Saturday, February 14, 2015

Love from Unexpected Corners

I went for a mammogram a couple of weeks ago, my first. I'd been thinking for a while that I wished my fertility centers, like CCRM, required them. There is no proven link between fertility treatment and breast cancer; slight elevation in risk instead seems correlated with the mere fact of infertility, especially among those who have not had children. Still, I longed for some reassurance, especially since I've had some strange breast pain (which is typically not associated with cancer) since the pregnancy/the horror of my milk coming in last year.

On the day I went, I was a bit of a basket case. I guess you could say I've developed some sort of PTSD in the wake of this last, supremely awful pregnancy; I am awaiting the falling of another shoe. How do you carry on after years of living beta to beta, the cortisol steadily dripping through your veins creating a perpetual state of alert? If you're like me, you start worrying about twinges and pain. You ask your new gyn for a pelvic ultrasound in addition to the mammo, to investigate that cyst-like pain you have in your pelvis.

I can't emphasize enough the extreme state of unabashed panic I had myself in before this ultrasound. Being on an ultrasound table with a wand between my legs does not lead to good things for me, friends. I was convinced I would get horrendous news, like maybe my ovary had twisted itself into a ball in protest. I had myself worked into quite a dither. On top of it all, it turns out that when you're not pregnant, it is even harder to get any kind of indication of anything from ye olde ultrasound tech. She was Fort Knox. Said I'd have to wait until my doctor got the report...which could be two days. Somehow I convinced her to get the radiologist to send it that day.

Meanwhile, onto the mammogram. This felt like a walk in the park compared to everything else. The test itself, while not something I'd opt to do for fun, was really nothing. The tech showed me my girls on TV. Then I told her to please tell the radiologist that I've had this pain in that one place, and that I had a pregnancy last year. And then, before I knew it, we were sharing sad stories.

Hers was a late-in-life surprise after adoption, which was the best thing she'd ever done. At 12 weeks, she went in for a routine ultrasound and was given the terrible news. She was alone.

I felt acutely vulnerable, half clothed in my cotton robe, shedding tears. Then she said something I desperately needed to hear.

She said, you have two paths you can take. Don't take the bitter path. Don't shut down every time someone announces a baby. I did that for a while, she said, and it was so disingenuous. It wasn't the real me, and it hurt me while not accomplishing anything.

It felt a bit harsh to hear, like the sound of the truth often does. It was as if she could see inside my shadowy heart. She could see where I've been headed lately. It felt a little bit like a judgment, but I needed to be judged.

She's right. I don't want to be that girl. I don't want to resent, covet, begrudge. I was an enthusiastic liver of life before infertility and loss had its way, and I'll be damned if it's going to take some essential part of me in its stormy path.

So thank you, mammogram lady. Thanks for being honest about your story, and for the little correction you dared to pass along.

The ultrasound, by the way, was normal. As was the mammo. Apparently I've got some dense breast tissue up in there, so I have to go back for an ultrasound just to be sure. But apparently that's pretty normal, too.

PS - On this Valentine's Day, I'm spreading the love by encouraging you to get a mammogram, too. My new gyno (more on her, and the experience of a gyno-only, pregger-free waiting room, later) says the risk is now one in seven, with no family history. One in seven, girls. Think of your seven closest friends. And if they're 35-40 or have family history, tell them to get their baselines, too.

Friday, December 26, 2014

Open for Miracles

There's something about the Christmas story -- the real one -- that is magic to me. I love Christmas Eve, that feeling that the chilly, bright night air holds possibility and promise. That big things are on the way. For children, the arrival of Santa and the hope that you'll get everything you wanted. For some grown-ups, the hope that even the impossible might actually be within reach. In spite of all the disillusionment of this year, I felt it again on Wednesday. No matter where you count yourself religiously or spiritually, who can resist the notion that with a little love, hope and a lot of faith, anything is possible?

I had moments of grief this holiday. Of a desperate, empty feeling knowing I should have been holding a baby while chasing after H. And yet. The best year yet with H. For anyone who might be feeling sad watching those longed-for baby moments slipping away, just know that the best is yet to come. Because a four-and-a-half-year-old taking in the Christmas season? It just doesn't get much better (or maybe, hopefully, it does).

And so there is bitter with the sweet, but that is life. Show me a person that doesn't taste a bit of bitter in her yuletide cocktail and I'll show you a unicorn that hands out complimentary Hermes bags.

Call me naive. Call me hard to teach with life lessons. Call me foolish. Tell me I don't know when to quit. But I just feel that there is still a baby. I don't know if s/he will come from my embryos or from another set of genes, but it seems possible and I still have the drive to make it happen. As I said to a family member who recently asked if I was still thinking about it (not clear if she was suggesting I'm crazy for doing so) -- wouldn't you if you had four babies in the freezer? (She admitted she wouldn't quit either.)

Here's what we're doing. We're waiting. Seeing how some financial things shake out. Researching the options. Making connections that we can call on as soon as we're ready to move forward.

Waiting is not my forte. Even after years waiting for pregnancy tests, betas, ultrasounds, 13 weeks on bedrest for my baby. We had a friend whose incredible offer to carry had to be turned down, which feels wrong in so many ways and somehow makes it even harder to wait. I want to be able to do something -- it's my nature. I've already gone out and gotten two huge work contracts. I'm doing everything I can to solve the financial barrier, the most daunting one before us. It may be foolish, but I just think that going broke for another baby won't bother me when I'm smelling that sweet newborn smell.

