Not Everyone Wants Your Life

Earlier this week, I had to attend a few all day offsites for work. This meant, among other things, having to spend gobs of quality time with my coworkers.

I mostly enjoy my coworkers. I am fortunate enough to work with incredibly smart, passionate people. These are my two favorite qualities, so this mostly works out.

Mostly. Did you notice how many times I used that word? Because there are exceptions.

After a morning brainstorming session, my team had lunch together. I was sitting at a table with a colleague who is getting married soon, and Myna. (Some of you may remember her from an earlier post.) For the purposes of this post, let’s call said colleague Grebe.

Myna: So do you and your fiance want children?

Grebe: No, not really.

Myna: You’ll feel differently once you’re married.

Grebe: I don’t think so. Neither of us want kids.

Myna: But I’m sure if you found yourself pregnant, you’d want to have children.

Grebe: I’m 36 years old. I’ve managed not to get pregnant so far, and I don’t think there is a big chance I’ll “find myself pregnant” anytime soon.

OH. MY. GOD.

This woman is legit nuts. What was Myna hoping to accomplish? I mean, how was Grebe supposed to answer that last question? “If I found myself pregnant, I’d probably give it up for adoption. Or abort it. Yes, I think my reproductive choices are perfectly acceptable things to talk about over lunch with colleagues.”

“If you just happen to find yourself pregnant, you’d want them.” Um, no. Not necessarily. There could be any number of reasons that Grebe and her manfriend don’t want kids. Maybe she can’t have them. Maybe he can’t have them. Maybe one of them is a carrier for some crazy genetic disorder that they don’t want to pass on.

Or maybe they just don’t want to have kids.

This is not an affront to humanity. And most of all, it is none of her business.

I am offended by this, even though I do want children. Myna was so intent on making Grebe agree with her that she couldn’t fathom that her questions might be hurtful to Grebe (or the innocent bystanders at the table. Ahem.)

It is amazing to me how hard it is for some people to accept that not everyone wants their life. Myna has two kids, and they are the center of her life. She is flatout in love with her children, which is lovely. But this doesn’t mean that everyone wants what she has– or can even attain it.

I know this. You know this. But what is it with people who need their lives validated by EVERYONE ELSE? And if you happen to choose differently, you’re obviously wrong. Or you don’t know any better. Because if you just happened to find yourself living their lives, you’d realize what you’ve been missing all along.

Luckily, I’ve come to realize that I have a choice when these conversations spring up.

I got up and left the table. By the time I came back, the plates and the intrusive assumptions had been cleared.

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Tis a Gift

When I was a kid, my family took many road trips. The epic “National Lampoon” kind of road trips. In retrospect, I really love them, though at the time it felt akin to being trapped in a vinyl-covered prison with two other sweaty inmates (i.e. my siblings.)  Not only has this provided my family with some hysterical stories, I also got to see a lot of the country in a more intimate way than hopping from one airport to another.

On one of these trips, we went to a Shaker village. They have some great ideas, like the belief that god is both male and female, which leads to more equal leadership in the church.  The Shakers also have some crazy ideas like no babies (Hm… maybe I’m Shaker…)

Anyway, there is  Shaker hymn that I’ve always loved since that trip, “Simple Gifts.”

‘Tis the gift to be simple, ’tis the gift to be free

‘Tis the gift to come down where we ought to be,

And when we find ourselves in the place just right,

‘Twill be in the valley of love and delight.

Tis the gift to be simple, tis the gift to be free…  To come down where we ought to be, not where we want to be. Damn you, Shakers! If it weren’t for that whole celibacy thing, I’d join up right now.

In an effort not to sink deeper into crabbiness while I wait to move on to IVF (because I WILL MOVE ON TO IVF, DAMIN IT!), I hereby decree this the “Gift” post. These are gifts in my life, big and small. I will make every effort to be thankful for them. In no particular order:

1) Breathing, the act of filling my lungs up with air.

2) The sparrows I saw on my walk this afternoon.

3) Sweatpants. Come to think of it, any pants with elastic waistbands.

4) My cat yawning.

5) Holding my mom’s hand.

6) Napping. I have never woken up from a nap unhappy. EVER.

7) Cheesy grits. You can take a girl out of the South, but not the South out of a girl.

8) Spending a day at the beach.

9) Red lip stick.

