Friday, December 31, 2010

Goodbye 2010

I'm pretty relieved today is the last day of 2010. It's been a tough year, and I think the two most difficult months were January (deciding to do IVF) and December (wondering if it's time to stop treatments after 4 failed IVF cycles). What a way to start and end a year.

I barely managed to submit a post to the Creme de la Creme list this year, and I literally picked the last post I had written at the time of submission. How's that for a "thoughtful" and "best post" of the year? But, really, I couldn't bring myself to read through this blog and re-live 2010. I didn't want to face those doubts and decisions to move forward with IVF (especially now that I know the end result of many BFNs without feeling any closer to having a baby), nor did I want to read through the hopefulness and subsequent anguish of each IVF cycle. And even though I didn't carefully select my submission, I do feel like the post reflected my heart and its current state. You'll see what I mean tomorrow.

And while I do have some meager hopes for 2011, I think I'll wait to express those on another day. Today I am simply acknowledging that 2010 was a very painful and difficult year. I'm thankful it's over. But I'm also acknowledging that I'm still ok. God has sustained me. I do have a hope that sustains me beyond my circumstances. I have grown. I have learned more about God and faith. I have a firm foundation.

A lyric from a song that I haven't listened to for years came to mind as I wrote this (by the band M.odel Engine):*

It's not that I feel good
It's that I still can feel
That's good, and that's all that's good for now

I love the "for now" part, and it is really emphasized as it is sung. I love the raw acknowledgement of the pain (the song is about a painful breakup after a long-term relationship, but, hey, pain is pain, right?), but there is still a sense of thankfulness and hope in these simple lyrics.

Anyway, that was a little bit of a tangent.

Good-bye 2010.

*As far as I know, this was a little-known Christian indie band from the 90's. I couldn't even find an MP3 for the song. :)

Monday, December 27, 2010

Merry {Belated} Christmas!

Merry Christmas everyone! I'm catching up on the blog world, and I can relate to so many of your infertility-effecting-Christmas posts.

Our day was full and pleasant. We spent the morning with my family and then drove 45 minutes to spend the evening with DH's family. All was nice... but so much the same. There are no children at either place, and both DH and I said longingly that we hope next Christmas is different.

I shed a few tears as I went to bed that night. How many years have I imagined next Christmas to be different? Will Christmas 2011 actually be any different? It is difficult to hope.

One funny story: So remember how my brother is having a baby in April? And they were thinking of using a variation of the girl's name we had chosen (Claire)? Well, they did indeed find out the baby is a girl and are naming her Clara. However, I had already tried to "move on" from this name and had started day dreaming about Caroline. Lo and behold on Christmas day, we found out that DH's brother had gotten a dog, and they had named her - you guessed it - Caroline! Ha! (Not that this would actually deter us from us using the name, but I just thought it was a little ironic).

On the bright side, my work closes down this week and I am very much looking forward to getting a lot of little things done. And relaxing , of course! :)

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

RE appointment today

We met with the RE today. I wasn't really sure what to expect going into it, but let me just start by saying how much I love our RE. I can't imagine being in the place we are today under the care of our first RE (or any other RE, really) - Dr. H is very kind and compassionate. He doesn't make me feel like I am wasting his time or ruining his statistics (although I did make a joke about that today which he laughed at). I am thankful for Dr. H.

We didn't get much new information - he still thinks that if we continue treatments, I would most likely get pregnant. He pointed out that, of course, after this many treatments he begins to wonder if something else is going on, but he said on paper we look good and there is nothing much else left to do/ test/ treat. The fact that I only produced 3 mature eggs last cycle - with a total of 10 including immature ones - is definitely indicative that my reserve is low, but he still thinks my quality is good based on my age. Most of our embryos fertilize and look good on day 3. Etc, etc, etc.

The only "test" he wants to do is another hysteroscopy (I had one that was performed by another doctor in May 2009 when I had a fibroid removed). He said he wants a better look at the (other? new?) fibroid I have in there, which is small and doesn't appear to be effecting to uterine cavity, but he wants to make sure. He also wants to see if there is scarring or other negative effects from my last hysteroscopy, as well as check out my uterine lining for himself.

