Shift My Focus

Tomorrow is the beginning of a brand new challenge for me at work.  My daughter has been prepped, my husband informed, and my brain is on board. 

Chances are work is going to be consuming a large portion of my time daily for the next month, minimum.  I am directly responsible for the proper care, supervision, and support of some very unique people.  Their happiness becomes my success.  Their health becomes my happiness. 

It is a bit terrifying.

The worst thing I could do in this situation is to hesitate, even for a moment.  The terrified part of me has to sit in silence while I patiently, with much forethought, ensure those looking to me for guidance have every tool needed to provide the best life possible to those we are helping.  My already stretched emotions must remain contained and calm like the waters of a pond. 

I have the knowledge, I have the supportive resources, and I have the compassion needed.  Not only to do the job, but I also have what I need to do the job well.  I am equipped and ready to excel.  After months of personal failure, to excel and succeed in anything feels nice.  More than nice, it is almost a relief.

Professional fulfillment does not take away the ache in my heart.  It does not lessen my desire to be a mother to my second child.  It does not erase the pain, the grief, the sadness.  Professional fulfillment does shift my focus.  Someone’s health and happiness is in my hands, and that deserves my focus. 

Maybe this is just my temporary escape from my own reality.  If so, that’s still okay.  I get to go to work and make someone smile that deserves all the smiles life has to offer.

Survey says…

  1. Vomit
  2. Physical pain
  3. Bad Test Results

Those are the top three answers on the board.  The question that was asked of our survey takers (that’d be me) was what event would constitute a bad day.

Today was a difficult day.  It didn’t start out that way, since I did get to sleep in until 9 o’clock.  That felt fantastic, actually.  I woke up feeling refreshed, but my body was trying to tell me something.  I think it is saying that a period is right around the corner.  That’s fine, I appreciate the warning, and I haven’t had one of those unassisted in a while, but I really wish my body would learn to communicate some other way than to cause me pain.

This past Saturday, I had my blood drawn.  That was day 21 of my first cycle with Clomid, and my doctor wanted to check my progesterone levels to see if Clomid did its thing resulting in my body managing to talk my ovaries into releasing an egg.  Today, the day after the holiday, I was to call for my results.  So I called.

The nurse did not want to tell me the results.  She told me my doctor would give me a call back to let me know what the labs showed.  Of course this couldn’t be good news.  Otherwise the nurse would have told me happily, I’m quite sure.

As I’m awaiting my phone call (dreading it, is more like it), I prepare things for my day and evening at work.  The juicer sitting on the counter caught my eye and I realize, since it is all put together, that my husband must not have had time to wash it before he left for work this morning.  I decided I will wash it, especially since I need to use it to prepare my breakfast and lunch.  Unfortunately for me, I made a slight miscalculation.  My husband woke up late, and he didn’t use the juicer today.  The unwashed juicer has been sitting there, unwashed, since yesterday morning.  I’m going to blame him for not washing it yesterday, even though I’m pretty sure it is my fault.

A juicer that has had fruit and vegetable remains sitting inside of it for twenty-four hours does not smell good.  That is an extreme understatement, but I’m not sure how to convey the severity since smell isn’t an uploadable thing.  Combine fermentation and mold, and that is what was happening inside my juicer.  After opening the top, I immediately vomited on my kitchen floor.  The smell was so overpowering, I was still smelling it six hours later.  I was beginning to fear the smell was permanently affixed to the interior of my nose.  I deal with things at work all the time that would make many people gag and cry uncle, but never me.  Not I, strong-stomached, fair maiden that I am.  Cue derisive snort.  Of all things, the juicer made me vomit.

Off to work I went, though, and today I went juice free.  I couldn’t bring myself to drink juice today after that.

Shortly after I was busily engaged at work, my doctor called.  I knew I shouldn’t answer, I should just let it go to voicemail.  However, I was still in pain and I really needed to take Ibuprofen, which I won’t do if there is any chance at all that I ovulated because then there is a chance I’m pregnant finally.  I’m just cautious like that.

