Ferret Hormones, Walking Egg Cartons and Vaginal Fishing Floats. Or, When Infertility Gets Weird.

I’m always tempted to apologize after a long absence from the blogging, but then I remember that this was supposed to be some kind of therapeutic tool, and if I were my own therapist I’d have to ask me a whole bunch of probing questions and try to explore the deeper context of my apology, e.g. some kind of lingering repressed guilt from my mother or something, and frankly it’s the weekend and I’m burnt out and I don’t really fucking care where my lingering repressed guilt comes from on a Friday night. So there.

I guess I haven’t had much processing to do lately. I mean, the journey goes on and uterine hilarity continues to ensue, as well as tears and sadness and frustration sometimes. People around me get knocked up and I don’t, and I have a really hard time with that no matter what kind of evolved zen mantra-mumbling place I’m in. It sucks. But I think I’m feeling a bit more longitudinal about it right now.

Last month we went in to see the Doc, who described a truly appalling process in which I would be flooded with hormones (whose hormones? People hormones? Animal hormones? Scary GMO robot hormones? I don’t know. Seriously. Whose hormones?) over the course of 7 to 10 days that cause my ovaries to go into massive superproduction and pop like 7 eggs, and then the “trigger shot” (I believe that there is a genuine market need for less horrifying names for all this shit) makes them release. And then I have like quintuplets or something. He laid it all out and it was daunting and awful and jaw-droppingly expensive, so we filed it in the “nuclear option” bin and went for the far less costly and upsetting IUI.

And it was in general far less upsetting. It hurt like a &%$#@ because of my old friend endometriosis, but my husband was there and made me laugh with his little pep talk to his sperm on their way in – “Alright you guys, remember what we talked about! Get in there!” The only really upsetting part was later in the evening, after I had gone directly from the doctor’s office to a staff party and finally got around to going in the bathroom and taking out what Dr. S had described as “just a little plug to keep the sperm where they should be”. As I’d had my legs up with a sheet draped over them when he was finishing the job, I did not see it go in and was picturing some kind of dainty little tampon-shaped thing. So I was utterly aghast when I pulled out what looked like a small nautical buoy the size of my palm wrapped in a plastic bag tied at the top with dental floss. Like a gods damn fishing float. Holy crap. Have you guys seen these things? I was so grossed out I finally had to tell the women I was hanging out with after a couple of glasses of wine. One of my staff is from the Midwest and when I described the abominable thing she cheerfully informed me that those are what they use when they inseminate cows. So, you know, that happened.

And as it turned out, it didn’t work. I will point out here, as I refrained from pointing out to Dr. Pushypants, that when I had so rashly taken all that pesky control over my vajayjay and did a home insemination, I managed to knock myself up on the first try. Ahem. Who’s counting?

So we moved on to the nuclear option. A week of shooting up ferret hormones or whatever the fuck they are, then becoming a giant walking egg carton. My husband was totally mortified when I told him we’d be doing it at home, and would he please do the actual poking part because I didn’t think I could cause myself that kind of pain. Once I tried to give myself a bikini wax but wussed out and couldn’t go through with it, so I had to sit in a bathtub full of Coke to get all the glue off. True story. But he cowboy’d up and watched the instructional video twice and scrubbed down the entire coffee table and went to work, albeit with significant anxiety. I kept offering to do it myself but he declared that it was his part of the process and that it was the least he could do. He did a great job and only made me bleed a little bit. It was a rough week physically and I felt like absolute arse toward the end. If I lay down on my stomach it felt like I was lying on two little golf balls where my ovaries used to be.

Today I went back in for the IUI. On the way over my sister and I were on the phone cracking up about getting a buoy in my hooey. It hurt even more like a &*%$@# this time because my entire pelvic region is all sore and bloated and unnaturally egged out like an Easter basket on steroids. Also, my doc uses these horrible old-fashioned metal things to pry me open. They’ve got all knobs and dials and stuff. One time when I was waiting for him to come in the room I peeked into the drawer I’d seen him take one out of and it looked like Steampunk Gynecology in there. Fucking horrifying.

So anyway, that’s the catch-up. I think the Catbox might be pretty bad this time around, since we’ve just sunk upwards of $2500 into my mysteriously dysfunctional lady place and there’s a little, you know, pressure in that. I’m going to try to keep up better with the writing so that I don’t fall back into the bad place.

Here we go…

 

 

 

Faith, or Something Like It.

It’s the calm before the storm. Catbox onset in T minus 9 days. Right now I’m just thinking about stuff, chilling with my husband and my mammals, and bracing for impact.

