Thursday, January 28, 2010

If you liked reading about hope, you'll love reading about...

AmyG's got a quite interesting post about envy going on. (Apologies for the incestuous reciprocal linking. Be careful that you don't get caught in some kind of infinite mouse clicking loop.) In trying to comment, I lost my shit a bit and was unable to respond rationally to her perfectly great question. The question, you see, is nested in within a description of some utter asswipe psychi.ass.trist's assvice (not to bias you or anything) about how infertile couples deal with pregnancies in their social circle. Since I've got no new sous vide cooker to play with, I thought I'd respond here rather than clogging up her comments. That's for you guys to do, please!

Is envy a component of my IF emotional package? Yessiree. In my personal case, is it the main component? Not right now, anyway. How I feel about the person involved seems to make a difference, though. (I'm thinking of fertile people--I think it's a different story with fellow infertiles.)

I feel envy when it's someone I don't care about, and the envy passes quickly. When it's someone I do care about, I feel profound sorrow. The sorrow does not go away and is made vastly worse by seeing the person or thinking about her pregnancy. (At least, that's how I'd describe the emotional experience. I could do some brain imaging studies to make sure--there do seem to be distinct brain circuits involved in envy as compared to grief--but I don't do brain imaging. So you'll have to take my word for it.) Does anyone else have this experience? The more you love the person the harder her pregnancy is?

As for the question of whether there's anything to be done about envy...I don't know. My approach is to remind myself of all the ways in which my life is superior. And because I have a nice life, this is semi-effective. While reminding myself about the good things in life has no effect on my sorrow at all, it seems to work for envy. This might be because envy is thought to be on a continuum with regular old admiration, and making oneself feel superior is a cure for admiration.

Side note: Some psychologists think there's a thing called chronic sorrow. It's distinct from grief, and applies to situations in which loss is irresolvable (including IF). Chronic sorrow can be assessed using the Chronic Sorrow Questionnaire. Doesn't that sound like a TOTAL BLAST to fill out?

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

With all its sham, drudgery, and broken dreams...

I was reflecting this morning on the fact that once you become part of this community you are always going to be in contact with people for whom things are going better (relative to your own situation) and people for whom things are going worse. (I know I said that there was no such thing as better in an earlier post, but hey.) The idea of a continuum of bad and good reminded me of Max Ehrmann's Desiderata (pasted below). It's a prose poem about how to achieve happiness in life, and one stanza says, If you compare yourself with others / you may become vain and bitter/ for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself. Not the same message exactly, but a reminder that perspective is critical. The poem has a number of other lines that are resonating with me today. NOT And whether or not it is clear to you / no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should. A big FUCK YOU on that one. But not distress yourself with dark imaginings / Many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness. That seems appropriate for today. I've e-mailed my RE for clarification of some of the things I was too distressed to really hear yesterday and am digesting his responses. (He got back to me within an hour! That's service!) I'm set up for an IUI this cycle, and not surprisingly, knowing that I'm taking action (even if I believe it to be pointless action) has calmed me a little bit. I've thought about the things you guys are going through and gained perspective and humility. I mean, I'm not apologizing for being self-centered and dramatic, 'cause if I can't do that here, where can I? But as you all pointed out, while Big Emotional Reactions are part of this process, time and support from others will lead you to a choice you're comfortable with. I'm certainly comfortable doing one IUI and thinking about next steps! Anyway, thanks for the words of wisdom, y'all.


Go placidly amid the noise and haste,
and remember what peace there may be in silence.
As far as possible without surrender
be on good terms with all persons.
Speak your truth quietly and clearly;
and listen to others,
even the dull and the ignorant;
they too have their story.
Avoid loud and aggressive persons,
they are vexations to the spirit.
If you compare yourself with others,
you may become vain and bitter;
for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself.
Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans.
Keep interested in your own career, however humble;
it is a real possession in the changing fortunes of time.
Exercise caution in your business affairs;
for the world is full of trickery.
But let this not blind you to what virtue there is;
many persons strive for high ideals;
and everywhere life is full of heroism.
Be yourself.
Especially, do not feign affection.
Neither be cynical about love;
for in the face of all aridity and disenchantment
it is as perennial as the grass.
Take kindly the counsel of the years,
gracefully surrendering the things of youth.
Nurture strength of spirit to shield you in sudden misfortune.
But do not distress yourself with dark imaginings.
Many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness.
Beyond a wholesome discipline,
be gentle with yourself.
You are a child of the universe,
no less than the trees and the stars;
you have a right to be here.
And whether or not it is clear to you,
no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.
Therefore be at peace with God,
whatever you conceive Him to be,
and whatever your labors and aspirations,
in the noisy confusion of life keep peace with your soul.
With all its sham, drudgery, and broken dreams,
it is still a beautiful world.
Be cheerful.
Strive to be happy.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

