0

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.

0

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.

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.

0

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.

0

Tainted red

So this morning I got my period. I had the slightest bit of pink spotting last night when I wiped which actually had me feeling positive because I never spot and certainly not with white CM. However, the positivity was in vain. Had a terrible backache all night and morning pee revealed AF in all her scarlet glory.

And so we went over our monthly routine. The flood gates were lowered, the tear ducts called into action and a veritable arsenal of Kleenex stood on hand. My back hurts, my stomach hurts but most of all my bloody heart hurts. I scream silently to whoever should be listening. I rant in helpless frustration. I pour my grief out in shuddering sobs. It soaks my pillow, it takes home in my shirt sleeve and it crawls all over my face. Yet I am never quite done. Like an unsatiated demon, I find no tears worthy enough to express the rawness of my disappointment.