Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Warning: May be offensive to some readers

Disclaimer: I don't wish to offend anyone who reads this blog--and I appreciate any and all who do and who comment--but at the same time, this is my place to vent my feelings related to TTC. Some of you who are devoted believers in God or in the power of prayer may find this post offensive. You have been warned.

I was raised strictly Roman Catholic by my father and my devout Irish grandmother. (My mother, raised Protestant--Presbyterian, I think?--promised when she married in the Catholic church that her children would be raised Catholic and thus supported this path as well.) Until I went to college at age 17, the only Sunday of mass I had ever missed was when I had the chicken pox at age 6. . . and then only because I was still contagious. We even attended mass on holy days of obligation, made sacrifices during Lent, didn't eat meat on Fridays, prayed the rosary, the whole deal.

So I guess it's no surprise that I often think about religion and sometimes consider going back to attending church regularly. I'm not certain that my beliefs are any longer aligned enough with Catholicism to allow me to attend the church of my youth every Sunday (though I do still go on rare occasions), and I've not found another church where I feel more comfortable.

Church is also an activity in which MM has no desire to participate. He was raised Lutheran and went to church regularly with his mother until he was confirmed at age 13. . . . after which he was told that whether to go to church was his decision and he promptly stopped. Pressed to describe my husband's religious beliefs, I would likely say he is agnostic. He believes in a supreme being but doesn't particularly believe in organized religion. He thinks that most of the questions which religion seeks to answer ask the unknowable. (He thinks that "religion is a crutch for the weak-minded," too, but that's another post.)

I've been thinking about God and religion these past few days for a few reasons. One is that a dear friend of mine has asked me to be one of her infant son's godmothers at his Episcopal baptism on Easter Vigil. I am very honored to have been asked! Although my sister long ago asked me to be Rowan's godmother, Rowan has not actually been baptized as yet, so this will be my first time serving as godmother. So I will be going to church again--a church much like my own--in the near future.

Also, happily, the case on which I serve as a CASA volunteer may soon be coming to a close because it looks as though a successful adoptive placement has been found for little M. I don't want to raise my hopes too much, lest things fall through (as they have before), but M had a positive first meeting with the prospective parents last weekend, and things are proceeding. I really hope this is "it" for her; every child deserves to have a permanent, loving home. Thinking of M's circumstances thus far in her young life (a mere nine years) often makes me question the existence of a benevolent God.

Then I heard about two other things today that give me additional food for thought. A coworker related a story about a two-year-old girl who she encountered at an urgent care last night whose mother (younger infant also in tow) exhibited an apparent disregard for her child's needs and developmental level. And an online friend of mine who recently had IVF found out that she is not pregnant.

Working as a volunteer with abused and neglected children in foster care and just living life and observing what goes on around me, I have long found it hard to see a benevolent God at work in deciding who becomes a parent. I've known parents who are abusive, more who are neglectful, and parents who put their addictions before their children's best interests. I've known plenty of people who never wanted children and didn't really want them once they arrived. I've known an even greater number of parents whose behavior would not qualify for the intervention of Child Protective Services or the like, but is damaging to the child all the same.

In addition to my 7+ plus years as a CASA volunteer, MM supervises felons on probation, so there isn't a week that goes by when he doesn't hear about someone's unplanned (and usually unwanted) pregnancy. Most of his male felons have little or nothing to do with the children they father, either in terms of financial support or actual involvement in the child's daily life. I suppose it is possible for someone to be a convicted criminal and still be a good parent, but that's not usually what MM sees.

At the same time, I know a number of decent, caring, successful people who are unable to have children of their own. As one example, one of the partners in my firm--a devoted, Christian family man who has been married for nearly 40 years--has two grown children, both of whom have struggled with infertility. (His daughter ended up having two children through IVF, and his son and his wife are still waiting to adopt, after having had one adoption fall through--heartbreakingly--just before Christmas last year.)

As we have continued along our own longer-than-expected journey to parenthood, I've met (via the internet) even more people who fall into this latter category. It sometimes almost seems that one's fertility is inversely proportional to one's ability to be a decent parent. (Well, not really, because I do know a few good people who have four or more children and are good, loving parents.)

Putting aside the obvious effect on those who want children and cannot have them--because one could argue that it's somehow part of "God's plan" for some of us to wait longer/work harder to become parents--when I think about this state of affairs, what makes me doubt God's involvement in the process is the children themselves. What child deserves to be born to a parent who will abuse or neglect her? Or to be unwanted? Or even to be born to a parent who will fail to nurture her and allow her to live up to her full potential?

The only explanation that has allowed me reconcile what I see in the world with God's existence is this: whether and when children are born, and to what parents, is something with which God does not involve himself. Like war, or famine, or disease, it's simply a part of the human condition, and no amount of prayer or devotion will affect it one iota.

The other logical explanation--that God allows innocent, defenseless children to suffer needlessly--is just unacceptable to me.

I know there are those who "pray to become pregnant," and I certainly don't judge them. I have prayed about numerous things in my life myself. But I for one don't believe that prayer works for this. To the extent that I pray about TTC at all, I pray that God will grant me the grace and serenity to accept whatever happens and to cope in the event that I never have a child of my own.

And yet if I *DO* ever have a baby of my own. . . . I am sure I will say that I am blessed.


wait (v): 1. to remain inactive or in a state of repose, as until something expected happens.

Today is CD 27 for me, which means that if this cycle follows my usual pattern, tomorrow will be CD 1 of a new cycle. That means that I could be starting Clomid in just a few days! I have mixed feelings about that but am feeling good about actually taking some affirmative steps (beyond just the standard "have lots of sex" approach) to get pregnant.

For me, waiting has been one of the worst parts of TTC. I am fortunate in that I ovulate pretty regularly and don't have anovulatory cycles, so my "wait" to ovulate has usually been about the same as anyone else's and of a predictable length. Of course, there is the dreaded two-week wait every month. And once we started testing, we have had to wait on the results of our tests, too.

Now that we are starting treatment, the stakes will be even higher. Now each failed cycle will not only represent another month of time lost. . . it'll also mean money spent that we will never get back.

Like many other Americans, I'm not great at waiting. It's not even so much that I'm impatient, though I am. It's more that I prefer to take action rather than sit around and hope for the best. I'm a "take charge" kind of person.

And yet I wait.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Oh, no, he didn't

I think I've mentioned here before that my father is not really "in the loop" about our conception efforts. As best I can recall, he asked me when MM and moved in together last summer whether we'd considered having children (pointing out my advanced age, thanks Dad), and I told him then that I'd been off the pill for a few months. I kinda led him to believe that we were not preventing but not exactly trying.

I love my father dearly, and we have a pretty good relationship. I'd have no problem confiding in him if it were just him I'd be telling. I confided in him throughout my childhood, so I know him to be discreet and capable of keeping things to himself. (As one example of his discretion, he never told us that my mother--his ex-wife--had had a child out-of-wedlock before they were married. He waited for her to tell us when she was ready.)

The reason he is on "limited information" status is because of his wife. My stepmom--whom my father married when I was 18--and I have a pretty decent relationship as stepmom/stepdaughter relationships go. We are far from pals but are not exactly a Cinderella situation either. I do not view her as a second mother--being already a sophomore in college when she married my dad--and she's not someone I'd ever choose as a friend. Regardless, she is a good human being who I do believe generally has my best interests at heart.

