Archive for May 30th, 2007

Revisiting Old Memories – Part Three

So here I am. I had the hysterectomy in 2002, the day after my 39th birthday. Happy birthday, Faith!

Chicory asked me about how the big hole in my heart got mended after I realized I’d never give birth.

It was a long, painful process. See, my friend Clover was pregnant with her last child while I was going through the IVF. I didn’t know that. She wanted me to have all the attention. She really loves me. When I had to call her with the news that the IVF failed, she and her husband (who were on their way out of town) cried with me. And a month or so later, when everyone else had quit walking on eggshells around me, I came home one day to find a lovely vase of flowers on my doorstep with a loving note from her, and a card signed by all her kids. I still have that, because it meant so much to me. And in her note she said that she knew that even though everyone else had gone back to business as usual, she knew that I was still hurting beyond anything I had the ability to describe, and she just wanted me to know that she loves me and was hurting along with me.

So when I found out she was pregnant, it was another of those “I just want to die moments.” I truly was glad for her. I love her kids almost as if they were my own. But it just was so unfair!!  I went home and cried and sobbed and howled for a while, and then decided I wasn’t going to let my friendship with her be screwed up because I was being a jealous bitch.  I went to the hospital the night T. was born. I was glad I didn’t have to see him, because it took every ounce of strength and courage and love that I had to walk into that hospital and go see Clover.

But especially for that first year or two, I’d see T. and think that he was just a few months older than Tad and Ellie would have been. I’d wonder what they’d be doing, what they’d be like, how much different my life would have been if they had lived.

Oh, especially that first Christmas. It was torture. I always get toys for the children’s toy drives. That year I went to Target alone. I had decided to get one boy toy, for Tad, and one girl toy, for Ellie. So while I was at the store, I asked them to help me pick out the toys. And they did. I’ve felt their presence around me, sometimes, and it’s comforting even as it hurts.  I managed to get through the checkout line without dissolving into a puddle of tears, but as I was pulling the car up by the box to drop the toys off, I lost it.

My family life when I was a child was seriously messed up. But Mom and Dad always made Christmas morning magical, and I always wanted to recreate some of that magic with my kids. So I do still have a tough time around Christmas. I like to go to the mall and buy whatever strikes my fancy, and take it over to the angel trees. I always buy at least one girl thing and one boy thing in honour of Tad and Ellie. And then I always go home and cry.

But as the years went on, and I grew to know that I really wasn’t going to have kids in this life, no matter what I wanted and hoped for, the hole in my heart began to heal. It never quite went away, as evidenced by my feelings and emotions this past week. Heck, I’ve been sitting here bawling just as I’ve been writing this.

But overall I don’t think about it too often anymore. I honestly, for the most part, have a very fulfilling life. I have a great family. I have wonderful friends. I have my writing and, now, acting/directing/whatever.  Clover has 5 kids, and I get to hang out with them, get them presents, get them hopped up on sugar, and then I get to go home and enjoy my nice quiet house. When I get out of debt, I’ll probably sponsor some kids through one of those organizations (I can’t recall the name right now) where you send $25 a month or so. I did that once before, and really loved it.

And I’ve decided that if I ever strike oil with my writing, and have the money to do it, I want to start up a fund to help parents with costs of infertility treatment or adoption. I also want to start up some different scholarship funds, where kids who are normal (no exceptional brain power, no exceptional athletic skills, no exceptional need) but have a drive to go to college can get scholarships in return for mentoring other kids who are still in high school.

I love kids. That’s part of the reason I couldn’t continue working as an investigator for Child Protective Services. It was too hard. My friends who have kids know that I dote on their kids, and that’s good. I think every kid needs a good grown-up friend who’s not family. I have pictures of Julia on my computer, and it makes me really happy to see them. I have pictures of Clover’s kids taped to my monitor.

So the hole is mostly healed, but never quite goes away. There’s a bandage there, and sometimes it falls off, and the pain is excruciating. But after I allow myself to grieve, then I put the bandage back on and keep going.

I think it’s good for me to have the remnants of the hole. It reminds me that I didn’t choose infertility. I didn’t choose to be childless. The pain that comes when the bandage falls off reminds me that if I had a choice, it would be to have children, to have a noise-filled house, to follow a path other than I have of necessity chosen.  It also reminds me that I didn’t just let my life end 20-30 years before dying, just because I didn’t get what I want.

I protect myself by not going to baby showers–not because I’m not happy for the person who’s having or adopting the baby–but because it’s something that pulls the bandage off with a great rip. I end up being so depressed that I take away from the joy of others. I don’t go to church on Mother’s Day or on Father’s Day.

But overall, as I said, the hole heals mostly, and life is good. No sitting on the sofa, watching soap operas and eating bonbons while I weep because I don’t have children. And I’m sorry to say that I know people who have done that. Maybe that’s why I don’t have children, because God knows how stubborn I am. He knew I wouldn’t just quit living, and so maybe I can help other people realize that they don’t have to quit living just because they don’t have kids.

