Friday, July 11, 2008


I keep struggling with the idea of meaning of life. (I seldom do anything small-scale, do I?!) I lost my LH - a great guy who was overall an wonderful husband and would have been a great father - before he was even 30. I struggled so hard with the grief (both for LH himself and for our hoped-for family) - the worst of it took up almost 2 years of my life, and then it only gradually ebbed after that (it's now been over 3 1/2 years, 4 years this fall).

In the grief, it was hard to hear about widows with kids saying how they didn't think they would be able to continue or find any meaning in drawing the next breath if it weren't for their kids. I knew that was their reality and that was great for them, but conversely - what is the PURPOSE of a 20-something widow without kids? What reason WAS there to go on, without kids to take care of, or some all-consuming consmic mission to carry me onward?

But I believed that somehow, some way, there would be some form of okay life in my future. I fell in love again and took the chance to get married again. I guess I just figured, somewhere subconsciously, that because of all I'd been through but despite the likely PCOS, I would at least ovulate occasionally and thus not be trying to decide on fertility treatments only 7 months after going off the pill. That I could at least go 9-12 months believing we had SOME chance to have a baby without serious intervention, before having to take the next step if nothing worked during that time. I know life doesn't work that way, as far as getting a "free pass" or some amount of a break if you've already been through a lot... but I guess somewhere deep down I believed that somehow, I would, anyway!

So now that I'm having to accept that ovulation (much less a positive pregnancy test) is not happening on its own and we'll need help, I guess my house of cards is coming down emotionally, and I'm really having a very hard time. It was already hard for me to be the medical patient when I had two sinus surgeries over the last couple of years - far too many memories of what I went through as the caregiver, both with my LH and before that with my mother. Starting into the fertility realm will probably be even harder on me emotionally.

DH and I have talked about not letting the meaning of either of our lives (but especially mine) be wrapped up in having kids. But given that I haven't found a job situation I'm okay with for more than a few months running and have sufficient interest in, and if it takes us a long time to get our BFP, and/or we have to go through the adoption process (which can take years), what is my PURPOSE in the meantime? Is it now to make my DH happy, only? (No, according to him, we've had this discussion.) Is that any better of a reason for my existence than being almost solely focused on being a good mother for kids to carry on some piece of me into the future?

The truth is, having kids is more central to my sense of meaning (not to the exclusion of everything else, but it's a HUGE facor) than my DH would like... he is a guy, he had started accepting that he might never have kids because we didn't meet until he was in his mid-30s, and because he hasn't been through what I've been through. I think having been widowed, and knowing that I am one of the few people who could be said to be carrying on my LH's legacy, has only highlighted the temporary and ephemeral quality of human life and human legacy.

I desperately want something, or several somethings, to survive my existence on this planet. Whether that's just a couple of well-raised bio kids and the memories of DH, family and friends, or maybe finding some way to contribute to the help and comfort of people beyond my own circle of friends and hopefully eventually adopt (and raise that child well) along with the DH/family/friends' memories, I just have to feel like there is some REASON to my being here on Earth.

And I feel like I carry my LH's meaning with me too, doubling the urgency. I feel like some part of him lives in me spiritually, so in a sense my having kids is also a small way of carrying my LH's spirit forward as well. I can't fail all three of us - LH, me, and DH - in such a fundamental way without it tearing me apart.

I hate being old before my time, as I am in some ways.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Brother-in-law; Post-Maternity-Leave-Girl

I made an ass of myself tonight on the phone with my BIL. He's a nice guy and means well, but is kind of chronically "a day late and a dollar short" as far as knowing what's going on, when to stop with certain comments, etc. (He's made too many comments about us and kids, other clueless things, etc.)

