Breast Milk vs. Formula

I know I have heard it so many times–the breast is best mantra. With my daughter, I didn’t breast feed. It just wasn’t for me. During this pregnancy, I have psyched myself up for breastfeeding. I’m determined to give it the best go I can and to produce all of his milk for the first year via a pump. That may be an unrealistic goal, but I’m going to do my best. My main reason for wanting to do it is expense and antibodies.

I don’t have warm and fuzzy feelings about feeding my child from my breast. To be very blunt, it makes me gag a little to think about it. I know that’s not a normal reaction, but it is my reaction nonetheless (hence the pump). I have been up front about my feelings on the subject to those who want to know, and my honesty has been received with mixed emotions. Some were understanding while others seemed almost offended that I could think of breastfeeding as something other than beautiful and natural.

While reading my daily dose of the Washington Post, I stumbled across an article from one of the Washington Post’s own Emily Wax-Thibodeaux. She talks about her inability to breast feed because of a double mastectomy and the lack of understanding by medical professionals and friends alike. This article made me think of a couple of women in the pregnancy and infertility community that have fought cancer and then struggled to have a child. Emily’s story is so similar, I couldn’t help the comparison.

This article has also reminded me that if I really can’t stand breastfeeding, it’s okay. It isn’t the end of the world if I formula feed. It was words I needed to hear last night in particular.

If you would like to read the article yourself, just follow the shortlink below.

Why I don’t breastfeed, if you must know
http://wapo.st/1sxqBnn

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Everyone Has An Opinion, Especially If We’re Talking About Kids (part 1)

Several times in the last few weeks, I have been reminded that we as a society have no sense of propriety when it comes to others’ reproductive health, habits, goings on, preferences, opinions, you name it!  Don’t let me sound all pious, as if I haven’t been guilty of sticking my nose in to someone else’s reproductive business at least once in my life (once is generous, I’m quite sure I can name at least three such incidents, one dating back to age 10 where I asked a newly wed couple why they didn’t have a baby yet).  I think that secondary infertility and miscarriage really brought the message home for me that other people need to stay out of my reproductive business.  Not only do I want people to stay out of my business, we need to stay out of each other’s reproductive business.  If it isn’t your baby or body, then hush it!

At a local restaurant this week, I happened to find myself face-to-face with a woman we will call Susan.  I haven’t seen Susan for about a year, and we have never been close.  I went to high school with her daughter, and her daughter and I were friends…twelve years ago.  Within moments of stumbling upon Susan, I was ready to hide or yell or both.  The exchange went something like this:

Susan: (After she pointedly looks at my belly)  So, you’re expecting?

Me: No, I’m fat. (I couldn’t help myself!  I didn’t even think before it came out!)

Susan: Oh, um….

Me: Just kidding.  Yes, I am pregnant.

Susan: (Obviously defensive and back peddling now)  I wouldn’t have said anything but that is just what I heard recently.

Me: How is Rebecca? (the daughter I went to school with)

Susan: Oh, well, she is doing fine.  She just had a little boy.  So she has two girls and a boy now, and I think they’re done.  God, I hope they’re done.  They certainly don’t need anymore and–

At this point, Eva, bless her timing, has interrupted this stream of horrible coming from Susan’s mouth.  Eva needs to use the bathroom, and I could just squeeze her perfect little, tiny bladder for extricating me from this conversation before I said something extremely inappropriate but then I would have to take her home so she could change her pants.  No squeezing of the bladder then, just her.  I’m not sure why I felt the need to exclaim that I wasn’t pregnant and that I am instead fat, but I did.  I was instantly defensive and annoyed.  I have a different point of view with this pregnancy than I did before–if I wanted you (as in Susan, or anyone that I haven’t personally told) to know that I am pregnant, I would have told you.  If I haven’t told you, which also means you and I aren’t even friends on Facebook, or if I haven’t seen you in a year or more, then I do not consider us to be close enough to discuss what is happening in my reproductive system currently.  This sounds harsh as I type it, but I really do feel this way and I don’t think I should be apologetic about my feelings.  I’m sure maturity plays a role as well in my feelings (I was 22-23 when pregnant with Eva), but the point I can’t seem to make is that I can’t be the only person that feels this way.  Not only had this woman stuck her nose into my reproductive organs instantly, but she had then moved on to make her obviously negative opinion clear in reference to her daughter reproducing ever again.