However, though she is a very nice person. . . . my stepmom cannot keep a secret for sh1t. I've learned this through painful experience: there have been two separate and distinct occasions where I have shared something with my father in confidence that has been disclosed to people who are decidedly NOT "in the know" about my life by my stepmom. The last occasion was as recent as about three years ago.

Because it's pointless to try to stop my father from telling his wife things--not even sure he'd agree to try--I decided long ago that the easiest course was just to not tell him things either. He was the last of our four parents to know about my plans to marry MM, among other things: MM's parents, my mom, and my sister all knew months before I told Dad.

In a way, I hate not letting my dad know as much about my life as he otherwise would. But he has seemed blissfully unaware thus far, so no harm done.

On the phone this morning he hinted to me about whether I might be pregnant. I told him that I am not. He then asked whether MM and I have "been tested" at all; I guess he is beginning to think (as are we!) that I should've been pregnant by now. I told him that MM and I have both had a full, general work-up done by a doctor who specializes in these things and that all our tests are normal. At which point he said, "Well, I guess you guys just need to relax and it'll happen."

So yeah. I got the "just relax" comment from my 67-year-old dad. Wonder what he'd say if he actually knew that we've been actively trying for 14 cycles now and will be starting intervention soon. He'd probably REALLY think we need to "relax" then. ;-)

Friday, March 27, 2009

We have a plan

Our rescheduled appointment with the RE was this afternoon. I really like our doctor and have heard nothing but good things about his clinic. . . but again today, we had to over 30 minutes past our appointment time to see him. This on an afternoon when the scheduler told me on Tuesday he had nothing else set! Clearly that was not the case--or things were set after our appointment--because I saw him coming out of a treatment room prior to seeing us and he got buzzed that his next appointment had arrived shortly after sitting down with us.

I supposed it's a good thing to have a RE who is in demand, but neither MM nor I are patient people by nature. And being a lawyer in private practice who must account for her time by the billable hour has not made me more patient or tolerant of waits! Couldn't help but that I wasted 0.6 hours of billable time. Dumb, I know. Anyway.

We finally got in for our consultation, and we were both pleased with the way things went. MM's repeat S/A was much better: way fewer "round cells," a concentration of 95 million sperm/ml (can't remember his total count, though), and morphology of 10%, which the RE said was fine. We discussed our options. Well, to be more accurate: I told the RE that I had researched our options and asked him to tell us what he would recommend as a first step for treatment. (MM hardly said anything, and most of what the RE said confirmed what I'd already read. Nothing like having done your research!)

The end result is that I am going to start Clomid this coming cycle if I am not already pregnant. (And I have no reason to believe that I'm pregnant; I have zero symptoms, and in fact, we had less sex this cycle than usual, especially during my fertile window.) We will do a HCG trigger shot and IUI. Although I don't want to waste any more time than necessary, we're not ready to jump right into IVF. . . and it doesn't make sense for us to do so, given that we are "unexplained" and probably "sub-fertile" rather than "infertile," according to the RE. Plus insurance will pay for a portion of IUI and nothing for IVF.

He wanted to wait on giving me injectibles until he sees how I respond to Clomid and said that he would be concerned about the risk of multiples with MM's high sperm count if I responded too well. So he would like to start with a Clomid cycle to see how my ovaries react.

MM was very pleasantly surprised to hear about his good S/A ("super," as the RE put it) and was encouraged because he felt that the doctor sounded confident about the chances of getting me pregnant. He is optimistic that the IUI and Clomid will work on the first try and we won't have to pursue any other treatment.

Of course it'd be great if this works on the first try, but I'm realistic and like to look ahead and consider the "worst case scenario." We've agreed that if I am not pregnant after two cycles of just Clomid and a trigger shot, the RE will add injectibles to the mix.

The nice thing about using only Clomid and a HCG shot is that the entire cost of the IUI, including drugs and monitoring, won't be costing nearly as much as we thought: the full, cash price would be just under $1000, and we'll be paying less than that because MM's health insurance will pay for 50%. . . and 50% of a lower rate at that because it's insurance.

We're too late to have a 2009 baby, but I'm hopeful that I can still be pregnant before I'm 39 and a mom before I'm 40.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009


We got a call from the RE's office yesterday asking if we would be willing to reschedule our appointment to Friday afternoon due to a "personal matter" of our doctor's. So we should have been at our appointment as I write this but instead will be seeing the RE at 3:00 on Friday afternoon.

Another RE in our clinic performed my vaginal u/s and HSG, so we have only seen our doctor for our two "sit down and discuss" appointments. I will note for future reference that this is the second time (out of three appointments) that we have had to reschedule due to unforseen circumstances with our doctor. And at our first appointment, he was running behind and made us wait 45 minutes past our appointment time before we saw him.

We like our doctor, and he is one of the best in our state, but I'm not sure how comfortable I feel will all the scheduling difficulties. I 'm not at the point where I'd consider switching clinics or even doctors yet, but I hope that this won't turn out to be an issue once we start treatment.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Time away

MM and I returned last night from a long weekend in the NYC area with my sister and her family. I didn't think about TTC much while we were gone, and it was terrific. I'd brought along my Chinese herbs, but didn't take them as it turned out to be way too inconvenient when we were out and about all day.

We got to spend time with my much-beloved (& only) nephew, 2-year-old Rowan. MM was so terrific with him. In fact, I think Rowan now likes him more than he likes me. LOL Anytime MM was not in the room with us, Rowan was asking "where's Unca M?"

Rowan is an adorable child and basically very good. He is 2, though, so he can be uncooperative at times and is understandably into everything. It's so fun to hear him talking in complete sentences, singing, and seeing how his mind works. He's obviously very bright.

On the flight home yesterday, I read Tertia Albertyn's book about her struggles to have a child, So Close: Infertile and Addicted to Hope. Overall, the book was a good and quick read. Some parts made me cry (and I am NOT generally a crier), and her style of writing made me laugh in places, too. I started out thinking "how could anyone go through nine IVF cycles?" Once I'd read the whole book, it made a bit more sense to me.

When I was tearful midway through the book, MM noticed my tears and asked what the book was about. When I explained, he shook his head and said that he couldn't understand why anyone "in our situation" would want to read about something like that.

I guess that is a key difference between MM and me. As our quest to conceive a child of our own has continued, I've become more and more interested in reading about other women's struggles. He still doesn't like to think or talk about the whole thing much.

Our appointment with the RE is in two days. I have mixed feelings about it, but do feel that we need to start doing something.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009


MM successfully provided his semen sample for his follow-up semen analysis today. He produced it at the RE's office and said it wasn't quite as bad as last time because he knew what to expect. He still felt that the amount he produced was less than his usual but said it was "more than last time."

Aside from his having a brief minor freak-out that the lab might have run the wrong test--another basic S/A rather than a S/A including strict Kruger morphology--which I cleared up with a phone call to the office, it was minimally traumatic for him.

Given the way things went with our last round of testing, I don't expect to hear anything about MM's latest S/A until our follow-up appointment with the RE next Wednesday. It's probably better: we are leaving town tomorrow for a long weekend in NYC with my sister and her family. If the results are less than encouraging, it will be better for MM not to find out just before spending four days with my two-year-old nephew.

