Tag Archives: infertile myrtle

As if I needed another reminder

The third cycle after Dan and I started trying for a baby, waaaay back in the fall of 2009, there was a blood drive at my work. I was in the habit of always donating when the blood center people came to the huge highrise office building; in fact I think I’ve written here a few times about why I give blood. I remember this incident specifically because it was the first time the 80 billion question sheet that asked about medications and time spent living in the UK and sex with a man who has had sex with another man and tattoos and piercings and medical issues asked the question, “Are you now or have you been, within the last six weeks, pregnant?”

I was about five days past ovulation at that point, or at least I was pretty sure that’s where I was in the cycle, so I guess it was technically POSSIBLE that a fertilized egg was hanging out in there someplace and hadn’t yet implanted. But I marked the sheet “No” after a little twinge of insecurity and asked the phlebotomist who checked the questionnaire, tested my blood for iron levels, and took my temperature and blood pressure about what the new pregnancy question was for. “They’re doing some kind of study,” she told me. Huh, I thought, and didn’t think any more of it.

Each time I’ve given blood since that drive, I’ve had to answer that question. Except it soon changed to “Have you ever been pregnant?” Every time, I check “No” and it gives me a weird little wistful twinge. No, I’ve never been pregnant. Not for lack of trying, not for lack of wanting, not for lack of anything save the physical ability to do so. We aren’t waiting on ‘the right time’ or anything. We just can’t. And frankly, it bothers me a little bit that they ask the question when how I answer the question in no way changes my blood’s suitablility for donation. My blood is A+ and I’ve never lived in one of the blacklisted countries, I’ve never had a tattoo, I’ve never had a blood transfusion or cancer and have no family history of Creutzfeldt–Jakob disease.

Last Friday, Dan and I were planning to give blood at a local drive but were unable to do so for last minute logistical reasons, so to do our part to help out with the Sandy relief effort (we have no money but we have blood to give to help the nationwide supply), yesterday we drove to the closest donation center. At the center, they now have these fancy handheld computers that ask you the same questions as the traditional scantron-type sheet, only the data is automatically entered into their system on the spot. We still had to sit and wait to be called by the phlebotomists to do the iron and blood pressure checks, and the one I got was especially chatty. She told me all about how she was doing her residency at UCSF and wanted to specialize in internal medicine, and about what other parts in the US she’d lived after I mentioned my normal blood pressure (100/60) had finally returned after my 115/75 the whole time I’d lived in Denver. My iron levels were fine, and she sat me in the chair and poked both of my arms, insisting the vein in the right one was better even though other technicians have never had an issue taking blood from my left.

And then, as she was marking my vein and scrubbing my arm with a disinfectant wipe, she said it. “So, no kids yet, huh?” completely oblivious to the kind of stab in the gut such an innocuous-on-the-surface question can be. How was it any of her business to discuss that never-pregnant answer I’d given to the fancy computer. “Not yet,” I told her, and gave her my standard infertility response. “We can’t have kids without a lot of medical assistance, and we can’t afford that yet.” Rather than dropping it, she continued, “Well, my husband and I don’t have kids yet because it’s expensive! It costs so much to have a baby,” she said.

I refrained from what I wanted to say, which was “Well, at least chances are it’s not going to cost you fifteen or twenty thousand dollars just to get pregnant.” Instead, I said nothing. She put the needle in my vein and five minutes later my bag was full. I got a blue arm wrap and joined Dan in the canteen, who wasn’t able to donate after all due to a fluke low iron reading.

So here’s something about being infertile that nobody ever tells you. You’ll be reminded of it all the time, and sometimes people who I’m sure are very well-meaning will ask you about whether you have kids and why or why not. Because for whatever reason, people think it’s their business. The blood bank thinks it’s their business. As if we needed more reminders about our shortcomings and inabilities.