10) Running. I honestly believe it is the closest we humans get to flying.

11) Summer. Even the stinking hot parts.

12) Singing loudly, and in my case poorly.

13) Watermelons.

14) Listening to my dad tell jokes about drunk priests. REPEATEDLY.

15) Friends who know which circumstances call for pizza and which ones call for beer.

16) Meditation.

17) Fall in New England. I swear there is no more beautiful place on earth.

18) Waking up to the sound of birds singing.

19) Iced coffee.

20) My dear Mr. Ostrich. Almost everything about him. 

21) Good writers.

22) The National Park system.

23) LIBRARIES.

24) Live shows. I do love an excuse to be loud and rowdy.

25) Thunder storms.

26) Croissants.

27) My hair. Seriously, I have great hair.

28) Pencil skirts.

29) Human kindness.

30) My belief that every day starts fresh.

 

“Well, Of Course.”

Today I went for my sonohysterogram, and Anti-Mullerian tests. Because Dr. Petrel was on vacation, I had to go to another office which was about an hour north from my home. Charming.

I got there a little early, and did my best to keep calm. Pat myself on the back, I was pretty successful. Before I left, I did some meditations and practiced recentering my thoughts. I had to do it a few times in the waiting room, but mostly I gave off the impression that I am emotionally balanced.

First up, ultrasounds! You ladies all know the drill- pants off, scooch your bum down to the edge of the table, lay back and relax. (Ha!) As the nurse performed the ultrasound, she asked if I had peed before. Yes, twice. Turns out my very effective kidneys were filling up my bladder yet AGAIN. She could see it. Which makes total sense, but it’s a little strange to have someone tell you that they can see your bladder getting full.

Then we moved along to the sonohysterogram. I’ve had an HSG before, and the process is very similar. Neither I’ve found to be particularly pleasant, mind you.  People say that this isn’t a big deal, and it really isn’t. But I would like to state for the record that for me, this is more than “just getting a pap.” It’s legit uncomfortable.

The doctor who performed the test was a younger woman, probably around my age. She was light, fun, asked me about my weekend. For some reason, we ended up talking about gay pride parades. I noticed that she was poking around in there a bit longer than my HSG– my cervix was playing hide-and-seek.

I do not mean to freak anyone out who hasn’t had a sonohysterogram or HSG, but I KNOW when that catheter is in. I started cramping and I had to catch my breath for a second. The lights went off, the wand went in, and they got down to work.

It’s strange to lie there and have people talk about what’s happening to you, just not talking at you. At a certain point, the doctor said that the saline balloon was deflating, so they needed to get the pictures quickly. They’re snapping up pics like my uterus is Kim Kardashian, when the doctor says “It looks like there is something on the anterior wall. Can we get that?” She starts jiggling that damn wand around, which seemed to have moved the catheter around too. At this point, I could feel my uterus getting bloated. I knew it wasn’t bad, it just didn’t feel right.

DR: Are you doing okay?

ME: Yeah… (unconvincingly)

DR: Are you feeling [INSERT MEDICAL JARGON HERE]?

ME: I have no idea what that means.

DR: Are you feeling dizzy? Nauseous? Sweaty?

ME: I am a little clammy…

DR: Okay, we’ll get this finished up then.

When they were done (which was mercifully soon), the doctor went over the results with me. Drum roll, please… I have two very small polyps in my uterus, one toward the front and one toward the back. I took the news like a champ. No idea why, since my usual MO is to freak out over everything. On a certain level, I was expecting this. I actually said “Okay, when do we schedule the operation?” (Some of you may remember this premonition from my post on Friday.) I have to wait until Dr. Petrel is back from her vacation for the final verdict, but I’m pretty sure I’m getting those suckers removed.

I put my pants back on, and waddled out to the car. I was half way there when I remember that I need to get my blood work for the Anti-Mullerian test, and I waddled back in to have my blood drawn.

As I drove the 45 minutes back to my workplace, I was abnormally calm. I was definitely feeling crampy and crabby, but that was my body, not my mind. Mostly, I just thought that this is another step on my journey. I was struck by this one thought, however.

My body really does not want to get pregnant.

It’s growing polyps, producing fewer/low quality eggs (potentially- still waiting on the AMH test results.) It’s throwing all sorts of roadblocks here. To quote some other blogger somewhere: “My body isn’t a wonderland. It is an asshole.”

