Saturday, September 29, 2012

Back To Reality

B and I spent a beautiful weekend camping. We cooked s'mores, slept on a deflating air mattress, saw a bear(!), and even happened upon an apple butter celebration on a mountain top (for real).

It was a nice, relaxing, break from reality... but now I'm back.

I am trying another month of metformin, progesterone, clomid, before seeing an actual reproductive endocrinologist. In October, it will be 16 months that I've been struggling with infertility.

I'm not sure if it's because of the fact that I'm dealing with the military healthcare system, or that being brought up in a family who pretty much never went to the doctors has rendered me ill equip to handle anything of medical nature and has made me a terrible advocate for myself, or that (based on various comments from my doctors who told me that I'm "still so young," that I "have plenty of time," and "should have no trouble getting pregnant") I'm not a priority in the infertility world, but I feel like my treatment process has taken longer than it should.

We found out I had PCOS in Biloxi, and decided to start actively trying to conceive because it was clear it would be a struggle. The doctor immediately started me on a regimen of progesterone and clomid for three months, upping my dosage each time. With no pregnancy and no ovulation, we would have continued the medicine with monitoring and done further testing to make sure my fallopian tubes and all that stuff was working properly. But then we moved. I couldn't make an appointment with women's health until I had a referral from my primary physician, who didn't have an open appointment for six weeks. I started crying in the doctors office and I guess they pitied me and pulled some strings to get me in sooner with another doctor. From that appointment, It took me a month to get in to see my OB/GYN and restart the whole process, only she did not want to continue the clomid treatments until we tried less serious medicine. I was totally cool with that, until it became clear that the metformin was not having it's intended results.

She never thought it was necessary to see me in person, when I'd call she'd forget what she'd told me the time before and completely change her mind... "let's try another three months on the same dose, and then we'll add the clomid" after she'd told me the month prior that if I hadn't started menstruating in a month, we'd start with clomid... this, by the way, after she'd been telling me from the start, and through five months of metformin, that she wouldn't feel comfortable giving me a period inducing drug or trying clomid. It took eight months of ineffective treatments and getting brushed off and fed more medicine before I finally got a referral to an infertility specialist.

Today I tried to make an appointment with the RE that I should have been sent to several months ago, but apparently they're "at capacity," so I have an appointment for a month from now with an RE that's even further away, with a super sketchy looking website, and I feel totally helpless.

Do I even have a choice? I have no idea how TRICARE works. I think I could ask to see another specialist since they're already sending me off base, but I don't even know what kind of paperwork would go into that, or where I'd start. And what if I actually get pregnant? My referral is for 6 appointments only. By then maybe they'd have space for me at Portsmouth, which is an hour away, if traffic is good, which it never is, so it's more like two. What if I had an emergency and got stuck in the tunnel? My worst nightmare (aside from the one where I never get pregnant) is that I do, and I end up having a complication and having to go to some random hospital with some doctor I've never met. I guess that's part of the deal with infertility. I can either be a confused, helpless, victim, or I can become an advocate for myself. I need to start playing a more active role in my treatment. If I'm unhappy with the care that I am getting, I can, and should speak up. Easier said than done, but I'm resolved to try.

10 Good Things

Growing up, whenever I'd complain about something, a bad day, a "B" on a paper, my mom would sing this to me: "accentuate the positive, eliminate all the negative, latch on to the affirmative, and don't mess with mister in-between." (kinda like any time I'd ask for anything special... lifesize barbie, etc. she'd sing The Rolling Stones' "You can't always get what you waaaaaant").

So, even though I've been feeling extra lousy I keep coming back to that idea... accentuating the positive, or trying to at least. Even though I'm dealing with infertility, which is infinitely shitty, I do have so much to be thankful for because of my struggle with infertility. 

1. I have a husband who loves me, unconditionally, and would do anything for me. I read comments from other women whose husbands "refuse to get a semen analysis" or "would never consider adoption" husband would never even think of discounting my feelings like that. I think the experience of infertility has made our relationship stronger, and our resolve to grow our family even more firm.

2. I have a diagnosis. It sucks having PCOS, but it's a good thing to know. So many women suffer through PCOS for years and never know, or are misdiagnosed or ignored when they express concern. I'm 23 years old, I know I have PCOS, and I'm making strides to get it under control... I count myself ahead of the game. 

3. When I eventually do become a mom, through whatever means that ends up happening, I will be grateful for every moment. 

4. My dog is the sweetest dog in the entire world. She's my baby girl. She's always down for a cuddle, especially when I break down in tears and hold up in my bed, curled up in a ball. She will come check on me... rest her head on the pillow next to mine and look at me like, "it's okay, mommy, you still have me."

5. Before my struggle with infertility, I knew I wanted children, but I was sort of consumed by the desire for a baby girl. I researched all the ways to conceive a girl. I thought about only girl names. I thought about how disappointed I would be to have a boy, how it would be 'just my luck' because things rarely work out in my favor. Now I just feel so... stupid, selfish, ridiculous for having those thoughts. If I ever do have a biological child, I will be just as elated to have a boy as I would be for a girl, because it will be an absolute miracle.