Weapons of choice

Yesterday was a red-letter day for the annals of human reproduction in this country. First, Mississippi voted on an amendment that would have defined a fertilized egg as a person. On the surface, had it passed, it would have prevented abortion in the state of Mississippi. But digging a little deeper, the measure would have outlawed many forms of contraception, including hormonal birth control and IUDs. It would have severely curtailed fertility treatments, including limiting IVF to harvesting, fertilizing, and transferring only one embryo per round. It would have had the potential to prosecute women who miscarried on their own accord as a form of homicide. Pregnant women with cancer might have been denied chemotherapy by physicians for fear of legal repercussions. Essentially, the personhood amendment (as on the ballot in Mississippi yesterday and on the ballot in other states previously, twice in Colorado) would set out to remove most reproductive and many other types choice for the citizens of Mississippi. Thankfully, the “personhood” amendment was defeated, in part because of social media campaigns conducted over Facebook and twitter to educate the citizens of Mississippi about the potential drawbacks of a “yes” vote.

Also yesterday, the country’s most famous clown car overworked uterus multiparous woman and her husband and family, the Duggars, went on national television to announce that they are expecting baby #20. While I have a lot of personal feelings about the Duggar family and the choices they make, more than anything when I heard the announcement, it made me sad. Primarily, I’m sad because these people already have 19 children, and their four oldest daughters do a fair chunk of the child rearing. Their youngest daughter was born at 25 weeks’ gestation after Mrs. Duggar was hospitalized for pre-eclampsia. Both mom and baby were very ill for quite some time post-birth, and the little girl is not even two years old yet and still in fragile health. And now she’ll take a back burner to the next baby on the way. I’m also sad because I truly wish that everyone who wanted a baby could get pregnant as easily as this couple can. And while I find their choice repugnant, particularly under the circumstances, I still feel that everyone should have the right to make their own choices about the size of their family, how many babies to have (or not have), and how often to have them.

I kind of feel like the Duggars the same way that I feel about the Westboro Baptist Church or the KKK and the first amendment. I may hate the message and 100% disagree with what they say, but I still recognize their right to say it. Because everyone has free speech, or nobody has free speech. And everyone has the right to have 20 babies if that’s what they feel they truly must do, just like everyone has the right to have zero babies, or some number in between.

It’s possible that the reason I feel so strongly about protecting people’s choices is because, as half of an infertile couple, my choices are so limited. I’ll never have the opportunity to have more than one or two children, even if I wanted to, because it’s going to cost thousands of dollars each time we want to try to have one. Malpractice cases like Octomom or independently wealthy people like the Jolie-Pitts aside, IVF as a reproductive strategy is extremely expensive and so most people in our situation don’t have large families. I’ll never have a fun, romantic memory of conceiving a child, because our children will be conceived by other people in a lab, and my part of the process will involve a lot of shots, hormones, and medical procedures, while Dan’s will involve a specimen cup – not exactly the sort of story that will bring fond memories. If I ever post a photo of a pregnancy test, it will be after months of preparation, several uncomfortable weeks of needles, and several days of nail biting and worrying that all the money we’ve spent will have been for nothing – not the casual and hopeful, excited environment I imagine it must be for most people who pee on a stick and see two pink lines.

No, when it comes to fertility, our options are not like those of most people. We can choose to buy a house sometime in the next ten years, or try for a baby. We can choose to travel, or we can try for a baby. We can choose to try to transfer any potential frozen embryos we might get out of an IVF cycle if it doesn’t work the first time. We can choose to donate embryos we decide not to use. And that’s about it. So when I see people’s choices under attack, it gets me pretty riled up, because nature’s already taken away the choices of a whole lot of people who really want babies. How can the people of Mississippi think it’s OK to legislate what a medical professional can do to help infertile or subfertile people have desperately wanted children? Why should a collection of cells that is not even yet implanted in a uterine wall have more rights than an already-born person? and nobody should have to carry an unwanted fetus, period, whether it be because a woman is physically, emotionally, or financially (or some combination of all three) incapable of doing so.