He also offered to treat us for free from here on out, starting with a frozen cycle and then another fresh one if necessary. This was the only time during the appointment I cried, because I am just stunned by such kindness and generosity. It is a gift, but it is also surprisingly difficult to have that "we'll stop treatments when we run out of money" line removed. Honestly, I don't feel hopeful like I did after my last RE appointment when he first said he would "help us out" financially. I don't feel elated at this offer because I don't feel hopeful that treatments will work for us. And now the "when to stop" decision falls 100% on our shoulders without any outside influences like no funds or the RE telling us he doesn't think it will work. Don't get me wrong, I am still utterly thankful for this generous gift. I am simply so beaten down emotionally that I don't know how much more we can take.

At this point, I think I will have the hysteroscopy surgery in January, and then we will do a frozen egg cycle in March. We reserve the right to change our minds, but we think we will be done after that and not pursue another fresh cycle - even if it is free. Meanwhile, I would also like to pray a lot, read the two books I have been putting off reading (Inconceivable and Adopted for Life), and start researching adoption. I need a new direction. I want to conceive and my heart still hurts tremendously at the thought of never conceiving, but I want to find a way to move on. I want God to lead us and heal us.

I know we could push for more tests. We could get a second opinion. We could call C.CRM and get a phone consult. But I just don't think we will. Not because we don't want this to work and want to do everything we can, but we feel like this is the best place for us to be given our circumstances. We still only want to fertilize a small number of eggs, which limits things like second opinions (I can only imagine discussing that in a C.CRM phone consult - ha!). We are out of money, and we can get free treatments here. And, bottom line, we just feel comfortable with Dr. H and don't have any desire to go elsewhere.

Thank you for your kind comments and support these last few weeks. Thanks for understanding that I have to wade through all of these emotions, for sitting with me, and reminding me that I won't always be in this place.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

That woman

It has been raining all day and I am loving it. I feel like the rain always reflects my mood. When I am happy, I love the rain pouring outside while I feel cozy, secure, and warm inside. And when I sad, it feels right that it is dark, gloomy, and wet outside, and provides and excellent reason to curl up under a blanket with a good book.

We are so close to being done with trying to conceive that it is both terrifying and a relief at the same time. (More terrifying than relief-giving, though). I feel like such a minority. I am not simply facing infertility like roughly 10% of the population does, but I may be part of the tiny subset of women who were never able to conceive. In our church of about 600 people, I know of four women who fall into this group. I'm sure there could be more because I don't know everybody, but still - only four. Am I number five?

I have yet to be able to open the Adopted for Life book I mentioned earlier. I just don't feel like I am ready to embark on another journey, while my heart still longs and aches for the one we are getting ready to leave behind. I am not ready to accept that we have may have come to a dead end, but I have wondered why I can't step off of this road and onto another. Why is this so painful?

Earlier this week I eagerly searched for a book out there that would speak to me where I am at. Is there a book out there for people facing the pain of giving up on biological children? I was almost surprised and relieved to find Inconceivable by Shannon Woodward. I ordered it and sat down to read it the moment it arrived.

I sobbed as I read the introduction because it felt like I could relate to every single word she wrote. She was speaking to me. She writes that she has not written this book for the woman who "refilled her clomid prescription this morning", but "Instead, I am writing to the woman who can no longer afford medical treatment; the woman who has come to a medical line she can't bring herself to cross; the woman who can't bear to let her feeble hopes rise yet again, only to scrape them off the ground when they crash. I'm writing to the older woman who has just entered menopause and the young woman who has had to undergo a hysterectomy; women who know their battles have reached a decisive end." She ends the introduction with, "Had you told me the day would come when I could hold another woman's infant . . . with no shred of pain or jealousy, I probably wouldn't have believed you. I would have thought it...well, inconceivable. But that's what happened. Our God is the Healer. Here's how he healed me."

I sobbed at the pain in her words and descriptions that mirrored my own heart. I sobbed as I heard her reassurances that there is another side to all of this - one that is filled with the peace and healing of God. I know this to be true, and have seen it in a number of your blogs, too. But from where I sit today, it is so hard to imagine this dark cloud of pain ever leaving me.

