First beta confirmed.  Second beta more than doubled.  I am pregnant.  (I can’t believe that I just wrote that.  If I say it out loud, the words catch in my throat.)  M and I are in shock.  We look at each other, bewildered.  After years of experiencing so much pain and grief relating to the subjects of pregnancy and children, it is so very strange to have a positive, hopeful feelings about a pregnancy.  Our pregnancy.  We still feel like outsiders; like it isn’t safe for us to believe this.

I’ve always been a planner. Seven years ago I embarked on “preparing my body for pregnancy,” because I had read that it’s good to get ready before you even try to conceive. I began taking prenatal vitamins. I started exercising more regularly, and being careful about what I was eating (like trying to only consume organic fruits and vegetables). I eliminated all skincare and makeup products from my routine that were not approved for use during pregnancy. I read articles about parenting. I bought a book about maternal fitness.  I read “Taking Charge of Your Fertility” and started taking my temperature each morning and meticulously charting my cycles.

Over the past several years, so many of those “responsible” actions became painful reminders of infertility. The time and energy I spent doing them felt like such a waste.  Gradually the conception/pregnancy books were replaced by books about infertility.  And then at one point I took all of the books relating to both topics and hid them away in a closet, out of view.  I stopped charting.  I skipped my vitamins from time to time.  I became more invested in my work.

My faith has significantly changed.  This is worthy of a separate post (or a few posts) by itself, but it’s a huge part of how infertility has transformed me.  I believe that my present view is more complete, and more true, but sometimes I miss the comfort I used to derive from my belief that everything was happening according to a divine and good plan.  My prayers are quite different than they used to be.

And now, this.  I’m pregnant.  The Silya of six years ago would already be planning and preparing.  But instead I’m paralyzed with wonder and a seeming inability to focus on what might possibly need to be done.  Perhaps that’s because all I should do is simply sit and let myself feel that this has happened.  At last.  I obviously have no control over what may come in the coming weeks and months, and am all too aware that this pregnancy may be fleeting.  But I don’t want to borrow trouble.  I want to let myself feel this, and not turn hope away when it starts to rear its head.  I don’t feel safe doing this.  But I suppose I have at least learned that life isn’t safe.  So here’s to this moment, right now, when I can say: I am pregnant.

And just like that, hope re-emerges. I tested this morning and there was a sliver, a whisper, an ever-so-faint second line. In all my years of HPTs I have never seen anything but stark white. I showed it to M, who was unimpressed (and wisely so — he’s waiting for the beta before he gets excited). I know I should do. But just now I thought to myself, if the test says I’m pregnant, can’t I just go ahead and say I’m pregnant? To myself? Just for today? It’s funny how after so many years of trying, and disappointment, that a tiny pink line that you kind of have to squint to notice could mean so much.

Also amazing: I was able to respond to brother-in-law’s texts today saying congratulations and that I’m happy to be an aunt. And I actually meant it. What a difference a bit of hope makes, in my whole outlook.

I recognize that this could crash and burn. At any point, really. But for now, I think I’ll just let this light feeling in my chest, this giddiness that I feel thinking about that second line, and what it means, stay awhile.

As I write this, my phone is buzzing with texts containing details of my sister in law’s labor.  I am also nearing the end of the two week wait following our first IVF.  My HPTs have been negative (today is 9dp3dt), and my PMS symptoms are in full force (both emotional and physical).  True, I do not know definitively that this cycle failed.  My beta is Friday.  As the texts from M’s brother began arriving last night, I joked about replying simply with “Unsubscribe.”

It has been quite some time since I have posted.  I’ve thought previously of this space as displaying an arrow going round and round in a circle with “buffering” written underneath.  For some reason I thought that I needed to have things figured out and to be in a better place before I wrote.  No more. That said, I am not sure anyone is still reading, especially with Google Reader going poof, which was how I kept up with most blogs.  No matter.  I am still going to write, if for no other reason than I want to write this down.

