PLEASE NOTE: If you are struggling with infertility or are currently trying to conceive and you DON'T want to read about my pregnancy (which I totally understand), I recommend starting at the beginning of the blog (March 2010) and reading from there. I find out I'm pregnant in June 2011 so there is a lot of trying to conceive posts in between that you might find funny, helpful or relatable. Wishing you all the luck in the world!
Monday, November 18, 2013
This past week, I received an email from a 50-something-year-old asking me if I could take the DNA from her dead husband’s ashes and use them to get her pregnant.
I should note that I’m holding a pen in my hand… not a magic wand.
Although this is the first time the word “cremation” was ever a part of a fertility request, it was not the first time a woman over 45 has asked if she could get pregnant using her eggs.
Let me be super-duper clear here: There are women who do get pregnant or who are even fertile over the age of 42. However, they are very sadly in the minority. Then, even if they can get pregnant, because their egg quality has dipped, they either tend to have more miscarriages or the children they conceive are more susceptible to chromosomal issues.
I know this because I tell women this all day. I don’t enjoy being the bearer of bad news and many get pissed at me. What pisses them off even more is the majority of doctors in the United States won’t even see a patient over a certain age unless they are interested in using donor eggs. Clinics either don’t want to deal with the risks, they don’t to put the patient through needless cycling or quite frankly, they don’t want to affect their success rates. Yes, I’m the messenger of this but I’d rather tell them than have them pay a $500 consult fee to tell them it’s either donor eggs or the highway.
Now, not to be a douche here but I’m always a little surprised when women over 40 can’t believe this would at all be an issue. Again, I’m not saying it’s impossible to get pregnant. I’m just wondering if they have ever seen any romantic comedy where some hot actress with amazingly toned arms who is probably only thirty-years-old is freaking out about her biological clock ticking. Really – how do women miss that age is a factor when it’s rammed down our throats?
This brings me to the title of today’s blog. This past week, I turned 40. I don’t typically care about getting older but when you’ve struggled with infertility for years and then you tell people all day long that being 40 makes things even worse, it hits home.
Let me tell you where I’m at these days: I’m heavier than I’ve ever been (you could show a wide screen movie on my ass), I had to have my gallbladder out a few weeks ago (it came out on National Coming Out Day though so it was exciting to know my gallbladder was gay and proud!) and the dream of having a miracle pregnancy naturally has very much gone down in flames.
I’m exceedingly grateful for my son (courtesy of my 3rd Hail Mary IVF) but I did have hopes of having one more somehow.
If ONLY my pen WERE a magic wand.
I’ve made my decision not to pursue anymore treatment as I was a horrible responder and to spend any money on a cycle that will most likely not work when I could spend that same money on the funny, happy, sweet child I do have. I made that decision and it still makes sense. It just also happens to suck.
I’m officially old. Well, “old” by fertility standards and I was never that fertile to begin with. I now have four scars on my fat stomach from “Gary, the Gay Gallbladder” dramatic exit, I needed to get a stronger eye glass prescription as I’m going blind and instead of packing a string bikini for my upcoming vacation, I packed Imodium.
In addition to my little list of unhappiness above, my miracle son has been diagnosed as being on the “Autistic Spectrum” and my father has been having some health concerns. Our son is in Early Intervention and they are confident that will sincerely help him and as for my dad, we’re hoping for the best and taking it one day at a time hoping for only only good news. So, it’s been a lot of worry, stress and feelings of overall poopiness.
In many ways, things are good and I swear, despite my current whining, I know I have a lot to be grateful for. I will celebrate, I will focus on the positive and I will continue to eat cake despite what the scale says. I just know that with this milestone, some wishful thinking and some choices have been even more shut down.
So, the morning I turned 40, my dad was getting another test, my son was working with his speech therapist and I interviewed an owner of a home insemination kit. I somehow ended up talking to him for a full 20 minutes about sperm. An odd, yet strangely typical day.
I was recently talking to someone and they asked me what the biggest problem is with infertility and how would I solve it. I thought long and hard about this as I can think of so many things wrong with infertility. Insurance coverage, costs, friends and family who don’t understand, women in their 50’s who don’t get their period anymore asking me why they can’t use their own eggs and so many understandably naïve people just starting treatment not realizing all of their options (or all of the acronyms on IF chat boards).
My answer was that the biggest problem about infertility is no one talks about it and it’s simply not main stream or accepted enough. Wouldn’t it be amazing if it was as much in our daily lives as diabetes, or breast cancer or any other actual medical condition? Wouldn’t it be a huge f*cking help to all of us if people didn’t pity us or dismiss us as just unlucky? Wouldn’t it be even better if people didn’t say stupid sh*t like, “Go on vacation!” or “Have him leave his socks on!”
Seriously – if there was some way to educate the public (both fertile and infertile), the problems we could both solve and avoid!
And that is something that is comforting to me right now. In many ways, I feel like a stressed out, fat, failure that’s as always, maintaining my sanity and sense of humor at all times. However, I know that every day, through my job, my own advocacy work, social media and my blog, I’m doing something that I’m passionate about inside and out. Whether it’s my son’s music class, a Facebook post, a dinner party, a family member, at Resolve’s Night of Hope, I Believe Video Contest or the many, many people I talk to through Fertility Authority, I’m doing something I believe in. And that’s educating others on infertility.
Even in the midst of stress and agita (an Italian word I so love), I get numerous emails from people thanking me for my honesty, or helping them get a second opinion, or encouraging them to just go to the doctor in the first place. I mention this not as I, “I’m awesome! Look at me!” I mention it because hearing that I’ve helped or inspired anyone has comforted me during this crazy time more than I can say. When you celebrate the day of your birth, there’s nothing more satisfying than knowing a few people out there are actually glad you exist.