But after I read the introduction, I put the book down and couldn't pick it up again. Am I really the woman she is writing the book to? Are we at the end? I don't know. And even if I do know we are close, I don't feel ready to admit it. I don't want to be that woman. The barren one. The one people can use as an example when a topic comes up, "Oh, I know this one lady who could never have children..." Number five at our church. I don't want to be her. I don't want the book to be written to me.

But does God want me to be?

Monday, December 13, 2010

A depressing Monday post with a good ending

I just wish all of this could be over. That I could wake up tomorrow with the child that God has intended for me in my arms, be done with this pain, and live happily ever after.

But then I realized that once this season of suffering is done, there is sure to be another around the corner. Once we have a child, I am sure the worries and list of things that can "go wrong" only grow. Unexpected tragedy could strike anybody that I love, or myself. Our parents are in their mid-sixties, and at some point we may need to take care of them. We may see them die. And then we get old, and while I don't fear "getting older" in the I-am-about-to-turn-thirty sense, being elderly looks very difficult and lonely.

It just seems like the older you get, the more suffering there is. More responsibility, more time for sin to grow and flourish and leave ugly consequences, and more time for things to simply happen. I have heard people say that high school or college were the best times of their lives, and I could never relate. High school was fine for me, college was better, post college and dating DH even better still, and our first few years of marriage were the best. Until infertility hit, it almost seemed like things could only keep getting better. But now I realize that perhaps the people who say high school was the best time of their life had perhaps experienced suffering at an earlier age than I did.

Life is hard. God doesn't promise us it will be easy. Quite the opposite, in fact - the Bible is filled with many promises of suffering coupled with words of encouragement. On some level, life had been pretty easy for me before infertility. But on another, it was still hard. I didn't have any on-going "big" problems, but I felt a longing for more than this. I felt unsettled, unsatisfied, and struggled....even when I "had it easy." God used all of that to draw me to himself and show us me my need for him, and I thank him for that.

And in the midst of infertility, I feel it all so much deeper. My need for Christ is desperate, hungry, and very tangible, and even while I wade through these murky and painful waters I do have such peace and confidence that he will be faithful. He will work in me and through me. He has a plan for me. This is true for the rest of my life, too, as I face all of the sufferings that lay ahead.

I know many people struggle to believe in God when life is painful, and ask why God would allow it to happen. There are many books written on the topic, and theologians much more educated and intelligent than I have given answers. But what I want to say right now is simply this: Things like infertility and other suffering will happen whether or not I believe in God. Have you ever known somebody who never suffered? But what joy and peace to know that I do believe in a God who is control of all things, is good & faithful, has a purpose, and promises me a life free of suffering in heaven....this is a gift in the midst of suffering. An amazing gift. It still hurts deeply, but I am thankful for the hope he gives me.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

My losses

I have been working on an ongoing list titled "My Losses." Many times when I have been struck by a wave of sadness, I have added to the list as a new feeling of loss was triggered.

Many of the items on the list seem silly, superficial, or small, I know. And I am sure at the end of my life - and certainly in eternity - I will look back on this time very differently. But in this season of my life they feel very real and painful. The heaviness of the sense of loss I feel is almost crushing.

I also thought about the way we describe grief, in general. If I describe my sadness over the loss of my beloved grandmother 8 years ago, I would say things like, "I miss sitting at her kitchen table and hearing her tell stories from her life," or "I wish I could open up her fridge and see the jello in small glass pyrex cups she always had waiting for me." There are few words to describe the loss and pain, but somehow those little things I can describe add up to convey the magnitude of grief. And with death, I feel like we can all relate...that we can hear somebody describe those little things and feel with them the giant monster of pain within their heart.

And so it is with infertility, I think. I can only say "This is a really painful loss" in so many words, but all of these "little things" I have listed below communicate those feelings better than my few words can. The only problem is, unlike my example of death, most people cannot relate. And to them, when they read these little things, they just seem like little things. Insignificant. "Why can't she just move on? It's not the end of the world."

I am not saying the experience of loss through infertility is greater or more painful than loss through death, but that it feels very lonely. And it is yet another reason I am so thankful for the blogging community, that here, in this virtual space, I know many of you do understand what this list of "little things" communicates.

