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The overwhelming normalcy of the everyday!

Yesterday, after just about 8 years of procrastination (yup, I’m crazy like that!) I finally went for a long-overdue eye checkup. I was pretty excited because I knew it’s time for me to get new glasses and well… who doesn’t love new glasses! Umm okay a lot of you probably don’t like wearing glasses but me, I envied the socks off everyone at high school who had glasses and all I wanted was to get a prescription of my own. Wearing glasses at my school was considered hip and nerdy and all kinds of cool! However, much to my chagrin, my eyesight was declared perfect and the doctor said there was no need for said glasses. I then resorted to the only thing I seem to have perfected over the years–drama! I outrageously exaggerated the intensity of the headaches I was (ostensibly) getting and convinced the doctor that I needed glasses to read. He solemnly stated that my eye muscles were probably weak and so reading glasses were in order. Short-cut to 23 years later (good God I am O.L.D.!!) and I am as excited to get glasses again as my 13 year old self was!! Over the years, my number has (very slowly) gone up and since the past few years I can feel a definite strain in my eyes when working on the computer or watching a movie in a theater.

Wow… such a long preamble to what I was really about to say…

So, yesterday I went for my eye test. Lucky for me, I found an excellent doctor literally 57 steps away from where I live. I walked over and settled down in the cosy reception area. The nice lady at the desk checked me in and about twenty minutes later my doctor came out to escort me inside. I won’t bore you with my ocular travails but what I want to emphasize is how ridiculously normal everything was! I mean I knew what would happen in the examination room, the doctor was extremely patient and so very kind and it was all so… normal! Sigh! No alarming discoveries, no grave faces huddled over an ultrasound machine, no lying half-naked with just a paper wrap to cover my modesty (!), no needles and absolutely no histrionics! It was like a regular, everyday visit to the friendly neighborhood doctor. And it was such a blessed relief that I almost cried with gratitude. As I stood in the reception area, trying to select a suitable frame through my increasing blurry vision (he had dilated my eyes), I looked at the nice receptionist, tapping away on her computer, at the non-threatening pile of magazines lying neatly stacked in a corner (no ‘Pregnancy’ or ‘Mother’ or ‘Parenting’ type of titles!), at the absolute absence of people in the waiting area and at the sheer ordinariness of it all, I felt warm fuzzies and a strong sense of sadness at the same time. The warm feeling because all was okay with my eyes and sadness that I could not have such appointments with my OB, just walking in like a normal pregnant woman (who just randomly got knocked up!) and not sitting in the waiting room like a detective-in-disguise, face buried in a book, loathe to look up for fear of another belly/baby sighting!

Pleased with my wonderfully routine visit, I walked back home in pouring rain. I was feeling so happy and so ‘like an everyday person’ that I half skipped, half ran home oblivious to the fact that I had no umbrella and I was soaking wet, the rain worming its way into my jacket, my shoes, my handbag! I sploshed (is there such a word) over to my place and K opened the door, aghast at the drippy sight in front of him. I grinned widely and told him: “it’s such a good day baby!”. He started laughing and hugged me tight (getting soaked himself) and said “yes it sure is”.

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A thousand years…

I know this song is not about a mother’s love for a child but somehow these lyrics ring so true!!

I have died everyday waiting for you
Darling, don’t be afraid I have loved you
For a thousand years
I’ll love you for a thousand more

Time stands still
Beauty in all she is
I will be brave
I will not let anything take away
What’s standing in front of me
Every breath
Every hour has come to this

One step closer

It’s amazing how I can love and miss my baby so darn much when I have yet to see him/ her. Come soon, my love… I’m waiting with my arms wide open!

4

Those voices in my head…

In the past few days I have written many posts which I went on to abandon. They now lie half-written, awaiting their fate in my wordpress folder. Why did I not complete them? I don’t have a clear answer, only that each time I began with an honest attempt to describe my increasingly muddy feelings, somewhere along the way words fell short of being able to accurately convey the churning cesspool that’s my overworked mind right now. I have to do it though, for myself, else I feel my head just might explode into smithereens and well, mashed brain pulp is not my ideal choice of wall decor!!