6. My body is kinda rockin right now. I always felt like my body was pretty average; I always wanted to be thinner, prettier, more confident, but still I felt good (if not great) about the way I looked. I never really considered how lucky I was to feel good in my skin, until I gained 20 pounds. At the height of my PCOS I had gained a lot of weight, my face was covered in acne, my hair felt greasy all. the. time, I had dark hairs growing out of my chin, and cheeks, and chest, I was not menstruating, I had never felt worse about myself, or less like a woman. Even though the metformin makes me nauseous pretty much all the time, it has also regulated my hormones enough that I have been able to lose the weight I gained since stopping birth control and subsequently having my PCOS symptoms develop. After over 6 months of hating myself, I can once again button up my beloved high waisted cutoff Levis, I don't have to squeeze into my old dance clothes, I can look in the mirror without feeling disgusted, in fact, when I look in the mirror, I feel great, and that's awesome.

7. I have a new sense of understanding toward other women. I have bad days, like really bad days, like, burst into tears in the middle of target because I walked past the baby aisle kind of days. I'm usually pretty good at covering up the pain though, and it makes me think, how many of the other women that I see feel just as sad and isolated, and I'd never know? It makes me think more carefully about the way I speak to, and about, other women.

8. ...aaaaand that's all I can think of. I was going to try to come up with 10 positive things that have come from my infertility, but I think 7 is as positive as I'm going to get, which is definitely progress from "everything in my life is falling apart and I have nothing going for me and I fail at life." I think if I can keep trying to focus on the positive, I will have more good days than bad ones. That's the plan.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Infertility and shame

Money, politics, religion, sex can are be super awkward to talk about but infertility feels somehow above and beyond "taboo." It's all wrapped up in the privacy and intimacy of sex, something we tend to be super squeamish about in our culture. Infertility language is all "semen and sperm and cervical mucus and ovaries and sex positions" and it feels really uncomfortable and too personal to talk about. But beyond the "it's yucky" aspect, there is so much shame associated with infertility. Verbalizing it feels like admitting failure. There's this one, basic thing as a female that I am supposed to be able to do, and I can't. But there's nothing I can do to change it (aside from treating the symptoms) and there's nothing I did to cause it, so why should I be embarrassed about it? I shouldn't. And if it might help others to hear my story, why shouldn't I talk about it. I should. But realizing this and actually being able to be upfront about it with people are different things.  

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Trying to Stay Grounded

Most women ovulate each month. I haven't ovulated in 14. That is, until ten days ago. I peed on my ovulation predictor stick at night on day 10 of my cycle, got sick of waiting for the result, and went to bed. The next morning I went to take another test (I was going all out, testing twice a day this cycle) and ejected the strip to find a smiley face!

I'd gone through three boxes of Ovulation Prediction Kits and had NEVER seen a positive. It's always an empty circle, the connection of which, to an empty womb, is never lost on me. But that day, CD10, there was a totally different association, one between a smiley face on a pee covered stick, to the smile that quickly spread across my face. It's best to have had sex before ovulation... I thought back, we definitely had! We did it again right then and there, and for the next few days, just to be sure ;)

I then began stalking "," because I knew that the next two weeks would be difficult, and I'd heard that reading others' stories might help. So I started looking at the "symptoms" other women started having on certain days after ovulation. Lower back aches, check, acne breakout, check, getting up at night to pee, check, I even had what could be "implantation bleeding" at 9DPO (days past ovulation). What if I'm pregnant, right now? What if I'm not, and I've gotten myself all excited about it?

I'm trying to manage my expectations. I keep telling myself that even just ovulating is progress. But I can't help my imagination... if I'm pregnant now, then around Thanksgiving or Christmas, I might be able to tell friends and family! and how perfect because my parents might be in town! and we'd have the baby May-ish, which would be around our anniversary!.. and Leo or Milo would be so cute for a boy, and Amelia if it's a girl... and on, and on. UGHHHHHH. A girl can dream. And I do, but I also think about everything that could go wrong, even if I do get pregnant. After over a year of struggling with infertility I start to look at the bigger picture; it took me 14 months to even ovulate, what if it takes 14 more to get pregnant? And what from there?

What happens if I do get pregnant? What if I'm pregnant NOW? I get that little plus sign on that test, what then? What if it's an ectopic or chemical pregnancy, whatever those are (don't want to research, don't want to freak myself out more, ignorance is bliss)? What if I have a miscarriage? What if I have the baby prematurely? What if I carry the pregnancy to term, and lose it during childbirth? What if I have a perfectly healthy child and they're killed in a car accident a year later? These are the places my mind goes... I must be nuts. I'm having anxiety about a pregnancy that probably doesn't even exist... and might never exist.

Whatever happens, I know that there is only so much control over the situation that I have. The best thing I can do is keep myself healthy, try to stay positive, and try to keep believing that everything happens for a reason, and that when I do have a baby and through whatever process it comes to be, I will know why I had to wait so long and struggle so much to get to that moment. And it will have all been worth it.