I answered and explained immediately I am at work.  She laughed and said something about not asking me about my sex life then, and asked if I could at least give yes and no answers.  I said yes, of course.  She said my levels were lower than she would like them, and that chances are I didn’t ovulate this time.  She was upbeat, and I could hear her fake-smiling through the phone.  There are several things I’m supposed to do, like take a pregnancy test on cycle day 35 if I haven’t started a period, and call her if I do start a period, and call her if I don’t start a period, etc.  She explained all of these while remaining upbeat.  I should have just played along and kept to my yes and no answers.  Of course, I didn’t.

“So, what were the levels?”  I asked, interrupting another optimistic comment about next cycle.  She paused, and I could almost hear the internal debate she was having.

“They were right at a one,” she said.  It sounded like she wasn’t smiling anymore.

I laughed.  She had said when she ordered the test, because I had asked, that we were aiming for a ten.  And I got a one, with drug intervention.

She interrupted my laughing, which I had to make sure stayed laughing so I didn’t alarm anyone around me, saying that I should call her on cycle day one so she could call in another script for Clomid.  My laughing intensified.

“I have decided that I won’t be trying that again,” I said.  I needed to stay cryptic enough that those I was caring for today would not be able to take any guesses at the subject matter of the conversation, but clear enough that my doctor had no doubt what I meant.

“Oh?  Why not?  I thought you were excited about trying it.  What happened?”

I asked her to check the notes in my file, for the sake of vagueness.  She did, and she responded with a sigh.  She said that it is possible that the Clomid had triggered a cyst.

She started to switch gears, I could hear her winding up to offer me a different medication.

“I just think the medication isn’t right for my body right now,” I said hurriedly, and quietly in an effort to draw a minimal audience.  “I was in an intense amount of pain, and the bloating and discomfort still hasn’t fully dissipated yet.”

She offered more encouragement, telling me again how good it is that I have lost as much weight as I have and to keep going.  She said she was interested to see if my body would start a period without drug intervention this time, and she told me how encouraging it would be if this did happen.  I think she was trying to get me to look forward to a naturally occurring period, rather than dread it as a sign of another month without pregnancy.  Unfortunately, I feel like that will just be one more thing that won’t happen like it is supposed to, sending a little more hope crashing into the inky depths of despair that follow every woman fighting infertility.

At least I know my body was telling me the truth about it not liking Clomid.  That is my positive spin for today.  Now, someone convince my heart that “better luck next time” is a perfectly valid sentiment used to inspire hope.  It’s my new motto.

Why do you want another child?

That was the question my husband asked me a little over a year ago when we started discussing trying to have a child.  We already had a five-year-old little girl.  He is a dad (step-dad) and he is content with his role.  He’s been there for my daughter and I since she was two.  He changed diapers, he read stories, he played, he filled sippy cups, he drove her and I are around on endless car rides in an effort to get her to sleep without a binky for the first time, and the second, and the third, etc.  He didn’t understand my need to have a child when we already have one.  He felt very content with our little family.

So we talked about it.  My body had been saying it is time for another baby since we had a miscarriage two years prior after a surprise pregnancy.  My wonderful husband, though, had a lot of fears.  He feared for me, the child, and for us emotionally and financially.  My husband’s parents got divorced when he was young, and it was not amicable at any point in time.  No one ever expects to get divorced, but we’re both realistic enough, given my history and his childhood, to realize that plans sometimes change.  He didn’t want the child to suffer the consequences of a messy divorce as he had.  He was afraid, too, that he wouldn’t be a good father to another child.  He has our daughter and she is easy to love, and she is enough.  He was afraid of all the things that can go wrong with a pregnancy, too.  What if he got emotionally invested and then we miscarry, again?  And I think he was even more afraid of the delivery.  So many what ifs in delivery.

It hadn’t occurred to me that he would have all the same fears I had as a first-time parent, plus a couple to fit our situation.  He is such a good father to Eva, and her biological father so distant, that I forget sometimes that he would be a first-time father to a baby (if my ovaries will cooperate, that is).