One thing I should have written about here was the awful experience of learning that M’s brother and sister in law were expecting.  It happened over Thanksgiving weekend, while we were at dinner at an Italian restaurant.  The announcement and ensuing discussion were both so terribly insensitive that it seemed like something out of a sitcom.  On that night I felt like someone punched me in the gut, and I have to admit that this morning, as my phone buzzes with texts about her labor progressing, the feeling is a bit similar.

I have a list of things that I will do if this cycle fails.  Things that I cannot do now but that I can look forward to doing if I’m not pregnant.  A sampling:

  • Drink red wine while eating blue cheese
  • Go swimming
  • Run up the stone steps next to Memorial Bridge
  • Have sex
  • Sip a latte

There’s also another list of things that I will likely do if this cycle fails.  Is it helpful to list them, as it is for the prior list?  I’m not sure.  But a few do come to mind, so here goes:

  • Cry
  • Experience bitter anger and resentment towards the world (particularly fertile people)
  • Despair over our depleted finances
  • Feel abandoned by God
  • Feel guilt over the fact that our embryo did not stay and grow inside of me

This month we reached the sad anniversary of trying to conceive for six years. This post also doesn’t feel like a proper update.  But I just needed to write this down.  To reach out to some of you who understand how much this sucks.

Sadness now.  But I’m going to feel it, and in feeling it, I am doing the work that is needed to get to where I can laugh and leave most of the sadness behind me.  Writing this depressing post is part of that work, I think.

Last night I was supposed to take my first injection for this cycle. M has assisted with my injections in prior cycles, and they’ve been fine, but this one was different because it required mixing the medication. And unloading, then re-filling the syringe. And changing needles. I’m sure many of you are quite experienced with the drug of which I speak: the infamous Gonal-F, as in, please try not to Gonal-F this up while you are reading tiny print instructions, watching an instructional video on Youtube and simultaneously trying to operate the syringe and needles. M and I were perhaps a bit too confident in our injection preparing and administering abilities, as we planned to do the injection around 5:30 and then head out to dinner at 6:00. 6:00 also happened to be the time that a few strangers would be arriving to take a tour of our house (side story, not relevant except as it relates to my current stress level: the house we’re renting is on the market so we’re dealing with lots of realtors and prospective buyers popping by at various hours of the day). Anyway, I thought our schedule seemed reasonable. Surely we wouldn’t need more than thirty minutes to get this done. The videos make it look so easy. (insert sympathetic chuckles from you seasoned Gonal-F users here)

We both washed our hands. I set out all of our supplies on the table. I pulled up the instructional video (that we had both already watched once) on the laptop. We watched one step in the video, paused it, and then would attempt to follow the instructions, usually re-watching the step on screen while we worked. It was truly a team effort: I played, paused, and rewound the video. M took the cap off of the medicine vial. I wiped the top of the vial with alcohol. M carefully took off the cap of the pre-filled sterile water syringe, moving slowly to make sure no water spilled out. M then attempted to attach the big pink needle to the syringe. It wouldn’t stay put. We again watched the perfect pair of hands in the video quickly and easily attach the needle to her syringe. M tried again, twisted it several times, until it finally seemed to be secure. Our nervousness was partly because both of us are fairly uncomfortable around needles, and partly because the injection is not covered by our insurance and had cost us $150. With all of the steps required to prepare it, it seemed like there were so many ways that it could go wrong, though I really wasn’t thinking that it would.

M carefully stuck the needle into the medicine vial and slowly filled up the vial, mixing the water with the medicine. At this point I felt the need to say “remember, this injection cost $150, so we need to be really careful.” How helpful that must have been. Then, following the instructions from the video, and moving quite slowly and deliberately, he turned the vial upside down and began pulling back the plunger to draw the medicine back into the syringe. I was pausing the video when I heard him gasp, and I looked up just in time to see the entire contents of the syringe spilling out all over our table. Gone. In trying to make sure that he captured all of the medicine from the vial, M had accidentally pulled the plunger too far back, and it had detached from the rest of the syringe.

