Tuesday, August 19, 2014

A Last Hurrah

How is it already late August? This summer, like most, is flying by, and the kids in my neighborhood are going back to school on Monday. The Labor Day will be here, then my birthday, then, well, fall.

But before all of that, we're going to the beach for one last hurrah. I'm looking forward to sleeping in, drinking wine with lunch, reading in the afternoon, and, above all else, letting the ocean wash over me.

Sounds heavenly and cathartic, right? That's the idea, because when we return home, I will likely be heading right into my first treatment cycle since the miscarriage. I'm ready for the injections and monitoring appointments. I'm not so ready for another two week wait, and all of the attendant anxiety. Fourteen days of over-analyzing my boobs, my mood, my every bodily function. Oy. I'm not even going to think about it right now. (Just call me Scarlett O'Hara!)

No. Right now I'm going to think about packing, and whether or not I should buy a hat. I'm going to think about my pedicure tomorrow evening. I'm going to make a list of things I need from the store.

Also: On a non-vacation note, I want to send a special hug to my friends out there who are grieving losses this week. There are many of you, and you're all on my mind. XO

Friday, August 8, 2014

I'm Trying To Live In The Moment. Really, I Am.

I've been practicing mindfulness for several years now. Books by Thich Nhat Hanh and Tara Brach rest on my nightstand, and noticing my breath comes as naturally to me as talking does. Yet I can never seem to truly live in the moment, to honestly say the past doesn't matter, nor does the future. I constantly catch myself regretting decisions I made years ago and worrying about what bad things might happen as life moves forward.

It's exhausting. But I keep telling myself it's normal, or at least that it's ok. (Believing what I tell myself is another challenge, but let's not go there right now.) So welcome to my brain. It feels like a crazy place on a regular basis, and my biggest worry lately is that, if I don't learn how to really be present, I'm going to wake up one day an old lady and wish I'd appreciated little things, like still having nice boobs in my late 30s, and being able to run fast, and do whatever I want, for the most part.

The problem is, time—and the various ways we mark its passing—is really starting to freak me out. My 38th birthday, for example, is around the corner, and while I haven't yet reached the point where I dread it, I am at the point where it makes me slightly unnerved. The fact that I haven't got any children yet only highlights that sensation. Then there's the invitation to my 20th high school reunion. That one really made me panic, and has several times sent me down the old road of "what if?" and "why?" more times than I'd like to admit. I won't be going, of course, largely because high school was very tough for me, emotionally, but also because—again—I haven't got any children and I don't want to have to say that to people who made me feel terrible about myself when I was a teen.

My husband and I were sitting on our deck last night, talking about the fact that we've now had our dog for a year, and lived in our house for longer. We sat there, remembering certain moments and marveling at how much has happened, but for me there was this sense that I wasn't enjoying everything enough, because I'm always focused on how quickly life is moving on as I remain childless.

I looked up a bunch of people from my class on Facebook and it seems that all of them have at least two children. As I said to my therapist, this makes me feel like I'm developmentally behind, and that feeling is only getting stronger as my birthday approaches.

But I can't do anything about my lost babies, or my husband's infertility, or so many other things that didn't turn out the way I'd pictured them. So I'll just keep trying to stop and smell the roses. And if you have any tips on how to do that, please, do share.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

When The Going Gets Tough

There's a lot of pain associated with infertility. We give ourselves injections, undergo a panoply of procedures involving hormone-heavy drugs, catheters, and anesthesia, and get a ton—I mean, a ton—of blood drawn. But for me, its the emotional pain that really hurts.

A shot is a very specific, relatively quick kind of sting. A wave of depression, on the other hand, lurks just under the surface, percolating at a low enough boil that you can still go to work, and smile and laugh, and function pretty well overall. But then out of the blue some days it sneaks up on you, unannounced, and literally leaves you flat on your back. That part's not so bad; what's bad is when you realize you can't explain it to anyone, and even your most compassionate friends can't really understand.

Other days, your depression is on the surface, looking back at you every time you stand in front of the mirror. It's waiting for you when you wake up in the morning, and it follows you out to dinner, to the grocery store, to the movies. You see it in other people's faces, reflecting back at you, never leaving you alone.

That's the place I've been in for a while. Right now my depression is like an unbearably stuffy coat I can't take off. It's always there, and if I could just unzip it and breathe I would be able to enjoy the summer, and the birds, and all the other good and happy things around me.

I think it's going to be a while, though, before that happens. There are too many hard things going on right now. For example, today is my sister-in-law's baby shower. It's taking place about five miles from my house, but I've decided not to go. There will be two additional pregnant women there, and between them and the onesies and everything else, I know that if I go I'll end up crying in the bathroom.

Still, I feel sad about not being there. It's a weird, lonely feeling that's difficult to describe. I don't want to go—I can't go—but I don't want to not be there. I keep thinking if I'd only had my baby in May, or not lost this second pregnancy, all would be generally right in the world and I could be there. No more complicated feelings, no more frustrating attempts to explain. No more fractured relationships.

