Monthly Archives: September 2010

mazel tov

Early this morning my sister-in-law gave birth.  Baby is healthy, sister-in-law is healthy but exhausted, brother-in-law has spent all day on the phone trying to arrange things with the mohel.

I can’t wait to meet my nephew.



(This is partly in response to egghunt’s post, which is so true and real.  She has been so wonderfully supportive of me over the past few months, and I hope that what follows isn’t inappropriate.)

I have never had a miscarriage because I have never been pregnant.  I have never done IUI or IVF.  I am an infertility lightweight.  But I am not very strong.

With most of my self I want to get rid of my pain.  I want to be the girl who spent the night naked on the beach with a bunch of friends,* not the girl who is suddenly shy about undressing in front of my husband because of the big fucking scar on my belly.  I want to be the girl reciting Yeats in Loud Drunk Voice, not the girl who stays in bed all weekend.  I want to be the girl who can hold her infant niece without that sinking, paralyzing feeling of failure.

But (and this is the dirty secret) there is a tiny, perverse part of me that cherishes the pain.  It’s the part of me that whispers “worthless” and “useless” and “failure;” the part of me that knows (knows) I was wasting my time in grad school, and if only we hadn’t waited so long I wouldn’t be here; the part of me that wonders if it would really be possible to crawl into bed and never come out.  That same perverse part of me is sure that there is nothing left of me but pain–and wonders what I would be without it.  So I hold it close, I look for validation, I tot up all the reasons why it’s understandable for me to feel like falling-apart every. goddamn. minute.

And around it goes.  It’s a trap, of course.  The logic goes like this:

  1. Given:  I experience my pain.
  2. Either it is real and valid, or I am making it up.
  3. I am not making it up.
  4. If my pain is real and valid, it is understandable that I continue to feel it.
  5. (and this one is the kicker)  If I stop feeling the pain, on some level I will be denying its reality and validity.  After all, if I can stop it, it must not have been so bad.
  6. I will never get out.

I know this sounds totally insane, and I get that the logic train is far, far off the rails here, but it’s where I am and it’s where I always get to when I start thinking about objective measures for pain.  My score on the pain test is not high.  If there’s a Pain Olympics I wouldn’t even be invited to the tryout.  I have met people who have dealt with real adversity.  Some of the people who comment on this blog have made it through miscarriages, failed IVFs, lost opportunities for adoption, and so much more.  What I have been living for the past two years is nothing compared to that.  So how do I prove my pain is real, other than by continuing to feel it?

Like I said, it’s a trap.

*Hey, it was college.

i’ve been tagged

By Jackie! And Leslie!

That’s 14 questions to answer.  Here are Jackie’s questions:

1. What would your college major be if you could go back to school and choose one (make one up if you want) without having to worry about finding a job in the field?

Yeah, I already did that.  I have 3 degrees in music, of all things.  But if I had it to do over again I still don’t think I would pick business or engineering or biochemistry.  I would love to go to culinary school, and as for more “academic” fields I would love to get a degree in comparative literature, or possibly religion.

2. What was the most embarrassing trend you followed during your high school days.

I really embraced the whole grunge thing and spent 1992-1997 (high school and most of college) in ripped jeans, Chuck Taylors, and ratty flannel shirts.  I wasn’t really embarrassed by it, though…

3. Describe the house where you grew up. Would you live there again if it came up for sale?

I grew up in a 2-bedroom bungalow in an inner-ring suburb of Cleveland, Ohio (it felt more “urban” than “suburban”).  I would move back to Cleveland in a heartbeat, and yes, I would definitely live in that house.  It was not big but it was comfortable and cozy, and we knew all the neighbors.  Later on we moved to an outer suburb; the house was bigger and the schools were better, but there wasn’t the same community feeling.  It was kind of cookie-cutter and I would not choose to live in a place like that.

4. Are you a city person, a country person, a suburb person, or a small town person? Which one describes you the least?

This is a hard question!  I can see myself living in any of those settings.  Currently I’m a city person and it’s working out OK, but I live in an old urban neighborhood with lots of tree cover and old houses; I don’t think I could handle the whole downtown loft, concrete jungle thing.  I think the one that describes me least is “country person.”  I like to be out in nature, but I’ve never really lived out in the country and it would be kind of new to me.

5. What concert would you love to see? What’s the best one you’ve ever seen?

I would love to see U2.  The best concert I’ve ever seen?  That’s really hard….I heard the Berlin Philharmonic play Beethoven 4, and it was transcendent.  I was also absolutely blown away by Meredith Monk, and eighth blackbird, of course.

6. You’re going on a 1-week vacation, but you can’t take anyone with you. Where do you go, and what do you do there? Or do you give up the trip?