In which I am overwrought and hyperbolic

I expected this appointment to make me feel better, but it has made me feel far, far, worse. Worse than I've felt in a long time, and that's sayin' something. Strangely, this reaction seems to have little to do with the facts of my case. Turns out it was all in the interpretation. As my husband reported, my left ovary is basically stranded and useless. That tube is distended and displaced by a fibroid, so while the ovary does its best, it's just pumping all those perfectly nice eggs into a reproductive void. My RE thinks even if the fibroid were removed, the tube would not recover. Hearing that for myself was really upsetting. I apologize to those of you who have experienced real losses of reproductive organs--a tube, an ovary--I know my situation is not as bad. But when I think about all those months when I never even had a chance, I feel so angry! And I feel like my reproductive potential has just been halved. On the right side, he removed a cyst, and I'd formed the impression that I was therefore better off than before the surgery. That did not seem to be his message. He seemed to be suggesting that nothing was any different. We looked back over my ultrasounds from the IUIs. On all three occasions, I had mature follicles on my right side. He scanned me to see what my ovaries are currently up to--both are snoozing, so I don't yet know which side will be more dominant this month. Oh, and by the way, REs of the world, don't talk to professors about their grants while wanding them with your dildo cam. Grants are a stressful topic, for fuck's sake!

When he'd finished his wanding, he said, You're young, you've got plenty of eggs, there's no rush. I don't mind doing a few more IUI cycles! My throat constricted. I MIND. I MIND VERY MUCH. This is my life, my heartache! This process is seriously fucking with my ability to function! How dare you treat what I go through every month as though it's trivial! So...I began to cry. The effort to suppress full on sobbing resulted in me making pathetic squeaking noises, like I had a mouse under my modestly-draped sheet.

I don't understand why he would think IUI would work for me if it didn't before. Every time, my right ovary was in on the action! Why, oh WHY would it work? It won't work. I will never, ever get pregnant. Ever.

My other option is to have a myomectomy now. He stressed the fact that this is a serious surgery. That I'd be recovering for about three cycles and there might be scar tissue that could make things worse. Okay, he didn't say make things worse, but what else would scar tissue do? And that it might not do any good, but I can't have IVF without it.

The optimistic picture that my husband presented me with post-op was nowhere to be found in my RE's comments. The RE's message was, Let's do some more IUIs, Heck, it might work! And if not, you can have another surgery. Of course, that will be really bad and might not help. Sux 2 b u! Okay, I'm off to my next appointment! Let me know when you make up your mind!

I don't know what to do. I don't even know what to ask. Of course when I've calmed down a bit and talked to my husband, things will be clearer. At the moment all I know is that I stupidly allowed myself to hope. I allowed myself to imagine that I might get pregnant in the next few months. And that hope has been extinguished. COMFORT, please!

Monday, January 25, 2010

Elegy to my belly button and two other gloomy things

During an early exam, my RE was doing something in the region of my abdomen and suddenly exclaimed, You have a perfect belly button! I was surprised--if I'd ever thought about it before, I'd figured I had a pretty average belly button. I mean, I'm glad I have the kind that goes in, but that's as much as I've considered my navel. The RE was really impressed. He had the med student come over and look, and the two of them stood there over my belly button, nodding and agreeing, Yeah, uh huh, perfect. I guess he sees a lot of belly buttons, so I left feeling some small satisfaction. I have a perfect belly button! This morning I removed the remaining bit of bandage over my belly button, which I haven't seen in almost two weeks. And it is perfect no more. Now it looks like Frankenstein's belly button (except he wouldn't have needed a belly button, but you know). It doesn't look the same anymore. It's no longer perfect. I burst into tears. It just made me so sad. I know I sound like a crazy person, but I feel like so many things have been taken from me in the past year and a half, and now my erstwhile perfect belly button! Something I didn't even appreciate until a few months ago. And I know parenthood is about sacrifice, so I'd better get used to it. But DAMN.
The curfew tolls the knell of parting day,
The lowing herd wind slowly o'er the lea
The plowman homeward plods his weary way,
And leaves the world to darkness and to my ruined belly button.
The second reason for my crap mood is work-related. I've been working on a study for about a year and needed to run one last control experiment before writing the project up. I was finally able to analyze the data from the control experiment and it was a total bust--the effect I obtained was the precise opposite of what I'd hypothesized. The project is now in ruins. I don't know where to go from here, and I feel completely unfit for this career. I know logically that this cycle is part of my job, and part of other kinds of jobs too. It strongly resembles Twangy's graph of the creative process, because it is, after all, a creative process. I'll find a way to be re-inspired. Maybe. Or not. It just hurts so much, and in such a familiar way. You put your soul into something. You wait, you hope. You do everything you can. Little tweaks here and there. The moment of truth arrives, and...negative. I feel like I can't experience this set of emotions any more. They're so boring and painful.