But it's a waste of time to go down that road. So I'm trying to do what's best for my heart today. And that means shielding myself from major triggers. It means trying to avoid extra pain.

There's also a family dinner tonight, which will include two pregnant women and one baby. I want to join, or rather, I don't want to be alone. But again, I think I'm going to find myself fumbling this afternoon, declining the invitation—and searching in vain for words to describe an indescribable pain.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

And Then There Were Three

No, silly. I'm not pregnant. But my one of my sisters-in-law is (I have four of them). Again! Just ten months after the birth of her wonderful son, she and my brother are getting out the word that she is due in January.

Except it might be more like December, because she's having twins.

Yup, you heard me. They're going from zero to three kids in just a little over a year. And as you have probably deduced, I am crushed.

These are not fertility-treatment twins. These are the old-fashioned, oh-my-gosh-how-in-the-world kind of twins. The kind my mom says "run in our family." The kind I will never have. The kind that remind me of just how unfair life can be.

Of course I am going to pray for these kids and that the pregnancy is healthy, the delivery smooth and successful. But I'm also going to cry buckets for myself, as I have been off and on for the last few days.

It's just unreal. I was expecting to hear she was pregnant. I told myself that would be ok. Hell, everyone around me is pregnant already, what's one more? Then my brother said the "t" word, and I almost dropped the phone.

So here I am, trying to pick up the pieces of my heart yet again. I swear, I've just about reached my breaking point. If only I knew there would be a happy ending for me, then this would all be so much easier.

But we don't know how anything's going to end, do we? I had a dream last night that I was pregnant--probably about seven months. It was amazing and in my dream I knew it was amazing. I remember trying to squeeze myself into a tiny bathroom stall and thinking how funny it was that I couldn't fit on account of my big belly.

Then I woke up. And all my feelings of emptiness came rushing back.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

People Suck And Other Confessions

Warning: This post contains graphic bodily functions, real feelings, and explicit language. It is intended for mature audiences only.

Today marks exactly two weeks since my (second) miscarriage. I was coming home from work, waiting as I had been for several days for my dying embryo to make its exit. I'd had some vague cramping earlier that day, but as I sat, sullen, waiting for my stop that evening, I was jolted by a wave of deep, almost-nauseating pain in my uterus. Then just as soon as it came on, it disappeared. I took a deep breath and figured my body was gearing up for the big event. Then another wave. This one hurt more, and then just like the first one, it vanished. "Oh, shit. These are contractions," I realized.

For my first miscarriage, I had a D&C. For those unfamiliar with the term, it's short for "Dilation and Curretage," a surgical procedure in which you are anesthetized and the doctor goes up into your uterus and removes the "tissue," also variously known as your pregnancy, your fetus, your baby. Whatever you call it, the doctor gets rid of it because it's no longer viable. I chose to have a D&C that time because I'd received my bad news at seven weeks and hadn't started bleeding yet, and I just wanted to get it all over with.

This time around, it was about nine weeks into my pregnancy when the doctor "called it"—we sort of already knew anyway, partly because I'd been spotting for a couple days. So we decided to let this one pass naturally, and that's exactly what happened that evening on the train. The contractions came on quickly. I was scared and pictured myself hunched over in agony all through the night, running to and from the toilet, crying, bleeding, cursing.

But instead, I got off the train and started walking to where my husband was waiting to pick me up. "I need to get home," I thought, and hunker down for this thing. And just as I was thinking that, I felt a big, warm ball come right out of my vagina. "Oh, God!" I thought. "It's starting already! I HAVE to get home!" I jumped in the car and told my husband what had happened. As we drove toward our house, I noticed how much better I felt, physically. I kept waiting for another round of excruciating cramps, but none came.

We got home and I checked the contents of my maxi pad. Yup, there were some scary-looking clots there, which I showed to my brave husband and then, after a confusing bout of emotions, flushed down the toilet.

I changed into comfy clothes and arranged to take the next day off from work. I ate dinner and drank some wine, and waited. And waited, and waited, and waited. "Where is the rest of it?" I wondered. Through the night I bled a bit and had some very slight cramps, but that was all. No gushing blood. No massive pain. No tears.

And that was it, my friends. I still stayed home from the work the next day, thinking for sure there would be more. But there wasn't. I went to the doctor later that week and he confirmed it was over. Just like that. Here one minute and gone the next. I still haven't cried. I still haven't cursed (any more than usual, that is). My only guess is that I used up all my tears when my doctor gave me that 80% prognosis a little while back.

So, here we are, two weeks later, which brings me to the title of this post. Even though I haven't really cried since the miscarriage, I sure as hell have felt sad, lost, alone, and fragile as blown glass. So maybe you can imagine, then, how much it hurts that some people have said nothing to me about this loss. These are people I love, mind you, and who I know love me. They also know I had a previous miscarriage and they know how long I've been struggling with infertility. Yet since this last loss, it's been crickets. I keep waiting for the card, the email, the flowers, the ANYTHING to acknowledge my misery. But no, it's just radio silence.