I talk about this a lot and I cling to it often: When things are tough, no matter the issue, it’s better to focus on the positive and wrap yourself in that. I’m alive, I have a loving and fun husband, I have my adorable son after trying and hoping for so long (and who I adore more than anything), I have very funny supportive friends, I have a loving family and I have the infertility community, which I’m honored to be a part of. Truly. It’s a club I wouldn’t have elected to join but they are some of the strongest, bravest, most compassionate group I’ve ever known and I’m proud to stand with them.
So whether it’s educating young women on exploring freezing their eggs, advising older women about which doctor will see them with their own eggs or exploring donor eggs or surrogacy, or telling someone that we don’t yet have the technology to impregnate them by using a recently deceased person’s ashes, I continue to push forward. Thank you for pushing me along with you.
Tuesday, September 17, 2013
Whenever you ask yourself, “Where is Jay? Why hasn’t she blogged in a while?” (Not that any of you have actually asked yourself this question but humor me for a moment), I want you to picture me sitting at my desk at Fertility Authority fielding such questions and comments as:
“I’m calling about fraternity treatment.”
“I mean – doesn’t EVERYONE have Chlamydia???’
“I don’t have fallopian tubes. Can the sperm work around that though so I can get pregnant naturally?”
“I need futility treatment.”
“I’m not infertile. I just don’t want to have sex with my husband.”
Luckily, not all of our calls and inquiries are along these lines. I would say these are the occasional colorful surprises throughout the day.
I’ve been at this job for over a year and some of the patients I’ve worked with early on are now giving birth. There’s one story (and I hope she doesn’t mind me sharing this as she reads this blog often) that particularly touched my heart that I’d like to share briefly.
She and I met through this blog and through emails, phone calls and texts became friends in real life. She would produce perfect embryos but kept having miscarriages. Her doctor at the time said it was just “bad luck”. She had two embryos left for a frozen embryo transfer (FET) cycle, but she lacked the strength to go through yet another heartbreaking cycle.
I did some research and found a doctor not far from her that specializes in recurrent miscarriages. After much conversation and understandable hesitation, I convinced my dear, lovely friend to go for an appointment.
The doctor ran some tests and found what she believed to be an autoimmune issue. They addressed it, did a different protocol and did an FET using the last two embryos. Over a month ago, she gave birth to those two embryos: a healthy boy and girl.
In just the past month, I’ve received emails from 6 different people letting me know that they are now pregnant or that they’ve given birth.
I’ve written more times than I can count about the importance of getting a second (or third) opinion (especially when some asshat tells you that you’ve just had bad luck). I’ve also written A LOT about how I have a hard time saying that I’m grateful for infertility. Really – who would ever choose to go through any of this? Who can ever say, “Yaaay infertility! I’m so glad you knocked on my door, set my relationships, self-esteem and finances on fire! Thanks!” Certainly not I.
However, there was an incident through my son’s music class that got me thinking... AND LET ME BE CLEAR: This is not a mommy story so never fear!
On Saturday mornings, I take my son (my lone perfect embryo from my 3rd IVF) to a music class for toddlers. If it’s at all possible, I may love this class even more than my son does. The teacher is passionate about teaching, about the true joy of music (which next to Starbucks and blocks of cheese, music is my only real addiction) but he also has a genuine enthusiasm about life that is simply infectious.
Outside of where the class is held, the teacher decided to plant, cultivate and grow sunflowers. In one of our recent classes, we were looking out the window at the result of his hard work. The sunflowers had grown to be quite tall, strong and frankly, absolutely gorgeous. We watched passersby stop to admire them and even in some cases, pose next to them to take pictures.
A few days after this, my husband and I received an email that someone in the middle of the night cut down all of the sunflowers for no discernible reason. This was so upsetting as we knew how much work was put into them and how very well intentioned those flowers were. In the email, it was requested that as a show of support, we all bring sunflowers to our next class.
When I arrived the following Saturday, there were sunflowers floor to ceiling, in the windows and on every counter top. Several children even drew pictures and made collages that looked like sunflowers.
I spoke to the teacher about the incident and he said, “I'll be honest - I was absolutely livid when I saw what happened… but really, this turned out to be one of the best week’s ever. I'm overjoyed!” He went on to say how touched he was by all of the people who came by, who brought flowers or artwork, the emails he received and the wave of affection that was given to him. And if you think about it, even though the flowers around the room were not the ones he grew, they did come from the relationships he cultivated and nurtured through his work.
So really, what started out as a negative act became a positive reaction.
So really, what started out as a negative act became a positive reaction.
What struck me most was the teacher sincerely wasn’t bitter. He was definitely hurt and disappointed at the loss of the sunflowers but he so genuinely felt that the positive outweighed the negative. And really, isn’t it better to focus on the many, many people who showed him love rather than think about the one person’s cowardly act?
This got me thinking about whether you really can see the positive in even the worst situations. Some things happen that are just beyond awful. One example that comes to mind is the shooting that happened in Connecticut at Sandy Hook Elementary. It still haunts me often and I can’t even bear the thought of what those parents must feel.
I read an interview several months ago with one of the parents whose son was killed in the tragedy. He apparently died in the arms of a teacher. The parents expressed gratitude for that - that at least he wasn’t alone and someone was holding him. That they would take that detail and find the comfort in it gets me every time I think about it.
Now obviously, someone cutting down your sunflowers, struggling with infertility and losing a child in a violent, horrific act are all on completely different parts of the spectrum. What I’m now toying with though is thinking about all of these negative things in my life and not necessarily being grateful for them, but just trying to see what good you can focus on in each.