The other choice I have as half of an infertile couple is how to respond to pregnancy and birth announcements by people in my life. As the months and years have passed since we started trying to have a baby, I’ve realized that more and more, I’m far more interested and excited when someone who has struggled is finally able to make that announcement. For example, I cheer every time someone undergoing fertility treatment is successful in achieving pregnancy, and I’m thrilled when I see an announcement on Facebook or a blog post about it. Because when it’s difficult to become pregnant or to stay pregnant, every success story feels like a victory in the ongoing battle we people who want kids and can’t have them without medical intervention are fighting on a daily basis. We’re mostly a silent minority for a variety of reasons, which is understandable, but I think the fertile people in our lives who will never, ever understand what it is like to be in our situation need to hear our voices more often.

Tonight, friends of ours who struggled for years to get pregnant and to stay pregnant met their daughter for the first time. I hadn’t been that excited and happy about someone else’s kid being born in a long time, and I think it’s because all the other babies born to people we know since we started trying were born to people who didn’t struggle to get or stay pregnant. The ability to conceive and gestate easily is something that most of humanity takes for granted (and, in fact, is an unwanted gift some of the time). I wish that more people would realize just how lucky they are to be able to stop using birth control and get pregnant after a cycle or a few cycles of trying. The emotional roller coaster of wanting a baby and hoping for a baby and the excitement or disappointment of success or failure takes its toll after a while. Imagine feeling those same feelings of disappointment when it doesn’t work for years, and even after you know WHY it doesn’t work a tiny part of you still has hope every month that it might, even when the deepest part of you knows that, save an act of deity in which you do not believe or a startling medical breakthrough, it won’t. And then, yet again, you’re proven right, time after time and month after month.

I reserve the right of all infertile couples to have mixed feelings when people in our lives announce pregnancies. We can be happy for them while still wishing we could be so lucky. We can wish them safe, easy pregnancies and healthy babies while still feeling the unfairness of the roller coaster, when each month, each dip, feels a little lower. I reserve the right to wish that everyone who has it easy could understand that the best way to announce a pregnancy is not to make a joke about babies being gross (because we know they’re gross, and we want one anyway, and that doesn’t make it better) or to try to sugar coat it (because nothing will make it better for us but time and achieving pregnancy ourselves), but to just say hey. We’re going to have a baby. We’re excited, and we hope you are too. Because we’ll be excited for you, on our own terms and our own time. We’ll be excited for the multiparous families who seem to get pregnant at the drop of a hat, just as we’re excited for the people more like us, who have to struggle through difficult times before they finally get to where they’d like to be. Many of our choices have been stripped from us, so please don’t take this one. Tell us simply, and let us have time to process. Because we don’t want to be angry or bitter about other people’s babies, other people’s pregnancies.

If I’ve learned nothing else during all this time of wanting and not having, I’ve learned that reproduction is not a zero sum game. Michelle Duggar’s next Jfetus has no bearing on whether or not someone else can have a baby, and so curtailing her reproductive choice would not do anyone else any good. I would hate if we lived in a world where a family could not decide for themselves how many children were too many, whether that be zero or 50. It would be tragic if a woman with cancer was considered less important than the fetus she carried, if a family could not choose to end a wanted pregnancy if a fetus were incompatible with life and waiting to miscarry naturally would bring more complications and potential health risks to the mother. Nobody should have to worry about whether or not they might go to jail if they need a D&C after a missed miscarriage in order to not get an infection. Nobody should have to worry about having more children than they want, or to be unable to choose how to prevent unwanted pregnancies. And people for whom conception and pregnancy are easy should realize that the people in your lives who want kids and don’t yet have them may need time to process before they can congratulate you on your big news.

Odd Man Out

A message popped up on my Facebook screen. “Recital tomorrow at 6:30!” Heather wrote. “I know; I asked Denise about it a few weeks ago,” I responded. “I’m planning to be there.”