So Chicory, this is a horrendously long answer to your short question. You made me cry today, but in a good way. It’s nice to think of Tad and Ellie, and to remember the times that I’ve felt their spirits around me. I believe that when I die, I’ll see them. They’ll be there waiting for me. If I believed that this life were all there is, I’d be the most miserable person alive. Fortunately, I don’t believe that, and I know that I’ve got an eternity to spend with my children even if they didn’t get here now.

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Revisiting Old Memories – Part Two

Well, obviously I didn’t die. That wasn’t part of the plan. And it took me a LONG time to realize that things really were okay, even if they weren’t okay in the way I wanted them to be.

The thing I hated the most after the IVF was having to comfort people (my mother, one of my so-called friends) when I was dying inside. I didn’t want to talk to anyone. My depression was at its worst. I made my way to the doctor to ask him about anti-depressants. He was brusque with me, left the office halfway through the appointment and never returned. I realize that he had an emergency to deal with, but I was livid. I never went back to that doctor again.

My RE met with me, saying that when we did the next IVF, we’d take a more aggressive approach with the drugs.

But meanwhile I still had to live in the real world, still had to pay back the loan for the first IVF, still had to deal with the endometriosis that was eating me alive.  So I went back to work. I started trying to find an endometriosis specialist, and found one not too far from me.  I didn’t like his bedside manner at all, but hoped that perhaps someone who specialized in endometriosis would be able to clean me up inside where Dr. D. had not. So Dr. J. did another laparoscopy, and was able to get a few of the adhesions cleared out, but not much. He put me on a 6-month course of Lupron. I had not read up on it ahead of time, and was dismayed to see the weight I’d worked so hard to lose come back on. Then he wanted to put me on Depo-Provera, to help keep the endo from getting worse until we were able to do another IVF. I researched that, and refused to go on it.

Dr. J. is one of those doctors who thinks he’s God. He was angry with me for refusing the Depo-Provera, but put me on some birth control pills instead. On the day that I was driving down the street and had a sudden impulse to drive my car into a light post, I immediately stopped taking the birth control pills and doubled my antidepressant dosage until I was able to get in to see Dr. L., my family doctor whom I just adore.

Well, the endometriosis got worse and worse and worse until I was lucky if I had one week out of the month that I wasn’t in severe pain. I was working full-time and going to school full-time. I’d take darvocet or vicodin as soon as I got home. I didn’t have a life. I began to feel that I was going to have to have a hysterectomy, because I couldn’t carry on that way much longer.

Joe was very upset about this. I didn’t realize how upset until several years later. He did not accept that I needed to have a hysterectomy. He did not get any counseling, did not seek out anyone to help him, and he had a lot of built-up anger at me. Logically, of course, he was very aware of how much pain I was in. But for him, it was all but impossible to accept that he would not become a father.

I had the hysterectomy, and the day after the surgery felt better than I had in a very long time. My marriage was on very rocky ground, but somehow we managed to survive the trauma. Joe just within the last 6 months confessed that Dr. J. had strongly suggested counseling, and he wished that he had taken heed.

We were still hoping that we would either be able to adopt or have a baby through surrogacy. I’d talked with my sisters, and one sister had said she’d donate the eggs, and the other sister said she’d carry the baby for us. However, that ended up not being viable. The sister who said she’d carry the baby for us was using drugs, and is the one who was killed in January of ’06.

Adoption wasn’t in the cards for us either. I had prayed about it, and had a very, very strong impression that adoption was not what we were to do. However, I am a stubborn person plus I love kids, so on the various occasions that we had an opportunity to adopt, we eagerly embraced it. The first one fell through before we got too involved in it. The second one ended up being a hysterical pregnancy, which was just as well because the girl in question was (a) mentally ill and (b) in CPS custody out of state. There would have been incredible amounts of red tape, and even had we gone through everything there still would have been a good chance that we wouldn’t get approved by that other state for various complicated reasons I’m not going into here.

So it became obvious that I wasn’t going to have children, whether through giving birth, through surrogacy, or through adoption. So what was my purpose in life? I’ve taught the Beehives class at church (12-13 year-old girls), and I never pulled any punches with them.  I wanted them to know above all else that even if your life doesn’t go the way you want it to go, and you don’t get your dreams fulfilled, you can still have a good, rich, fulfilling life. I was trying to believe that back then.

Now I know it. I don’t have to try to believe it. I’m living it. Despite the rows Joe and I have on occasions, our marriage is stronger than it’s ever been. We’re learning how to talk to each other. We’re spending more time together. We’re each pursuing our dreams, both together and individually. I am refusing to let him give up on his dreams of becoming a professional musician. I am refusing to give up on my dreams of being a superb writer.

I have wondered for years why God would keep some people childless, people who would make great parents. Why does He tell some people not to adopt? Why do so many people have children and abuse them, and others can’t have them at all?

But it’s not about virtue. God doesn’t give children as a reward, and he doesn’t withhold them as a punishment. If that were so, CPS would not need to exist. Crack whores wouldn’t be giving birth to drug-addicted babies. Life’s a lot more complicated than that.

I told Soleil the other day that I sometimes think I’m just a poster child for the “You may not get what you want, but life can still be great” movement.  And if that’s what God wants me to do, then that’s what I’ll do.

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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. 

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