Lately, when I’m stressed about something, I ask myself, “What’s the positive here?” I’m not saying there's a reason for everything and I'm certainly not saying that I always come up with some positive take on every situation. What I'm saying is that problems just feel more bearable when I at least try to see the good.
If I take infertility for example, I could say that it made my husband and I stronger, it made me more compassionate in general, it connected me with so many women I now consider my friends, it changed my entire career and in a very small way as evident in recent months, it prompted me to play a minor role in helping other women like me hopefully achieve their goals.
No matter what your situation or even the outcome, do you think this is possible? Can you take some of the worst things that have happened and find the good? I don’t know the answer for sure but again, I think it’s worth the effort.
Even though I don’t blog as much as I would like to, whether I’m dealing with questions like, “Why can’t I get pregnant doggy style?” or whether I’m home trying to remember where in the holy hell I put my glasses when they are usually on my face, I am thinking of all of you. We have all dealt with or are dealing with the same issue and that bonds us. I sincerely hope all of you can find moments of good in each of your days.
Wednesday, June 19, 2013
I hesitate to even write today’s blog post as I’ve been in a mood lately. I pride myself on always taking a humorous view to life’s little problems but these days, I feel like I’m terminally PMS. I’m not sure what the hell is going on with me. I would describe myself as stressed, tired, overwhelmed, jealous, resentful, frustrated with occasional swings of deep appreciation.
Dear god… I sound bipolar.
I’m going to be 40 later this year and although I sincerely don’t have any emotions or strong feelings about it on the surface, the fertility implications are getting to me. I already have bad eggs but now that 40 is looming, I see in my mind the fertility chart that doctors show you where you see your fertility plunging in a big, fat, dramatic green line.
Infertility + Age = A clusterfuck.
It’s hitting me hard that my dream of having a big family is pretty much over and that is no doubt at the heart of my very poopy mood.
As you know, I work at the Patient Care Manager of FertilityAuthority. Part of my role is to play “infertility matchmaker” between those seeking help and fertility doctors that might be able to assist. I answer tons of calls and online forms all day long… and quite often… into the evening as well. I love my job but its entails long hours and can be high pressure. It’s also an odd place to be when still trying to reconcile my own infertility while advising others on theirs. To tell people several times a day, “There is sharp decline in your fertility after the age of 42…” while I’m on the cusp of turning 40 kind of sucks.
Anyway, recently, someone contacted me about writing for our site. Every week (and this is one of my favorite parts of my job), I pick an infertility related blog to feature. I LOVE seeing other people’s blogs, reading their stories, seeing their writing style, checking out the comments and the overall message the blog gives (hope, humor, honestly, etc.). This person wanted me to feature their blog. She said, “I’ve been to hell and back…”
As she shared her journey, I found out that it consisted of trying to get pregnant for four months, getting a positive pregnancy test, then going to the doctors to find out that she wasn’t pregnant, getting very depressed about it but then she went on to get pregnant two months later. She now has a daughter from that pregnancy.
Now here’s the thing: We always talk about not playing the, “Whose Pain is Worse Game” so let me be clear when I say that this woman felt true sadness and disappointment about that pregnancy test not working out. I don’t mean to take away from that. However, if you’re like me and have connected with others who have gone through infertility, you know there are real horror stories of recurrent miscarriages, still born babies, difficult diagnosis’s, life altering decisions about terminating pregnancies and those who have gone through as many as ten in vitros only to have no success and so on.
I’m continually shocked at people’s lack of empathy. It’s empathy that kept me from saying to this woman in particular, “Trust me – you should consider yourself lucky.” I can appreciate that this woman’s pain is real and who am I to say differently. I’m just surprised she doesn’t seem aware that for many, what she went through wasn’t exactly hell. There are countless that are not only in hell right not now but who feel like it’s a one way ticket. Again, that’s empathy: To know you’ve had your struggles, but to be aware that there are others who still continue to struggle.
Even when I see some of my fellow infertiles who have gone on to have children through one way or another that post, tweet or blog all about being a mom, I can’t help but feel torn about it. OF COURSE, I’m exceedingly happy for them and it’s their space to express whatever they want but my empathetic self can’t help but feel like, “Ummmm guys? People still struggling may be reading this. Don’t forget about them.”
Ultimately, it’s really not their problem. Truly. They should be happy and live their lives and post whatever they want. It’s up to the reader to decide, “Yeah, I’m out of here.” But that just isn’t me. If you look at this blog, I think it’s clear I’m very mindful there are people who visit who are still in the trenches. Up top, I include where the pregnancy posts are should you want to avoid them and if you read my posts, although I do mention I have a son, my blog isn’t a “mommy blog” where I post endless pictures or discuss his every milestone. It’s not that I never discuss it at all or I don’t have joy in it – I just don’t share those thoughts here. If anything, this blog still is very much about infertility or at the very least, what my life is like being a mom after going through treatment.
My story, respectfully, is more extensive then the woman who contacted me about featuring her blog. NOTHING was getting me pregnant, years were flying by, my savings account was empty, my husband and I were on the verge of killing each other and I was a terrible responder to treatment. I can produce eggs (yaaay!) but what good is it when most of them are shit?
As I often mention, on my last cycle, my third IVF, they retrieved thirteen eggs and I only had ONE embryo. It's a fucking miracle that after three years, five timed cycles, Clomid, a uterine polyp, several IUI’s and two previously failed IVF’s, that lone embryo stuck. I could not be more grateful. There seriously isn’t a second of any day where I’m not profoundly humbled and deeply appreciative.
