Hormones, people. Ugh.

When I started the medications for the retrieval part of the IVF process my brother joked that I was going to be a bit of an emotional challenge.

It’s not an off-the-wall prediction to say that pumping extra hormones into your body might make your brain react in weird ways.

I actually braced myself for this in those first few weeks. I fully expected to be kind of an emotional handful for those around me. I was pleasantly surprised. Aside from what I believe to be very reasonable fears that the process might not work out, I actually felt pretty mentally stable. It was nice.

Of course, my brother didn’t necessarily believe me when I told him that I never really felt out of my norm. I believe his exact words were “I’ll see what Russ says about it”. That’s fair and it’s also not an unexpected response from a sarcastic brother.

As it turns out, this process I’m in now is ripe for the mental meltdown. I’m taking what feels like a boatload of estrogen – granted, I have no real concept of how much estrogen is normal and how what I’m adding compares – but this feels like a lot.

I’ve been on it for a few days now. It started with two pills a day. I’m now up to seven pills a day.

And I’m noticing.

This week has already been extremely emotional. We have some big changes coming over the next few days as our best buds move away followed by more great friends moving away a few days after that.

I’m not handling any of it well.

To put it lightly: I’m a wreck. I cried when I saw the U-Haul in our friends driveway three days before their actual move. I’ve cried because my body looks and feels different to me right now. I almost cried while Russ and I were running yesterday. I’m tearing up while writing this.

I said when I started sharing this stuff that I would be as honest as possible about the ups and downs. There’ve been a lot of ups. I have to believe that our experience so far has been about as good as it possibly could be. It’s funny how quickly we went from feeling this whole situation is wildly unfair to celebrating the little victories – perspective matters and ours has shifted like crazy over the past few months.

We’ve had a trend of getting better than expected news from each step of the process. It’s been great – kind of like winning the slowest heat in the 100m great –  but still, pretty great.

There are downs. This week is quite clearly one of the low points. I feel physically great, but I’m overly emotional about everything and that’s hard on me and even tougher on Russ.

I’m currently trying to reel it in because the last thing an embryo needs is to try to make a home in a stressed out body. Running helps. Little things like Russ cleaning the kitchen and turning on Jeopardy without my prompting help. Messing around in our garden helps. The new baby birds who just hatched in our yard help. Unexpected text messages from friends who are just checking in help.

We’re getting really close to the end of the first attempt at this whole process. I felt like a superhero during the first part. Giving myself shots without much hesitation really boosted the ol’ ego.

Of course, if you know me well, you know the fact that my emotions are the biggest challenge of this journey makes absolutely perfect sense.

If you’re the praying type, prayers help. Prayers for staying calm and positive and, if it feels appropriate to you, prayers that this whole thing works out. We’re so ready to love on a baby.

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July is here

I haven’t had much to share in a few weeks because June has been a much-needed and much-appreciated break from all things IVF.

IVF is hyper-personalized. For a lot of couples one IVF cycle happens a lot faster than ours has. It is most common to do a fresh transfer. A fresh transfer means embryos are transferred into the uterus within just a few days of the egg retrieval.

For an impatient person, that sounded like the best option, but according to our doctors who know the ins and outs of this process and have much more educated insight into what we actually need, that just wasn’t the right fit for us.

I’m becoming more convinced every day that this whole process is a way of kicking my butt so that I finally learn how to be at least a little patient. I am notoriously impatient. It’s one of my worst qualities.

In our particular situation, it was recommended that we do a frozen transfer. We have chosen to trust the doctor recommendations throughout this process, despite some of our friends and family’s best efforts to convince us there might be a better way (hey, we know it comes from a place of love).

Honestly, outside of my impatient self not wanting to wait several extra weeks to see if this all worked, we never really doubted that frozen was the best option for us.

A month ago we didn’t know if we would have a shot at having Russ’s kids. That alone was a good reason to wait a few extra weeks. Otherwise, if his operation had gone differently, we might’ve found out on a Wednesday that we needed to use donor sperm and by Monday or Tuesday that baby could already be cooking.

That didn’t turn out to be an issue, but looking back on this month of just relaxing and living like normal, I am grateful that our doctors suggested we wait.

June has been a gift. I started running again a few weeks ago and I’ve been able to enjoy some beer and wine. We took a little trip to Raleigh with some of our best friends. We had a great visit with Russ’s Aunt Sharon. We finished our bedroom floors! We started using our pool membership. I celebrated a bachelorette weekend with some of my favorite family members. Did I mention running? It’s amazing what it does for my mood.