I want to be clear- I do not think that this is “a sign” or that this is anyone’s “will.” I still believe that all these hurdles are surmountable. But let’s be real: if it weren’t for the miracle of medicine, I would have a very slim chance of getting pregnant at this point. Let’s hear it for science!

As a postscript to this delightful day, I learned a good friend of mine is pregnant. She is one of the folks in my life who knows about my IF dramz, so she wrote me the sweetest note about how happy she is, but how she understands if I’m upset. I honestly appreciate that she chose to email me personally, rather than get ambushed on Facebook. And as we’ve established, I’m truly happy for her. Her joy is my joy– until the Universe stops being a tool and gives me a little of my own.

However, I was struck by the timing. I’m sitting at my desk– hunched over in a ball recovering from my sonohysterogram crampage– when I get the email. She’s growing a baby. I’m growing polyps.

“Well, of course.”

Down, But Not Out. Not Yet.

On Wednesday at 4:48, I got the following message on my voicemail.

“Hi, it’s Fancy Pants from Dr. Petrel’s office. We just got your blood work done for your day 3 labs, and a couple of them are a little out of sync. So Dr. Petrel would like to do another test, something called an Anti-Mullerian hormone test. It just gives us another way to look at things, to get a better, truer reading. Sometimes the lab results can get a little screwy depending on how our cycles work. So I’m going to put that order in, you can do it any time…”

And I promptly shat my pants. (Metaphorically, of course.) I honestly can’t tell if Fancy Pants is trying to be nonchalant because a) this is a nonchalant thing, or b) this is a huge colossal problem and she is trying to avoid my complete meltdown. Regardless of her best efforts, I went with option b.

This morning I got a notice that my results were now available online, so I logged in to see what’s up. All hormone levels are within normal, with the exception of my FSH levels. Which are high.

Which is not good.

I googled. Googling pretty much concludes that high FSH levels aren’t good. They are in fact bad, if one is interested in having babies. High FSH levels are often linked to lower ovarian reserve– my body is creating more of this hormone because it is trying even harder to produce viable eggs.

Because I’m an idiot, I googled this AT WORK. Sitting at my desk, I thought “Holy shit. I’m never going to have children, am I?” I felt all the blood drain from my face, and ran out the door. Luckily for me, there is a virus going around the office so it is perfectly normal to look like you might be about to puke. (In semi-related news, my mom went back into the ICU this morning with low CO2 levels. So I was already primed for a full-on shitshow.)

As I drove home weeping like the train wreck that I am, I tried to put this together. WTF?! I ovulate every month like a boss, or so my stupid OPKs have lead me to believe. I don’t have signs of PCOS– my periods are regular, and no cysts have ever come up on my test. I don’t *think* I’m pre-menopausal. And why the hell are they making me take this other test any way?

But mostly, I kept thinking “How am I going to tell Mr. O?” This is the worst possible thing I could ever say to him. I can’t believe I’m might be the person to break his heart. It is the last thing I have ever wanted to do.

I got home, began to google, then promptly shut down my laptop. Remember, kids: at times like this, Google is never your friend. EVER. Instead, I called Dr. Petrel’s office to talk to an actual medical professional. I was able to speak with a lovely nurse who talked me down off my ledge. Let’s call her Nurse Lovely Pants.

As she put it, FSH at my levels show that my body is working a bit harder to get pregnant. (She likened it to putting your foot on the gas. At this point in my cycle, I shouldn’t be accelerating quite this hard.) They look for levels below 15, and my levels are below that– just not as low as they normally see.

Since I’m young and fairly healthy, Lovely Pants is also less worried. (Funniest comment of the call: “I know you may not believe it, Ostrich, but you really are on the younger side.”) The Anti-Mullerian test is another way to look at my egg reserve. Having this information in addition to the FSH numbers will give us a better picture of what’s really going on in my ovaries.

Sweetheart that she is, Nurse Lovely Pants calmly told me that they see patients at their office all the time who do get pregnant with FSH levels like mine. (Best overall comment of the call: “That’s what we do in our office. We get women like you pregnant.”) It just means that they’ll likely advocate more strongly for IVF with my insurance company.

I’ve dialed back the mania a little bit. I’m down, but not out of this fight yet. Now that the tsunami of panic has passed, I’m just left with one outstanding question.

