Infertility is a mindf*ck. I could write a whole series of posts on how this process has changed me– little of it positive. Yeah, yeah… I know. Find silver linings and all that other bullshit, but I also believe in letting myself have all the feelings. Like even the bad ones.
Of the many side effects, I learned how to navigate the complexities of treatments. I learned to not have expectations on timelines or outcomes. Full throttle it armed with copious notes, spreadsheets, and injectibles, knowing that none of it was given. Expect to be let down, frustrated, disappointed, then go back to my well of resilience and hope there was still something left.
Oh, the arguments I had with my insurance. The test results that came back inconclusive, resulting in more tests that confirmed or denied nothing.
I learned that this is hard.
When I made the appointment with Dr. Petrel a few weeks ago, I was preparing myself to get back into the arena. I was suiting up– filling out forms, calling my insurance, going through my timeline to familiarize myself with the jargon I had willfully forgotten in the last two years.
Mr. O and I went in to see Dr. Petrel together with an agreement– we’ll try our one frostie, but only if it looks like it will survive thawing and be a good candidate for implantation. If not, fine. No more extreme measures.
I went to my appointment yesterday ready to try to start, with the full expectation that I would walk out with a list of more questions. I brought a notebook so I could take notes because I remembered how easily my heart could make me numb in doctor’s appointments.
I also remembered how miserable waiting rooms are. How you look around at the other people in the room and wonder where they are– are they on their 3rd IVF cycle? Did they just learn they were pregnant? Are they like me or are they one of those “freaks” who gets pregnant without really trying?
But before I could start building their stories, Dr. Petrel appeared in the door and ushered Mr. O and I into her office. She was just as I remembered- kind, upbeat, but also no bullshit. She got right down to business.
Petrel called our embryologist. Our embryo is stellar. It Triple A bonded, or whatever grading system they use. She suspects it has a 95% chance of thawing. So what we need to determine is how my uterus is doing post pregnancy, though since my periods have been pretty regular in frequency and flow, she is optimistic. Still, I’ll need a sonohystogram to make sure, and a few blood tests to make sure my thyroid is behaving.
Then well, that’s it. A sonohystogram, a check on my hormones, then we can get this baby-making started. Depending on those results, I could even technically just introduce the embryo as part of my natural cycle. No (or I should say, fewer) drugs required. Theoretically, our cycle could start in November, almost exactly when the cycle that begat Chick began.
I walked out of the office in a haze. What? Isn’t this supposed to be harder? Isn’t this supposed to take longer?
More importantly, am I really ready for this? Then again, are we ever?
A few weeks ago, a large packet arrived in my mailbox from my RE’s office. I remember this packet well. Lots of forms, check lists, maps to various offices… I didn’t open it.
“Oh, I know what’s in there.” Then like the diligent slacker I am, I completely ignored it until last night. I ripped it open, and started to fill out the forms.
The basic demographic stuff was fine. But when I hit the section on how long I’d be trying to conceive, I stumbled. I mean, how do I even answer that question? Do I go back almost 3 years to when this whole madness began? Do I start when Mr. O and I started talking about Deux? So I did what all of us do when faced with questions too difficult or painful to answer- I ignored them.
I could not, however, ignore the looming specter of Incompetence Insurance. You may recall that my insurance has a special phone number for us infertiles– the Infertility Hotline. In a flash, I flipped through those memories: the call, the laundry list of personal questions to someone who entered them into a database to determine my coverage… most of all, I remember the several days I had to wait for an appointment with one of their clinicians to open up. I don’t have days!
I called this morning, prepared to through my very best diva-style temper tantrum. Lo and behold, I didn’t have to. Since I’m already diagnosed, I didn’t need the uncomfortable calls, the endless precertification processes, or treatment codes. Nope, I just roll into Dr. Petrel’s office tomorrow with a half completed questionnaire, and I’m all set.
It’s the tiny victories, my friends.
I did it.
I made an appointment with Dr. Petrel to talk about Part Deux. This time around, it all feels very different.
a) I got an appointment almost immediately, rather than having to wait 10 weeks like before. I will be seeing her in just two weeks. Eeeek! I supposed this is one of the benefits of being an old-timer in the IF community- less waiting. In truth, I know this is only the beginning of a long series of tests, arguments with my insurance, and so much more. But I appreciate that there was one less hoop to jump through. Or perhaps just a shorter hoop.
b) Maybe it’s because this is not my first infertility rodeo, but I feel less apprehensive. I don’t know if that’s really the word I’m looking for. Before I would hold my breath waiting for every test, sure that one of them would reveal the truth of why we couldn’t get pregnant. This is one of the downsides of an “unexplained” diagnosis. You don’t know anything, so it seems like the problem could be everything. In my craziest moments, I was convinced tests would come back explaining that I didn’t actually have a uterus. Thaaaat’s what the problem is! Now, it seems like the next few months of tests are more like fact finding rather than waiting for a death sentence. Like an adventurous exploration of my lady bits to see if they can be colonized, rather than say… Shackleton’s ill-fated Trans-Antarctic Expedition. (Spoiler Alert: it didn’t end well.)