Finally, I'm scared about tomorrow's appointment and I have no reason to be. Which makes me think what I'm really afraid of is getting back in the TTC saddle. These past months have not been relaxing or enjoyable, but at least I've not had the acute sense of failure that comes with not getting pregnant. Tomorrow I'll know where I'm headed, and have a clearer picture of exactly when I can start experiencing that sense of failure again.

I'm just so fucking sad. However, not too sad to say thanks for the fashion advice! (I'm super impressed you recognized the fabric, Trinity!) I'll try to implement your suggestions and will get back to you. Cause I know you'll be dying of anticipation.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Make it work!

Everyone around me (in internet land) seems to be going through harrowing emotional turmoil, so I'm going to write about something deeply superficial and frivolous.

For Christmas my super fine husband got us tickets to hear our favorite band play in Brooklyn over Valentine's day weekend. We're going to make an event of it--stay in a nice hotel, have some epicurian dining experiences, etc. I'd been looking forward to it until I realized I HAVE NOTHING TO WEAR. OMG! Going to New York (actually, going anywhere) always makes me feel like a country bumpkin. It might be because all my clothes are made of flour sacks and I have hay in my hair and a pig in my purse, but that's just how we roll in O-hi-o. I refuse to style my long hippie hair or wear makeup, and I never learned how to wear high-heeled shoes. My mother taught me these things were artificial and anti-feminist. On the other hand, I am not frumpy. I really like clothes, but simply don't have the knack of looking fashionable. I used to be pretty comfortable in my skin, but getting older and being infertile have combined in a really bad way to totally undermine my confidence.

So here's where you come in. I made this dress (take a close look at the fabric--it's the coolest thing ever!) for a wedding last summer. I'd like to take it, but it's winter now. I need to get something to put over it--a cardigan or a jacket. (I'm also debating whether to put some little cap sleeves on it. Strapless dresses don't actually flatter me-wish I'd remembered that before making it.) Left to my own devices, I'd just get something lame that looks terrible. So has anyone seen any cute stuff that you think might transform Country Bunny into City Bunny? Jackets? Boots? Magic beans? Use the accessory wall wisely.

Friday, January 22, 2010

The downside of sharing your intimate thoughts with the world

When I started writing this internet-based public journal, I assumed the downside would be that no one would ever read my thoughts and I'd feel pathetic in an all new way. But no! I was gathered into the warm embrace of the blogosphere and do indeed feel less alone on my journey. But an unexpected consequence of connecting with virtual people (okay, I'll give you the benefit of the doubt and assume you're real people) who virtually share various aspects of my situation is that I've become less tolerant of real world people not understanding these things I think about all the damn time.

Example 1: before yesterday's coffee I stopped by LP1's office and told her I would probably be unable to hang out with her pretty soon, and that she ought not take it personally. I tried to take Jen's advice about precise messaging and not get too complicated about it. She seemed glad I brought it up and was all I totally understand blah blah blah. Then she said, If you ever need someone to go with you to appointments, I'd be happy to. Uh. NOT SO MUCH, PREGNANT LADY. I mean, yes, totally sweet to offer, but did you not just hear me say I don't want to be around you? Can you even fathom what it would be like to go to an appointment about, say, your perpetually empty uterus with a PREGNANT lady? No, of course she can't.

Example 2: At yesterday's coffee I told all the LPs about my laparoscopy and one of them said, Can't they do embryo implantation? I was a bit confused. Like, what, in the middle of examining my ovaries they're going to stick an embryo in there? Where did they get this embryo? And where, exactly, are they going to put it? Down the fallopian tube? And how exactly will they get it to implant? And why haven't they shared this Magic Technology with the whole world? I mean, Laparoscopic Embryo Implantation ought to sell like hotcakes! I was confused because, you see, this LP is a neonatologist. I know neonatology is not reproductive endocrinology, but this person is a fucking DOCTOR! So for a moment I figured I'd just missed something. But no, this was just a typical ignorant query from an unexpected source.