Let’s play a hypothetical (which should read pointless) game for a moment.  Let’s pretend that her daughter works two jobs, takes online college classes, and doesn’t have a husband or steady boyfriend.  Now, I know none of this is true, but stick with me for a moment.  Let’s say all three of Susan’s grandkids have a different daddy, each one worse than the last.  Let’s say that Susan’s daughter is on food stamps, medicaid, and state aid for daycare.  Susan herself has agreed to pick these children up daily from day care and take them to the next babysitter who keeps them until her daughter gets home from her second job.  Obviously, this isn’t an ideal way to raise children.  Does any of this give Susan the right, the sanction needed to justify standing in the middle of a busy, local restaurant commenting on her daughter’s reproductive choices to someone that her daughter doesn’t even know anymore?  I still say no, she needs to mind her own business.  Am I advocating that this is a good way to raise children?  No, I’m not, but I also don’t think I should get to weigh in on the decision to get Rebecca’s tubes tied.  It is none of my business!

Now, let’s move on to a lady named Hannah (fictional name, real person).  Hannah chose to have (and keep) a baby she knew was not healthy.  This baby has a neural tube defect that translates to two things: it’s a miracle her child is alive two years after birth, and her child will have severe physical and mental deficits her entire life.  Her child will spend a large portion of her life visiting hospitals and doctors, and her child will never walk or stand or speak.  Hannah was told that while still in the womb her child had suffered a severe stroke due to a blood clot which led to the neural tube defect.  Genetics did not play a role in her child’s condition.  This woman appears to be a fantastic mother and advocate.  Hannah also chose to have another child.  Her second child is completely normal developmentally and physically.  Hannah’s family, however, has completely disowned her.  Her parents will not get to know the joy of being grandparents to Hannah’s children and Hannah’s siblings won’t be called auntie or uncle–all because they felt it was okay to tell her she could not, should not, have another baby.  While I think everyone will agree this is incredibly crappy of her family, stop for a moment to ponder why her family would think that they should have a say in her use of her reproductive organs?

A certain member of my family that will remain nameless recently weighed in on my future, hypothetical pregnancies.  Of course, this was an unsolicited opinion offered up as if I am too foolish to understand what pregnancy means and all it entails like, you know, caring for a baby and then a child and then a teen (oh darn, I thought babies grew up and could support themselves within a couple years of birth).  Upon sharing my news months ago that I am pregnant, the first question I received from this person was if I am considered high risk because of my age (I was exactly 30 years old, it was my birthday).  This was not a joke, this person was seriously concerned that I was too old to be having babies.  I explained that no, I am not high risk, and that most women these days don’t start having children until they hit their thirties.  Apparently, this fell on deaf ears.  After sharing the news that my baby is a boy, this same family member then asked if I would be getting my tubes tied after this baby since I will have both a boy and a girl now.  My family member then proceeded to tell me that by the time I am in my forties, I will be ready to slow down and I won’t have time, energy, or the desire to continue to raise my children if they are still young.  Let me just say ugh.  I gave a smile and said I would pray about it (this family member is extremely religious, so the response was a better chastising remark than anything else I could have offered).

I think the pro-choice fight has had some unexpected consequences.  I am not pro-abortion…not even a little.  But, in a country in which we fight and argue about a woman’s right to choose to abort her baby, why do I feel like we should be fighting for a woman’s right to have a baby?  Why do I feel like we should be fighting for the right to reproduce without commentary from any random person that feels they should share their opinion?  The fact that we are publicly debating something so personal as reproduction choices at all is absolutely ridiculous, in my opinion.  Why shouldn’t random people feel as if they are perfectly justified in commenting on my pregnancy, my future reproductive abilities, and any other woman’s on which they have formed an opinion if it is deemed okay (dare I say, even in style) to publicly decide on a woman’s right to kill her baby in utero?  What a ridiculous world we live in!  We have spent so much time, energy, and money on regulating women’s reproductive health, and for what?  To declare that this nation is open-minded, liberal, and ever-evolving?  To tout the right to choose as an avenue to empower women to be the only one’s governing their bodies?  If open-mindedness (i.e. letting a woman choose what to do with her body, life, time, emotions, etc.) were really the goal, then why do so many people feel it is within their right to comment on a woman’s pregnancy, future pregnancies, infertility, family planning of any kind?

