Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Happy 101

Thank you to Type A for giving me this award.

When you receive the Happy 101 Award, you have to list 10 Things That Make My Day and then list 10 Blogs worthy of this award as well, and then you'll have the award and they'll have the award too.

1. Coffee. Either with cream and Splenda or caffe mocha. I guess I am now a real coffee drinker in the sense that I do drink one cup of coffee at least 5-6 mornings a week, but I am definitely not a "take it black" kind of coffee drinker.
2. Being greeted by my golden retrievers when I return home at the end of the day.
3. Spending time with friends
4. Getting comments on my either of my blogs (Yes, I have two)
5. Cuddling with my husband
6. Talking to my 3-year-old nephew
7. The feeling I get after a good, tough, sweaty workout
8. Getting a massage (something I do regularly)
9. Getting personal mail. . . . as opposed to the usual junk mail, bills and charitable pleas
10. Reading an excellent book

Now IT’S YOUR TURN. Here are the 10 blogs that I would like to AWARD!
I am only going to award 5 blogs. Too many of the blogs I read have either already received the award or are parenting after infertility. (As it is, I am going to include two bloggers who are currently pregnant, one with twins.)

Monday, February 22, 2010

Post-shower update

So my friend L's baby shower, which I posted about here, ended up not being very hard for me at all. It helped a lot that this was a "couples shower," so about a third of the guests were men, which cut down significantly on the pregnancy/birthing stories I had to hear. (I also stuck close to my childless girlfriends a lot, as planned.)

Because it was a couples shower, we didn't play any of the usual shower games, which was awesome. And the guests of honor opted to open their gifts later at home (because there were so many? because they didn't want to seem greedy or ostentatious? not sure), so I didn't have to sit through seeing all the cute little baby girl clothes and toys and hearing all the "oohs" and "aahs" which would no doubt have accompanied the unwrapping of each present.

All in all, the shower was more like a brunch-time party than like most baby showers I have attended. The only differences were the decorations (pink balloons & diaper pins), the wrapping on the gifts (mostly baby-girl-themed), the cake ("It's a girl! Congratulations, L & M"), and the fact that the guest of honor was almost 8 months pregnant. ;-)

My hard(er) moment of the weekend actually came later that evening when I had dinner with an old friend of mine who I had not seen in over 15 years. Ironically, this dinner was supposed to be one of my "treats" to myself for getting through L's shower OK.

My old friend is five years younger than I, and we last saw one another just after I had finished college and she had graduated from high school. In the many years since I last saw her, she had married, had two children (a boy and then a girl, 14 months apart), divorced, and remarried. During that same time, I have worked several years as a hospital nurse, gone to law school and become a lawyer, and finally got married (in 2008). So lots to catch up on.

Her kids, ages 7 and 6, are adorable and were very well-behaved, really a joy to be around. Perhaps surprisingly, that didn't bother me. She shared that she is unable to have more children with her current husband because she developed peripartum cardiomyopathy and has been told that another pregnancy could literally threaten her life, or at the least, put her in a position of needing a future heart transplant.

After the kids were in bed, my friend asked whether my husband and I planned on children. It is always awkward for me having to explain to people that, while we would like very much to have a child of our own, it is likely not in the cards for us. Inevitably people want to know whether you've been to a doctor for testing and what was found; what treatments, if any, you have tried; how far you are willing to go down the treatment path; whether you've considered adoption. My friend was no exception. I haven't found a way to briefly explain our position without becoming emotional or defensive of our choices. (BTW, I'm open to suggestions on how to field this question. I've tried saying that it's unlikely because of my age--39 next month--but have learned that this just prompts anecdotes of someone the person knows who conceived naturally after 40.)

For some reason, I found it even harder to explain these things to someone who has known me for such a long time and who has devoted herself to motherhood for the last several years. My friend was always a bit of a "wild child" when she was younger, and I think any objective observer who knew us both as teenagers would have much sooner chosen me as the more likely of the two of us to become a mother. Life is strange.

So that was hard, but it was only a small part of our evening together. I think my friend fairly quickly sensed my discomfort (I am usually a very open, non-private person) and kindly did not dwell too much on the topic.

Funny how sometimes the things that I think will be hard to take aren't and things that seem harmless bring up some difficult feelings.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

The grass is always greener

Thank you all so much for your comments on my last post. I appreciate your advice and support more than I can express here.

