Pile O’ Blood (round 2)

blood draw | sundriedtomatoe.wordpress.com
I had a friend ask me “what the heck is going on?” so I figured I’d work it out on here, and thus have a better explanation (at least a more succinct one) next time I get that question.

In the back half of 2013, when we got our butts in gear (and realized we weren’t going to have any kiddos on our own) we had two major options: infertility treatment and adoption. When we first started exploring our options, I wasn’t super keen on infertility treatment and Hubs was hesitant about adoption.

On my end, I was loath to endure any more time with doctors, in hospitals, being poked and prodded, and told severely stupid things (which seems to be a chronic condition in emotionally sensitive medical situations). For Hubs, he was concerned about the basics of adopting – from where would a child originate? What about the family background? What would a personal connection be like?

What we decided, after a lot of thoughtful conversation, was to do one round of IVF. If it resulted in a kid, we’d consider doing it again. If it did not, we would not. When IVF failed, adoption was the next step. We had two reasons for this finite limit to infertility treatment. The first was that neither of us wanted to endure a limitless regime of shots, doctor visits, hormone fluctuations, and failed pregnancies. The second was that all our options have a substantial cost associated with them, and our resources are finite. In terms of having a family, adoption is a sure thing; infertility treatments are not.

In-Vitro Fertilization (IVF) is a multi-step process. First, a barrage of tests (for both of us). Then I began two months of medications and hormone supplements, mostly delivered by daily shots (self-administered). All went well with the hormone regimen, so our doctor harvested a multitude of mature eggs from my ovaries in a singularly uncomfortable outpatient procedure.

Those eggs then spent three days in a lab, being transformed into embryos. On the third day, two good looking embryos were deposited in my uterus, in another uncomfortable outpatient procedure. We went home, and the remaining (lab) embryos spent another two days maturing in a petrie dish before being cryogenically frozen. Only one of our embryos made it to freezing.

In the meantime, we had a chemical pregnancy, which is a medical way of saying that at least one embryo hung on for a week or two before dying off. That was rough.

After that, we started looking into adoption. We started working through the foster-to-adopt program with the state, but that went poorly. We figured we’d wait until 1) we moved to a different area, where we could retry foster-to-adopt with a new group and/or 2) our financial situation changed.

Both conditions were met this year. We moved to a new city and I got a new job that pays much more than what I was previously making. After even more thoughtful conversation, we decided we don’t want to depend on the state system for our first kid, so we fixed on private domestic adoption as our next step.

However. We still have that one frozen embryo hanging out in cryo. (That sounds so sci-fi.) It’s a life. We made it. It seems wrong to leave it in limbo forever. Also seems wrong to discard it. So, before we pour ALL the coal on the adoption burners, we are going to get that one little guy defrosted and give it a go.

What we’ll be doing (called a Frozen Embryo Transfer, or FET for short) is basically the last step of the IVF cycle – a fertilized embryo will be placed in my uterus, and we’ll wait a week or two to see how it fares. Given our history, our expectations are nil. We will be overjoyed if it works out (I feel like that doesn’t even really need to be said at this point…) and we have zero expectation that it will work out.

Part of the workup for this process is another round of tests for both of us. Since we are in a new city, we are working with a different doctor for the day to day stuff and that doc wants all his OWN test results. So I recently spent a morning getting a ton of blood drawn.

I have to lie down when I’m getting a lot of blood drawn. Have I told that story? I feel like I have.

So that is not at all succinct, but it is thorough. For the friends who wonder, I can now direct them to this post.

Next test: a hysteroscopy! Hopefully the last one I ever endure IN MY LIFE. Onward and upward!

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Pile O’ Blood

NOTE: I wrote this post in/around March of 2014, shortly after our try with IVF. At the time, I didn’t want to publish it because I was still wrapping my head around what was going on. Now my head is firmly wrapped.

We never did get any answers or definitive results from any of the rounds of testing we did. We are officially “unexplained infertile” and it will most likely stay that way until the end of time.


 

March 2014 — So Hubs and I scraped up enough moolah to try a round of IVF. It’s something that has been on the back burner for several years as we worked in recovering emotionally from multiple losses early on in our adventure. Last November we started taking a close look at how much IVF would cost, what would be involved.