So the fact that I’m currently depressed over never having more children is making me want to punch myself in the face. I know the odds were against me having what I do have and I know through and through that it could have been much, much worse. Not only do I have friends who continue to struggle but again, because of my job, I hear absolutely heartbreaking tales of loss and sadness.
I am also noticing that many of the people who cycled around the time that I did, who “started out with me” (if you will) are already having their second kids (either unexpectedly naturally or through treatment). What gets me even angrier at myself about that is I take this happy news for them and use it to make myself feel like a failure. I find myself thinking, “I can never get pregnant naturally, I’m going to be 40, my eggs suck and I can’t afford treatment again. I’m such a loser.”
Through my job and the generosity of others, I have been offered discounted treatment. However, I can’t afford even that. Well, truth be told, I guess I could if we saved a bit and stretched but it would be irresponsible. We rent and I would love a house one day plus I have a son at home who we want to give all that we can to. To spend money on a cycle that even my Reproductive Endocrinologist doesn’t think will work just seems wrong. I have a choice: I can spend money on a cycle that will most likely not work or I can keep the money and spend it on the child I have at home.
So, I guess I’m confused. One side of me is very angry at myself for not seeing the glass half full and being satisfied with what I do have while the other half is sad that I don’t have the choice or resources to have another child. It’s like I’m realizing one dream while putting the other one to rest all at the same time.
I often encourage people to pursue what they feel is best and what will make them happy. If I called me at work, I would tell me that if this is something I feel strongly about, I should pursue treatment. However, it’s not that easy. I do feel that my brain is making a smart choice: Spend the money on concrete things like your son and owning a home.
It’s just my heart that hasn’t really accepted it yet.
Sunday, April 21, 2013
|“We must remember that one determined person can make a significant difference, and that a small group of determined people can change the course of history.” - Sonia Johnson|
1. My 15 month old son’s recent obsession with Elmo.
2. My history with fertility treatment.
3. My internship working at Sesame Street after I graduated college. (Yes, I can tell you how to get to Sesame Street. It involves a subway.)
4. My clearly twisted subconscious.
This nightmare was brought to you by the letters IVF.
I was lying in bed alone trying to calm down (my husband had been banished to another room due to his unfortunate snoring) when I remembered that National Infertility Awareness Week® would soon be upon us and RESOLVE always has a theme for their “Bloggers Unite Challenge”. I grabbed my iPhone off my bedside table and looked up what this year’s theme would be: “Join the Movement’.
On the RESOLVE website, it reads, “Join the movement to bring infertility support groups to every community, increase and protect access to all family building options and help change the conversation about infertility.”
“Join the Movement.” What does that say to me personally? What does that make me think of? Why am I still awake? What normal person dreams about Big Bird being present during a surgical procedure?
The more I tossed and turned and thought about those words, “Join the Movement”, the more I thought about the many men and women who deal with infertility. Roughly 7.3 million in the United States have had difficulty getting pregnant or staying pregnant. And yet… so many of us have often felt alone. I know I certainly did for a time.
If I shared with you that during my own journey to have a family, I was the woman at the baby showers in the corner near the wine and cheese plate faking a huge smile who then went home afterward and cried my eyes out, would you know what that experience is like?
If I shared with you that it felt like everyone I knew was getting pregnant around me while I was going through treatment, would you relate? (At my old job in particular, a co-worker once joked that there was clearly “something in the water”. I suppose I was drinking from the Infertile Vending Machine.)
If I shared with you how much of a failure I felt, how isolated I became, how I avoided friends with babies, stopped watching shows with pregnancy plot lines, went to bed at 4pm in the afternoon because I got my period yet again, or that I began to hate the holidays and seeing my family, would you know how that felt?
My guess is you can relate to one if not all of these feelings because, even though it sometimes feels that way, we are NOT alone. And the more I thought about “Join the Movement”, the more I realized that is the starting point. To know that there are many others out there like us, and together - we can make a true impact in increasing and protecting access to all family building options and help change the conversation about infertility.
There is an entire community ready and willing to support each other whether one is working through IVF, adoption, surrogacy, donor eggs, female infertility, male infertility, insemination or living childfree (by circumstance, choice or other). There are so many people that can stand by you and say, “Oh honey – I know exactly what you mean. I’m here for you!”
I know that my infertility journey changed my entire life: My career, my marriage, my outlook and, with the addition of my son, my world. Three years of trying to get pregnant, five timed cycles, one uterine polyp (which I lovingly nicknamed Jackson Polyp), one dilation and curettage, three inseminations, three IVF’s and no more money left in my savings account, and it all came down to one lone 8-cell embryo on my last cycle. I’m still stunned and profoundly grateful at what that lone embryo became.
When I first began treatment, I cast myself as the lonely infertile. No one understood me, no one knew what it was like and I felt like I alone was being punished. Slowly though, I started this blog, I created a Twitter account dedicated to my infertility struggle (@the2weekwait), I began having brunches with my fellow infertiles where we’d vent over fruit salad and as time went on, I connected with some of the most special, supportive, strong as hell women that I grew to rely on. The fact that on my last IVF cycle, ALL of my medications were donated from my fellow infertile friends always chokes me up. My son’s life is the direct product of this community’s generosity.
Over time, I became more active in the infertility community and would eventually leave my boring job and become the Patient Care Manager at Fertility Authority which is where I work now. Through my role, I talk to countless women, men and couples about their fertility concerns and assure them that they do have options, that there are people, doctors and support out there for them and most importantly, that they are not alone.