It’s strange… this crazy place I’m in ever since we got back from Colorado. I swing from emotion to emotion like a restless monkey in search of elusive bananas (umm yea I realize the ridiculousness of that analogy but that’s the best I can come up with right now!). Everything seems stuck, I feel stuck in a crazy numbed place from which there doesn’t seem to be any way out. The world is moving, moving on as I helplessly look out from my insulated glass bubble. Did I mention the insulation is one-way? I can hear them perfectly but my cries or my relentless banging on the glass gets no attention. There are women getting pregnant, they’re swelling up in joy, rubbing their bellies protectively and I’m just watching them. There are babies all around–heart-beakingly cute, crazily adorable little people but they’re not mine and I am burning up in envy watching those whom they call Mom and Dad.

My husband works harder than ever before and it breaks my heart to see him scavenge for hope as we ride the positive-negative see-saw every single day, multiple times a day. He reassures me, he rubs my feet, he hugs me like he’ll never let go. But when he speaks about ‘his baby’, the child he hopes we will have, perhaps a little girl just like me… I fervently wish then that the earth would swallow me up. I silently rage at God, I grovel and plead–for him, if not for me… please, please, please.

There’s sadness and dark things happening to really nice people. Some are losing their babies, after years of trying and treatments. Others are fading away from what they used to be. No one has an answer to the white-elephant-like, ginormous WHY’s that silently reverberate across collective minds. Empty arms are aching reminders of lack. When I hear of this colossal suffering, I feel ashamed of my own grief. Yet, can grief or loss ever be compared? Is it a relative construct or a personal version of hell?

Amidst all this misery, however, there is life, clamoring to be heard. Life is shoving its way through despair and frustration and showing itself in two pink lines on a plastic stick. Life is showing its blurry face in a grainy ultrasound and making itself heard through a tinny flickering heartbeat. What am I more today? Depressed over the heartlessness of injustice or unhealthily covetous of the blessing of abundance? I am both, I suppose… and more. I am infinitely happy for fellow bloggers finally getting pregnant after years of disappointments and I am heartbroken for those who have experienced mind-numbing loss.

Every day I wake up with a sinking feeling. One more day gone, one less day without my precious baby, one day less of being a mother. Then I remind myself of all that I have. My husband, my life, my biggest blessing. All the comforts a person can ask for. A healthy body (umm apart from its reproductive dysfunctionality, that is!!), a brain that mostly does its job, a great family… there’s a lot to be thankful for. Yet this craving to be a mother has robbed me of the ability to purely enjoy life and all it has to offer. I am learning though. Learning that enjoying the present does not mean I have necessarily given up on the future that I so earnestly desire. Learning that it’s not just about me; there is another breathing, living person enduring this hell with me and for his sake I must get out of bed each day and smile and go for movies and cook yummy food and well… sometimes there’s no greater joy than doing that.

I stay awake some nights wondering why why why can I not dream of my baby? Why do I get inane high school dreams and dreams of people who are no longer in my life and why can I not, instead, just dream of being a mother? If it occupies all my waking time then why does my most cherished desire stay away from my dreams? Is it a sign? I don’t want it to be a sign. Other nights, I stay up worrying about our finances. We have already spent so much and there is yet more coming and God alone knows where the finish line is. We have had to buy a new car because our old one was breaking down all the time and we were paying so much every month. New car, however, means higher car payments. Our rent is going up. Again. In the past two years our rent has gone up by $350 a month! Yet anything else we seek out is still more expensive. We need to stay in the area because my doctor’s here, my acupuncturist is and well, yes I know we could move somewhere and find new providers but the thing is anywhere else would only be marginally cheaper. And I love where we live right now. I feel that if this is also snatched away from me, I will seriously slip into depression. I wonder if we will ever get out of an apartment and into a house of our own. I feel sickened with the realization that if my body could just do its thing, we would not be going through this hell.

I go out, meet friends and watch them with their kids. Some of them know how hard we are struggling, others (most) have no clue. They hug their babies, play with them and tell us that we should have kids too. I smile and nod as my heart goes up in flames. I play with their kids, especially the little girls. I hold them close, smell their baby smell and I wonder, in a strange and detached manner, can hearts actually shatter? Do they make a noise or do they just crack apart silently?

