Tag Archives: infertility

We Might Be Okay Now, Well Better Than Last Year

Fifty-two months ago Adrienne had a hysterectomy. We have seen four Mother’s and Father’s Days since the decision.  Each one is easier than the previous however for some reason this Father’s day was more melancholy for me than the previous.  The first Mother’s Day Adrienne wrote

There is no I-had-my-uterus-and-ovaries-taken-at-32-so-I-will-never-have-children-of-my-own day. If someone makes one, I hope it’s in August. I don’t have anything else to celebrate in August.

The name isn’t catchy, the sentiment too raw, and it risks emphasizing our infertility.  Whatever it is named, we observe that day on August 11th.  I originally posted a request to our friends in this blog in 2010 where I detail objectives of the day. We receive a nice response each year.

Most of the time we are okay. Every once in a while emotion overwhelms us.  2013 has been pretty good, evidenced by the sparse blog updates on the subject. (Read most of the saga there.)  Thank you to all our friends sending Adie well-wishes yesterday.  It really means a lot to the both of us.  We spent the day playing video games then went to a private restaurant industry party, kind of a typical day off for us.

I am thankful that Adie & I survived the crucible.  Through the moments of weakness, flaring rage and years of emotional strife we built an unshakable relationship that continues to broaden and deepen.  With all we have been through I am profoundly grateful for this relationship borne partly from hardship.

To end this post I want to invite curious readers to ask me about the experience.  I feel compelled to talk about it, however the subject rarely surfaces and most people awkwardly change the subject.  Engage me if you are going through something similar and want to talk, or just want to know what it is like.  I may tear up, but I am better than last year – sadness and joy are part of life.

I really thought I’d be ok.

It’s been awhile, and I thought I’d be ok. Really. I mean, it’s been years, right? We live in a new state, with new friends, new jobs, new opportunities, and we’ve worked so very hard on learning to deal with this sort of thing. But for some reason when I went to the mailbox today (incidentally, checking the mail is one of my favorite things–you never know what you’re going to get! It’s like Christmas everyday! So fun!) I got a very nice envelope, address to Dr. Adrienne Brundage (nope, still not tired of the “doctor thing!) and in side was a single square of pink cardstock:

 Please join us for a baby shower!

It’s all pink and embellished with flowers and birds and an adorable stroller and it’s for a good friend and all I could do was stand in the driveway and cry.

I dunno. I thought I was through this part. I thought I had a handle on this sort of thing. Dean and I are at the age where we know lots and lots of families. Many of our friends are having kids. I understand there are babies out there. I’ve even cuddled more than my fair share…but for some reason this one hit me.

I think it’s the baby shower thing. I haven’t been to a baby shower since the “thou shalt not have children” verdict came down. I have been to many showers (and even thrown a few myself) and I know exactly what to expect. It will be a wonderful day…full of happy, giggling women excited about the prospect of a new baby. There will be gifts. There will be games. There will be endless talk of all things child. And I can’t do it.

I love my friend. I love her with all my heart, and I am super excited for her and her husband (seriously! They are going to make amazing parents! And I can’t wait to spoil this kid rotten. Oh, the plans I have!) but the idea of spending an entire afternoon at a party basically checking off a mental list of all the things I’m never going to have or experience…I can’t do that. Not even for a friend.

So I stood in my driveway and cried, while my dog rooted around in the neighbor’s yard. I cried for all the pink or blue or gender-neutral colored presents I’ll never open. I cried for those stupid party games where you drink juice from a baby bottle or pick diaper pins from a bowl of rice. I cried for all the advice from the older generation that I will never get. I cried for all the celebrating that I know I just can’t do for or with my friend. I cried for my family, who even though they say they are ok with us not having kids I’m pretty sure they are not. I cried for Dean who would make the most amazing father in all of the land and I can’t give him this. I cried for me, because I honestly thought I was ok, and apparently I’m still not. I don’t know if I’ll ever be.

I knew this was coming. I had prepared myself for the invite. I even talked it over with another infertile girlfriend and we had a plan. That plant went out the window. Instead I walked to the local liquor store and tried to buy some pumpkin pie schnapps. They didn’t have any. I probably shouldn’t be drinking that stuff anyhow.  Maybe I’ll just be done with today and go to bed.

When is this going to end? I’d like to be a part of peoples’ live, and this whole having a baby thing is a big part of their lives. I’d like to not break down anymore over receiving a silly card in the mail. I’d like to not have to make excuses when I RSVP.

I’d really like to stop crying in my driveway on a Wednesday afternoon over something I cannot change. I really thought I’d be ok. I guess I’m not, yet.

Happy Bragging Day (still not quite right, but getting closer)

Fourty months ago Adrienne had a hysterectomy.   We saw three Mother’s and Father’s Days since the decision.  Each one is easier than the previous.  The first one Adrienne wrote

There is no I-had-my-uterus-and-ovaries-taken-at-32-so-I-will-never-have-children-of-my-own day. If someone makes one, I hope it’s in August. I don’t have anything else to celebrate in August.

Today, August 11th, we observe that day.  The name isn’t catchy, the sentiment too raw, and it risks emphasizing our infertility.  One friend suggested Bragging Day and sometimes we call it Phantom Uterus Day, but I’m not sure either gets the point across.  Adie & I had some decisions, truly life-altering, world-shaking realities, forced on us but we want to make something positive out of our situation.

