Hi All! If any of you still check in here ever and want to keep in touch, I’m now at
mamas midlife crisis dot com
Much love <3
It’s funny the things that stand out in your mind as anniversaries. The markers on this meandering road are different for everyone. For me, Halloween was a marker. It was a marker because last year, I was participating in the Pumpkin Smackdown Challenge hosted by Barren Betty and Fertility Doll. I was reeling between disappointments, still in the throes of the battle, and that simple pumpkin carving contest was seriously a lifeline for me. Feeling connected with other women who were in this with me, getting a chance to poke fun at my disease using the pumpkin as a medium and seeing the creativity and genius of fellow IF bloggers as they transformed simple squash into humorous, often poignant depictions of their frustrations, hopes and disappointments. Then there was the added thrill of winning in my category and having a proper certificate and prize mailed to me from another continent. As pitiful as it sounds, that really meant a lot to me. I didn’t feel like I had an awful lot going for me at that point, and it was wonderful to feel seen, acknowledged, and in a way, looked after by other women in this boat.
I was not in a place where I would dare to dream that this Halloween I’d be trying to find cheeky ways to dress up my bitty bump, but that I’d ultimately come home from work and just zonk out because of pregnancy tiredness and skip the parties and costumes, watching the Corpse Bride as a nod to what day it was and getting myself and my peach-sized baby in bed by 9. I still can’t believe that I get to be here.
Thinking back on last Halloween got me thinking a bit about what this community has meant to me. Like many of you, I came here not expecting to find a community but simply looking for a place to vent. What I found was the one place I could be truly honest about how I was feeling, how much I was hurting, how desperately I wanted this, and how weak I was in the middle of it all. What I never found – not once – was judgement. I did not find unhelpful advice or empty assurances that everything would be fine. I only found understanding. Only space to be where I was.
And I found you and your stories. With parallels to my own – stories and lives I could actually relate to. I found hope in all of you – that even if nothing worked as I hoped or planned, I could still be resilient and strong, still me, still awesome. I could grab life – even if only what was left of it – and make it my bitch. Because I saw you doing it. I saw you go through deep and painful things and get up and try again over and over and over. I saw you hold to your faith, to yourselves. I became involved. I saw you hurting, and I hurt with you. I felt your victories just as strongly.
I found the closest thing I’ve found so far to a silver lining. One likes to try to find meaning – anything redemptive in this process – and hearing from people now and again that my working things out on the page had resonated with or somehow helped them made me feel a little better about being in this shitty process.
Now I’m just going all intense here – but I didn’t grow up in a family that was super good at relationships, and belonging doesn’t come easy to me. But I think I found a little bit of home here. And I just want to thank you for the thousand little ways you’ve helped brighten my path and carry my load the last couple of years here. You are luminous, courageous, vulnerable, strong, and deeply maternal – if justice were the dominant force in the world, none of you would be here, but it has been a mercy to people like me to be here with you.
Ok, wrapping up here. The tone here is going to change a little. We got home from drinks with our staff, and I realized I was a day late. I was annoyed, because we have a lot of travel planned in the fall, and the travel/IVF schedule only worked if I started on time. I wanted another drink. Since it seems poor form to continue drinking when you know you’re late, I dug around and found a lone pee stick in the bathroom.
Like any woman who’s been dealing with IF for any length of time, this was like my zillionth pee test. I saw the big minus sign pop up and I gave a bitter laugh. I’m not a girl who gets plusses. Once – only once had I gotten a plus – and it had sprung up instantly and vividly, changing my whole world forever, although not in the way I had wanted it to. Returning to the present, I set the testament to my failure on the ledge of the bathtub and went to wash my hands. When I picked it up to throw it away, I stopped, examined it closer. There was not a line, not even close. But there was a shadow – a hint of a shadow – not continuous, but in the general area where a line would be. I was perhaps crazy. I wasn’t even sure if I was seeing it. I ran downstairs to show it to B who told me he saw what I was seeing but said there was no way that was a line. He said try to forget about it.
I said, “Yeah, you’re right,” and went to bed and dreamed about positive pregnancy tests. The next morning I got up early, saving my first pee of the day, and tried to sneak out to buy more tests. B woke up.
“Where are you going?”
“Just to the grocery store to pick up some things.”
“You poor thing.”
“You’re so hopeful.”
“Try to control your expectations.”
He looked at me not so much with sympathy as with pity. I ducked out the door.
I came back a while later with pantyliners (for my period) and two different kinds of pregnancy tests.