Some days I feel just fine. I am able to drive around, run errands and walk into Target and Costco and Whole Foods and not bat an eyelid at the swollen bellies, the adorable toddlers running amok; heck even the newborn aisle does not faze me. Yet there are other days when a partial glimpse, even, of a striped onesie can feel like a solid kick in the gut. I think that next year is certainly my year, I can feel my dream about to come true. I can feel that it is our time now. And almost as soon as that thought crystallizes in my mind, a gush of fear stands poised, threatening to drown it out. Determined, I start surfing baby strollers online. I will make this happen, I tell fear. I will NOT let you win. It is MY time. I look at the bangles I wear. One is for my baby. When I made a fervent plea to God to bless me with a child. That was in the summer of 2011. I truly felt that God has listened and in 2012 when I got pregnant I felt my faith was proven. Yet, it did not last… neither the pregnancy nor the certainty that it would happen.

So where does this leave me? Like every other day. Just as I embraced the intrusive testing, the needles and the procedures, the envy and the sadness, the yoga and the acupuncture, the need for patience and the necessity of faith.. I embrace the amusement park that is my mind. I embrace the insecurity and the fear, the positivity and the hope and through it all I remind myself–this, too, shall pass 🙂

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Searching for answers…

In the past few days I have witnessed some of the most saddening events on a few of the blogs that I frequent. I have no desire to make public anyone’s anguish so I will certainly not be using names or url’s but suffice to say there is a whole lot of suffering going on out there that really has me wondering ‘why, God, why’?

Isn’t it already terrible enough that so many women have to bear the cross of being infertile and endure year after year of invasive testing, countless painful procedures and staggeringly expensive treatments only to have their hopes dashed again and again, that they also have to go through the heartbreaking ordeal of going through miscarriages and of losing their babies before term? How is their right to hold their beautiful, healthy babies in their arms any less than those of countless other women who get to do this effortlessly day after day without a thought to the magnitude of the dream it represents to scores undergoing the IF torture-fest?

I, of course, do not have any answers to the above. My heart aches for these women, all the more so because each one of them is so strong, resilient and so full of faith that even in these trying times they stay steadfast in their belief that God is with them and that he will carry them through. I feel humbled by their fortitude and deeply frustrated as to why this has to happen; what reason can exist behind such colossal suffering?

All I can do is pray for each and every one of them with every fiber of my being.

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Moving along…

It’s been more than a week since we got back from Colorado. Looking back, it all seems so distant… the stimming, the daily monitoring, the sky rocketing anxiety and the retrieval… and yet it also seems pretty darn crazy that I will be doing all these things AGAIN in a few weeks! Strangely though, perversely even, I want it to happen soon (crazy alert!!)… I don’t quite know how to explain this but it’s like as long as I’m stimming I feel there is hope… as long as I am pumping my body with generous dollops of the fertility cocktail, I feel I am DOING something to make my baby. And that’s probably why once I wake up, after the retrieval, I always feel an immense loss of control, a bottomless sinking feeling that there’s nothing I can do but wait from there on.

Sigh.

After a couple days of wallowing in the sadness of the low fertilization, I sat myself down and firmly chided myself for being such a mopey molly when I was technically only half-way through the task we had set out for ourselves. K and I had already given ourselves a few days to indulge in all the food items we regularly deny ourselves just to give us some reprieve from the shittiness of it all. For the first proper meal we had after we got back, his vice of choice was a stiff double scotch while I wolfed down sliders, washing them down with a formidable glass of cabernet, eating like its going out of fashion. Despite the dull sadness that had settled into the base of my stomach, I was so deliriously happy that night I could have passed out from sheer delight!

A little more planned debauchery later, I filled my pillbox, laced up my sneakers and set out for my walk by the bay (no yoga till I get my period) determined to get back to my pre-IVF routine. I made sure to eat well, to take my supplements on time and to get enough sleep. It’s been going well so far but the one thing that I have not been able to get a grip on is how angry I feel. Anger strikes me at the most unexpected times–the middle of the night, for instance–and takes my breath away with the intensity of its ferociousness. I find myself saying vicious, terrible things out aloud in my mind, I torture myself with visions of friends who have recently become pregnant or had babies, picturing their joy over and over till I am nauseous with envy. I clench my fists and rage at God for not even showing me my baby in my dreams. The most innocuous, the most asinine and the most non-obvious situations, comments, pictures, TV shows (you name it) set me off in a steaming, simmering whirlpool of anguished emotions that I struggle to contain. It’s exhausting observing your mind race off in a mindless abyss, careening out of control, taking you in directions you would be loathe to visit under normal circumstances.