As I was reflecting further yesterday on this coming weekend and on L's shower, I was reminded that I just need to keep things in the proper perspective. Sure, L is pregnant with a girl and isdue the same date I would have been had things gone a different direction for me. Yes, she is having an experience--a healthy pregnancy which will result in a baby--that I have not had and likely will never have. But someone will always have something that I don't have. (And I'm not even talking, really, about material things.)

The reverse is also true. Many is the time I have been the one who had something that a friend did not have, that she desperately wanted.

When I was a travel nurse before law school, I had a friend who was a SAHM to three children under 4 who envied me my freedom. (Side note: at that time, she felt very trapped in her situation. Her children are now older, she works part-time, and she divorced her husband. She feels better now.)

When I decided to leave nursing and go to law school, I can't even tell you the number of people I worked with who openly told me that they were envious of my career change. Many of them were well past the point of burnout and would have gladly changed careers, if their circumstances had allowed them to do so.

I know I have friends and relatives who are envious of my career. In this economic climate, there are probably people who envy the fact that I have a job at all, people who would be willing to do almost anything to get back into the workforce.

When I got married, I know that a couple of my single friends envied me. (Some of my married friends were envious that we got married on a beach on Hawaii and that we eloped and did our wedding "the easy way." I got a lot of "wow, we should have done that" from married/engaged people.) I know that a couple of my unmarried friends still envy my married state and yearn to be married themselves.

Throughout my life, when I have had good news to share, whether it was about a new nursing contract, being accepted to law school, getting my first "real" job as a lawyer, or getting married on Maui, I have not hesitated to share it with my friends or to celebrate. And truth be told, I almost never stopped to think that my happiness and success might somehow bring them pain. I expected my friends to be happy for me. . . . and the majority of the time, I believe that they were.

Why, then, should I expect anything different from my friend L? She isn't having a baby or allowing her sister-in-law to throw her a shower to make me uncomfortable or to lord it over me that she has been able to achieve a goal that has eluded me for almost two years. No, she is simply sharing her happiness with her friends and celebrating a very special event in her life. No different than what I have done in regard to every happy event that has occurred in my own life.

"It's not about me" will be my mantra on Saturday. I will act happy for my friend, not only because it is the right thing to do, the only thing to do, but because I am genuinely happy for her, despite my own pain. I will make the day about L and her husband and their baby girl, as it should be.

I will try to remember that there will always be someone who has something I don't have that I desperately want. And that's OK.

Oh, and I will also spend the majority of the shower with my single childless girlfriends and avoid the pregnancy/labor/babies talk as much as possible.

ETA: I did get her a gift from her registry; MM and I made a quick in-and-out trip to Babies R Us just before it closed after dinner one night last week. I stuck to bedding to lessen the "ooh, it's so cute!!" factor.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Support & strategies sought

Next Saturday, I will be attending a baby shower for the friend I wrote about here. I am looking forward to the shower in one way: I will get to see my friend, the guest of honor (who I'll call "L"), and other friends who I don't see often since I moved from Tucson to Phoenix.

In other ways, though, I am dreading the shower. And I will confess that I haven't even bought a gift yet, when usually I would have done this weeks ahead, for the fun of it, especially for a baby girl. Just haven't been able to bring myself to set foot in Babies R Us, where she is registered.

I think anyone who has struggled with infertility can relate to my feelings of dread. A baby shower is one of the worst possible places to be for a woman who cannot have a child of her own. The last one I attended was in April 2009, around the time when we first started treatment. (I wrote about it here.) Parts of it were hard, but overall, I found it tolerable. We had just started using medical intervention, and though I am a pessimist by nature, I actually still had some hope that, with the help of medications and IUIs, we would conceive.

It has now been almost 10 months since that last shower. We are no longer doing intervention or actively TTC. I still think a lot about TTC, but I spend far more time now trying to come to terms with the probability that I will never have a baby of my own than I do dwelling on the day-to-day minutiae of TTC. It's a very different place to be, mentally.

This particular shower will be harder for me in several ways than a baby shower for another friend might be. (Hey, I am invited to another baby shower, for another friend in Tucson, the following Saturday! Maybe I should attend both so that I can compare and contrast and decide if this one truly is/was uniquely difficult.) First, as I mentioned in the post I wrote when L first told me about her pregnancy, L and her husband married the same year that MM and I did, and they actually started TTC several months after us. Unlike us, they weren't even sure whether they wanted children when they married.