Honestly, if you never opened up our fridge in June to see the half empty tubes of Gonal-F and bottles of hormones shoved in the door next to our milk, you might never know what we were up to in May.

If you didn’t look in the box full of the half dozen meds and accompanying syringes necessary for the next part of the process, you might never know that our July is going to be the total opposite of June.

I start taking meds again on the 5th and I’ll start injections later in the month. This time around Russ is going to have to learn how to administer them, so that should be an adventure of its own.

On top of that, several of our good friends are moving away in July – SEVERAL. We’ve spent most of June pretending all of this wasn’t really happening, but it is and it’s going to be tough.

A few years ago I watched a movie called ‘Conception’. I don’t remember much about it, but I keep thinking about Connie Britton’s character and her husband who had to give her some sort of fertility shots in her booty. At the time, it was funny because it was an awkward situation.Now it’s funny in a dark humor, this is too real, try not to hate Russ every time he sticks me with a needle kind of way.

July is going to be emotional, to say the least, but I think June was exactly the break we needed to collect ourselves and get ready to move forward with the process. Plus there are so many things to get worked up about this month that I don’t know where to start. I think that’s going to work in my favor.

Here’s to July and to hoping it works out the way everything else has so far.

Annapolis

I don’t know what to say about what happened in an Annapolis newsroom yesterday.

We don’t know full details about a motive, but reliable sources report he had history with the paper after a story was written about him years ago.

We don’t know his exact motive for acting on that anger yesterday — we don’t know what fueled the violence years after his run-in with the paper.

But we do know there are people actively cheering on social media over journalists being killed. We know there are tweets saying journalists aren’t humans and this is what they deserve.

I know what it’s like to huddle in the smallest room in a news building because a threat has been phoned in and I know what it’s like to walk past posters taped to walls and doorways showing the face of a man who should not be let into the building.

“Call police if you see this man on the premises.”

Threats and vitriol are delivered to newsrooms daily by mail, email, Facebook, Twitter and phone call.

That’s been the case for decades, but I’ve watched it get worse over the past couple of years.

So many people have told me when people in power speak badly about journalists, they mean the big guys — the CNNs or the NYTimes. They don’t mean local journalists serving the communities in which they live.

I was told I was taking it too personally when I was upset with the words our President used to describe journalists.

I was made to believe this couldn’t happen to a journalist like me; someone who covers feature stories and things that, by and large, make people happy.

That was wrong.

This wasn’t the big guys, not that they deserve to die any more than the rest of us — they don’t.

This was a newsroom at a newspaper of a similar size to the one I work for in a city that is comparable to my own.

These were people working at their desks just trying to meet their deadline on a normal Thursday.

Earlier this week I listened as our President came to South Carolina and pointed at my friends and colleagues working a long day to cover his visit and called them “the enemy of the people” in a room of thousands. And it hurt me. I can’t lie about that. It bothered me. But it comes with the territory these days and I’m often told I need a thicker skin.

That is, in some ways, a fair critique.

But if a gunman comes into my newsroom with the intent to kill indiscriminately, it won’t matter that I generally write stories about good things happening in our community like development or the graduation ceremony of a young woman with a severe handicap whose parents thought they wouldn’t get to see her grow past age three or four, and it sure as hell won’t matter how thick my skin is.

It will only matter that 12 years ago I decided on a career path that would make people hate me enough — without ever speaking to me in person– to end my life.

My heart is with everyone in the capital-gazette newsroom who not only lost people they care for, but had to watch the violence happen and with the families who won’t get to speak with their loved ones again.

I just found this in a drawer

I just found this in a drawer. I’d forgotten i bought it. Last July we briefly thought I was pregnant, thanks to either a faulty test or a chemical pregnancy. That week I went out and bought this book for our future son or daughter. I still can’t wait to introduce our kids to my hero someday.

Results (so far)

I can’t even tell you how many 400 meter hurdle races I’ve run in my life, but there’s a very distinct pattern to the emotion of my favorite race.

Like every track event it starts with the adrenaline at the starting line, a burst of energy or even a chill as you place your feet in the starting block and give your legs one last shake out. There’s the stillness before the gun goes off that seems far longer than it is.

Then you’re off and facing the first curve and the first hurdle.

You’re confident. At this point there’s no doubting you’ll easily clear all of the hurdles.

