Archive | June, 2011

Loss, grieving and gratitude during miscarriage and infertility

30 Jun

I was really inspired reading The Port of Indecision’s Post: Lessons from a drag queen about gratitude during infertility and the misperception that gratitude for the good things in life can’t co-exist with the painfully real desire to start a family.

I too have noticed how infertility and miscarriage get downplayed and even dismissed as “not real” medical problems.   Often when the topic comes up in mainstream conversation it’s downplayed and seen as not a big deal.  It’s not as if we have something terminal, right?  What I hear (and read on comment boards online) is, that we shouldn’t be so upset, there are bigger problems we could be facing.  After all, people can live without having kids, they say.  It’s not a like missing your legs or losing a vital organ.

On the one hand I find myself guilty of thinking this way.  I know I have a good life and it feels almost greedy to want more.  I have good health (all working organs and limbs), a loving husband, a well-paying steady job (despite the odds in a terrible economy), and we live in a perfectly comfortable home that we’ve been able to keep (despite foreclosures all around).  We are really lucky and I do feel very, very grateful, every day.

What hurts is that sometimes people use these gifts against us.  As if somehow we have “enough” and wanting a baby too is somehow not being grateful.  If you don’t believe it check out some of the really cold comments people post in response to online stories about celebrities with infertility.  As if being rich and famous cancels out this problem as a real problem deserving of sympathy.

Several of my single friends who are my age and still looking for a mate have outright said that I don’t have a real problem, like they do.  I see their point and I don’t want to compare pain so I generally just avoid talking about it with them.  I accept they don’t get it, and that complaining makes me seem ungrateful for what I have.

My other friends, the ones who have young kids, are often so wrapped up in the challenges of parenting young ones that they can’t see another perspective.  The message I hear from them often is “Look at US, don’t you see how HARD parenting is?  How could your problems be anywhere near as difficult?”.  In a conversation with Misfit Mrs. recently we joked about how we’d gladly trade places with these folks.  The invitation would be – “Sure, I’ll take your infant for a while and you can try having a few miscarriages instead and see how you feel…”.  I hear so often from new parents about how HARD parenting is.  I get jealous of how they can casually joke about it openly and how all the mommy talk actually opens doors for them to bond with other parents like a built in support network. Meanwhile I feel like noone talks about just how hard NOT parenting is.  Not just that but how hard it is to not be able to talk about it openly either.  It is by far the hardest thing I’ve ever done.  I had NO IDEA just how painful and isolating and socially destructive this was going to be.  Before we started TTC I was fine, but once the failures started (esp. after the second miscarriage) I was in a world of hurt I’d never known before.  Sometimes I find myself nostalgic for those pre-TTC days when things seemed so much more normal and I could actually talk openly with people about the problems in my life without feeling judged as a freak or as a hopeless self-consumed victim.  I feel surrounded by people who just don’t or can’t get it.

People who haven’t tried (yet) or have had no trouble having children just don’t understand how this could be painful.    For them the dream of parenting is either still a real dream ahead of them, or has already been realized (or maybe not a dream at all in the cases of people who have decided they don’t want to have children).  For those of us struggling in this space, each setback- a miscarriage, a failed IUI or IVF, cancelled adoption or other bad news is a personal loss.  It is the loss of a dream and the loss of a huge part of our drive for living as we look to the future.

With miscarriage they say that the length of time of the pregnancy often is a way to determine the length of the grieving period.  The idea being that losing a baby at 8 months is harder than losing one at 3 weeks.  The truth is really  much more complicated.  It’s not just that you lost a baby, it’s that you lost a dream, the dream of being a mother and having a child.  Chances are you had that dream LONG before you tried to conceive.  Likely it started with childhood playing house and later influenced who you dated and married (someone you may have thought would be a good parent). The dream of parenting drives so many things, the neighborhoods we choose to live in, houses we choose, school districts we consider- all things that came into mind before trying to conceive.  When I hear younger people talk about “when I have kids…”it reminds me how I used to talk this way too.  RPL took that kind of talk away from me, the dreaming, optimistic part.  I can’t use the term “when” anymore.  I’ve changed to “if” and I am still struggling to create and embrace this new picture of my future- the if we have kids future, and the if we don’t future.

My point in all this is that IF and RPL are about loss, loss of something real.  Even if our lives aren’t at risk, our modest dreams/drive for living may be.  When someone loses a child, noone says to that person- you can live without kids, at least you still have your spouse, job, house, etc.  When their child died so did their visions for their future with that child- seeing them celebrate their birthdays, graduate from school, get married, etc.  Those dreams and hopes die for that parent when they lose the child just like they die for us when we fail to have one.


Game Over

30 Jun

Our third ultrasound showed more growth but a slower heartbeat (less than 90).  So even though it’s still alive in there, my RE expects it is not going to make it and recommended we call it, rather than do another wait and see.  I scheduled the D& C.  Her next available time for a  D&C is next Wednesday, almost a whole week out.  I was hoping we could do something sooner, but I am coming up on a long weekend and that’s just the way it is.

