In true me fashion, the first thing I did today after learning my progesterone levels were adequate and ready for my body to receive an embryo was Google “What is an ideal progesterone level for a FET (frozen embryo transfer)?”
The first thing I found was a study that said anything over 20 ng/ml showed decreased live-birth rates and increased pregnancy-loss rates. I have a level of 38.1! Hooray! So of course, I break down in tears and call my doctor. Nurse calls me back and assures me they supplement their patients with MORE progesterone if their levels are under 20, so I’m choosing to take that plus my lining looking solid at my appointment this morning as a good sign.
The transfer is tomorrow at 11:30 a.m. and honestly, up until now, I haven’t thought about it even a fraction as much as I have my six previous treatments. Yes, folks, this is lucky number seven. My nerves have been low. I have been very que sera and laissez-faire about it (for me, at least) literally until 4 p.m. today, when I Googled as I had never Googled before and tried unsuccessfully to muffle my sobs as I spoke to the IVF nurse over the phone.
I talked to Josh over Google Hangouts during this spiral while he was still at work and he told me I needed to be brave. I argued that making a decision based on convenience isn’t brave, it’s ignorant. He said the bravery comes from letting go, or something, and I said that’s naivete. He sighed loudly (probably) and told me the only thing that has made sense in the past hour and a half: “Let’s not argue.”
At this point, there is really nothing else I can control aside from how I handle these next 18 hours and how much trust I put in my doctors and my nurses, and it’s hard to do that. After six failed treatments, it’s really hard to trust anyone, even myself, even though it’s not any of our faults.
I was talking to my therapist a couple of weeks ago about this whole process and I realized that 99% of our sessions over the past couple of years have been about me trying to have a baby. It made me think about how I want to raise a child — i.e., to know that they are an important part of the world and special and loved, but that they need to work hard and that they are not the center of the universe — and I realized how I’ve been living my life so opposite of that. My entire existence the past two and a half years, for the most part, has been about becoming a parent, and I want to be so much more than that even if I do finally get to become a mom.
I want our kids(s) to look at us and see whole people who model something to be proud of. I want them to feel like an integral part of a bigger purpose, not the entire purpose. I know parents so often say their children are their entire lives, and as much as I want any child of mine to know they are the most important part of my life, I don’t want them to think they are the only important part, and I have been doing a bad job of living that way myself. I want a child to come into an environment Josh and I have created because it was borne out of who we are as individuals and a couple, not out of a fake version we want to present as a child.
It really has made me, deep down, realize that if we don’t have kids, I’m going to be OK. We absolutely would want to adopt, I think we would just need some time to grieve this part of the process. And for a while I felt so guilty about that, but I don’t anymore. I think of anyone (especially people who have had biological children and therefore have no business commenting) having the nerve to tell us the right/least selfish way to do this and I laugh, because you don’t truly realize the gravity of something you can lose until you’re on the edge of losing it yourself.
For now, I’m just going to keep my thoughts positive, resist the urge to have “one last drink” for the 329248th time this week (don’t judge me), actually do my IVF meditation tonight, and try very hard (again, for the 329248th time this week) to find a mental balance between what is and what could be.
As someone who is dealing with infertility in a day and age where information is at your fingertips, I have to say I’m really lucky. I’ve met so many other women over the internet who have struggled with the same things I have — some of them with journeys so similar it’s scary — and it has brought me a lot of hope and a sense of belonging I haven’t really felt comfortable being vulnerable enough to seek out in real life outside of a couple women I knew were struggling before my own infertility journey started.
One of the biggest places I have found support and a community of women who truly understand is the Glow app, which has been a lifeline for me at times when I know I can’t go to my friends or family members and hear “It will happen, just relax” or “What is meant to be will be” or, the worst, “Do you just want my kid?” (the least funny thing ever) one more goddamned time.
And to their credit, they all mean well. There is just nothing you can really say, and I understand that is a struggle. I am the queen of making insensitive jokes in an effort to lighten the mood even with people I’m closest to and when I know it’s not the time, but that shit slips out anyway and, in fact, did just the other night after we found out Josh’s granddad died. I don’t remember what I said to Josh but it was slightly too far and goes to show even I, the martyr who is throwing my loved ones under the bus right now, am not immune to the occasional (OK, probably more than occasional) foot-in-mouth episode.