MM had dinner with his parents without me last night. He was already out in their neck of the woods (about a 45-minute drive from our house) for a spring training game, and I had a meeting with a doctor at my office at the same time that could not be rescheduled. It was the first time that MM has been alone with his parents for quite some time; generally speaking, we see them about every other weekend for dinner, and we both go together. (The one time he went alone, after we were engaged but before we were married, his parents were really weird about my not being there, so we decided that we wouldn't repeat the experience.)

When I have asked him whether his parents know about our TTC struggles, MM has said that they don't "need to know" and that it is our "private business." I personally have no problem with their knowing. My mom and my sister both know about our efforts and testing thus far and have a rough idea of what our future plans for intervention are. (My dad doesn't know anything but that I'm off birth control. . . . but that's because his wife can't keep a secret and I know from hard experience that he can't NOT tell her stuff.) I have also told a few friends who are discreet and also sympathetic because they have either struggled with infertility themselves or have a close family member who has struggled with it.

In some ways, I feel MM's parents should know because they have a vested interest in the outcome. MM is an only child, so MM is their only available path to grandparenthood. They never pressure him or me in any way--that's not their style--but I know they'd love a grandchild or two because it's been mentioned. I've also had a feeling on a few occasions when I've declined wine at Sunday dinners that I've inadvertently raised some hopes.

So I was interested to hear last night that he had decided to tell his mom and dad everything at dinner (at Red Lobster, no less). He told them that we've been TTC for nearly a year, that we've had a full basic work-up done which showed no problems with either of us, and that we are seeing the RE again next week to talk about our planned next step.

He said they seemed mildly curious but didn't ask a lot of questions. His father did express concern that we might do IVF and end up with "quadruplets or more," and his mother volunteered that they know a woman personally who did IVF and had triplets. But once MM told them that we are not to the point of doing IVF (yet), they were reassured and only had a few questions about how IUIs work. (Not that MM is well able to field these questions. . . . )

I actually feel good that he told them. Not because I necessarily want more people "in my business," but because I think it's good for them to know that we are struggling with this. I'll be 38 on Saturday, and I certainly don't want them to think that we are purposely putting off having children. I also want them to have the opportunity to mentally prepare themselves, as MM and I have done, for the possibility that we may never have our own biological child. I think that will be as sad a realization for them in some ways as it has been for us.

I'm interested to hear how others have handled this situation. Who have you told that you are TTC and how much detail have you given them? And looking optimistically ahead. . . . who will you tell when you get pregnant, and when will you tell them?

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Sex doesn't make babies

MM rescheduled his repeat semen analysis after yesterday's debacle. He will be providing his specimen at the RE's office on the morning of the 17th because it is the most convenient day for him to do it. So we will have to abstain from sex on the 15th and 16th; our clinic requires no less than two and no more than five days of abstinence, and MM wants to abstain for two-and-a-half days to be on the safe side.

While I was in the shower this morning, I realized that my most likely ovulation day this cycle is the 17th (CD 13). . . the same day he is providing his sample. When I was charting regularly, I didn't always ovulate on CD 13: I've ovulated as early as CD 11 and as late as CD 18. But I have ovulated more often on CD 13 than on any other day of my cycle.

(As an aside, we will probably have sex on the 17th later in the day, so the timing of his S/A doesn't eliminate ALL chance of conception, even if I do ovulate that day. But obviously eliminating the 15th & 16th is probably not helpful.)

Almost immediately after realizing this, though, I thought "so what?" I have arrived at the conclusion over the past few months that, for reasons completely unknown to us, MM and I are clearly not able to conceive a baby just by having sex. We have had perfectly-timed intercourse every single cycle for nearly a year and not a single pregnancy to show for it.

I always thought that having sex = having babies. But apparently not for us.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Semen struggles


Although MM's first semen sample tested essentially normal in terms of count and motility, because it was a lower-than-normal volume (0.6 ml instead of 2-5 ml), had a "borderline high" number of round cells, and did not include strict Kruger morphology, our RE told us that he wanted it repeated prior to performing any IUIs. The RE wanted to make sure that MM could produce a normal-volume sample, has normal morphology, and that the round cells seen were not white blood cells, indicating infection or inflammation.

My husband is a generally anxious person, so it's probably no surprise that he has some performance anxiety as well. Since the beginning of our relationship, this has only rarely been an issue for us, but there have been a few occasions when he could not perform on demand. And apparently it has happened to him with previous partners as well

Given his performance anxiety, MM did not have a good experience providing his first semen sample. As instructed, he did it at the RE's office. He called me afterwards to say that he thought that he hadn't provided an adequate sample because "it was a lot less than usual." (When I asked how he knew this, he assured me that he had masturbated often enough to know the amount of his usual ejaculation.)

He also talked about how "traumatized" and uncomfortable he felt. Apparently staff were regularly walking down the hall past the room where he was sent to masturbate (the masturbatorium? not sure what they call it), and though the door was locked, he had a lurking fear that someone would walk in on him. Also, several things about the room itself didn't exactly put him "in the mood" (he could provide a much more colorful description). Finally, just the pressure of the situation got to him as well. Because of all these things, he wasn't able to get fully aroused, and he believed that this was the reason that his specimen was a sub-normal volume.

I did try to be sympathetic in the beginning, but I will admit that my sympathy didn't last long. I couldn't help comparing his experience to what I go through every year for my annual pelvic exam--not to mention my vaginal ultrasound and HSG and the possibility of future injections, etc.--and thinking that he was getting off [ha! a pun!] pretty easy.)

Because of all these issues, MM was convinced that he could provide a better specimen if he was allowed to produce it at home and bring it in for testing. He discussed it with the RE, and the RE told him that he could do this, so long as he brought the specimen in for testing within 30 minutes of production (for lack of a better word).

We live a 25-minute drive from our RE's clinic, so MM knew that this would put him on a tight schedule. He still thought it would be preferable to ejaculate at home. (I thought that he should just get used to the idea of doing it at the office, since he will have to do that when/if we do any type of intervention. . . . but he was so vehement on the subject that I kept my thoughts to myself

Because we have a follow-up appointment with the RE on the 25th and may be starting IUIs next cycle, MM needed to get his repeat S/A done this cycle. Today was the day of his appointment

Even before I went to bed last night, MM let me know that he wanted me out of the house by 9:30 at the latest. He had a drop-off time of 10:30 for his specimen, so he would have to produce it between 10:00 and 10:05, and he needed "alone time" to "prepare" prior to doing so. (My husband would never let me watch him masturbate under any circumstances; he has some prudish, Midwestern sensibilities about some things which I obviously do not share.)

I dutifully left at 9:30 on the dot and, to be honest, forgot about MM. I hit a lot of traffic on the road leading from our house to the freeway due to construction. I thought about calling MM to give him a heads-up to take another route. . . . but didn't want to call right then and interrupt his "alone time

By the time I arrived at the office and remembered to call MM to warn him to take another route. . . it was too late; he was already stuck in the same traffic. (To be fair, I'm not sure that any alternate route would have allowed him to make it to the RE's office within 30 minutes anyway.) As we were on the phone, he realized that he was not going to get his specimen to the office in time for testing. Understandably, he was pretty angry and frustrated.

