Saturday, June 29, 2013

Westward Ho!

Blogging while sleeping has got to be dangerous. 
I'm currently sitting at O'Hare airport, blinking my way through a coma. The green tea is only somewhat helping. 4:45 is such a horrible time to wake up. J is off "exploring" terminal 2 and I am holding down the fort. Why, you ask, are we camped in the airport like Edward Snowden? Well, not exactly like Snowden as we have a guitar in tow and valid tickets out of here. J and I are heading off to Yellowstone National Park for a week-long vacation with his mom, step-dad (recall the crazy pills?), and all their kids and spouses. I think there will be 14 of us all together fighting off grizzlies and riding buffalo through fields of geysers. I have never been to Yellowstone or any other of the great Western national parks but I assume that's how it is. Bison burgers and buffalo rides every single day. (My God, this is incoherent.)

I am very genuinely looking forward to this trip. I'm a sucker for a dramatic landscape and I here Yellowstone is lousy with 'em. Also, I get to cozy up with J's step-sister, SDN, my partner in crime (is knitting a crime?) and comadre in fertility woes. IVF veteran, regional champion eye-roller, and a Binny's frequent flyer, she's queen of the hop. I can't wait to see her. 

Ooh! Boarding! Love to you all. My next post will be from under the spray of Old Faithful. 

To tide you over, I leave you with an image of me in the future.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

No, She's Crazy.

Holy balls I just have to write a quick post to advertise my insanely deep love for a blog I just found via my friend Amanda Thomsen (who, by the way, wrote the funniest and most helpful guide to gardening ever, Kiss My Aster).

The blog is by a completely mentally unstable woman named Victoria Elizabeth Barnes who writes about restoring her 1890 Victorian home. She writes like Beloved Burnt Toast, Stupid Stork, Yeah Science and David Sedaris had a really awkward foursome and made a baby (through IVF, clearly). It has nothing to do with fertility or infertility or babies of any size or shape.

You should start with her stalker post about Don Draper. If you're not completely terrified, or perhaps your both terrified and endlessly amused, you then owe it to yourself to read this amazing post about a giant mirror from Craigslist.

I don't know Victoria. She might not like me if I did meet her. But I love her and I felt the need to post about something entirely unrelated to my uterus that is making me very happy.

Monday, June 24, 2013

Tough Talk about Crazy Pills.

About 8 years ago, I went through a really deep, dark and scary depression-anxiety combo platter. It was not my first bout with depression but it was the first time that anxiety rattled my brain and left me a house-bound mess. I dutifully went to therapy and practiced yoga on the rare occasion when I could peel myself off my couch. I tried my damnedest to get through it without medication. I couldn't do it. Believe me, I gave it the good old college try.

After truly suffering for about 8 months, I finally succumbed and started anti-depressants (SSRI). Within weeks, I felt as though somebody had flipped on a light switch in my body. The fog began to lift. Dramatically. I laughed, I enjoyed myself, I stopped constantly crying hysterically for no real reason. I had felt like horrendous doom was around every corner and then POOF! doom disappeared. It felt like nothing short of a miracle. It still does. Three years ago, I tried to go off of SSRIs to prepare my body for getting pregnant. We weren't yet trying and I wanted to see if I could do it. Under the care of a psychiatrist that specializes in women's health and pregnancy, I slowly weaned myself off. It didn't take long for the light to switch back off and the fog to descend. Once again, I fought for over half a year before it dawned on me that it would be pretty hard to get pregnant if nobody wanted to sleep with sad, angry me. And so, I went back on. It was hard. I struggled significantly with that decision. Shed a whole lot of tears. At the end, I knew that to be a good mother - both while pregnant and after - I needed to be a healthy, sane and happy person. For better or worse, anti-depressants are part of what help me feel like me instead of a sluggish, hateful zombie. They don't work for everyone. I'm lucky that there's a solution out there for me.

I know that SSRIs carry risks to babies. The most well documented risks include PPHN (persistent pulmonary hypertension of the newborn) and heart defects. These risks are very low but they do exist. Depression during pregnancy also carries risks: pre-term labor, low birth weight and elevated cortisol levels at birth.

What's a crazy girl to do? I can only remark on what I've chosen. I'm on sertraline (Zoloft) - the SSRI considered the "safest" during pregnancy. While I still occasional doubts about my choice, I know that my mental health is critical to the physical health of me and my future baby. There are no awards given out for abject suffering and one must deal with the demerits.

