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Dale Carnegie should have warned us!

One of the biggest side-effects of going through fertility related challenges is the drastic shrinkage of your social life. While K and I never had a massive social circle to begin with, we were happy with the few friends we had and hung out with in LA. Moving cities last year, we reasoned, would help us expand our social circle even more because we were moving to a place that was exceedingly family friendly (which was important to us) and had a ton of people whom K knew from various academic and corporate institutions as well as from his last 3 year stint here. He warned me laughingly that I’d have a tough time over weekends trying to manage my social calendar.

Quite the opposite has happened. Slowly but surely, our social circle has dwindled to an extent that we now actively seek out meetup groups in the hope of meeting some like-minded people to hang out with. It’s not that we are desperate for company; it’s just that at this very stressful time of our lives I feel it becomes all the more important for us to have some people as friends who may not necessarily be close but would at least provide for some respite from the pressure cooker situation we find ourselves in. Especially for me, working from home has been an immensely alienating experience, one that I have tried hard to overcome by studying at the public library about 4 days a week. It does make me feel less isolated but it does not take care of my need to socialize.

K got in touch with several of his friends, all of whom are now married and have kids, and we met up with many of them. Initially, it all seemed to go well. We got invited for their kids’ birthday parties and though it was sheer torture for me to watch all the mommy-kiddy interaction, I swallowed it and even managed to have the occasional fun! And then suddenly, just like that, one by the one the invitations dried up. Yes, we made the mistake of letting at least two of these couples know the barest details of our baby-making struggles. Both seemed extremely sensitive and genuinely concerned. But we never heard from them again. One particular lady empathized with my situation (she’d had a miscarriage after her first child but conceived her second child three months later) even though I wasn’t exactly convinced she knew even half of what I was going through. For some time she peppered me with advice on fasting, worship etc. and then, poof, she just disappeared! Another new mom was so moved hearing about my situation (again the briefest of mentions, that too because she had received a similar diagnosis from the same doctor) that for months she would call and text every other day and insist I tell her in excruciating detail what was happening with me. Yet, oddly enough, any time I suggested meeting up she would somehow manage to avoid responding altogether (even though she and her husband live less than a mile away from us!).

There are many more such stories which do not make sense. I have reconciled myself to the conclusion that people are uncomfortable with the sorrow of others and hence they choose to move away. Or perhaps they are superstitious that hanging out with us fertility challenged sorts will somehow cast long shadows of doom over their happy family life. I don’t know what it is. All I know is that initially it hurt like a @$%#@! –I would rage against the unfairness of it all and keep asking K how they could all be so callous; they were actually rejecting us because we are having trouble conceiving! After all, we were the one who should potentially feel bad about them having kids and us still with empty arms! But we were fine with all that, we love kids in general and thankfully our struggles have still not affected us to a point where we shun the company of those who have kids.

Yet now the bitterness has given way to a silent acceptance. I no longer hold any expectations of whosoever we choose to meet. And we follow a tacit rule–no baby-making talk whatsoever. I do remain curious though –will all those who flaked on us come running back once we have a baby? Are we only as desirable as our ability to procreate??!!

Dale Carnegie’s winning book How to Win Friends and Influence People should have  a sequel–‘How to lose friends and alienate people’.

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Doctor-ly woes…

I had an appointment with my OB-GYN who (in case I haven’t mentioned this before) is quite simply one of the nicest, sweetest, gentlest souls I have ever. He also doubles up as an RE; we have been consulting him for over 1.5 years now and he shares the constant frustrations & disappointments that have assailed us on this journey that we began two years ago.

Today was just a routine appointment; I wanted to get my lining checked and I also had a few questions regarding our future plans. I knew though that the real reason I went to see him was that he gives me incredible solace and, that most coveted of emotions that I seem to have an especially hard time dredging up nowadays -hope! I wanted to share with him the heartbreaking failure of our first IVF cycle and I knew he would understand how particularly shattered I was that all three of our chromosomally abnormal embryos had been girls. I have always wanted a little girl to love and cherish and this particular discovery resulted in many tear-soaked pillow cases.