MM told me that he still had difficulty getting fully aroused even at home because of the time constraint, although he was able to eventually get the job done and ejaculate "a good amount." When he'd cooled off a bit and we talked again, he said that he would just have to "come in the cup" at the office in order to avoid any traffic delays in the future.

I was very relieved that MM arrived at this conclusion on his own. I couldn't help thinking "what if this had been the specimen for our IUI instead of just for testing?" We would've been totally screwed, and I would have taken days of hormones for nothing.

When he was at his most upset, MM kept saying to me "I don't want to do this." I simply responded "Well, what alternative do we have?" He realizes that the alternative--likely never having a child of our own--is worse than having to ejaculate at the doctor's office. . . no matter how uncomfortable it makes him.

I do understand how he feels. I really don't want to do this either. And by "this," I mean use medical assistance to have a baby. But I guess it's not worse than not having a child at all.

After his initial frustration subsided, he said he'd just reschedule. But one dilemma remained: "What am I supposed to do with this cup of come?"

Ultimately, he decided he'd just toss it in the dumpster in the neighborhood where he works. His office is in the ghetto, so I doubt it's the first time that dumpster has had semen in it.

P.S. I think this may go without saying. . . but to those who know me in real life and read this blog, MM would be quite unhappy if he knew I'd written about this. So keep it on the down low. . . .

Monday, March 9, 2009

Next steps

We are seeing our RE on the 25th to discuss what intervention we will pursue in the event that I don't get pregnant this cycle. (MM and I agreed that we would try for a year on our own prior to doing any intervention; this current cycle is the last one before the year is up.)

When we last saw the RE in late January, he mentioned that he usually recommends Clomid + IUI as a first step. After reading up on this approach a bit, though, I don't think the Clomid will be of much benefit to me because I already ovulate on my own. Some recent studies seem to indicate that Clomid does not produce higher pregnancy rates in women who already ovulate. Plus I am more than a little apprehensive about the side effects of that particular drug.

I'm also not sure if any additional testing should be done before we start intervention. I've never had any tests to check what my uterine lining is like after ovulation or any tests to verify that I have, in fact, ovulated. (Our RE told us that he assumes that ovulation is occurring if cycles are regular and predictable in length and I'm getting + OPKs.) My cycles are regular, and every cycle I charted temps I had the expected rise after ovulation. So I'm pretty sure I'm ovulating but know nothing about my lining and its ability to allow for successful implantation.

I guess these are all questions I can ask the RE at our appointment. I think I am going to suggest going directly to IUI with injectibles, and I doubt he will disagree. At my age, I'm pretty sure he'd go straight to IVF if we asked for it.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Water, water everywhere, but not a drop to drink

If you go out in public--especially to places that are "kid friendly"--it's inevitable that you will see babies, toddlers, and pregnant women. It's also not surprising that, at nearly 38 years of age, the vast majority of my friends and acquaintances already have children.

Separate and apart from our current situation, I just genuinely know LOTS and LOTS of people who have had babies in the past two or three years. Truly. A few months ago, a friend and I made a list of law school classmates who had had babies in the past two years.Every one of those women was a first-time mom. The list topped 15 at that time, and I have learned of a few other people since that time who have babies under age 2. That doesn't even include coworkers, friends of mine who aren't lawyers, my sister, and members of my own extended family. I would say that I am on a first-name basis with roughly 30 women who've given birth in the past three years. . . . some of them twice during that time frame. (Either twins or two children in the past three years.)

Add to this fact the seemingly inescapable phenomenon that someone struggling to get pregnant is bound to notice more babies and pregnant women, and it seems that everyone around me has what I want and cannot have. Anything is like this, I do realize. As one example, when I was on the waiting list to buy a Toyota Prius a few years back, it seemed like every fourth car on the road was a Prius. LOL

I am very thankful that I have not yet reached a point where I cannot be happy for other people who have babies. We had dinner last night with a good friend of mine who has a 7-week-old son who came along. Today I bumped into a friend from law school at a car dealership with her 5-month-old daughter, and it was a lot of fun to hold the baby and make her laugh. I do fear, though, that if we continue to struggle--and especially if we are never successful in our conception efforts, with or without intervention--that I will eventually reach that point of bitterness even toward people who I know are good and loving parents. . . . simply because they have something I don't have.

At some points today during a visit to the local botanical garden with my best friend KC (single, also childless, a year younger than I), I felt like Tina Fey's character in the movie Baby Mama. It seemed that everywhere I went, babies (& toddlers) were looking at me.

KC pointed out--correctly, I might add--that, for whatever reason, little ones have always noticed me. She's right; this isn't new. Not sure what it is about my looks or personality, but small children and babies have been drawn to me as long as I can remember, even when I was a teenager. Surely since long before I thought of having a child of my own as anything more than a "someday" proposition.

I don't want to be "that woman." The one who has no kids and doesn't even want to be around kids. I love children. I've spent the past six-and-a-half years volunteering with children in foster care, and I'd like to volunteer more of my time to children in need in the future.

Aside from wanting to volunteer with kids and to be able to enjoy my nephew and friends' children, I want to be a mother, and I think I'd be a good one. I have so much in my life. Loving family, good friends, a terrific husband, a wonderful dog whom I love, higher education, a good job, and financial security.

Yet with all I have. . . . I fear that my life will be incomplete if I cannot add being a mother to that list. At times I feel a bit selfish--maybe I should just be contented with the many good things I do have?--but I don't think there is a substitute for being a mother to one's own child.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Thoughts on motherhood

(originally written March 2008)

I’m not sure if it’s a function of my advancing age, the fact that my sister has a baby, or the simple truth that a bazillion other women I know have had babies within the past three years. (OK, not a bazillion, but at least 25). But I increasingly find myself thinking about motherhood. Not in a pie-in-the-sky, idealistic, that’d-be-great-someday way. . . . but in a logical and pragmatic way. As in: if I actually had a child, how would I make it work?

As I believe the majority of women do—with some notable exceptions—I have always just assumed that I would be a mother someday. When I was in my teens and twenties, aside from an occasional pregnancy scare, that “someday” seemed a long way off. I distinctly recall thinking as a teenager that I would accomplish at least three things by age 30: I’d have a career I loved, I’d be married, and I’d have at least one child. (Actually, I was 0 for 3 on my 30th birthday. . . . but that’s another whole post.)

When I applied to law school at age 29, the thought crossed my mind that my decision to change to a less flexible career at that stage of my life might impact my ability to have a child later. I cannot say that it didn’t occur to me. But at the time, I was working in a field where I was unhappy and where I felt that my best attributes were going to waste. I was still unmarried then, and I placed a higher premium on having a more enjoyable and intellectually challenging career than on planning for a baby who certainly wasn’t going to arrive while I was single and might never come at all. Even if I’d considered single motherhood—and I had, fleetingly—I was in no financial position to pursue it.

My focus on law school for the three years from age 30 to age 33 put thoughts of childbearing pretty much completely out of my mind. For the first time in many years, I was loving what I was doing and learning tons; I was also enjoying a very full and active social life after a few years of being fairly solitary.