As a fertility patient, I've been making choices about my own "greater good" for some time now. Since I started on medications designed to hyper-stimulate my ovaries one year ago, I've knowingly been ingesting and injecting drugs that increase my odds of getting ovarian cancer later in life. I see this as part of the difficult trade off of modern life and medicine: we have access to drugs, hormones, and procedures that we never had before. We can survive cancer, get pregnant despite a slew of otherwise debilitating factors, test for genetic predispositions, eradicate diseases that once killed thousands, transplant organs and implant devices that make our hearts beat. On the other hand, we pickle our food with hormones and pesticides and cloud our skies and water with pollutants, some of which may cause the very conditions we work so hard to cure. I realize that my choice to stay on anti-depressants while trying to limit my gluten, dairy and caffeine intake is in some ways ridiculous. Infertility makes you nuts, what can I say?

This was all brought on by an email I received this morning from my father-in-law. He sent this link regarding anti-depressant use during pregnancy to me, J, his daughter (also struggling with infertility, also on anti-depressants) and son-in-law. A professor at the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (UK), states in the article that the risks inherent to SSRI use during pregnancy for women with mild to moderate depression "are not worth taking." I don't believe that my depression is mild or moderate, though who is to say? It's a deeply personal, subjective assessment. It is very easy to say that there are no risks worth taking when it comes to pregnancy and the health of your child. The decision is far harder when the "safer" road presents the risk of mental illness for the mother and a set of different, perhaps less precarious threats to the baby.

My father-in-law meant no harm. He wants us to be safe and his future grandchildren to be healthy. Believe me, so do I.  My first reaction to the email was rage, then sadness and now, calm rationalism. Here is the informed choice I made after many years of anguish and research. I do what I can and pray that my choice will one day matter at all. 

Friday, June 14, 2013

Home, A Shiny Object

What do you do while you wait?
I currently vacillate between enjoying my Chicago summer and fixating on the waiting. The interminable waiting. Waiting for my period, waiting for my next IVF cycle, waiting for my - fingers crossed, prayers submitted - next positive pregnancy test, and I dare not go beyond that. Occupational infertility hazard: I rarely verbalize or think beyond getting knocked up by docs/lab techs and staying pregnant beyond some invented "safe zone" in the second trimester.  Images of giving birth to an actual baby rarely cross my mind. Certainly that's the goal but mentally it's an abstract goal.
Yeah. That. I want that. Another glass of wine, s'il vous plait.
Then I distract myself with a shiny object.
It's perfectly healthy.

As of late, my go-to shiny object has been my home. I live in a cute two bedroom condo with wonderfully large living and sunny spaces, a sweet little balcony, and very tiny bedrooms. It is covered in dog hair.

Stream of consciousness story break - My very spoiled coworker came over for drinks one evening and complemented my home. She then added, "But what will you do when you have a baby? Where will you put it?" Totally normal way to talk about children. Where do you put them? "In the second bedroom," I replied. "We'll convert it from an office to a nursery." "But it's so small! You can't put a baby in there!" Girl, please. Babies have slept in dresser drawers for the past 4,000 years. Entire Inuit families sleep in a single igloo. My kid will do just fine in her 8 x 8 bedroom whenever she decides to grace us with her presence.

And back to my previous train of thought. My home. As things feel rather out of control with my uterus, I've poured my energy into making my home feel like a more stylish, comforting place to be. I'm trying to reduce the clutter and crap and bring in pieces and colors that make me feel calm and happy. I started with my bedroom. I went from drab olive walls (my choice 5 years ago - going for cozy and autumnal. fail.) to a gorgeous light blue-gray (Benjamin Moore Arctic Gray, if you're interested). Et voila, insta-peace. Then added a beautiful Deco-inspired sunburst mirror, an upholstered headboard and some white and nickel lamps. Yesterday I polished it off by splurging a little on a Kate Spade comforter and sham set. I kinda love it. Here's the pic replete with wrinkled comforter right out of the bag. The photo was taken with my phone and seeing as the room is quite small, it could have benefited from a wide angle lens. 

Also on the agenda, my balcony. Flowers make me happy. A few weeks ago I ventured to the local garden center and stocked up on some plants that I knew would do well on my sun-dappled, mostly shady porch. Peppermint double-impatiens (obsessed. like little roses!), yellow-purple torenia and lime green sweet potato vine won out. Some inherited giant begonias joined the team on the table. And the result? A sweetly relaxing spot to while away the weeks/months before my next cycle. Just picture morning tea on this bad boy. Side-planted hanging baskets to follow.