Only 1 week?  🙂  I think I would go to Key West.  I’ve never been there and I’ve heard it’s beautiful.  I would relax on the beach, sail, and listen to music.  If I had more time I would go to New Zealand.  I spent just about a week there a few years ago and I did NOT want to leave.  I would like to see more of the country (we stayed around Auckland when I was there) but with the long flight from here, a week doesn’t seem like enough time.

7. Did you have an imaginary friend as a child?

Yes.  Her name was Sally.

8. What is your favorite slurpee flavor? If you have never had one, what’s your favorite candy bar?

I don’t think I’ve ever had a Slurpee!  My favorite candy bar is dark chocolate with almonds.

Here are Leslie’s questions:

1) What’s the best dish you can cook?

That depends on my mood.  In general I do well with soups, stews, and curries–things that have to be eaten with a spoon.  The hands-down favorite among my family is my vegetarian chili, but I have a soft spot for Southeast Asian food and am always trying to learn more techniques.

2) Have you ever been mentioned in the newspaper? What for?

Yes, my performances have been reviewed in newspapers in various places.

3) What’s the worst and/or most memorable job you’ve ever had?
It’s hard for me to name anything besides my current job as the worst, even though when I look at it objectively it’s not that bad.  I am really really working on this–on understanding that my boss doesn’t have to like me for me to be competent, and that she is not going to fire me just because she doesn’t like me. But it’s hard for me, and I am still carrying a lot of anxiety and dread with me every day.  I am doing my best….(getting anxious now just thinking about it).
4) When you were a teenager, at what age did you envision yourself getting married? How old were you in reality when you got married?
I honestly didn’t think about it.  I had other things all mapped out:  college, then a master’s degree, then an orchestra job, but I didn’t really think about getting married.  I was 23 when I got married.
5) What’s your most hated household chore? What’s your favorite?
Most hated:  cleaning the bathroom.  Favorite:  I’m going to assume that cooking doesn’t count.  I like organizing things.  I am terrible at STAYING organized, but I like to sort and put away and make things nice all in one fell swoop.
6) What’s your earliest memory?
My mother claims I couldn’t possibly remember this, but I swear I do.  I was sitting at our kitchen table in my mother’s lap and we were singing “Happy Birthday” to my father.  I remember my mother saying to me, “Daddy’s 25!”  It is a little implausible, since I was only a year and a half old on my father’s 25th birthday, but it sure feels like a memory.
I tag….EVERYONE!  Seriously, if you haven’t already been tagged for this one, consider yourself tagged.   Since I was asked a set of 6 and a set of 8 questions, I’m going to split the difference and ask 7.
1.  Are you good at sports?
2.  Are you allergic to anything?
3.  What’s the most spontaneous thing you’ve ever done?
4.  Do you consider yourself liberal, conservative, or something else?
5.  Do you dream in color?
6.  Would you rather have dessert, or seconds of the main course?
7.  How long does it take you to get ready in the morning?

why i should stop taking online quizzes

I love online personality tests.  I don’t know what it is about them but I can’t get enough.  I want to be sorted, I guess, like at Hogwarts.  (I would totally be in Ravenclaw.)  I’ve done the sort-of-not-really scientific ones (I’m an INFP), the silly Facebook ones (if I were a Joss Whedon character I would be Giles), the Belief-O-Matic (it thinks I’m a Quaker) and just about everything in between.

So yesterday I was watching this fascinating documentary on Netflix and when they mentioned an online test that had been given to one of the documentary subjects of course I had to Google it.  It is called the VIA Survey of Character Strengths, and it tells you which 5 of 24 traits seem to be strongest for you.  Fun for people who like this sort of thing; probably pretty boring for people who don’t.*

Well, on the same web site are several other tests.  One of them is a depression screening; I don’t know what made me click on it.  It’s not like I need anyone to tell me I’m depressed, and I actually thought to myself that I’ve been doing well lately, keeping the worst of it away, moving through things….but I went ahead and did the test anyway.  My result:

If you scored over 24, you are in the severely depressed range.

If you scored in the severely depressed range, please seek treatment. If you believe that you would kill yourself if you had a chance, regardless of the rest of your answers, please see a mental health professional right away.

Wow.  I’m ashamed to admit that this has just sent me into a tailspin.  I mean, it’s just a stupid online test, right?  It’s quite a close cousin to the Rupert Giles result, or the one that told me my theme song should be “Strawberry Fields.”  No kind of statistical rigor, way too brief for any meaningful answers.  But it really shocked me.  I went back over my answers, retook it, got the same result.  Could it be that I have just redefined my baseline down so low that “severely depressed” is my new normal?