We talked about each issue, and he agreed that another child could be a welcome addition.  I explained that he would love this child, too, because he would bond with him or her just like he did with two-year-old Eva.  Also, to have another child is part of my hopes and dreams for my life and our lives together, just as he has hopes and dreams for his career and for us financially.  He still only had one concern, though, would it be unfair to Eva?  She is six now, not two anymore, and she has never had to share us except with her cousins.  Her cousins always go home.  This child would be home.

What he found surprising to hear is Eva is a big part of my reason for wanting another child.  I am the youngest of five children, and though I never want to have five, I want Eva to experience what it is to be a sister.  Not even so much as a child, but as an adult.  One of the best things to be as a grown-up is someone’s aunt.  It is all the love and fun of parenting, without much of the not-fun (like a grandparent, but way cooler).  And, the love and understanding I receive from my brothers is amazing.  I don’t have to get to know them and bond and slowly build a friendship, they already know my past and who I am.  Even my brother that just delights in being a pain in the you-know-where is a source of support and love.  Granted, we don’t always feel loving toward each other at every moment of every day.  But, my siblings are always there for me, day or night, and trust me there have been some nights.  I am always there for them, day or night (usually babysitting duties, but still).  As my parents age, the question of when is it time to step in and put mom or dad in a residential care facility or get a in-home nurse is going to come up.  And I don’t have to make those decisions alone.  I will have my brothers and sister to discuss things with, to share that emotional burden and responsibility.  This is what I want for Eva, is to have a friend that is way better than a friend.  A brother or sister isn’t just a friend, but family.  Even when I am old, demented, or dying, she will have someone else that will share in that grief with the same perspective as that of a child losing a parent.  You can’t substitute such a thing.

Now if my ovaries will just sign the peace treaty…

Peace (For Now)

I have officially called a cease fire on my ovaries.  We are negotiating terms, it isn’t an unconditional surrender, but at least we are sitting down to discuss things.

On my way to get my blood drawn this morning, I had a moment.   Firstly, I had to read the paperwork the doctor gave me to remind myself what hormone is getting checked.  Progesterone level check to see if the Clomid worked, to see if my extremely stubborn ovaries finally released a hostage, um, I mean an egg.  Secondly, the pain I was experiencing earlier in the week is finally mostly gone, but my waistline is two inches larger than it was a week ago.  Thirdly, my emotions are all over the place.  I snapped at my boss last night for no real reason, and then i cried because i snapped.  And lastly, I just feel…horrible.

As I’m driving, all I can think about is this can’t be healthy.  This can’t be good for my body.  I realize Clomid has been around for decades, and at least a million women (maybe way more) have taken Clomid since it was first released.  Even my mother took Clomid about thirty-eight years ago to conceive my brother.  But I’m not a million women, or my mother, I’m me.  This isn’t right for me.  Not right now anyway.

So God and I had a conversation.  I told Him I needed some guidance.  I want a child, and I want to do that in a way that is right for me and my family. 

My mind wandered as I drove.  I thought about my husband who has a relaxed approach to our fertility issues.  He doesn’t feel the same sense of urgency that I do.  His laissez faire attitude tends to make my blood boil about five days in to my ten day stretch of Provera (the drug my body needs to start a period) as I’m resisting the urge to take ANOTHER nap and he’s as chipper and energetic as always.  Then I thought about my super supportive best friend and her unwavering faith with her prayer-filled approach.  She always helps me find the positives in the overwhelmingly negative situation.  

Thinking of these two wonderful people in my life that are ready and willing to support my efforts and dreams anyway they can made me think of the promise I made myself about seven months ago when I was first diagnosed with polycystic ovary syndrome.  

I promised to get my body as healthy as I possibly can, and I promised not to do any fertility treatment that could make me unhealthy.  It was really important to me that I take the healthiest, most natural route to conception, pregnancy, and delivery.  I think my body is telling me that this isn’t it. 

For me, for my body, for my sanity, I decided that I won’t be taking anything.  I’m not going to say never again, but for a few more cycles I’m going to just focus on being healthy. 

After coming to this decision while driving, and after pulling over to cry a bit, I felt proud of myself.  I made a decision that is true to the path I laid out for myself and my family.  I felt peace, finally. 