I generally move at a snail's pace on home projects so I'm trying to take advantage of this new found energy. Next on the slate, family room. Maybe kitchen. And the charming but useless bar that J built in the living room window niche? That's going to become a window seat with bookshelves. And on no particular schedule, hopefully that teeny-tiny-"call DCFS" second bedroom will be cleaned out and magically turned into a nursery. Eventually.

Monday, June 10, 2013

Birthday Survived, Nay Thrived.

Despite my best efforts to be a total angsty mess, I actually had a pretty perfect birthday. Admittedly there were a few tears leading up to the event but once I woke up on June 8th, all was good. This beautiful day - somewhat of a rarity lately in Chicago - started with coffee and a croissant (yup, you read right. Caffeine and gluten. Suck it, fertility diet!) with J. Then I made the effort to look well-groomed and hygienic (a must on your 31st) and skedaddled over my best gay, David's house for brunch. Sated with food and mimosas, I later met up with Maggie and Vlad and took in Midsommarfest, my first neighborhood festival of the season. All this was followed by drinks on a lovely patio and eventually dinner at one of my favorite restaurants in Chicago, HB. A perfect summer day with my hubbie and friends.

A pre-birthday story for you: I was born around 6:30 AM on June 8th. Therefore, and especially important given the events of 4:45 AM on June 8th, my birthday does not start until that exact time. No sooner. My dog Ella had a nasty case of diarrhea this weekend, brought on by God knows what. As you dog owners will know, dog diarrhea gets bloody really fast. Dogs are all about drama. In the wee hours of 6/8, Ella started to bark to go out. Since J had walked her last at 2 AM, I got up. We walked and, as I entered the house again and turned on the light, I saw that my kitchen floor was covered in shit and blood. So, at 4:45 AM, I scrubbed shit and blood on my hands and knees. At first I thought, "this better not be some kind of fucked up omen about this year." I then realized that it was not yet technically my birthday and decided instead that I was metaphorically scrubbing away the "shit" year (get it?!?) that had been. 4 IUIs, 1 IVF & 1 miscarriage wiped clean like my kitchen floor. And with that, I went back to bed and awoke a reasonable amount of hours later to coffee and croissants. Universe, if you send it, I will spin it.

Don't worry. After a strict diet of rice and ground chicken and frequent walks, Ella is just fine.

As planned and dreaded, my family went to brunch on Sunday. The weather was lovely, food delicious, and company pleasant. All internal squirming was kept to a minimum. I squeezed out a few tears on the drive home because it's what I do but generally the most icky part of the birthday dance was bearable. I won't go farther than that, bearable will do for now.

All in all, I think I aced my 31st birthday. Special recognition to J, David, *Maggie and Vlad* for making it extra special and far more than bearable.

*I made up the names Maggie and Vlad when they first appeared in the blog. They're not terribly far from their real names but regardless the pseudonyms feel so damned ridiculous. I cringe when I type them. But, I made my bed and shall lie in it. The other option is to reveal their real names and social security numbers in a subsequent post. Might do that.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

31 Years Ago Today...

Nothing much happened. My mom was exceedingly pregnant with little old me. Well, not so old. I was quite young then. Fetal one might say.

Every year since I can remember, in the days leading up to my birthday, my mom tells me exactly what was happening "____ years ago today." My dad did the annual Run for the Zoo. We have a photo of him in very tiny shorts sporting a handlebar mustache to mark the occasion. He and their friends went to the Hyde Park Arts Fair. My mom went home feeling not quite right. And then things got exciting and I burst on to the scene on June 8, 1982. There are many other minute details that I could recite. My mom's elaborate ritual of celebrating my birthday always feels so sweet. I'd like to do it for my own kids eventually. This year I'm not so into it.

I've never been one to mourn the passing of years. If anything, I've always felt like I was "catching up" to the old lady I am at heart (did I mention I knit for fun?). Again, this year is different. I was 29 when we started trying. At 30, it felt like it just hadn't happened yet. At 31, it feels like I'm entering into a some kind of childless lifestyle. This birthday is a reminder of how interminable this infertility shit is. Also a reminder of my loss. I should be in my second trimester now. I should be celebrating two lives. Ugh, could I be more depressing? Yes. Yes I could. I used to be much more of a sad sack about all of this. I really am well into moving on. My birthday just feels sad. Also, I've been battling a cold for over a week now and am completely swamped at work. I'm having trouble mustering much enthusiasm for anything other than my sofa.

