Plan Mildred

I’ve been thinking of working on a Plan C.

This is how I thought this would all go, in my charming naivete.

Plan A: Get married, easily have 2-3 children. Raise them to become functioning members of society. Retire some place without snow.

When that proved difficult, I arranged for a Plan B.

Plan B: Get married, undergo fertility treatments. Feel fortunate to have one child. Raise said child in the most dazzling display of helicopter parenting this world has ever seen. Retire some place without snow.

Now I’ve come to realize that I need to start self-socializing the idea of  Plan C. Let’s be honest, it’s entirely possible that all the advanced reproductive technologies in the world may not actually work for me. Sad fact, but a real one nonetheless.

Plan C rolls out in a number of ways, depending on my mood. Up until recently, Plan C has looked like this.

Get married. Try and fail to have a child. Die alone in a shanty.

At this point, I mentally cue up Bridget Jones’ Diary. “I will die alone, and be found three weeks later, half-eaten by wild dogs.”

The trouble is, that doesn’t really work for me. No matter how morose I get, I honestly can’t see that as a realistic option. Thank you, Saddy McSadderson, but I will take a pass on getting eaten by dogs.

So what’s left then? I’m thinking Plan Mildred.

I had an awesome Great Aunt Mildred. My grandmother’s sister, Mildred was a badass. She never married, never had kids. She supported herself her entire life as a school teacher. Mildred experienced life. She traveled the world, often alone, which was rare for women of her generation.

I have this great picture of her from the late 40’s. She is in the jungle somewhere, wearing a pith helmet and the biggest smile you’ve ever seen. She is so proud and just oozes confidence. In my own memories of Mildred, she was lively and impish. When she would visit, I always knew there would be FUN. On her last visit, she bought us a microwave. It was fairly new on the kitchen convenience scene– about the size of a golden retriever. But is was the latest and greatest technology, and she insisted that we needed one.

Mildred made being alone look amazing.

In truth, she wasn’t really alone. She lived nearby to my grandparents. She moved from New Jersey to Utah when my grandparents retired. Mildred doted on my father, aunt and uncle. They were not her kids, but they were very much her kin. Yes, eventually she died. And likely alone. But at the end of the day, don’t we all end up traveling that road by ourselves? Death is a party of one, no matter how you break it down.

There is this question I’ve been toying with- if no children, where is my legacy? Who will care for it? Who will look back on my existence and cherish it, even if only for 15 minutes?

It’s hard to say. To be frank, there is no guaranteeing that my offspring will care even if I do have any. But if I can’t have kids of my own, I might just still be able to live a remarkable life.

Especially if it comes with a pith helmet.

The Incredible Hulk of Hormones

(Warning: There is a little over-sharing here about bodily functions. Enter at your own risk.)

So far, my body has failed to host a fertilized egg.

There is, however, a pimple on my forehead that I am sure is well into its first trimester.

This is just one of the many thrilling and disgusting turns my body has taken over the last few months. Hormone fluctuations are a bitch.

I honestly don’t remember my cycles being such a rollercoaster of ick before. Yes, I was on the pill for 10+ years, but even before then… it was never this bad. Ever.

My skin was the first thing to go on this baby-making adventure. My forehead turns into an oil slick about a week before my period. I will get zits in my hair. I also have bacne now. WTF?! I thought I left all this crap behind when I got my braces off.

I’m also experience extreme exhaustion. This is how I know I’ve ovulated. Cramps, cramps, followed by an irresistible urge to nap. I have literally put my head down on my desk in the middle of a conversation at work. This has also started up while I’m on my period. I’m completely wiped out the first two days. Last week, I came home on Thursday (CD1) and slept on the couch for an hour in my work clothes.

Then there is the irrational rage. Oh yes… let us not forget about that. It doesn’t happen every month, but there are definitely times when I feel myself getting down right irate about something really minor. Like an email in my inbox. Not the contents of the email, mind you. Just the fact that there was an email in my inbox. I was ENRAGED, but I could rationally see I was acting ridiculous. But still… ENRAGED.

Oooo! Did I mention the bloating? Yet another symptom of my impending menstruation. I get so bloated around the middle that I cannot wear pants. No, really. My pants do not fit me, so I have to wear amorphous dresses or anything with an elastic waist band.

My OG PCP (who sucked, but that’s another story) kept telling me that this is “good.” It means that my body is doing what it is supposed to do, prepping for fertilization + implantation. That might be true, but holy bejeezus… It’s hard enough to feel human through all of this, without the added complication of turning into the Incredible Hulk of Hormones. (You don’t want to see me ANGRY!)