I took the digital one first – no blurry lines, no ambiguity. I peed on it and waited like 25 years.
Then it popped up, clear as day “Pregnant.”
It would have been appropriate in that moment to say something like “My soul praises the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Saviour,” but I actually said “Holy Shit” a bunch of times. And then I stopped because I realized those were like the first words I’d ever spoken about this kid. And then I started laughing. And then I started sobbing convulsively. And that went on for a while.
The previous morning, an old refrain from an old church I briefly attended as a kid had planted itself in my brain. All I remembered of it was
Oh what a wonderful Saviour to me
All I have needed Thou hast provided
What a wonderful, wonderful Saviour to me
I sang it once, then felt strangely like I meant it. I hadn’t felt a sentiment like that for a long time. I did not feel like he had provided what I had needed, and while he seemed fine to others, I certainly did not feel like he had been wonderful to me. Even in church, I’d edit songs while singing them, skipping the lines about how God never fails, because I felt like, yes, sometimes he really does fail. But somehow that old refrain was resonating with me that Friday morning, and it had stuck with me through the day.
And then here I was a day later with endometriosis, hypothyroidism and ovaries on the verge of extinction: pregnant. From sex. For free. No doctors involved. I never thought I’d be one of the ones who would have a baby from lovemaking. It felt so incredibly luxurious. Just the most ordinary, mundane, extravagant thing in the world.
Unlike many many stronger women I know, I had not clung to faith. I’d given up hope. I had not done all the right things medically either, but here was this gift. And it did seem like maybe “wonderful” was an appropriate word.
I called the fertility clinic. They put me on progesterone immediately. I took a blood test. Yes, pregnant, but thyroid levels had skyrocketed exponentially inside of a couple of weeks. They doubled down on my medication. Saturday I had spotting and cramping. I slipped into terror. Sunday I had more blood tests. HCG levels still strong. We’ll just have to wait and see, they tell me.
So the entire spectrum between the poles of ecstasy and terror has been obliterated, and I slip directly from the one extreme to the other with every twinge and gurgle of my body. In this, I’m trying to remember to cling to that song. To cling to everything I knew one week ago looking at that pee stick. It’s going to be a very long wait, but I’m going to do my best to try out faith for a change this time. And I’m going to forgive myself if I fail, because the simple fact of this pregnancy tells me that sometimes even if I screw it all up, sometimes things still work together.
So last time I posted was after that miserable failure of an IVF in April. Around that time I hit a point where it was no longer helpful to talk about my shrinking window, my crusty ovaries, or my dwindling hopes. Voicing all this did nothing but give center stage to all the anxiety crowding around the edges of my mind. I stopped blogging. We told our families that IVF didn’t work. (Those who asked. Mostly my family sucks and pretends I don’t exist, so we just let them figure it out.) But we didn’t tell any of them that it would probably never work, that my body just didn’t respond to the drugs anymore. I just stopped talking about my reproductive system, except when I cried and grieved to my therapist about it, and in those periodic what the heck do we do now conversations with B. In general, it was too heavy to give words to.
Without any further plan, we took a break. We had family visits over the summer. We grew our little business. We got all obsessed with food allergies and got expensive tests done. We talked about adopting. We found out B is supposedly allergic to All Foods Known To Man. We started identifying friends and friends of friends who had adopted so we could get together and ask them about their experiences. We didn’t follow through.
We talked about doing that absurd aggressive IVF which had such slim chances of working. We saw naturopaths about the damn allergies. Mine told me I needed to detox from all those years of fertility drugs. I figured, what the hell, and I forced us both on a 3-week detox / elimination diet to kill the dual birds of allergies and toxins with the one Mediclear stone. No coffee, sugar, alcohol, eggs, dairy, meat, gluten, tomatoes, almonds, soy, etc. etc. etc. made for a super boring summer, but I had minimal expectations for the summer anyway. We reintroduced the allergens one at a time. B decided that each of his reactions was attributable to something else – like how hot it was that day, making this whole exercise essentially pointless as far as he was concerned.
We visited our friends at their cabin on the Sunshine Coast. We drank. I learned to wakeboard. (This is major.) That weekend I finally dumped it all out on my friend that we were pretty much never going to have children. She didn’t say anything particularly horrible. We jumped off the pier. (Also major.)