Well, I just spilled a lot of the fertility thing to him - I'd had to call him because he'd called to wish me a happy birthday a few days ago. I hope it ultimately winds up being a good thing. I feel like I overwhelmed him and probably babbled too much. But in my own (admittedly lame) defense, I had just gotten my hair cut and chatted a bunch with my stylist about all this stuff. (The stylist is a great guy, he knows my whole family, and has been really supportive since I started going to him after my late husband died.) So it was at the top of my mind - even more so than usual.

I feel like a complete idiot for having told him as much as I did - as much as he might try to understand, he really can't, because by his own admission he and his wife had absolutely no problem getting pregnant with either of their kids, and she was a few years older than I am now before she had the first one! And plus, he just generally seems kind of clueless about this kind of stuff.

And yet, maybe this will help decrease the number of at-best-unhelpful, at-worst-insulting-and-painful comments from him, especially since the last of my vacation days are going to be used on a family trip we're taking with DH's side of the family in a few weeks.

Normally if I was going to spill this much to anyone in my DH's family, it would be to my SIL (their sister, not the one married to the BIL), but generally I don't talk much about this to them. I feel like I'm admitting that their son/brother married someone broken and defective. DH's part of things seems fine... I'm the one not ovulating.

And it doesn't help that Post-Maternity-Leave-Girl at work's husband brought the baby in today. Daddy and Baby were walking around the floor all afternoon. I hate that feeling of "Awwww, how cute, I want to play with the baby" so closely followed by that heart-constricting pain of hating her for having a baby because I don't, and it'll be quite a while if it happens at all for me. I want to rip the baby pictures off her door. Apparently it hasn't occurred to her that having the pics on her office door is - ahem - less than considerate. No one else in the company has baby pics on their door (a couple of older kid pics, but not even many of those). If HR weren't largely not very helpful at my job, I would consider going to ask them to ask her to move the pictures into her office. Anonymously, of course! As my DH said, he is surprised that it's even allowed to post baby pics so prominently like that, given all the sensitivity to people's issues nowadays in the workplace. I don't want to be the bitch who complains, since I'm sure it hasn't even occurred to her that she might be causing pain to someone by posting her happy baby pics on her door. I keep hoping someone else complains first so HR makes her take them down, so I don't have to be the one to do it!

I guess I have to go to bed. Oh well.

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Infertility and Work

As I hinted at in my last post, I feel like I can't really do what I need to do fertility-treatment-wise given work. (I work at a company that does education stuff, enough on that.)

I haven't been there that long (several months, but less than a year). I have already had several false starts work-wise since my LH's death, so I don't want to quit outright, even if I had something else I could do part-time that would still somehow have benefits and more than $5 a paycheck. This job was mostly a foot-in-the-door type thing (but the benefits and an okay paycheck considering the position are really good too), so I don't want to burn any bridges, either. The vacation/sick policy is not horrible, but I have effectively used up all my days on a big trip that had to be negotiated into my starting paperwork already. So I basically have no time off that is not already a company holiday until after the New Year.

While there is some flexibility in my department in being able to take the occasional (and I do stress OCCASIONAL) couple of hours for a doctor's appointment and not be docked for it, I had several appointments in a row in late May-early June. I had put them off for a while already (checkups, follow-ups for stuff I'm supposed to get checked every so often, etc.). My boss was understanding at first, but then I could tell that she was annoyed by the number of appointments (despite the fact that I had given her ample warning that these were coming up, and had been making up the lost time). I finally had to print something out for her to let her know that I was dealing with fertility issues, and she was cool about it (I think she may have dealt with some of this herself when she was younger).

But, I just don't know if I will be able to keep up with sufficiently focusing on the job (which had already been getting increasingly difficult as I've begun to realize that I really am not ovulating, and thus will have to enter the realm of fertility treatments), in addition to trying to somehow work it out with my boss to do whatever appointments I'll need to do if I go on Metformin or Clomid. Not to mention the likely side effects of abdominal cramping and probably having to live in the bathroom for the first few weeks of Met, and/or the potential mood issues if we go straight to the Clomid.

