Saturday, February 23, 2019
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
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
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!!