The Unknowns

“As we know, there are known knowns; there are things that we know that we know. We also know there are known unknowns; that is to say we know there are some things we do not know. But there are also unknown unknowns, the ones we don’t know we don’t know.” -Donald Rumsfeld*

My first consultation with a “real” RE is just a week away. I’m not exactly sure what I should expect. When I got my period last time, it was on a Sunday morning. I crawled back into bed and cried a little bit. Mr. Ostrich dutifully spooned me, and tried to comfort me.

ME: I’m just scared. This advance reproductive bullshit terrifies me.

MR. O: Are you sure you still want to do this?

ME: Yeah, but I’m still scared.

I’ve thought about this since it flew out of my mouth. I’m not one who gets scared that often. Typically, I research the crap out of something until I understand it. (Knowing is half the battle.) But all the “understanding” in the world isn’t making this any less intimidating. There is a lot I don’t know. So there is a lot I can obsessively worry about.

This is a brief summary.

1) I’m almost convinced that after reviewing all my tests, my RE will discover something so obvious like I don’t have a uterus. That’s been the problem all along!

2) I’m worried she’ll order a whole bunch more tests. Some of them are a year old at this point, but I still don’t want to have to do them again. Let’s get this show on the road, damnit.

3) What if I have to stop running? Being able to be outside alone, following the rhythm of my feet, feeling my heart get stronger with every stride… this shit has sustained me through the absolute worst year of my life (thus far.) If I can’t do that because of any treatments, I will lose my frickin’ mind.

4) I have to keep track of things. There are the injections, the sticks to pee on, the showing up for doctor’s appointments on time. You ladies make this look so easy. “I took .75 ml of Magical Baby Powder, and now my KLM levels are at 45.” I have no idea what this shit really means. This seems to require a level of organization that I do not have the skills for.

5) Actual pain. Let’s be real. None of this sounds like a massage for your lady parts.

6) The money. My insurance covers some of it, but there is a lifetime max. I have to get this done before the money runs out.

7) The disappointment. Sure, I’ve dealt with the monthly disappointment, but I worry that I’ll have a higher level of emotional investment in the ARTs. What if the sadness I experience at the end of each cycle now is worse?

8) What if, at the end of all this, it doesn’t work? I’ve got a few more stops along the TTC train, but the end is in sight. All this time, I held out ARTs as the backup plan. But my backup plan has no backup plan.

Yes, I am worrying about this prematurely. I haven’t even had the damn appointment yet. One of the hardest things I’ve had to confront during this past year is that I have no idea how anything in this life will pan out. I have to honor my crazy-lady anxiety, but then learn to let it go.

Nothing is guaranteed, the good or the bad.

 

*Yes, I just made a vague comparison between infertility and terrorism. And yes, this is the first and last time I will ever quote Donald Rumsfeld. I promise.

Little Victories

For the first time in a while, I feel like I have positive news to share. That feels so foreign.

Actually, there are a few bits to share. Nothing earth shattering. They still feel like victories, so please join me in celebration.

1) A fellow IF blogger is finally pregnant. This was my first, i.e. the first of the bloggers I follow to share their happy news. I am beyond excited for her, to the point I was literally dancing and singing around my apartment. (Weirdly, to “Que Sera, Sera”. There must be subtext in there somewhere.)

I know what you’re thinking… “That’s nice and all, but how is that your victory?” Because for the first time in 2 years, I am happy about someone’s pregnancy without reservation. At no point have I looked at my own vacant uterus and felt bad.

This feels like progress.

2) I successfully felt something other than envy when seeing small children. I went for a 6.5 mile run this weekend with Mr. Ostrich. We run through this arboretum in our city, which is a hot spot for runners, cyclists, dog walkers and baby walkers parents with small kids.

While charging this particularly brutal hill, I saw two little girls who were saying hi to an old man on a bench. The older girl had tons of advice for her sister on how to greet old people properly. (No kidding, it was hysterical.)

Rather than thinking “Damn you, and your adorableness,” I thought “I remember when my sister used to do that to me.” Which sparked a series of pleasant and hilarious memories of my childhood.

High on endorphins? Or maybe I’m emotionally evolving…

3) TSH levels are back to normal! I got a call from my doc’s office, and -hurrah!- my body is responding to Synthroid nicely, and my levels are now within baby-making range. High five, self!

Sure, these seem small in the scheme of things, but they are mine. I’m owning the good stuff in my life LIKE A BOSS.

 

What Will I Be?

Earlier this week, I picked up my last round of Clomid. While walking down the street, I saw a pregnant woman who was just so adorable I wanted to die.

Instinctively, I thought “I hate you.”

Which is, admittedly, a terrible thing to think about anyone, let alone some innocent woman strolling down the street on a hot summer evening. Sadly, this has become a bit of a reflex in the last few months. See pregnant woman, harbor irrational hatred.

Almost immediately, I thought “If I’m lucky, other people may hate me the same way someday.”