But it’s a brutal race. It’s a quarter mile at a full-blown sprint pace with 10 hurdles spread along the way.

When I coached track I always told the 400 runners “I love the 400 because it’s just long enough to make you want to quit and right about the time that feeling hits, you reach the finish line”.

For me, that desire to quit used to hit somewhere around the last straightaway of a hurdle race when I was far enough in to know what I’d already accomplished but tired enough to wonder if I might have trouble with the last hurdle or two.

I’ve never experienced anything like it.

Until IVF.

IVF is emotional whiplash. The process, if you’re lucky, is filled with highs, but each one is met with the almost-immediate realization that the next hurdle may take away everything you’ve worked through so far.

Right now, we’re somewhere in the final curve having cleared so many hurdles along the way.

Last week was huge. Russ had surgery on Wednesday and we learned, after months of wondering, that we might actually be able to have a kid (hopefully kids) of his own. I’ve never been so thrilled about anything, but it was followed by the very real fear that my Thursday egg retrieval wouldn’t pan out like it should.

Thursday went well too. They were able to get 19 eggs. 19 eggs! I was IV drunk after the procedure and I think I asked about that number about three times before I believed it.

But here’s the thing, numbers in this process change dramatically. We knew that. So, we reined in our excitement and waited for the Friday phone call about how many embryos we’d have.

16 eggs were mature enough to attempt fertilization. 14 were successfully fertilized.

We started with 14 embryos with the knowledge that the number would again be cut down and probably in a big way. The embryologist estimated five would continue to grow like they should until this week when they would freeze them for later transfer.

The embryologist was correct.

So here we are with a finite number. We have five chances. If you know anything about the statistics of pregnancy and IVF procedures specifically, you know that doesn’t mean five babies.

Though five used to be the number of children I always said I wanted, we’ll be thrilled to have just one and we’ll figure out the sibling thing later, ideally using leftover embryos, if everything works out.

Right now, we’re facing what’s ahead. I get to be normal for a few weeks until I start more shots ahead of the transfer process. I can run and enjoy some beer and just generally feel less like a pin cushion and more like myself.

Those last few hurdles are still there. We don’t know that the embryos will all survive the thawing process and we don’t know that any of them will lead to a successful pregnancy and I’m terrified that we have a maximum number of chances and it’s just five, but we’re also thrilled that it’s not the zero we thought was a very real possibility just 10 days ago.

If my over-the-top metaphor proves true, right about the time this process makes me want to quit, we’ll find some relief.

details

This is a look at my meds through phase one of the process.

One shot and three pills in the mornings.

Two shots and one pill at night.

The box full of meds still waiting for after the egg retrieval is daunting, but I’ll face that when it gets here.

The morning shot is the one I added on Friday and, to be perfectly honest, it sucks. It’s okay going in, though the needle is larger than the others, but it hurts after. Every morning so far I’ve found myself using google to try to determine if I’ve accidentally hit muscle or something.

It turns out I’m doing it right, it just sucks. That’s normal.

To be totally honest, I’m feeling the effects now. Sitting for a long time or riding in the car just aren’t comfortable. I’m also getting tired really easily. All of this is normal and still not as bad as it could be.

Also, missing running was a joke. I haven’t missed any activity this week. I’ve gone on a few two mile walks, but I’m maxed out by the end thanks to the heat and just general fatigue. So running can definitely wait and I’m cool with that.

I’ve had a lot of people ask me questions about the process. I’m fascinated and thrilled with what science can do for us, so I thought I’d share the basics:

The stimulation phase is for pumping up the ovaries so they mature way more than their usual one egg. Basically the ovaries are pumped up from the size of almonds to the size of two bunches of grapes – LOVELY.

In the meantime, there are several doctor visits for ultrasound and labwork.

At my last appointment some follicles were already the size they need to be to release a mature egg, so I started that new morning shot.

It’s meant to stop me from ovulating before the doctor has a chance to go in for the egg retrieval.

The day before my retrieval those shots will stop and they’ll be replaced by one final trigger shot that helps release the eggs for retrieval.

Something that’s been on the back-burner for both of us is Russ’s surgery. It’s a huge deal, but with so many different things to focus on that are happening *right now*, it’s been easy to just put that one out of our minds.

Russ has, to no one’s surprise, been going way out of his way to make sure I’m comfortable and supported and loved. And that probably has a lot to do with why I haven’t been feeling down throughout this process – that and my friends who’ve reached out by phone, text, snail mail and in person just to let me know they’re thinking of us.

