Kate is one of my dearest internet friends. We've never met (something that I'm bound and determined to remedy some day), but I've always felt a strong connection with her (oh my god, I sound like a creepy girl on The Bachelor--I promise I don't have her face tattoed anywhere on my body). We've talked a lot over the past few months about our struggles with fertility, and I am consistently amazed and inspired by the grace with which she has handled her journey and her ability to find the humor in some of the darkest corners of life. I love you to bits, Kate, and am so, so honored that you're sharing your perspective with my readers today.
Ahem. Hi. I'm Kate. I used to blog a lot over at Walking Kateastrophe. Now I, um...sort of blog a little. I'm a feisty Irish Mormon redhead - I know, weird. I got my college degree from Brigham Young University in Music Dance Theatre and then proceeded to find my way into working my butt off in the Web Marketing Department of the world's largest Domain Registrar. I won't say who it is so I don't get all flagged here, but you're probably thinking of the right one right now. Yes, the opposite of Stop Mommy. I've been married for six years to the kindest, wonderfulest, QUIETEST accountant alive. I love musicals, food, traveling, singing, laughing, punk music, opera and my friends. I love everything about my life except for one fairly significant thing. I am struggling with having a baby.
As you can see, Angela and I have quite a bit in common. Musicals, food, traveling and that dirty 'infertility' word. My story is different from Angela's. She has the heartbreaking challenge of so far not being able to conceive. My heartbreaking challenge is that I lost three babies within a year. One June 30th, 2010 at ten weeks, the second October 15th at seven weeks and the final doozy on April 15th at 14.5 weeks. I've written in gory detail about all the miscarriages and their differences on my "baby" blog here, if you're interested.
I'll be the first to admit that being positive has been hard to do this year. On top of the personal struggles that come with fertility issues, there have been a lot of kind intentioned individuals who say the WORST POSSIBLE THING and make your already crappy day crappier. Most notably in my personal realm, someone I thought was a dear, dear friend basically told me that I was doing something wrong to cause these miscarriages and I needed to take a hard look at my life and what I needed to change.
My happy "BUT" is that, amidst all of this trauma, there have really been some funny moments. I'm sure those of you who have had children have similar experiences, but this whole miscarriage and fertility testing thing? Is weird and invasive and hilarious if you look at it the right way. As a quick note, I apologize in advance for the candor with which I'm about to speak. Feel free to abandon ship if you're easily woozy or don't want to know about "lady doctor" experiences.
My second miscarriage was a strange one. We saw a heart beat one day and the next it was like my uterus exploded. I bled non-stop for almost three weeks. It was traumatic but "life low point" took on a whole new meaning when I was at the doctor's office being checked out. I was pantless, in stirrups and my uterus decided at THAT moment to ...further...explode. I wasn't quite aware of it but all of a sudden the doctor is frantically saying "Donna. I need towels. TOWELS, DONNA! TOWELS NOW." And I was helpless. I just stared at the ceiling while DONNA WENT AND GOT SOME TOWELS, DAMMIT. Apparently THAT is why OB/GYNs are so well paid - they are good at uterus explosion clean-up. It was humiliating, sure, but now I have a new impression of a frantic doctor yelling for towels to pull out at parties. Ladies only parties, duh.
Another super hilarious, embarrassing moment came after the D&E Procedure for my third miscarriage. The baby was too big for a traditional at-home miscarriage so I opted for a more intense version of a D&C. The procedure was quick and painless but afterward I had some major cramping pain. Once I was un-sedated and able to walk on my own, the doctor came to say good-bye and then as I was leaving was like "OH. By the way, I gave you some medicine to help your uterus contract a bit more to get rid of any leftover tissue. It was administered rectally and sometimes the pills don't fully dissolve so don't be alarmed if...well, you know. They come out next time you go to the bathroom." I kept thinking "By the way there's a bunch of bills in your butt. BY THE WAY??!?!!?"
