Lost

I should be finishing up my work and heading to bed, but I can’t focus. I’m already exhausted, worn down to my core. I’ve been taking too much on lately, yet also struggling to stay on top of the most basic tasks. I’m overwhelmed, but at the same time I have a hard time finding the motivation to care about achieving my goals. I’m tired. I’m sad.

One of the hardest parts of infertility is all the waiting. I’ve been waiting for 8 days to know if I’m pregnant or if a new cycle is starting. I will keep waiting for 4 or 6 more days, and each one will be a challenge. It may not sound like a long time, but it feels like an eternity. All the uncertainty, and the secret hope, and the determination to not hope at all, can really wear you down.

I am at a point where I think I won’t even know how to react if I do get pregnant. It seems so foreign to me. I see pregnant women around me and I wonder how it happens. I mean, of course I know, but conceiving a child is such a miracle, such a crazy improbability, that I have the hardest time wrapping my mind around how it happens so often. How it happens for couples who are not trying, or who do not want their miracle. How a tiny human being can actually grow inside a woman’s body. How people actually have kids who look like them. After we have been trying for so long, it seems so incredibly impossible.

Lately, I’ve heard several stories of miscarriages. Miscarriages are tragic; I know that. Miscarriages are traumatic and painful; I know that. My heart breaks for those who go through such a terrible experience, but, at some crazy, irrational level, I also grieve, selfishly, for myself when I hear of another’s loss. It might not make any sense, but my heart breaks that I have never even been in the position of carrying a child and having the possibility of a miscarriage. To be clear, I’m sure that if I were to actually experience a loss, there is no way I would prefer it to what I have now. I am positive I would be crushed, and I do not mean to minimize or trivialize the devastating loss that so many I know and love have had to endure. I think it is important to be honest with myself and others about the process that I have been going through, though, so even though I am not proud of it, I am still sharing this small aspect of my struggle.

When it comes down to it, grief does not always make sense, and I feel that I am struggling far beyond my capacity right now. I think my thoughts above stem from the fact that, at times, I wish I had something tangible to grieve. I wish my loss was something I could share more easily, something that would bring others forth with words and hugs and gestures of support and concern. Sometimes, I think I wish I were in any situation other than the one I’m in. I suppose this is probably a “grass is greener” phenomenon, and my friends who have dealt with loss would probably shake their heads at my naivete.

I think it is a natural response to try to find ways to justify our own pain, although it is not healthy or constructive. I sometimes find myself thinking, “Well, she might be struggling, but at least she [knows she can get pregnant / already has a baby / has the financial resources to jump right to IVF / anything else that I might be jealous of].” I’m sure that others might look at me and think similar things: “At least she [has a husband / hasn’t lost a baby / ovulates on her own / is still young / anything else I might take for granted].”

No matter what our situation is, there is always something that we have that someone else might be envious of, there is always something that could be worse. When it comes to grief and suffering, though, comparison is never useful. When you are going through an all-consuming and tragic experience, the “at leasts” seem dismissive and do not offer any comfort; we are aware of and grateful for the ways in which we are fortunate, but they do not actually diminish the grief that we feel. For those on the outside, these “at leasts” only serve to create bitterness and divide us from those we should be supporting. Our experiences are diverse, and I am sure that our emotional responses are equally varied. Because there simply is no use in comparing our pain to others’ and trying to determine who has it worse, I am trying to eliminate these “at leasts” from my thinking.

Our struggles may be different, but I’m sure they are all devastating in their own ways. When it comes to infertility and loss, there simply is no pretty. There is no easy. There is only heartache and grief, intense personal sadness that no other can truly comprehend; it is so deeply personal, and it can be so very deeply isolating. It’s hard, plain and simple. It’s just hard. If we can learn to respect each others’ experiences as valid, even if they are different from our own, if we can support each other unconditionally through the various challenges that come our way, I am sure that we can each become that much stronger, individually and as a community. And isn’t that something worth striving for?

“Hope ya know, we had a hard time”

Well, this week has been . . . hard. Draining. Exhausting. Completely and unexpectedly difficult.