Once you know you are part of a community, it’s not only easy to get involved, it’s so important at a time when so many are trying to limit our family building options. You could volunteer at one of the many RESOLVE locations, start your own support group (or brunches) in the comfort of your own home, connect with others on any of the various online support groups (or Twitter which is my personal favorite), write your elected officials in Washington to co-sponsor Family Act of 2011, speak to your HR Department about making sure the company insurance covers infertility treatment or, if nothing else and if you at all feel comfortable, be open about your own fertility history (even if it reads as a Sci-fi Novel). By sharing our stories, we support others who can relate plus we educate friends and family who are simply unaware.
Infertility is a real problem that hits on every aspect of our lives. It puts an incredible strain on our relationships, marriages, self-esteem, financial state and our physiological well-being. Our voices need to be heard – not just by one another, but by the people out there who are simply ignorant of what infertility means. Simply by all of us saying, “Yes. I had trouble conceiving. There are others like me. It’s a medical condition and it’s not my fault”, we not only remind each other we’re not alone but we let the world at large know we exist. As Margaret Mead once said, "Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it's the only thing that ever has." (Only insert the word 'infertile' between 'committed' and 'citizens'). :)
|Me holding the result of my 3rd IVF|
As I thought about all of this (by now, it was 5:15am), I heard my son stir in his crib. Selfishly, I went to get him, brought him in bed with me and snuggled with him. I sang our favorite song, “You Are My Sunshine” and as I got to the line, “You’ll never know dear… how much I love you.” I thought, “But you will know what I went through to have you.” I can’t wait to tell him about how much he was wanted and just how many people were involved to make his happy little life possible.I rested my cheek on his fuzzy head, he looked up at me, smiled and as we both started to drift off to sleep, it occurred to me that Sesame Street is a place where everyone cooperates and supports each other’s differences. Plus, as Grover once said (out of all the quotes I've included here, it's only fitting that Grover, one of our great philosophers of our time, get the last word), “Where there is life, there is hope!”
So, no more bad dreams; just hope for the future and the movement we are all a part of. With hope and humor… always.
To learn more about Joining the Movement, RESOLVE or Infertility in general, please visit:
Thursday, March 21, 2013
First, let me start out by sharing that this morning, my almost 14-month-old son found my vibrator. This is a moment I will NOT be recording in his baby book.
March 21st, 2012 – First time he discovers mommy’s sex toy.
He was playing with my alarm clock which is on my nightstand when our nanny said she was going to go and pick out his clothes for the day. I’m grateful for this as she did not witness me wrestling with my son to get the toy out of his hand when he eventually opened up the drawer and found it. I need to call my therapist.
Secondly, I arrived to work this morning and my first call of the day was a man asking about insemination. This is a typical call I would receive… only here is the difference: He was asking if I could help inseminate his female pig. He went on to explain that there aren’t a lot of male pigs where he is in Alaska so he’s between a rock and a hard place to get “Bessie” knocked up.
So… it’s already been an eventful morning and I haven’t even finished my mocha lite Frappuccino yet.
Today is the start of this month’s “International Comment Leaving Week”. I love these weeks as I get new visitors to the blog and I get to read blogs I might not otherwise have known about. Therefore, I’ve been giving a lot of thought about what I’d like to write about and frankly, my life (if you can’t tell) has been so wacky lately, it’s hard to even think straight.
Regular readers know my history but for new readers, here’s a brief summation: I went through three years of infertility treatment (5 timed cycles, 3 IUI’s and 3 IVF’s) and got pregnant with my son on my third IVF after retrieving 13 eggs but only having ONE embryo. That one embryo was the one trying to figure out why my vibrator doesn’t light up like his other toys.
After my son was born, I returned to my boring day job only to hear about an opportunity to work at Fertility Authority. I’m now the Patient Care Manager there where I try to match people with doctors in their area. I get people’s history, their budgets or insurance information, if they have a certain diagnosis and where they are located to help find an RE that fits the bill. I think of it as almost a “medical blind date” where someone will end up pregnant at the end. EHarmony – move over!
Infertility has changed my life – completely. My friends, my interests, my passions, my home life, my career, my focus and obviously, what I write about. I’ve said this often but I’ll say it again: Despite how amazing many things are about where I’m at now, I still don’t like saying, “I’m grateful for infertility”. I just can’t say that.
Am I grateful for the people I’ve met? HELL YES.
Am I grateful that I’ve taken something so negative and turned it into a whole new career where I can help others? DAMN STRAIGHT.
Am I humbled and beyond appreciative for the son I have? I CAN’T EVEN PUT IT IN TO WORDS.
But I can never lose sight that my story has worked out a certain way, and not everyone’s has.
That’s not to say that the only way you can find happiness is to have a baby. I don’t mean that at all. I just mean that some people’s journeys include deep heartache that I’ve never experienced. And infertility in general, although packed with humor (if you can find it) is so incredibly heartbreaking and disruptive that it’s hard to imagine that everyone feels gratitude towards it.
It actually reminds me of the time Michael J. Fox said he was grateful for Parkinson’s. What a kick ass awesome attitude. And part of me DOES get it. There are things, as I’ve mentioned, that I am grateful for that has come out of my experiences but again, I just can’t say, “Thank you infertility!” Not even in jest.
Maybe it’s because I don’t believe you’re given infertility as some sort of guiding fate. To say I’m grateful for it would almost be admitting that it was some sort of destiny for me. Some look for reasons for things and I’m a firm believer in “things don’t always happen for a reason”. Sometimes, sucky things just happen and that plain ol’ sucks.
Ultimately, it’s about how you choose to handle infertility or in general, anything that life gives you. Michael J. Fox has taken his Parkinson’s diagnosis, made others aware of it, raised money towards research to curing it and has given a face to a disease many people struggle with.
