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Seesaw

I feel like an ant. I try to climb the wall repeatedly. I can feel myself ascending; it fills me with happiness. Then some general crappiness happens and I fall back down in an ungainly heap on the floor (can ants ever be ungainly?). Le sigh!

It had been going so well. I was feeling grounded, motivated, positive and even (gasp!) content. I was filled with a velvety calmness that had me singing in the shower and skipping around the house. There was a little bump on the way when a day of full-blown PMS nearly knocked me down but I was up again the next day, soaring away like a fluffy cloud in my self-created horizon!

So, when I got my period (almost 4 days late), I was relieved. Relieved that I would probably feel even better now, that my cycle would soon begin, that my body is doing what it’s supposed to. But it’s the fourth continuous day today that I feel like a ginormous ball of craptastic frozen overnight such that the craptastic-ness is now like a hard shell around me and refuses to peel off, no matter how much I scrape away at it. I’ve battled it, I’ve tried wallowing in it (so I can just get it over with) and I’ve tried denying it… but nothing’s really worked.

I am officially in the dumps!!

A close friend wrote yesterday and her email was full of her toddler’s activities… how he says ‘mamma’ all the time, how he imitates her and makes her laugh etc. etc. Oh and there was also news of a pregnancy in her family. Yay. It took about .000000046821 seconds for me to enter the shitzone and start bawling my heart out. Poor K was completely baffled; he had just exited the bedroom like 5 minutes back and given me a flurry of kisses as he was getting ready to leave for work (I was still lazing under the covers!). He came rushing inside to find out what new calamity had tipped his semi-sane wife over the edge this time.

This was no ordinary sniffle, though; it was the mother of all waterworks! Once I started crying, I could not stop. I half-cried, half-squealed a strange, guttural sound that even in my heartbroken state appeared utterly amusing to me. I howled and screamed as I held on to K’s sweater sleeve for dear life, soaking it with my saline sorrow. I secretly hoped this was it; that once I stopped crying I would feel much better and be able to finally snap out of this funk I’ve been in.

Nope, no luck.

Today was no better. Instead of K (who luckily enough had just exited the house), it was my poor mother who witnessed my blubbering, deranged state today. There was no trigger even. I just woke up and started crying. She had come in to ask me if I would have a cup of tea and my quivering voice gave it all away. All she had to do was rest a gentle hand on my forehead and there I was… sobbing my heart away again! She quietly sat beside me till the tears stopped streaming and the wails became quiet sniffles. I got out, made the bed and had a cup of tea. I went out with her for a walk. We walked in silence.

I looked up at the blue stretching into an infinite distance and I wished I was a cloud.

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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.

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CCRM days 1 & 2 (contd.)

… which brings us to today i.e. day 2 @ CCRM (CD 7)

I woke up feeling somewhat refreshed and hopeful. Our only appointment today was a regroup with Dr S. K and I had already been through the questions we wanted to ask him, of topmost priority being his opinion of how I was responding and how he sees this cycle shaping up. We also wanted to discuss embryo banking with him. If you remember, we had brought up this question in our initial consult and in our post OWDU regroup and both times he had suggested we wait on the day of ER for if we make anything above 6 he would not think we need to bank. We wanted to know if his opinion had changed since then.

Owing to a time crunch, lunch today also was at the food court. I had a plate of falafel, tabouli and chicken shawarma from the mediterranean grill while K had some chinese. We checked into CCRM for our appointment and prepared to wait in the lobby. We were called in soon after and seated in a consulting room. That’s when I started feeling really nervous. We had not spoken with the doctor ever since we started this cycle which, if you count the pre-priming and the priming part was over a month long already. I was anxious to hear what he had to say about my chances. I didn’t have to wait for long though; he walked in soon enough and after exchanging some pleasantries it was down to business.

Well, he said, there is good news and bad news. My stomach lurched uncomfortably as my mind got stuck on the ‘bad news’ bit. He said he was happy that the follicles were all a similar size but yes, he was surprised by how little he saw. He did not hold out major hopes for the 9 and the 7 to catch up so, in his estimation, we would be looking at 5 eggs at retrieval. My heart clenched at those words. 5 eggs retrieved would mean at best, if we were ridiculously lucky, 5 mature and 5 fertilized. This was worse than my first cycle where we had 7 retrieved.

We discussed embryo banking which now he was wholeheartedly recommending. He emphasized the financial implications of banking but even though K & I had already discussed it before, all I could think in my heart was I would not be pregnant this year either. Another effin’ year gone by and I am still not pregnant. I tried hard to ignore my mounting frustration and pay attention to what Dr S was saying. He suggested a regroup after retrieval to discuss our next steps esp. what protocol I should be following for the next round. He said we could add in clomid to the cocktail I am taking right now to try kickstart my recalcitrant ovaries into action. If all went well, I would be back here in early January for my second retrieval. Wonderful.