This time we are doing slightly different testing afterwards.  It is actually PGD testing, the same thing many people do at the front end when they are choosing an embryo to implant for IVF.  The hope is that it can provide more information and the odds are better that the test can identify the difference between my cells and the pregnancy cells (unlike last time when my cells dominated).

I know I was optimistic about doing next steps, but now I am just thinking that babies aren’t coming out of my body or from my eggs.  I have little hope in either.  It would be nice to have some confirmation of something working, but at this point all I know is that my body doesn’t want to carry past 8 weeks.  I was excited to try IVF, but there’s a part of me that feels like it’s a giant waste because it requires my eggs and uterus to play a role and they seem to just fuck up everything.  We are definitely completely giving up the old school bedroom trying.  That just seems like a recipe for more disappointment.   For now I think I am going to just fantasize about storks.  Maybe I have better luck with those.

Waiting for ultrasound #3

29 Jun

It is getting down to the wire now.  Tomorrow morning at 9:45 AM I have my third u/s.  Which way will it go?

  • Option A: No heartbeat = Game over (schedule D & C)
  • Option B: Still going, but weak = Wait and See, come back in a few days.
  • Option C: Everything is going to turn out fine!
    This last option is a completely made up one as it doesn’t exist until you are at least 12 weeks along, so no hope for hearing this tomorrow.

Before getting my verdict I just want to say that this has been my best pregnancy experience so far.  It all happened really fast and it included the first (and only) normal u/s I’ve ever had.  In addition it really felt like a gift.  I had accepted that we would move on to injectibles for the month, and dragged myself to it full of anxiety.  That late BFP (after three BFNs) felt like a get out of jail free card.  For a while I thought maybe this will be the ONE and I can actually avoid all this (how lucky would that be)!  It was a pretty awesome feeling and combined with the positive u/s gave me the most feeling of hope that recharged me for the whole month.

In addition I’ve opened up to a lot of people about this pregnancy this time.  Usually I follow the cardinal rule of saying nothing and lying low until I hear something definitive.  This time it felt like, why wait?  These few weeks of pregnancy may be all I get!  After the second u/s I could tell time was ticking and things were likely to go south.  Bringing people into my experience while I am still pregnant felt better to me than waiting.  Because of this I have family and friends hoping for me and able to connect.  Exposing myself felt so much better than my usual approach which was to hide in fear and shame waiting until the mythical 12 week mark to say anything to anyone.    After tomorrow we’ll see if I am still happy I went this route.  I swore after my first loss that I would tell almost noone about anymore pregnancies because I was SO upset having to report back about the loss, embarrassed even, as if somehow I’d been too confident and foolish for sharing.  With four pregnancy losses behind me, noone I’ve told is going to be totally shocked if I lose yet another, so it feels like less of a risk and more of a request for support at a time when I typically feel the most vulnerable.

If it is indeed a confirmed loss I expect to go through another silent period managing my feelings of being a total freak.  While pregnant I feel so normal.  After a loss, I feel like I’m contagious and want to keep my gloom and sarcasm and general negative attitude away from those I care about to avoid potentially burning anymore bridges.  With the exception of the elite group of ladies (like you) who are on this hell road of infertility and pregnancy loss, most people just don’t know what to say and act really weird when you report you’ve had a loss, or worse, start playing problem solver suggesting that I sign up for adoption or hire a surrogate.

If I do lose this one I REALLY hope to get some information in the test this time.  It is ridiculous that only one test on my lost pregnancies came back with any real information.  The first two don’t “count” and so they weren’t tested and the last one was normal female, aka probably ME and not the pregnancy.  Either way, I do want to try IVF and so am planning on ramping up on the injectibles (the ones already sitting in my vegetable drawer).  If we learn my eggs are crap I want to try egg donor, or even donor embryo.

On a totally different note, last weekend was our seventh wedding anniversary.  Despite the weight of all this I was able to really enjoy it.  We stayed at Cavallo Point in Sausalito, ate at their excellent restaurant Murray Circle and the next morning hiked the Golden Gate bridge in both directions.  It was a really relaxing getaway.

Me on the Golden Gate getting some "safe" exercise- a two hour walk.

Cavallo Point, Historic homes by the Golden Gate (former US Navy), Amazing location!Dessert at Murray Circle. Despite having to skip the wine and the local fresh cheeses, it was an amazing dinner and a lovely way to celebrate.

Dessert at Murray Circle. Despite having to skip the wine and the local fresh cheeses, it was an amazing dinner

ABC’s “The View” focuses on infertility and surrocacy

24 Jun

I will just admit up front that The View is kind of a guilty pleasure of mine- my little break from work that I tend to indulge in during breakfast or lunch as part of breaking up the day working from home.  Typically on Friday’s they show something light and random, but today they totally lifted my spirit!  This Friday they took the full show to discuss a hot infertility topic with a  Special Episode of the View on Surrogacy.  This is the second time the show has dedicated a whole show to infertility.  If you can find the first episode online (or in my earlier post) it is totally worth watching.