It costs a lot. Our insurance doesn’t cover any infertility treatments. Grand total was over $13,000, which we paid in cash. Holy smokes that’s a lot of cash.

It involved a lot of needles. During one week I was injecting myself with three different needles every morning. I got pretty amazing at pinching my thighs. I got really good at giving blood too. Lotsa regular blood tests involved.

Unfortunately, the cycle failed. We had a positive pregnancy test and then the blood started flowing a few days later. We had some serious moments of despair that week. Plenty of quiet tears. Fortunately, this kind of loss is not the shock it once was.

We have had a few weeks to marinate on where we go from here. Before we started we were looking at adoption as our next move. Then, after the IVF cycle failed, I started investigating options closely. There are some things about our options that raise concerns for us. Still on the table, but cautiously.

I’m loathe to experience another pregnancy loss. It’s tough. It’s lonely, and I hate seeing my husband hurt. Watching him deal with this loss were some of the worst moments of my adult life.

So before we even think about any more medical interventions we are getting yet another round of tests done. This round tests both of us for chromosomal issues that might mess with a developing fetus. And I’m being tested for immunological issues that might account for a bunch of very early pregnancy fails.

I filled up a LOT of tubes the other day.

image

Fun fact: nurses love when you warn them about a vaso-vagal hypersensitivity ahead of time.

I Call Bulls**t – Monica & Chandler Adopt

I didn’t watch Friends when it was on the air – we didn’t really do TV in my house growing up and we definitely didn’t do “20 somethings having sex” TV.

Now, though, I have Netflix and a lot of crafting/making time on my hands, so I’ve been working my way through the series. Mostly I’ve been enjoying it, although I’m still not over my strong distaste for Rachel Green. I’ve just never understood the cultural fascination with Jennifer Aniston. Did it start with this character? WHY? She’s the WORST.

rachel green
Ugh. Rachel Green.

Moving on.

In the last (tenth) season of the show, Monica and Chandler go through infertility and then adoption. I have ambivalent feelings as I watch. On the one hand, I’m kind of delighted to see that real and present decision-making process represented on a major TV show. It’s not something you see on TV much, certainly not in proportion to how many people deal with it in real life. I feel personally gratified that it’s all on there, because so much of what I see as I watch is a “hey, us too!” thing.

deep emotion
“I’m feeling all the feels about our inability to be human beings, Chandler. Can you tell from the deep sorrow that is playing across my flat, emotionless face?”

On the other hand, though, it’s a twee representation. Friends is not a deep show. There’s no one grappling with a drug or alcohol addiction. Eating disorders are funny. Multiple divorces are funny. Suicide and homelessness are funny. So when infertility comes up and they try to be serious about it (and kudos for trying) it rings false. Or, at least, it falls flat.

paperwork
“Oh my GAWD, Monica, look at these SEVEN PAGES we have to fill out in this ONE EPISODE.”

I never see the couple losing it over the inability to have kids. Neither of them question their basic biological function – their wholeness as people. No one ever cries (!??!?) over the situation. They have a clear, meaningful result to their first round of infertility tests. They move through alt-family options with swiftness and ease. They don’t agonize over what kind of adoption, or funding, or the paperwork/waiting process. They don’t feel a horrifying mixture of resentment and guilt over their friends having kids easily.

twins
Ooopsie! TWINS! Two for the price of one! And, by the way, let’s never actually address the tens of thousands of dollars we had to shell out to get here!

In the span of a few weeks they go from “trying” to have kids to having twins.

At one point, they LIE to the birth mother about their file. They eventually correct the mistake but then Chandler does this super-pathetic “we are desperate for a child” plea that apparently wins the birth mother back over. WTF?! Lying and coercion to get a kid?!

lying to the birth mother
Lying to the Birth Mother is a great way to get a baby!

It’s weird because the whole time I’m watching I’m so glad and relieved to see SOMETHING about our lives represented on a popular show. But at the same exact time I’m so angry and offended by how lightly it’s treated, and how easily it’s resolved.