I am a married, financially stable, sane, healthy person that is already mom to one amazing girl.  What my husband and I choose to do with our reproductive organs is not something that is up for public debate.  We may choose not to have any more children after this one, or we may choose to have as many as we can as quickly as we can (or as my body allows, it doesn’t cooperate with having babies), or we may pick something somewhere in between those options.  The key in this is that we will do what we decide is best for us, our family, and our situation.  Sarah Jo or Bob or Thelma or Johnny down the street should not then feel obligated to inform me that I am too old, or that I can’t be a loving mother to so many children, or any other such nonsense that is none of their business.  Worse still is that Sarah Jo, or whoever, will feel that this line of discussion is perfectly appropriate.

How frustrating to think that all the a-woman’s-right-to-choose campaigns really produced is a carte blanc to opinionated people to express their feelings on my reproductive practices.

My Dear Friend

God had some really funny timing with my pregnancy.  He timed it just before my 30th birthday, which was my prayer.  Then He gave me an extra gift (because, of course, my view is it is all about me).  The gift he gave me was that my dear friend managed to conceive her first child just five weeks after I conceived.  Not only do I get the baby my heart so desired, but I get to be pregnant with my best friend.  Then we will both have newborns at the same time!  That’s more exciting than I ever thought it would be!

My friend, let’s call her Adrienne (her name has been changed to protect her privacy), has always been there for me and Eva.  I couldn’t be more excited for her and her husband.  They will be great parents!  As she nears the second trimester of her pregnancy, life has thrown her a curve ball, though.  She visited the dermatologist last week, and a spot on her skin was deemed suspicious.  The doctor immediately removed this spot and sent it to a lab to be analyzed.

Adrienne has skin cancer, and she has to have surgery while she’s pregnant.

Mixed histology basal and squamous cell carcinoma.  That’s the technical, medical terminology for her brand of skin cancer, and apparently it is aggressive.  There will be no waiting until after the baby has arrived to perform a long, tedious surgery for her.  Adrienne has a consultation this week and surgery next week.  There will be no good drugs for her for the surgery, either.  She is going to have to cope through Mohs surgery (cut off a layer, check for clear borders in the lab, then maybe continue to cut another layer in an ever-widening circle until there are clear cancer-free borders) which can be a couple hours or last until dinner time.  Until her consultation, she isn’t sure just exactly what her options are for coping during surgery.  She know she will be completely awake, and she knows they can inject lidocaine.  Beyond that, she has planned for a stress ball and a portable DVD player with some of her favorite movies and some earphones.  Being in the first trimester of pregnancy, she can’t be completely put under without worrisome risk to the baby.  Also being in the first trimester of pregnancy, I would be concerned about being able to snack and eat lunch while I’m sitting in a sterile environment waiting for the lab to determine if I’m done or not.  There is just no way that this can be made pleasant, or moderately not awful.

I have tried to put myself in her shoes.  I really can’t.  At such a happy time in her life, she now has to be worried about skin cancer.  There doesn’t appear to be a risk to her life at this point, but there is obviously the potential for repeated, painful, disfiguring surgeries.  She now has to worry about the stress this is causing on her body, and her baby as a result.  The worst part, it seems, is the not knowing.  Until the surgery, it won’t be clear just how severe the skin cancer may be.  I’m such an awful friend at moments, and I forget that she just doesn’t have any answers yet as I ask yet another question that she can’t possibly answer at this point.  I’m not the only person in her life asking for more information, I’m sure.  Not knowing what stage/how severe the cancer is means not knowing how involved getting rid of the cancer may be.

I don’t know how, but Adrienne does seem to be holding it all together pretty well.  She has gotten floods of unsolicited advice from well-meaning family and friends alike.  She has received non-reactions, like those that think if they don’t say anything about it or pretend it isn’t happening that somehow that is a better way to go.  I doubt out of sight out of mind applies to any form of cancer for anyone, anywhere.  Even me, I’m trying not to treat her any differently, but I cringe every time I complain about something to her.  She is my shoulder, my one person from whom I don’t hold back any of the poor-pitiful-me whinings in my rather blessed world.  Now I feel like it is unfair of me to expect her to sympathize with my minor complaints.