It was a hot Saturday of Father’s Day weekend, so of course it was time for recital. It’s always sunny and always hot, and they always have to pull the curtains on the high windows at the Citrus Fair so it’s always stifling with the hundreds of bodies in seats. We rushed back from Scarlett’s party in Santa Rosa and I made it to the Citrus Fair building with approximately two minutes to spare. I was greeted at the ticket table by my old youth group leader’s wife, who had the biggest grin on her face when she realized who I was. “I’m so happy to see you!” she said. We made a bit of small talk, and then she mentioned that I should look for her husband during intermission, as he’d be running the spotlight during the show. “John E. had a brain tumor,” she told me, “so if he doesn’t recognize you right away, just tell him your name and I’m sure he’ll be thrilled to see you.”

A brain tumor? I’d had no idea. I paid my $8 (some proceeds going to help defray medical costs for one of the four-year-olds at the studio, fighting stage four testicular cancer) and, taking a deep breath, I walked into the dark auditorium. I squinted at the sea of people, but didn’t see any convenient empty chairs, so I made my way to the top of the hard wooden bleachers at the back of the room. As my eyes adjusted to the dim light and I began to recognize people, I couldn’t help but remember all the other times I was here for the recital; only mostly those times I was up in the oven of a dressing room, wrangling littles, attempting hair and makeup that wouldn’t melt under the spotlight, wrestling into lycra-heavy costumes, my skin sticky with the miserable damp sweat you get in a tiny 120-degree room on a June day. Not two minutes after I sat down, Heather’s voice came over the sound system. “Welcome to the Cloverdale School of Dance annual recital. Tonight’s theme is ‘Wish upon a Star.’ There will be a 15 minute intermission.” Studio teachers, some in costumes and some in street clothing, stood in front of the curtain for introductions to the audience. Denise has been working on this for more than 20 years, I thought to myself. She grew herself a studio and teachers to teach for her, so she’s not teaching every class anymore. Good for her.

Spotlights, music, curtain.

* * * * * * *

I found myself squinting in the dark at the program, trying to make out the names of those children in each class, each dance. Who was the teacher or older student for each group? Which children had parents I knew? Parents my age? Parents who, the last time I saw them, were stumbling from lack of sleep after an all-night Project Grad? Or at my ten-year-high school reunion? I was so far back from the stage that I couldn’t tell whether any of the kids were easy to pick out as being related to someone I knew. It was difficult to relax into “watch tiny kid do cute things” mode; I was looking around at the audience with their babies and toddlers, their fluttering programs, trying to move the still air around a little. Which people might recognize me, there alone, no babies or toddlers, no nieces or nephews in the show?

* * * * * * *

It was mid-June of 1996, and I had just graduated high school the day before. Someone had picked me up at 5:30 AM with my hard-earned prizes from the very same building to which I’d be heading back in a few short hours. I’d been hypnotized, played casino games, attempted to counteract exhaustion with caffienated soda but still felt like a zombie, and at home I slept on the couch for a couple of hours because my grandmother was sleeping in my bed. We’d had whirlwind days: Lissa graduated 8th grade, and then my last day of school and high school graduation, followed by a party at our house and then Project Grad. I’d never been so tired, and I knew I’d be expected to be at my best for another whole day despite the lack of sleep. People couldn’t be quiet enough in the main part of the house to let me sleep, so I gave up, got up, ate something, and headed right back to the Citrus Fair building for dress rehearsal. It was going to be a really hot day, I knew, which meant those upstairs dressing rooms would be miserable. We dress rehearsed; we wrangled small kids who weren’t pleased about the hair and the makeup and the costumes and the heat; we put wet compresses on Heather’s heat blisters (!), and the four of us who had graduated and been up all night just gritted our teeth, went out there, and did our best to perform the dances we’d been preparing for months. The very last dance included a large group in traditional ballet costume performed to Pachelbel’s Canon. To this day, that song for me evokes not weddings but that sweltering June day, the pink tights and black leotards, my sleep-deprived performance.