When I arrived at the lab, of course there is a pregnant woman in the waiting area.  My heart hurt a little and tears threatened to make an appearance.  I was quickly losing some of my peace.

The phlebotomist called me back pretty quickly after checking my paperwork.  After the usual questions, insurance card, and identification exchange, she told me her story.

She went about her work while she casually told me about her infertility.  She tried everything medically possible, including IVF, for seven years in an attempt to become a mother.  Her husband had a low sperm count, and she had problems ovulating.  As soon as she and her husband let go of the infertility fight, she ended up pregnant.  Five years after her healthy son was born, she had another baby.  Another joyful surprise for her and her husband.  And three years after that, she had another beautiful baby, at age thirty-four.

She told me that it’s a good thing that she got married at eighteen since it took so long to have babies.  She also said that she had really wanted her children closer in age, but we don’t always get to pick.  I could see in her smile that she is perfectly happy to have her kids no matter how far apart they are in age.

She gave me my peace back.  I made the right choice for me, for my family, for now.  And thanks God for that guidance.  I needed it.

Phlebotomist, if you happen to read this, thanks for sharing your story and your joy.  I needed it, too.

The Overuse of Infertility Acronyms

My husband and I are a year deep in our journey with infertility.  I say my husband and I, but it is really me.  I’m the one with the infertility issues.  I have cried, a lot.  I have been angry, a lot.  And I have even thrown my hands in the air (figuratively, mind you) in frustration and surrender.  I have waved the white flag at infertility, only to burn that white flag the very next day, or hour, or minute.

The latest strategy I have cooked up to assist in coping with my frustrations in an effort to relieve some stress has been to visit some infertility forums.  Surely, reading what other women are experiencing as they take a pill to induce bleeding and a pill to induce ovulation over and over will give me some kind of peace through shared experience.  Surely, this will be a way to hear from the women on the front lines of infertility and to gauge how my experience is going in comparison.  Surely, these forums will help alleviate some of my anxiety about the entire process.

Wrong.  Completely wrong.  My forum reading instead felt more like I was reading my very first scientific research publication all over again.  I had to conduct research just to understand what these women were talking about.  CCD4, BFP, BD, DH–these are just a very small sampling of some of the acronyms I saw everywhere I went.  Some of these I could guess at the meaning via context without understanding exactly what the letters represent.  Others, there was not a single conceivable (unintentional pun) meaning in my brain to these acronyms.  Most of these acronyms aren’t even acronyms for the proper terms of things (like AF means Aunt Flow).  I won’t go into the meaning of these, or other acronyms, but for those that would like to know, click here for an alphabetical listing of acronyms with meanings.

It should have been a sign to me when I Google’d ‘infertility acronyms’ and Google returned with about 136,000 results in the span of seconds.  I should have known when I had to decode the very first forum I looked at that this was not the peace-giving experience I was expecting.

After reading, decoding, reading, and decoding some more, I finally had a realization.  All of these women are talking about infertility without talking about infertility!  Sounds insane, I know.  Stick with me.  Most of these women would express some emotion, but only a bare minimum.  Some would make statements like, “I’m worried” or “frustrated” or “hoping”.  The rest of the paragraph-length post would be all about the acronyms.  One woman wants to know if this side effect is normal on X cycle day and on X medication, “Thanks so much for feedback”.  Another woman answers her that it happened to her (insert a bunch of acronyms now) and she has used the same medication five more times since and everything is fine (absolutely paraphrasing here).  Not one of these women are expressing how they really feel about the situation.

I am experiencing an intense amount of pain from the medication I took to try to force my body to ovulate, and it absolutely FREAKS ME OUT!  This is not natural, normal, or okay!  I worry I am doing more harm than good to my already screwed up body.  It isn’t, “Thanks so much for feedback”.  It isn’t a bunch of acronyms, this is my hopes and dreams and view of my future possibly going down the tubes. The woman who wanted to know about a side effect she is experiencing–if she is anything like me she is disappointed, disheartened, sad, frustrated, and a gambit of other emotions that no one is bothering to address, including her.