Let’s try to give today a good name.  Please think about someone that cannot or will not have kids and drop them a note to:

Celebrate the life and happiness they have

We let go of a lifetime of desires and expectations while simultaneously redefining and reorienting ourselves.  This process is not over, but our goal on this day is to be happy with all we have.

Emphasize accomplishments

Birthing and raising children is often quoted as the biggest accomplishment a person can make.  We do not believe it.  Your affirmation drives us on to other altruistic endeavors.

Show that they are whole people

Any -ectomy takes something away from a person.  We felt “broken” and may not get over that.

Today is not about trying or failing to be a parent.  We need neither sympathy nor reminders of our “enviable freedom” and that parenthood is “not all joy“.  At the same time the day’s purpose is not to belittle family.  Reinforce the good things that all of us do.

If you have a good name for today post it in the comments, twitter, facebook or email.

Infertility Checkup

It has been twenty-eight months since Adrienne’s hysterectomy.  Last year I made a request to our friends to help us celebrate our post-infertility life.  August 11th is this week and we still don’t have a name for I-had-my-uterus-and-ovaries-taken-at-32-so-I-will-never-have-children-of-my-own day (someone call Hallmark).  At any rate, here’s what we are going to do on Thursday.

Celebrate the life and happiness we have

We celebrated our 10 year anniversary last September with an Alaskan cruise.  We stay out late and listen to live music and her migraines due to hormone replacement are far more infrequent.  Adrienne spent ten days in Malaysia.  We continue to thrive despite my layoff eight months ago.

Emphasize accomplishments

Adie passed her PhD qualifying exams and is nearly finished!  I founded a brewery and a freelance software company.   These things are not impossible with children in tow, but I would feel much more pressure to stabilize our income and she to stay home if there was more responsibility over our heads.

Show that we are whole people

Any -ectomy takes something beyond guts & viscera away from a person.  As time goes on this feeling fades.  You’ll have to take it from Adrienne, because I don’t really know what it’s like.

I’ll close the same way I did last year: we are not the only ones.

So many couples and singles struggle with their sense of childless self worth.
Think of them on this day.  If you would like to help, it is simple as a phone call, email, tweet or Facebook post just to say “hi” or to remind someone of the good they do.

This day is not about trying or failing to be a parent.  We need neither sympathy nor reminders of our “enviable freedom” and that parenthood is “not all joy“.  At the same time the day’s purpose is not to belittle family.  Remember, Adrienne and I still make a family.  Reinforce the good things that all of do.

A Request to Friends

It has been sixteen months since Adrienne had a hysterectomy.  Saying “we’ve been through a lot” is meaningless truth.  Adie and I will never be parents.  Ultimately the decision was ours, heavily influenced by cold biological facts.  This blog is small catharsis, but its material is not for those with a weak emotional constitution.

We have seen two Mother’s and Father’s Days since the decision.  Each one is easier than the previous.  The first one Adrienne wrote

“There is no I-had-my-uterus-and-ovaries-taken-at-32-so-I-will-never-have-children-of-my-own day. If someone makes one, I hope it’s in August. I don’t have anything else to celebrate in August.”

I will observe this day on August 11th and I am asking our friends to do so with me.  The name isn’t catchy, the sentiment too raw, and it risks emphasizing our infertility.  With a little effort we can all turn this day into something positive. This day we should:

Celebrate the life and happiness we have

We let go of a lifetime of desires and expectations while simultaneously redefining and reorienting ourselves.  This process is not over, but our goal on this day is to be happy with all we have.

Emphasize accomplishments

Birthing and raising children is often quoted as the biggest accomplishment a person can make.  We do not believe it.  Your affirmation drives us on to other altruistic endeavors.

Show that we are whole people

Any -ectomy takes something away from a person.  We felt “broken” and may not get over that.

We are not the only ones

So many couples and singles struggle with their sense of childless self worth.
Think of them on this day.  If you would like to help, it is simple as a phone call, email, tweet or Facebook post just to say “hi” or to remind someone of the good they do.

This day is not about trying or failing to be a parent.  We need neither sympathy nor reminders of our “enviable freedom” and that parenthood is “not all joy“.  At the same time the day’s purpose is not to belittle family.  Reinforce the good things that all of do.

I would like to recognize Mandy Tompkins’ kind help in putting this together.  She has been there before us and gone on.

That is not who we are now

I don’t remember the year we decided to try, 2003 probably.  It was a New Year’s Eve, near the same hour of the night when I proposed to Adrienne.  I still remember the thrill of intentional unprotected sex.  A mixture of excitement, apprehension, hope and orgasam.  After that, the time between 2004 and 2010 was mostly pain and frustration.

It’s Infertility Awareness Week.  Right now 7.3 million Americans are somewhere along the same path we took; many of them are as lost as we were.  One of those people may be you.  I can not know what you feel, but I know it is crushingly real.

Ours is not a typical infertility story that odds-be-damned ends with a cherished miracle.  Adrienne and I held fast in the medical treatment crucible while the options frustratingly expired despite our efforts.  We wanted children but have physical and financial limits, so leave that struggle behind us, heads bloody but unbowed.

That we are still together evinces the commitment we made for better or worse, in sickness and in health.  We love each other for neither fecundity nor financial motives, but for the people we are; tempered by that crucible.