* * * * * *

I couldn’t help but remember that day, as I sat in the dark room and watched some of the younger girls from that Canon dance were now teachers in my old school, credited in the program for their choreography. The dances were all done to Disney songs, and each teacher or older student came out with a group of littles to help them do their dance. I continued to study the program, and then I noticed a high school friend (with a niece in the show and two young nephews in the audience) standing at the side of the room. We had a short, whispered conversation in between performances, during which time I learned we weren’t the only ones from our class in attendance. “Toni’s here, Darren’s here, Liz. It’s like reunion,” she said. Only those other people had little girls or little boys in the performance; that was the difference.

At intermission I went up into the balcony to say hi to John E. “Emily!” he exclaimed, and gave me a giant hug. It was awesome. I hadn’t seen John E. in at least a decade, and his daughter I’d once babysat was now one of the teachers for the studio. “My youngest kid, Jordy? He just got his driver’s license yesterday!” he told me. I never even met Jordy, because I’d been too busy to babysit for most of senior year. “You’re making me feel old!” I told him. John E. was super proud of his kids, and was thrilled to see me. I hadn’t expected to see him at the recital but I was glad I did. As my high school youth group leader, he’d seen me at my worst (an angsty teenager) and still always saw the best in me. He was the kind of dad I wish I’d had, and I was glad that at least for a couple years there was an adult man I felt like I could count on to listen when I had something I needed to angst about. “I hope your kids spoil you rotten tomorrow,” I thought to myself. “I hope they know how lucky they are to have such a great guy for a dad.” Downstairs, I said hi to Liz and a few other people I knew in the audience, and then I spotted someone I never thought I’d see in a million years, someone I’d danced with at my previous ballet school; someone I hadn’t seen in at least twenty years. I gave her a hug, and she told me her daughter had been a mouse (as had Heather’s daughter and Liz’s daughter) in the Cinderella dance. “I’m not the only one here!” she told me, and led me over to her friend, who was someone ELSE I’d danced with as a kid and hadn’t seen in 20 years. We hugged and chatted a bit, and I told her my sob story about why I had to quit ballet. “I just stopped sometime in high school, because I thought it wasn’t cool,” she told me. “Now sometimes when I take my Pilates class I peek in at the adult ballet class next door and think about taking it.” We talked about how once we’d been those little girls on the stage. Now we were both here watching the children of our friends perform the same steps we’d once performed (or, at the very least, looked cute in costumes on a stage for a few minutes.)

The show started back up again, and the older girls began to do their own dances. I was no longer looking at last names in the program, because most of these kids were too old to belong to anyone I knew, but I did recognize a brother and sister as being the children of one of my sister’s elementary school teachers (you don’t forget a name like the daughter’s), and they were among the best dancers. Many of the families of the little kids had left after intermission, so there were quite a few empty seats. I found a space for myself and started to focus on the choreography and technique. I hadn’t even noticed until I looked to my left that another high school friend, M, with a daughter who had danced in the Mary Poppins number, was still there watching the 8-18 year-olds perform. “You used to do this, didn’t you!” she whispered to me. “Yes, and I’m still friends with the owner of the studio,” I whispered back. “Who are you here to see?” she asked.

Myself, I wanted to answer. Myself, but I haven’t danced on this stage since a swan song the summer I was 18, a solo interlude to help give the studio’s dancers time to change costumes. I was working at the pool that summer and at the Boys and Girls club, and I divided my time between being waterlogged and sweating in the studio to learn a 3-minute solo, the calluses sloughing off my toes and into my pointe shoes; my feet constantly bloody. I knew after my diagnosis it would be the last time I’d ever dance on stage, and I don’t know that anyone in the audience of that recital realized just how much I’d be giving up. I was so good, even if I could never have been pro because of my body type. Compared to some of these girls dancing in this recital, I was so, so good. And I can never do it again.

My daughter or son, I wanted to answer. The child I haven’t had yet. The one who will, someday, be the reason for me to come to a performance or a competition or a meet. I’ll be the one in the audience with the giant grin on my face, with my son or daughter the one in the cute costume mugging or frowning at the dark sea of faces. Or, if he/she takes after my sister, will be the one directing everyone else on the stage during the performance.

“Heather’s girls,” I said.