Not a whole lot to report. Life moves on, my job continues to bust my arse, my friends and family continue to be awesome and I continue to not be knocked up. I took the Similac samples into the office and left them in the Outpatient suite with a note asking people to donate them to families that needed them. At this point the only one that’s left is the giant tin of special food for “Fussiness and Gas”. I guess it’s a little awkward to offer that to someone, like when you offer someone a piece of gum and they’re like, “I’m sorry, I had liverwurst and camembert for lunch.” People can get the wrong idea.

The Husband was quite chuffed about the positive feedback I got on his ruminations about hope, desert islands and the nature of desperation. Aside from the hefty ego boost that this engendered in an already smarty-pants man, it also started me thinking about the place of faith in this insane process. We are, as previously stated, atheists. I’ve done a lot of processing around this, and in fact my first blogging effort was an account of my experience as an atheist member of a singularly amazing non-denominational church back in San Francisco, Glide Memorial. It would take a lot of explaining to get to why it made perfect sense for me to be a visible and vocal member of the church and why it was so powerful to be there, but this blog is not that one, so I’ll let you check it out if you’re interested and save the character space. Suffice it to say that I have thought a lot about translating ostensibly religious ideas and experiences into a humanistic and non-theist framework and I find it kind of fascinating.

I really enjoyed Yet Another Bitter Infertile’s post today dealing with issues of faith/non-faith and infertility. She does a great job of politely explaining why faith-based platitudes are no more helpful to some of us than “Just relax and it will happen”. As atheists we occupy a unique shit-hole when it comes to tragedies like deaths, miscarriages and infertility. We don’t have a larger context in which to put this stuff to bring some kind of comfort to it. We can’t look to a bigger plan and find peace in the idea that everything happens for a reason. It’s no more awful for us than for people who believe in a higher power. It’s just more senseless.

But we find reason to hope in each other. I found reason for hope in my husband’s words, in the biological imperative of staying emotionally alive in the face of crushing heartbreak. You keep doing what you do. You keep hold of the barest shreds despite their thinness. You do it because the people around you encourage it of you. You do it because the dearest longing of your heart demands it of you. At the end of the day, it’s not so different from faith.

All that being said, I do find it tremendously moving and heartwarming when people take time in their devotions to think about me and my husband and the empty place in our lives. Good thoughts are always welcome.

Walmart Lurking, Wee-Wee & The Infertility Olympics: In Which Our Heroine Refrains from Going Batshit.

Well folks, there’s good news and there’s bad news.

The bad news is that the stork gave us the finger again this month. Back to the old drawing board. Which has sex on it. Good thing it’s a favorite hobby.

The good news is actually better than the bad news is bad, in my opinion. The good news is that I managed to refrain from going completely fucking batshit whackadoo insane this month while I waited to test. I mean, I felt like crap. I felt anxious and angry and hopeful and hopeless and then sad when the blood came, and my best friend had to come over and watch truly heroic quantities of Battlestar Galactica and eat Thai food with me, cause he’s good like that. But it felt like the worst of the worst of it was kept at bay this month.

I did not, for instance, go to Walmart and in a creepy, lurky, trying-to-be-stealthy-but-failing-epically kind of way buy several boxes of pregnancy tests, timing my contemplation of the selections for a moment when the aisle was otherwise empty (which is difficult to do because the pg tests are in the same aisle as the athlete’s foot meds) and holding the boxes so that the labels faced inward until I got them to the register. I would like to take some time to apply a little good-old-fashioned feminist deconstruction to the fact that at 37 grown-ass-woman years old I continue to feel like a busted teenager whenever I buy pregnancy tests, but that will have to be another post.

Suffice it to say that not only did I not go out and buy tests, I even refrained from obsessively taking the ones I have left over from last month’s shameful spree. Do you hear that, world??? I DID NOT TAKE A PREGNANCY TEST THIS MONTH!!!! Does anyone out there have any idea what a phenomenally HUGE fucking step that is? Yes, I’m sure you do. Based on the comments I’m getting on this blog you ALL know about the Catbox and the crazy, crazy, crazy that comes with it. Preach, sisters.

So, yeah. I didn’t test. I refrained at 10 days, when you know damn well you’re going to get a negative but you trawl the Fertility Friend charts and decide that there’s just the slimmest possible chance, and you’re planning on going out for drinks with a friend tonight and you just want to be sure.

I refrained at 11 days, when the CountDownToPregnancy stats begin suggesting that you’re more likely to get a faint positive than a false negative, so you don’t drink any water after 8pm and tenaciously hold it when you wake up at 3am having to piss, because you want the absolute most potent wee-wee you can possibly excrete so that those coy little hormones you just KNOW are floating around in there will show up on the test.

Which you’re running out of by the way, so you’d better lurk on over to the Walmart after work tomorrow.