To further complicate things, L and I are in the process of buying a new condo. While my pay is not a lot, it's still something, so I really kind of would have to continue in the position until we have a locked-in mortgage. I'm not sure how soon that will really have to be (officially we only have 45 days, but given that the place won't be done until late fall-early winter...?). And as I said, the benefits are good and COBRA is expensive on top of copays etc., so I feel like I shouldn't quit or go down to part-time without benefits (even if there were a position like that that I could take). So I just don't know what to do!!!

I figure, for the summer, I'll try to make whatever appointments on Friday afternoons (although that's tough, obviously, since doctors may be closing early on Fridays too), since we get summer Friday flex-time, and hope that somehow we get lucky in the next couple of months. But it kills me to continue to do the wait-and-see but not really do anything productive, because I don't know if I can take the side effects of the Met, or the additional appointments required of the Clomid. (What I've heard about the Met side effects sound in part much like how my stomach felt for about 2 years surrounding my LH's death... I never want to go back to feeling like that again!)

Am I just a wuss about the job stuff, and about being afraid of the side effects if I can't just take a sick day here or there? Am I just stalling? Am I afraid we'll actually get pregnant, paradoxical though that is?! I just don't know...

Oh, and this morning, we're meeting friends for brunch. I love brunch, big fan. But a friend in this group who normally doesn't show up to these things is coming... she got PG by semi-accident before she and her husband married, and now is pregnant with the second one. You think she's super-fertile?! (The kids will be only 18 months apart.) She only met her husband a couple of months before L and I met, and we didn't dilly-dally about getting engaged and married. To make it worse, it doesn't really occur to M that there can be other perspectives on life - she decides she wants to do or say something, and nothing will deter her. (But she seems very sweet and cute and harmless before you get to know that side of her.) Some of the same friends who saw me break down the other night (my husband gave them the topline summary while I went to the bathroom to wash off the Tammy Faye streaks on my face after crying) have been really nice asking how I was doing etc. At L's request, they have promised to help keep the pregnant one from making the whole conversation about her, her kid, and her pregnancy, which I REALLY appreciate. L said he'll also make sure I don't have to sit next to M., so I will hopefully not have to talk with her much at all.

I am not looking forward to seeing M, especially after the last few days I've had relative to other people's pregnancy news etc., and given that she is the not-so-empathic type. At the same time, I'm schizo about the kid thing - I went to a BBQ on the 4th for a couple of hours, and those friends have a baby. I wound up holding the baby for a while, talking to her, etc. But my pleasure in holding her was precariously close to my heart breaking again over the fertility issues we're facing...

Anyway, here is some of the issue as far as work/life expectations. To mangle a quote from Charlotte on "Sex & the City", "It's tradition! We will not behave like a typical barren couple! We have to LIVE!!!" I feel like that's what's expected of me/us. I'm not supposed to quit my job/shift to part-time to give myself the time and mental/emotional space to try to conceive, because I'm not supposed to put ANYTHING in my life on hold in the quest for a baby. I'm not supposed to mind hearing about other people's pregnancies, babies, toddlers, etc., since of course they have the right to get pregnant by looking at their husbands, and it's not their fault I can't do the same. I'm not supposed to be anything other than happy for my good friend who just got pregnant after only 2 cycles of not-preventing, instead of feeling guilty for not being happier for her and angry that I'm not right there with her. (I would be the logical person to offer to hold a small shower for her in the area when she is here around the holidays, but I don't know if I could do that without having to serve up a voodoo version of my heart on a platter for everyone to ritually stab, just to give physical representation to how I would probably feel if I did follow through with giving her a baby shower.) I'm not supposed to really resent the woman in the next department over at work who just came back to work after having her baby back in February, who has a bunch of baby pics plastered all over her office door that I have to walk by all the time.