The first year or so of law practice was the same: I was too occupied with other things to dwell much on the fact that I remained single and childless. During that time, I met SL, and our relationship gradually progressed to commitment, then living together, then an engagement.

When SL and I got engaged, because of my (by then) advanced age of 35, we had made plans to start trying to have a baby six months after our planned wedding in April 2007. We figured that, even if I got pregnant relatively quickly, by the time we had a baby, I’d be at least 37 years old.

SL and I never got married; I called off our wedding thirteen days before it was scheduled (for reasons too long to go into here). In the weeks following our cancelled wedding and broken engagement, I was too busy processing a lot of difficult emotions and contemplating “where do I go from here” to think too much about motherhood. . . . except to realize that finding myself still single and alone at 36 made it much less likely that I would have a baby of my own before I was too old to do so.

I ended things with SL with the assumption that I’d be alone for a while. Over the course of my adult life, it had been common for me to see three, four, even five years pass between significant relationships. I believe this was in part because it sometimes took me quite a while to get over a breakup with certain men, but even more because I have never been one who readily meets men or gets into relationships with them. Yes, some have even gone so far as to say I’m “picky.” While I deny being picky, I readily admit that my lifestyle has not been conducive to meeting the type of men in whom I’m interested, and that I've probably gone out on dates with four or five men for every one that became a lasting part of my life.

I am now in a different place mentally than I was a year ago. I am (unexpectedly) in a good relationship with a man I love. That man wants to be a father as much as (if not more than) I want to be a mother. We have discussed the prospect of having a child together on a number of occasions. He is ready to have a baby yesterday. (Although he is not pressuring me in any way.)

I don’t know that I’ve ever given up my hope to have a child of my own; I’ve just deferred it or pushed it aside in favor of pursuing other desires. Although I have mixed feelings about the realities of actually being a mother, I can’t say that it’s not something I want to do. And at 37, if “someday” is not soon, it will probably become “never.”

Here is the thought that's been in my mind a lot lately: when I think of my daily life as it is today, it is hard for me to imagine adding a child—a baby—to the mix. When I was a nurse, I had a lot of flexibility at work, usually only working three days a week. Moreover, when I was a nurse I had always *assumed* that I would cut back to working part-time if I had a baby.

Now that I’m a lawyer, cutting my work hours to part-time is less of an option. Doing that would severely limit my career advancement, significantly impact my income, and would probably mean having to leave my current position. And to be honest: I’m not sure I want to stop working full-time, even if I could. I like what I do. I was more willing to give work up when I was doing something I didn’t really enjoy.

Between work, family, friends, volunteering, and just plain lazy time, I find it hard to see how I would fit in time to be a good mom. I know people juggle these things everyday. . . . but everyone else is not me, and if I decide to do the mom thing, there will be no half measures; I will do a good job of it or not do it all. In my opinion, it's too important a job to approach in any other fashion.

Yes, it might seem strange for me to be pondering this while I am on the pill and not even trying to get pregnant, but hey—that’s me! Always thinking five steps ahead. And in the case of a huge, life-changing undertaking like motherhood, there’s no going back once you’ve made the choice.

Friends say that you willingly make all these accommodations and sacrifices when you have a child. . . . but is that universally true? I guess on some level, I fear that I will be one of the minority who thinks after the birth “oh shit—this is not for me.” Ruh-roh

Lots to think about. . . . .


(originally written on April 15, 2008)

I freely admit that I am one to over-think things. . . . but I think parenthood in particular is something that should not be approached lightly and without reflection about one's motives. In my observation of the world, I note many people who became parents by accident rather than design, as well as people who became parents by design, but for the wrong reasons.

Whatever my expressed doubts about the realities of motherhood and how it would fit in with my life, having a child of my own is something I want to do. . . . and I think that I want it for the right reasons. I am emotionally mature and settled in my own life so that I believe I could provide a solid foundation of security for a child. I absolutely love children and always have, and I am good with them. (I have several friends with kids aged newborn to 16 who will vouch for me on this one.) I realize that MM and I are not yet married, but I feel sure we will be. We have a good "peer" relationship that is stable and will continue indefinitely in any event. I believe that having a child of my own would bring a lot of joy and greater meaning to my life. And given how many other people seem to have successfully navigated the world of working motherhood, I trust that I am underestimating myself when I doubt whether I can do it, too.

In the past several weeks, I've come to a decision. (Yes, my prior post about motherhood was part of this decision-making thought process.) When I complete my current package of birth control bills, I am going to stop taking them. I don't know that I would say I am going to actively try to become pregnant at that point, but I am going to stop preventing that possibility.

I have talked with MM about this, and he is totally OK with this decision. In fact, he is in full support of it and had hoped that I would stop taking the pill a while ago. He fully expects and intends that we will be getting married before the end of the year, and he thinks there's no time like the present for us to "get started" on having a child, particularly because of my advanced (ha ha) age.

So we shall see. As I shared with a friend, in putting this decision into action, I have two fears: one is that I won't be able to get pregnant at all, even when I'm actively trying; the other is that I will get pregnant right away. LOL

Right place at the right time

(originally written on June 10, 2008)

I sometimes wonder if I have had my priorities straight as an adult. Growing up, I was encouraged to apply myself and to choose a career field that would be rewarding, financially and intellectually. I fully bought into that way of thinking and have spent the majority of my adult life either in school or working, searching for the "right career" that would provide me with the fulfillment I was seeking.

Now that I am 37 and well into my second professional career, I sometimes think maybe I should have spent those years focused more on other things. Maybe if I had devoted more time to taking care of my body by eating clean and exercising, fostering closer relationships with my family, friends, and boyfriends, and exploring the world around me. . . . . or any number of other things. . . . rather than devoting myself primarily to the pursuit of education and career(s), I would be a happier person.

Most people in our society deem one "successful" based on many things that have very little real relationship to the state of one's psyche or soul. For example, both graduating college and owning a home are often referred to as "the American dream." The messages that we receive tell us that driving the right car, wearing the right clothes, living in the right neighborhood, taking the right vacations, and many other things that require significant financial resources will make us successful and happy.

Some of the most contented people I have encountered in my life have had none of the outward trappings of success: no late model cars, no stylish wardrobe. Some of them have never set foot on a college campus, let alone earned a degree. On the other hand, as a lawyer, I regularly encounter people who are highly educated and appear very "successful" who are nonetheless quite unhappy with their lives.

When I was growing up, my mother often said that all she wanted for me was that I should "be happy." (My father, on the other hand, had "higher" aspirations for both his daughters.) When Mom used to tell me that, I thought it very simplistic. I also used to think that being happy was not something I could choose to do or not do: it would either happen or it wouldn't. Naively, I also believed on some level that if I achieved my other goals--a rewarding professional career and all that went with it--I couldn't fail to be happy.
Sometimes I think I ought to have put my personal preferences first rather than acting "sensibly." I would have joined the Peace Corps for a few years, then probably had a child while I was still young enough to do so easily. . . . without thinking about the impact that these decisions might have had on my "career path."

But alas. . . . rather than taking "the road less traveled," I have walked the worn and familiar path all my life. Though I'm not sure it was the right path, it's unlikely that I will retrace my steps now.

