

Fast forward 2 years… Life now is centered almost exclusively on getting pregnant-.  I spend time researching fertility topics, emailing clinics, looking up donors, cooking the right “fertility friendly” foods, doing fertility yoga, getting to acupuncture, giving myself injections, running to appointments, making sure I have enough sleep to grow a healthy egg, eliminating all toxins from my life, and monitoring my cycle.  Life is at the same time so regimented, and yet completely unpredictable.  At any moment I may be in the middle of a cycle or grieving over a failed cycle (I am not fit for human consumption in those moments).  So, in order to be able to manage all of it, I’ve started turning down social invitations, and rarely extend any myself anymore.   Poor sleep is bad for my cycle so I can’t stay out late.  I have to give myself injections at certain times in the evenings, so I need to be at home those days.  Happy hours?  I’m staying away from alcohol and it’s tiring to keep explaining why I’m only having water all the time.   Meet for a mani/pedi?- I’m avoiding nail polish because of all the phthalates.  Shopping trips?  Sorry ladies, I would, but I have no money for clothes with all these IVF rounds, and besides- why buy clothes when you keep thinking you’re about to get pregnant.  Pilates and Zumba classes?  I’m laying low during the TWW, and I feel bloated and uncomfortable during stims, so I have to pass. I haven’t traveled to see out of town friends for years, and girl’s weekends or daytrips are a problem for all the reasons above.    Infertility is a logistical nightmare where I can never predict my availability, so it’s just easier to say no. 

This state of limbo also makes it hard to have meaningful conversations with friends.  I dread the standard, “What’s up?”.    When I ask my friends this question I’m treated to stories about vacations, good times with friends, date nights, kids.  When the question is directed towards me I have nothing to say, because nothing’s “up”.  I’m in limbo.  I haven’t been on any vacations, or read any great books, or started a new hobby, or hit a great exercise class, or checked out a new wine bar.  Nothing.  I’m doing the same thing I’ve been doing every week for two years.  I’m still reading fertility books and blogs.  I’m still making wheatgrass shots and green juice, and cooking fertility friendly meals.   I’m still injecting myself with hormones.  I’m still obsessing during the TWW.  I’m still crying over another failed cycle. That’s it.  I’m exhausted just thinking about it, and I don’t want to expend the energy trying to explain it to people who haven’t been there and just don’t really understand, so I just say something about how busy I am juggling work and my son and leave it at that.  It’s hard to be living a life completely consumed by infertility, and not to be able to really talk about it.  Sometimes it’s just easier to stay home, to keep my energy close, and to focus on surviving.

Don’t get me wrong- I still have good friends who allow me the space to be authentic and talk about my struggles, and I cherish them immensely.  Even so, I grieve the friendships that are becoming more distant and I miss those people who used to be a bigger part of my life.  I see many of my friendships starting to fade into the distance, and even though my mind wants to chase them and to tell them to wait up for me, I know those words wouldn’t be honest, because I have no idea of how long infertility will hold me hostage, and I have no idea what kind of person I’ll be when I emerge.  

Like it or not, infertility is a transformative process that changes not only us, but our relationships too.  Some may simply survive infertility, others may transform into something deeper, and others may fade as we move in directions.  Whatever happens, I’m thankful for everyone who has touched my life along the way. 
Thank you all for sharing this space with me tonight!  Sending good energy your way. 

"The art of life lies in a constant readjustment to our surrounding". Kakuzo Okakura (The Book Of Tea)

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Wild Hope

It's THAT day of the month.  I look down, a tinge of red, another period- and I'm devastated.  I hate that this always hits me so hard.  I understand if I had just gone through a round of IVF and implanted a plump and healthy embryo in a clinic renowned for success.  But no such thing happened this month.  This month, at age 43, with a balanced translocation to boot, I had a cancelled IUI cycle due to poor response.   We tried on our own, but statistically speaking, the odds were far, far from in my favor.  My period should not have been a surprise to me.  I shouldn't have been so upset, but I was.

Whenever my period comes, my husband knows to give me some space to grieve, so I went up to my room, and started to think about why this is so hard for me each month.  The words that finally 
came to mind were "wild hope". That’s how I define the kind of hope that grips our hearts in the absence of any meaningful evidence that hope is warranted.  It is not a justified hope, and it is not a cautious hope.  It is a passionate desperate hope that holds tight, no matter how hard we try to shake it off, and it is exactly the kind of hope that takes up residence in my heart each and every month no matter how good or bad of a cycle we had.   Even after the worst cycles, when my rational mind clearly rejects that possibility of hope (ex. ultrasound shows I didn’t even ovulate, but maybe, just maybe...) my heart continues to hold on.  As hard as I try to play it cool and build up some emotional armor to protect me from the impending letdown, hope keeps sneaking up on me.  I can't help but hope that maybe conception happened in spite of my dismal response to intervention, that  maybe I beat the odds of age and balanced translocation, that maybe this painful journey is over.  

It’s such a vulnerable place to be, and it often just makes me feel silly to be thinking and feeling this way.  I’m a smart, rationale woman most of the time, but I feel like my mind is trying to sell me some emotional snake oil each month, and I’m buying.   Wild hope leads me to forums and websites, looking for any post or story that would suggest that there might be a happy ending in spite of whatever roadblock I've hit.   Wild hope is only one step ahead of disappointment, and I can feel it in hot pursuit.  