We came home, closed our eyes, and dialed up the fertility clinic. In the absence of being able to wrap our heads around anything else, we decided to do one more try with IVF. We told no one. I think I kind of just wanted to pretend it wasn’t happening until it was over. I didn’t know how I was going to get through it this time, frankly, but I didn’t see any other way to move forward except to get this over with and out of my system. I had my orientation, started my inositol/coQ10/vitamin cocktail and waited for CD1 to call and schedule everything. Went to a double baby shower for two friends that are both on their 2nd since I started trying. Survived by subversively conspiring with H2 to wear matching black tees she got us as gifts when one of those friends announced. (We’ve started buying each other presents when other people get pregnant.)
The next week I suddenly became super chatty about my ovaries. Had a picnic at the beach with a couple of girlfriends, threw back some gin and tonics and told them all about how I was doing to do one more shitty IVF before giving up completely. Next day another picnic at the beach with a friend who has endo (she comes from a family of endo sufferers, and her sister had just had her second failed IVF cycle that week). We grieved together about never having babies that will look like us.
B and I took our staff out for drinks that Friday night and felt excited that our little crew was finally starting to feel like a team. Got home and realized it was too late to call the clinic before the weekend to kick off IVF scheduling. Also realized CD1 should have been yesterday.
And this brings us almost to the end of summer. Hold up, I’ve got to pee.
Just wanted to drop in and let you all know I’m still alive.
We met with our doctor to discuss my dismal IVF response. Apparently all the doctors at the clinic met to discuss my case. I hate being special. After looking at my eggs under a microscope, she was able to confirm that I have the eggs of a much older woman. I knew that already – because AMH + my family history + the internet helped me figure that out. She was the one who was all blowy-offy about my AMH results (which I had to push her to even have done in the first place), telling me that it would have no impact on IVF. I knew different. I also hate being right.
Basically, my eggs are crusty, and there aren’t many of them. They had me on the most aggressive hormone protocol they use, and I only got 2 mature eggs. Evidently, there is no amount of hormones that will cause my body to respond differently. Here’s the kicker though: immediately after telling us that, she says that all the doctors decided that the thing for me to do is go with something called “aggressive IVF” where they max out all the drugs and also inject me with Human Growth Hormone. Will it work? They don’t know. It’s kind of experimental. What will it look like if it works? I might get one or two more eggs. Will they be any good? Probably not. But I can do supplements and acupuncture to try to make them better. (I’ve been doing supplements and acupuncture for three years, but never mind all that.) What’s that? You want to know if your miscarriage was a shitty egg issue? Probably. Will it happen again? Oh – don’t worry about it – you’re not considered high risk until you have had three miscarriages. (Pause for me to repeatedly bang my head on her desk.) This aggressive IVF, it’s much more expensive than IVF, and your odds of succeeding are extremely low. So when do you want to start? Because you wouldn’t want to quit after just one failed cycle.
Just one failed cycle. Have you been here for the last three years? Those seven cycles leading up to this one? The surgery? The miscarriage? The D&C? The career I had that no longer exists? The life that has been put entirely on pause? The tens of thousands of dollars poured into absolutely nothing? The conversion of my body from something that belongs to me into a laboratory? Have you seen the stress on my marriage? The friendships I’ve lost? The dreams that have slipped, one by one, through my fingers? Just. One. Failed. Cycle.
And now you want me to throw money that isn’t there at something that won’t work, prolonging my misery even more so that you can all sit in a room and analyze the results? Or whatever it is that you get out of this. ?
But it’s hard to walk away entirely. I asked how quickly I was in decline. She said I probably had a year before there was absolutely no point in trying anymore.
Needless to say, this was not where I was expecting this all to end. I truly don’t know what we’ll do. We’re considering trying this stupid option. We’re talking about adoption, about not having kids, about other ways of having meaning in life. There is a very real element of relief in the idea of not being in this horrid process anymore. I even binge watched “Call the Midwife” last week without feeling all emotional about all the babies. It was like watching a tribe in the Amazon whose lives and customs were unknowable to me. I felt outside it in a good, disengaged, not hurt by it all way. But last night I dreamt I had a daughter. That she came out with a full head of hair because she’d been kicking around in there since the IVF. My subconscious doesn’t know yet that we’re trying to move on. When I’m honest with my heart, I still hope. It’s a miracle that I hope for now, not a successful IVF cycle.
Right now in this not knowing, I’m exploring neglected, non-baby parts of me, and I’m listening. To my own instincts, to my desires, to my husband’s thoughts and longings. I’m listening for the whisper of the holy spirit – it usually comes in the form of peace…of quiet knowing. I’m waiting for that quiet knowing. I need it so very much.