* * * * *

Dancers

After the recital, someone from the school (possibly Denise?) put this photo up on Facebook. It’s that group of dancers from the Pachelbel’s Canon number. We were doing a photo shoot with a professional photographer a couple of weeks before recital, and I think this was one of the outtakes – a “silly” photo. I’m the standing furthest left, and looking at this photo, it’s hard for me to believe that was really me. I was 25 pounds underweight. My eyebrows were caterpillars and my skin was terrible. I was exhausted from rehearsals for recital, for the play I was in, for all the huge end-of-year school projects. I didn’t have any boobs or a butt or muscle in my arms. But I was beautiful.

Four of the girls in this photo are now mothers, and one has her first baby on the way. At least five of them were once or are currently teachers at the studio. One I know absolutely nothing about. I’m the only one I know of for sure who can no longer dance. And I’m glad I can’t go back and tell 17-year-old me that in 14 years she’ll be right back in the same place, watching her friends’ kids on the stage, knowing it will be many years, if ever, before the kid on the stage in the costume is hers. It might just break her heart.

The only downside is that there’s nothing keeping me from cleaning the cat box

Well. That sure was a downer, wasn’t it?

One of the things that has kept me sane, that has kept me from wallowing in self-pitying misery these last 15+ months, is to try to come up with the positives about the whole infertility situation. One of the funny things about it is that I started reading infertility blogs YEARS ago. Like, probably the third blog I ever read (the first one being that of someone I knew, the second being a link in his blogroll, and the the third being on THAT person’s blogroll) was Julie at A Little Pregnant. At the time I started reading, she was still going through the woes and travails of infertility; it was even before she got pregnant with her son, Charlie, who is now nearly six years old. From there, I ended up reading Chez Miscarriage and The Naked Ovary and Here there be Hippogriffs and a whole slew of other infertility blogs. I was never quite sure why I was so fascinated with reading about their lives and their struggles, but one thing that I am glad of is that I never stopped reading Julie’s blog, because she is the queen of finding humor in what is, by anyone’s estimation, a completely shitty situation. See here. So here’s my list of things that are positive and/or humorous about infertility. If you can think of any more, feel free to add to them.

  1. I don’t have to worry about, pay for, or use birth control. Woo!
  2. I can drink as much as I want, whenever I want, and don’t have to think about whether or not it’s a good idea. Because it’s ALWAYS a good idea!
  3. If we want to go on a trip, all we have to do is buy a plane ticket, find someone with whom to dump our cats, and go. We don’t have to schlep any baby equipment, save up vacation time for maternity leave, or be concerned that our destination might not be kid-friendly.
  4. We can accept any and every invitation and plan things as far as we wish into the future, because nothing is going to be interrupted by pushing a baby out of my brewster (TM Jive Turkey).
  5. I never have to devote any mental energy to wondering if it worked this time, if I might be pregnant, or timing sex. Recreational sex only!
  6. The only person’s bodily wastes I have to deal with are my own.
  7. We will totally be able to choose our child’s general due date (or at the very least, astrological sign) because IVF is a process that takes a couple of months. So if we want to have a baby in September, I’d need to start undergoing treatment in November-ish. I’ve never been much of a planner, but getting to kind of decide when my kid will be born is nothing to sneeze at.
  8. I’ll get lots of practice sticking myself with a needle, in case I ever decide to become a junkie.

Now if only I could get people to stop posting those damn ultrasound photos on Facebook…

An Explanation

In reading this post by Holly today, and in hearing yet another wave of pregnancy announcements all over the blogosphere over the past couple of weeks, I felt like it was finally time.

I’ve wanted to write about it. I started post after post, but it never felt like the right time; we were always waiting for one reason or another. Because of my blog audience, because we weren’t yet ready to let the world know, because once you write something on the internet it is THERE, son, THERE, and even if you delete it, you can’t take it back. But today…today is the day. The day I will begin the story of how we knew, and what we did, and what happens now.