Now Russ’s surgery is coming up on Wednesday. It’s a big day and not a small surgery.  My retrieval may be the same day, but the recovery is supposed to be far easier for me. I’m looking forward to my chance to be the support for him. He’s looking forward to playing a lot of Xbox and really good pain meds.

Update

A few years ago when Russ and I were newly engaged we spent Record Store Day in late April going from store to store in Greenville picking up records. I couldn’t tell you how many we bought that day, but there was a stack of three or four we were given for free.

They were sitting on a stool by the door of one store and had no price tag. I saw Lionel Richie’s 80s mustache on the cover of one and recognized the title as a song I’d done a dance routine to in high school.

The shop owner said he didn’t want to charge for any of the records on the stack, so we grabbed a few.

For whatever reason on night three of the stimulation phase of IVF I dug out Lionel Richie and blasted ‘dancing on the ceiling’ while i gave myself multiple shots in my stomach.

The nightly round of shots has become a little routine. I play music loudly and Russ sits in the bathroom and provides casual commentary while I rub an alcohol wipe on my stomach, fill a syringe to the right line, pinch some skin, insert the needle and slowly push the drugs I know so little about into my body.

I enjoy a bit of ignorance. I trust these award-winning doctors and I just really don’t want to know all of the details. I have gotten enough details about fertility to last a lifetime over the past few months.

Night three was only made easier by Lionel and the fact that Russ was actually in the room unlike the night before.

It wasn’t his fault. I told him he didn’t need to be in there while I did the shots. I didn’t need him to help me physically give myself shots, so I assumed I didn’t need him in there at all.

I’ve been wrong before.

As I was pressing the last of the medicine into my body by myself in our guest bathroom, the weight of everything we’re doing just to try to have one darn kid hit me in that suddenly can’t breathe, overwhelmed with fear kind of way. I leaned against the counter and cried quietly for a few minutes alone before I walked back into the living room to let him know I needed him there.

It was the only moment of its kind since I’ve started the medicine. I’m lucky in that sense.

The massive packet of information we were given at the beginning included warnings of emotional effects – things like depression, anxiety, disinterest in normal activities, even thoughts of suicide.

It’s funny to think I was so concerned about the shots themselves. I honestly thought that might be the most difficult part of all of this.

Sure, my stomach looks like a pin cushion, if pin cushions could bruise and sometimes I need a couple of deep breaths before I stick myself and I know the shots are about to multiply, but anything that can be made better by a little dancing to Lionel Richie and Russ sitting next to me discussing what the Patriots did at OTAs (or whatever) is a pretty small deal compared to what else may be to come.

I’m writing all of this knowing there’s a lot more ahead in the next several days and there’s still no guarantee that any of this will work, but we’re feeling optimistic. Last night I had a dream we were signing our kid up for kindergarten, so I guess even my subconscious is buying into the optimism – which is a pleasant surprise given the warnings.

Today I’ll add a third injection to my daily routine and given the fact I got off the couch like a very pregnant woman this morning – you know the lead with your legs and push off with your arms maneuver – I’m sure it’s only going to get more strange from here.

We’re still appreciating all of the kind messages, prayers and support and will continue to lean on those when we need it. We love all of you.

I can do this!

 

I did it.

I survived my first night of giving myself shots and I didn’t even panic. I felt fine about it all day and there was a brief moment right before when I had to pause and just say aloud “this seemed less terrifying before I actually had to do it.” Then, dressed in my ugliest and comfiest shorts, I rolled up my shirt, bent over, pinched some stomach skin and just made it happen.

Having to focus on getting the injection right really helped distract me from my fear of needles.

Russ sat right there with me but I asked him just to talk to me. I think this will all be easier if I can control the situation.

There’s a long road ahead and a lot more shots, plus I’m told my stomach will bruise and it may be tougher once that happens, but getting over the fear of the first night was a big success.

I’m feeling really tough and proud right now.

I think I can handle this.

Fertility stuff: Update 3

Russ and I are both that type of big baby grown-ups who can’t handle needles.

Do we have tattoos? No.

Is it because we don’t think they’re cool? Nah.

It’s because I’m the kind of person who feels queasy at the idea of a needle touching skin and Russ is the kind of person whose medical chart includes a handwritten note in all caps that says “NEEDS TO LIE DOWN WHEN HIS BLOOD IS DRAWN”.