Be ye warned, actual, real-life friends: the Friends version of this devastating life event is just the tip of the iceberg. If you have someone in your life dealing with this kind of thing, don’t use Friends as a source of information or understanding.

But do watch the show for other stuff, though. It’s pretty good.

—-

LATimes article responding to the “we’ll just adopt” episode, 2003

Blog post on Rachel vs. Monica

We Tried

It’s October, now, and I’ve been sitting on this post for over six months. Hard to find appropriate words for it – not so much because it was too painful but because now it’s just DONE and it’s been an incredible mental relief to be done.

We did an IVF cycle in the spring of this year. It was exactly what I expected: uncomfortable, emotionally draining, demoralizing, and ultimately futile. Sitting at the kitchen table stabbing myself with multiple needles every morning felt like control for about three days. Then it just got weird and depressing.

we tried | a post from sundriedtomatoe.wordpress.com
Flickr – Jenn Lewald

Emotional spikes really didn’t start until the second half of the cycle, when I started getting huge amounts of pregnancy hormones to try to get my body on board with Science. And they didn’t stop until well after the pregnancy was over.

It really didn’t help that, during all this, I was in the midst of a paradigm shift at work – one that ultimately led to my resignation.

More than anything, though, I wanted to move past that faint double line as quickly as possible. That quiet, tiny “yes” was so incredible it sent us through the roof for days. And then… not so much. The same as before (again). I knew how to handle everything after that. Accept the murmured sympathy at the doctor’s office with grace and extreme calm, spend a few nights crying into a pillow, then send it down the road. Someday in the future I’ll come back to that sorrow and commemorate it somehow. Right now it’s done.

Tried, positive, fail.

we tried | a post from sundriedtomatoe.wordpress.com
Flickr – tipstimes.com/pregnancy

I’m disappointed but the pain is not as extreme as it ever has been in the past. It’s kind of deeper and not as sharp. It’s an ending. It’s finite. It’s a kind of “closure.” It’s like a heavy door, finally coming to rest after slowly drifting shut for years. As much as I desperately want what’s on the other side, I never could get at it, and there’s a kind of relief in the notion that it’s not an option anymore.

Part of the fallout is that we have one tiny life left, waiting for us to be ready. Neither of us expect it to be with us for very long once we decide we’re ready. But we’re not going to give up on it. If these many years have taught us nothing else, it’s that life is precious, however it comes and however long it stays.

“The wound is the place the Light enters you.” -Rumi

we tried | a post from sundriedtomatoe.wordpress.com
Flickr – Ehsan Khakbaz H.

On Barrenness and Priorities

barrenness and priorities | a post from sundriedtomatoe.wordpress.com

I’ve upped my intake of reading materials from folks who are dealing with infertility, medical interventions, and adoption. Hubs calls this “Matrixing” – essentially collecting a huge amount of information in a very short amount of time.

Certainly I’ve also spent a lot of time reading fact-based information, reports from private, non-profit, and government entities on the trifecta mentioned above. This is good info, and it rarely includes any information about what it’s like to start down the road of “alternate methods” of having a family of more than two.

So I’m just thinking out loud, here, sharing my own story of what it’s like to be looking at this from our unique perspective. Everyone’s story is different; I’ve gained a lot from reading about the paths others have taken, from their stories. Here’s a bit about mine (ours) at the moment.

barrenness and priorities | a post from sundriedtomatoe.wordpress.com
from sharecare.com (click for the full infographic)

Recently I read an illuminating post by Hannah Bunker, where she details the related yet distinct challenges of barrenness vs. childlessness. Barrenness is a physical inability to bear children. Bunker’s point, a meaningful one for me, is that no matter how you end up with children, this physical inability has deep-seated emotional weight. It’s the body failing at one of its basic functions.

Medical interventions sometimes allay infertility, but not completely. IVF for infertility is akin to insulin treatment for diabetes; it addresses the symptoms but not the body’s failure to do what it’s meant to do. And infertility treatments often fail; Bunker is speaking to the distinction between a body that is medically infertile or unable to conceive/be pregnant naturally (where medical interventions help) and a body that is barren, unable to bear offspring at all, under any circumstances (where medical interventions are useless).