I hope she knows (which she will once I hit publish) that I admire her ability to roll with the punches.  I always feel like every set back is the end of the world, at least initially.  She seemed to take it in stride, and admitted to crying only a little over the weekend.  There hasn’t been a week-long pity party (totally the route I would have taken), or melodramatic Facebook announcements (not my style, or her style, but it happens), or a sudden trip to the lawyer to fill out a living will, or the urge to start a blog to chronicle her suffering (totally me!), or any change at all in her normal routine it seems.  She bought a hat and some extra sunscreen to protect against further sun damage, and went on with life.

I admire you, my friend, and I’m proud to call you my friend.

I will definitely be saying some prayers for her, her husband, and her precious baby over the next few weeks.  I know she would welcome more prayers from anywhere she can get them.

Five Things You Don’t Say

Five things you do not say to a woman (married or otherwise):

1. “So, when are you going to have a baby?”

Well, the bottom line here is asking such a question is rude, to say the least.  This question is based on the assumption that everyone has the physical ability to conceive, carry, and deliver a healthy child.  If only that were the case, infertility therapy/medication/treatment/procedures wouldn’t be a BILLION dollar industry!  I have no idea whether Susie Q next door has been trying to conceive for seven years, or if she has had twelve miscarriages, or seventeen failed IVFs (in vitro fertilization), or thirty failed FETs (frozen embryo transfer), or if parenthood is just not for her.  Furthermore, it is none of my business.

2. “You better start trying to have a baby soon before you get too old and can’t.”

See previous explanation.

3. “You just need to relax.”

This is usually something a woman struggling with infertility hears from someone she has chosen to confide in about her struggles.  If relaxation was the cure for infertility, again there would not be a BILLION dollar infertility industry in full swing across the globe.  This statement assumes that she didn’t do what everyone usually does when they initially begin to try to conceive.  Most fertile couples simply stop preventing pregnancy, have sex when it sounds good, and within a few months a pregnancy occurs.  That is certainly how it happened for me the first time around.  Once women quit “relaxing” about conceiving, it is usually because there is something wrong!  There is a reason to be upset!  Telling someone to relax doesn’t make that problem go away.  When someone told me to relax, I wanted to ask her if she had heard a single word I had said.  It definitely didn’t seem she had, or she wouldn’t have told me to just relax.

4. “Let go and let God.” 

I do believe in God.  I also believe we have technology and medicine for a reason.  The person saying this statement probably wouldn’t hesitate to take a Tylenol or an Advil if he or she was in pain.  The person saying this statement has most likely taken antibiotics for an infection at some point in his or her life.  Maybe next time he or she is sick, they should let go and let God, too.

5. “As soon as you stop trying, you’ll end up pregnant.”

This is usually accompanied with an anecdote about so-and-so’s neighbor’s cousin’s sister who tried to have a baby for years and finally got pregnant when she quit trying.  As soon as you quit working, you will become a millionaire.  The above statement and the statement I just made are based on the same principle–dumb, indiscriminate, one-in-a-billion-chance luck.  I don’t play the lottery, but it sounds to me like maybe every infertile woman out there should give up their dream of ever having a child of their own and put all that money they would have spent in playing the lottery.  Then every infertile woman can be a mom AND a millionaire!

Five things you DO say to a woman:

1. “I’m so sorry to hear that.”

When a friend tells me something that she finds upsetting, it doesn’t really matter if I happen to agree that it is something to be upset about.  It isn’t my issue to deal with, but it is my job as a decent human to be compassionate.  This simple statement could change her day.  This statement could, even just for a moment, make her feel like someone cares and she isn’t alone.  I want to be a friend, because someday I will need a friend, too.

2. “Is there anything I can do for you?”

Again, if I’m upset, and my friend asks me this question, I don’t feel quite so alone with my troubles.  Sometimes that is all I need.

3. Say nothing, listen.

Body language can say so much when accompanied by silence.  Sometimes I just need someone to sit attentively and listen while I spill all my frustrations, hurts, and fears.  This outpouring can be better than several therapy sessions, at least a bottle of wine, and several bubble baths.

4. “I’m not sure what to say, but I’m sorry this is happening to you.”

Honesty is such a funny little thing.  Being honest makes my statements genuine and heartfelt.  If I truly have no idea how to approach a situation, or an outpouring as discussed above, it is okay to admit it.  I still want her to know that I care, even if I don’t have the right words.  I never expect someone to have all the answers, and sometimes implying they do by giving me advice when I just need an ear will just add to my frustration.

5. “I can’t tell you how you should or shouldn’t feel about anything, and I’m listening if you want to tell me how you are feeling.”