WHAT THE FUCK?!

To clarify, I’m asking “Why the hell is getting pregnant so damn hard for me?” That’s what is so frustrating about this stuff. There is no good reason for any of this. It’s just complete SHIT. FOR NO REASON. It’s illogical, but sadly in my case completely predictable. Honestly, if my doctor called me tomorrow and told me that she would have to amputate both my arms, I would think “Well, of course. When should we schedule the operation?”

But then, why even bother asking the question? There is no answer to it. There is no order. There is no waiting calmly in line until your number gets called. My parade just keeps getting rained on, and I’m running out of water resistance. BAH!

So Monday I go in for my sonohysterogram, and the Anti-Mullerian test. Wish me luck.

Because this is my life we’re talking about, expect more marginal test results and corresponding meltdowns.

Another CD1 = Another tussle with Incompetence

I keep hoping that I’ll be able to avoid IVF and the accompanying headache of dealing with my insurance by, you know… getting pregnant. I seriously hate this company. Just over the weekend, I got a bill from an appointment I had well over a year ago. They claim that they sent the check to me, and not the doctor’s office. Which is horseshit. And another story.

If these winners screw up perfectly run of the mill visits, imagine the wonderland of stupidity that awaits me now!

When Dr. Petrel suggested we go straight to IVF, I was cautiously optimistic. When I spoke with someone at the Infertility Hotline, they said that they required 6 cycles of something before they would approve IVF. Since I took Clomid for 6 cycles, I should be all set.

[But before I go on, I would like to pause for a moment to share some interesting information shared with me by Dr. Petrel. In the state where I live, most insurance companies (all the biggies) have moved away from a set requirement before IVF. Why? Because they crunched the numbers and found that most patients ended up at IVF anyway. Pragmatically speaking, it didn’t make financial sense to pay for treatments that have a lower probability of working BEFORE approving the one that has a higher probability of working. Logical, yes? Alas, my employer contracts with an insurance company out of TEXAS. And Texas may be many things, but rational about women’s health issues is not one of them.]

Anyway, as I was saying before I interrupted myself… I thought it would be a good idea to call and make sure I understood exactly what Incompetence meant by 6 attempted cycles with Clomid. Does it have to be done with IUI? Does it have to be done with accompanied monitoring? What kind of monitoring? Was I required to jump up and down three times before every cycle began? Rub my abdomen with juniper berries on every full moon?

So I called last week. I was on the phone for 45 minutes before someone told me that a specialist would call me back in 4 business days. This is the exact same crap I heard last time. 3-5 business days? How is this a HOTLINE, if I can’t talk to anyone for 3-5 business days? And did I REALLY have to wait on the phone for 45 minutes, only to learn I have to wait another 4 days? REALLY?!

Because the universe likes to kick me in the metaphorical balls, I get my call back from the Infertility Hotline the same day as I get by period. Let’s add frustration and elevated blood pressure to my pile of weepiness, desperation, and disappointment, shall we?

The good news is yes, my cycles with Clomid do count. This makes me feel a little bit better about the Great Clomid Experiment. In its own way, it has served its purpose. I just need to get something from my GYN saying that he did prescribe it. And provide some kind of “proof” that I took the medication and monitored it (OPKs count.)

Erm… proof? I started to panic, thinking I needed to have saved all my spent OPKs. I’m a pack rat, sure. But I have to draw the line at hoarding discarded OPKs. I mean, I PEED on those things.

In a delightful move back to civility, my word for it is proof enough. So I pull up my apps, report the dates of positive OPKs and scheduled sexy time. For the last 6 months. As I’m sure you can imagine, this took some time– 30 minutes to be exact.

The woman I spoke with was actually nice. Granted I waited 4 days to speak with her, so I sure hope she’d be nice. After we went through all the dates, she said she would start processing it so that I could be approved for IVF (pending some FSH test, I think? I dunno, whatever I’m getting done this week.) I hung up from that conversation not actively annoyed.

But just when you’d think that this could end on a happy note, I’m now embroiled in another bit of drama with my insurance company. Some of you may recall that I’ve been seeing a counselor to help me cope with “My Life”, aka the never-ending cyclone of very bad things I’ve experienced in the last year. Dr. Macaw has been so helpful. But because of a clerical error at Incompetence, they’ve rejected her claims so I’ve had to stop seeing her. I cannot fix said clerical error, Dr. Macaw has to. And they are not returning her calls, or sending her the forms she needs. Why?