Why do women that suffer from infertility feel like they can’t talk about the emotional toll along with the medical things?  There is a direct relation between the two.

Is this how I am supposed to cope?  Depersonalize infertility with acronyms?  Have we become such a politically correct society that it isn’t okay to talk about the misery being experiencing?  Or is it out of respect for those that have it worse?  For example, I have secondary infertility, which means that I have had a child, but I can’t conceive another child.  Someone who hasn’t had a child AND can’t conceive a child has a “worse” scenario of infertility.  Does this somehow lessen what I am experiencing?  Does it invalidate my feelings?  I don’t think so.  I still feel them.

I have a challenge I would like to issue.

If you are suffering from infertility, I want to hear the gritty details.  Comment, email me, post on your own blog, I don’t care.  Do what makes you feel better.  Tell me all about those emotions you aren’t telling anyone else about.  I’ll cry right along with you!  It is okay to cry and to wallow for a moment in the emotional toll this is taking on you, your partner, and/or your marriage.  It is okay to talk about pushing back all your financial goals in life because you can’t not try to conceive a baby and insurance doesn’t cover it.

It is okay to say what is really happening, without the acronyms. 

I am on cycle day 19.  I took Clomid 50 mg on cycle days 3-7 for the first time ever.  I get a blood test in 2 more days.  And I am in pain!  And I have felt fifty different emotions, at least, since cycle day 1.  I am disheartened by the side effect of uterine pain, but I am also hopeful that this means my body is finally cooperating more.  I am afraid that this cycle will come and go without a positive pregnancy test.  I am worried that the pain will get worse and my physician won’t allow me to try again.  I am afraid that this pain is a sign that my body is eating up every last egg, and that I will never have another child.

 

Spiderman Made Me Cry

Sometimes things just take me by surprise.  Anyone who has ever lost a loved one knows that sudden, gut-punched, deflated feeling…that feeling I get when I remember someone I have lost.  The most unexpected things bring back a memory, and I find myself wanting to linger in that moment of remembrance and grief.  It is simultaneously wonderful and excruciating.

It’s what happens next that makes me wish that these moments didn’t happen, or at least, that these moments would only happen at the most convenient times.  I cry like a baby.

I hate crying.

Once the crying starts, then the anger begins because I’m crying, AGAIN.  Aren’t we supposed to evolve?  Adapt?  Shouldn’t that change things like, the crying?  Shouldn’t a couple episodes of crying be sufficiently cathartic to guarantee no more crying over the same person or persons?  Maybe I’m the only weirdo out there that expects something to change.  Maybe that’s really the issue here, not that I always end up crying, but that I keep thinking that my crying will somehow change, lessen, or cease.

Grief is such a misunderstood word.  I think most of the world understands the dictionary definition of grief, that isn’t my meaning.  I try to remind myself that my losses happened months and years ago, that my grief is complete.  I tell my brain that I am a sane, rational, logical person.  I grieved.  I followed the appropriate steps….denial, anger, something something, acceptance, or whatever.  I did what was expected, then I put grief  in this nice, neat, little box and I expect it to stay there.  Yeah, right.

That’s how I ended up crying in the middle of The Amazing Spiderman 2, in the middle of a movie theater.  A feeling, a memory, was triggered and here comes grief, bursting out of its little box.

All that random, unstoppable crying takes me where?  Somewhere healthier?  Somewhere with a lot less crying?  I can’t keep the scornful laugh out of my thoughts.  I’m doing it again.  I am instantly trying to put my grief back in its little box again, and I’m simultaneously expecting something to change.

Maybe it is time to be okay with grief.

The Age of Imagination

My daughter and I were browsing the exotic produce at the supermarket.  A red, scaly fruit catches her eye and she walks over to it.

“What is this?”

Stepping closer, I read the label that says “Dragon fruit” outloud.

She was only milimeters away from touching the fruit, but now she has jerked her hand back and jumped back a couple feet immediately after I have read the label.

She looks quite worried as she asks, “Does that mean it will bite me?”

I couldn’t contain my instant smile and laugh, but I reached out and picked up the fruit. 