c) If I’m 100% honest with myself, I’m also much more at peace with whatever outcome. We have one frostie in storage, and Mr. O and I have agreed we’ll give it shot. Yes, I would like to have another child or I wouldn’t be doing this. At the same time, Chick is lovely. Our family is lovely. If it turns out we stay a trio rather than becoming a quartet, it’s okay. That’s not to say that I won’t feel sad if the transfer doesn’t work, I miscarry, or any of the other things that could stop a pregnancy before it really starts. But… well, the stakes don’t feel quite as high.
Maybe my mom’s death and becoming a parent in my own right have changed me– I now know worrying about every potential wrong turn doesn’t actually prevent any of it from happening. Preparedness doesn’t really count for much in the end. Endurance, the ship sailed by Shackleton, was built for maximum durability by expert shipbuilders. No one could have foreseen the storms and conditions that caused the crew to abandon her. The ship was eventually crushed, while her crew drifted for months on sheets of ice. And yet this expedition is often described as one of the best examples perseverance when all hope is lost.
Shackleton and every one of his crew members survived.
Please tell me you know about PostSecret. If you don’t, vacate the rock you’ve been living under and get on this!
I read the updates every Monday morning. I love them because the secrets shown remind me that we all have things we struggle with, we all have hidden joys and sadnesses. It is a lovely, humanizing way to start a week.
A few from this week’s post hit home for me, as they likely will many of you.
Now go follow PS. Like now.
I just got back from a long weekend attending a wedding back in my hometown. It was lovely. The wedding, I mean. The drama that inevitably erupts anytime I attempt to spend time with my family was categorically un-lovely. Do you people have functional families? Anyone? Bueller?
A few things I am left with:
- I love my child, but holy shit I cannot look after him full time. He is getting too big to manhandle but still wants to be held by me and only me. My back is killing me, and I have BITE MARKS. Yes, this is Chick’s latest way of expressing that he is tired. I mean, I get cranky when I’m sleepy but biting is not okay. Like ever. Today, I never felt better about dropping him off at daycare.
- After a weekend in small town/suburbia, I want to buy a house. Bad. I have loved city living for the past 15 years, but I need a nest to call my own. Also realized that moving out West is likely not happening soon, for other reasons I won’t go into now. Good reasons, like an impending promotion. In the meantime, I yearn for a yard.
- Came back to a job a generally love, but man… its days like this I wish I were an archivist at a tiny presidential library for someone no one cares about, like James Polk or Chester Arthur. I want to retreat into my brain and have no one talk to me for a few days. The bonus of being surrounded by dusty books and handling antiquities with care… swoon.
I have 20 minutes between meetings, and I will not spend that checking emails or planning out the rest of my day. No, I will spend it attempting to update you all on my liiiiiiife.
Here’s what’s been going on:
- Last weekend I threw a 25 anniversary party for my in-laws. To abbreviate a very long story, Mr. O and I were emotionally blackmailed into throwing this and I did 90% of the work. (Nope. Not bitter. Not one tiny bit.) I spent the last month or so running around picking up decorations, planning the menu, and other logistics. It went off okay (because TRAFFIC meant we got there after everyone else and were setting up while every one stood around watching.) I thought it was nice, and almost all the guests who attended said we did a lovely job. You know who hasn’t said that? MY IN-LAWS. The same in-laws who refused to help with our baby shower. Sometimes they baffle me.
- I have stopped pumping at work as of Monday. I tapered like a pro, I think in large part for myself than for Chick. Because I am a weirdo, I brought my pump equipment “just in case”, and it sung its demented siren song on my desk ALL DAY. But I resisted the urge and I now have massive chunks of my day back. Is it strange to say I miss it? Not the pumping (flanges can f*ck themselves!) but I do miss taking time out of my day every day to think about something else, or just breathe. Or binge watch Netflix shows.
- Good friends who have been trying to get babied for almost 3 years are pregnant with twins. My heart swells with joy for them. I wonder if this is what healing looks like, as I have felt zero pangs of sadness/envy/any of the other icky feelings I used to feel about pregnancy announcements.