Yes, I understand that some people don't know what to say, blah blah. I know that because after my father died the same thing happened. Certain friends just clammed up.

But this is different. This is chronic, this is recurring. This is my second time losing a baby and my millionth time feeling afraid, alone, and lost. I got so drunk one night I blacked out. That's right. Scary! Worrisome. But also human. I am a woman without a baby, and I am grieving huge losses. That's uncomfortable for a lot of people. Hell, it's uncomfortable for me (hence the drinking).

But here's the thing. Life is uncomfortable. People feel pain. Bodies malfunction. Hearts break.

I'm sorry if that's too hard for some to hear. But guess what? It's the fucking truth, and I wish more people could handle it.

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Numb, Party Of One

I just finished cleaning up a pool of dog pee that's been hiding under my kitchen island for God knows how long. It was gross and frustrating and then while scrubbing the floor I jammed my finger hard against the stool leg. I screamed in agony and squeezed my eyes shut and waited for the tears.

But they never came. My finger was throbbing and I was upset, but the crying that for me would normally ensue under such circumstances just didn't come.

My theory? Miscarriage number two has rendered me completely numb.

At first I thought it was just denial. "No, this is not happening again. Nothing is happening. Nothing happened. Nothing happened." But now I'm pretty sure it's just straight-up numbness. Something IS happening, and something DID happen. It's a nightmare, really, and since the pain is so huge and the grief is so complicated and overwhelming, I think my subconscious has taken over and decided I should probably not feel for a while.

A friend on Twitter wonders if it's a kind of self-preservation, which would make sense. I mean, after more than three years of chronic infertility stress, and now two miscarriages, what else could it be? If I didn't go numb, how would I get up and face the day? How would I get dressed and go to work and interact with people and laugh at jokes and meet my deadlines?

Then again, maybe it's just the resilience of the human spirit. If any of us knew the shitty things that were going to happen in our lives, would we even bother getting out of bed in the morning? As another friend likes to say, "God keeps us on a need-to-know basis."

Would I have attempted to get pregnant again if I knew it would only result in devastating loss? Hell no, I bet!

I am more terrified than ever now that I've got two "angel babies" under my belt. It's too much to let myself feel the pain of that reality. And it is far too much--and too scary--to let myself feel sad for that little heartbeat that faded away inside me.

So I'll just stay numb for a while, mindlessly wiping up the blood that's still flowing, and quietly dreading the inevitable day when those tears of mine decide it's finally time to grieve.

Friday, June 13, 2014

It's My Blog And I'll Cry If I Want To

Dear Universe:

Do you really hate me this much, or did you just forget that it was my turn for a break? Please let me know soonest.


While I wait to hear back, let me give you the latest on what appears to be an endless stream of shitty luck. 

Yesterday was my 6.5 week ultrasound. My husband and I were shaking as we headed up the elevator, making small talk and cracking jokes out of discomfort. Our nerves were on overdrive as I took off my pants and we waited for the doctor to come explore my uterus. My palms were sweating.

We had been here once before, and it didn't end well that time. This one had to be different. I'd been feeling bloated and tired and even wondered sometimes if I might be packing twins in there.

Nope. No twins. Just one, teeny embryo that caused my doctor to be silent for too long. Then, his first words: "I'm so sorry." Immediately I realized how prepared for this I'd been. Tears came running down my face like horses just waiting to be let out of the gate. As he continued talking—"It's measuring a week behind," "80% chance of miscarriage"—I listened and nodded as though this is the outcome I'd been expecting all along. Of course there wouldn't be a heartbeat. Of course it's not looking good. Of course, of course, of course.

It's like I am doomed to struggle. As I child I was sensitive. As a teenager I was dangerously anorexic. As a young adult I was insecure and, at times, reckless. My wonderful father had cancer, then a heart attack and died when I was 31. As an older adult I am anxious, depressed, confused, and scared. I was doing alright there for a little while, around the time I got married, but then infertility reared her vicious head and knocked me down—slowly and painfully.

So, I ask you, how in hell am I supposed to have faith? How do I hold out hope for that 20% chance this pregnancy could turn around? How do I smile and be happy for the women in my life who are pregnant "by accident?" Hmmm? How do I maintain courage and poise and a positive attitude that I'll give birth to a healthy baby one day? 

Let the record show that I am 37, going on 38, and my husband is 41, going on 42. He has no sperm. I have a diminished ovarian reserve. For the last three-plus years our life has been a nightmarish jumble of surgeries, IVFs, IUIs, hormones, blood tests, ultrasounds, sperm banks and miscarriage. 

Through my blurred vision I don't see a lot of room for hope in there. But my doctor said there's a chance. Not a great chance, but 20% is still something, right? I just have to wait what feels like an eternity AFTER SO MUCH WAITING ALREADY to find out whether it's a go or it's gone. 

I'm missing work, once again. My social life is in pieces. My friendships have suffered. I'm out of shape and my self-esteem is in the gutter. My marriage is ok, thank God. 

But my heart. My poor, repeatedly broken heart. I am worried it's never going to be soft again.