I wish I could say that at this point, I told M not to worry about it, calmly cleaned up the mess and then calmly called the pharmacy. Surely, that’s what I should have done, right? But all I could think about was how we couldn’t afford to throw away $150, and how unfair and awful this whole experience is, all of it. I wept. I whimpered. And then I wept and whimpered more over the next hour as I proceeded to call over twenty pharmacies, none of which had any Gonal-F in stock. “G as in George, O, N as in Nancy, A, L as in Larry, hyphen, F as in Frank. No? Thank you for checking.” While I cried and called, M paced. He couldn’t make eye contact with me. I know he felt terrible. After a while he started making calls on his phone too, as we went down the list of 24-hour pharmacies within an hour’s drive that would be open after 6:00 on a Saturday night. After the twentieth pharmacy said no, I called my RE’s office and left a message for the on-call nurse to advise me regarding the appropriate course of action to take after one has just spilled $150 worth of medicine that she was supposed to take tonight, with no way of getting any more until Monday.

And bless this nurse. When she called back, I could barely get the words out to explain to her what had happened, and she told me to come to the office the next morning, that the on-site pharmacy would be open, and that I could pick up another injection to take that day. And that this was not going to ruin my cycle, that it would be fine, that really, this was not something to get worked up about. I thanked her profusely, then hung up and cried some more for good measure.

At this point it was 7:30. Two hours since we had washed our hands and set out the supplies. Thankfully, whomever had wanted to tour the house had decided not to come, possibly because it had started snowing. That would have been an interesting scene: “oh yes, please feel free to show yourself around. Don’t mind the gasping woman in the kitchen surrounded by alcohol swabs and a syringe box who is frantically making calls to every pharmacy in a 60-mile radius.”

I apologized to M for getting angry at him. I felt terrible for being mad at him, though in hindsight, I actually think it was better that he was the one to spill the medicine instead of me. For some reason, it’s easier for me to say “that was an accident, and it could have happened to anyone” when someone else is the one who messed up. If it had been me to spill the medicine, I would have had a lot of trouble forgiving myself. And I couldn’t help but think, “if this is how I respond when medicine spills, what makes me think I’m going to be a good parent? This is nothing compared to the types of accidents you deal with when you have children.” And of course that just made me feel worse. I know it’s not entirely fair to make that comparison (after all, I am experiencing the roller coaster emotions from the other fertility drug I’m taking, making everything seem worse in the moment), but I do think that there’s some merit to it. I don’t want to be someone who cries like the world is ending when someone spills something, whether it’s milk or $150 worth of medicine. Life is too short for that.

After the call from the nurse, I took deep breaths and calmed down. We went to dinner, and actually had a great time. This morning, I drove myself to the clinic, picked up my new prescription for Gonal-F, and this time managed to get most of it where it needed to go. All is not lost. And, hopefully, next time something like this happens — because it will — I’ll be able to keep some perspective, and calmly carry on.

*an alternative title for this post, suggested by M: “Gonal-F. F, it’s all gone.” Today, thankfully, we’re laughing about this.