Although the strength of our relationship carried us, it took the help of an invaluable infertility therapist, kind family and trusted friends.  Without them, mourning the miscarriages and internalizing our situation would have been impossibly arduous.  Letting go of a lifetime of desires and expectations while trying to redefine and reorient yourself is not easy.

We are no longer the-couple-that-can’t-conceive.  The desire will never leave, but I refuse to let it shape me into a bitter childfree person who congregates on forums proclaiming I want nothing to do with children while ranting about affronts of “breeders” and their rugrats.  That is not who we are now.  We moved on.

Instead we find ways to take joy in each other, our careers, hobbies and the people around us.  It feels similar to that first night: excitement, apprehension, disappointment, and hope, but most of all it feels victorious.

Once Upon a Time, There Was a Girl….

So once again, despite the sleeping pills and the amitriptyline and an active day, my phantom uterus has decided I don’t need to sleep. Sounds like a good time for story telling, huh?

My endometriosis returned in June, 2008…a scant 6 months after extensive laparoscopic surgery to correct the problem. New town, new state, new doctor, more treatments. We started with birth control pills–many women find relief when on these, and my early 20’s were cramp free due to the miracle of ortho tri-cyclen. After three months of trials, the pills just weren’t cutting it, so I went on an implant birth control. The doctor said that it would take a few months for the implant to start working, and prescribed me morphine for the days when my endo flared up so badly I couldn’t walk.
Things were going ok…I would go to the doctor regularly to get a new shot, I was only out of commission a few days a month, and I was hoping things would improve substantially as soon as my body got used to the new treatment. That didn’t work out so well.

In January of 2009, the endometriosis moved from my uterus to my ovaries. Ovaries are sensitive beasts, as anyone with an ovarian cyst can attest. The endo began to cause a squeezing sensation, almost a pulse, that would knock the wind out of me and make me nauseous. Gentlemen…you know when you get kicked in the nuts, and you bend over all winded and sweating and gagging, then curl up on the ground until the pain goes away? Well, ovaries are derived from the same tissue, with the same nerve endings, and the same capacity for pain. Imagine someone squeezing your balls harder and harder all day, every day. Then imagine going to work.

The doctor prescribed more morphine and vicodin for the bad days. I took it. Things held stable until March, when my ovaries attached to my ureters (for those who haven’t taken an anatomy class lately, that’s the tubes between the kidneys and the bladder). They just bent inward and attached. Awesome. The doctor upped my dose of pain killers.

Then my small and large intestines got in on the act, and attached to the ovary/ureter love fest that was going on in my abdomen. This meant that every time I had something to eat, my intestines would contract, tearing at the ovarian mess. I can’t even describe…I would sit at my desk and cry. I’d hit the wall. I’ll throw up in the trash can. I’d shake and sweat as blood drained from my face until it was over. Then I’d get up and go to work.

I tried special diets; I tried vitamins; I tried herbs; I tried massage; I tried music therapy; I tried it all. The doctor gave me more pain meds. By April, I was up to 6 prescriptions, and could barely get out of bed in the morning. Walking was a chore. I couldn’t even contemplate going horseback riding when we went to Virginia, and had to skip out on sight seeing because moving my legs hurt too much. Dean had to get me a wheel chair in the airport on the way home.

We went to the doctor as soon as we got back, and were told the next treatment would take a few days to get approved by our insurance. I was going to go on lupron, which would shut down my ovaries and shrink the endo. We wait 5 days. Dean calls. The treatment hasn’t been approved yet. Things get worse. Dean calls 24 hours later. The nurse is very sympathetic but nothing has changed. She prescribes yet another pain pill. I’m taking so many pills at this point that I can barely walk on my own. I’m not allowed to drive or operate heavy machinery. I can’t remember the last time I was allowed to handle a sharp object. We go back in to the doctor the next day, and this time I go in without any pain meds in my system. I almost didn’t make the walk from the car to the office. The doctor found me curled up and crying on the exam table, and the nurse had to walk me through deep breathing exercises so the doctor could examine me. They made me lie there until the worst of the pain subsided a bit, and by that time I was begging for another surgery.

They took out my uterus a week later. You know what sucks? Filling out advanced directives. Every time I have an operation they make me fill these out. Along with my wishes-should-I-become-a-vegetable, I also write a list of things for Dean…things I usually do for us so he won’t be too lost if I go. This time I also wrote him a letter. I was really scared for this operation…much worse than the last few. I just couldn’t go under thinking that I would never get to say things to him, so I wrote him a letter that he’d find with my advanced directives. That part made me cry.

The surgery went fine. Things were all gummed up, but they made it out ok. My recovery room was in the maternity ward–good thing I was on morphine. I watched new mothers carry new babies up and down the hall all night. That’ll stick with me, I think.

Now I’m getting better, slowly but surely. I get tired a lot, and this whole surgical menopause thing came close to killing me (or making me kill other people), but that’s just physical. The mental part is what’s bad now, and that’s really the point of writing this, you know?

Because you see, I’m now the girl-who-couldn’t-get-pregnant. I’m that one friend that tried for years and then had to have her uterus taken out. I’m that friend of a friend who gets stories told about her to sympathetic ladies and they all shake their fertile heads and say “Aw! Poor thing!”