There is a lot of "I'm not supposed to feel/act that way" in this infertility thing, and the choices in every way are not easy - work, treatments, friends, etc. I'm still trying to even begin to get a grip on them.

Okay, I'm going to try to get to sleep now, really.

Late night musings on fertility issues...

I started posting in response to the NYTimes' multimedia feature "Voices of Infertility", but thought better of it, figuring I should edit it and repost it here. Forgive me if there is some repetition of events, but this gives more detail.

To anyone insensitive (or just flat out completely ignorant) toward those with fertility issues....

Until you have gone through fertility problems, don't you DARE say you judge those who feel "lifeless" and grief etc. because they have fertility problems. When you can't get pregnant easily and naturally, it has a way of creeping over everything in your life.

I need to find some way of talking with my boss (even though I think/hope that my boss will be understanding) of the fact that I need time to go to doctor's appointments for the situation. Seems like not such a big thing, a doctor's appointment or two. But the appointments multiply, and I know that these 1-2 appointments will become more follow-ups and ultrasounds and sick days I don't have due to side effects of medicines I'll probably be given to try to help my chances of conceiving. Thus, I am afraid to tell my boss what I'm going through, even though she/he can tell you're distracted etc. and even though I THINK they might be sympathetic, it'll still get in the way of their doing their OWN job. So I feel guilty about even bringing it up and asking for more understanding about this, because I feel incompetent enough in my job given how distracted I already am. And because I'm afraid (even if it's not exactly legal) that will eventually lead to it being suggested that I "move on from that position", when I need the insurance and the money (even if the pay isn't that great) that come with the job.

A few days ago, I e-mailed with a friend who I haven't talked to in a while, and I decided to try to open up a little about my fertility problems. He used to be a good friend of my LH's, and a friend of mine as well. But honestly, I haven't talked much with him in the 2 1/2 years since his wife was pregnant with their first child, he knew I was in a world of pain still about having not had kids with my LH, and yet he e-mailed me this joyful e-mail about feeling his child move inside his wife etc. On what PLANET was I an appropriate recipient for that e-mail?!?!

Anyway, so I told him about my PCOS and about how we were trying to decide on what treatments and when. When he wrote back, instead of even offering the platitude, "We'll pray for you/send good fertility thoughts your way," he launches into the fact that that they are 9 months pregnant with their second child. Without even acknowledging what you just said about your own fertility status. He didn't tell me, because they were afraid of how I would react. Um, like I wasn't going to find out. They could have told me (kindly and gently but directly, without undue delay, and without a lot of fanfare, is usually best when telling someone with fertility issues) when they were only 3-4 months out, but they didn't. And then the he procedes to crow about how great being a parent is, and how you and your spouse will make great parents (again, no acknowledgement that I'd already told him that we were TRYING SO HARD to join that club, but it's just not working!!!!). So that drives a further wedge into that friendship. Even though you've known this friend for 15-20 years, I start thinking maybe it's another lost friendship due to fertility issues.

An hour later, I found out that a good friend who who I have known for almost half my life and who has been very sweet and supportive particularly through my LH's illness and the ensuing 2 year morass of grief, got pregnant after only 2 months of not even really trying, just not preventing. You had both wanted to be pregnant at the same time. I was happy (or trying really hard to be) for my friend, but feeling guilty because I'm not able to be happier for her, but at the same time angry that I'm not pregnant too, afraid this will be yet ANOTHER friendship lost due to fertility differences, etc. My friend is, again, truly sweet about saying she knows it may be hard for you that she got pregnant, she understands if you won't want to hear a lot of the details, etc. She's babbling, it's awkward for her too, she's somehow trying to make it all better when you both know there aren't words to magically conjure up a BFP for me too. For much of this conversation, I'm standing out in front of a bar. Somehow I manage to congratulate her and finally get off the phone.