I know that at least part of this is courtesy my good friend–PMS. Perhaps it’s the hormonal roller-coaster my body was on but this time, unlike the first time, I can still feel the after-effects. For one, my period is taking much longer to arrive (last time it started within five days of the retrieval. I was told that HCG takes much longer to exit the body as opposed to just Lupron which is what I triggered with last time) and in the process my body is doing weird, crazy shit. For the first few days after ER my lower back throbbed in pain which even 3 extra-strength tylenols would not relieve, my breasts feel like they are encased in wet cement and I keep getting strange twinges in my lower abdomen. Umm, I just realized this is exactly how I felt when I was pregnant. Beautiful.

The sucky thing about all this is that it ruined the festival season for me. The Indian festival season that is. Diwali, the one day I love was a hot mess of tears, angry words, cold silences rescued thankfully towards the evening when we all (my parents and brothers family) got together to pray in the evening. Each day after that, though, has been slightly better as both K and I immerse ourselves into the clatter and clamor of our daily routine, seeking some semblance of normalcy in this increasingly surreal journey.

My brother is just about a few weeks away from moving back to India with his family. We are all spending a lot more time together which is really nice except it is tinged with the sadness of knowing that they’ll be gone soon. My parents will be staying back with us a couple months though which should help with this transition. I love my parents (as everybody does) but as I see them age before my eyes, my heart breaks at the amount of pain they are going through on my account. I know that there is nothing I can do to control it, I know that I try everything I can to be ‘normal’ in front of them but it kills me to see how much this is affecting them as well. They’re at a stage in life where it should be all about spending quality time with the family, enjoying their grandchildren and being taken good care of. Yet they are, all too often, grieving with K & me, holding my hand when I sob uncontrollably, urging me on the phone to believe and to have faith and to never lose hope. When I see the unadulterated joy in their eyes as they talk to their grandson (my nephew) I feel so happy and so sad all at the same time. Happy that they get to spend this time with him and watch him grow (and that he will soon be back with them in India again) and sad because I have not been able to give them this joy yet.

Today all of us had lunch together and then went out to a mall to spend the evening. It was going so well and then out of nowhere there was a literal invasion of heavily pregnant women (I know I know what else would one expect on a Sunday evening!) and even though now relatively de-sensitized to the sight, today I found myself a blubbering mess in Anthropologie as I tried to reason myself out of a total breakdown and concentrate instead on a lovely set of colorful bowls to buy (retail therapy yay!). There is just something so wholesome about a pregnant woman, so serene especially in the way they cradle their bellies protectively that makes me feel like someone just slowly poured acid all over my heart. I feel incomplete, I feel like I am not worthy of being treated special. For what great achievement can I boast of when I cannot even make a baby? Something that seems to come easy to a vast majority of women.

I suspect the PMS was well at work at this point because I no longer cry when I see pregnant bellies. Feel sick, yes; look the other way, absolutely but no, I do not cry as in unabated-hot-tears-streaming-down-face manner. And certainly not in front of pretty much the whole world. Shocked at my own reaction, I walked out of Anthropologie as fast as my legs could carry me stopping only when I found an isolated bench to sit down on. I managed to pull myself together and the next half-hour went by uneventfully when yet another sighting at Z Gallerie just knocked me over the edge. I just don’t know what was wrong with me today but here I was, again, trying hard to keep the damn tears in my eyes even as they kept spilling over. I told my mom that we were going home, that I was tired. My parents looked searchingly at me as I hurriedly said my byes and walked off with K unable to face them for fear of completely breaking down. He held my hand tight and urged me to walk with him a bit before getting back into the car. He gently asked me what it was. That was my undoing. Through loud, choking sobs I told him I didn’t know what the heck was wrong with me but I was feeling terribly sad looking at all these pregnant women. My words were coming out in a rush and I don’t think I was making much sense but he kept holding my hand and looking at me in that way only he can with love radiating out of his every pore and soon I was quiet and feeling much better than I had all evening. He convinced me to go back and join everyone for dinner and I am so glad we did. We had a really nice dinner at a beautiful Italian place and I could see the relief in all their eyes as I laughed with my nephew, devoured my mussels and talked to everyone.