So as a new year dawns, I'm looking forward to leaving this one -- and all its heartache -- behind. I'm excited for all of the fun and new dimension ahead with the child I have. And I'm open to the possibility of a Hail Mary, eleventh hour, ninth inning, five-minutes-before-close, unexpected miracle.

To that end, much like when you're searching for a job or a new house, I'm putting this out there. We're looking for a gestational surrogate or a domestic adoption opportunity. If you have any information on either -- leads, agencies, contacts, experience to share -- please don't hesitate.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Like It Never Happened

Just survived a visit from the in-laws, they of the pretend-it-never-happened camp. My MIL thought that the parking space for mothers with infants at my local supermarket was appropriate conversation fodder. And while we waited with H for a visit with Santa, she wanted to make sure I saw the little baby Uggs the store had on display.

I do not have an explanation for this behavior. There seems to be a general avoidance of emotions in the family. Not like: Soldier on. More like: Brush it under whatever's nearby.

I do know that on a few occasions, I wanted to walk into the room of all of them sitting around talking about inside-baseball family goings-on and scream, Do you realize that a member of this family is sitting in a freezer right now?

I should have.

What they and basically everyone need to know about me, from this point forward is this: Wherever I go, whatever I do, there is someone missing.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Please Ignore the Tragedy

Every once in a while I realize with a bit of a jolt that for three days I walked around knowing he was dead inside of me. I showed up at my best friend's house to wait for my D&E in my old hometown, because I couldn't find someone I trusted to do it here. We all sat around a table and had dinner together.

It seems like that can't be real.

I just think, how do we find the will to endure these things?

Thursday, November 13, 2014

They Sure Make It Hard to Move On

If you ever think that I just let myself wallow, please know that I try very hard, every day, to enjoy all the things in my life that I know make me a lucky girl. And I do.

But as a wise man once said, there's always something there to remind me.

Was just shopping online for ribbon to trim a Christmas wreath with, and was feeling rather lighthearted about it. And then the Pottery Barn Baby crib set I had been pondering when my baby died popped up for whatever illogical reason (thanks a lot universe and also stupid stupid google programmers), and now I'm going to have a glass of wine.

Sunday, November 9, 2014

This Christmas

I just received an invitation to a perinatal loss holiday remembrance service at the hospital where my peri is, where we got the devastating news. While I think it's lovely that they offer such a thing as a comfort to women in my shoes, I will not be going.

I just can't imagine anything more gut-wrenching or less satisfying than sitting with all of these other families with sad stories, mourning people we loved fiercely but never really knew. After all, there isn't really much to remember. I was robbed of that. So I'm sure there are people who would benefit from such a service, but to me no good can come of it.

But this Christmas, I just refuse to let it bring me down. It will not win. Instead of soaking in grief, I will be marinading in the pure joy that is Christmas through my four-year-old's eyes. This is prime time. And though there will be moments of sadness, of realization that there is a whole imaginary track of my life that isn't playing out as it should be, there is also so much to celebrate.

I put the invitation in the shredder. It felt kind of good.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Why I Can't Let Go

Some time ago, I realized the best thing to do when I'm making a decision is to step away from it a bit and see how it feels. Whether it's buying a new coat or assessing a career move, if I stop thinking about it after a couple of days, I know I wasn't very attached to it in the first place. Because if I truly want something, it lingers. Persists. Sometimes takes over all my waking moments.

You'd think after all the torture I've been through on my road to parenthood, I'd have an easier time walking away now, calling the game, settling into my happy life with my one, gorgeous child. The fact that I haven't let go yet tells me this is not some optional pursuit in the course of my life. This has to do with the very vision I've long held of my life itself. I want my son to have a sibling. I believe I should be a mother of two. It still feels like there's someone missing, and just because it's been a rough go doesn't make it easy to walk away from that.

There's this whole thing around infertility/recurrent loss where people are made to feel they're greedy for "pushing their luck" and trying for another after receiving the miracle of a first. And it sort of enrages me. You wouldn't walk up to some random fertile and ask them why they believe they're entitled to a second child, so why is that suggestion made when the path is less smooth? Others, whether they've had problems or not, are no more entitled to it than I -- they've just gotten lucky. But if getting rejected by a first-choice law school (even with the right LSAT scores) doesn't stop people from becoming lawyers, why should I give up on my dream of a family of four?

Just to be perfectly clear, I am grateful beyond words, every day, for my H. I look at him and know now, more than ever, that he is a gift -- and we celebrate that every day. But he had something taken away from him in March, too. A whole world disappeared in that horrible moment when they told us there was no heartbeat. An entire trajectory of our lives has ceased to exist.

I still want him to have a sibling. I still believe in it as one believes in a vision of her life. And call me crazy, but I want to experience all the highs and lows of early childhood all over again, with the added dimension of H taking part. And so the options toward that are expanding; I am trying to think of possible paths toward surrogacy, along with adoption (which has always been a possibility, but doesn't solve the problem of our unused embryos, so I'm trying to sort through that). I still believe this is possible, and I stand ready, my heart and arms open.

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