It all seems so damn ambiguous, even this IVF thing. We thought we were covering our bases by going to the best -CCRM. But there is no guarantee ever, is there? Even with some really good test results and a consistent AFC of 13, I seem to be a poor responder and that makes me very angry. I am trying hard not to resent my body for all this but its tough. I see pregnant women everywhere and its hard not to let my bitchy self get the better of me and think ‘oh all you probably needed was some red wine and some mood lighting’. I want so badly to have my own bump, to feel my belly swelling, to hold a tiny little person in my aching arms and to complain of sleepless nights…

Ever since we got back from the appointment I have been quiet as my mind churns in anguish. My darling love, my husband, my best friend is doing such a great job taking care of me yet letting me be. We had planned to go somewhere today, a short trip somewhere close by. But after the meeting, I felt so glum I did not feel like appreciating the natural beauty that surrounds me (and there is SO much of that here in Colorado!). I hate feeling like this. I hate this sadness, this uncertainty getting the better of me to an extent that I am unable to function normally and all I can do is stare into space, trying to calm the noisy chatter in my mind and quell the rising despair in my heart.

I want so badly to believe that there is a happy ending after all this. I want to have faith and I want to feel happy and light with the knowledge that my baby is on its way to me. But I feel immensely tired and sad and just plain bleak. Let’s see what tomorrow’s monitoring brings.

4

Cloudy with a chance of tear-falls!

I woke up today feeling craptastic. The weather outside echoed my sentiments. It was cloudy, dull and uninspiring. I willed myself out of bed and got busy reinstating the house to some semblance of order from its nightly state of slipshod-ery (my darling husband has quite the knack for creating chaos!). I set oatmeal to boil for him, ignoring the rumbling protest in my tummy. I should eat, my mind reasoned, it’s important for me to eat on time everyday. Screw that, said my heart. I felt awful, a naked piece of yearning in a slowly careening-out-of-control world. What if this doesn’t work? What if, after another round of injections and monitoring and medication and travel and sleepless nights and hormone-induced emotional hell, I am still sans baby? Still flat-tummied and still bereft? How will I go on? You have a backup plan, persisted the annoyingly sensible voice in my head. Something’s gotta give, sometime. I stuck a mental tongue out at this piss-pot. How do I blame others for always expecting me to be strong when my own frickin’ mind doesn’t allow me the luxury of self-pity?!!

Depositing the steaming hot oatmeal in front of K (buried about ten thousand feet deep in his cyber world of emails, presentations) I walked over to the bedroom and started folding the laundry with energetic enthusiasm, hoping to drown the voices in my head. As I tidied up the room, my eyes fell on the journal I had started earlier this year. Wanting desperately to believe that my baby could listen to me even if he/she hadn’t taken form yet, I had taken to writing letters to my unborn child. Painfully honest, searing letters from a guilt-ridden parent-to-be who feels personally responsible for taking so long to get her baby in this crazy world. I wrote about my hopes and my disappointments. I wrote about baby’s family and how they were all awaiting her arrival. I wrote about my misgivings and my fears. I started by writing everyday but could not keep that up for long. On days I felt particularly down, I could not write. Perhaps because it made me feel like a cheat. How could I tell my baby that I believed in her existence and yet acknowledge being submerged in despair. I continued writing though, sometimes more frequently than others.

And then the IVF started. I wrote with a purpose now. I felt the time was soon that she would come to me. I told her to hang in there. When we were told that we had made only 3 blastocysts which would be biopsied, I begged her to be one of them. I told her I would make her the happiest human being on earth if only she would trust me and let me be her mother.

It did not happen. One email destroyed our carefully constructed world of hope as all three blasts turned out to be abnormal, a heart-rending revelation made all the more painful with the realization that all three were baby girls. My baby girls. Whom I could not give birth to. Because nature likes to screw with me. I cried so much in those days that I thought my body would stop making tears. I wailed and screamed in sheer pain; I ranted against a heartless God who was seeing all this happen and yet not doing a thing about it. I was told that donor eggs were my only option going forward. I lost a part of my heart that day. And, from that day onwards, I could not write to my baby. I could not face her after what happened. Even though I know I could not have done anything to prevent it from happening.

Seeing that journal today brought back lingering painful memories. Perhaps brought back into focus because we are about to start another IVF cycle. About to place our trust in medicine and in science and in God all over again. As I commence, anew, this effort to make my baby, the one person I long for most is my mother. I want to hug her tight and feel her love for me, calming my festering wounds and soothing my fears. And then, I want to let the tears fall.

3

I don’t want to be like this.

I have been trying to work since morning. I made a commitment to myself this weekend that I will pay far more attention to my dissertation than I have so far. I intend to stick by that commitment. It’s hard, though. I sit at home and work and it gets lonely. I know I have the option of going to a library/ coffee shop but I stay home so that I can eat fresh, home cooked food and also because the library is overrun with little kids and babies and the coffee shops usually have nothing that I should be eating/ drinking.