Now here’s a real question for ladies in the crowd who’ve done the Clomid… I’ve had fairly few symptoms (Woohoo!) But since I’ve increased dosage last month, I’ve gotten sick on the 3rd day of taking the medication. Nothing serious… just a sore throat, stuffy nose, and general malaise.

I could also have really bad luck– this would not surprise me in the slightest. Just curious if anyone has heard anything about weakening your immune system while on these drugs.

 

Sad vs. Sad

I was texting with my sister the other day. We’d both had long, crappy days and we’re commiserating about it– mostly about how much wine we’d need to consume to recover. Out of no where, she texts me:

Sis: I think of you much with the fertility stuff. Just for you to know that I’m here for you to talk if you need it!

 

Me: Thanks- sadly I have become an expert at grieving over the last year. It’s nice to have your support.

 

Sis: I want to help in any way I can. It is sad- all this stuff. I am here for you.

 

Since I’ve “come out of the infertility closet,” I’ve been interested in how other people react to it. Not a lot of my friends know– just the ones who I would typically turn to into any life crisis. My family knows. And I’ve told everyone I don’t want this to be something we tip-toe around. This is my life. It’s happening. Let’s be grown ups about it.

Mostly, people are sad for me which is nice. (Better than someone saying “Thank goodness! I never thought you should reproduce.”) These are the people who are closest to me, so they want to see me happy. This is infertility business, as we’ve discussed, makes me sad.

Part of the reason I didn’t want to tell people was because I didn’t want to be confronted by the perpetual sad face. You know, the well-intended friend who holds your hand and basically expects you to weep openly every time you talk about your recent test/procedure. I do weep openly. In the shower. Alone. Then I put on my big girl pants, and get on with it. (Then blog about it. That too.)

They keep checking on me to make sure “I’m fine.” Just calling. You know, caaaaausally… And I think they are surprised when I say (with some amount of truthfulness) that I am not sad.

To be clear, I am not sad. I feel sad. But I refuse to become a sad person because this is happening. I can’t actually set up camp underneath a bridge like an old hag, and wait to die. That seems like a pointless way to spend the life I’ve been given.

Please don’t misunderstand me. I love these people, and see how their responses come from a loving and supportive place. I am fortunate in that. More like their expectations for how I should be handling this are more accurately reflections of how they feel.

This weekend, I met up with my friend Sparrow who I have not seen in some months. (This is Sparrow of the “Statistical Anomaly.”)

Me: So Mr. Ostrich and I are officially going for infertility treatments.

 

Sparrow: Good for you.

Reaffirming. Empowering. Not ready to give up.

And not sad.

The Infertility Hotline

First things first…

Thank you.

I was in such a sad place last week and I just needed a safe place to spew. Not only did you beautiful girls suffer through that post, many of you stepped in as my personal pep squad. I needed it. If I’m learning anything through this, it is that the kindness of strangers is a real thing. You all give me hope for humanity.

And now we plod onward…

There are so many reasons that I was hoping to skip what I am now learning is called “Advanced Reproductive Technologies.” Not just the emotional stuff, the doctors visits, the potential injectables… That actually didn’t scare me one bit.

It is dealing with my insurance company. We’ll call it “Incompetence Insurance”, shall we? Before this even got started, I’ve experienced so many errors, misinformation, and flat out idiocy. For example: because they failed to send claim information to an office in a timely manner, I was sent to the hospital’s collections department. (I DO NOT get sent to collections. I may have my shortcomings, but this lady gets her bills paid on time.)

There are more examples, but I will spare you the gory details. In short, I hate them. But they are the only one my employer offers, so there you have it.

As much as I was bummed to wait so long to see the RE (appointment August 7th,) I realized that this was probably a good thing since it gives me plenty of time to get my ducks lined up with Incompetence Insurance. Planning is my middle name, after all.

According to the rather large packet of information sent to me by the RE’s office, mine is the only insurance company that requires I call an “Infertility Hotline” before they will authorize treatment. (No, really. That’s what they call it. A hotline. Call now for all your hot and heavy infertility needs!) So I need to get 1) a referral from my PCP, and 2) authorization from the Infertility Hotline. Thanks for making a painful process so much easier, guys.

Any way, after I hauled myself out of my sadfest the other day, I realized I should get that started. Who knows how long that’s going to take? 2 days, apparently. I called. Was put on hold for 10 minutes. Was told that all infertility specialists were busy and someone would call me in 2 business days. I continued hating Incompetence Insurance. #rage

Eventually, I get a call back and proceeded to have the first and likely last helpful conversation I have ever had with my insurance company. I had to answer all the questions I’ve answered a bazillion times: How long have we been trying, which tests have you run, are you having timed intercourse, blah, blah, blah. After a 28 minute interview and two calls to my RE’s office, I’ve been given an authorization number. Victory, albeit a small one.