Because they are assholes.

I’ve been okay with not seeing Macaw for now, but this shit is going to get cray once IVF becomes more real. I’ve already had one solid freakout after a Google session. (Sorry, but Egg Retrieval does not sound like a good time.) As one lovely friend pointed out, this might have to do with my total aversion to hospitals and medical procedures, thanks to my mom’s health situation. I NEED to talk about this with a licensed professional, but I can’t do it if my insurance company keeps denying claims because their records are out of date (and they seem to refuse to update them.)

Suggestions on how to strong arm your insurance company into delivering the services that you pay for are welcome.

Sometimes Su Casa es Mi Casa

Over the past several weeks, a few bloggers I follow have announced their pregnancies. (Seriously, there must be something in the water… and I’m clearly not drinking it.)

To be 100% honest, I have been over-the-moon excited every time. No lie.

I don’t mean to come off as self-righteous. Because for every pregnancy announcement, I’ve also read posts from non-pregnant infertiles who can’t take one more. And I get these folks too. Believe me, I understand that gnawing, aching feeling of being left behind. (Aside: Is this what prisoners feel like when their cellmates get released? Happy and sad at the same time?)

My motives are entirely selfish. Over the past year, I’ve seen so much mother fucking sadness that I’m done. From my mom’s health challenges, my father losing his mind to despair, my sister’s diagnosis, and my own soul-crushing infertility… My life has become a maelstrom of shit. One big swirling storm of TERRIBLE.

The way I see it, I need to celebrate joy any where I can find it. Or else I will turn into a hot, quivering mess of cynicism and hostility. If that means being grateful for a morning run, bring it on. If that means devouring an ice cream sandwich, I’ll take it. And if that joy is your pregnancy, I will shout it from the metaphorical rooftops, my friends.

So for the record, please do not feel the need to apologize for being pregnant. I’m so happy for you that I don’t have the words to describe it. Conversely, do not feel the need to apologize for feeling a tiny bit (or a shit ton) sad. I know that feeling. On my worst days, I am the physical embodiment of that feeling.

When it comes to IF, I don’t think there are any rules. We do whatever we can to get through it.

Relearning Hope

This weekend, Mr. Ostrich and I went to the beach. I love the beach. He hates it. So we end up with one annual pilgrimage in summer where I thrash around in the waves, and Mr. O stoically applies sunscreen.  

We got to the beach early in the morning. That’s my favorite time to go, before the beach gets overrun. I enjoy the tranquility of the sun, the waves, and even the seagulls.

At some point in the day, the beach inevitably fills up. Angsty teens, families, drunken youth… that all starts to pile up around 11:00.

Right behind where Mr. O and I had set up, a group of about 5 young folk set up camp. By young folk, I would say they were in their mid 20’s. A couple in the group is getting married in February, so we all had to be regaled by the tedious details of their wedding. Ho-hum.

But then something caught my ear…

“So I’ll pull the goalie in June and we should get pregnant like *that*.”

The conversation continued, including what kind of child they wanted, how many, how far apart. Apparently, if this woman doesn’t have a “chill baby” (whatever that means), she will just freak out.

Miraculously, I did not laugh out loud.

I wasn’t angry. I wasn’t cynical about their plans. Honestly the first thing that popped into my head was “I miss talking about my life with that much confidence.”

Because that is what struck me the most. The confidence they had that their lives would turn out according to plan. It sounded so ballsy.

Since then, I’ve thought a lot of myself at that age, and the kinds of plans I had when Mr. O and I first got married. Let the record show that NONE of those plans came true. (Okay, one. Mr. O and I are still happily married.) I’m mostly okay with that, because many of those were bad plans. Others, like starting a family, are still very precious to me.

I love the younger me who dared to have plans. I’ll even admit to missing that younger version of myself sometimes. In an effort to cope with the tidal wave of disappointment, the IF me stopped hoping.

I’ve grappled a lot with the idea of hope in regards to infertility. I have forgotten how to hope. And as I get ready for IVF, I’m trying to relearn that skill.

I also wonder if I’ll ever be able to sit on a beach, and plan my life without hesitation.