I think I may be defective

(originally written on August 22, 2008)

Back when I made the decision in mid-April , I mentioned in a blog entry that I stopped taking birth control pills. I initially went off the pill to let my body return to normal and "gather data" (if you will) about my cycles before MM and I would actively try to get pregnant sometime this fall. As part of my data collection process, I began taking my temperature daily and charting on a well-known website for same. After a couple of cycles, I decided to add ovulation prediction kits to the mix, just to "get more information" about what my body is doing.

Somewhere between the initial decision to go off the pill in preparation for trying to get pregnant in the fall and today, this enterprise has morphed into MM actively trying to get me pregnant ASAP. I don't know if this is due to MM's desire for instant gratification; my inability to "let go" and not plan things; or the misguided belief we both had that pregnancy happens to people who don't use birth control almost immediately or some combination of these . . . . but my fertility has become a frequent topic of conversation between MM and me and between my closest friends and me, too.

Let me not make this sound as though it's primarily MM's doing. No, I have been wholly complicit in the evolution of the current state of affairs.

As I am now mid-way through my fifth cycle off birth control, I have already come to the realization that I am obviously not one of these women who becomes pregnant at the drop of a hat. At the risk of over-sharing. . . . MM and I have sex almost every day, at least 6 days a week.

I think most people would believe that two adults who have almost daily sex without any form of protection would soon find themselves in a family way. Well, I'm here to tell you: 'tain't so! I know for a fact that MM and I had sex during my "fertile window" the past four months (& this month, but it's too soon to know the outcome there), and I am not pregnant.

All my adult life, I have labored (ha! pun!) under the misconception (ha! another pun!) that unprotected sex would result almost immediately in a pregnancy. I have been extra-careful over many years to take my pill every day and on time, to use condoms, and to keep track of my periods. I have spent sleepless nights worrying on the rare occasions when I didn't use protection for some reason. I am beginning to wonder why I wasted the time, money, and effort on birth control. . . .

I've read the statistics on chances of achieving pregnancy naturally after age 35: according to the most recent study done, 60% of couples will succeed after one year of trying and 85% of couples will achieve pregnancy after two years of trying. We are certainly not outside the norm in having tried for four months and not achieved a pregnancy. I guess I was under the mistaken belief that I would be one of these women who somehow manages to remain super-fertile well into her mid-30's. My thoughts in that regard were not entirely without foundation: both my grandmothers had pregnancies after age 35; my mom and aunt both had unplanned pregnancies, attesting to the fertility of the women in our family.

At this point, I've moved beyond simply being annoyed at not getting near-instant gratification to being genuinely concerned at my lack of fecundity. I'm sure that my advanced age is a factor in this, but I can't help also wondering if something more is wrong, either with me or with MM. That possibility concerns me a great deal.

Neither of us is willing to go to the limits of medical science in order to become parents: we are both opposed to the idea of IVF (not to mention not wanting to spend $10K+ for the mere possibility of having a child); I am unwilling to do anything that involves shooting my body full of hormones (let's face it: I have enough trouble coping with daily life some days as it is!). MM is not particularly interested in the idea of adopting; the primary aim of becoming a parent for him is to have his own child who is genetically related to him. Because we both place significant limitations on the way in which we are willing to become parents, some of the options that might otherwise be available as a path to parenthood for a couple who cannot conceive naturally will not be open to us.

Meanwhile, all around us, people are getting pregnant and having babies. Just since I went off the pill--only a little over 4 months--three friends have announced their pregnancies and two have given birth. MM's surveillance officer partner's wife is pregnant with their second child. . . and the felons who MM supervises are regularly impregnating their partners. (MM was telling me last week that one of his probationers has been out of jail only 3 weeks and has already managed to knock up his girlfriend. They are both 19, and she has one child already with a different father.)

Although I've been overweight to some degree or another my entire adult life, I've always had a perception of myself as healthy. My "failure" to get pregnant quickly and easily has shaken that perception.

Also, I've never before had a goal that I can really do little to work toward. MM and I have done everything "right" for four months: well-timed intercourse; I've totally given up alcohol and nearly completely given up caffeine; I've been eating healthfully and exercising regularly; I take daily multivitamins and fish oil supplements. And still nothing.

ANYWAY. . . . I am not looking for advice on how to maximize our chances of conception--God knows, I have devoted hours to research of this subject over the past few months, so I doubt there's much anyone reading this can tell me that I don't already know. I am CERTAINLY not looking for anyone to tell me "relax, it'll happen." (In fact, I'd be apt to bitch-slap anyone who tells me this or its corollary: "it'll happen when you least expect it!" Please.)

Just wanted to get these feelings out there.


(originally written on September 26, 2008)

Hope is the worst of evils, for it prolongs the torments of man. ~Friedrich Nietzsche

Since I gave up hope, I feel a lot better. ~Steve Taylor

Prior to meeting MM, falling in love with MM, and beginning to believe that I would build a life with MM, I had given up hope of ever having my own child. I'd actually given up that hope twice. The first time was when I decided to change careers at age 30 while still unmarried and childless; I realized that this choice greatly decreased the likelihood that I would be in a position to focus on motherhood. I gave it up again when my relationship with SL ended; I truly believed at that time, based on my relationship history, that it would be years before I would fall in love again, and I thought that there was a strong possibility I wouldn't ever marry. Single motherhood has never much appealed to me: being a parent is one of the hardest things in the world, and I couldn't fathom choosing to do it alone!

I have always had a strong mothering instinct and knew that eventually it would have to find an outlet other than Golden Retrievers. I had a vague plan in my mind that once I had reached my early-to-mid 40s and all prospect of my own, biological child was passed, I would adopt a child from foster care. Baby or slightly older child: it didn't much matter to me. Until then, I would devote myself to developing my career, spending time with friends, and pursuing hobbies.

However. . . I fell in love with a man who wants a child of his own. And while I had put that dream out of my mind prior to meeting him, apparently I had never totally given up on the idea because it was readily revived once I knew that it was again a possibility. I was happy, eager to revive it.

Thus the hope of having a child of my own was reborn. And to tell you the truth, since that hope has returned, I've felt worse than when I had just accepted that it would likely never happen.

I have written before about our decision to stop using birth control and our efforts to get me pregnant. My period is due tomorrow, and every sign is pointing toward it arriving right on schedule yet again. For six cycles--just over five months--MM and I have done everything "right," but I'm still not pregnant.

I know, I know: five months really isn't that long--especially at my age!--and "God will bless us when He thinks the time is right." "Some people try for years!" BLAH BLAH BLAH BLAH. We should "just relax"! I haven't told many people of our efforts; in spite of that fact, I've pretty much heard every imaginable platitude already in regard to our failure to conceive to date.

I'm sure that there aren't appreciably more babies or pregnant women in the world today than there were six months ago. . . but I am now acutely aware of both in a way that I wasn't before. Thank God I have not yet reached the point where I cannot be happy when a friend or family member announces her own pregnancy. . . but I fear I am moving in that direction. (I am already bitter when I hear that one of the felons MM supervises has fathered another child, primarily because these pregnancies are almost invariably unintended and unwanted.)