I finally walked into the bar where I'm meeting my husband and a bunch of other friends for dinner. I'd been doing so well. In a moment, I can't hold it back anymore. My house of cards comes down all at once, a la a tired, cranky toddler, and I burst into tears at the table. My heart is breaking open along fault lines very close to those opened up by my LH's illness, death, and the loss of our planned-for family. My husband quickly sees that I'm not going to be able to pull it together after half a minute, and pulls me outside. I sob on his shoulder, heart wounded and aching desperately. In front of the outdoor seating, how wonderful.

Are you dying of the infertility? No. But it sure as hell hurts.

On the responses to the NYTimes piece, some people say, "It's not like you have cancer." And of course, that's true. However, I watched my mom battle back from cancer, and only a few short months after she finished active treatment, my LH (only 28 at the time) was diagnosed with an aggressive cancer. We tried everything possible to get him better, or at least get another year or two of "quality time" in remission. Neither one happened. I know the heartbreak of cancer - not from the perspective of the patient - but from that of a closest relative.

Having been through all that, I can't help but feel two ways. Could I somehow find meaning in my life if my new husband and I can't have children? I suppose so. I survived losing my LH, something I NEVER thought I could do - and also survived the worst of the mourning of not being able to have the kids we'd dreamed of having together. And what's more, I fell in love again and took the chance of getting remarried, and hoping again. I've been gradually battling back to try to reclaim my mess of a work life. All of this is more than I thought myself capable of.

HOWEVER - do I really want to be forced to completely rewrite my visions of and hopes for my future, yet AGAIN, as I had to do following my LH's death? Absolutely not!!!! It virtually killed me to begin to rewrite my life once already. I feel like I should have a pass, so to speak, from fertility problems. Haven't I been through enough?!?! I'm sure so many who find themselves with fertility problems after having been through other stuff in their lives feel similarly... it's just not fair that those of us who have already been through the wringer in other ways in particular can't just easily get pregnant and bear healthy children, and be spared that set of heartbreak!

On that topic, I have a widow friend who lost her LH to cancer a few months before I lost mine. (We met through an online group.) She had been told after she married her LH that she was already in premature ovarian failure, at age 30, and when her LH had already had a couple of bouts of cancer and was in remission. She told me the name of the girl she'd dreamed of having with him. Although she didn't talk about it a lot, I could tell it was terribly painful for her. Fast forward a while after her LH died (and before I met mine). She met a guy she liked, and who was open about the fact that he liked her, wanted to be a husband and father, etc. She told him not to date her because she was a young widow (too much baggage) and had been told years before (by then she was in her mid-30s) that she couldn't have children. He said he wanted to get to know her, and they would see. Well, several months later, she hinted something was going on... she was almost 5 months pregnant!!! They had gotten completely, accidentally pregnant when she thought it wasn't even possible for her! The baby came early but was healthy, and then they went to City Hall, baby in arms, a few weeks later. They are happy and so grateful for their son, but I know my friend has not forgotten what it was like to deal with both the cancer spouse/young cancer widow thing, and the fertility issues. I keep hoping that maybe, somehow, I will have my own version of this happiness-out-of-sadness story...

I am wearing a string around my middle most days now. It's from an acquaintance who hadn't gotten PG after several months of not-preventing (of course, I think, for goodness' sake, why didn't you chart and use OPKs long before that?!). Anyway, she's very spiritual, and in her tradition, the Old Wives recommend wearing a string around your middle to bring on the fertility. She did it - and wound up pregnant with fraternal twins! She wore it all through her pregnancy. Then she got PG again, but didn't wear the string and miscarried, so she's a big believer in the string. She cut me a piece of the original ball and told me to wear it. I figure, what the hell, can't hurt, right?! Geez. If by some chance I get prgnant while doing the string thing, I swear I'll frame the damn thing!

Anyway... I suppose I should try to sleep. I haven't had sleep issues like I've had the last couple of weeks in probably almost 2 years, since the end of my years of sleep issues surrounding my LH's illness and death.