It’s been an okay morning so far. I have been making some sort of progress. But now, right this very moment I am unable to go on. I feel frozen. I feel annoyed. Angry, actually. My head hurts. I am pissed off. I was going through an online forum and it just struck me how story after story expresses pervasive hurt, anguish, lament and a debilitating frustration at not being able to conceive. It hurts me. It shakes me up. I read this everyday so why now? I have been dealing with this for almost 2.5 years so what’s new? I don’t have an answer. All I know is that it fills me up with a white-hot rage even as it drains me of vitality and so I find myself in that no-man’s land between a scream and a tear, between protest and despair.

I am angry at those who bear kids so easily and then spend all their lives complaining what a hassle parenting is. I am angry at those who are careless enough to let their children suffer while they pursue selfish paths. I am angry at those who think infertility is a passing phase and that I should just snap out of it! And I am particularly angry with those whom I love the most, the ones that surround me, the ones I call family and friends. Close friends. They anger me most because while I know they care (and that they care big), I am unable to accept their concern, their love. The relentless snark inside me keeps saying it’s easy for you to say, you haven’t been down this road. Their affection rankles, their sympathies infuriate me most.

I really don’t want to be like this.

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Don’t peek!

I was doing pretty well till last evening. The weekend had been a good one and (despite the apprehensions) I was looking forward to our call tomorrow with Dr S. Around 10.30 at night, the spouse suggested stepping out for a walk and I readily agreed. These late night walks of ours soothe me like nothing else; often we just walk hand in hand and don’t really say much, each lost in a planet of their own making; but just the reassuring feel of my hand firmly ensconced in his makes me feel connected to him. Plus, our neighborhood is so pretty at night what with the moon beaming from its reflection on the lagoon waters and the quiet, leafy streets. It’s the perfect way to unwind from a long day.

So yesterday when we stepped out, I was not expecting to see what I did. As I mentioned in a previous post, I just found out that one of my neighbors is pregnant, heavily so. The couple had been out vacationing and as I passed by their apartment I was just not expecting them to be in there (or to have their blinds open for the world to peek in). I saw her sitting on the couch watching TV, gently rubbing her pregnant belly and I stood transfixed unable to move until K gently nudged me. It was like a well of sadness sprung up inside me. I felt a cold, wet sludge of envy mixed with fear settle in on my tummy. I wanted so bad to be her. To rub my pregnant belly while watching TV as my husband hovers around, preparing a cup of hot tea for me.

There were no tears, though, this time. We went on with our walk quietly as if nothing had happened. More sickening to me than the jealousy itself was the realization that slowly I am getting acclimatized to feeling like this.

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Moody tears with a mind of their own

Another month, another breakdown.

July was exhausting with DH and I barely stepping out from the haunting shadows of our first failed IVF. We tried naturally but our heart was just not in it. Every day we put our energies in healing, in moving on, in planning for the future. Slowly, agonizingly painfully, we started recovering what had so brutally been snatched from us–hope.

On July 30th I turned 36. Every year my birthday reminds me cruelly of my lack. This year was particularly tough. I had hoped so much to have my baby in my tummy on this day but, sadly, it was not to be. Once the day was over, though, I felt so much better. Strangely reinvigorated. And August was thumping proof! A happy, busy month with lots of social engagements, a ton of pre-IVF testing, DH’s birthday and in general a lot of stuff that kept me as sane & content as is possible to be in the circumstances. Some days I even laughed out loud and the sound was so harshly unfamiliar I almost winced!

Which brings us to September. September, that month when the leaves change color and the air whispers secret promises. This is an important month. We get to know the way forward with CCRM. An exciting month. Then why did I, now almost blase to the omnipresent spectacle of heavily pregnant women beaming beatifically in public places, break down last night at yet another Facebook sighting? Hadn’t DH already told me that our neighbor is knocked up?! What was so shocking at seeing her swollen tummy against a lush Hawaiian background that reduced me to a pathetic, slobbery mess? This is why I no longer have a FB account, my mind screamed. Why do I have to torture myself with visiting DH’s FB? It’s not like his friends are immune to pregnancy?!!

I raged at the unfairness of it all. Not why she is pregnant and why not me but more like everyone gets pregnant when will it be my time? Haven’t I suffered enough? What is ‘enough’? How many more tests, painful procedures, disappointments and heartbreaks do I have to endure before it is deemed that I am ready to don the maternal mantle? I silently yelled out at the universe. I let myself feel the primitive want that was crowding my senses. I sobbed hot, angry tears into my patiently accepting pillowcase. DH came to me so many times, hugging me, consoling me, loving me, soothing me in the way only he can. His concern, his love it broke me further. Why can I not make him a daddy? And then, even more sadness, as I see his face fall when he is unable to stop my crying.

I want to be happy, so happy. I want to shop for onesies and choose the best stroller out there. I want to get a pristine white crib from Pottery Barn. I want to smell baby powder and snuggle against oh-so-soft baby blankets. I want to select cute little shoes and take endless pictures. But most of all I want my arms to feel the blissful weight of my child. And for that, I will persevere.