Technically, I am not "infertile," as infertility is defined as the inability to conceive after trying for a year. (Some doctors say six months of trying if you're over 35, as I am.) Even by the looser, six-month standard, I won't be "infertile" unless we don't conceive this coming cycle. In spite of that fact, I have already scheduled a consultation with a reproductive endocrinologist (an OB/GYN specializing in the treatment of reproductive disorders) for us; the appointment is on October 14th.

By the time the appointment arrives, we will be just days shy of six months of "trying." While I fear that something is wrong with either MM or I that is preventing us from making a baby, I fear almost equally that nothing is wrong, except that I am old to be trying for a first pregnancy. If we find out that something is wrong that cannot be fixed, what then? If we find out that NOTHING is wrong, I guess we just keep "trying"?

I regularly visit a website on which I chart my cycles, and that website has message boards. From visiting these message boards, I am well aware that many women have had (and are having) a more difficult journey to parenthood than I have had thus far. My own sister "tried" for over two years before conceiving her son, and I know more than one person who has had to have IVF in order to become a mom.BUT. . . knowing that other people have it worse than I do has never been a solace to me in any other area of my life, and it's not a solace to me here. I'm only five months in, and I'm already thoroughly sick of this.

Sometimes I wish I had never revived my hope for a child. I was much more contented when I had set it aside.

Fertility message boards

(originally written on October 10, 2008)

I've been thinking about writing this post for a while, but I've held back because I believe some readers might consider me b1tchy and judgmental. Today, though, I finally decided f$&* it! What's the point of my having a blog if I can't write about the things that are on my mind?

I've mentioned before that I regularly visit the message boards on the site where I do my charting. I first visited the boards out of curiosity and in search of others who were on the same journey. I still find them interesting and enjoy the support. . . . but I'll admit that one of the big draws for me is what *I* perceive to be the craziness.

Example: a woman posted this morning that she got a positive pregnancy test. "We finally did it!" her post read (among other things). Cool. We should all be happy and excited for her, right?

Except that once I read her signature line. . . . the woman already has 8 children. (This is the part where I come across as b1tchy and judgmental.) I'm sorry, but it is a little hard for me to get excited about someone's NINTH pregnancy! Who even *has* nine kids these days? How can two people adequately parent nine children?

And her use of the word "finally"? Her next-oldest child is not even 2 years old! In my opinion, "finally" should be reserved for use by people who have struggled with trying to get pregnant with their first child for at least a year. I get that a month seems like forever when you're trying to get pregnant--believe me, I get that--but please.

I also thought--again, uncharitably--why does this woman even need to use this site? Clearly she has been able to conceive and carry a pregnancy EIGHT previous times!

There are actually quite a number of ladies posting on the message boards who have at least six children. Personally, the most anyone I know in real life has is 5. . . . and I thought that was a lot!

Another post from a few weeks ago was from a woman who was lamenting the fact that she and her husband were having to borrow $25,000 to go through a second round of in-vitro fertilization. The woman had three children under age 8: two were adopted, and one was her biological child conceived through prior use of IVF.

Those responding to her post were full of support and commiseration: "isn't it awful that insurance doesn't pay for this?" "so sorry for what you're going through," etc. But all I could think was "What the f$%^ are you doing?!"

It is one thing to spend money on IVF (or anything else) if you have the money to spare. Clearly that was not the case here, as the poster was having to finance the procedure. It is something else entirely to spend money on IVF when you already have three children for whose care and futures you are responsible. (As a footnote to this woman's original post, I will mention that I recently read that IVF #2 was unsuccessful, and she is getting ready for IVF #3.)

I get the desire to have a biological child. I do. I also get that people might want more than one biological child. But isn't there a point at which using expensive procedures to achieve this becomes a bit selfish? Where is it written that each of us has a right to have as many biological children as we want? We all certainly have the right to TRY, but shouldn't that be tempered by reason and common sense?

I recently read where someone wrote that paying for IVF is akin to buying a raffle ticket, with the grand prize being a successful pregnancy. Despite what many people think, IVF is NOT a guarantee of pregnancy. In fact, the odds of success with IVF can be quite low, depending upon the age of the parents and their specific infertility issues.

I just don't understand it. I have no children of my own (yet), and *I* wouldn't be willing to go $25K into debt for a CHANCE to have A child. . . . let alone a fourth child.

In addition to things like the two examples I've shared, the boards also have all the usual interpersonal drama that one might expect of any online community.

Is it any wonder why I find them entertaining?

You can't always get what you want

(originally posted December 18, 2008)

In my life, I can't say that I've always gotten my way. It's a rare person who gets her way all the time. And I'm not sure living that way would be healthy.

I *can* say, though, that most everything I've wanted to achieve, I've achieved once I made up my mind that I'd try to do it. Sure, I've had dreams that I've allowed to fall by the wayside--for example, I long ago thought that I wanted to be a doctor--but by and large, when I've set out to do something, I've done it.

The things that have always been most difficult for me are those things that are elusive, that you can't do much to "get." Things like friendship, love and happiness. Even there, though, I believed that I could take affirmative steps in a direction that might lead me to those things, and I did. I changed careers so that I'd feel more satisfied at work and hopefully therefore happier with my life. I've moved. I've gone out of my way to meet people and to date.

Though you can't make someone be a friend, I am fortunate to have many people in my life today who deservedly bear the title. In that area of my life, I am blessed beyond what I probably deserve. Despite the elusiveness of both love and happiness, I eventually found both. I love MM and have a wonderful relationship (and now marriage) with him. I am happy with my life.

Now, though, I am in pursuit of something that is turning out to be equally elusive. . . . and just like I did when searching for love and happiness, I am having a devil of a time accepting that this is not something that I can "get." I guess I am too much of a controller or a concrete thinker or something. I find it next to impossible to "let things happen" or to "just relax" or "let go and let God." Pick your phrase: no matter how you word it, I am not a passive person who can accept the will of the universe.

But I need to be. I need to learn to "accept the things I cannot change."

I'll be damned if I know how to do it. . . .

Insensitive much?

(originally written on February 5, 2009)

You did what you knew how to do, and when you knew better, you did better. ~Maya Angelou

Now that I've reached an age where 40 no longer seems old, I've sometimes had cause to reflect on things I've done and said in the past. At no time has this been more true than since MM and I started actively trying to have a child of our own. As I've written here before, I naively thought that this endeavor would be accomplished in a relatively short time. Certainly no longer than six months. I was even concerned for a while that I'd get pregnant before we were married. (This seems laughable to me now.)

When I was younger, I used to routinely ask couples who'd been married more than six months when they were going to have a baby. It never occurred to me that the mere question might cause some of these people pain.

Likewise, I used to have no qualms about asking a couple whose only child was at least 2 when/if they planned to have another. Again, I never realized that there might be reasons that this wasn't part of their plan.

I used to think that women who were willing to put their bodies and minds through all sorts of stress with fertility treatments were missing the point and that they should "just adopt." I used to think that I would never subject myself to all that "unnecessary" poking, prodding and stress.

I used to think that when the day came that I decided to have a baby of my own, I'd have some fun, passionate, unprotected sex and get the job done in no time flat. I figured I would even have the luxury of deciding which month of the year might be most convenient for me to be giving birth.

I used to think (though, thank goodness, I never said to anyone) that maybe people who couldn't have a baby on their own "weren't meant to be parents."