This one statement can be so powerful!  Sometimes, I feel like I need permission to feel what I feel.  Sounds like psycho-babble, I know.  Sometimes I try to suppress a feeling if I don’t think it is appropriate for the situation, though.  For example, feeling sad is to be expected after another failed attempt to conceive.  Feeling relieved that a particularly rough cycle is over is less expected.  Then feeling relieved can make me feel guilty and even blame myself for the failed cycle.  Maybe I secretly didn’t want it work.  Maybe that is why I feel relieved.  Such a horrible cycle of damaging emotion.  If I can feel my feelings without negative judgement, especially judgement placed on me by others, I have a better chance of working through all my conflicting emotions.

 

Obviously this only scratches the surface a bit.  Assuming I know someone’s situation, and then making statements based on those assumptions, will undoubtedly end with me looking foolish and callous, and the other party feeling defensive and possibly injured.  I can’t ever expect to know how someone else feels unless that person tells me.  I also don’t expect someone else to know how I feel unless I tell them.  The next time someone says one of the above insensitive statements, I know I won’t hesitate to politely let them know how rude and thoughtless such a statement can be.  Before I struggled with secondary infertility, I was guilty of thoughtlessly asking those I considered friends if or when they would be having children.  If only things were really that simple, and if only someone had told me the world isn’t always so black and white.

Me, Myself, and I

I am about to be thirty years old.  The big 3-0. I am about to journey into a new and unfamilar world called no-longer-in-my-twenties place.  Maybe I need to come up with a better name.  You get the point, though, I’m sure.

I cried a lot when I hit twenty-five.  I felt like I didn’t have anything to show for my quarter of a century I had already spent on this earth.  I did not have a college degree, a house of my own, or even a nice car or decent job.  I was in the middle of a divorce, living with my parents, working part time at a crappy minimum wage job, going to school part time, and being a single parent full time.  I was also one step away from cervical cancer at the beginning of the year.  No one thinks about mortality at age twenty-four, or at least I certainly hadn’t until I was forced.  It never reached cancer (thank you, Lord), but there was definitely a moment where that was a possibility.   There was also a moment where my future fertility came in to question.  I didn’t want another child then, but I also didn’t want that choice to be taken from me (ha, Irony, you are clever, indeed).  To say it was a rough year leading up to twenty-five is to say that Nevada doesn’t have an overabundance of rainfall in a year.  Rough doesn’t cover it.  Rough is an understatement.  I was a mess, or so I thought at the time.

Looking forward at age twenty-five, I couldn’t see how I was going to ever improve my situation without sacrificing significant time with my daughter.  I couldn’t see how I would ever afford more than a hole-in-the-wall, one bedroom apartment, and even that was a stretch.  I couldn’t see how I would ever finish my degree.  I couldn’t see how I would ever trust a man enough again to let him in to my world.

Here I am, five years later now.  I feel like there has been so much that has happened in the last five years.  Not only in my circumstances, but so much has happened in me, in my heart and mind.  I finally feel like a grown up.  I have realized no adult ever has all the answers, and that’s okay.  I have realized that having my priorities organized properly is the most important part of my decision-making process.  If I have a clear picture of my top priorty (my family, of course), then everything else will fall in line.  I can make quick, right decisions if I have my priorities straight.  No agonizing over a decision for this girl anymore.  I feel like I have a depth of strength and character that didn’t exist at this level five years ago.  I feel like I needed to be really unhappy to understand what it really means to be happy.  I needed to understand that movies and fairy tales only show the fun, happy moments, and that everything worth having requires hard work.  Being happy isn’t something you just magically are or aren’t, it’s something that needs work and perspective.  I needed to know that it is okay to cry, but it is not okay to be single-mindedly absorbed in your grief or circumstance.

I look back on that age twenty-five Mindy, and I just want to be able to give her a hug and tell her the end of the story, or at least the story as it is five years later.  She struggled through so much and she sacrificed so much for her daughter.  She made the best out of a hard situation, and she bonded with her child like never before in the midst of it all.  Without those hard, emotional lessons, I wouldn’t be me today.