My HSG on Tuesday did not go as well as hoped. I think I had a sense of this beforehand, because I was really quite nervous for a few days beforehand. By the time I actually was on the table at the hospital, I was on the verge of tears and was struggling to take deep breaths and remain calm and focused. The nurse could tell I was struggling and offered what encouragement she could, telling me that most women have no problems and that the procedure can even remove blockages and increase fertility as a result. I knew she was right, but I couldn’t shake my feeling of fearful anticipation.

Once my OB-GYN arrived, everything happened pretty quickly. It took a few tries for him to insert the catheter – which was, by far, the most painful part of the procedure – definitely not something I want to repeat. Once it was in, though, I was mostly ok. Then the radiologist came in and turned on the x-ray machine, and my doctor started inserting the dye into my uterus. I was able to catch an awkward view of the screen underneath the radiologist’s arm, so I kept my eyes glued to the image of my uterine cavity appearing in fluorescent white, fully expecting the dye to spread outwards through two narrow tubes before spilling into my abdominal cavity.

What I saw, though, was . . . nothing. The dye stopped. It didn’t spread. The doctors adjusted the machine, repositioned the catheter, injected more dye. Nothing. I had cornual blockages in both fallopian tubes. I was broken.

At this point, the tears began to flow. Slowly at first, then more quickly as the doctor began to explain what this might mean for me. I don’t think I will ever forget how I felt, lying there on the table in my hospital gown, tears streaming down my face, as my OB-GYN told me how shocked he was, then quickly began trying to reassure me that “this doesn’t mean you will never have children. There are things they can do.” Those are words that I never thought I would hear, and they are still ringing in my head, four days later. They were meant to be comforting, and I know they are true, but I never thought I would be in a position to need that type of reassurance.

So, here is what I know: It is possible that my tubes spasmed in response to the test, and they are actually open. We can’t know for sure without doing more diagnostics, but we do know that this is a possibility (it happens in about 15% of HSGs). It is more likely that they are truly blocked. In this case, our options depend on what type of blockages I have. In cases with minimal adhesions, it is possible to open up the tubes, generally through laparoscopy or tubal cannulation. From what I’ve read, tubes generally become re-blocked at some point after these procedures, but it does open up a window. The downside is that women who have had surgery to open their tubes only have about a 20 – 40 percent chance of naturally conceiving. The risk of ectopics also increases, to about 30 percent. After a second surgery to unblock the tubes, the odds of conceiving go down to about 5 percent. If the damage is more extensive or if opening the tubes is not successful, our only option for having biological children will be IVF.

I know that we still have options. I know that IVF is usually quite successful for people in my age group, although I also know that it is incredibly taxing physically, emotionally, and financially. I know that my tubes may actually be clear, or that they may be able to be healed. However, none of this knowledge changes the difficult emotions I have been grappling with this week. I have felt like I have been moving through each day in a haze. I have been constantly on the verge of tears, unable to focus or think clearly, as I have stumbled through my regular responsibilities and activities. I have stayed up too late and woken too early, struggling to calm my mind enough to sleep. I have been lost and heartbroken, grieving my fertility and what might have been.

These emotions have been difficult to process, but I think it is important for me to allow myself to experience them. Over the last couple of years, our struggle has taught me that it is ok to simply feel what I feel. There is no right or wrong when it comes to how we are affected by loss and grief. It doesn’t do me any good to feel guilty about my sadness, reasoning that there are people who have it much worse than I. Likewise, it doesn’t do me any good to judge others for struggling when their losses seem less serious than my own. We are each on our own journeys, and we all struggle in our own ways with our private griefs.

Today, I am feeling a bit more optimistic about the future. As we sat in the temple last night, I felt an overwhelming reassurance that we will have a child. I don’t know when or how – whether this child will come to us naturally or through IVF or through adoption – but I believe we will be parents someday. It doesn’t necessarily make the daily ups and downs of this process any easier, but it does give me some measure of comfort, something to hold on to and to help me through the darker moments.

We will be meeting with a Reproductive Endocrinologist (RE) on Monday, which in and of itself is a small miracle and a sign to me that God has had a hand in all of this. There is normally a two or three month wait to get into this clinic, but they had had a cancellation right before I called and were able to get me in right away. I am intimidated at the thought of diving deeper into this world of infertility, but I know it is time. We are praying that the consultation will go well and that we will be started down the right pathways that will lead us to having our own little one in our arms someday.