Without further ado, here are "My Losses" as I think about the possibility of not having a biological child:

Pregnancy:
  • The moment of finding out, feeling that joy, and celebrating with my husband.
  • Telling our family - would we drive down and tell them in person? Make a phone call? Wait for a family event? Getting to see their joyful reaction. Talking about the baby & pregnancy with our moms.
  • Telling our friends. Seeing their joy. Even making a Facebook announcement.
  • Reading pregnancy books. Learning about the miracle of a new life growing. Reading about the development week by week, day by day. Reading things aloud to my husband.
  • Seeing my belly grow. My husband would love watching this. Taking pictures as it grows. Seeing his joy. How would I carry a belly - “all belly” or “all over?” Would my belly be small or large?
  • Experiencing the discomfort. I don’t really want to be sick and uncomfortable, but it seems like part of the miracle. Part of the story of me and my child. Knowing it is worth it. Having my own “pregnancy woes and stories” to tell.
  • Seeing the baby via ultrasound. Going to appointments with my husband. Sharing that excitement and amazement.
  • Buying maternity clothes. Superficial, but I always looked forward to it. Would I be a cute pregnant lady?
  • Feeling the baby move. Experiencing that intimacy. Talking to the baby. Praying for the baby with my hands on my belly.
  • Finding out the gender. Calling our family.
  • Giving birth. So much tied into this one. How to even put it to words? I feel like as a woman I have a biological urge and desire to do this. I don’t want the pain, so to speak, but I want the whole experience - even with the pain. I see births on TV and I bawl. It is an amazing, life changing moment. One day you are carrying a life inside of you, and then your whole world changes and you get to see and hold that baby in your arms. Having a “birth story.” Staying in the hospital with my husband. Our families meeting the baby, holding the baby.

Biological connection:
  • Seeing our physical & personality traits in our child. What would our child look like? Hearing people say, “She has your nose” or “Were you tall as a toddler, too?”
  • Seeing our family members in our child. Maybe even family members who have passed away. My dad would examine the child’s feet to see if he had our feet. Or would she have curly hair like my mother in law? A long torso like my Grandma & me? Crazy tall like so many in my husband’s family? All the things we always wondered and talked about....and have to stop wondering and talking about.
  • Feeling like the “family line” is carrying on.

Other:

  • Breastfeeding. Getting that “bonding experience” with the baby. I know not everyone is able to breastfeed, but women who do often are sad when they have to wean - I want to get to try. (I know some people try to do this even with an adopted child, but I can’t imagine doing this - who knows, though).
  • Living in a world where most people experience pregnancy/birth/having biological children - and I want to, but can’t. There are reminders everywhere.
  • Getting pregnancy announcements. Would this ever not sting?
  • Hearing people make comments about their children/ future children and having to stop making our own (ie “Our child will definitely have blue eyes,” “Maybe we could have a red head,” “I hope our child is organized and clean like you.”) But everyone else talks like this.
  • Having things happen in a predictable, traditional timeline. Start the nursery, have a shower, and generally know when to expect the baby.
  • Sharing in this experience of womanhood. Instead of getting to talk about it with others, I would feel like an outsider as I have to hear their experiences.

"The English language lacks the words 'to mourn an absence.' For the loss of a parent, grandparent, spouse, child or friend we have all manner of words and phrases, some helpful, some not. Still, we are conditioned to say something, even if it is only 'I am sorry for your loss.' But for an absence, for someone who was never there at all, we are wordless to capture that particular emptiness. For those who deeply want children and are denied them, those missing babies hover like silent, ephemeral shadows over their lives. Who can describe the feel of a tiny hand that is never held?" ~ Laura Bush

Friday, December 10, 2010

Sit with me

The other night DH & I were having dinner with another couple we are friends with. The husband is one of DH's good friends from college, and he has been very supportive of him throughout our infertility.

At one point, he asked us how "things were going," and DH responded that we had gotten another negative. Before there was even a pause, DH continued and said,"...so we are thinking about adopting. We think that that is where God is leading us, and we hope that a year from now we will have a child or are well into the process...."