I refrained at 12 days, which is when you tested positive the last time but not the two times before that, and now both Fertility Friend and CountDown are assuring you that only gross statistically anomalous freaks would get a false negative at this late date, but even when you see the negative you still tell yourself that those statistics don’t mean anything, even though you’ve basically been living by them like the bloody Bible for the last week and a half. So you squint at it until you actually begin to see a little pink or blue line that moves around depending on where on the strip you’re looking and actually shows up when you look at other blank surfaces, an honest-to-god hallucination bred of deranged hope and pure bloody-mindedness.

I EVEN refrained at 13 days, when the real crazy happens and the Catbox is up over your head so you can’t breathe and you can’t think and you stop being able to hear people outside of your head and your temperature has dropped but only a little and it dropped the time you were pregnant for 11 weeks so you never know and maybe it’ll be this time but probably not but maybe, just maybe, it may just be that you can see a glimmer of something that if you look at it from the side with your eyes kind of scrunched up with tears in them might look a little like hope, please maybe, please maybe, please maybe…

And then the blood came, and my husband and my BFF circled the wagons cause we’ve been through this before and they’re good men who know what to do.

But I made it through all the crazy hurdles. The psychotic, hormone-crazed, PTSD-riddled, nipple-obsessed Infertility Olympics. I’m sad, but I’m not all twisted up like some weepy lunatic pretzel made of progesterone and despair. Gold fucking medal, me.

I really think it’s this blog. I think it’s giving up on striving toward fertility and just dealing with infertility, and the fact that women out there are hearing me and are going through the same thing. That does something to the spirit, somehow. It gives it a reason not to tear itself to pieces. It gives me a reason to stay sane.

Thanks, y’all. Keep on keeping on.

Help. I’ve Fallen, and I Can’t…. Oh, F*@k It.

The dark days, the maddened grasping obsessive days, the Catbox days have arrived.

I have managed to stay out of the crazy place for much longer than in previous months. The writing is helping – in addition to hearing from other awesome women going through the same thing, it’s been a way of focusing all the helplessness and rage into something that connects me rather than isolates me. My husband has read each post and looked at me with new admiration and understanding, which has helped me feel so much less alone in this insanity. People have reportedly learned things here, so I’ve been able to feel useful in all this impotence, which, for good or ill, is the only way in which I can see any worth in myself. All the unspeakable silence and shame is lifting. It’s fucking awesome.

But here I am, right smack dab in the middle of the Catbox.

Just in case you need a refresher, the Catbox is the beastly, insufferable state one occupies in the final four days before taking a pregnancy test.

Just as Schrodinger’s cat is both alive and dead, simultaneously and with equal statistical likelihood, until such time as the box is opened and one possible reality collapses into the other, the final four days before testing are a barbaric thought exercise in which one is both pregnant and not pregnant, full and empty, positive and negative. After you’ve been doing it a couple of years you lose the ability to comprehend or translate the signals your body is sending, so that some parts of your anatomy are screaming joyously that you are all kinds of knocked up, while other equally legitimate and strident bits are solemnly pronouncing your uterus empty, empty, empty like the garbage cans after curbside pick-up.

My nipples, for instance, are planning the baby shower. End of September. It’s a Libra. We’re so happy.

My lower back, however, knows beyond a shadow of a doubt that there is no chance in an infinite number of hells, and that my period is lurking right around the corner. Walk it off, bitch.

Either one – either one – could be telling the truth. There are no statistically reliable methods by which you can eke even the merest shred of valuative differentiation between the two. It is maddening beyond even my power of speech.

Today was the first day that I really started to creep into the cray-cray. I find that I am unable to pay attention to what people are telling me, which is kind of an insurmountable challenge if you are a fucking therapist. In the past it was the hope that drove me insane – it’s poisonous, a cloying toxic miasma that can smother the oxygen right out of the air if you’re not careful. Now I generally banish the hope before it even starts, because it is just bloody well easier that way. Or it would be if it weren’t for my accursed fucking body shooting up these obnoxious little flares to just throw the whole planned hopelessness thing off the rail completely. It’s not over till it’s over. And you just so badly want it to be over, even though you know that the grief will come, all the terrible grief and numb disappointment that floods your body when you finally see the blood.

At least you have an answer.

These are the days when the fierce rejection of this month’s hope begins to go global, when the knowledge that you are barren and will never conceive seeps a little deeper into already porous bones. It’s something you just know. And at the same time, with the same fierce rejection, you know that it will someday happen. How can you know both these things so surely? How, in the face of this insane duality, can you know anything? Ever?

I am certainly not going to be consulting my nipples for any kind of clarity. They are over-zealous fucking reactionaries and I am totally over their bullshit.