Glow has been a safe haven for me because it has shown me the sheer number of other women who not only struggle with what I’m struggling with, but have it way worse — which is something that really puts my journey in perspective and makes me thankful for what I do have. There are women who have been trying to have a child for a decade, women who can’t afford fertility treatments or adoption. Women who have had miscarriage after miscarriage or who have lost their babies right after birth, and I just cannot imagine.
But I have also met quite a few women who have been on the edge of a treatment cycle, just like me. And every single time, these women go on to have babies — during the cycle I meet them. All of them except me. Every time, we message each other constantly throughout our cycles and it goes something like this:
Me: “Hey, how are you? What are your numbers looking like?”
Future Pregnant Chick: “Great! My numbers are XYZ, but I’m not expecting much!”
Me: “Oh same and me either lol I am hoping for the best though!”
Back and forth, updating each other on appointments and hormone shots and comparing levels and random other shit until one day in the near future…
Previously Future Now Currently Pregnant Chick: “OMG I CAN’T BELIEVE IT, I SEE A FAINT LINE — RIGHT, I’M NOT CRAZY!?”
Sad me pretending to be excited and simultaneously feeling guilty for having to pretend at all: “GIRL YES HOLY SHIT I’M SO HAPPY FOR YOU CONGRATS!”
This has happened to me at least five times now, to the point where I’ve started secretly dubbing myself the Good Luck Chuck of Fertility. I don’t know if you’ve seen that movie with Dane Cook, but if you haven’t, don’t. I haven’t even seen it because why would I, but I know the premise and it’s basically like…girls have sex with him (? Ew) and then find their true love, who is not him. So that’s me. I somehow have sex with these women’s hope and then they have a baby, and I’m left still babyless.
And that all sounds so shitty, I know. Originally, I was in it for the support, and I’m very thankful I have found that. In fact, I have made one really true friend whose baby girl is six months old today, who was due around the same time as me when I got pregnant last year, and she is always checking in on me and is the most wonderful person. But for the most part, the people disappear.
And that’s one side you don’t hear about much, even if you’re aboard the infertility train: That even the women who are struggling, most of them will eventually move on with their lives too. Which is 100% how it should be, but it just wasn’t a side effect I was expecting, I guess. The extra large hole that is left when the women who “get it” eventually migrate to join the group of people who are moms is…almost a worse feeling than before.
But deep down, I know this vulnerability is going to help me be a better mother or, at the very least, a better person. It has to, right? And to be honest, I know I will eventually able to be happy with just the latter.
Full disclosure: Josh and I fought a LOT in the earlier days of our fertility treatments. A lot. Just last month, after finding out I had an ovarian cyst that meant our days of IUI were numbered a month earlier than we expected, I ripped all the clothes out of my closet while screaming, then calmly hung them all back up while my husband sat in a catatonic state for 15 whole minutes because he had no idea what to do with himself or me. We have threatened to leave, multiple times. Nights sleeping on the couch. You name it, we have done it. I cut up a baby onesie once and left the pieces on the stairs, you guys.
And 99% of this behavior has stemmed from insecurities about ourselves — mainly fueled by our own individual penchants for self blame, and thinking it must be one of us screwing the whole thing up somehow. Or (and this is strictly a me issue) both of us, because our love isn’t “good enough.” And yes, I know plenty of people who have kids end up divorcing so this makes zero sense but during my especially low times, it seems perfectly reasonable.
We still struggle with these feelings but things are so much better now than they were a year ago. We have been seeing my therapist together once in a while, and actually did this past Tuesday to ask her for some tools on how to deal when I’m extra cray on the IVF hormones and we’re both stressed about taking out a home-equity loan to pay for this procedure. Her advice was very simple and similar to kinda what she always tries to drill into my head: Let it be, and don’t just expect the worst. I have a tendency to want to prepare myself for the Worst Possible Scenario so that if it happens, the distance I fall isn’t so great. The chink in that armor is the fact that I end up stressing so much about “what might” that when I get to “what is,” the amount of energy I’ve spent preparing myself is either greater than it needed to be or a wash. I haven’t just hoped for the best yet during a fertility treatment (and rarely at all, with anything), so maybe that’s something I need to try.