Lately I’ve been getting emails. Some woman will have trouble getting pregnant, and she’ll drop me a note. “How do you do it? How do you deal with this? Isn’t it hard? What do I do? I need help!” So I write back. I pour my heart out into every email. I tell her what will happen. I tell her how I deal. I tell her what I cry about. Three months later she sends me a happy note saying she’s pregnant. Then I get an email from her friend, who just can’t seem to conceive. So I do it again, because that’s who I am. I’m the girl-who-couldn’t-get-pregnant.

Now don’t get me wrong–I love helping people, and I especially love sharing my experiences with people who need some support from someone who’s been there (and goodness knows, I’ve been there). Honestly, what is the good of going through something like this if I can’t share it with someone I love? When my family comes to me especially, those who share the same genes and have a very real possibility of sharing these problems, I’ll relive the whole thing, top to bottom, beginning to end, just to maybe help them out a little. At the very least I’ll know what they are going through! The problem I have is when some acquaintance reads these blogs and contacts me 10 days after she started trying.

The other day I was talking to some friends, and mentioned that my favorite sound ever is the sound of cicadas. She replied with “you like it even better than baby giggles?” That gave me pause. I naturally quickly replied “yep” and changed the subject, but it affected me. What am I missing out on? How am I going to relate to women my own age? Or really women in general? I won’t have those same experiences; I won’t place importance on physical and mental achievements of my offspring.
With this in the forefront of my mind, I went and checked my Facebook friend feed, and found that overwhelmingly the ladies of my age group were all posting about their children. This is what I found:

“Enjoyed margaritas and a movie…yes, the baby was asleep”
“I wonder how a ten year old can literally RIP his sandals to shreds through normal daily wear”
“My boy is determined to master his tricycle! On, off, on, off… now if he could just get the hang of this pedaling thing!”
“Thinking about my friend who is having her baby twins today….”
“ I think it’s a story time day.”
“My baby is being so brave on her 1st day of gymnastics! So proud!”
“Did not win mom of the year today, but I did manage to fix the garbage disposal…”
“I have a new baby girl. 8lbs 5oz, 20″, 3:34am on 6/15”
“Being tested by my son at the park.”
“ 1 more week of getting kids to school. :)”
“Nothing like dreaming about my daughter not feeling good to wake up 20 minutes later to find she threw up all over her bed :-(“
“ So excited to take my son camping in a few days and DONE with school!! YAAAYYY!!”
“My girl is graduating from preschool tomorrow!!!”

That’s all from one day. Tie that to the endless (and I mean endless) photos of kids and parents and milestones, and my Facebook page is just one big mommy party. It’s a little confusing, I guess. I mean, how am I going to relate with these women ever again? I know they have lives outside their kids, and I know many of them work, but kids are really the center of any conversation when talking to any procreating woman, ever. The common ground is getting smaller and smaller.

I got my first publication last year–huge deal. I’ve been working towards it for years and years and years, and it was amazing. The problem was, few of my friends and family were as excited as I. You know what was exciting? Baby showers. Our new house. Which room in the new house we’re going to set aside for the nursery. It’s like I’m moving further and further away from a life I wanted while watching other people live it.

Yes, yes. I know. “Being a mom isn’t all joy and laughter” “you can still be a mother if you want” “We have problems too, and envy your freedom.” I’ve heard all the consoling phrases before. I know a mom isn’t all fun–but would you give it up? For anything? I know I can adopt, but we decided not to. I’m sure you envy my freedom–but would you really give it up? For anything? It’s a melancholy, lonely feeling not being able to participate in a major life phase. And I didn’t have a choice about it. I didn’t get to say “I don’t want kids” and then surround myself with people who were of the same mind. Nope. I tried. We tried. Now we’re the ones who couldn’t get pregnant, surrounded by the ones who could. I will forever be watching families grow from the outside, smiling at the stories, cooing over the pictures, and listening to the mothers complain. But I won’t really be a part of it, you see. I don’t fit in any more with the mommies, and I don’t fit in with the career driven women. What do I do now?

But I can’t really tell anyone this, now can I. Everyone has advice, or words of encouragement, or some tale that’s supposed to make me feel better. I know it’s all because they love me and want to help, but I’m ambivalent about this whole situation. When someone tries to make me feel better about the situation, all it does is pick at a wound in ways you could never understand.
Of course, if I say that out loud, then people stop talking about anything child related all together. I hate walking into a room of women as it suddenly goes silent. The walking-on-egg-shells-around-Adie game isn’t any better than the picking-at-the-wound game. I hate that light, feigned casual tone family members use when telling me someone is pregnant. I hate the side long glances when someone mentions a baby shower. I hate the pitiful smiles and slow head shakes when all-things-family are brought up. And the worst part is I don’t know what will fix it. I can’t tell anyone what to do or what not to do, because it will all be wrong. I’m an unintentional outcast among those I love and cherish the most, and no one can do anything about it.

I don’t know what I’m trying to say with all this. I’m told I need to tell people straight out what I need because they can’t read my mind, and if I don’t do that then I have no right to be upset. But I don’t know what I need in this case. I don’t know what I want or wish or dream about or anything. I know I’m beginning to resent advice from people who aren’t in my exact situation. No, you can’t know what this is like if you have kids. No, you can’t know what this is like if you chose not to have kids. No, you don’t know what this is like. I barely know what this is like. Have you ever had your entire future erased? All the plans you made, all the things you hoped for, changed? Have you ever watched everyone else get to do the one thing you want?