The show raised a really good question.  Would you consider surrogacy?  When I first got on this wagon before things got rough, I thought “no way”.  I really thought if it got to that point I’d rather adopt.  Now that it has gotten closer to that point and I have considered adoption, I am not so sure adoption is for us.  Since my fertility/RPL issues are unexplained I also don’t know if surrogacy would even help.  I know of a case where a women (from my RPL support group) did use a surrogate and even the surrogate had a miscarriage.  I basically don’t have enough confidence in my eggs at this point to even consider investing in something like that.  So what about egg donor + surrogate?  Well, yes, this would probably work as then I am completely out of the equation.  But I don’t want to be out of the equation just yet.   I am not ready to make that leap.  The guests on the show that did it said they had accepted this and were able to move forward and are glad they did.   Right now I still have some hope in my own parts and it feels premature to move to that already.   

That raises the million dollar question- when to say when?   When have we done enough and we should start working on accepting non-biological children?  No doctor seems to say, ok, give up on that and move to Plan B.  It is up to us to draw that line.

While I hope and pray little embie grows and makes a miraculous showing at the 8-week ulstrasound, my mind has to start thinking of our next steps and how much farther we want to go.

Thank you!

23 Jun

First of all, thank you guys SO MUCH for your thoughtful comments and messages.  It really does mean a lot to have a place to voice these things in complete honesty and be understood.  It felt like a wave of virtually hugs, really.

I feel a lot better just one day later.  One thing that helped was just getting out of the house and being around people. One of the things I LOVE about my job is that I get to work from home.  As you can imagine this is wonderful when you need to go to Dr.’s appointments and make calls or do other personal things that would be awkward in the workplace.  The negative side is that it can be really easy to feel lonely and isolated and just stew in your own misery, which is pretty much how I spent yesterday afternoon.  Don’t get me wrong, I think it was actually some healthy stewing.  I didn’t answer the phone and I just napped and watched a super depressing movie on Netflix.  After that  I heard some inspiring (and tear-jerking) stories from The Moth Podcast while driving in the car. (Note: The Moth is an AMAZING free podcast on iTunes in which speakers present personal stories in front of a live audience without notes.  Each story is only 20 minutes or less, perfect for car trips).

While it was good to marinate for a bit, getting out of the house last night and today helped snapped me back to a healthier mental state.   I went to book club last night and mostly just listened as I wasn’t up for saying much.  I didn’t have to talk, just being there felt better than being alone.  Then today I had a long lunch with a friend and her 3-month old baby.  Because of the news yesterday I was considering cancelling.  Being around a peer with her cute baby sounded like a recipe for triggering all sorts of emotions.  I expected to go home in tears but instead felt really good.

The thought of having a fifth loss made me feel incredibly isolated and freakish.  By spending time with her I just felt a lot more accepted, included and even “normal”, which is exactly what I needed.   I even liked holding her little one when she had to run to the restroom.  While it was a small victory (and nothing compared to a full-on baby shower), it felt good to be able to be in the mommy-world without being filled with jealousy and feelings of exclusion and pain.

When I did tell her about the pregnancy she was very understanding and didn’t trivialize my situation or throw out the usual advice like, “why don’t you just adopt?” etc.  She can’t really get what I am going through the way my fellow bloggers do, but it still counted.

Thank you guys again for your supportive comments.  When things are looking bad it’s easy to feel really alone and freakish.  You guys really help keep me sane.

Second ultrasound: Week 7

22 Jun

I was REALLY hoping to have a second positive update.  It is officially 1 week after my good u/s visit at 6 weeks.  I’ve already started mourning and grieving.  I had my second u/s this morning and there was still a heartbeat and there was some growth since last week, but she said it was not as much as she would have liked to see.  The heartbeat should be faster, the growth should be more to be “normal” and “on track”.  I’ve been here before.  Wait and see = Prep for another loss.  I can’t imagine some miracle where things turn around and magically become normal.  I see this as just another pregnancy that is 7 weeks along and at 8 weeks dies.  The rate at which this slow speed train crash happens is up in the air, but the writing is on the wall, I am headed for another crash and I am mentally trying to do anything I can to prepare and minimize the pain.  My RE wants me to have more cautious optimism, but at this point any good news will be a surprise and completely unexpected. I am fully expecting loss #5 and really filled with anger and frustration about it.  How many times can I keep falling on my ass and getting up and trying again before I can get it through my thick skull that I am just going to fall again.  Yes, I am in hopeless talk mode now and just feeling pain and self-pity.  I don’t know why I had any hope that this time would be any different than the previous times.  Hopefully after a good cry I can pull myself together.

Heart is broken

21 Jun

I am sad beyond words for Misfit Mrs who just experienced another loss.  It is just not fair.