We also talked about how I feel better prepared to try that route now because Josh and I have already been through something really, really hard with the miscarriage after already having tried to conceive for a year and a half and with three fertility treatments. Neither of us really went into that second ultrasound prepared not to see a heartbeat even though we weren’t necessarily shocked when we didn’t, but if I could go back and “prepare” myself for that, I don’t think I would. Yes, it was hard, but I wouldn’t trade that month we got to live in the parents-to-be dream state for anything. Buying a crib was fun. Re-imagining how we were going to turn our upstairs loft area into a play area with baby gates was fun. Going to Walt Disney World for my birthday and taking our unborn baby on their “first ride” was fun. Browsing the going-out-of-business sales at Babies ‘R’ Us was fun. Avoiding alcohol was fun (I know, WTF!). Preparing myself for the sadness would’ve ripped that experience away from me, and honestly I don’t feel like I “learned” from it in the sense that we’d do anything different if I get pregnant again. We’d still tell our close friends and family and obviously, with this blog, much of the world will know (well, the tiny slice that reads this, at least).
I also have been struggling with feeling not so much that Josh will leave me but just the idea of a more fertile woman being able to give him biological children. The little devil on my shoulder sometimes pokes at my brain with its stupid pitchfork and conjures up this image of my husband with a much younger, prettier, more successful woman with a few little blond kids running around and I just lose it internally, both from pure anguish and from guilt that I might be somehow holding him back from something because he deserves to be a dad so much. He is built for fatherhood, way more than I am built for motherhood. But I think the latter thing has changed a lot over the past couple of years, which I’m sure I’ll touch on in a later post.
There are two flaws to this Twilight Zone-worthy nightmare fantasy, though, when I step back and look at it through the lens of a non-crazy person. One, the “issue” isn’t necessarily me. My gut tells me it probably is but it could be him, too, or both of us. Or neither of us and we’ve just had super shitty luck. And secondly, there’s a very slim chance we will not be able to have children. Biologically, there’s a bigger chance, but at all, no. We’re both open to adoption down the road if the biological route doesn’t work for us, and Josh has assured me time and time again he would rather adopt with me (or even not have kids) than have biological kids with someone else. In fact, he might’ve even suggested the adoption route naturally if I had been on board with it instead of trying IVF first. We haven’t delved super far into the idea of adoption yet because I have always imagined having children biologically and at this point it’s still very much a word I, regrettably, associate with failure (for myself, not others), as in, “Well, you weren’t enough to do it the other way.” Which is a TERRIBLE thing and not at all the actual truth, but you know. Insecurity is a bitch. And adoption is amazing. I’m so thankful to know people who have done it, and I hope I can eventually come around to it fully if our journey takes us in a different direction than the one we’re going right now.
My point is that anxiety-ridden times of trying for a baby are NOT fun. I do not recommend it. In this way, we are so happy to have a few months off before we take this next step in fertility treatments. I actually feel like I can relax now and not just fake relax, or “relax” a.k.a. just not tell people who are telling me to relax that I’m not actually relaxing and on top of that, feeling guilt for not relaxing.
And honestly, if I have to hear one more time that “Omg it’ll happen when you’re waiting for IVF, watch!” I will kill someone. It won’t. I mean, if it does, great. I know it happened to your aunt’s hairdresser’s friend and she had triplets or whatever. But all I hear with that sentence is, “Aw, you haven’t fully failed yet, you still have a couple more months!” Again though, probably a me problem, but I’m a little sensitive at the moment.
If I could sum up the last two years I’ve spent seeing my (amazing) therapist, it would be with this sentence. At least every other session, she reminds me of this little mantra. We’ve discussed it in length. In theory, it seems pretty simple: Send what you want out into the universe as opposed to waiting for the other shoe to drop, and ye shall receive. Very The Secret-esque, which is a book I’ve read and really loved. If you haven’t read it, I highly suggest it. It’s all about the power of positive thinking helping manifest your thoughts into realities.
But repeating that mantra and actually having it be a calming force that centers you back to reality isn’t so straightforward when you’re a person plagued by constant guilt you can’t put into logic. While I understand (and have experienced firsthand) the fact that it’s important to take care of yourself so you can be the best version of yourself for others, it is so hard to put into practice. For every dollar I spend on something for myself or hour I spend playing a video game, reading a book, watching a movie, etc., I feel like I can be spending it on helping others or at the very least learning something new that I can apply to something constructive, as opposed to texting my friend after binge-watching Keeping Up with the Kardashians and being like, “Oh God, I finally got to the episode where Kris tells Kim not to take selfies in the car because they’re on their way to see Khloé in jail.” (Next checkpoint: the Todd Kraines prank call episode. I still don’t even know who Todd Kraines is.)