Kids are a huge part of your life, good or bad, right or wrong, accident or on purpose. So much of this life is spent talking about the wonder and joy of kids. How many times have you heard someone say the greatest thing you could do is mother a child? How many motivational posters are out there encouraging you to mentor a child, teach a child, love a child because children are the greatest gift? Has a mother ever once been faulted for putting her child first? Ever? So this is how I grew up. This is what I based my life upon. This is who my female mentors were, because this is such a big, big part of being female. The biological imperative. Now that all of that is gone, it’s like I’ve been set adrift with no anchor, no map. Who am I supposed to look up to now? Who do I relate to? To whom can I turn?
I guess I make my own way. I’ll do what I can to keep everyone from feeling uncomfortable around me. Thank goodness I have Dean. He’s been the one constant that I can cling to through this whole thing–the one person who knows exactly what to say and what not to say. The one man in the world who I think can survive this with me. He and I will make our own way. He and I will figure out what the hell we’re supposed to do now. He and I. So I’m not all alone, after all. What a good word for him? Life vest? Anchor in a storm? No…something more. Something much, much more.

So no, baby giggles are not my favorite sound. I wanted them to be, but I couldn’t have that. If anyone asks, cicadas and thunderstorms make me smile, Dean is my everything, and I’m no longer the one-who-couldn’t-get pregnant. When I figure out what I am…when WE figure out what we are, we’ll let you all know.

If You Lay Down and Cry You Get Tears In Your Ears

So it’s 11:54 pm on Sunday, May 10, 2009. It’s the last 6 minutes of mother’s day. It really was a great day, you know? I emailed students, I did a small organizational project I’ve wanted to do, and I spent all day with Dean. It was generally nice.

I called my mom, of course, and Dean called his, and we talked about presents and celebrations and all the goodness of the day. Every site I went to had a “happy mother’s day!” banner, adorned by flowers and cute insects; facebook had more baby pictures than ads; even gossip sites had features on famous mothers and children. I enjoyed reading it, I swear. That is, until I read that one blog about famous mothers’ favorite lines in childrens’ books.

Books are my escape. There are so many worlds to explore, characters to love and hate and fear and cherish. It what I do when I’m happiest; it’s what I do when I’m down. It’s where I go.

Reading a list of beloved lines from beloved books…my books, my havens, my happy places…and having them tied to happy moments with children broke me tonight.

The thing is, I will never, ever have a mother’s day. I will never have toddlers bringing me weeds in a boquet which I’ll proudly display on the table. I’ll never have surly teenagers reluctantly bring me breakfast in bed. I’ll never have a 20-something call me late in the evening pretending he hadn’t forgoten the date. I’ve seen it happen–I’ve even been on the kid side of that equation. I heard a thousand stories today, each sweeter than the last. My “I played video games and cleaned out the freezer!” story just doesn’t hold a candle.

There is no I-had-my-uterus-and-overies-taken-at-32-so-I-will-never-have-children-of-my-own day. If someone makes one, I hope it’s in August. I don’t have anything else to celebrate in August.

–Adrienne

So you want to know about my surgery, eh?

…if not, then you probably shouldn’t read the next several paragraphs; that’s all I’m gonna talk about now. Woo!

At the moment I’m lying in bed enjoying my very first day of trying not to take massive amounts of narcotics. Those make me loopy! And tired. And a little giggly, but giggling makes my incisions hurt, so that’s a bad thing. Let me start from the beginning.

We’ve been trying to get pregnant (big surprise? I thought that’d be huge!). After years of nothing working and countless procedures, we’ve decided that it’d be in our best interest (not to mention my body’s ever-lovin’ gratefulness) to stop the nonsense and move on.

Well, we’re doing that. It’s been rough, but it’s fine now. However, my body seemed to have a slightly different idea of moving on. Apparently “moving on” in body-speak translates to “give her excruciating pain for months on end. It’ll be fun!” So that’s what it did. We’re talking bad pain here–so bad that it made my old cramps look like a stubbed toe. Starting around may I was spending several days wrapped around the toilet and powering my way through hard tasks such as eating cereal and walking to the car.

By August things had gotten worse–now it was lower abdominal pain pretty much all the time. There we were, out in Virginia, and I couldn’t even get out of bed. It was waking me up at night, I was over-dosing on Tylenol PM just so I could sleep, and for most of the day I couldn’t even stand up straight. You try attending a family party in that state. That was sucky.

Anyhow, it seems that the endometriosis I banished 2 years ago (via another surgery) has come back with a vengeance. I guess I just pissed it off last time. Who knew I could hurt its feelings?

I don’t like my old doctor. I was there a lot (A LOT!!) during the past few years, and it never worked, and he put me through a lot of pain, and we’ve spent the last 12 months desperately trying to pay off my medical bills (“What do you MEAN we owe you another $756?!? We called last month and you said that payment of over a thousand was the last one ever! You promised!” Imagine that for a full year) and I really, really, really didn’t want to go back. So much so, that I didn’t tell anyone how much pain I was in for a very long time. Dean didn’t even know. I remember sneaking out of bed at night very, very quietly and taking handfuls of pain killers so I could sleep. I also found that vicodin took the edge off enough that I could teach without racing out of the class to puke every few moments. Of course, trying to answer stupid questions while doped up was an adventure, and involved a lot of giggling on my part (good thing that’s nothing new, or my students would have noticed!)