The thing about his office is that it is crazy busy, with a cramped reception area and, of course, women in all stages of pregnant glory. Added to that is the fact that one of the doctors in that office is a pediatrician so there is no dearth of swelly bellies and little moppets sleeping soundly in their baskets, fists tightly curled up in to little balls, or mischievous toddlers chortling with delight. As a result, I find it tough to go there. Scratch that, it’s a frickin’ torture session to say the least and seldom do I emerge unscathed!

Today promised to be especially challenging since K could not accompany me. He had work and I did not want him to cancel his appointments just because his wife is a sad sap who cannot handle emphatic visual reminders of her own lack. Sigh! I drove down there, reasoning with myself all along the way that since my appointment was close after the lunch hour, perhaps it would be empty…-ish?! No such luck. There were three pregnant women, and a few others who had little babies or toddlers. There was also a thin, young woman who had a wee little baby bundled up in his fathers arms even as she looked ready to pop out another one! Perfect recipe for unadulterated heartburn!

And then there was me. No attachments, nothing. I tried not to feel wistful about the customary ‘here’s your sticker. go pee in a cup’ missive that was being doled out to pretty much every other woman there, or the ‘omygodshe’sgrownupsomuch’ shouts of delight that sporadically emerged from some nurse or the other. I was going to be zen, I had decided. I came armed with enough books to last me a few days and finding a seat closest to the door (that much easier to bolt in case things rapidly went south!) I settled down for the wait. About an hour and a half later, I was finally called in.

Here’s the thing -I always end up feeling phony when I go there somehow, like I should not be there in the first place. I feel apologetic about taking up precious time that would otherwise be allotted to women who were ‘truly in need’ aka the ones who were pregnant. Even though my logical mind shouts out in protest: no, no you deserve to be here as much as them, perhaps even more. So when the nurse apologized for keeping me waiting, I was overwhelmed with gratitude and I instantly hated myself for feeling like that. Instead of mumbling my usual ‘no worries’, however I just smiled which I hoped communicated ‘yea I can see how busy you are, but thanks for apologizing cause I’ve been waiting a long time’ instead of ‘goodness, are you crazy? I should be the one saying sorry considering how I have just inserted myself in the middle of an already crazy day unnecessarily taking up your time and that of the doctors’.

I have no clue what she was thinking for she issued her standard instructions–please undress from waist down and wait for the doctor –even before I had a chance to gauge her reaction. From there on it was another half hour or so before the doc came. All in all, it was a good visit. A quick ultrasound revealed that my lining was still strong at 9.5mm and that there were several follicles showing in both ovaries. He reassured me on several counts and encouraged me not give up on hope, that there was enough that was in my favor. I left feeling uplifted and a teeny bit less sad than when I had stepped in the clinic.

Time to start prepping for the SIRM phone consult next week!

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The pieces that do fit.

It’s been a rough month. And the immediate future does not promise to let up on the pressure. I have not battled this thick, smog-like overwhelming sadness in a long while. Not for want of trying times. Oh no, life’s doing its darnedest best to keep me on my tippy toes! It’s just that, all along, somewhere within me the hope has remained alive that soon, one way or the other, things will happen just the way I have always wanted them to and I will get my perfect little baby, snoozing contently in my arms. But now… now I do not feel so sure of anything. What has happened in the past few weeks doesn’t exactly make for a grand tragedy. Yet it has, in one fell swoop, wiped me of that very basic necessity -hope! And now the hard task of recapturing that hope, one moment at a time, looms ahead.

But is this really all that is? Granted, having a child is probably the most important thing in the world for both my husband and me. And yes, I do cringe every time someone tells me how this experience will make me stronger, more resilient blah blah. Why do I have to be God’s favorite work-in-progress, I protest! But I have to admit, there is a lot that is good and pure and warm and blessed that I need to keep reminding myself of. So here’s my attempt at counting the blessings, for there are so many of those -the blissfulness of loving companionship, the unflinching support of loved ones, the luxury of material comfort, the means to afford fertility treatment, the access to great doctors and medical facilities, the asset of a thinking mind, the list just goes on and on…

I have always believed in the jigsaw-puzzle-ness of life. Pieces that click, force fits and empty spaces. The unabated joy of finding just that right bit of sky amongst many that mimic its reality. The sweet satisfaction of completing a complicated puzzle. I used to love jigsaws for how they would reveal a story -softly, gently, one piece at a time.

