Eli's Corner


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thank you.

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.

Much love,

Eli

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a summer in brief

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.

 

 


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i’d like to give up infertility for lent this year

As you may have seen from my previous update, they were only able to get three eggs from my ovaries, but miraculously, two of those three fertilized.  

We got the call yesterday, and the timing in terms of where we were and what we were doing was incredibly sweet, but I kind of want to hold that close for now.  Kind of holding all of this close.

They rushed us in for a day 2 transfer this morning, and we saw our embies on a screen just before they were transferred.  One is 3 cells and the other is 4 – graded B and C respectively (the scale runs best-worst from A-D).

They wished us luck, advised me not to test early and to stay off the internet (ha!), and they tried to instill in us what they considered to be an appropriate level of hope – general positivity without too much expectation.

As it turns out, however, I’m already in love with these little cells, all seven of them.  I’m aware of the odds and all of that, but there is simply no mitigating how badly I want them to grow and thrive.  I’m blown away that each little embryo has the all the DNA of a unique person – a person made from me and my husband.  So I’m going to celebrate them as long as they’re around – whether it’s days, months, or for the rest of my life.  And I’m going to make myself a paper chain.

 

 


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temporarily possessed

I had an interview this morning.  The first one I’ve had in years.  I’ve decided it’s time to move forward with my life.  I’ve been in a major holding pattern with this whole fertility thing, and given the fact that I’m giving my ovaries some time off, I thought it would be a good opportunity to get back in touch with who I am and what I have to offer the world (aside from valiant attempts at procreation).

So no, I’m not getting a new job.  Prior to doing that, I’m going to have to have lots of meetings with accountants and lawyers, secure office space, hire at least two people and get everybody lined up with benefits.  In short, boys and girls, don’t go into business with your husband on a start-up; quitting is super complicated.  But this is not that story.

What I did do was finally submit a volunteer application that’s been sitting on my desk for about six months.  I mailed it off on Wednesday and by Friday already had a call back.  It turns out that my timing was good.  The local youth homeless shelter is desperately in need of English tutors right now.

I miss working with students.  And not just speaking to auditoriums full of them like I was for the past couple of years.  I miss the one-on-one interactions, investing in kids, helping them see their potential, trying to find a creative way to get them excited about learning.  I have limited experience with this demographic of student, but I figure, these kids are in need of nurturing.  And I’m in need of someone to nurture.

Don’t get me wrong – I get it that this is not about my needs.  And I don’t have a messiah complex or anything.  I’m going to be tutoring students, not saving them.  And being as how I am now old, have maturity and a good sense of boundaries, I was not intimidated in the least when she asked me to take a test to gauge the appropriateness of my responses in a variety of potential scenarios.  No problemo.

Most of the questions I answered easily.  No, I would not give a youth my phone number if he asked for it.  No, I wouldn’t confront a staff member about a decision he or she made in front of a youth.  Yes, I probably would go to a student’s university graduation if she asked me to years later.  Then question number four came.  I discovered that my brain could not formulate an answer to it, so I skipped that one, finished the rest of them and went back to it and stared at it for a while.  I was still sitting there staring at it when the woman called me back to reality.  I said I had answered all but one question.  She said, “That’s fine, we can just talk through that one.”  Then she proceeded to read it out loud:

“If one of the girls you worked with were pregnant and asked you to raise her child because she had no support, would you agree to?  If yes, why?  If no, why not?”

Um, this was unexpected. Obviously, in terms of boundaries, this is by far the easiest question to answer.  I see that now.  But in the moment, all I could think about was that hypothetical baby.  I sat there in what probably looked for all the world to be silence, but what was really going on can best be described in seconds 1.36-2.44 of the following clip:

When I came to, as if a spell had been lifted, I simply replied, “I would work with the staff to find the appropriate resources for the student.”  Seriously, it wasn’t that hard.  But you really wouldn’t believe how far that obvious conclusion was from my brain for several solid seconds.  Holy crap.

Well, assuming no expectant mothers are foisting their children on me, I think we should be fine.  And even if they do, at least I’ve already worked through my response.  Now I just have to remember how to write an expository essay without the gratuitous use of run ons.  And fragments.  And I have to remember how to stay on topic.  Again, should be fine.


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confessional

My sisters, I have a few things to confess to you on this rainy afternoon, the second day of what is approximately my 30th two week wait:

1. I don’t feel like this is going to work.  I try not to admit that to myself, in case the negative thoughts chase the sperm away, or in case I discredit God with my lack of faith, but this is confession, so I’m telling you.

2. I don’t know if I’m as strong as you are.  Some of you have been doing this for ten years.  Some of you have lost many babies. Some of you have done multiple rounds of IVF.  I don’t know how you keep going.  I truly don’t.  I feel like I’m reaching my end here.

3. I’m afraid of IVF.  The doctor has told us this should probably be our last round of IUI.  I was really hoping not to go on to IVF.  I’m afraid of the retrieval process.  I’m afraid of having unused embryos.  I’m afraid of the investment – financial, emotional, and physical.  I’m afraid of taking more drugs.  I’m afraid of getting cancer or having a heart attack because of all the drugs I’ve already been taking.

4.  I’ve come to identify with being infertile.  There’s a sick part of me that feels resistant to let it go.  Not because I like it – I hate every bit of it.  It’s more about other people than me – I feel like if I were to get pregnant now, the agony I’ve been living will be summed up as, “Oh yeah, it took her a couple years to get pregnant.”  Somehow I want my pain to be important enough.  I feel like I want something to show for this which will elicit what I feel to be an appropriate response for how much it continues to end me…which is unfortunate, because the very definition of this is having nothing to show for it.  Getting your pain legitimized in the court of public opinion is, I imagine, a poor substitute for happiness.  But this is confession, and this is one of the slimy things squirreling around in my brain.

5.  I want to complain.  These things aren’t a really big deal, but this is confession, and I want to complain that it took the nurse multiple attempts to get the catheter into my cervix, and I was still hurting a day later.  I want to complain that my tummy is still bruised and sore from all my injections.  I want to complain that the progesterone suppositories make me feel like I hate everybody and everything.  And that they make me feel pregnant.  I want to complain that I have to take a million pills and avoid all kinds of food and drink and duck and weave in conversations all the time to avoid topics that will make me cry.  I want to complain that so much of my hair has fallen out from my thyroid medication that I now self-consciously side-part and fluff it every day.  I want to complain that I’m almost as afraid of being pregnant as I am of not being pregnant.

Enough.  I know you will understand, and I thank you for it.