I, in my small little way, have taken my experience and my outcome and made choices in how I took my “infertile lemons” to make some serious vodka laden lemonade.
As Epictetus said, "It's not what happens to you, but how you react to it that matters."
This morning, I’m exhausted, overworked, behind on most everything and feeling overwhelmed and anxious as usual. But I know that even though I don’t have all my sh*t together and I'm current dealing with a pig needing fertility assistance (oy!), I’m in a better place than I ever dreamed. I love helping people, I love getting emails and phone calls where people I’ve worked with tell me they are now pregnant, I love that my sanity and sense of humor are still intact despite it all and more than anything in this world, I love the son that I never thought I would have. He’s my lone perfect 8-cell embryo filled with both mischief and hope.
So this is me now and as always, I hope all of YOU are muddling through and hanging in there no matter what your struggling through.
With hope and humor… always.
Wednesday, February 20, 2013
Through my own experience with infertility and now, my job working with those struggling to conceive, I am reminded over and over again, hour by hour, how frustrating and endless it all seems. It’s overwhelming and humbling to think how not being able to have a family can destroy so many aspects of your life. Your finances, your friendships, your self-esteem, your marriage, your physical and mental well-being and your sanity all take serious hits. Some of these hits you bounce back from. Some you don’t right away. Others, you never really do. I will never cease to feel compassion and deep empathy for anyone in the thick of it.
I admire those who have positive attitudes and keep it all in perspective. There are some who have always been open about their issues from start to finish (whereas I waited till I was in a better mental state before speaking so openly about it). They have stamina, they see the bright side, they don’t let their fertility issues stand in the way of their happiness and most importantly, these people are few and far between.
And why am I getting in to all of this? I’m glad you asked.
Lately, there have been a few people that have contacted me with serious fertility concerns. There was a woman who gave birth to a still born at 8 months, then had a series of miscarriages and has never seen a reproductive endocrinologist. She contacted me for assistance and I found her a doctor that specializes in recurrent miscarriages. I had an appointment all set for her when emailed me, “I saw my psychic today and she said that I don’t have any fertility issues so I’m just going to keep trying on my own.”
Then, a married couple in their early 40’s, where the wife has hormonal issues and irregular periods told me that they’ve been trying to conceive for 8 years. When I found a doctor for them in their area, the husband wrote me back that they are going on vacation and they are hoping they will get pregnant while on their cruise.
Another woman told me that she has done 8 unmonitored cycles using Clomid and when I tried to explain to her that they only recommend 6 and she really needs to break up her OB/GYN and see an RE, she told me how much she loved her doctor and how good he’s been to her. (I do want to note that some people opt to stay with their OB/GYN because of financial reasons but in the case of this woman, she did have fertility coverage with an RE).
The other night, I was lying in bed and my son (who as you know was the product of my third IVF) started to cry. I went to check on him and he looked up at me, smiled and said, “Mum!” I love that he never went the “Mama” route as he seems to love the end of words. For example, he doesn’t say, “Dada”. He said, “Dad!” with the emphasis on the ‘d’ at the end. He also says the word, “Hot!” really hitting the ‘t’ at the end hard. It cracks him for some reason which in turn cracks me up. Now, if I could get him to say, “Hot Mum!”, I’d really be pleased.
As I held him, I thought of these patients I’ve mentioned and how much I want to go to their house, sit down with them, hold their hand and stage an “infertility intervention”. I want to beg them to fight hard, get a second opinion, or third, or fourth until they hold their child as I’m holding mine now.
I’ve said it before but many go through infertility, end up having a family and putting it all behind them. I respect and even admire that but that’s just not me. I get deeply upset when I feel like someone hasn’t gotten the care or attention they deserve or when I hear a story of a doctor saying someone is fine and just keep trying when there clearly is a problem. I’ve known two different people who kept having miscarriages and their initial doctors were like, “Oh, it happens! You’re just unlucky!” and eventually, one of them found out she had a serious blood clotting disorder and the other had an implantation issue. I’m happy to report that when they ended up in the hands of different doctors, they both went on to have babies.
Who is reading this right now? Are you someone that has been trying to get pregnant for many years? Are you someone who feels like you’re not getting answers? Or are you not liking the answers you’re getting? Have you suffered losses? Or are you someone who is on the other side with a family but either know someone who is still trying to conceive OR perhaps you’re now working on a new problem that you’re looking to resolve.
What I want to say is I don’t think I was ever someone to look on the bright side nor had the best attitude. I mean, I maintained my sense of humor (lord knows) and hung on to my sanity (barely) but I was definitely someone who let matters of my uterus take over my entire life. I know firsthand that it’s easier to hope that things will work out somehow. That maybe next cycle, somehow, I’ll get pregnant if I pray really hard or maybe I’ll get pregnant while I’m in Disney World or maybe I don’t have a problem and I just need to eat more chocolate.
No one wants to have an IVF. No one wants daily blood work or to be regularly intimately involved in vaginal sonograms. It sucks, it’s not fun and it’s not the way you expected it to be. The fact is though that if you’re not getting pregnant, this is my personal urge to you to fight. Fight hard. See another doctor, get another opinion, be your own advocate and don’t waste time avoiding what may be the very thing that can help. For the love of god – get your big boots on and kick infertility’s ass!
Sometimes our happy endings are not the way we planned or expected them to be but that doesn’t make them any less happy. Sometimes, they even exceed our expectations. I don’t know if I could ever say I’m grateful for what I went through even though so much good came out of it. Truly – infertility in certain aspects actually made my life better (and no, I can’t believe I’m saying that but in some ways, it really is accurate). But it still sucked and there are times I can’t help but wish it never happened.