In short, you people have spoiled me for the real world. Thanks a lot.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Glorious solitude

My husband is a delightful and wonderful fellow, and I'm so grateful we found each other. We get along pretty well despite the fact that we are different in many ways. As I've noted, he's an optimist, and I'm...not so much. When it comes to conflict resolution, he's a shouter and I'm a silent weeper. I'm extremely tidy, and he's...less so. I'm pretty much a non-procrastinator, and he's one of those can-only-work-under-time-pressure types. But as this old recipe for sealing wax says, when two substances of opposite humours are married, then a union true unto its purpose shall be obtained, suitable in all degrees and means. I think we're a pretty good match. Like shellac and turpentine, baby.

At the moment, though, I'm really fucking glad he's out of town. He travels for work every couple of weeks, and for the first time since before Christmas, he's out of my hair. IT'S HEAVEN! I know, I'm an asshole for being glad he's gone when he just nursed me like a total pro. But sometimes a girl needs solitude! And while I think we are dealing pretty well with the IF situation as a couple, sometimes it's nice not to have to worry about how he's feeling about how I'm feeling and how tired he is of being supportive all the time. And, of course, there's sex. We're in one of those slumps that seem to be pretty much unavoidable, plus I'm on pelvic rest until I can see my RE. So it's lovely not having to feel guilty for wanting to put out about as much as I want to have another set of knives and cameras jammed into my guts. Instead I can just flop down in front of the TV and wallow there like an enormous walrus.

In other news, the Lady Professors are having coffee this afternoon and I'm wondering if I'll be able keep my shit together in front of LP1, the pregnant one. I keep telling myself that she did nothing wrong, she's just a regular old fertile person doing her fertile thing. I'm just afraid I'll be all bitchy because of my burning resentment. So do I mention to her that, for future reference, a heads up e-mail is the way to be kind to your infertile friend? And that I'm not going to want to be around her at all pretty soon? Or do I keep my trap shut?

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

My two uteri

Because I bought a teaching model of the brain a few years ago, I am on the mailing list of the An.atomica1 Chart Compa.ny. The ACC is a supplier of medical models and charts, and I am always happy when my catalogue arrives. Despite the fact that the content is always pretty much the same--there don't appear to be seasonal fashions in medical models. Anyway, the new catalogue came last week and I was flipping through it when lo! I found exactly the same model of the uterus that my RE's office has! It's known as uterus /ovaries with pathologies, and I bet many of you have seen it. It's the one with all the nasty looking junk on it. It occurred to me that I could have my very own uterus/ ovaries with pathologies for a mere $72! And when I see my RE on the 26th, and he starts explaining where he found various things, I could be like, show me on MY uterus! Mine isn't covered with grubby finger prints and little pen marks. And he would blink at me in confusion, and I would whip out my model! It would be SUPER FUNNY.

On the next page were the human pregnancy models. Made of life-like material! So I was thinking, if I never get pregnant, I can still have some fetal development of my very own. For only $530! Then I got very sad and cried. Maybe I'll buy an Understanding Erectile Dysfunction Anatomical Chart to cheer myself up. It's on sale.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Hope, part II

I promised some information on the question of whether being pessimistic (or at least moderating optimism) makes a negative outcome easier to bear (reduces disappointment). It's a complicated and fascinating picture, so settle in. And no fucking around on facebook while I'm lecturing, please.

First of all, how do psychologists measure the effects of disappointment? Well, they look both at ratings on various measures of mood (e.g., a depression questionnaire) as well as immunological factors (e.g., t cell count, cortisol). So when I say x is better than y, I mean x results in higher ratings of mood and lower levels of stress hormones and that kind of thing. Caveats: I'll provide one source that I think will be maximally valuable, but won't document every claim since I don't to attract a flock of critical psychologists. While I do have a PhD in psychology, this stuff is not my area of expertise. This post is simply my picture of the research area, and should be taken with a grain of salt. Okay. Here are some generalizations that might be of interest.
  • It matters whether you are a dispositional  optimist (someone who generally expects a positive future) as opposed to a situational optimist (someone who has positive expectations about a particular event). Dispositional optimism does seem to protect you from some of the negative effects of disappointment. It seems that optimists just aren't as distressed by the failure of their positive expectations as pessimists are. Weird.
  • Whether the stress (in our case, IF) is brief or prolonged also makes a big difference. When stress is prolonged (more than one week), pessimism is more protective. This might be because optimists tend to give up after repeated failure, while pessimists engage (attempt to find solutions). If that's the case, it's engagement that matters, not necessarily optimism. 
  • So what about those of us who are not optimistic by nature? Can positive expectations about a particular event lead to better immune response? There is some reason to think so in a study of law students. Anyone still awake at this point? Hang in there--I'm getting to some cool stuff! Those who had positive expectations about performance fared better even if they were not dispositional optimists...but who cares about law students. In a study on coping with IVF failure, dispositional optimists adapted better to the failure, even though their specific expectations about getting pregnant were similar to those of the less optimistic women (p. 182). In other words, if, prior to IVF, an optimist and a pessimist both put their chances of getting pregnant eventually (not necessarily from that specific transfer) at 70%, the optimist will fare better if the procedure fails. So this suggests simply having positive expectations about a particular event may not do much good. Bad news for me.
  • There are a ton of other variables that complicate the picture: perception of having control, depression, etc. One study suggests optimism can partly be reduced to conscientiousness. That is, it's not about positive expectations, it's about continuing to act to achieve a goal. In general, the story seems to be that engagement = good and withdrawal = bad. No shit, huh?
  • The IVF study suggests a few other interesting things. Feeling responsible for IF is not necessarily bad! However, feeling responsible for an IVF failure (and I'm betting an IUI failure, a miscarriage) is definitely bad. A feeling of loss of control is bad. And using escape (that is, not dealing with IF) as a coping mechanism = bad. hope or not to hope? It seems it's better to hope, provided you're not just mindlessly hoping. What really seems to do the job is hope + engagement. That's something even a pessimist can manage. Here endeth the lesson.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Hope, part I

