Thankful

I’ve been thinking lately that I’ve become too discouraged and cynical. Life has been getting me down, but this is not the person I want to be. I want to be optimistic and upbeat, focusing on the full half of the glass.

It can be so hard to focus on the good things in life when there is something difficult that seems so huge. And, realistically, I don’t think I will ever be the type of person who never complains or who can always manage to smile. Life is hard, and I think it’s ok to recognize that it is hard and to be sad when hard things happen to us. Grief is a part of being human, and I don’t think our society should be as wary of it as we often are.

When it comes down to it, though, there are more things going right in my life right now than there are going wrong. Since today is Thanksgiving, it seems appropriate to take a few minutes to remember a few of those things that I am grateful for:

  • An amazing husband, who is always at my side and who will support me through anything this life can throw at us.
  • The most adorable and mischievous cat who knows to snuggle when I’m sad and who makes me laugh every day.
  • The incredible world we live in. There is a winter wonderland outside my windows this morning, and it is truly beautiful.
  • The chance I have to further my education. I’ve worked hard to get where I am, but I know what a privilege it is for me to be attending grad school, and I never want to take it for granted.
  • A hot cup of (herbal) tea on a chilly morning.
  • Modern medicine. Navigating the health care system can be frustrating, but I am so grateful for the miracles that are worked at the hands of competent doctors and for the fact that we have options for building our family.
  • Books. And libraries. And the internet. How amazing is it that we have access to so much information and that we can connect with each other around the world in so many ways?
  • The peace that comes to my heart from following my faith.

What are you thankful for today?

Advertisements

Remembering

It has now been just over two calendar years since I finished my first cycle of actively trying to conceive. This will be my third Thanksgiving since we started this journey, my third Thanksgiving that I have been hoping to have good news to announce by New Year’s.

It is interesting for me to look back on the person I was two years ago and the person I am now, and to see the ways in which infertility has shaped me. Infertility does not define me, but it is a huge part of who I am, and it has influenced me and changed me in so many ways.

Last night as I went to bed, my heart was heavy. I had spent the afternoon with a wonderful friend and her little baby. I had a great time chatting and holding the sweet little one, but then I came home to find a hefty doctor’s bill in my mailbox, and the weight of my situation came crashing down around me again. I tried to distract myself all evening, but my mind kept running back over the past two years, remembering the many heart-wrenching, embarrassing, and absolutely devastating moments that I have endured throughout this process. I couldn’t help but think how absolutely unfair it all seems.

Two years ago, I knew that the time was right for us to start trying to have a baby. This was a change in plans for us; we had originally been thinking that we would wait a while longer. We felt that God was calling us in this direction, though, and I couldn’t deny the impressions I felt. This was a huge act of faith for me, because, in a very real way, I felt that I was completely changing my life direction and giving up many of my personal goals. I will never forget how I felt that first month. If it was the right time for me to become a parent, I was going to be completely dedicated to it. I was going to do whatever it took, sacrifice whatever was necessary: my body, my soul, my time, my dreams. It seems dramatic now, but this really was a big deal for me at the time.

In those early days, we assumed that a baby would come right away. I knew it could take a while, but everything just felt so right. I remember feeling a connection with another woman I knew who had been in a similar place in that she had decided to start having kids earlier than she and her husband had once thought they would. They got pregnant fairly quickly and were then planning for the arrival of their little one with faith and anticipation. I was so inspired by this story and felt sure that I was on a similar path. Well, now this friend has two little boys, and I am still trying.

Exactly two years ago this week, I was on my way to my parents’ house for Thanksgiving after attending an academic conference. I had spent the weekend sharing a room with two wonderful women who I was working with but didn’t know well. We had a great time at the conference, attending sessions, exploring the city, and getting to know each other. As luck would have it, this was right when I was at at the end of my very first cycle of trying to conceive. My period was late (of course) so I had convinced myself that I might be pregnant.