It did though. And the only thing to do now is to try to make it mean something. Not just to me but to perhaps others as well. If I can spare you the regret of saying years from now, “I wish I started treatment sooner.” Or “I should have done more.”, then I really want to.
Whether it’s a personal issue, an infertility issue or what have you, don’t lie down and let it win. I guess that’s my only point here. If you suspect something is wrong, better to find out now than wait.
Get your cheerleader outfit out, play the Rocky Theme in your head or look in the mirror and say, “I’m awesome, I’m doing the best I can and today, I’m going to continue to fight to get what I want!”
In the meantime, please know that whether I know you personally or not, I’m in your corner, standing behind you (well, not physically as that may freak you out), cheering you on. No matter the issue – don’t give up. Please. Don’t. Give. Up.
ADDENDUM: My dear friend on Twitter, @Ms_Infertile, pointed out after reading this post that she did not want my readers to think that I was suggesting that if they choose to stop treatment, I considered them as “giving up”. I’m glad she pointed this out as I would NEVER want anyone to think that was my suggestion.
There is a world of difference between acceptance and giving up. As I said above, “Sometimes our happy endings are not the way we planned or expected them to be but that doesn’t make them any less happy.” If you feel that you want to stop treatment, or that it’s taking too much of a toll on you physically, emotionally or otherwise, then that is exactly that – the ending you feel is the best for you. I have huge respect for those who say, “Enough is enough for me.” That isn’t a failure. It takes courage and strength to let go of something and make way for something else.
This post was more about people who are in the “thick of it” who are still looking for options. It also (in my opinion at least) could also be about any goal you are still in the process of pursuing.
Thank you @Ms_Infertile for making sure I made sure my readers know this… and thank all of you for your feedback, comments and for reading!
Monday, February 11, 2013
As we all know, when dealing with matters of fertility, the word “Hope” can become a four letter word. So whenever I tell anyone to, “Keep hope alive!”, I know firsthand that this is easier said than done. It may entail some CPR, alcohol and some cheesy quotes (which I adore) to keep it going but to me, the bottom line is although hope can be a bit of a bitch, out of all your options (hope, despair, resignation, etc.), I sincerely think it’s the best way to go.
I talk about hope and my infertility experience in an interview I recently did with a Website called, "How They Got Pregnant" (click here to read if you’re interested). It also includes pictures of me and my son which I don’t often share.
And on the note of hope, I recently connected with a lovely woman named “Rebecca”. Rebecca is in need of both help and hope. To give you a brief background, she is Orthodox Jewish and was only two weeks away from her wedding when she unexpectedly suffered a debilitating stroke. She fell to the floor, broke her neck and consequently suffered both spinal cord and brain injuries. Her fiancé, unable to deal with the recent turn of events and her physical state, called off the wedding.
(You can read her full story on ABC News by clicking here).
She is 38 years old, has little to no money and is hoping to freeze her eggs while she continues to recover and eventually, hopefully, meet someone to start a family with but someone who will stand by her no matter what.
Unlike the Roman Catholics (of which I was raised as), the Orthodox Jews are far more supportive of the medical advancements made in the fertility world. As you will see in the article mentioned above, they are even encouraging women to invest in egg freezing. Egg freezing is definitely a growing trend (albeit an expensive one) that can be an invaluable option for those who are in situations similar to Rebecca, or those who are about to go through Cancer treatment or even simply those who haven’t found the person they want to settle down with yet.
I’ve been working Rebecca for about a month or so and as of right now, it looks like we have found a clinic willing to work with her on freezing her eggs at a more reasonable price given her circumstances. However, I’m still hoping to help her raise some money to help cover the costs.
At my job, I talk to people all day every day that ask me the same two questions:
1. How can I have a baby?
2. How can I afford treatment?
Even if you have insurance, sometimes it only covers a certain dollar amount, others only cover IUI’s or certain medications and then there are some that only cover the consult. My point is that when I say I am hoping to help Rebecca, I know there are many of you reading this thinking, “Uhhhh… if you’re helping people raise money, please feel free to send a few bucks my way!” Believe me my friends, I so wish I could.
This reminds me of a homeless man that I see every day on my subway and in a weird way, he’s become a sort of celebrity on the A train. He is a gentle, sweet man that always says the same exact thing every time you see him. He says hello, gives his name and then says, “If you don’t have it, I can understand because I don’t have it either.” The “it” is meaning money.
So, if you’re struggling with infertility, then chances are you’re in no position to help Rebecca. After three years of my own treatment, my Savings Account looks more someone’s age than a nest egg. But I still would like to get the word out as that’s what we do in this community: We try to help whatever way we can.
If you are able to help give in the slightest contribution, please visit: http://www.youcaring.com/
If you are not able to, then I ask you to please send Rebecca some hope. I have no doubt that she will send it back to you as well.
Wednesday, January 23, 2013
A few weeks ago, I had the opportunity to meet a very respected and prominent embryologist. I was thrilled to talk to him not just because he is a pioneer in the industry but because he arrived while I was taking a call from a gentleman inquiring about whether any clinic could help get him pregnant. No, he was not a sea horse and yes, I do believe he thought the movie JUNIOR was a documentary. I politely explained that he does not have a womb and that his options consisted of finding a surrogate or adopting. My point is it was a pleasure to go from a man who must have dodged Junior High Health Class to someone intelligent and enlightening.