I had not really considered this before. Even if I do come out of all this with a child, I’ve now seen things I can’t unsee. I’ve witnessed fertility through the eyes of someone who is infertile. I know what it is like to see pregnancy, parents, and small children, and literally ache. No matter what happens, this will always be written into my story.

A few weeks ago, fellow IF blogger Haisla asked “Who will I be when (if) the much expected finally happens?” I’ve been thinking about that so much since she posed the question. I’ve never thought of myself as fixed in time, but there are events that fundamentally change who we are.

We can’t change them or stop them from happening. We can only change how we react to them. I am trying so hard to derive something positive from this experience, while also honoring how deeply sad this chapter of my life is. Holding both. It’s really hard.

Regardless of what happens, I need this to serve a purpose. I’m not sure I’m cynical enough to believe that this is just crappy. Even if I have to make up my own damn meaning, I need this to have value.

I’ve struggled with what this experience is teaching me.

 

Patience?

Compassion?

Courage?

Resilience?

 

Skirmish with Incompetence Insurance

I hate insurance companies. I really hate mine.

I just had to fight with an Incompetence Insurance rep to get estimates. At first, I got this weird run around.

ME: I’m trying to budget for my anticipated procedures. Can you help me get an estimate on IUI and IVF from my doctor?

REP: No, unfortunately I can’t do that without getting the procedure codes. Sorry!

ME: And where can I look up those codes?

REP: You would have to talk to your doctor.

ME: So you’re telling me that you can’t help me until I call the doctor’s office, get a list of all the associated codes, then call YOU back? Really?

REP: Yes, ma’am. That would be the only way I could give you an accurate estimate.

ME: I’m not looking for an accurate estimate, I’d be fine with a ball park…

REP: Unfortunately, I can’t look that up without the procedure codes.

And then I unleashed my fury. I asked to file an official complaint with the company because my doctor is in-network, and they should have records of what similar procedures have cost in the past. In fact, Incompetence Insurance’s stupid website even claims to offer this as a service.

The threat of filing an official complaint worked. After some huffing and puffing and 10 minutes on hold, the rep came back with two codes– one for IUI and one for IVF– and estimated fees from my doctor’s office. I seriously wonder if she just didn’t want to spend the time looking them up

What’s doubly hysterical about this is that I called my company’s “Concierge Services” line. That’s right- Incompetence Insurance wants my company’s business so bad, they have a special line for us. And I still manage to get terrible treatment. #lame

What I genuinely hate about all this shit with insurance companies is that they are pushing so much of the day to day management on to its customers. Fine, I can respect that this is my benefit which I pay for, so I need to take an active interest. Fine. But in this case, I wanted to hurl feces at someone. Here I am trying to make responsible decisions with my health and my finances, and I’m getting an INANE run around.

Yes, I did eventually get the information that I wanted. But I didn’t need to spend 25 minutes arguing with someone, elevating my stress levels, and acting like a dick. Contrary to what some might say, I don’t actually enjoy being that person who threatens to file complaints. Don’t make me be an asshole. Just fricking help me out.

I’m almost done with all my “homework” for my first RE visit in two weeks. Mr. Ostrich had to fill out a questionnaire yesterday, which was hilarious. My favorite moments:

“Are you sure you’re not supposed to fill this out?”

Um… it says MALE fertility questionnaire at the top.

“Why do they need to know when I started shaving?! Who remembers that crap?”

He tried to insist he started shaving at 12, which is just not possible. After some rational discussion, we discovered it was more like 15.

Gotta find something to laugh about throughout all this, amiright?

I just need to fax over the last of my release forms, and we’re good to go. August 7th, FTW!

You Got This

CD1. There. That’s out in the open.

I was 4 days late, however. 4 DAYS. It feels sort of like getting 3rd runner up. So close, but so very far away. I just kept crossing my fingers every day hoping that my period wouldn’t come that day. Just one more day.

But here I am, cramps and a literal bloody mess. Charming.

I will admit, I was hoping that this cycle actually worked. I had no reason for this optimism, except the 4 DAYS my body successfully mislead me into thinking that maybe, just maybe it all came together this time.

Part of me was hoping that I could be that freakish success story of someone who conceives on the eve of her first meeting with an RE. These people exist, I swear! Along with Sasquatch, the Loch Ness Monster, and whatever is being kept in Area 51.

But that is not my path.

When I spotted the spotting this morning, I was genuinely surprised. WTF? 4 days later? That’s insane. I cried a little. Then I put on my running gear and headed out for a 6.5 mile run.

I was really tempted not to. If ever I have a good reason for curling up in a ball and feeling sorry for myself, it’s usually every 28 days (or in this case 32.) I don’t know, I just don’t have it in me anymore.

Weirdly, I think that being a runner has prepared me for this. It’s physically demanding- you have to be able to put up with some pain and discomfort in order to do it. But most of all, it is a sport of mental toughness. You have to will yourself to keep going, even while your brain and body are giving you every reason to stop.

