I’ve been super emotional the last week and a half. Every time I’ve seen anyone with a baby, I’ve nearly lost it. Part of that is due to the fact that I went on one of my annual “I don’t need antidepressants” things, and quit taking my Effexor a few weeks ago. There are no words to describe how much I loathe having to take medicine every day just to be able to function emotionally. I know, I know. If I were diabetic, would I just stop taking insulin? Of course not. I know that logically, but depression affects the emotions as well as the brain.
Anyway, I just realized this morning that the other reason I may have been having such strong baby hunger is because I’ve been relating to Chicory and Keri. Ever since going through my own battle with infertility, I wish everyone that wanted children and would make good parents could have children. And I’ve been praying hard for these two awesome women, and I think it’s just brought back all the old feelings from when I was trying to figure out what to do.
I have gone through so many different emotions in my journey: anger, resentment, hurt, resigned acceptance, less resigned acceptance, etc. But for the most part, I have been able to accept that I’m not going to have children. And I’ve gotten to a place in my life where it’s usually not a big deal for me to think of that fact. That doesn’t mean there aren’t times when it’s a huge hole in my heart, because trust me, those times do exist. But they come along less often, and I’m normally able to go about my life without constantly thinking of the woes of being childless.
When I was in my late teens, the pain I had every month when my period came along was excruciating. When I tell you I could not stand up straight due to the agonizing cramps, that’s nothing more or less than the simple truth. I missed at least one work day every month just because of my period (see how to win promotions and influence your boss!); if I had to go out that day to get supplies (pain relievers, chocolate, potato chips), I would hold onto the grocery cart for dear life.
I went frequently to talk to my doctors about it. I can still remember their responses. “It’s all in your head.” “Once you get married and start having children, the cramps will get better.” “Just take more Advil.” “Just take naproxen.” “Just take—” this drug or that drug (never anything stronger than naproxen, unfortunately, which was moderately helpful but not exceptionally so).
I didn’t get married until a month before I turned 27. I was fully confident that as soon as we started having sex, boom! I’d start having babies. But month after month after month after month came and went, and no babies. There’s one month that I honestly think I may have been pregnant, but had an early miscarriage. After a year of that, I started trying to talk my husband into seeing a doctor for infertility. He was in denial, and refused to consider it. I went to the doctor once or twice, but they all said the same thing, that most of the time the problems are with the man, and those problems are usually much easier to fix. If my husband wouldn’t go in, they wouldn’t work with me.
So we kept trying, and kept failing, and I grew more and more depressed every month. The sight of a spot of blood on my undergarments was enough to send me over the edge.
Finally my mother mentioned that she had a septum in her uterus, and perhaps that might be part of the problem, if I had the same thing. I talked to my gynecologist about it, and he agreed to order a HSG. That day. I had no preparation, didn’t know what to expect, and oh my gosh that hurt like billy blue blazes!! Plus I had to call my boss to let her know I wasn’t coming back in that day after all, because if we didn’t do the HSG that day, we wouldn’t be able to do it for another month. So I had my boss screaming at me over the telephone, the hope that they would find something easily fixable with the HSG, all the emotions, everything, hitting me all at once. Bad, bad day.
And the HSG didn’t show anything easily fixable. It showed that my fallopian tubes were completely blocked.
It took a little while longer, but Joe finally agreed that we had a problem, and off to the Reproductive Endocrinologist we went. I had a laparoscopy, as he strongly suspected endometriosis based on my case history and the results of the HSG. There’s nothing like coming out of anesthesia expecting to find yourself better, only to learn that they basically just closed things back up because the adhesions were too bad to remove without doing a complete hysterectomy.
IVF, Dr. D. proclaimed, was what we needed to do. Furthermore, we needed to do ICSI, since my husband’s semen analysis showed a low sperm count. Okay. IVF it was. Too bad that we weren’t able to do IUI, because the insurance would have covered that. But Dr. D. explained that there was only one tiny spot on one ovary that was free from adhesions, and it would take a miracle of Biblical proportions for the egg to come out from that one tiny spot and actually make its way down my clogged Fallopian tubes.
So Joe and I took a loan from his 401k, and I wrote the largest check I’ve ever written in my life. And we were off.