I would never do this now, but I actually told the two girls I was staying with about my situation and that I was hoping for a baby. They were excited for me, and we chatted about what this meant. I decided I’d buy a test the next day if nothing had happened. Before I got a chance to use that test, though, my bleeding started, and my heart was crushed for the first time. I knew my friends were right when they comforted me and reminded me that it’s normal for it to take a while, but I was still sad. After this conference, I continued to see one of these women regularly, but I didn’t mention babies or trying to conceive to either of them again. I eventually moved to a different state, and we only stay in contact occasionally through Facebook. Sometimes I wonder if they remember this experience and if they wonder, when they see me pop up in their news feed, whatever happened to me. As it turns out, two years later, I am still trying.

I know that my problems are not the worst that can be experienced, by far. They seem pretty small when I turn on the news and see what is happening in the world, but they are still so real and significant to me. Infertility now dominates my life to the point where I have to consciously push it aside so that it does not completely take over. I’m trying to remember lately that, although infertility may be shaping my life in many ways, it does not have to control me.

I never imagined two years ago that this is the path my life would be on now. I’m sure that I will eventually resolve my infertility, although I don’t know how, but it is so difficult when I am in the middle of it. I just hope that something good will come from this, that there will be some small silver lining that I can find underneath all of the struggle.

Lately

Things have been looking up in some ways for this little family. Even though we’re still struggling, I think we’ve had more happy moments in the last couple weeks than we’d been having previously.

As far as infertility goes, we’re just moving forward one step at a time. The second HSG was much better than the first. I was nervous but took a relaxant beforehand to make sure I didn’t spasm, and I’m grateful for that. It was much less painful, and the dye flowed through my tubes before I even knew what was happening. They were completely open and clear. I almost couldn’t believe it was true, but I was so relieved.

This means that I either spasmed last time, or that the first HSG loosened things up so that everything was able to get cleared out this time. I had a lot of unusual cramping and ovarian pains throughout my cycle this past month, so that’s definitely a possibility. Either way, this was amazing news that lifted a huge weight for us. I am so grateful that we were able to get this test performed as soon as possible instead of having to wait a few months to get an appointment with the fertility clinic, as we had initially believed would be the case. It is such a blessing that we didn’t have to continue until December believing that my tubes might be completely blocked, as this was such a difficult thing for us to deal with.

Even though the results were great, the rest of the appointment was a disappointment. I’d had my misgivings about this particular fertility clinic ever since we first started looking into it, which is part of the reason it took me so long to set up an initial consult. There’s only one fertility specialist in our entire city, so we didn’t have much of a choice about which doctor to see. The doctor is board certified and is perfectly qualified, but for some reason his style just rubs me the wrong way. From the very beginning, it just seemed like everything on the clinic’s website was almost too good to be true, and was a bit more flashy than I would like. I was hoping that my feelings would change once I actually met the doctor… but that didn’t happen.

Instead, I was pretty upset with the way the doctor talked to me. I wanted him to explain my options and give me the information I needed to be able to make an educated decision, but I felt like he was a bit demanding, telling me bluntly what he thought we should do next without offering any explanation of his reasoning. I was in such a fragile emotional state and wasn’t feeling up to making a decision to go forward with an aggressive treatment plan right away, so I asked him if it would be possible to start slowly with a medicated cycle. His response was to assert that combining medications (letrozole) with an IUI would be the best option.

Now that I’ve had some time to do research on my own, I think that this is what we will likely end up doing. At the time, however, this was all very overwhelming for me. Infertility treatments, such as IUIs, carry intimidating emotional, physical, and financial costs, and deciding to start the first treatment cycle seems like a huge step. It’s been so hard to come to terms with the fact that I will most likely need help to get pregnant, especially when my doctors haven’t been able to point to anything that is actually wrong with me. We know that I ovulate, that my tubes are clear, and that there are no male-factor issues. If nothing actually is wrong, it might just be taking more time for us, and we might have a chance of getting pregnant naturally; if this is the case, it seems pointless to put ourselves through all the stress of an IUI. On the other hand, if something is wrong on such a deep level that my doctors haven’t found it yet, an IUI might be completely ineffective and a waste of money.