Why then do I only look at the empty spaces now? Why is my focus only on the gaps that remain, the pieces that are missing? For is it not true that for every piece that chooses not to reveal itself just yet as the perfect fit to the amoebic curves that exist, there is the silent fortitude that the completed portion of the puzzle displays?

Here’s to my story and to the patient, perseverent efforts to make it come to life!

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Silent screams…

I think too much; I’ve always been told. I know it’s true but I know not how to change it. I know thinking has made me a better person in some ways but mostly it has made me a person who lives too much in her thoughts and not so much in the real world.

Right now is a tough time. A very tough time for the both of us. I hesitate to name it ‘the toughest time ever’ for who knows what else life has in store. Morbid much? Perhaps. The sheen of cheery optimism has been replaced with the recalcitrant grime of dull apprehension.

I see the world. I see an old couple sitting on a weathered bench, their wrinkly, gnarled hands knotted up in each others. I see a young mother wheel her baby in a stroller on a sunlit morning, as her little daughter skips along humming a nursery rhyme. I see the weary trudge of the grocery store attendant as he monotonously scans items and asks everyone if they need a bag today. I see my neighbor and her always-angry little dog walking in the afternoon, one emptied of spirit and the other unable to leash it within. I see always my husband’s face as he sleeps, early in the morning when the sun is yet to scream through the drapes and I notice his furrowed brow and his balled up fist.

I see it all yet I remain far removed. I try to touch it all but my hand hits empty, vacuous air.

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Rewind…

I know for anyone reading a fertility blog it is always a matter of curiosity as to what condition(s) the blog writer is dealing with. So here’s my glittering track record 🙂

Me: 35, Endo, Low AMH, DOR, slightly elevated immunology

DH: 38, Very low morphology, otherwise healthy

Dec 2005–Dx with ovarian cysts, advised to operate. Took BCP for a year, cysts disappeared!

Dec 2010–Got married ❤

July 2011–decided to start trying for baby. First doc appt. told have huge fibroid in uterus (8cm), advised immediate surgery. Total freakout, in denial for 6 months.

Sept-Nov 2011: try naturally with ovulation trigger (HCG). BFN

Dec 2011: 1st IUI (natural). BFN.

Jan 2012: Laparoscopic myomectomy. Fibroid successful removed, slight blockage indicated in left tube. Advised to hold off ttc for 3 months. Start acupuncture.

April 2012: Move to Bay Area. New RE. Dx with PCOS, endo, IR. Put on metformin 1000mg/ daily, several supplements, asked to walk after each meal, yoga, acupuncture etc. Resume ttc. BFP on first try!! Ecstatic!!

May 2012: 1st u/s shows nothing. HCG plateaus. Suspected ectopic. D&C w/ methotrexate. Devastated 😦

June 2012: frozen labs confirm uterine pregnancy aka regular miscarriage not ectopic. Thank God!

July 2012: Rubella shot, cannot try this month

Aug 2012: BFN

Sept 2012: 2nd natural IUI. Everything looks great but BFFN! Plus, suspected OHSS from HCG shot later revised to possible endo flare-up. Left ovary enlarges and stays enlarged for 2 months. In extreme pain. Emergency surgery advised.

Nov 2012: Left ovary finally starts shrinking.

Dec 2012: Hawaii!! BFN though 😦

Jan 2013: BFN. Start looking for IVF options.

Feb 2013: Anastrozole + BCP + Doxy to try shrink endo. India vacation = family time 🙂

March 2013: Decide on Dr. Zouves for IVF. Advised surgery for left side hyrdosalpinx. Dx with low AMH (0.48), slightly elevated immunology: blood clotting antibodies + TH1/ cytokines. Rx: baby aspirin, Lovenox at time of transfer and 2 intra-lipid infusions before and after ER.

April 2013: Laparoscopy to clip left tube and remove surface endo. Surgery successful.

May 2013: IVF # 1 w. Dr. Zouves. Antagonist protocol. 9 follies, 7 eggs retrieved, 5 mature, 3 make it to day 6 blasts. All chromosomally abnormal. FET canceled. Advised donor eggs. Shattered, completely shattered.

June 2013: BFN (although tried only one day)

July 2013: onwards to exploring new options.