Or maybe, as I’ve so long suspected, there really is something deeply wrong with me.  Clearly I am not coping as well as I thought I was, because regardless of the accuracy-or-not of that test, it absolutely should not have triggered a day and a half of crying.

*My 5 strengths:  Fairness, equity, and justice; Love of learning; Appreciation of beauty and excellence; Forgiveness and mercy; Capacity to love and be loved.

i didn’t say it was rational

Maybe I should clarify.  I know that infertility is not a judgment.  It is a condition (or a collection of conditions conveniently grouped together), and the point I see in the comments to my last post, that we would not refuse treatment for any other medical condition or illness, is one I’ve actually made myself elsewhere.

There is nothing wrong with IVF, or with other medical technology as long as it is safe and effective, and I absolutely apologize if I offended anyone.  When I say I don’t want to do it, I don’t mean I have a strong reasoned position for why not.  I just mean I don’t think it’s the right thing for me. I have a really strong emotional aversion to the whole idea, and some of you are probably right that fear is mixed up in there somewhere.  But fear isn’t the whole story.

Even when I thought I would be able to get pregnant easily I always wanted to adopt as well.  It’s hard to articulate why without sounding like I’ve got some kind of savior complex, but I know that there are a lot of children who need families, and if there is anything I have and to spare it is love.  I have always thought that if it were to come down to it, I would want to pursue adoption instead of IVF.

Also I know that to a lot of people (my husband included) it seems awfully early for me to be thinking along these lines.  But as I tried to articulate in my last post, I don’t think I can handle going through another 6-month stretch without a plan.  This past winter and spring were so bad, and as I’ve mentioned I can feel the depression on the edges of my consciousness ready to come roaring back.  I really think that part of what kept me so low for so long was the uncertainty, and I have got to do whatever I can to keep from getting back to that place.  So I have got to think about what we will do if my husband really does have sperm problems, and if I don’t get pregnant naturally in the next 6 months or so.

6 months is kind of arbitrary; it’s the amount of time the RE originally recommended we try naturally after my surgery, before the bad SA results came back.  But it seems like a manageable amount of time, so I am sticking with it as a unit.  I’m not saying we definitely have a MFI problem since we haven’t even seen the urologist yet; I just want to know what we will be doing in 6 months if all is not well.

I am kind of in a forced wait right now anyway, since we won’t even have any more information until my husband sees the urologist and has the test repeated.  He’s not going to do that until November at the earliest, because he (very understandably) doesn’t want to insert this additional stress into October, when he’ll be doing his comprehensives and also continuing to work on his dissertation, which has to be finished by January (it’s a hard deadline because he’s already got an ensemble waiting to premiere it in the spring).

So what I’m trying to do at this point is figure out what the next 6 months to a year will look like if in fact we don’t conceive naturally.  Our RE is pretty confident that with the sperm he saw in August, IUI would not be effective (whether medicated or not).  The morphology was so low that he strongly suggested we do IVF/ICSI because he didn’t think the sperm would penetrate the egg on its own.

He sent us over to the clinic’s financial counselor and she went over the costs with us.  It wasn’t as bad as I had feared (our first Chucklehead RE told us $20,000 for one cycle; this is looking more like $14,000), but it’s still out of reach for us financially.  I think that my mother would probably help us if we asked, though, so if we were to decide this was something we wanted to do we might be able to make it work with a bank loan (we have great credit, just no money) and some help from Mom.

But I still don’t want to do it.

And what I want to figure out before it becomes urgent is, first of all, why I don’t want to do it.  Am I “just” scared?  Is it because I want to adopt anyway and so the process doesn’t seem worth it?  Am I taking my anger about being infertile out on the technology?  And which of these reasons are good reasons?

Second of all, I need to know more about where my husband is mentally with this.  He is Not Thinking About It right now, so I’m going to have to be patient on that part, which is why I’m trying to work out my own shit first.

no mas

I don’t want to do IVF.

I don’t want to do it in November, I don’t want to do it after my husband sees the urologist, I don’t want to do it in six months, I don’t want to do it in a year.

I don’t want to do it ever.

My husband says it’s way too soon to be thinking about it; he thinks I will be pregnant in a few months, and if not, we can talk about it when the time comes.  He does have a point–there is no use in worrying about something that may never be necessary–but so far our whole frustrating TTC history has been a story about waiting and seeing.  We have been cautious, not wanting to admit there was a problem, then accepting what the first RE told us, then waiting another 5 months before finding a new doctor (who diagnosed me in five minutes flat), and now waiting to see if the low sperm numbers were a fluke.

At every stage we have waited, and all it has gotten us is more waiting.  I know why he doesn’t want to think about IVF; he wants to believe that the surgery was the answer, the only answer, and that things will work out the way they’re supposed to now.  But I don’t want to go another six months without a plan, then start having the conversations that we could have been having all along.  What will we do if we run up against that six months, and another, and another, and all of a sudden I’m too old?  My mother entered perimenopause when she was younger than I am now (which is why I’m feeling time ticking away even though I’m only 32), and I just don’t know how much more time I have to wait and see.