Second, as I also write about in that post, L's due date is the same due date I would have had if my early miscarriage in August 2009 had not happened. This fact will make it especially hard for me not to dwell on my own loss. And L is having a girl. At this point, we would happily take any child, male or female, but both MM and I have expressed a preference for a girl in our many conversations about our future child.

Finally, though a couple of the friends who will be at the shower know that we have been TTC and/or that we would like to have children, none of them know that we spent a lot of last year doing intervention. None of them know about my miscarriage. So it likely wouldn't make any sense to them why I might be upset. Thus, I am determined NOT to show any outward signs of distress. . . . not only because of this, but also because I don't want to cast a pall on a fun shower for L.

So, ladies who have faced similar situations in the past. . . . give me some ideas and strategies for dealing with this event. L is a close enough friend that non-attendance is not an option, particularly given that she checked with me before setting the date to see if I was available and that she knows I will be in Tucson next weekend for unrelated reasons regardless.

Any advice will be appreciated.

P.S. Why is it that some days are so much harder than others? Some days I feel like I am fine and happy with my life as is, and then I feel OK with the idea that I will never have a child of my own. Other days, I feel very sad and low, and it's all I can do to get through the day without crying. (This is VERY unlike me, as I almost never cry. . . . or perhaps now I should say, I almost never cried before the past 22 failed cycles of TTC.)

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Another reason to blame myself

For the past year-and-a-half, I have been blaming myself for my inability to get pregnant. We know that my husband's sperm are 100% normal and abundant, so it is obvious that I am somehow the problem, though we are "unexplained." As a good friend who successfully overcame secondary infertility said to me, it only makes sense that it's something in my body that is preventing pregnancy, simply because there is so much more for a woman's body to DO to achieve and sustain a pregnancy. The fact that MM has normal sperm, and plenty of 'em, means that his part is done and done successfully.

In addition to asking myself "why?" over and over, I have regretted the fact that I waited until I was 37 years old to start TTC. Granted, I started TTC seven months after meeting MM--a move that some would probably consider crazy, or at least ill-advised, as we weren't even married at the time--but I have been plagued by the thought that I should have started sooner.

Of course, I honestly don't know if my "advanced age" is truly the cause of our infertility. Given my age and the lack of any other diagnosis, it certainly seems to be the most likely explanation. But I am fully aware that women 15 years younger than I are diagnosed with "unexplained" infertility every day.

It's a fact that had I started sooner (say, 5-10 years sooner) the father of my child would be someone other than my husband, and in fact, being a single mother would have meant that I would never have even dated MM, let alone married him. Neither of us ever dated anyone who was a single parent, for the simple reason that we did not want to be step-parents.

But as I believe I have mentioned before here, I've always wanted to be a mother much, much more than I wanted to be a wife. (Which is not to say that I am unhappy in my marriage. I love my husband, and we have a great relationship.) And had I never met MM, I really wouldn't have known what I'd missed.

Now, thanks to a random google search, I have an additional reason to blame myself besides just waiting too long: this one. This is something I've wondered about for a while, and here is proof.

My weight is the only other area of my life apart from infertility in which I have been a complete failure. I have been overweight to some degree my entire adult life, save about 6 months in college. I currently have a BMI of over 36.

I've always thought that, because my cycles were normal and regular, that my weight was having no effect on my fertility. Of course, I also thought that I would be able to have a child after 35, too.

Guess there are no limits to how wrong I can be.

I suppose a logical, rational person would say that I should lose weight, since unlike my age, my weight is something that is at least somewhat within my control. Were someone to suggest this to me, I would be forced to agree. In point of fact, my weight is something that I should be taking steps to reduce even were I not TTC, given my family history of heart disease and diabetes and my own high cholesterol and borderline high blood pressure.

But I have been fighting this particular demon for over 20 years, with only limited and temporary success. (I write another whole blog about my struggles with my weight, actually, and have for about 5 years.) Anyone who has spent the majority of her adult life battling her weight knows that though my weight is, theoretically, within my control, actually controlling it is easier said than done.