Of course, since DH had steered the conversation in that direction, they responded to the adoption part. They said very sweet things about how we will make amazing parents, what a blessing it will be to provide a family for a child, etc., etc. But they said nothing about the BFN, nothing directed at our pain, and nothing but their "bright hopes" for our future in relation to adoption.

I couldn't blame them. It was DH who had added that piece of information and made it the focal point, after all. It wasn't like they jumped to "just adopt" without us even mentioning it.

I had to wonder, why did DH throw that in there? Yes, we have been talking about adoption, but we are far from doing anything or making plans. One, I think it is comforting to him that we can have "a plan." But more than that, I think it was too difficult for him to make others face our suffering. If he had ended his statement by saying that our cycle was negative, it naturally would have forced them to be a little uncomfortable and find something to say....but by offering the adoption idea, he handed them something to say. I think he subconsciously did this to make it easier on them, which also made the conversation easier on him, as well - they don't have to face the hard emotions, and we don't have to face the potential awkwardness of their response. Lastly, I think DH was trying to stay positive, look at the bright side, and trust God...and simply doesn't feel it quite like I do.

This is all speculation, of course, and as I write it out I am curious what DH's actual motivations were - I will have to ask him.

But as I thought about it later that night, I realized that if I had been the one responding, I would have left it at the "our cycle was negative" part. I would have hoped for a simple "I'm sorry" in response, but know we would probably have gotten something a little awkward. But that's ok. I don't expect people to have the perfect response.

I love how in the book of Job, after he has lost everything - family, health, and wealth, Job's friends come and simply sit with him and grieve with him for a week. Nobody talks. They just sit with him. Ironically, when they do start talking they say a lot of unhelpful and even wrong things that God later rebukes them for, but for that first week I love that they just care for their suffering friend by being with him. I want to be this kind of friend, and I am thankful we do have a number of friends who are caring for us in a similar fashion. But it does seem like a learned skill, in a way. Or that we have to un-learn something in us that wants to "fix" the problem for others, or "be positive" and help them look at the bright side. But I love when friends don't try to do this, and are instead able to acknowledge my pain and love me through it.

I am thankful God has shown me this - and there is nothing like learning it through personal experience. I hope I will be a better friend in the years to come because of what God has shown me about suffering through infertility.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Adoption?

I have written about adoption a few times here, but always in the sense of "we are just not there yet." Adoption has felt like something that is intricately linked to infertility - what infertile has not thought about it and wondered if that is the path they will end up taking - but has also felt like a topic people offer as an "easy" solution to infertility. Like infertility equals adoption. And that has been hard for me, because I feel like it doesn't allow any space for me to grieve what infertility is, but some cultural force "out there" wants to slap a band-aid on it with the "just adopt" message. I think that is one reason I have resisted thinking too much about adoption.

Plus, the honest truth is that it just hurts so much to think about adoption because it fully acknowledges that we will {most likely} not have biological children. I have not been able to do that much before, but DH and I have talked a lot more about adoption these past couple weeks. It's still hard, but we are there.

I have lot of thoughts and emotions about us adopting that I want to share here, but I confess I am scared to do so. I feel like adoption is such a "hot topic" that people have very strong opinions about. And many of the vocal ones seem to think people grieving the loss of biological children shouldn't adopt because their kids will feel like they were a "2nd choice," among other things. I also feel scared of offending those of you who have adopted as I wrestle with doubts, fears, and questions about adoption...all while continuing to grieve. So how do I sit in this place and write what is in my heart?

For those of you who have written about adoption and/ or adopted, how did you handle this?

We are meeting with the RE on December 20. He has actually called me twice since the BFN, but I let it go to voicemail because I couldn't face talking to him. I don't know what he will say when we meet with him. After other negative cycles I have wondered if "that was it," but he has always reassured us and made us feel like it was worth it to keep trying. Will that happen here again? Do we WANT that to happen, or will we be stubbornly unconvinced no matter what he says? Will he offer to treat us for free? Because we really don't have any money left, and as much as it breaks my heart to say I honestly feel like I CANNOT spend any more money on infertility treatments that don't work. Or will he agree that perhaps this is the end of the road? And then, of course, there are the frozen eggs that I want to use but am unable to imagine will actually give us a pregnancy. So I really don't know what to expect from that appointment, how our mindset will be going into it, and if that will change at all coming out of it.