Long story short, I didn’t want to go back to my doctor. I actually blame him for a lot of things, the least of which are the permanent track marks on my arms from blood tests. So I didn’t tell anyone because I knew the instant reaction of “go to the doctor” would follow.

Dean eventually figured it out (it’s really hard to puke-and-sob silently, damnit!) and insisted I go to the doctor. The predictable breakdown on my part followed, and then Dean was in charge of finding a new doctor and navigating the murky depths of our health insurance. We looked a two doctors (by “we” I mean “Dean got the names from the endometriosis support group, called the doctors, talked a bit, checked with the insurance company to see if they were covered, then dropped me an email with the name”) and one was covered by insurance. And also happens to be the head of the endometriosis society, the editor of the endometriosis journal, and the foremost expert in minimally invasive surgery in the United States. I choose him!

We go for an initial consultation (hey dildo-shaped ultra sound wand! How I’ve missed you!) and it goes something like this: “Take off your pants–we need to do a pelvic exam. Huh. You have endometriosis. I can feel an adhesion through your abdominal wall…sex must be painful, yes? Well, let’s do an ultra sound…ok, you have poly cystic ovaries. Yes, I know it hurts, just a moment…ah, your left ovary is adhered to the side of your uterus, and your uterus is abnormally tipped. Let’s go see the doctor!”

Ah, fun for me. So the doctor (well, the other doctor. The one that did the exam was a surgeon as well, just not the head surgeon for the center. Woo for having a pelvic exam by a real doctor! That’s new) was very soft spoken and nice–here’s his intro “I will never say I’m the best at what I do. But I challenge anyone who says he is he best and I will win. So I hear you wanted this surgery yesterday?” That won me over. And yes, I wanted the surgery as soon as possible.

So we schedule the surgery for four weeks hence: October 24th in the morning. Fun! That gives me four weeks to learn all about the possible side effects and have various people tell me all manner of interesting things about surgery (Quick aside–I teach human biology, people! If and when anyone with less education than me feels the need to explain the intricacies of the reproductive system to me, I’m just going to ignore it. You’re invariably wrong, and I’m invariably annoyed. Yes, I know you’re just trying to help, but you have to remember I do know what I’m talking about, and when you say things like “well, you do have two ovaries you know!” I have to fight the urge to scream ‘Do you think I’m stupid?!? Do you want to explain what all those other fancy words mean too? I just don’t know!’ But then that would cause a scene and I’d have to end up apologizing and whatnot, and I just don’t care for that course of action. There. I’m better now).

So pre-op arrives, and I cancel office hours to go, which confuses my students to no end at all. Who knew someone wanted to see me in office hours? Weird! Dean and I go, and we get to sign all manner of fun paperwork. Do I have advanced directives? Yes. I want to live, damnit! Do I have a will? No. Who is my next of kin? Dean. Am I scared? Yes. That last one wasn’t actually on the paperwork, but my quivering innards seemed to give me away.

Well, then we get a stack of prescription papers, the paper with all the stuff they’ll be doing to me the next day (they have to do everything! And it all ends in “oscopy!”) and a list of fun things for me to do the next day.

And let me tell you about the next day. So I’m not allowed to eat after 12 noon, which means no workout. After noon, I can have clear liquids (and Jell-o) and then three o’clock rolls around. At three o’clock I have to begin my colon cleanse, because they need to check all of my innards, you see. All of them.

Anyone had to do a colon cleanse? Well, “suck” is a mild word. So they give you these two, 1.5 oz bottles of saline with other stuff to drink. You have to drink the whole thing–yum. Who in their right mind decided to make a super salty drink lemon-ginger flavor?!? Oh…my…god was it awful. It actually took me 45 minutes to drink the full ounce and a half. Gahhhhh! It was super gross. Now, when the nurse talked to me about the colon prep, she said that it would take about an hour to kick in, then I better be near a toilet. Ooooooohhhhh, was she right! Have you heard of that stuff called “colon blow?” Yep–that’s exactly what happened. For hours. It was horrible. Then I had to take another dose! Oh dear lord! When will this stop?!? By the end of the night I was ready to knock myself out just to get off the damn toilet. FYI–don’t try and go to a movie during a colon prep…worst two hours of all time. And I couldn’t have popcorn!

So we show up at Stanford (yay Stanford) at 5 am the next morning for the surgery. After a long talk with the insurance guy (well, one surgeon is covered but not the other. Don’t worry…we won’t charge you more than $2000.) I get to go into the cold back room, take off my clothes and talk to the nice nurses about what’s going to happen to me. “So, did you have a good response to the colon prep?” HA! Hahahahahah! Ah, the jokes of doctor-types. The last thing I remember is being wheeled into the OR with crazy-making stuff in my blood stream making me laugh.

I wake up apparently 3 1/2 hours later in recovery (I was there for over 2 hours…I remember maybe 40 seconds of it) with a sand bag on my belly. Sand bag! All I could croak out was “what’s on my stomach?” and then “get it off!” For hours. Stupid sand bag. Well, hours of in and out of consciousness later, I get to stay in the hospital over night. That’s where they keep the good drugs. Who knew morphine burned when they put it in the iv? Mmm…burning drugs…. Of course, they had to wake me up every 90 minutes to pee and walk around. Stupid nurses who give me good drugs!