This morning on the elevator, one of my directors asked me about our plans for the holidays.  I wasn’t in the best frame of mind when she asked me:  I’d just spent the morning identifying all of the things that need to be done before we leave to visit my husband’s family, and was feeling overwhelmed.  Plus I hadn’t had any tea or coffee yet.  And based on my general emotional state, I was getting the sinking feeling that I’m experiencing PMS, which would mean that this cycle didn’t work and I’ll be getting my period next week.  I say all this in an effort to somewhat excuse my failure to correct this person when she mentioned “the kids.”  Meaning my kids, which I should probably take a moment to note, since I haven’t blogged in over a year, do not exist yet: there are none.  But because my brain wasn’t working quickly enough to correct her, I simply ignored it.  “So will you be going to [theme park in my husband’s home town] with the kids?”  Not quite registering the “kids” part, I responded that we didn’t have plans to visit the park, but that we had some other things on the schedule that should be fun.  “Oh, but I’m sure that the kids are excited about visiting [state where my husband’s family lives]! That will be great.”  At this point the elevator doors were opening and we were both stepping out to go in opposite directions.  And although I now had registered that she was assuming that I had children (plural!) and was asking me about them, I still didn’t have the energy or the desire to correct her.  We parted talking about how the weather here has been unseasonably warm for December.  As I made my way to my office, I didn’t feel a sense of sadness that one might expect.  Instead I felt surprised.  I’m used to people asking if we have kids, but haven’t yet had the experience of someone presuming that we do and then proceeding to weave these nonexistent persons into our conversation. Inexplicably, I actually felt a small sense of pride.  She thinks I’m already a mom.  I look like I could be someone’s mom.  I can’t explain why this made me feel good, but it did.  Does the fact that someone believes something is true somehow make it more likely to actually be true?  When I walked into my office, and hung up my coat, I even thought, “maybe she’s right. Maybe I’m pregnant right now.  Maybe I’m pregnant with twins, which would explain the reference to more than one child.”  I realize that now I am sounding like a crazy person, but this is the thought that came into my head.  As if this work acquaintance had spoken some kind of prophecy over me in the elevator by referencing my “kids.”  These are the kinds of thoughts I have that make it clear I still have hope.  Or that I’m not totally in touch with reality, perhaps.

I owe an update since it’s been so long.  A year and eight months, somehow.  With the goal of writing more thoroughly at a later point, the quick update is this: a different doctor, another full IF workup, a different diagnosis (though still unexplained), another surgery, a treatment plan, medical bills.  Zero pregnancies.  Also, two birthdays, countless friends’ pregnancy announcements and births, and several additions to my growing list of Amazingly Awful Things People Say When Confronted With the Infertile.  Many good books, new recipes, a couple of half marathons, some new friends, chorus performances, and homemade pizza crust.  Wrestling with faith. Trying to fight off bitterness and cynicism, both of which have grown stronger in me throughout these years of infertility. Continuing to have hope, and at the same time resenting that hope. Thankful. And wishing for a peaceful close to 2011, for myself and for all of you that are walking along this unchosen path.  Of course, I’d welcome an exciting close to the year too.  If it turns out that those words on the elevator this morning turn out to be true…well, I don’t want to go there right now.  But you know.  That would be great.

The life of the body is a heart at peace, but envy rots the bones.  — Proverbs 14:30

 Last night, we were spending time with a group of friends when one couple started playing a video.  This couple makes funny videos fairly regularly, so this wasn’t odd.  (Though I’m sure anyone reading this can see what’s coming).  Sure enough, the climax/surprise of the video was that our friends are expecting a baby, due in October 2010.  A beat, then squeals of excitement, hugs, and congratulations filled the room over the triumphant music coming from the the TV speakers.     

This is a great couple.  They are going to be wonderful, fantastic parents.  Their announcement was nothing but pure and completely good news.  I wanted to be happy for them.  I should be happy for them.  But I wasn’t.  I felt sick inside.  I put on my best smile and said “that’s awesome” and “congratulations,” as well as asking some appropriate questions.  But I did not feel happy for my friends.  At all.  Instead, I felt a clenching tightness in my upper torso, a real physical sensation of…well, at first I couldn’t quite put my finger on what it was, exactly.  Not sadness.  Not anger, or resentment.  Not annoyance.  Then it struck me: it’s jealousy.  Pure and simple.  And I felt it — felt it physically — in a different way than I can recall feeling any other emotion.  A hollow knot was growing in my chest.  In my throat.  And it felt awful.