So, things are moving along in some fashion and what matters is that right now I look forward to tomorrow, to waking up, to going for my walk, to having my supplements, to working on my dissertation, to cooking healthy meals and to spending time with my best friend. And that’s a lot to be thankful for.

4

Why?

I had my egg retrieval yesterday. Of 11 eggs that they retrieved, only 6 were mature and 5 of those six fertilized with ICSI and were frozen. The embryologist who called us today morning also informed us that 3 additional eggs matured overnight in the lab and that they would try to fertilize them today. I frankly do not have any hopes of those 3 even if they were to fertilize having scoured the web’s rather dismal statistics which predict very poor odds of these Day 2 ICSI’s making it to blast even, let alone turn out to be normal.

I don’t quite know how to describe what I am feeling right now. It’s almost as if there is a deluge of emotions knocking on my heart’s door but I have slammed the door shut on their collective faces. I feel like I am sinking, sinking deep down below into an abyss no one will ever be able to rescue me from. This cycle gave us so many heartaches, false alarms and yet despite all the catching up that my body did (with 14 follicles at last count) and despite the 11 eggs retrieved I am back to where I was with my first IVF with only 5 fertilized embryos. Which gives me a pretty darn good indication of what my chances of getting a chromosomally normal embryo would be like.

Yesterday, right after retrieval, when the embryologist came over to let us know our count, he also insisted we tell him right there and then whether or not we planned to go in for egg banking. K and I had spoken extensively about this and we were more or less decided that whatever the numbers we would bank just to give us the best odds possible. For, if these two cycles at CCRM do not give me a take home baby I have low hopes it will ever happen with my own eggs. Still, we were told we would have to take that call when we got the fertilization report from the embryologist the day after retrieval. Not like 20 minutes after coming out of anesthesia. That’s what we had been led to believe and the plan was that we would take Thursday evening to flesh out the issue and have a definite answer for when the call came on Friday. This pissed me off. What pissed me off further is when the embryologist (a really nice man) told me that with 11 eggs Dr Schoolcraft recommends egg banking. Which I found a ridiculous notion. If 11 implies egg banking then at what stage should one just proceed with the one cycle?? When you make like 20 eggs? 30? Isn’t that typically a PCOS thing and does not that typically imply poor egg quality? Where the heck were these numbers coming from? Dr S (Surrey) had told us that anything below 5 and he would strongly recommend banking. But of course he was talking about fertilized embryos. How were we to know that even with 11 bloody eggs we would only make 5 embryos!!! What. the. f—k.

As soon as K hung up with the embryologist, I felt the familiar mist of panic envelop me, pulling me down faster than I could escape it. I was choking, sobbing, heaving all at the same time. He tried to reassure me telling me that there were three more that could potentially fertilize by tomorrow but to my mind those were probably not good quality considering they did not come out mature from my body.

So, after 40+ injections, 7 blood tests, 9 ultrasounds, 1 egg retrieval, many sleepless nights and countless hours spent stressing what do we have to show for our big gamble on CCRM? The same results we got from our local clinic. And way more heartache.

I’m sitting at the airport right now, waiting to check in for our late night flight. We got here way early because we had to drop the car off. K is as crushed as I am and he is coping the only way he knows to –dissolving himself in his work. As for me, I look around the hordes of people here with little babies, toddlers, strollers and the odd pregnant belly and I want to set the world on fire. I am so angry. So furious.

I spoke with my mom earlier today. She was sad to hear what happened but tried her best to assure me things will work out. I am afraid I could not believe her words today. I was despondent, angry and immensely frustrated. I feel God keeps abandoning me in my time of need. I call out to him day upon day, beg him to give me this one thing, keep accepting all the trials that mark this journey with as much stoicism as I can muster. But does he listen? Does he give me any reprieve? No.

I don’t know where to go from here. I know I have to do this again and I also know that next time around this could go either way. My body keeps tricking me into believing that it will do great yet falters in the end each time. I know I will somehow have to brush off the dust and get myself up and going again. But right now that seems to painful to even envision, let alone execute. I know there are others like me, some in positions worse than mine who do not let this heartless disease sap them of their spirits. I admire them wholeheartedly. But I admit I am not so strong. Or perhaps I do not want to be anymore.

This is just so difficult.