Guilt is my constant emotion that I can always count on, and it’s rough. The last time I can remember truly taking care of myself was when Ricky and I broke up in 2010 and Josh wasn’t ready to commit and I was floating along trying to distract myself from the thing I wanted. I felt like, because I was so hurt inside, that I was allowed to put myself first because no one else was going to. I lost some weight, started running, ran a freaking half marathon and felt like a million bucks. Now, I am experiencing pain that is much different but still as intense with all this infertility shit, so why can’t I do the same thing? Is it because Josh is here to support me? If I felt more alone, would that make me more apt to care for myself again or would I spiral down into a black hole this time? I don’t want to find out but sometimes I wonder what has to give for me to feel like it’s OK to breathe.
Speaking of. A couple sessions ago, once Josh and I had made the decision to charge deliberately forward with IVF, my therapist said, “You’re breathing more, I’m noticing.” I was like huh? She meant literally what she said, that I wasn’t holding my breath for such prolonged periods of time and that I was speaking more slowly and deliberately, and taking breaths like a normal human. It’s something I notice at the most random times, like in the shower. I’ll realize I haven’t had a good inhale or exhale in too long and scramble to fill my lungs again. The breathing exercises are the one thing I love about yoga. I just wish my wrists weren’t so weak.
I mean, I wish my wrists were stronger. “Ask for what you want.” I’m trying.
Yesterday I had brunch with a very dear friend I hadn’t see in years and he shared with me that he and his wonderful wife had a miscarriage over the summer. Not only that, but they had it around the same time in the pregnancy that Josh and I had ours in pretty much the same way and had to get a D&C, just like we did. It was such a gut punch to hear someone I care about so deeply recalling this, not to mention knowing exactly what it feels like. And it sucks. You start questioning everything, specifically what you did wrong (which, most likely, is absolutely nothing because miscarriage is insanely common and despite what you’ve been told, a healthy pregnancy is truly a miracle). Everyone deals with grief differently, but having to take two steps back when you think your life is about to completely change is never easy — and losing a child is something I would never wish on anyone. We were lucky in the sense that it happened so so early in my pregnancy. Even though we’d already started preparing, both mentally and environmentally, I cannot imagine losing a child later in a pregnancy or having a stillborn child.
And the thing is, all of these events are so much more common than people think. They’re just so rarely discussed openly because both men and women are taught throughout their lives that not only is sex shameful, but that one small slip-up during sexual activity can result in an STD or a baby. And while this is extremely true, so much emphasis is put on that idea that both girls and boys are not taught as much about equally important concepts concerning their bodies — the importance of getting seen regularly by a doctor, how the reproductive system works (I have learned so much about my body in the past two years it’s not even funny, and I probably never would’ve if we hadn’t had to seek treatment), how much fertility is affected as you age, practicing physically and mentally safe sex over abstinence, etc. These are such crucial things to start incorporating into health education — and no one should ever feel shame over them. If you are planning to wait until your thirties to start a family, I would highly recommend getting some baseline fertility tests because even though our case may be atypical, that shiz is scary. BE INFORMED. I find it appalling in hindsight how much I’ve had to explain to fellow women about certain parts of this journey and the truth is, if I wasn’t dealing with infertility, I’d be in the same boat. Our educational system has failed us big time.
Anyway, that’s a tangent. My miscarriage never really “happened,” per se. I got pregnant for the first time ever about a year and a half after we first started trying, which was this past February, after our third IUI. We were in shock. I took pregnancy tests every day, twice a day, for at least two weeks because I didn’t believe it.
We told most of our family and close friends and started buying a few baby items here and there, planning renovations to the house, etc., as a way of prepping for baby and indulging in some of our excitement, but also to quell our fears and misgivings — instincts that, unfortunately, turned out to be not unfounded. We saw the beginning of a little person when I was almost six weeks pregnant, but still could not quite feel that connection. And when I was about seven and a half weeks pregnant, there was no heartbeat or growth.
The most surprising part of this was that neither of us felt taken aback. We were like, “Oh. Well…yeah.” At that point, any positive news was something unexpected, sadly, so as difficult as it was to deal with the aftermath of losing a baby (and it WAS difficult, but thankfully involved lots of wine, sushi, caffeine, Brie, and other things pregnant ladies are supposed to steer clear from, plus lots of tears), we were more mentally prepared than we realized we were.