As I sat there, smiling and doing my best to appear excited and happy, I began to feel sadness.  And this is important: my sadness was not over the fact that my friends are pregnant with their first child, and I am not.  I was sad because I had no happiness for my friends in this wonderful moment.  None.  I was devoid of one shred of a joyful thought for these truly good people, who had something truly good happen to them.

I will not let infertility do this to me.  This is not who I am going to be.  Though I may be walking in this “weirdly inverted world where an unwed teenage mother [is] envied,”  I will not become someone who is dominated by jealousy, such that I cannot muster up happiness when good things happen to people I love. 

I want to call this out for what it is: Envy.  It is not anger at injustice (which would perhaps be a more apt description of the unwed teenage mother example).  It’s not a righteous indignation that something good has happened to someone undeserving, or who doesn’t want it, or who won’t appreciate it.   Thomas Aquinas described Envy as a kind of sorrow: “sorrow for another’s good.”  That’s precisely what I felt.  And I think that whoever wrote the above Proverb (Solomon, perhaps?) was wise to say that this feeling will rot the bones.  It is the opposite of a heart at peace.

Writing this all down has already helped me.  I actually just started feeling a bit of joy creep in, thinking about my friends’ pregnancy, and I am thanking God for that.  It is a beautiful thing to feel true happiness for another person.  Perhaps even more beautiful when it is coupled with one’s own unfulfilled desires for that same good news that has not yet come.       

 **as an aside, if you haven’t read the Modern Love article I linked above, please do.  It is truly excellent, and a beautiful example of a marriage strengthened by infertility. 

First, I want to thank everyone for your kind comments, prayers and concern expressed for my friends on my last couple of posts.  The family of my friend who passed away still needs prayers, of course.  They are very strong, and have a great deal of support, but it is still an incredibly difficult situation as they grieve.  My friends’ baby girl is doing fairly well.  She’s had a few setbacks, and one surgery, but so far so good.  As some of you know, things can be very moment-to-moment, day by day in the NICU, and my friends are living that now.  Please keep praying for them, and I’ll do my best to update on their little girl’s progress. 

——————–

I had a laparoscopy this week.  The doctor found mild endometriosis: one spot on an ovary and a couple of spots on the uterosacral ligaments, all of which were burned away during the procedure.  I’m still quite bloated, but otherwise am feeling pretty good.  I have pictures of my insides, with the areas of endometriosis circled, which is a bit surreal. 

The doctor told me that these spots are about the size of the tip of a pen.  It’s hard to believe that something as small as those tiny dots could have been impacting my fertility, but I guess there’s no way to know for certain.  I’m hopeful that once I have healed from the surgery, that we’ll be able to get pregnant naturally.  But even if that’s not the case, it still feels good to have taken this step, and have more information about what may be going on.  

Some general observations from the surgery (mostly to help me remember, but also for anyone who may be considering a laparoscopy): The bloating caused by the CO2 gas takes awhile to go away.  I actually look like I’m about 2-3 months pregnant due to all of the extra gas.  Strangely, I also weigh about 6-7 pounds more than I did on the morning of the surgery.  I am guessing this is due to water retention.  Most of the pain I feel is in my abdomen, and around the incision areas (the doctor made four incisions total).  It feels like bad gas pain, with some bruising.  I have had some shoulder pain, and having my shoulders rubbed has helped.  The post-op papers I received stated that the shoulder pain should subside in 24 hours, but that has not been the case for me, as my shoulders are still aching two days later.  My throat is sore from the tube and my voice sounds a little strange and hoarse.  One side of my lower lip is sore, with a dark broken blood vessel on the inside of my lip, which I am guessing is from extubation.  I took some of the prescription pain medicine the evening after the surgery, and the next morning, but haven’t needed any since then.  I haven’t had any trouble walking around, and in fact, should probably be walking around more to try to get more of the gas out.  I’m not sure when I’ll be back to running, but the doctor did say that I could do that whenever I felt comfortable enough.  I took a total of three days off work, including the day of the surgery.  I probably could have gone back into the office today (the third day), but because I’m still so bloated I decided not to, and will be doing some work from home.     