- Got into it big time on Facebook about gendered baby clothes. A friend got pissed that the Ghostbusters shirt for boys was just the logo, while the one for girls said “In Training.” #lame Of course, this got me all ranty about how gendered clothes for kids are and I went a little nuts… See, if you dress a boy in a pink shirt, people get hella uncomfortable. I do think we’ve taken some strides (some tiny teeny strides) at allowing girls to like pink and also dinosaurs. If you put a little boy in something blue with unicorns on it? Wait…. I can’t find boy t-shirts with unicorns on them. As a feminist raising a feminist, this annoys the SHIT out of me because we’re implying that it is okay for little girls to blend being feminine with traditional masculine traits or interests, but boys can’t do the same because being “girly” is bad. Or literally not an option. I don’t mean to imply that the crap going on in the girls clothing departments of America is the same. Systemic sexism is a real thing and it disproportionately impacts women from the day we are born. [shakes angry fists in the air] To combat that, we need to attack this problem from both sides, allowing girls and boys to be brave, kind, and courageous. No one gender should corner the market on those traits. I do worry that my tendency to frame this up as “What Sucks in Little Boys Fashion” takes away from the real bullshit in girls choices. I don’t want to co-opt the conversation, but at the same time I find the challenge of raising a feminist son real and one I wasn’t entirely prepared for.
- Chick took his first steps! He is 14 months, and of course I was just starting to worry that his relative lack of mobility meant *something.* As usual, he took his first tiny leap forward just as I was about to google. Chick still prefers crawling since it is a lot faster, but still… he is on his way. I revel in watching him grow and learn new things. It’s like magic or something.
And like that, my 20 minutes are up. The whirlwind of life continues.
I owe you all a post because I have things to saaaay. Nothing too terrible exciting, just some massive realizations about life and stuff. You know, the usual emotional vomit I’ve made the very cornerstone of my blog.
But I’m busy. And last night I got 5 hours of sleep between a fitful baby and a brain that could not stop obsessing over this terrible anniversary party I have to throw for my in-laws this weekend that I’m convinced they are going to hate. Maybe they’ll hate it so much, they’ll stop talking to me? I feel alarmingly ambivalent about that outcome.
In the meantime, I’m still reading your posts. And I’ve just got to say… I love us. For serious, guys. I love our stories. I love the relative honesty we have about our lives, our struggles, the tiny triumphs of putting our lives back together after grief, loss, frustration, and disappointments.
Thanks for letting me follow along.
This week Chick had his annual Early Intervention screening. It is a two-hour long screening, a combination of questions and hands-on exercises that determines whether or not Chick still qualifies for the program.
It was conducted by a speech therapist and Chick’s EI coordinator who has been working with him every week for the last year. His comfort level with her is very high- he smiles when he sees her and gives her giant, spontaneous hugs. It’s darling
Both Mr. O and I were there at the assessment, answering a ton of questions like “Can he feed himself?,” “Does he acknowledge you when you walk into a room?” You know… basic stuff. Since his coordinator sees him so regularly, she was actually able to answer a lot of the questions. It made me realize just how much she has seen him develop over the past year.
I won’t lie, there were some times when I felt nervous when we determined Chick wasn’t doing something yet. Like feeding himself with a spoon- he is trying but really it is mostly using a utensil to mush food around. What does it all meeeeaaaan?! (Thankfully, I couldn’t not really google during the screening, or I’m sure I would have found tons of examples of how this lack of regular spoon-feeding resorts in children who are miserable and hate their mothers.)
It turns out that it all means that Chick is now officially average. With the exception of language skills where he needs work, he even scores above average in several categories. This is a big deal. Let us remember when I brought Chick home, he was basically a fetus. He should have been cooking for another 6 weeks, and I was warned how that may impact his development. I’ve long toggled between his chronological age v. his gestational age when I chart his growth. Now, it’s like that whole being born early never happened. And now that my child is average, he no longer qualifies for EI services.
I am relieved? Kinda? Yeah, I think that’s the word for it. Maybe. I’m also a little bit sad. Okay, yes. I am sad my child no longer qualifies for early intervention. Ick. That makes me sound terrible. I don’t mean that I want him to be delayed. It was just so nice to have someone who was singularly focused on my child’s development, in a way that most daycares can’t really provide.
Don’t get me wrong- Daycare is really good for Chick. They seem to have intuited that he likes a lot of “hands off” playtime. He prefers less guidance so he can explore stuff on his own. In fact, even after all the dramz with EI, our coordinator noted that this is a good environment for him. I chalk his steady development up to their care, as well as our own and Early Intervention.
In a way, having these weekly EI visits meant that I got the benefits of a fancy schmancy daycare without having to pay for it. Chick got one-on-one assessments. As his parents, we got weekly development reports and plans. I would be paying $30K a year for that some place else.
And then there is the other thing. I actually really like Chick’s coordinator. I would hang out with her, if that would not be unprofessional. She is compassionate, funny, and committed to her work. (Hell, you’d have to be to work in early intervention.) I love all these things about her.
When the assessment was over and we tallied Chick’s score, it was a happy/sad moment. I don’t think any of us are quite ready to say good bye. Which is why we’ve scheduled one more visit for next week to transition. I suspect it is more for me and her than for Chick.