“No, it won’t bite,” I said.  “That’s just it’s name because it looks like it has dragon scales on the outside.”

She smiled and all worry was gone, replaced instead by embarrassment.

I reflect on this moment now as I help my beautiful daughter get ready for her kindergarten graduation.  Everything seems so exciting, new, and alive to her at this age.  She thinks her toy dinosaurs come to life while she sleeps.  She thinks her stuffed animals all have their own personalities and likes and dislikes.  She asks them which one would like to go to show and tell this week, and she always makes them take turns.  She takes her mermaid doll on bike rides with her so the doll knows what it’s like to have legs instead of fins.

I’m quite sure I had an imagination, like her’s, at some point in my life.  As we grow up and gain experience and responsibilities, the world gets a little smaller and a little less magical with each milestone we reach.  Things that were once so complicated that an explanation didn’t seem possible are now explained away without a thought. 

All I want at this moment in time is exactly what I have.  I want to push the pause button on that moment with the dragon fruit, to keep my baby in that moment of innocent imagination, for many more years. 

Instead, here I am, watching her get ready to go graduate from kindergarten with all her friends.  I will keep my fingers crossed for a few more years of innocent, imaginative magic.

The Mother’s Day Bandwagon, sort of

Earlier this week, I was having a conversation with a mother of two great kids.  Her oldest, a girl, is in the same kindergarten class as my daughter.  Her youngest is only two and quite the handful.  Her daughter always has on nice, clean, matching clothes, and her very long hair is always fixed and cute.  Her son, though I haven’t seen him much, is always clean (quite a feat when dealing with a two-year-old boy) and happy.  This mother is attentive and loving to her children, and she is quite obviously intelligent and creative.

After a lengthy conversation about our girls in kindergarten, the conversation turned to mutual appreciation of the kindergarten teacher.  We both have great empathy toward the amount of stress and chaos she must deal with daily, and the emotional toll it must take on her mental health.  The other mom, we will call her Mrs. L, while empathizing said something that has stuck with me all week.

She said, “I’m just a stay-at-home-mom”… 

Mrs. L was saying how stressful it is taking care of two children, so she could only imagine how it was trying to teach twenty-two kids.  Her statement is still bothering me.  She assigned her job as being “just” a stay-at-home mom.  She summed up the single-most rewarding and simultaneously horrible job there has ever been as being “just a stay-at-home mom”.

Dwelling on her statement that minimizes something she should say with pride, made me think about my own life for a bit.  I frequently (almost daily) feel inadequate, poorly educated, insecure, and even more negative descriptors depending on the situation.  When was the last time I gave myself a pat on the back?  I don’t remember.

If I look at the women closest to me in life, I see the same pattern.  Each important woman in my life (even those that aren’t mothers)  has a history of downplaying her importance in her family’s life, her accomplishments both in and out of the home, and her personal achievements.

I don’t like to make generalities, but I’m going to make a general statement anyway.  The biggest critic in a woman’s life is herself.

This Mother’s Day, I plan to make sure all the women I love know that they are great people, not “just” mothers.

 

A Lawyer In My Car

I am a very lucky mom.  I have a caring, loving, thoughtful little girl who makes my heart melt all the time.  She also manages to make me roll my eyes just as often.  She is six, but sometimes the things that come out of her mouth belong to someone much older.

It had stormed pretty intensely the night before.  As we were driving to her elementary school, you can see downed limbs and trees, and storm debris littering roads and sidewalks alike.  We passed a low-lying area that normally has no standing water, but today the area was flooded.

I check on my daughter in the rear-view mirror, and I see that she is obviously puzzled about something.

“I know what happened here,” she says from the back seat.

“Oh?” I say, encouraging her to go on.

“It was a hurricane,” she says with a bit of disgust.

With a smile, I explain, “No, this was just a storm.  Hurricanes only happen by an ocean.”

She is silent a moment.

“What about by a pond, or a really big lake? I bet they have hurricanes there,” she says.

“No, those are just storms, too.”

“If the lake is almost as big as the ocean, it would be a hurricane,” she says.  No more debating this one.  Overruled.