For much of my life, I was ambivalent about the idea of being a parent. I didn’t know how to feel about the idea of being pregnant, of having babies, of becoming a parent, and luckily my partner didn’t know how he felt, either. About the time that we got engaged, however, my biological clock (for lack of a better term, and I still hate that phrase, but I can’t explain it any better) suddenly flipped from “ambivalence” to “BABIES NOW PLEASE.”

It scared the absolute ever-loving shit out of me.

I had no idea what to do with all of these new feelings that I was having, the sense that my brain was suddenly being controlled by my ovaries. Perhaps it was a bit like what it’s like to be a male, since everyone says that men think with their gonads instead of their brains. (Which, of course, is total BS.) But still – it was a primal urge, an overwhelming sense that I NEEDED TO GET PREGNANT RIGHT NOW NOW NOW and I hated it. I hated feeling like I was suddenly totally not in control of my own wishes, desires, hopes for the future. It was really disorienting, and I spent several months just trying to work it all out. Dan and I talked a lot about it, about whether we’d want to have kids, and how that might work, and when it might happen, and luckily we both ended up agreeing, being on the same page about it, our ideas and our wishes changing together.

There was this one time in the fall of 2007 when I was on a work trip in another state and I’d forgotten to bring my birth control pills with me.  I had to call Kaiser to have them switch the prescription to a local pharmacy so I could start taking the pills on time after the off-week, because I was so afraid that pushing it back by three days would mean I’d end up six months’ pregnant at our wedding. I didn’t want that, and I felt relief when I was able to take that pill I’d taken 3 out of every 4 weeks for pretty much my entire adult life. I thought that maybe a part of me had forgotten the pills on purpose, that baby brain had taken over and would cause us to have an oops, which I so wasn’t ready for. It was scary shit, man. And yet, at the same time, every night when I took a pill, I was sad, because it meant that there wouldn’t be any babies for a while yet.

After a 14-month engagement, we got married in March of 2008. Just a few weeks after our wedding, Leah and Simon announced that they’d be having a wombat. I did the math and realized that if I’d gotten pregnant the week we got married, we’d be due around the same time, and so Leah’s pregnancy and Wombat’s birth and babyhood were really special to me. A huge part of me was super excited and happy for them, and a small, mean part of me was jealous. I was so, so jealous that they were getting to do that thing that I wanted so badly – growing a baby, making a person, becoming parents. We knew the timing wasn’t yet right for us to do the same, but we had a plan. We’d talked and talked about what the right timing might be – we knew we wanted a baby, we wanted to be parents, but we decided to wait until Dan was finished with school and, with luck, both of us would be employed soon thereafter, so we’d have the whole nine months of pregnancy to save money. I started hoarding my vacation time and sick time at work to help prepare for a paid maternity leave. Dan graduated in May of 2009, and he interned all summer at the Denver Art Museum, while looking for a full-time job. We’d also decided that, if possible, we’d move to California. We wanted to be near more family and near many of our friends, our support system being in place for when we became parents, because we knew that would make things easier on us.

In August of 2009, we decided that I’d stop taking birth control pills, and we’d see what happened. I wrote a bunch of blog entries someplace else about how excited we were and couldn’t wait until I could publish them in a more public forum. My period was about a week late that first cycle, and we got really excited about how it might have worked that very first time. And then, we knew it didn’t work.

Petra got sick a month later, and then she died right before Christmas. Still no pregnancy. Each cycle went by, and each time we got our hopes up, just a little, and each time I cried when it hadn’t worked. And it seemed as though everyone we knew got pregnant and had babies – my friend who taught classes at the gym, coworkers, random people I would see in the gym or in my office building. Couple after couple got pregnant the first or second cycle of trying. Everyone around us was fecund, but for us: bupkis.