No one ever has a picture perfect life.  Life isn’t meant to be that way.  I wish that Mindy from five years ago could see my life right now.  I still don’t own a home, I still don’t have a very nice car, but I still have a wonderful daughter, and now our family has grown to include my wonderful husband.  I have pushed that man away so many times.  I have tried to get rid of him many times in four years so I didn’t have to trust him or open up.  I have given him every reason I could think of to just move on and leave me, but he never walked away.  He is still here with us, and I don’t know how I found him.  He isn’t perfect either, nor is our marriage, but that somehow makes it so much better.  We have flaws together and we still choose to love each other every day.  He is everything Eva (my daughter) needs in a father figure, and she is as much his everything as she is mine.  I couldn’t ask for more.  I have a decent, well-above minimum wage job.  I have skills and knowledge.  I still have parents that love me as unconditionally today as they did thirty years ago.

I look at the Mindy I am today, and I’m grateful for everything I have, every bond and connection I share with the people I love.  I look at myself today, and I’m so glad that I made it through.  I am so much more aware of the blessings in my life now, at this age, than I ever was before.

Mom and Dad, if you ever read this, thanks for patiently waiting for me to become the amazing person you both have always told me I am.  I couldn’t have made it without you both.

Being thirty does sound like a pretty awful number, especially while fighting to have another child (secondary infertility issues, discussed throughout many posts).  But, right here, on the edge of thirty, thirty suddenly doesn’t seem quite so horrible. 

Eva comes home from visiting her father in California next weekend.  What was going to be a non-birthday celebration (I have been refusing to acknowledge I’m turning thirty), will now most definitely be a birthday/Eva celebration! 

Best friends (you know who you are), prepare the bonfire and the river next weekend!  We are celebrating!

…that is if you’re available, friends. I know this is kind of short notice and all. And well, maybe, we don’t have to mention a number like thirty at any event in the near future.  Or possibly for at least another year.  Maybe this should be a welcome back Eva party instead.  I’m just kidding, of course.  I will remind myself of my blessings and quit cringing every time I type thirty.  Maybe…

I Will Not Give In

Today is cycle day forty.  I still haven’t began taking the Provera to induce a period, either.  I want to give up today.  I want to throw in the towel and to pretend that I don’t have any interest in conceiving a child.  I want to throw my hands in the air and laugh it off like there was some sort of anecdotal miscommunication between my body and my mind.

I told my boss today that I will only be working three days a week beginning in August.  My husband told me to just put in my notice, that I have enough stress in my life.  He is right about stress, but work isn’t the primary source.  I miss Eva.  Until she gets back nothing is normal or stress-free.  I worry every time I get a text or a phone call that it might be from her father with some sort of new angle to try to keep her longer.  Then I worry that instead it will be her father telling me it isn’t working out and that I need to come get her right away.  Neither scenario is any better or worse, really.  Both thoughts make my stomach turn.  I have tears stinging my eyes several times daily just thinking of her 1500 miles away from me.  Every time there is a new Facebook post from her father that doesn’t include her in the picture I panic all over again about whether she is being treated well or not.

I’m hoping my stress level reduces once she is home.  Another reason to reduce my workload is so I can spend more time with her before school starts.  I missed out on an entire month of fun with her. 

Something else stressing me out is while I’m trying to silently give in to infertility, my body is doing strange things.  My breasts hurt, again.  I have been weepy for a couple days now.  The weeping is usually the first indicator of cycle day one just around the corner, but I have also been getting strange twinges of pain in my lower abdomen.  I know cramps very well, and this is not cramps.  It makes me want to give in to my urge to pee on a stick to confirm, again, that I’m not pregnant.

My husband desperately wants to buy a house, any house.  He is tired of renting, period.  We have the same argument every two weeks as another home in our area is put up for sale.  I am determined to pay off our car before we purchase a home.  It is just more financially feasible for us to free up that car payment money in case we need it before we purchase a home.  He is equally determined that we don’t need to pay off the car first.  Today, as he showed me yet another house he wants to go look at (not even in the area in which I wish to live), I wanted to give in.  I wanted to say do what you think is best, just leave me out of it.  Tell me when it’s time to move.

However, right now, I am sucking it up, raising my chin, and preparing for another round.  I will not give in today.  I will not give in tomorrow.  I desperately want another baby of my own.  I will not give in to infertility. I will not give in to worry about Eva because I know she is a strong kid.  I will not give in to guilt about anything at all, including my job. 

Sorry, husband, but I also will not be giving in to buying a home yet, either.

You know, peeing on one little stick in the morning can’t hurt, right?

No, I will not give in.

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.

 

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.