The only thing my insurance doesn’t seem to suck at is the actual coverage. Though not a reproductive free for all, it appears to be “fair.” (Wait until the bills start coming in, and I’ll let you know if this holds true.)

One interesting bit: Unless there is a medical need, my insurance will not authorize IVF until at least 6 cycles of other infertility treatments have been tried. (Clomid counts, BTW.) I guess that makes sense, but for those of us that fall in the “Unknown” category, that’s sorta shitty. Not that I want IVF… I don’t know… I guess I’m just bristling at the bureaucracy involved with something that feels so heartbreaking and personal.

In the meantime, I’m going to start taking Synthroid. Wait… What? Remember those blood tests I had a few weeks ago? It turns out my TSH is a little high. I’m at 2.75. Whereas that is in the range of “normal,” it is on the high side for baby making. I was resisting it for a while- I don’t like taking extra medication if I can avoid it. But then I realized I’m about to introduce all sorts of foreignness into my body. Why not start now?

The good news from the blood work is that I do not seem to have any autoimmune diseases. Victory yet again, though this one is a much bigger weight off my shoulders. Whew…

Round 5 of Clomid starts today. Wish me luck.

Sadface.

(Warning: This might be the most self-pitying post I’ve written to date. If you’re looking for a ray of sunshine, skip this one.)

I woke up this morning at 4:45 with cramps. My period has officially started.

This is miserable. Not that this is news to most of you reading this. You wouldn’t be here if you hadn’t at some point experienced this particular kind of misery. It doesn’t seem to have an end point, just a recurring nightmare replayed every 28 days.

About two years ago, a friend of mine from high school had a stillbirth. It was obviously heartbreaking for her. As if that weren’t bad enough, people have said the most INANE stuff to her, like “You can always have another one,” “God must have needed another angel,” and “Everything happens for a reason.”

Everything happens for a reason. This is complete bullshit. What reason is there behind my friend losing her child? What reason is there behind my brother and his wife’s 4 miscarriages? What reason is there behind my inability to get pregnant? What reason is there for any of the shit we’re going through?

We use this phrase all the time, like when we have lost a job or are going through a divorce. These are things people say to try and put pain in context, to make it bearable. Hell, I’ve even said it to myself. But I don’t believe it anymore. There are no greater powers at work here. And if there are, they really suck at their jobs.

I used to believe in God. Not a hardcore church-goer, but I always believed that something out there “had a plan.” Sure, had a plan, but you’d be surprised how often that plan would get completely screwed up.  So it was nice to think that there was something else that saw the long game when I couldn’t.

To be honest, this whole thing has turned me into an atheist. I’m not being hyperbolic here. I remember very clearly driving down the road with terrible cramps and the sinking realization that this month was another uterine no-show. Just rounding a corner, I thought “There is no God in this.” And like that 34 years of Catholicism was gone, a direct correlation between my consistent infertility and my lose of faith.

I know what I have to do, guys. I really do. I need to pick myself up and move along. But I think I’ll pull the covers over my head a little while longer before I pretty myself up and get to work.

Every month is another shot, right?

Not LMAO. Not Even a Little Bit.

And now is the time on Sprockets when we wait!

(Oh, Mike Meyers… you’re timeless…)

I’m 3 days away. 3 DAYS. I’m mostly sure I’m not pregnant, but then again what do I know? I’ve never been pregnant before, so maybe this is what it feels like.

Alas, PMS symptoms and early pregnancy symptoms are so similar. (Because nature thinks this is funny.) I’m rational enough to ignore these symptoms, and yet human enough to want an answer NOW.

This TWW has been fine, really. I have developed a new coping skill– extreme exercising. There is something to be said for forcing yourself out of your own head and into your body. I ran almost every day last week. I went for a 2 hour hike this weekend. And I lifted weights. No kidding, I picked things up and put them down.

The added bonus is that everything hurts, so I can’t misinterpret anything as early signs. They are most likely signs of my mania, and that isn’t going away anytime soon.

In annoying family news, Mr. Ostrich’s sister is up to posting inappropriate things on Facebook again. I’m mostly fine with it because a) she usually keeps it about herself, and b) it’s pretty darn entertaining, in a totally voyeuristic kind of way. It’s like watching The Jersey Shore unfold in my Facebook feed. But yesterday, my dear sister-in-law posted some image that’s been going around FB: “Be Someone’s Crazy Aunt.” She tagged both me and Mr. Ostrich and writes “I would love to be!!! LMAO!!!”