Anyway, when I hesitated, explaining that I didn’t feel ready for an IUI and that I was worried about spending too much money without being sure it would be necessary or beneficial, he quickly responded that if I wasn’t ready for an IUI, I wasn’t ready to have a baby. He continued to say that babies are expensive, so I might as well get used to paying an extra $500 a month; if I wasn’t ready for that, then why was I trying to have a baby?

I was absolutely shocked that he would say something like this to me, and I couldn’t really hold it together after that. These are the sort of comments that I might expect to hear from a random acquaintance who knows nothing about infertility, but never from a doctor who spends every day working with infertile couples. Of course I understand that babies cost money (and we do have the means to care for one) but that doesn’t mean that I want to spend thousands of extra dollars trying to get pregnant, something that most couples are able to do for free. It doesn’t mean that I am ready to commit to an invasive and expensive treatment plan that would only give me (at best) a 20% chance of success. Being ready to have a baby is a very different thing from being financially, emotionally, or otherwise ready to begin fertility treatments. We have been at this long enough now that we know we are ready for a baby, and our commitment to making whatever sacrifices are necessary has been tested over and over again throughout the past two years.

This is especially difficult for us right now because of the fact that we are unexplained. If we knew that there was a serious problem and that we couldn’t get pregnant without help, our choices would be clear. However, there is always that hope in the back of my mind that it could still happen without treatments, although it is unlikely at this point. We also don’t have insurance coverage for infertility, which further complicates things. Infertility treatments are very expensive, and it is difficult to be at a point where we are trying to decide whether or not to drain our savings account in order to take a gamble on a treatment plan. Having children is our top priority in our lives, so we will ultimately do what is necessary, but we also want to be sure that we are going about this in the right way. We want to be careful in our decisions to make sure that we will come out of this ok, emotionally as well as financially. As it is, it may just take us some time to come to terms with the options before us.

I was upset enough that I actually stood up to the doctor, something that is a bit out of character for me, and he ended up backtracking a bit. He apologized, saying that he misspoke, but then reiterated that I should schedule an IUI, without giving any further elaboration. I was in tears at that point (I’ve been such a basketcase lately), so I simply asked him to stop pressuring me because I just wasn’t ready to make this decision yet. At that point, he finally realized he needed to back off. He gave me a few minutes to change and pull myself together, then we met him back in his office, where he said that they would put in an order for medications for us and that we could call them when we were ready to start a cycle – either just with meds, or with an IUI as well.

I was too upset at that point to really want to consider it or to ask questions, and he didn’t offer any other information about our options. I now wish that I had had the strength to ask him for more information, but I just wasn’t able to at that time. It would have been nice if they had scheduled a follow-up consultation so we could come back after having some time to think through the possibilities. As it was, we didn’t stay long, leaving after telling the nurse we would probably wait a month before calling to start a treatment cycle.

For the time being, our plan is to take a break from doctors for a cycle or two. Having had an HSG, our fertility should be boosted for a few months, and we’re hoping to take advantage of that. If we have no success by December, we’ll call the clinic and decide where to go from there. Depending on what we can get insurance to cover, we might go ahead with meds and an IUI right away, because that does have a higher chance of success than doing either one on its own. It can pay to be more aggressive with treatments, because the cost of having to do several cycles of less-effective treatments can add up over time and surpass the cost of doing a single more intense treatment. However, there is a reason that doctors don’t start every patient with IVF, despite its higher success rates. There is something to be said about starting small in order to minimize the emotional and physical costs, if not the financial. Because we’re young and have time, and because the stress has been so difficult recently, we might start out more slowly despite the fact that it might take longer or cost more in the long run. We’re just going to take it one step at a time and see what we feel ready for.