During my conversation with the embryologist, I mentioned to him my personal experience with IVF. Quickly, these are my brief fertility reports:
IVF 1 – 8 eggs retrieved, 2 embryos
IVF 2 – 10 eggs retrieved, 1 embryo
IVF 3 – 13 eggs retrieved, 1 embryo
When I told him this, he actually said, “Yikes!” Not really the reaction I was going for. He went into this incredibly long analysis on what might have gone wrong. I wish I could tell you what he said but I simply couldn’t follow it let alone to repeat it. There were a lot of big words, sperm was mentioned and I felt as clueless as the guy I spoke with earlier in the day.
My favorite part though of this conversation was after this long dissertation on what possibly went wrong with my cycles, he added at the very end, “Or… it could have been stress.” Stress? Really? So basically one of the top embryologists in the industry and my mother have come to the same conclusion on why I had issues getting pregnant.
My son (the lone embryo from my 3rd IVF) will be turning one in a few days (click here for the post about when we brought him home). And no, I can’t believe it. Every time I think about this, I burst into tears. Part of it is extreme joy and gratitude and another part of it is the overwhelming sense of loss. The baby I never thought I’d have is now officially a toddler… and I will most likely never have another baby again.
Again, and I can’t emphasize this enough – I’m so f*cking humble and beyond grateful that he’s here. My astonishment that he’s mine, that we have this beautiful little boy who is loving, funny and worships both his parents and Elmo (I hope he likes us more but it’s very hard to tell) is never ending. Even when he’s crying, even when he’s not sleeping, even when he poops on… well… pretty much everything… I always think, “I’m so lucky. I’m just so grateful.” Truly.
However, as I said in my last post, I’ve been trying to reconcile that another child is not a very strong possibility. I firmly believe that even though, as we say often in the infertility world, “Hey! You got one! Shut up and be happy!”, I reserve the right to be disappointed that I can’t expand our family… or have a girl that I can put princess dresses on. I can tell you now – my son is not a fan of princess dresses. I’m just saying.
I have always been told that I have “Unexplained Infertility”. Frankly, the more time has gone one and more I’ve learned, the more I think, “Unexplained Infertility” really translates to, “I can’t find anything obviously wrong with you so let’s just dump you in this category so I don’t have to think about it.”
A clinic somewhere (I wish I could remember who) has on their website, “We don’t believe in Unexplained Infertility and neither should you.” I love that.
After speaking with this embryologist and thinking about whether or not my reproductive parts are really all that much of a mystery, I made a decision: I was going to go back to the doctor that I did my last successful cycle with and ask her now that everything is said and done, do we have any insight?
I guess you could say that even though I have my baby, that doesn’t mean I still don’t want some sort of explanation or diagnosis.
The whole experience of returning to the clinic felt surreal. In the waiting room, I was surrounded by women and couples who felt as I did awhile back: Desperate, frustrated, sad and resentful. I wanted to give everyone there a hug and a baby. I still wish I were Oprah. “You get a baby… and you get a baby!”
Seeing my doctor again was also a little awkward. The last time I saw her, I was hysterically crying hugging her while wearing those oh-so-attractive-blue-paper-gowns. I was dressed much better for this visit… just wanted to mention it.
Overall, this is what I learned: Even though my blood work is fine, IVF in and of itself is diagnostic and by going through the process, it showed that I must have some sort of egg quality issue. She said what was interesting about me though was that my eggs are smart in the sense that if they aren’t going to form a healthy embryo, they just don’t form at all. Of the embryos I have had, they have always been 8-cell grade A fabulous. It’s like my eggs are saying, “This is either going to be perfect or it’s going to be nothing.” I had no idea my eggs had such high standards. If only I had these same standards when I was dating way back when. I could have saved a lot of heartaches!
She told me that my chances of ever getting pregnant on my own were 1% - 3% and if I did want to have another baby, she would recommend going straight to IVF with the understanding that she wouldn’t do it more than once. I am 39 years old, my eggs are choosy and she felt that it would save me heartache if my husband and I said, “One more and that’s it” as opposed to, “Let’s open this whole can of worms all over again.”
That night, I spoke to my husband and we came to the same conclusion: We would not do treatment. We’d rather spend the money on the son we do have and to be perfectly honest with you, as I said in my last post, neither he nor I can bear the thought of going through all of it over again. We may be pussies but we just can’t do it.
In the end, going back to the doctor was insightful and I did feel a sense of closure. I’m not quite ready to let go of the hope of having another child but I am getting there.
And that’s why I think this birthday is with mixed emotions. It’s celebrating both what I have and what I’m letting go of. I just hope I don’t burst into tears all over the Elmo cake we ordered when we sing “Happy Birthday”. I’ve got to hold it together for no other reason than to have nice pictures from the day.
Last year, around this time, as you may know, I was told I had cholestasis and had to deliver early (you can refresh your memory by clicking here). As some of you may remember, when my son was born, he had breathing issues and had to be in the NICU for a bit (click here for that post). When I think about all that we’ve done to get him and keep him and that so many of you were there to support me, encourage me and pray for us - that’s another thing that gets me extremely emotional.
I’m always acutely aware that many of you who read my blog do not yet hold a baby in your arms. If you knew me personally (although I hope you can tell this from my blog too!), I sincerely think of those who are still in the trenches every day. We infertiles have a short hand and a level of understanding of each other that few have. Yes, we have empathetic friends but when you say to another infertile, “I hate baby showers”, they really know EXACTLY how you feel, what that’s about and most importantly, they know you’re not an asshole. You’re just someone who is trying to cope.
So, I want to say thank you a million times over. With all my heart, more than ever, I want ALL of us to have the best possible outcomes. It may not be exactly how we imagined, but it may surpass what our expectations were in ways we never thought possible. That’s my wish at least.
As always… with hope and humor.