Note: I am not LMAO. Nor am I ROTFL. Nope, not even LOL.

Long back story here, but Mr. O’s family has been after us to have babies since before we were married. Yes, BEFORE we were married. I’m not one to stand on morals, but I always thought there was something weird about that. Like “I’m not so concerned about your ability to commit to each other, as long as you pop out a few cute babies for us.”

So here we are, 10 years later. Still very much committed to one another. Still very much in love. And still selfishly not producing children for them to be Crazy Aunts/Uncles/Grandmothers/Grandfathers/Cousins to.

Mr. Ostrich has told a few people on his side about our IF woes, but not every one. He comes from a large, extended, nosy-but-well-meaning family. He is a private person, so has wanted to keep it to himself mostly. Evidently, he has not told his sister. (For reasons I will not go into, I respect his decision.) Of course, in the meantime she continues to be in-your-face rude, though without even knowing it.

It doesn’t make me mad, as much as it makes me wonder. There are so many things we “assume” people can do. Or will do. Or even want to. I mean, let’s say that Mr. O and I decided not to have kids, based on some principled stance on overpopulation. (Whatever, I’m setting up a hypothetical, okay?) Should we have to make an announcement? Like the opposite of birth announcements, maybe. “We are pleased to welcome no children to the world. Ever. Join us in this celebration.”

At some point, I thought people who just mind their own business and stop asking. But these are not people who seem to understand boundaries or subtleties.

In the meantime, I wait.

The Pace of Nature

As I may have mentioned, Mr. Ostrich and I recently went on vacation to San Francisco.  Why? Because.

It all started because I wanted to see redwood trees. I originally had this huge plan to go to Yosemite, camp, hike, etc. There was a snag in this plan- Mr. Ostrich doesn’t like camping. Something about bugs and not being able to shower regularly. I even tried rebranding it “glamping” (as in glamor + camping,) but he would not be fooled.

So I had to move the focal point of the vacation to a place more urbane, but with the option for staggering outdoorsiness. San Francisco has a nice little redwood grove about 45 minutes outside the city. I get my trees, Mr. Ostrich get running water. Everybody wins.

The vacation was really wonderful. San Francisco spoiled the hell out of me. The weather was beautiful, the food was terrific, and the coffee was mind blowing. I even had toast from the OG Toast Master, Trouble Coffee and Coconut Club.

Toward the end of our week, we rented a car for the day and headed out of town. The end of any vacation is always bitter sweet. I’ve finally gotten into the groove of vacation, but I’m also aware that it will also soon be over. Then again, I’m almost too relaxed to care.

First, we headed over the Golden Gate bridge to the Marin Headlands. It was about 9:00 in the morning. The sun was bright, the air was cool off the water. The headlands were beautiful– each turn offered views of the iconic bridge better than the last.

Afterwards we went to Muir Woods, home to some of the oldest living things on the planet. I’ve become kind of obsessed with redwoods lately. I marvel at how they just keep growing. Some of those trees are over a thousand years old. They are not bothered by war, famine, political unrest… certainly not by my own problems. They just hang out, minding their own business.

Muir Woods is one of the last old-growth redwood groves on the planet. I walked around with neck cricked up and my mouth open. There aren’t words for it. I walked up to one stand of trees and just cried. Walking among them is like entering a church. It is quiet. It is sacred. These trees are patient with themselves, teaching us to be patient with our own lives as well.

Mr. Ostrich and I hiked up through the canyon and along the ridge. The hike up was understandably the hardest part. It took time. At first, Mr. Ostrich and I talked a lot. But as the hike became more strenuous, you could only hear our breathing and the sound of the wilderness. I had never seen a part of the world so luscious and green. Every once in a while, one of us stopped to point out something spectacular. We treasured that thing in that moment, and kept going.

The ridge was more sparse. The ground wasn’t soft and mossy, but dry and dusty. The sun exposed everything, and I could see where we were more clearly. In the distance, you could make out the ocean. The valley below showed how far we’d come.

The way down was faster, harder in a different way. The sheer velocity that propelled us down the canyon made it hard to stop and soak it all in. On the edge of one trail, a tree had fallen over. I pointed ahead and said “Look at the roots of that tree, all exposed! And look how even now it keeps growing.” Though it had been almost completely uprooted, this tree was sprouting new growth. Sure, what was once up was now sideways. But it adapted and found a new way to live.

For the last year, I have had a quote from Emerson tacked up at my desk:

“Adopt the pace of nature. Her secret is patience.”

Sooner or later, Nature wins because she is patient. She never gives up.