PSA: Things You Didn’t Know You Were Saying, and Undoubtedly Wish You Hadn’t.

Here is a brief list of translations. These translations reflect what fertility-challenged women actually hear when people say certain common things to us. I will preface this by owning that I am quite sure I’ve said one or more of these things to women I knew who were going through this before we started trying. To those women I apologize, wholeheartedly, on bended knee. I had no idea what I was really saying to you.

1) “Just relax and it will happen.”

This is probably the most common. I think the intent is to encourage us to take it easy on ourselves, to try to get some rest from the unbelievable stress of trying and failing to conceive. What we actually hear is: “If only you weren’t such a giant hysterical neurotic freakshow, you’d have had five kids by now.” You want to try to help a woman NOT blame herself, not shame her into feeling like she’s going even crazier than she previously suspected. Women conceive under tremendous amounts of stress, and they also conceive in lovely relaxed environments with soft lighting and frequent foot rubs. The fact that no amount of soft lighting and foot rubs will increase our chances of getting pregnant only makes us feel more helpless, and since we can’t control our environment any more than we already do, militantly and with temperature charts, what you’re essentially saying is that we are making ourselves infertile. What you don’t know is that this is a fear with which we already wrestle in the dark of night and work really hard to disprove in the light of day. Which is fucking stressful. So don’t tell us to relax.

2) “My cousin/sister/coworker/etc went through EXACTLY what you’re going through, and then she tried acupuncture/naturopathy/colon cleansing/Mayan uterine massage/Chinese dried frog tea/etc and she got pregnant like THE NEXT DAY. Seriously. You should totally try acupuncture/naturopathy/colon cleansing/Mayan uterine massage/Chinese dried frog tea. I’ll email you the info.”

Again, this is most certainly an attempt to be helpful and proactive. No one likes feeling helpless, and there is no kind of helpless that is more spectacularly helpless than long-term infertility. We go through unbelievable acrobatics to find out what’s going on in there, and sometimes there is an answer, but more often there isn’t. More often you end up with a prize collection of the apologetic shoulder-shrugs of various health professionals, and after you’re poked and prodded and bled and ablated and ultrasounded and generally violated in a hundred different ways at the end of the day there’s still no answer. You’re just not getting pregnant. Or staying pregnant. *Pitying smile* Sorry!

It’s exhausting. All the hope, all the effort, all the faithful, methodical adherence to whatever new regime you’re trying this time, and still you’re barren. And once again you’re left with the sickly, sinking feeling that if you’d only done that other thing that someone told you their aunt/grandmother/hairstylist did, New Guinean fucking shark-fat enemas or what the fuck ever, it would have happened. So it’s your fault. Again.

So you can imagine how our insides must cringe and collapse when we hear about the miracles of the flaxseed-enriched transvaginal herb douches that your Starbuck’s barista positively swears by. Chances are we’ve tried it.

3) “Just don’t focus on it so much.”

Very similar to the “relax” travesty, but with added verve. There’s something they call the “two week wait”. It’s a thing. There’s, like, websites and stuff. What it means is the time between when you meticulously choreograph the introduction of sperm to egg – be it through intercourse, or at-home insemination, or intrauterine insemination, or in vitro fertilization, or however those two crazy kids meet and hopefully strike up a little romance – and the time when you can reasonably take a pregnancy test. And it is a shit show.

The first week is usually ok. Not much happens for a little while, even if an egg has been fertilized. But those last four days of the second week, oh-ho-ho. You don’t know from crazy till you’ve lived through the last four days of the second week. At that point all bets are off.

You become near-psychotically attuned to every atom of your body. Your nipples become the subject of round-the-clock reflection: ok, they hurt, but do they hurt like pregnant hurt or like PMS hurt? Wait, that felt more like a pinch than an ache. That’s EXACTLY what it felt like the last time I was pregnant. I’m totally pregnant! But no, I’m probably not pregnant, cause wasn’t there this other time when they hurt like that but we missed the window so there was no chance I could be pregnant? Does it hurt like that time or this other time when… It goes a mile-a-minute and it is constant and unrelenting and there is NO way not to think about it because it is happening INSIDE YOUR BODY, which is where you LIVE.

If you are having a conversation with a woman in the final four days of the two week wait, I guarantee you that as she talks to you she is fiercely evaluating the state of her nipples. Or her cervical mucus. Or something else you don’t want to know about. She cannot help it, because this crazy shit is happening in her body. Asking her not to focus on it is like asking a person in a burning house to just ignore it and think about unicorns instead.

If you have perpetrated any of these fertility faux-pas, nil desperandum. It’s because you want to help, and we know that. As I mentioned above, I have totally said the same things. Because I wanted to help. Just don’t keep saying them. And pass it on.