That was quite a week, I must say. The sort of week that makes me happy to be back at work, on a national holiday. The celebratory pre-birth event came off fairly well. Here are some highlights. Cucumber sandwiches, artfully arranged.  My contribution to our actually very successful mobile. What I will now forever think of as Tears of the Infertile cupcakes. And the part of the event that made me need to leave the room and cry and cry.


I'm guessing when the first item of baby clothing is opened it's common to marvel over the fact that the expectant mother will soon produce a human being that will rapidly become large enough to fit in it. So there's everyone else, exclaiming over the fact that the entity in PBF's belly will actually turn into a real human baby. And there's me, belly all swollen and full of holes, uterus all crampy with the onset of my period... I just felt so deeply pathetic and defective and unwomanly. I had five shots of vodka during this event, and two of them were required after that particular moment. One for me, and one for a private toast to all of you.

Now, you might be thinking, But didn't you just get some fairly positive news about the state of your reproductive organs? Why so glum, bunny? Well, to begin with, my husband is a confirmed optimist. I actually didn't know this about him until we started dealing with IF. It just never occurred to me that anyone could possibly be an optimist. But he is, and because I have only his post op report to go by until the 26th, I am cautious. It's entirely possible that the RE actually said, NO ENDOMETRIOSIS except for this enormous patch here which we couldn't get rid of and I THINK IUI WILL WORK for you never under any circumstances and I wish I had some GREAT NEWS to share with you but I'm afraid you'll never father a child with this woman. In short, Mr. Bunny can't be trusted.

Second, for me it has been important to accept the fact that I may not be able to conceive and bear a child. I don't go around telling myself I won't but I also don't go around telling myself I will. I used to, but there came a time when it was simply too much work to deny the terrible possibility. The upside is that I can rationally consider the wost case scenario, and this is an important coping strategy when dealing with anxiety. The downside is that I don't want to get my hopes up. I'm sure this is a familiar psychological state to many of you: Hoping with all your heart but suppressing that hope with much of your mind to stave off devastation. WELL, before my first IUI, I did some research on the question of the relationship between hope and disappointment. For example, if you don't expect a positive outcome, does that make a negative outcome easier to bear? Answers in my next post.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Recovery...or laziness?

My post-op paperwork tells me I can resume my normal activities today, and I'm like, no thanks. I normally begin my day with a few hours of roping steers followed by a little light dog sledding. I think instead I'll watch some movies. I did make a run to the grocery store to pick up supplies for tomorrow's baby shower. In the checkout line I was surrounded by no fewer than three pregnant women. Help! Plus, the cashier naturally enough asked me why I was buying a shitload of flowers. For some reason I told her the truth, and was treated to a gushing report on her sister's new baby and blah blah blah. I only shed a couple of tears when I got outside, so I think I'm going to make it through tomorrow. I'd say that while my heart is not 100% in it, I'm perhaps 70% enthusiastic, and with some fakin' and drinkin', can get up to 82.65 % happy for my best friend. Very big of me, huh? After I've had a rest, I will proceed to get my bake on. I'm thinking chocolate sour cream tears-of-the-infertile cupcakes with meyer lemon cream cheese icing.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Ah haz holes in mah belleh

And they is all hurty. However, all went well yesterday. The nursing staff was super nice, which made it all far less scary. Bless you, nurses of the world. And my new buddy oxyco.done is a true friend. Mr. Bunny is an A+ caregiver--so sweet and attentive and funny. Right before I was taken into the OR he said, I told them to put a little something extra in there as a surprise for you. Some might find this creepy or mean, but it cracked me up. So if my next ultrasound reveals a toaster, I'll be super excited.