Not that it was easy. I have never seen Josh in so much pain, and I hope I never have to again. I know I will, because life is inclusive of those moments however much we wish it wasn’t, but seeing the person you love most in the entire world feel that kind of pain and not being able to do anything about it is such a horrible thing. Also, around that time, we also knew approximately 678435 people who were pregnant. I gained 10 lbs. in a month from depression eating. It wasn’t a good spring/early summer, guys.
Not only did I opt to induce miscarriage by taking medication, but I tried that route about six times (each a little less painful than the previous attempt) — meaning I wasn’t able to miscarry fully on my own despite the repeated attempts and writhing on my bathroom floor in pain, so I had to get the D&C. My doctor told me he had only seen the medication not work for someone one other time ever. LUCKY ME! Fortunately, the D&C procedure itself went as smoothly as it possibly could’ve. We are very thankful for that, and that my mom flew in for emotional support. It was so much easier having her here with us. My cycles also went back to normal like clockwork, thank God. They are actually even better/more normal than they were before.
The most difficult part of the D&C wasn’t the surgery itself (or even the bill, which added up to about as much as an IUI cycle), but the moment I had to sign a consent form about what to do with the tissue and I did a double-take at the “Mother” signature line, thinking it meant my mom because up until that moment, it always had — and she was right next to me at the time, so I assumed it was for a witness signature or something.
When I realized it meant me, it felt real in a way it hadn’t up until that point, and I don’t wish that feeling on anyone. It was the first time I had ever been called a mother by someone I didn’t know, or signed anything that referred to me that way, and thank God I went under anesthesia shortly after that because I almost lost it. It was like a punch in the throat and the moment I felt like I was truly saying goodbye.
Another thing I shared with my friend today is that I am still grappling with feeling like this is the universe demanding payment for something, like it’s Rumpelstiltskin taking my firstborn child from me because of something I didn’t even realize I was gambling for or did wrong. According to my own internal dialogue, it could be a lot: breaking off my engagement eight years ago and leaving my fiancé for his best friend, waiting until my thirties to have children, getting annoyed at crying kids in public, not living in the same state as my aging parents. Take your pick. Payment? For the amazing 2015-2016 Josh and I had. We both got great jobs (mine literally at my dream company), bought a house, went to Europe. So my brain was like, something is going to be a payment here. (Yes, I’m talking to my therapist about this.)
My friend today was one of the first people I’ve told this to who hasn’t shot it down cold. He of course said it wasn’t true — which is what I would tell anyone else who wasn’t me, to be fair — but he also said he understood why I’d feel that way and that it wasn’t unreasonable or irrational to feel it. Oddly, that made me feel kind of empowered about it. These are feelings I continue to work through and I am a lot better about it now than I was a year ago. To be honest, Josh and I both still grapple with the way we got together, but not nearly as much as we used to. It creeps in when we’re both feeling especially insecure and has shown its face in a very ugly way throughout this infertility journey, during the times when we both feel defeated and the “when” is an “if.” It’s still a “when” for us at this point and we’re trying to be optimistic, but that ebbs and flows and I think that’s probably OK.
I did get to spend my birthday at Walt Disney World when I was still pregnant, which was so fun. Josh bought me a bottle of non-alcoholic wine for the AirBnB and a little silly bell to ring when I want a kiss, and a coffee mug that had the name we’d picked out if our baby was a girl (spelled differently, but still). We had felt it was a boy before that, but that day we changed our minds because we took it as a sign that the gift shop had our girl name but not our boy one.
We had fun deciding what would be baby Haupt’s first ride, and made a video on Dumbo where we talked to the baby about how much we were excited to take her to WDW one day. We told our waiter at dinner that we were expecting our first child and he was so excited for us and took great care of us. He even tracked down non-alcoholic wine for me. It was probably my best birthday to date.
We never did find out the sex of the baby for sure because we opted not to have the D&C tissue tested since most of it had cleared out from the meds before I went in for the procedure, but my mom thinks it was a girl too.
We mutually decided to call her Genevieve (my mom’s idea), because that was what my mom had wanted to name me initially.
We cried for Genevieve a lot. We still do sometimes, but not nearly as often. She will always be our first baby and she will always be any future babies’ (and Penny’s!) big sister.