And at this point, who knows if losing weight would truly make a difference anyway? I will be 39 in just over a month. Even if I lost weight at a rate of a pound per week--what "they" say is a safe rate of weight loss--I would be 40 before my BMI dropped into the "healthy" range.

Acceptance is so much harder when you have yourself to blame for your problem.

P.S. I am so glad that I enabled comment moderation. Today a comment on my previous post arrived in my inbox from a spammer's profile. The comment read "Maybe your sole purpose in life is to serve as a warning to others." Someone certainly has too much time on his/her hands.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

The dollars & cents of it all

MM and I recently gathered our documentation to prepare our 2009 tax returns and as part of that process, I had to add up all the money we spent on fertility treatments last year. We spent:
  • $1324.53 on acupuncture and herbs
  • $1250 in co-pays to our RE's office
  • $975.53 on fertility medications
For a grand total of $3550.06. (I know that this estimate is conservative because I could not locate the receipts for some of our visits and could not get the information from the RE's office because they changed computer billing systems during the year.)

I realize that this is a drop in the bucket compared to what one IVF cycle would cost--not to mention the cost of actually having a child--and I am grateful that we had insurance which covered a portion of our IUI cycles and drugs. But I was still a little disturbed to think about the other things we could have done with over $3500. We could have taken another week-long trip to Maui, to cite one example. $3550.06 would have put a pretty big dent in the trip to Europe that we would love to take some time soon. I could've put it in my 401(k) or in my nephew's college savings account.

Thinking of another comparison, I would lay bets that this amount exceeds the total amount I paid for contraception prior to TTC. I only used birth control pills and condoms, and I never paid more than $20/month for birth control pills (often less) and rarely bought my own condoms (I left that to my respective partners, figuring "if you wanna play, you gotta pay"). I wasn't on the pill 100% of the time either, only times when I was sexually active. I would have had to take nearly 15 years of birth control pills at $20/month to exceed $3550.06.

Seeing these numbers in black and white and knowing that they got us no closer to our goal of having a child makes me even more glad that we stopped pursuing treatment. All this $3550.06 got us was frustration, heightened disappointment when my period arrived every cycle in spite of the money we'd spent, and stress. . . . oh, and hot flashes and mood swings for me.

On the other hand, had any of our treatments been successful and actually resulted in a living child of our own, I'm sure I would consider this money well spent. In fact, in the big picture, I'd probably consider it a small price to pay to be a parent.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Random thoughts

  • How come no one ever tells couples who are physically able to have biological children that they should adopt? There have been a number of times in my life when a friend or acquaintance has shared that she and her husband (or he and his wife) are "trying" to have a baby, and not once have I ever heard someone respond by saying "you should just adopt instead." Is it only infertile couples who have the moral responsibility to "help a child in need" and put aside their natural inclination to procreate?
  • I hate it when people say "there are so many children out there who need good homes." On the one hand, there is no arguing with this admittedly true statement. On the other hand, we did not set out to "save the world, one child at a time" when we decided we wanted to be parents. I applaud and commend those people for whom adopting older children, especially those with challenges, is their choice, but this was not our aim when we thought of becoming parents and is still not our goal.
  • Why does everyone feel the need to ask a married couple when they intend to have children? Though to be fair, I must admit I have asked this question of couples many, many times over the years, so this is probably just karmic payback for me.
  • MM asked me this morning if I would "pee on those ovulation sticks" this cycle. He expressed concern that we somehow missed my fertile window last cycle. And here I thought we were no longer actively TTC. Hmm. Guess someone hasn't truly given up on the notion that we will somehow, miraculously, conceive on our own. (I am going to use the OPKs since it is important to him. I am currently on CD 7, so I won't start for a few more days.)
  • On a related note. . . . were I to conceive this cycle, my due date would be very close to my inlaws' (and my nephew's) birthdays, 11/6 and 11/8. How sad is it that I was able to calculate this in my head and get within 5 days? It's so hard to un-train the brain.
  • MM has mentioned several times over the past few weeks that "we should adopt an orphan from Haiti." I have pointed out to him the inconsistency of this idea with his previously-expressed feelings about adoption; this is a man who previously has said he does not even want to adopt a newborn. He acknowledged the inherent conflict in his thinking. I guess if you want MM to be your adoptive father, you need to come from an impoverished country and survive a natural disaster. . . . merely being an American child who has been abused or neglected wouldn't be enough to qualify you. ;-)