Well, it ends up they did a laperoscopy and removed the extensive endometriosis. They also looked inside and out of my large and small intestines, my stomach, my diaphragm, and my appendix. I got to keep my appendix. Yay! (Did you know they discovered the purpose of the appendix? How awesome is that! And I still have one! Woo!) Then they looked inside of my bladder and discovered I have interstitial cystitis or over active bladder. Ok, I knew I had to pee a lot, but I didn’t think it was that bad. Nope, it wasn’t. They also did a bunch of other cuts and whatnot, but I forget what all they did. I do know it hurt.

So I had to pee after having a camera shoved up my urethra. That burns!! Burns I say! And it also hurts and stuff. Stupid having to pee! Here’s my advice–unless it hurts all the time, don’t tell any doctor ever that you have to pee a lot. They’ll just do horrible things to you that make you pee dye and bleed out of weird places. Don’t do it!

Dean came and got me early the next morning, after my 2 mandatory bowls of vegetable broth, and I got a complimentary ride in a wheelchair to the car. It was bumpy and ouchy! Then I came home and slept. And peed. Then cried a little. Then got all doped up on pills, then did it all again. Now it’s almost a week later, and I’m just about ready to sit up all on my own. I’m (mostly) off narcotics now–I can almost handle the pain all on my own. Yay me!

That’s it for now…this blog took me like 6 hours to write while I tried to sleep or take my meds or something. There you go! I’m fine, although a bit ouchy now, and I’d love to see people if you wanna come and visit. Thank you for all your notes and stuff! Love you all!

About Our Infertility

I originally published this on MySpace in January of 2007.

Thanks for taking the time

Thank you for taking the time to read this. I realize the post is quite lengthy, but it is important to us that you have an idea of what we are going through. These are mostly not my words – I found this in an alt.infertility.primary post, but everything here applies to us. I have added emphasis where I thought appropriate. –Dean

About Our Infertility

Adrienne knows that you love her and want her to be happy, to be her “old self” again. Maybe lately, she seems isolated, depressed or obsessed with the idea of having a baby.

You probably have difficulty understanding why getting pregnant has colored virtually every aspect of her daily life. Adie hopes that by reading this , written by psychologists with both personal and professional experience with infertility, you will better understand the pain she is feeling. This letter also will tell you how you can help her.

SOME FACTS ABOUT INFERTILITY

It may surprise you to know that one out of six women who wants to have a baby cannot conceive. There are many possible reasons for this dismal statistic: blocked fallopian tubes, ovarian failure, hormonal imbalances, toxic exposure, husband’s low sperm count, to name just a few. Moreover, after a woman turns 35, it becomes difficult to have a baby primarily because many of the eggs she has left are defective.

All these barriers to pregnancy are physical or physiological, not psychological. Tubes don’t become blocked because a woman is “trying too hard” to get pregnant. Antibodies that kill sperm will not disappear if a woman simply relaxes. And a man cannot make his sperm swim faster by developing a more optimistic outlook.

WELL-MEANING ADVICE

When someone we care about has a problem, it is natural to try to help. If there’s nothing specific that we can do, we try to give helpful advice. Often, we draw on our personal experiences or on anecdotes involving other people we know. Perhaps you recall a friend who had trouble getting pregnant until she and her husband went to a tropical island. So you suggest that she and I take a vacation, too.

We appreciate your advice, but cannot use it because of the physical nature of our problems. Not only can we not use your advice, the sound of it upsets Adie greatly. Indeed, she is inundated with this sort of advice at every turn. Imagine how frustrating it must be for her to hear about other couples who “magically” become pregnant during a vacation simply by making love. To us, undergoing infertility treatment, making love and conceiving a child have very little to do with one another, now. You can’t imagine how hard we have been trying to have this baby and how crushed Adie and I feel every month we learn that we failed again. Your well-meaning advice is an attempt to transform an extremely complicated predicament into a simplistic little problem. By simplifying our problems in this manner, you’ve diminished the validity of our emotions, making us feel psychologically undervalued. Naturally, both of us will feel angry and upset with you under these circumstances.

The truth is: There’s practically nothing concrete you can do to help Adrienne. The best help you can provide is to be understanding and supportive. It’s easier to be supportive if you can appreciate how being unable to have a baby can be such a devastating blow.

WHY NOT HAVING A BABY IS SO UPSETTING

Women are reared with the expectation that they will have a baby someday. They’ve thought about themselves in a motherhood role ever since they played with dolls. A woman may not even consider herself part of the adult world unless she is a parent. When Adrienne thinks she cannot have a baby, she feels “broken.”

Worse, we are not even certain that we will never have a baby. One of the cruellest things you can do to a person is give them hope and then not come through. Modern medicine has created this double-edged sword. It offers hope where there previously was none — but at the price of slim odds.

WHAT MODERN MEDICINE HAS TO OFFER THE INFERTILE COUPLE

In the past decade, reproductive medicine has made major breakthroughs that enable women, who in the past were unable to have children, to now conceive. The use of drugs such as Pergonal can increase the number and size of eggs that a woman produces thereby increasing her chances of fertilization. In-vitro fertilization (IVF) techniques extract a woman’s eggs and mix them with sperm in a “test tube” and allow them to fertilize in a laboratory. The embryo can then be transferred back to the woman’s uterus. There are many other options, as well.