In the girls run club I coach, we teach the girls to develop a personal mantra. Something that they can say to themselves when they are having a hard run. Most of them are kinda silly, like “Just think of ice cream!” Hey, they are 9 and 10. Ice cream is a great motivator.

Mine is “You got this.”

Even on the hardest days, I know that I’ve got what it takes to get through it. It may not be pretty. In fact, I would wager that it will involve a lot of groaning and cursing. But I know that I have what I need to finish. It’s in there somewhere, I just need to keep digging deeper until I find it.

This has been my running mantra for years. In the past year, it has become my mantra for life. Imagine my delight when I stumbled across this necklace. I have one, and I wear it any time I need to remind myself that I have an inexhaustible source of strength. (I just really wish I could stop using it. Any day now, Universe. ANY DAY.)

photo (2)

 

Every CD1 is hard to get through, but some how I manage.  As I find myself staring down IUI or IVF or whatever comes next, I have to believe that I’ll get through that– regardless of the result.

On Working with Dummies

I work with this woman… Let’s call her Myna*.

Myna is one of those people who expresses her ignorance with gusto. Sometimes, she has no idea that she sounds like a jerk. Other times she knows it, admits it, but will take the trouble of justifying herself. It’s weird.

Like this one time I was hosting a donation drive for a local Boys & Girls Club. She comes over to my desk where we’re collecting the needed items, and asks how the drive is going.

Me: “It’s going really well, but we could always use more!” Nudge, nudge, wink, wink

Myna: “Well, everyone is always asking for something.”

I was collecting sunscreen and beach towels for at-risk children attending summer camp.

Let’s just say that she and I don’t always share the same world view.

Today she and I were talking about keepsakes from loved ones. You know, like your grandmother’s china, Aunt Bessie’s sapphire tennis bracelet… Because everyone comes from that kind of  privilege.

Anyway, she was talking about how her great aunt left a whole bunch of things to her. At some family event down the road, her cousin sees her wearing Great Aunt Whatever’s necklace. Cousin makes some snide comment. Myna says Great Aunt Whatever gave it to me, so suck it.

“I mean, she never got married, doesn’t have any kids. What does she want the necklace for?”

I don’t know… to WEAR IT? To feel connected to her dead Great Aunt?

This actually echoes something I’ve heard several times over the last few weeks. Or perhaps I’m just more sensitive to it now.

People who don’t have children shouldn’t have any right to family heirlooms. Because we’ll all insist on being buried with our treasure like Egyptian Pharaohs? What?

Really, all us childless, barren, old biddies should just live in squalor and leave all nice things to people who can have kids.

Admittedly, Myna has no idea of my IF woes. But I don’t think that really lets her off the hook. Regardless of whether or not I can have children, I don’t think anyone is more entitled to the memory of a loved one than anyone else.

Like I said, she and I don’t share the same world view.

*Nope. Not her real name.

Dispatch from the ICU

Though not scheduled to arrive until later this week, I can tell this cycle didn’t do the trick. For the moment, I am calm about it. I’m sure I’ll be a complete wreck later, but now… I’m good. Mostly because I’m visiting my family, so I’m thoroughly distracted.

Unfortunately, my mom is back in the ICU. It’s like we’re playing musical chairs with hospital floors. This week, ICU. Next week, the Step Down Unit. Oh, wait! We’re at the ICU again!

While we were at the hospital yesterday, I was talking about attending a friend’s 50th anniversary celebration. (Of his marriage to God. Yes, I’m talking about a priest. And yes, I had a ton of deeply conflicted feelings about it. But I’ll talk more about that in another post.)

I mentioned to my mom that he joined his order in 1964. My dad says “That’s two years before we got married, in 1966.” My mom smiled, and reached for his hand. I silently leaked from my eyeballs.

It hurts so much to see her like this. I’m watching her waste away because they can’t fix what’s wrong with her. And it’s gone on for so long. What’s worse is that her fighting spirit seems to have run out. I could almost stand it all before because even in her worst states, she had this ferocious drive to get better.

I get that really isn’t anything called fairness in this life. I don’t mean to drop a Cynical Bomb on you, but I just don’t see it working that way. There isn’t a good/bad balance in any one life. Some of us get breaks. Some of us just get shafted. Some of us are lucky enough to have a decent share of both.

But what is happening to my mom does seem unusually cruel. It’s been 8 months since she went into the hospital. Her muscles are hanging from her bones. She can’t talk. Her hair is thinning and falling out. My beautiful mom’s body is being carved up in an effort to save her.

All I can do is stand by her side and tell her I love her.

(Aside: when my doctors have told me to reduce stress to help with fertility, you now know why I tell them to fuck off.)

And you know what’s weird? Even seeing her like this, she is still so beautiful to me. Her hands, her smile, her brown eyes (so like mine.) I don’t see the tubes, the hospital gown, or the machines helping to keep her alive. Though I recognize the decline, I still see her as she was before even when I’m standing right next to her.