Wednesday, September 26, 2012

My Achy Breaky Heart, Part I

I've started this post about three hundred times over the past year. What stopped me from posting every time? I guess I'll call it writer's inertia. Usually when I write, I know generally what message I'm trying to get across, what the upshot is, the vibe. I know if I'm still in hell about something, or a silver lining is in view. I know what the message is, even if I don't yet know the precise words that will come out to give it shape as I start typing.

This time I didn't. I just didn't know what it all meant, what was happening to me, how to make sense of it, how to find a meaning deep enough to talk about here in a coherent way. And the fact that I couldn't find that meaning, that I didn't even have a thought I could marinate over through this forum -- it was demoralizing. I felt unmoored. So I didn't write. And not writing for a week turned into not writing for a year. I took an unintended sabbatical from the blogosphere.

It's taken me that year of sorting it all through to realize that I precisely missed the point of it all. That so many times before, even if I came to a post with one message, something unexpected was revealed that crystallized something, helped me cope, made something good even better. I never claimed to have all the answers, and that's what made blogging, being a part of this community, so valuable. And never before have I needed this community more than over the past year. Never before than now, as I continue to wade through it all. So rather than wait any longer, let me bring you up to speed.

What happened over this past year sounds like a country song. And not one of the perky, Tim McGraw style, apple pie songs that make you want to run in a field beside a tractor wearing gingham and overalls, arms outstretched, face to the sky. No. The I-lost-my-dog, I-lost-my-house variety. Here's how mine went:

I moved to the exurbs. My kid broke his leg. I got pregnant. Lost it. My cat died. I got pregnant again. And I lost that one too.

That's the abridged version, the chorus. Let me dive in more deeply. This may take a few posts.

I'll start with the first pregnancy.

Shortly after moving into our new house (We finally settled on one in a postcard-quaint, pastoral New England town, the kind with two private schools, rolling hills and strict limits on commercial building. I am now questioning the wisdom of this decision -- another post for another time.), I had to take H in for a follow-up on his broken leg (yet another later post), and had also arranged a follow-up appointment for my own foot, which is STILL broken today. I knew I'd be x-rayed, so as has become my custom, I took a pregnancy test, since I've long suspected that if I ever were to have a miracle natural conception, it would naturally occur on the month I had an x-ray so I could add "radiation exposure" to my long list of neuroses while pregnant. So I peed on a stick, put it on the bathroom sink and went about my business. Before leaving the bathroom, I breezed by the stick to locate the single line. Instead, I saw two: a dark line and beside it, an incredibly faint second line. I mean, the second line was faint. But I've done this enough to know that no matter how much you yearn for that second line from the seat of your very soul, unless you're knocked up, you just aren't going to see anything in that marshmallow white window. There's no such thing as a little bit pregnant.

It would have been the shock of my life if I'd allowed myself to believe it. But naturally, I had to attribute it to a faulty test in order to save face; it felt absurdly naive of me, given everything I've been through, to grant any stock to this. But somewhere in me there was a grain of belief, because I didn't have the x-ray. I told myself I'd test again in the morning, and if it too looked remotely positive I'd call my RE's office. It was, so I did. My hcg was 91 that day.

The crazy thing was, although I honestly couldn't wrap my head around being pregnant without a single medical professional's involvement, there was a part of me that felt like it was totally normal, even inevitable. Maybe it was the familiarity, of having been pregnant before, knowing my body actually could handle it. Maybe I just welcomed, for once, having something go right reproductively. I was nervous, yes, in all the ways you are when you've paid your dues in the reproductive department: You don't take a thing for granted. But I also felt acceptance of it, like I'd won a sweepstakes and opened my door wide for the people with the balloons and giant cardboard check.

Naturally, these feelings, this sign of finally, finally being capable of a semi-well-adjusted pregnancy, was short lived. The next day, I came home from errands and discovered blood.

Let me cut to the chase. This pregnancy ended in a spectacularly miserable way. We watched my hcg after the bleeding, and it did the whole just-under-the-range-of-normal increases, just to torture. We then did serial ultrasounds once it reached the right level, and naturally they couldn't see a damn thing, anywhere. So what happens with that combination of events is, they start talking ectopic. And you end up with an in-office uterine biopsy with nary a bullet to bite on while listening to them whisper things like "laparoscopy,""tubal rupture" and "methotrexate." When the biopsy comes back showing no fetal cells in the uterus but your hcg still climbs, you ask for one last ultrasound before they terminate your pregnancy in what feels like a still-voluntary manner. And when the radiologist tells you she can't see a pregnancy anywhere yet, and if the pregnancy is growing outside of the uterus it could be almost anywhere in your abdomen, you agree to take the shot of chemotherapy to end the ordeal.

It took two shots of methotrexate to end this one, because I'm me and it couldn't be "easy," ending with the single shot. And this drug made me sick -- sick, sick, sick. I was lethargic, frail, a shadow of my full self. I lost weight. I willed it all to just go away. It took from November until February for it to resolve, for me to feel whole again.

Because we knew almost from the beginning that this one wasn't going to take, it was a lot like my first miscarriage in that I could put it together in my head in a way that made it not so achingly sad. This was never going to be a viable pregnancy. It wasn't my baby. But what kept creeping in and casting doubt was the possibility that the doctors were wrong. After all, we hadn't seen actually anything growing in the wrong place, because enough evidence was there that they didn't want to wait that long. But what bothered me most was that it still felt voluntary. It felt like taking door number one -- the 100% assurance that my tube wouldn't burst at 2 a.m. -- when waiting around for door number three might still hold a miracle happy ending. As I type this, I realize there's no way that could have been true. But at the time it felt like voluntary pregnancy termination. And the ironic pain of that, combined with the effects of the medication was palpable: I felt the sadness right in my bones.

Still, as I recovered and felt like myself again and looked forward to a new cycle knowing, incongruously, that I actually was physically capable of becoming pregnant simply through the meeting of sperm and egg, I felt, improbably, hope. And that hope and faith were rewarded when, literally two weeks after I got a zero beta, I got pregnant again.

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