Contrary to popular belief, and what TV shows like "16 And Pregnant" and movies like "Knocked Up" portray, unprotected sex does not automatically equal pregnancy. Maybe for some people, but not for most, and certainly not for me. I sorta understand all the "if you have sex, you will get pregnant, and your life will be over" scare tactics from high school sex ed and depicted on TV. But at the same time, I think it's important not to gloss over the fact that getting pregnant isn't a given, its a complicated biological process that can take months, and months of trying, even for healthy couples.

Until I started trying to get pregnant, I had NO idea how much had to go "right" in order for that to happen. Charting, ovulation testing, timing sex, it all seemed so extreme. I figured that all I'd have to do was stop trying to "not, get pregnant" and it would happen. Going from the mindset of "unprotected sex = pregnancy" to "it could take years of trying to get pregnant" is a long way to fall. It's a huge blow to a woman's self-esteem. Personally, it made me feel like a failure. These 16 year old children are getting pregnant, and I can't? What's wrong with me?

When B and I decided to start trying, we were so excited! It didn't take long for me to realize something was not normal. A couple months later, I was diagnosed with PCOS. I suddenly felt so stupid for all the times I'd been late for my period, been like, "OH NO! What if I'm pregnant?!" took pregnancy test and been so relieved by the negative result. Several years, and twenty-some negative pregnancy tests later, the idea of being relieved by a negative test result feels so foreign. Now every time I get a negative, I feel defeated... beyond defeated, I feel inadequate, broken, depressed.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

You Guys Aren't Pregnant Yet, Are You?

I don't know what it is that makes people think they have a say in my reproductive prospects, but everyone seems to want to weigh in on the topic. I guess it's normal for people to wonder... first comes love, then comes marriage, and all that, but I really wish people would be a little more sensitive about it. B and I are nearly constantly barraged with questions, comments, and advice from friends, family, and complete strangers at bars or in line at The Gap...

"So, have you thought about kids?"

"When am I going to get grand babies?"

"Why don't you have babies? You guys would make beautiful babies."

"You wouldn't want kids now, would you? You're too young!"

"You're not pregnant are you?!?"

"Don't let him talk you into having babies; you need to wait."

"Wait a few years, travel, enjoy each other. You'll have plenty of time for kids later."

"Having kids is the greatest, you should start trying!"

Those questions and comments, when you're not yet thinking of kids, are obnoxious. When you've quietly started trying, they are annoying. But when you're infertile and don't know if you'll ever be able to get pregnant, comments like that are more than just annoying, they're painful...  it's a low blow, and people don't even realize they're inflicting it. Smiling and saying, "we're not pregnant yet, but we'd like to be someday" or "Oh, don't worry, we're not getting pregnant any time soon" (depending on who's asking and what they need to hear to make them stop pushing the issue) is wearing on me. Even though it's not really lying, I hate having to be so evasive about it.

Sometimes I just want to be like "no, we're not pregnant, we've been struggling with infertility for over a year, we might never conceive a child, stop asking," or better yet a simple, "It's none of your business." I don't want to make people uncomfortable though, and when I say it out loud, I usually burst into tears, so I'll probably just continue to be vague about it when people ask. If I'm not comfortable enough to talk about it, I can't really blame them for being insensitive to an issue they don't know exists. They're not trying to make me upset; they just don't realize what's going on. I just wish people would realize that it's never really appropriate to ask someone about something as intimate as whether or not they're trying to have children. If someone wants you to know about their reproductive plans, they'll let you know.

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Everyone Is Pregnant

When I look through my facebook friends, I can count twenty women who have given birth or announced pregnancies in the past year.  It seems like everyone I know is pregnant. They're posting ultra-sound pictures, complaining about weight gain, instagramming their bump progression, announcing gender, and I'm cringing, and crying, and hating myself with every post. 

So I hid them from my profile. All of them. I had to do it, for my own sanity. Just over a year ago, I was diagnosed with PCOS (Poly Cystic Ovarian Syndrome). I still don't fully understand what it is, or how I am supposed to cope with it for the rest of my life, but what it means at this point is that if I ever want to have a baby, I am going to have to work for it. So that's what B and I have been doing for over a year... charting, planning, taking drug after drug after drug, attending appointment after appointment. So every time a friend (or worse, a frenemy!) announces they're expecting a child, I just want to curl up in a ball and die.

Sometimes, when I'm feeling a little sadistic, or need a good cry, I look at the profiles of my pregnant friends. They're all glowing and lovely, and I'm all acne ridden, hairy, bloated, nauseous from all the medication, and completely and utterly un-pregnant.

I have to remind myself that it's not easy for everyone to get pregnant. Just because someone posts a happy maternity picture, doesn't necessarily mean they didn't struggle to get there. But no one talks about infertility problems. It's such a private struggle. Even as I write this, I don't know if I'll ever feel comfortable sharing it with anyone. I do feel that writing about it is therapeutic, so I suppose I'll keep this up.