I’ve tried to shake wild hope in order to make disappointments easier to bear, but I can't seem to do it. So maybe I just need to make friends with wild hope. Maybe I need to set the self-judgment aside and just be ok with how I'm feeling.   Maybe my heart’s refusal to give up on this baby no matter what the obstacles is what keeps me going. Maybe love and reason don’t live in the same zipcode.   Maybe I need to make peace with wild hope, and thank it for holding on in tough times when I feel ready to give up.  Perhaps wild hope is a testament of love for my unborn child and belief that somehow, miracles DO happen.  Keep hoping wildly ladies, and keep daring to dream.

Somewhere over the rainbow,
Way up high.
There's a land that I've heard of,
Once in a lullaby.

Somewhere over the rainbow,
Skies are blue.
And the dreams that you dare to dream really do come true.

Somewhere Over The Rainbow lyrics © Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC, CONEXION MEDIA GROUP, INC.

Sunday, January 13, 2019

Daring Greatly

The other day I was talking with someone who I hadn't seen in a couple of months.  She asked how I was doing, and in a moment of vulnerability I shared that I had really been struggling with my fertility journey.    She answered, "Oh, you're still doing that?"; but her question didn't express interest, curiosity, or concern.  Her tone of voice expressed a sense of disbelief that I was still pursuing that goal,  and suggested a touch of disdain as well.  Childless by choice, I realized that my quest must seem ridiculous to her.  So I launched into my favorite explanation- "I'm committed to giving my son a sibling.  I'm an older mom and won't be around forever, and he has no cousins nearby, so this is for him".   The conversation ended there, and she didn't ask any further questions or offer support.  This person has been far from my only critic, so this is a well rehearsed script.  When I focus my answer on my son, people back off, and show some understanding, but when I answer honestly and share that I am on this journey due to a deep longing in my heart for another child I have been met with judgment.  This comes in the form of comments that question my decision to continue to pursue this after so many years of failure, that judge me for not being "satisfied" with just one child, that suggest selfishness at pursuing fertility treatments instead of fostering or adopting, and that hint at my age.  Comments have included, "Is this really worth stressing your marriage over?",  "You should be happy that you have one",  "Two is alot of work, you're better off with just one", "I couldn't imagine having a baby at your age", "That's alot of money to spend", "When do you say enough is enough?",  "Maybe it's just not meant to be".  And don't even get me started about when I mention that I've been exploring donor egg.

In the face of criticism and judgment I go straight into shame and embarrassment.  I second guess all my choices.  I question the yearning in my heart. I put on a mask and hide from those around me.    It's not a pretty place.  While listening to a Brene Brown talk this week though,  I heard a quotation  that helped me think of these moments in a new way.  The quote is from Teddy Roosevelt, and I wanted to share it with you.

These words made me see myself and my journey in a new way.  Ladies, we are the "man in the arena".  We go head to head with infertility everyday.  We get knocked down, wounded, and dirty, but we keep getting up.  We rise to our feet and we wipe off our tears.  We "strive valiantly".  We give our all to a "worthy cause", because what could be more worthy than calling forth life?    We hope that we will succeed, but even if we fail, we will fail "while daring greatly".   We can own that effort, that heart, and that bravery with pride.  I understand that our friends and loved ones mean well.  Their comments come from a place of concern for our well-being,  but they are not in the arena with us.  They sit in the stands and offer advice and criticism for how to approach an opponent they have never faced, in a battle they will most likely never fight.  Going forward I will hold these words close.  I will do my best to shake off the criticism of my choices on this journey.  I will look around the arena and I will link hands with the other women out there; women (and some men too) who are standing strong and DARING GREATLY.    Thank you for allowing me to share these thought with you today. 

Monday, January 7, 2019

lessons from a coffee shop

There's nothing as comforting for me as a cappuccino- the smell of the beans, the warmth of the cup, the unique designs swirled onto the top.  Before trying to conceive I would regularly visit one our local mom and pop coffee shops with a book or a journal, and lose myself for a couple of hours in a state of caffeinated self-reflection.  When I started my fertility journey though, it was one of the first thing to go.  Apparently it's harmful for egg quality, and since my eggs aren't winning any awards right now, I cut it out.  I know it seems silly, but the loss of that ritual stings.   It felt like part of who I was, like it was linked somehow with my sense of self.  I often feel resentful about it, because I've given up something that brought me joy, but I haven't gotten a baby in return.  It's a bum deal.  This journey has been like that- seemingly small modifications that sometimes feel like deeper losses for me.  Just another indignity of this process.   Today though, I gave myself permission to revisit my ritual for the first time in a very long time.   I sat for hours, sipped my cappuccino, read, and journaled.  And part of my heart resurfaced for a brief moment.  It was glorious.   I think it's important sometimes, with all of our self-imposed infertility rules and regimens, to allow ourselves some moments of relative normalcy.  That way we can remember that infertility hasn't destroyed the core of who we are.  Those vibrant and beautiful parts of ourselves are still there.  Whatever the outcome of our journey, we remember that we are still there beneath the pain and disappointment.  We may emerge from this journey changed, but we WILL emerge.   Thank you for sharing this moment with me today.