Overall, not a bad experience at all.  And now we have a bit more information as to what our problem may be, which is a good thing.  It feels good to have taken this active (albeit small) step towards resolving our infertility, after years of trying without success to conceive.  I’m hopeful.

My friend who was struggling in the hospital with flu complications and septicemia passed away this afternoon.  Please pray for her family.  I am shocked and sickened, weeping for them, for her, and have no words of comfort.  She was one of the sweetest people I have ever known; and I am not just saying that because she is dead.  Truly, she was a treasure and unique in her gentleness.  Life makes no sense.

My heart is heavy right now for two friends.  One is fighting for her life in the hospital, after the flu turned to pneumonia turned to septicemia.   Tragically, the doctors have had to amputate both of her legs below the knee, and they are now concerned that the sepsis has spread to her brain.  She began having seizures last night.  She has a nine year old daughter.  She also has no health insurance.  She is only 31.

My other friend went into early labor last week and gave birth to her baby girl at 24 weeks.  Now her baby girl is fighting for her life in the NICU.  She seems to be doing well, but she has a long road ahead of her. 

I know the readers of this blog do not know these people personally, but if you are a praying person, please pray for them. 

Life and health are precious, and our bodies are so frail.  The night before they amputated my friend’s legs, I went to yoga class.  I don’t think I have ever truly appreciated my feet.  Holding me up, walking me around, moving to stretch my calves, balancing me as I stand, the great sensation of wiggling my toes.  As I felt the bed sheets touching my ankles this morning, I was so thankful.  I’m staring at my feet now, and I am grateful.  I want to be grateful for these blessings I have, not just for their own sake, but for the sake of my friend who is now lying on a hospital bed, forever crippled, with an increasingly uncertain prognosis.  I want to be grateful — and I am — but mostly I am just sick about this random and devastating situation now threatening my friend’s life.  

I have been praying so very hard in the last two weeks for these friends.  Harder than I have ever prayed for myself, or for this comparatively insignificant problem of infertility.  My struggles seem so very small right now.

Hi there.  Been awhile.  I’m disappointed that I haven’t taken the time to record here what I’ve been thinking about and doing.  For my own sake, really — the personal history in the archives of this blog has already become precious to me, as sparse as it is.  I want to be better at writing things down.

Let’s see — the life updates since I last posted are as follows:

  • We left our church.  This development is probably worthy of several blog posts on its own, but long story short: M worked as a minister at a church for several years, he resigned last Spring, and while we continued attending through the Summer and Fall, that became increasingly difficult.  We finally left late last year, and doing so has been very freeing.  I may write more on this at some point, but for now, I can’t really overstate the peace we have been experiencing since walking away from what was a very unhealthy situation.
  • We met with a new RE and got a second opinion on our options.  He agreed that an IUI cycle with injectables is an extreme first step that doesn’t make a lot of sense considering what we know so far.  We liked this doctor much more, which is a great start.  We’re now considering whether it makes sense to proceed with a natural cycle IUI (unlikely to work, but minimally invasive) or a laparascopy to check for mild endometriosis (fairly invasive procedure, but if mild endo is present and removed, could improve our chances for getting pregnant naturally).   We’re not in a rush to decide at this point, but will probably proceed with a Plan in the coming months.
  • I’m still loving my new job.  M is officially “all but dissertation” and teaching classes, which he loves.
  • I’m running more, and training for a ten-mile race in April. 
  • I’ve been reading a lot, and thinking a lot about our situation.  Now I just have to record it so I don’t lose these thoughts.  But the general theme would be “Not Obsessing” or maybe “Hey, Some People have Real Problems.”  Not to minimize infertility…but to try to be better at contextualizing what this struggle means for me and for my general life and worth as a person.  I believe this is a good thing, but something I still need to sort out. 

I’m thankful, once again, for this space and for those of you who read my ramblings.