I feel like I am straddling both worlds - part of me is grieving and looking to "move on" from treatments, but another part of me doesn't know how.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Our tree

Despite my initial lack of desire to get a Christmas tree this year, DH convinced me we really should get one. We are a family, he said. And it really didn't take much convincing.

Here it is - we got a little one ( maybe about 4.5') and put it on a small table.


Our living room is on the smaller side, so I like that the tree doesn't take over the whole space. I am not very fond of our tree topper and have been on the lookout for the "perfect" one for 4 years now. I know it's out there.

Ok, here's second look at the tree using a photography app on my phone that I think is fun. I generally think my phone pictures are pretty bad, so the way this app makes it look like a retro Polaroid seems to make pictures look better. (it's the Shake It app).


Thursday, December 2, 2010

Darkness and Light

The day we found out about our failed cycle was the same day that kicked off the holiday season. This is usually one of my favorite times of the year - as it is for many people - and I look forward to so many of the big and little things that come with it.

However, the moment these two events collided I had no desire to enter into the Christmas season. I immediately decided in my mind that we would not get a Christmas tree, since that would take energy to purchase, set up, and decorate. And I just don't have any energy. Besides, it's just DH & I, and we're not even here in our home for Christmas day.

Bah-humbug.

When we got home from my IL's house, DH immediately set out to hang our Christmas lights. It was already getting dark when he started and it was a cold night (for Southern C.alifornia at least - the low 50's), but I knew he wanted to do it to help cheer me up. Christmas lights are usually my favorite.

As DH put them up, I sat in the house and cried a little. When he finished, he brought me outside and we walked across the street to admire the white lights adorning our humble home. We stood with our arms around each other, and I was so touched that he worked so hard to do this for me. And I cried.

The next morning I turned the radio to Christmas music as I drove to work, which then made me cry. I stopped and bought a peppermint mocha on the way, but cried when I got into my car with it.

Everything Christmas themed was making me cry. All the happy, merry, cheery, and brightness of it all contrasted sharply with the pain in my heart. It felt plastic and fake. And everything around me screamed, "Christmas is about family" and all I could think about was the family I long for but cannot have.

Our church does an advent series each year, and the first week of advent is hope. We went to church with my IL's on Sunday so I did not hear the hope sermon, but my heart cried out to hear about this hope. I wanted to be reminded of what my hope is, and I wanted to know what it had to do with Christmas.

I have celebrated the advent season many times before, but each year the depth and richness of the traditions and the light they shine on the gospel have stirred in me more and more. And this year, out of the depths of my pain, I saw just how dark the advent season is, and it was refreshing. It is not about the happy, cheery, merry, plastic-smile-ness that I feel like the Christmas culture tries to deceive me with, but it is a time to reflect on the sinfulness, pain, suffering, and death that is this world, and it matched the darkness of my heart. I could feel that sin, pain, suffering, and death that all of creation felt as they waited for God's promised Messiah, because I feel it, too, as I wait for the promise of the Messiah's return where light will have victory over darkness....and there will be no more sin, suffering, pain, or death.

As I sat in that place, I was struck by two things. One is what an amazing, joyful, and miraculous gift was indeed born on Christmas day - a gift that answered the longings and groaning of all of creation. Secondly, I was so thankful that God meets us in these places of pain and longing, and that faith in him is not about putting on a plastic fake smile. He gives us the real hope and joy. But because I feel the darkness, I can rejoice in the light.

I am thankful the advent season is dark, and Christmas is light. It is raw, real, and genuine. I love so many things about the Christmas season, but it's ok if my heart is not into the "holly jolly Christmas" tunes, peppermint mochas, or Christmas trees...because as fun as they are, that is not what Christmas is about. And Christmas isn't even about family, despite what our culture says. I'm thankful that God is growing me.

I am no theologian or writer, and I always finish posts like these feeling like I communicated the profound ways the Lord is teaching me so inadequately. But I want to write them down, remember how he has worked in me, and save moments like these to look back on, at least. I am just one simple girl seeking to work out her faith with fear and trembling.