Monday, April 27, 2015

If Only It Were This Easy

I just got an email from Target with this subject line:

Baby Sale at Target

Are babies for sale? Because I am definitely interested, and -- in contrast to the Lilly Pulitzer offering -- I would actually line up for this.

In real life, things are a little tricky. We may have found a surrogate, but every step feels precarious.

Monday, March 30, 2015

Not a Weight Loss Plan I Recommend

One of H's teachers commented this morning at drop-off that I am looking great -- thin, but not too thin. Have I been working out?

Nope. Just lost the dead baby weight.

I said that in my head. Don't worry.

Monday, March 23, 2015

An Involuntary Mission

Here's what kind of everyone needs to know about me. This quest for another baby, this never-ending mission? It's not voluntary. It doesn't feel like an optional choice to me. I have four PGD-screened embryos with the same genetic makeup as H in a freezer right now, and the drive to bring one of them home where he belongs feels as obvious and vital to me as taking in air several times a day.

I get it. I've been at this for a long time. People are sick of hearing about it. I'm sick of hearing about it. I'm sick of talking about my reproductive plans publicly. I didn't ask for this to be my "thing" in life. But it is what it is, and it's part of me, and I need to talk and write about it to understand how to think about it. To keep my prefrontal cortex from malfunctioning. And I need to keep going. I need to try until there are no more options. Because I still -- despite all the evidence to the contrary that's presented itself over the past four years -- I still believe he's out there.

So you don't have to understand or agree with my willingness to put my embryo inside another lady and go broke in the process. But just know that that choice was made for me when five embryos tested healthy in November 2013. 

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

One Year Later

These are the moments that still break my heart:

It was still cold, snow everywhere, and we bundled up early in the morning to get to the appointment. The three of us. I couldn't find child care so my poor H was along for this terrible ride.

We had just gotten H a booster seat, and before we left he told me he wanted to give his old convertible seat to the baby.

I was still careful, shielding my obviously pregnant belly as I walked across the ice to the car. I was so nervous, and yet ready to have it over with, to know what, if anything, the high AFP meant. I thought they'd find something with the placenta.

On the way to the hospital, Pharrell's "Happy" came on the radio. I loved the song, and hoped that hearing it in that moment wouldn't ruin it forever. At some point my husband changed the station and "Route 66" was on, a song we had all just heard on the soundtrack to the "Cars" movie we'd watched together. One of the last happy moments of the pregnancy.

The ultrasonographer called us back from the waiting room, and as we walked back she asked if I had to use the bathroom. H answered instead: "No, thank you." We all laughed.

H's face as everyone else realized what was innocent to the horror unfolding. Unaware he had just lost his brother.

Coming back home to the business of it. The calls to doctors and the insurance company. The search for someone who could do the surgery. Essentially being told good luck by my OB's office, whose high-risk doctor, the only one skilled past 13 weeks, was on vacation. Having to slog through all of the moments to come.

Telling H there was no longer a baby.

Standing in the hospital bathroom before going to the OR, saying goodbye, and I'm sorry. Terrified of the pre-surgery warnings, wishing I were with my H, having a fun day in my beloved city.

Realizing how old my second boy would be today. Wishing I knew if he liked oatmeal, or was quick to smile like his brother. Wishing I'd had the chance to be his mama too.


Marking a year since the death of your baby is a lonely exercise. There is no way to get others involved without striking them as melodramatic. Once again, I'm the only one who can carry this.

I wish I could tell you that the past year has changed me for the better. That I've somehow been enriched by the epiphany of grief and suffering. There may be some of that, but mostly it's been a matter of making it through days. And on some, I thought I'd break. So there's this: I survived.

It does help that this year's March 18 feels brighter and warmer than last year's. After every winter, a spring.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Sliding Doors

One year ago today, I had my last regular doctor's appointment as someone who thought a baby would come out of it in the end. I just looked at the calendar, at all the appointments typed in with ignorance about what was to come. Is that blissful? I'm not sure.

I remember waiting forever for the OB, who was off seeing other regular pregnant people, maybe delivering a baby. A typical day, and I was another typical patient. Until I wasn't.

She poked around for a while with the doppler, I remember. I was anxious, she was not. She found the heartbeat in her typical casual way, as if it there were never any doubt. As if no one ever had a doubt. Maybe she always finds the heartbeat. Maybe mine was the only one that stopped beating after she found it.

It feels so far away, and yet it also still feels tangibly close, as if I could reach out and shake it up and shuffle it around and let the pieces fall down again, a million pieces put back together the way they were meant to be. I want to be Gwyneth Paltrow and miss the train this time. Maybe that's why I let myself look back at the calendar just now. A bunch of dates are all that's left of it. The closest I'll come.

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.

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