Sigh. Anyways, I am eschewing my inner mope and doing deliberately happy things on my birthday. Brunch with one set of friends followed by dinner with another. I will eat my way through this blessed occasion. On Sunday I'll celebrate with my family. That will be the kicker. Frankly, this is more for them than for me. We'll do brunch. A finite, food-centric event. Oh, I'm dreading it. How many mimosas does it take to drown out mom's painful concern and my sister's maternal glow? 2 or 3? Or perhaps one for every candle...

Monday, June 3, 2013

The Good Part

WORST. BLOGGER. EVER. I'm sure there's an award for that. There's an award for everything in the blogging world. I've been writing about twice a week (sometimes way more in the midst of my first IVF cycle) and just about dropped off the face of the earth. I also timed this right after I promised a follow-up post. Genius, just genius. I've been on this major personal campaign to remind/convince myself that my life is about much more than getting pregnant and now, when I'm forcibly kicked off the TTC wagon, I can't muster up the strength or creativity to write a single post?!?! Oh no. This must change.

Here's the long and short of what's happened. Very importantly, I finally completed this damned miscarriage. 6 weeks, folks. That's right. 6 weeks from the day that Dr. Robot told me there was no heartbeat to the day I stopped bleeding and my HCG levels settled back down to zero. What does a six week miscarriage look like? Well, one bout of bleeding after trying to go "au natural" (I didn't get pregnant naturally, not sure why I thought I could get unpregnant naturally) followed by spotting, then elevated HCG levels and a cancelled D&C. Boom, sister pregnancy announcement. Cue curtain of darkness. Freako rising HCG levels (more pregnant! with nothing!) and a shot of methotrexate in the ass. HCG levels gradually fall, bleeding resumes and eventually ends several days after HCG reaches 0. All in all I had 3 major bouts of bleeding, never stopped spotting in between and wore pads or pantie liners for a total of 8 weeks (plus 2 for Endometrin leaks post transfer). I win again. That's a second award. First for worst blogger, second for most obnoxiously drawn out miscarriage of 2013.

The worst, my dears, is over. The sun is shining - it really is. I'm on an airplane flying over the desert and it's basically blinding - and I am on the other side of this. My sister remains pregnant and healthy and we are figuring it out. Life is moving on and so am I. Once I get my period again J and I will decide whether to do another round on that cycle or the next. That I am willing to wait another second to try again is a testament to how far I've come in the past few weeks. A big part of me still feels like a successful pregnancy is the only way to completely heal the heartache of the miscarriage and I do want to be pregnant yesterday, but I also want to be able to relax and not run around like a madwoman during the next go round. Let's give this all we got. I'm not seeing that kind of R&R happening this summer.

Here's the promised follow-up to the post I wrote about the conversation with my sister. The Good Part of all of this. Somewhere along the way - and well before all this infertility junk - I stopped being the creative person I've been since I was a little kid. I stopped drawing, dancing, writing, and most other creative outlets. It started slowly sometime around graduate school, where I needed to focus single mindedly on academics, and continued through this career-building phase of my life. Infertility put a nail in the coffin. Here's the real downside of being a Type A: when life gives you something to focus on, you focus like hell until it's achieved, often to the detriment of everything else. Relationships included. Like many others I've talked to, fertility feels like my full-time job. My miscarriage was a lesson that single-minded obsession would not get nor keep me pregnant. Creating a life is not like writing a master's thesis. There's a little more science, magic and something far beyond my cognitive reaches. You cannot force those cells to divide and thrive.
Thankfully, I had begun blogging this experience a few months before and in doing so, remembered why I used to love writing. It's fun, it's cathartic, it's both distraction and expression. One creative activity back on the map. I also have begun to take on a lot more interior design work at my job. I'm loving it so much. Everyday I have this perfect diversion thinking of nothing but aesthetics (oh right, and function too). As soon as I felt that I had "failed" at the job I had set forth for myself - fertility and pregnancy - I got this perfect reminder that it was not my job, more of a side project, and that my life could be far more full with activities and people that I love. And so, I am making a promise to myself to be more creative. Creative in what I wear, what I eat, what I write. I will resume dancing around the house and doodling in the margins. Because that is who I've always been and it's time to scoop the old me back up. She's what will get me through the next cycle and beyond.