I won't know the full story until I meet with my RE, but Mr. Bunny's post-op report (with pictures!) suggests the news is better than I expected. Most importantly, there's no endometriosis. This is what I feared the most, since it seems so impossible to get rid of and so terrifying. I've known since I first met with the RE that I have some surprisingly large fibriods, but since my HSG was clear, the RE didn't think they were the issue. After the IUIs didn't work despite our good numbers, he became more suspicious, and gave us the choice of doing the lap or going directly to a myomectomy (fibriod [myoma] removal). We choose the more conservative path even though he said there was about a 60% chance I'd need the myomectomy after the lap.

Now it appears that one fibroid is probably interfering with egg pickup from my left ovary, while a cyst was probably interfering with pickup from my right ovary. The cyst was removed, and it looks like I'm back to IUI. No myomectomy at this stage! I'm really pleased.

Of course, I've read enough people's stories to know that this does not mean I'll be pregnant any time soon. A good prognosis can still result in months and months of nothing at all, but at least I can enjoy the prospect of not having another surgery in my immediate future. 'Cause one was enough for now.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

I wish I could EAT this post

I've begun my preparations for tomorrow's lap and I'M SO HUNGRY. If the doorbell rang and I answered it and found a lovely baby in a basket with a note saying Please be my mama I'D EAT IT. Somehow clear liquids (all I can have until after the surgery) are just not satisfying my voracious appetite. I'm also feeling extra glum after my time in the clinic this morning (pre-op visit). I had to sit in the normal people's ultrasound area in order to get my blood drawn, so was faced by a row of big fat bellies. There were also a couple of women in the waiting area who couldn't have been more than fifteen years old. While I'm sure their lives are nothing to envy (just because having a child at fifteen is really tough, regardless of their situations), seeing them still stirs up something unpleasant. After I got back to the nice safe infertility area of the clinic, I overheard two separate conversations in which fellow patients had achieved pregnancy. I just wasn't up to feeling happy for them. Selfish! That's me. Anyway, they don't need my happiness--they've got plenty of their own.

Anyway, wish me luck for tomorrow. In case I die on the table (unlikely, you say? I'LL SHOW YOU!), I'd just like to say thanks for your kind comments. It's been wonderful connecting with such cool and strong women. (And for those of you who are actually fifty-year-old men posing as infertile women, it's been great connecting with you too.)

Monday, January 11, 2010


IF has changed my feelings about a lot of things--control, my body, my future, people poking my tender parts with objects--and many of those changes are positive. I'm actually glad to lose a bit of my modesty, and I recognize that I had to learn the lesson about not being in control of everything at some point. I do feel I've learned enough lessons and should get to have a child now, but okay. The effect has been negative, however, when it comes to my feelings about my mother. I understand that many people have mothers who are actually awful, and that I should be thankful for my mother's good qualities and shut up. But I spent most of my life being thankful for my mother's good qualities and would now like to take some time to be angry at her.

Between the time I was four and the time I was ten, my mother had three unplanned pregnancies. She had an abortion the first time, gave the second child up for adoption, and kept the last baby, my wonderful little brother. I could write about how heartbreaking it must have been for her, but this post is about ME and MY FEELINGS. These pregnancies made things so much harder for myself and my older brother. The details are boring, but trust me when I say my childhood would have been less scary, more secure, and more stable if she hadn't gotten knocked up so often.

My mother believes that whatever happens is for the best. It's not that I don't buy into that at all--I do agree on some level. I know that we can't foresee the consequences of seemingly negative events, bad can lead to good, etc. But it's kind of a retrospective way to live your life. Plus, that attitude allowed her not to take responsibility for choices she made, and for the impact of those choices on my life. If everything sucked, well, that was somehow for the best. It's hard to acknowledge that one has erred if whatever happens is for the best.

When I joined the ranks of the infertile I was already pissed off at her for getting pregnant so easily and so often. It was like she'd used up our family's allotment of pregnancies and had somehow ripped me off. When I stupidly told her that we were having trouble conceiving, she said, I can't pray that you get pregnant. I can only ask that what's meant to happen will happen.

This comment might not read as deeply hurtful, but it hurt me deeply. You don't get to say things like that to your child--you're not allowed to say I can't ask that you get what you want. Sorry. It's not part of my belief system. And rather than saying nothing at all, I'm going to say something that highlights the already very salient fact that you may never get what you want! You're not entitled to what you want!