I think we definitely need to let me continue healing, and I also have a tiny sliver of hope that we are fertile now, but I also think we have to have a plan for next spring, in the (likely) event that I don’t get pregnant.

Which brings me back to the beginning of this post:  I don’t want to do IVF.  Ever.

What I would like to know from you is, is this a selfish stance to take?  Knowing this is something my husband would be willing to pursue, and knowing that our RE feels strongly it is our best chance, do I owe it to my husband to do it?  It’s not like I have a moral objection to the technology; I just hate everything about the idea of it.*  I feel like if my body has to be so dramatically manipulated in order to get pregnant, maybe I’m not supposed to get pregnant.  That’s a hard thing to type, and a very, very sad thing to think about, but it feels true for me.  I don’t want to do it.

I want very badly to talk openly with my husband about this, but he is not ready for this conversation yet.  He says it’s not time to think about it; he says we should just wait and see like we’ve done before.

*FOR ME.  I have absolutely no ill feelings towards those of you who have done it or are getting ready to do it.  I have nothing but respect for you.  In fact, reading your stories is part of why I don’t want to do it:  I am not as strong as you, and I don’t think I could handle it.

it ain’t just a river in egypt

My husband and I have been in pretty deep denial about our TTC situation lately, I think.  With all of my issues at work and my slow recovery from surgery, his comprehensives coming up, and my general unwillingness to do the deed,* we have managed to avoid thinking about that last SA and what it could mean.  I don’t even know what cycle day I’m on without looking at a calendar and counting.**  We have been going about our lives, both worried about other things, almost as though infertility wasn’t the only thing in the world.

Two things happened recently to bring it back to the center.

First, we got a package from my brother-in-law and sister-in-law, whose baby is due ANY MINUTE.  For some reason they sent us a box containing a dozen of these.

(My husband and his brother have a long standing tradition of sending each other fairly ridiculous gifts as jokes.  We wives don’t really get it, but they seem to think it’s funny.  Whatever.)  Foam parrots are not even all that weird considering some of the things those guys have sent each other in the past, but then we got to the bottom of the box, where we found at least two dozen home pregnancy tests.

We didn’t know what to think.  Were they supposed to be part of the joke?  Some kind of strange encouragement for us?***  My husband got very angry and immediately threw them in the trash; I just felt sad.  It was like a punch in the stomach.  When we talked to BIL and SIL about it they were totally surprised that we would not be pleased to receive those HPTs as a gift from them.

Apparently when they decided to try to conceive, they ordered tests in bulk online.  Well, they succeeded with very little trying, and wound up with lots of leftover tests, which they thought they would pass along to us “to save us money.”  It didn’t occur to either of them that sending that particular gift to an infertile couple just before their own easily-conceived baby is born, packaged with what is clearly a gag gift, might feel like a bad joke to us.

There were apologies all around; I think they really feel bad about it, and I certainly feel terrible about reacting so negatively, since I do think they had good intentions.  I just feel awful for not appreciating their gift, and of course I know their focus right now is on their baby coming, so it’s totally understandable that they didn’t succeed at seeing it from our perspective.  What do you all think?  Was it a weird, insensitive gift on their part, or did we react to a kind gesture from a warped IF perspective?  Or both?

Anyway, the second thing that happened was that the nurse from our clinic called.  We have been playing phone tag for the past few days since she keeps calling while I’m on the phone at work (and I am maybe avoiding her just a little), but she wants to set up my husband’s urologist appointment and his third SA.

And she wants to know if I want to get on the schedule for their November IVF cycle.

It’s hard to type that.

It’s so hard to accept that this is really the situation.  I know so many of you have been through it, but it just doesn’t seem possible to me.  Every fiber of me is screaming “NO!”  This is not how it’s supposed to happen.  And it seems so fast:  after one bad SA, our fate is sealed?  No chance at natural conception, ever?  We want to wait and see, do the urologist workup and the third test, and go from there.  And that’s what I’ll tell the nurse if I ever get her on the phone.

But part of me wonders–am I just in denial?  Is this really what it’s come to?

I think it’s time for my husband and me to have a serious talk about IVF.

*We have actually made it happen a couple of times, but it’s still painful for me.

**Apparently there is this whole other system for marking time without reference to the menstrual cycle.  Instead of thinking of a day as “CD26,” for example, I can simply call it “September 15.”  Evidently this other system is fairly widely used.  I seem to recall using it myself in the past.

***And if so, what were we supposed to do with the parrots?