Adoptive families speak to the distinction of “being pregnant” and “having kids” when they discuss adoption, post-adoption, and how adoption experiences intersect with infertility struggles. The same theme occurs everywhere: “I have no words for how incredibly grateful I am that we are no longer childless. AND there will never be a day that I do not grieve my inability to bear children.”

barrenness and priorities | a post from sundriedtomatoe.wordpress.com
from msw.usc.edu (click for the full infographic)

This thought, repeated over and over again in the first-hand accounts I’ve read, resonates deeply with me and our situation. Since last summer Hubs and I have spent a lot of time in thought and discussion regarding our childlessness. We both want kids and we both want a pregnancy. Separating those two wants was a huge part of our discussions in 2013 – we knew they were distinct yet related priorities.

It was difficult. We struggled (still struggle) with how to prioritize those wants. We had to (have to) separate a lifetime of thinking of those things – being pregnant and having kids – as the same thing.

I say prioritize because that’s another piece of the landscape that I’ve read about over and over again – the ways folks prioritize the “having kids” and “being pregnant” goals. Adoption meets the “having kids” need. Medical intervention meets the “being pregnant” need.

I’ve only encountered a handful of folks who are only concerned with having kids (ie: adoption only). I have yet to read a blog, article, or comments by someone who is only interested in “pregnancy” (ie: surrogacy, I guess?). The point I’m trying to make is that we are not alone in struggling to separate the two things as we plan for the future. I suppose this is why defining priorities, as hard as it is, becomes useful.

There are those who can’t or won’t participate in medical interventions; they tend to start with adoption. Most, though, seem to begin dealing with infertility via medical intervention (MI). For a lucky bunch, MI works swiftly and well and thus meets the needs for both “being pregnant” and “having kids”. Everyone entering the realm of alternative family-making hopes this is them. For many it’s not.

barrenness and priorities | a post from sundriedtomatoe.wordpress.com
from thelondonwomensclinic.com (click for full infographic)

If “being pregnant” is the priority, working through multiple rounds of MI is often the story. These folks may never move to adoption. For them, having kids is absolutely linked to being pregnant. Here there are considerations like what type of MI treatment to start with (shots, IUI, IVF), self or donated eggs/sperm, how often to try, when to stop.

And for some, having kids is synonymous with passing on genes. That’s another part of the priorities equation that shapes decisions. This one adds surrogacy to the many MI decisions that must be made.

Those who prioritize “having kids” tend to end up adopting, eventually. Medical intervention is only a means to an end for the “having kids” crowd. So if MI doesn’t work (and it often doesn’t) those folks explore other ways to have kids. Adoption involves considerations like domestic or international, ethnicity, age, gender, sibling groups (?), health issues, etc…

barrenness and priorities | a post from sundriedtomatoe.wordpress.com
from adoptuskids.org (click for full infographic)

Ultimately, all these groups want a family. It’s the path they take to get there (directed by their priorities) that dictates what decisions they will make and how their experiences differ.

There’s another priority, of course, that doesn’t often get mentioned in the anecdotal world – that of mental health and the well-being of a couple’s relationship as they move through the “alt family” landscape. All alternative processes take a huge toll on those who experience them. Financial, mental, emotional well-being are all challenged and affected. “Well-being” as a priority almost always includes decisions about boundaries, about how much is too much, about when to stop.

Sometimes it includes the decision to accept childlessness.

This part of the process doesn’t get mentioned for a reason. It’s the scariest, the most lonely, the most terrifying outcome of all when starting down the “alt family” road. A finite, life-long NO KIDS, after weathering the storm of every possible alternative to having kids, is intensely frightening.

But after watching (and reading about) so many folks wrecking themselves on the “kids no matter what” priority, childlessness isn’t quite as scary as it once was for us. Decades filled with emotional turmoil, financial instability, and sheer desperation doesn’t seem like a great option.

barrenness and priorities | a post from sundriedtomatoe.wordpress.com
from norke.be (click to go to the artist’s site)

It’s a lot to consider. We’ve talked and talked, marinated, investigated, ruminated, explored, probed, questioned. There have been a few hard conversations, some frightening realizations. And we’re at a point where our priorities are straight. We have a map.

Time to start moving.