After a nearly a calendar year and 14 cycles, we knew it was time to get some answers. It hurt more every time another friend or another blogger or another person we knew of announced a pregnancy. Some friends of ours, who had been waiting until there was no possibility of a Christmas baby, got pregnant the first cycle they tried, when we were on cycle 13. They had an early miscarriage, and I was sad for them, but I wasn’t as sad as I felt I should have been, because IT WAS OUR TURN. The small, mean voice in my head said small, mean things, and there wasn’t anything I could do to stop it. We felt powerless; we weren’t moving to California, and we weren’t pregnant. For a whole year, nothing happened except the death of our beloved cat and we didn’t make our once-monthly pilgrimage to the pharmacy at Kaiser to pick up my birth control pills. I started a blog post about trying and failing to get pregnant at least once a month, which became more like once a week, and each time I deleted them, because I didn’t want people we knew to get their hopes up. I felt bad, I felt trapped, I felt stymied, I felt stuck, but I just couldn’t bring myself to be public about something that felt so small and yet so huge.

Finally, we knew that we had to figure out what was going on. Once we made the decision to have some testing done, I started to feel a little better about the situation, because at least we were doing SOMETHING, right? We met with a reproductive endocrinologist who was surprised at how well-researched, how well-informed we were about the issues, about the possibilities, and he suggested some tests that would let us know what might be preventing us from getting pregnant.

We know why we are not getting pregnant.

About a week after we got the test results back, and we began to process the news (crying. mourning. resigned.) the possibility of moving to California came up again, and we decided that something needed to change. So all of that vacation and sick time saved up, rather than being a paid maternity leave, is what is supporting us until we’re employed and back in the world.

I’m not going to write about why we are not getting pregnant. It doesn’t really matter why we are not getting pregnant. What really matters is that our best shot at having a baby together is to undergo IVF. The good news is that we are very good candidates for it. The bad news is that IVF isn’t at all covered by the insurance we’re COBRA-ing until one of us gets a full-time job here in California, and isn’t covered by much insurance at all. It will probably cost us more than ten thousand dollars for a shot (a good shot, but still just a shot) at pregnancy, something that, historically, almost everyone has gotten for free. It still blows my mind, after all of my research and hearing so many stories, both good and bad, that people manage to get pregnant at all, let alone get pregnant accidentally, because there are SO MANY THINGS that have to go exactly right just to get to the point of a developing pregnancy. So when someone tweets about oh, have I had a period recently? or blogs about oops baby number three, it’s all I can do to restrain myself from punching the computer.

I’ve been telling myself for this past year-plus that pregnancy is not a zero-sum game. It doesn’t affect our fertility one iota whether and how someone else manages to grow a person. But it feels personal. It feels like the entire world is able to do something we are not, that everybody else has something that we can’t have (or at least, it is going to cost us a lot of money, and months of hormone treatments, and the loss of the idea of how a pregnancy should happen). Some of the people that I did tell when we first started trying, that it still hadn’t happened, have been saying to me that everything “happens for a reason.” You know what? It doesn’t. There’s no reason that one couple has 19 children and thousands of others can’t have any. There’s no reason that people lose wanted babies at any stage of gestation or age. To hear platitudes like that DON’T HELP. It doesn’t help us get pregnant, that’s for damn sure, and mostly it makes me angry because when someone says that it means they aren’t listening to what I am saying. I don’t believe in “happens for a reason” or “meant to be.” I believe in making things happen, or figuring out why they are not happening, and changing those things if possible. Sometimes it just isn’t possible, and “meant to be” doesn’t help, either.

So here’s the favor I’m going to ask of you, internet. I’m going to welcome comments of all sorts when I write about infertility, and, I assume, as eventually I’m going to write about the experience of undergoing IVF. But if you could just hold off on the platitudes, I’d really appreciate it. We want to be parents. I want to be pregnant. We want to have kids. It is probably going to be a lot more expensive and a lot more difficult for us to get to that point than it is for most people, and we’ll likely never end up pregnant without significant medical intervention. No, we’re not discussing adoption, at least not for the time being, because, believe it or not, that’s even more expensive than IVF. For now, we’re going to focus on being healthy, eating right, exercising, finding jobs, and saving money, because someday, someday that blanket I’m knitting or the drawing Dan is working on will be for our own kid. It may not happen on the schedule we’d originally planned, but you know what? You can’t always plan life that way.