It's odd to want to be a mother so badly at at time when I'm so angry at my own. If I get to have children, I may make mistakes far worse than hers. But I'll never refuse to hope that some reasonable request of my child's is fulfilled. And I'm not sure I'll ever entirely forgive her for that comment.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Assorted oddments

A: A slipper. There--don't you feel better after that enormous, belly-shaking laugh?

It's a beautiful day featuring snow covered branches. I loves me some snow covered branches.

I was a huge bitch to my husband last night. So much so that he cleaned up the kitchen, made me a drink, and then made me some chocolate-chip cookies. Since it's a little early for my highly predictable day of PMS-induced rage, I think I'm just nervous about next week. I'm worried about what my RE will find lurking in my innards and I'm worried about preparing for and then getting through the baby shower.

In addition, yesterday I learned that PBF got a one-year position in California, so will be moving away. (Heretofore she's been a lecturer in my department, which is not a permanent position.) I don't want her to gooooooooo! But I want what's best for her career, and I suppose if I spend another year being barren, it will be best for our friendship if her baby is not always all up in my face.

As everyone knows, when you have a minor surgery and a baby shower in your future and your best friend is moving away, the only cure is Symbolic Imagery. Below is a photo from a hike I took with my family over Christmas.

At first I assumed the sprouting of the plant caused the split in the rock, and I was like woah, powerful symbol of the resilience of new life. In reality, the splitting of the rock probably allowed the plant to sprout, so...powerful symbol of the resilience of new life!

I've totally been the rock for the past six months. Not just because I'm flesh-toned. Also because I'm broken. I hope the brokenness will lead to the sprouting of some new life. And that my baby is not green and leafy.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

There is no better, there is only more worse

Yesterday I learned that my dear friend from graduate school--someone who helped me through some very tough times--had an early pregnancy loss. She didn't even think she could get pregnant due to a variety of health problems, so the joy and devastation were both particularly acute.

PBF had a miscarriage scare early in her pregnancy, and afterwards I asked if she thought there were better and worse ways to have a pregnancy loss. For example, is it better to lose a baby you conceived in your first month trying as opposed to one conceived after a long battle with IF? Or is earlier in the pregnancy better than later? She said she thought there were only worse ways. Yes, a variety of things can make a loss worse, but that doesn't mean better is ever applicable. In linguistic terms this makes no sense, but I bet you all know what she means.

At the same time, my grad school friend's grandfather and mother-in-law are both dying. My sister-in-law had a miscarriage the same week her sister died. Another friend has been dealing with recurrent pregnancy loss and her father's death. My father died while I was making my first RE appointment. Jen's father-in-law is declining while she's mid-IVF cycle. WHAT THE FUCK IS UP with this heartbreaking combination of death and striving for new life? Why does existence have to be more and more and MORE worse for some people? Do they really need more punishment, more testing of their resolve, more pain?

Buddhists (of which I am not one) apparently say that the world is full of suffering, and rather than ask why me, one should ask why not me? But the distribution of suffering I see when I look around me seems statistically improbable. Part of it is a bias in my data--I'm more aware of certain kinds of pain. Part of it is the thirties--people start dying, and those of us who aren't destined to have an easy time with reproduction make that discovery. And I know that the world is full of misery that would make IF and the death of a family member seem like a fun trip to the circus. But that doesn't make our lives better. It just makes those of others more worse.

That was a big fucking bummer, huh? Let's see...I will now share my all-time favorite joke. Q: What's a foot long and slippery? Answer in my next post.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

The financial question

I grew up poor (food stamps, W.IC, Ha.bitat-for-humani.ty-built-us-a-house poor). Between graduating from high school and moving in with Mr. Bunny, I supported myself, and life was not luxurious. It certainly wasn't bad: I could always afford organic milk, and while I sometimes had to go into debt to get by, or to do without expensive things like a car, I did just fine. Being poor was stressful, but I was used to it. Mr. Bunny grew up middle class. After graduating from college, he ended up in a job that is not what he hoped to do with his life (teach Latin), but is ridiculously high-paying. He makes truly absurd amounts of money. Apologies to those of you who struggle financially and would like to stab me in the eye. I can only say that I too have struggled.

My professorial income is not large. There's an imbalance in our incomes and also an imbalance in our attitudes towards money. Mr. Bunny thinks we need to be careful and save lots. Since I'm used to having just enough for necessities, I content that we have All the Money in the World. But I also have a ton of guilt associated with spending money, particularly on medical stuff. We never went to the doctor when I was a kid because we couldn't afford it, so we just had to stay healthy. I see medical care as a luxury.