Despite the hope these technologies offer, they are a hard row to hoe. Adrienne has endured repeated doctor’s visits, taken daily injections, shuffled work, school and social schedules to accommodate various procedures, and laid out considerable sums of money — money that may or may not be reimbursed by insurance. All of this is preceded by a battery of diagnostic tests that can be both embarrassing and extremely painful.

Infertility is a highly personal medical condition, one that we may feel uncomfortable discussing with our employers. So, Adie is faced with coming up with excuses whenever her treatment interferes with her job. Meanwhile, we are devoting considerable time and energy to managing a mountain of claims forms and other paperwork required by insurers.

After every medical attempt at making her pregnant, she and I must play a waiting game that is peppered with spurts of optimism and pessimism. It is an emotional roller coaster. She doesn’t know if her swollen breasts are a sign of pregnancy or a side effect of the fertility drugs. If she sees a spot of blood on her underwear, she doesn’t know if an embryo is trying to implant or her period is about to begin. If she is not pregnant after a procedure, we may feel as though our baby died. How can a person grieve for a life that existed only in our mind?

While trying to cope with this emotional turmoil, she gets invited to a baby shower or Christening, learns that a friend or colleague is pregnant, or she reads about a one-day-old infant found abandoned in a Dumpster. Can you try to imagine her envy, her rage over the inequities in life? Given that infertility permeates practically every facet of our existence, is it any wonder why she is obsessed with her quest?

Every month, we wonder whether this will finally be our month. If is is not, we wonder if we can muster the energy to try again. Will we be able to afford another procedure?

So when you speak with Adirenne, try to empathize with the burdens on her mind and in her heart. She knows you care about her, and she may need to talk with you about her ordeal. But she knows that there is nothing you can say or do to make her pregnant, and she fears that you will offer a suggestion that will trigger even more despair.

WHAT CAN YOU DO FOR US?

You can give us support, and don’t criticize Adie or I for any steps we may be taking — such as not attending a nephew’s birthday — to protect ourselves from emotional trauma. You can say something like this:

I care about you. After reading this letter, I have a better idea about how hard this must be for you. I wish I could help. I’m here to listen to you and cry with you, if you feel like crying. I’m here to cheer you on when you feel as though there is no hope. You can talk to me. I care.

The most important thing to remember is that Adie and I are distraught and worried. Listen to what we have to say, but do not judge. Do not belittle her feelings. Don’t try to pretend that everything will be OK. Don’t sell her on fatalism with statements like, “What will be will be.” If that were truly the case, what’s the point of using medical technology to try to accomplish what nature cannot?

Your willingness to listen can be of great help. Infertile women feel cut off from other people. Your ability to listen and support her will help her handle the stress she’s experiencing. Our infertility is one of the most difficult situations we will ever have to deal with.

PROBLEM SITUATIONS

Just as an ordinary room can be an obstacle course to a blind person, so can the everyday world be full of hazards for an infertile woman — hazards which do not exist for women with children.

She goes to her cousin’s house for Christmas. Her cousin is breast-feeding. The men are watching the football game while the women talk about the problems with their kids. She feels left out, to say the least. Christmas is an example of the many holidays that are particularly difficult for her. They mark the passage of time. She remembers what came to mind last Christmas — that the next year, she would have a new son or daughter to show off to her family.

Mundane activities like a walk down the street or going to the shopping mall are packed with land mines. Seeing women pushing baby carriages and strollers strikes a raw nerve. While watching TV, Adirenne is bombarded by commercials for diapers, baby food, and early pregnancy tests.

At a party, someone asks how long she’s been married and whether she has any kids. She feels like running out of the room, but she can’t. If she talks about being infertile, she’s likely to get well-intentioned advice — just the thing she doesn’t need: “Just relax. Don’t worry. It will happen soon,” or “You’re lucky. I’ve had it with my kids. I wish I had your freedom.” These are the kinds of comments that make her want to crawl under the nearest sofa and die.

Escape into work and career can be impossible. Watching our dream shatter on a monthly basis, we can have difficulty investing energy in advancing our careers. All around, her co-workers are getting pregnant. Going to a baby shower is painful — but so is distancing herself from social occasions celebrated by her colleagues.

THE BOTTOM LINE

Because we are infertile, life is extremely stressful for us. We are doing our best to cope. Please be understanding. Sometimes she will be depressed. Often times she will be angry. Sometimes she will be physically and emotionally exhausted. She’s not going to be “the same old sweetie” she used to be. She might not want to do many of the things she used to do.

We have no idea when, or if, our problem will be solved. We are engaged in an emotionally and financially taxing venture with a low probability of success. Overall, only about 11 percent of those people using special fertility treatments succeed in having a baby. The odds are even lower for women over 40. The longer we persevere, however, the greater her chances of pregnancy become.

Maybe someday we will be successful. Maybe someday we will give up and turn to adoption, or come to terms with living a childfree life. At present, though, we have no idea what will happen. It’s all we can do to keep going from one day to the next. We do not know why this is our lot. Nobody does. All we know is the horrible anguish that we live with every day.

Please care about her. Please be sensitive to her situation. Give her your support, she needs it and wants it.