I used to think (though, again, I never said to anyone) that people who were trying for a while to get pregnant should "just relax and stop trying."

I have learned a lot in the past several months.


(Originally written on February 9, 2009)

There are four ways you can handle fear. You can go over it, under it, or around it. But if you are ever to put fear behind you, you must walk straight through it. Once you put fear behind you, leave it there. ~Donna A. Favor

I came to a realization during my Saturday morning acupuncture session. For those of you who've never had acupuncture--I was in this category until a few weeks ago--once the practitioner inserts the needles, you basically just lie still and relax for 20-30 minutes once they're in. You really can't move around because you'd dislodge the needles. Because of this forced inactivity, it's easy to relax and to meditate (or cogitate) during acupuncture.

I have been growing increasingly more unhappy every month that I've been off the pill and have not gotten pregnant. This month things finally got to the point where I spent a good portion of Friday crying off and on. (I *rarely* cry. Normally I can go months and months without crying over anything.)

Because this type of reaction is so unlike me, I found myself analyzing the reasons behind it. Trying to conceive and being unsuccessful month after month is frustrating, to be sure. Frustration is usually not enough to make me cry, though. A huge part of trying to get pregnant is completely outside my control. Really, all I can do is take care of my body, have sex at the right times, and pray. But although I hate not being in control, especially over big things feeling out of control also isn't something that I'd generally cry over.

As I lay on the acupuncture table relaxing, it finally came to me. I am upset because I am afraid. Afraid that I won't ever get pregnant. Afraid that I will never bear a child of my own. Afraid that I will never be a mother. And afraid of the toll that this may eventually take on my relationship with MM.

It is fear, not frustration or impatience, that has made me cry. Fear and uncertainty. Fear that has developed over the past ten months that I have been off the pill and not gotten pregnant. Fear that seems less unfounded with each passing unsuccessful cycle.

It's not the waiting that's getting to me. Hell, I have already waited many, many years to even TRY to get pregnant. I waited years to meet someone I could marry, someone I loved enough and with whom I had a healthy enough relationship to have a fighting chance of success in marriage. I am experienced at waiting for things. I may not like it, but I'm accustomed to it.

If I knew for sure that I would get pregnant someday, so long as we keep trying, I believe that my fear would subside. But in this arena, there are no guarantees for any woman who is almost 38 years old and has never conceived. There is no way, short of divine intervention, for me to ever KNOW that I will eventually be pregnant.

I don't know that there is a way to walk through this fear. Certainly I have visualized a life where I never have a child of my own. . . . but deep down inside, I never thought that it would be the life I'd ultimately live.I will say that it's been a recurrent theme in my life that few things turn out the way I thought they would. Each time life has taken an unexpected turn, I've ended up being happier with the life I have than with the life I had planned.

I can't imagine, though, that I would ever get to a point where I'd be truly OK with never being a mother. But maybe I will.


For the sake of sharing how I have felt at various points along my journey so far, the next few posts are going to be blog entries I've written at other times about my feelings about TTC. (These were included on my regular, everyday blog. I'm sure some folks who read that were perplexed, knowing little to nothing about our struggles.)

I think reading them helps to put things in perspective. And it's interesting to me how I seemed to sense from just a few months in that this wasn't going to happen as readily as I'd thought.

Cycle day one

Again. On to cycle #13.

I am not even surprised enough to be upset this time. Just feel numb.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

An introduction

I have hesitated at beginning a blog specifically dedicated to my struggle with getting pregnant because devoting a blog to the subject seems, in some way, an acknowledgement that I may, in fact, be suffering from infertility. Isn't denial a wonderful thing?

As we have continued trying unsuccessfully, though, I've discovered that the topic of my failed attempts to conceive has been becoming a more and more frequent topic on my other, original blog. I also have found a lot of solace in reading of others' experiences. So I've finally decided that it's time to start my own blog about our endeavors to get pregnant.

I don't want everyone in real life who reads my original blog to know about our efforts to conceive, so I decided I would start a blog dedicated specifically to that topic.

I chose the title for the blog because I started this quest with some of my own misconceptions about conception. No doubt like many other girls, I had been conditioned by a strict upbringing to believe that almost the mere sight of a man's penis would be enough to impregnate me! As an adolescent, my sister and I were ceaselessly encouraged by my father to avoid sex until marriage, or at least until we were older. But if we did decide to have sex, under no circumstances should we do so without using birth control! My father talked to us often about how a teenage pregnancy would "ruin your life."

Hearing my father and observing the many unplanned teen pregnancies in our small hometown, it was easy to believe that getting pregnant was something that happened readily and quickly. I didn't know anyone on either side of our family who had been infertile. My mother's first few pregnancies were unplanned. Her sister had an unplanned pregnancy as well. So did my stepmother and one of my grandmothers.

Both my maternal and paternal grandmother had children after age 35, also, so in no way did I think that my decision to wait to get pregnant until I was 36 would be a barrier. I recall stopping my birth control pills last April and being genuinely concerned that I might get pregnant almost immediately and end up being huge for my planned wedding in late November. I really thought that I would throw out my birth control pills, wait a few months to get "back to normal," and then readily fall pregnant.

Sure, I'd had friends or acquaintances who had "taken a while" to get pregnant. But even among my friends, there were far more who had become pregnant unintentionally or within a few months of going off birth control. I had never known anyone personally--at least not well--who had conceived their child through the use of assisted reproductive technology ("ART").

It seems so naive of me, looking back. I have been a registered nurse since 1994 and studied ART--from another perspective--in a family law class in law school. I should have been better informed than most women about the risk I had taken by waiting until after 35 to attempt to get pregnant.

My husband (who I will call MM) and I have been actively trying to conceive ("TTC") for twelve cycles. We have had a full set of preliminary testing done with a noted reproductive endocrinologist ("RE"); he has appeared in The Top 100 Doctors in Phoenix and helped a colleague's daughter conceive both her children through IVF. The RE and his wife conceived their twins through the use of IVF, so he has been on the receiving end of ART as well being an experienced RE.

Our RE has told us that all our tests are normal, and the only explanation he can offer for our lack of success thus far is "old eggs." At our last appointment with him in late January, we expressed our desire to wait until we had been trying a full year prior to pursuing any intervention. His response? "That's fine, but don't wait too long. No matter how your tests look, your eggs know that they're 37."

To the best of our knowledge, we have done everything we can do on our own to "make this happen." Every single cycle has had perfectly timed intercourse within my "fertile window." We don't use lubricants that can harm sperm, and we have done everything that is recommended to maximize our chances of conception.

I have already eliminated every possible substance which might be harmful to my fertility from my life: alcohol, NSAIDs, and most recently, caffeine. Although my cycles are regular and ovulatory, I have limited my consumption of white flour and sugar. About a month ago, I sought care from a well-respected local doctor of Chinese medicine who has worked successfully with patients treated by our RE and specializes in the treatment of infertility. I have been receiving weekly acupuncture treatments, taking herbs three times a day, and following dietary recommendations which she has provided to me.

My husband is healthy: non-smoker, rarely drinks alcohol, exercises 5-6 days a week, and takes a daily multi-vitamin supplement. He wears boxers (and has for years), avoids saunas, and refrains from excessive self-pleasuring.

So that's where we are.