When we had the IVF conversation a month or so ago, it was really tough. Needless to say, IVF isn't covered by our insurance (thanks, Ohio!). Mr. Bunny was unprepared for the cost of IVF. He'd been thinking ten grand, and was shocked when I told him it would be more like 15 per cycle (we get a discount because I'm a university employee), and we'd likely need more than one cycle. When I said he should be thinking more like $45 grand, he said, we can't afford that. I burst into tears. I felt so completely shitty. It's my fault we can't have a baby, I already feel all kinds of guilty about spending money on medical stuff, and without his income IVF would be very difficult. But as it is, we totally CAN afford it. I don't know if this will make sense to anyone else, but it sucked super hard. The discussion continued in a more positive way, but that initial reaction is still with me. So I'm wondering whether this is typical. Does anyone else feel guilty like I do? If you've had the IVF chat, how did the money part go?

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

I feel oh-so-pretty

I just ordered my BOWEL PREPARATION (I can't not capitalize that--it's just so horrible sounding) on the interweb. Why not just pick it up at the local drugstore? Well, one of my former students works at the only convenient pharmacy, and I'm just so tired of him being a part of my IF journey. First of all, he did poorly in my class, so every time I see him, I'm like, dude, too bad about that D. Second, although I'm sure he's got better things to do than judge me, I couldn't help but think I saw a knowing look in his eye every time he handed me my bag o' o.vidrel. A look that said, maybe I got a D in your class, but at least I'm not infertile. So I think I'll get my laxative with a bit less human interaction, thanks. This distasteful purchase is just the latest in a series of events that make me feel like the ugliest, most defective female on the planet.

It's not surprising that IF has undermined my self-confidence, since being able to bear children is a large part of my cultural sense of what it means to be a woman. And I never had a ton of self-confidence anyway, despite the objective knowledge that I'm perfectly adequate-looking. But now I look in the mirror and see a dried up old harpy with a weirdly large ass. It doesn't help that the fashion world has decided long tops and skinny pants flatter the women of today. They totally don't flatter me, and I'm a size 2. So now I can't even buy clothes, and am running around naked as a result.

I guess I can only hope that I have a body-destroying baby, and get some all new reasons for feeling unattractive.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Back to work...or not.

The academic career is self-directed. Sure, the chair of my department insists that I teach some classes, but the rest of my time is pretty much my own to use as I please. While some weeks overflow with  appointments, some weeks are empty of any specific obligations. In general, there's no one to tell me what to do and no one to notice if I'm not doing it. Not for a good long while anyway--I could probably just watch movies in my office for six months at least, as long as I did my teaching and responded to e-mail. This lack of structure has not been a problem in the three years I've been a faculty member...until last semester.

Last semester I accomplished nothing. It started when my father died. For a few weeks I just focused on work and got a bunch of grants and papers out the door. Then I stopped being able to do anything at all. It was summer, and I'd normally work fewer hours but still work. (In case you're envying me my free summers, keep in mind that I don't get paid for those months.) Instead I devoted all my energy to my garden. I figured if I couldn't work, there was nothing I could do about it. In time I'd feel more inspired. Like maybe around the end of the summer. But lo, the end of the summer came and I did not return to my normal self. I did at least have the enforced structure of my teaching schedule, so I taught and graded and filled in the chinks with staring at the wall. Shopping online for a pair of pants that might actually fit (haven't found them yet). Oh, and a ton of weeping. You know, really great career-building stuff.

Classes start next week, but this semester I'm not teaching. Mediocre Institution gives all tenure-track faculty one semester of course release before they come up for tenure, and I'm taking mine this semester. I'd saved it for a while in the hopes of combining it with parental leave so as to have a full year to spend with a baby, but I had to give up and take it before it's gone. This means I will have no structure at all in the coming months. I'm supposed to be using this time to plan my research program for the next few years, to design a bunch of great studies and write a bunch of great papers and get a shitload of grants so that I am totally famous and awesome by the time I come up for tenure. The problem is that all these items require creativity, and I ain't got none. I've got nothing at all. My mind is as empty as my womb. These tasks also require thinking of the future. For instance, I should be able to complete sentences like: in five years, I want to have accomplished_____. But I don't care what happens anymore. In five years, I want to be the mother of a four-year-old. This career I worked really hard to establish doesn't mean anything to me right now.

There's a great deal of discussion on the topic of whether having children is detrimental to the careers of female academics. I'm afraid not being able to get pregnant will ruin my career. Last semester was all about coming to terms with IF. We got our official diagnosis early in the summer, and I spent the fall having IUIs. It was really fucking distracting and all I could think about. I'm afraid another semester of this will be a serious problem for me career-wise, but I have no idea what to do. I've been reading stirring accounts of other people's resolutions to move beyond IF in 2010, to not let it take over their lives. I'm envious. I don't think I shake it.