Next up, as Angela well knows, the fertility testing becomes really fun. First of all, you have to go at certain times during your monthly cycle for ultrasounds and blood tests to evaluate hormone levels, uterine tissue something or other, egg production, egg age, chromosome make-up...it goes on and on and on. The whole time you're relying on labs and doctors and people who don't seem to understand that this is the BIGGEST DEAL. It's got to be hard because it's their every day. They live fertility issues. They see the crazy-eyed women every single day. They draw their blood every single day. My experiences have luckily been good overall. I've just had a few little hilarious tid-bits. One particular day I'd had thirteen (yes, THIRTEEN) vials of blood drawn, then I was sent in for an MRI where they needed to give me an IV of contrast. One arm had already been used so they went for the other one. I bruise with IVs so for the next week I looked like a junkie with track marks and bruises on my inner elbows. The looks you get in that situation are priceless. And it's not like you can look at the stranger who's checking out your arms and say "I'm infertile" though now that I think of it, not a bad idea. Maybe I'll get a t-shirt.
I've gotten to the point where I can have a casual conversation with my fertility specialist through my open legs (Poor Angela is going to get the WEIRDEST keyword searches from this post). He is a very hilarious Indian man who shows and explains everything to me - almost to a fault. The last appointment I was told amidst a very uncomfortable ultrasound that included iodine and saline injected into you know where, that I had "Vun, two, sree, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine, TEN eggs on sa right side! Dis is bery good!" This was followed by the same exact discussion of the left. "SO happy!" He exclaims. Then he proceeds to ask you about your day and your plans for the weekend while he continues to ultrasound away. No big.
Then there's the fun part the husband gets to do. It should be noted that if a man complains about his ONE JOB in this process, he should be punched in the face. Firstly, the last time I checked this was something men thoroughly enjoy. Secondly, it's ONE JOB. And no one is in the room asking you about your day while it's taking place or sticking anything that doesn't belong in their private places. Sounds like a freaking fertility testing party to me. I'll trade him any day of the week. Hearing him tell the story of the burly man who walked him down the hall, handed him a paper bag and said "there's the remote" and walked off IS especially awesome though.
Our particular barrage of tests found almost nothing. I have a slight chromosomal anomaly but it's not to the point that it would affect my ability to carry a baby. I don't have a luteal phase problem, I don't have a uterine anomaly, I don't have old eggs or no eggs or a disconnect between my brain and my uterus. We've been instructed for the time being to keep trying. It's been a weird experience because trying again is at once terrifying and exciting.
I think my point in writing all of this is that fertility issues are HARD. Having a baby is just something everyone expects they'll be able to do when the time comes - accident or not. When it doesn't happen you feel like a failure. Well, I feel like a failure. It seems like I've failed at the fundamental job of womanhood (Hi! Setting the feminist movement back 60 years! You're welcome!) and that I'm so, so broken. Seeing the silver lining of this big looming cloud and being able to laugh at the absurdity of what's going on has been my saving grace. Well, that and anti-depressants. My plea to those of you who don't struggle with fertility is to find a way to be sensitive. Always. Every time you complain about being uncomfortable or sickly pregnant or about your bratty kids, there's a good chance there's a woman in the room who would give ANYTHING to feel that way or to have kids to yell at. I cannot tell you the times I've wanted to jump out of my skin and strangle someone for complaining about the "longest 40 weeks of their life."
This challenge has made me much more aware of what I complain about across the board. I shouldn't complain about working long hours because there are people without jobs. I shouldn't complain about a messy house because there are those without...the list goes on an on. I think we could all be a lot more sensitive and a lot less whiny. I realize that's sort of a "no duh" moment, but it's really hit me lately.
My advice to those of you who are struggling with similar issues is this: Try to keep your chin up, even when you're crying and your heart is breaking. There will be days that it feels like the world is ending and as if there's no one who will ever understand. Trying to explain to someone what it feels like when you realize that, once again, all your hopes have been dashed, is impossible. But finding ways be grateful for the things that aren't wrong and laughing are not impossible and I promise, they help. I haven't yet gotten to a point where I can say that all of this pain was worth it. I cannot yet look back and acknowledge the strength I gained or the understanding that came from this trail, but I know someday it will. We are all told that no one said it would be easy, but that it would be worth it. I believe in that statement with all my heart. It doesn't make the journey any easier or the pain any less painful, but knowing that someday this will all be better, however it works out - gives me, and I hope in turn you, hope.