Daily injections. I don’t even remember the name of the drug right now. There was one drug that I gave myself every day for a couple of weeks; that injection didn’t hurt. But then I had to start giving myself Follastim injections, and those hurt like bloody hell. It was in the summer of 2000, and the very first Survivor was on the air. I wasn’t interested in it, but I got to where I’d give myself the Follastim injection and dance madly around the living room for the 20 minutes it took to stop stinging; watching fat naked guy on Survivor helped take my mind off it a little bit. To add insult to injury, I didn’t respond well enough to the Follastim, and they kept me on it two extra days. The stuff is damned expensive, and I didn’t have enough money to pay for the last day. Fortunately, right after I dissolved into tears on the phone with the nurse, she called back to tell me that someone had returned some that they ended up not needing, and Dr. D. had told her to give it to us.
I guess I should mention that during this whole procedure, I had perfect faith that it would succeed. I had known for years that I was going to have twins. I knew their names. I had felt their presence around me for quite a long time.
So when the egg retrieval took place, I had complete confidence that everything was going to be great. Lots of eggs would be available, and they’d be beautiful, and yay for twins. So as soon as I could talk, after coming out of the anesthesia, I was asking how many eggs, how many eggs. And no one would tell me. Finally someone said they got four eggs, but only three of them were good. After all that pain, all that money, all that hope, I just lost it. Trust me when I tell you that you don’t want to lose it when you’re just barely coming out of anesthesia. You vomit, and you feel really disgusting. Furthermore, I somehow got an infection during this procedure, and was having incredible amounts of pain.
But still, I told myself that it was okay. Three eggs would do it. I only needed two, after all, to get those twins I knew I was going to have. So after the eggs were fertilized and one died, I still was okay. Sad, but okay. My friend Clover came over every day to give me the daily injection I needed in my butt. I’m good, but I’m not enough of a contortionist to give myself a shot in the ass.
The morning of the embryo transfer, I had been instructed to go in with a full bladder. I have a peanut sized bladder. I can drink tons and tons and tons of water, but my bladder will not get any bigger. I’ll just be in pain until I can go pee. I went in with a full bladder, but Dr. D. had me drink at least two more bottles of water. Finally he realized that it wasn’t going to get any bigger, and we went ahead with the embryo transfer.
I had to lay on that table with my head toward the floor and my feet up in the air for 10 minutes before they let me go pee. I was paranoid. I remember worrying that the embryos were going to fall out of my uterus. The nurse laughed at me when I told her that, and said not to worry. Then I had to go back onto the table for another 20 minutes, then another 30 minutes in the recovery room, and then I got to go home. While I was sitting in the recovery room, I was reading one of my favourite books: The Snake, The Crocodile, and The Dog, by Elizabeth Peters. I’ve never been able to read it again. Until I finally gave it away a few years ago, the bookmark remained where I’d left it that day.
I had already determined that I was going to stay on bedrest until the pregnancy test. I was not going to do anything that might jeopardize this pregnancy. Staying in bed got incredibly boring, but it was worth it. Until the night I saw the blood. Just everything swept over me, and I thought oh no, I’m losing these babies. I called Clover in hysterics, and she tried to calm me down and reassure me. I did feel better when we got off the phone, and then I felt this warm feeling of peace wash over me. Clover called me back to tell me that she’d just prayed for me, and knew that everything would be all right. “You’re pregnant,” she said, “I know you are.”
And I have to say that I knew as well that everything would be all right. Only I thought all right meant the pregnancy would stick, and I’d have my twins.
God didn’t mean it that way. By the morning of my pregnancy test, I knew that I wasn’t pregnant. Joe gave me a blessing that morning. He had a really important meeting at work that he couldn’t miss, but made me promise to call him the moment I got the results back.
Molly was a puppy then. We’d gotten her in May, and this was July or August. When the doctor’s office called to tell me that the pregnancy test was negative, I wanted to die. I called Joe, told him. He said he’d leave right away. I called my sister, my mother, my father, Clover. And then I went into the bedroom, lay down on the bed, and wished God would just take me away. I didn’t want to be here anymore. Molly followed me into the room and onto the bed, and would not leave my side.