So we’re pretty much going to crush the next few weeks.

We had IVF orientation today and it was *a lot*, to say the least.

First of all, we had to pay for everything up front. We just put more money into this hypothetical baby than we put down on our house when we bought it last summer. (side note: please don’t be hypothetical, baby, we’re really going to work hard at being good parents)

That payment was terrifying, but we’ve learned that our best move is to just know we are lucky we can handle it and to quickly throw the numbers in our rearview mirror.

Plus, that giant payment is going to earn us a TON of airline miles before we use our loan to immediately pay it off… and in this process, we’ve found we really don’t have time to dwell on any small scary part of it because there’s something else right around the corner.

In today’s case, right around the corner was a whole lot more blood being drawn, peeing in a cup, a super invasive ultrasound and last, but not least, a deeply descriptive introduction to the many medicines I’ll be injecting into my body over the next few weeks.

I’m honestly not sure I’ve taken that much medicine in my entire lifetime. I’m not even an ibuprofen for a headache kind of girl.

How much medicine is it? So much that it came to me in chart form with amounts changing on different dates and graphic illustrations of how to fill the syringes and where to insert the needle.

The folder they gave us basically looks like the seat back in front of you on an airplane except there’s no sky mall and the safety instructions include needles… and I’ll probably actually read these… and I was probably listening to the IVF coordinator more closely than I usually listen to the flight attendant.

But I really did leave there feeling good –– about the process, about getting started and about the fact that the doctor called my uterus great!

It’s not every day someone compliments your uterus and when you’re only cautiously optimistic with the hope of transitioning to real, pure optimism at some point in the near future, you’ll take any good news you can get.

Russ said he wasn’t surprised.

We’ve definitely figured out its easier for us to be optimistic about each other’s side of things than our own. So the doctor just confirmed what he’d already assumed.

While things are still uncertain on Russ’s end, we also got some good news there. We found out today that he tested negative for the rare genetic disorder that would’ve guaranteed he wasn’t making sperm and therefore would’ve made his surgery unnecessary and the donor 100% necessary.

That doesn’t mean there’s definitely something there, but it’s yet another bad thing ruled out. We’ll take it.

We’ve also been pushed back to our original schedule. The last time I wrote here we’d been delayed by a month and I was trying to pretend like I wasn’t really sad about it. Well, last Monday we got a call from the doctor’s office asking if they could bump us back up to our original timeline, meaning we could forget about the delay.

Of course anything could go wrong to delay us again, but man, if I focus on everything that could go wrong, I’m going to go absolutely crazy.

With all of this finally about to go down, I actually worked up the courage to talk to my boss.

I checked with HR ahead of time to see what I was obligated to share and what might be more than necessary. I was basically told I could share as much as I was comfortable sharing, but I should at least give her a heads up that I might be missing some time for medical reasons.

I opted to flat-out tell her I’m going through IVF and it’s starting soon and I don’t know exactly what to expect, but I’ll have lots of doctor appointments and I’ll do my best to work them around my work schedule.

Y’all. Her response was more than I could’ve ever asked for. There was no concern of whether I’d get my work done. There was no mention of anything but total support and a genuine care for me as a human being. I mean, I know my boss is great. I’ve known that for a long time, but I went in her office and told her I’ll have to miss some work while trying to achieve something that *ideally* several months from now will have me missing a lot more work and her only reaction was to express support and encouragement and promise that she isn’t worried about whether I’ll do my job.

As I type that I am realizing that it reads like my boss was just being a human who genuinely cares about treating people well, but I seriously doubt this is the experience every woman has when having to share this kind of news and I practically skipped out of her office… like I said, I’ll take any good news I can get.

This is a lot of information and I know it’s not well organized. If you’ve spent any time with me, you know I prefer to write in story form, but my head is spinning and all I can do is blurt every little piece out.

P.S. I miss running.

P.P.S. What kind of tattoo should I get when this is all over? (Just kidding, mom)

 

A repost for teacher appreciation

I originally wrote this in 2015, but it’s teacher appreciation week and I thought it was worth another share. Who was your favorite teacher? What would you want to say to her/him?

(Sandy – forgive me for using Mrs. Hall repeatedly throughout this post. Old habits die hard.)

I met Mrs. Hall nearly 13 years ago on my second day of high school. Nothing makes me feel older than the fact that I can’t remember much about her class. I know she assigned a seemingly 4,000 page long book about Mythology for Summer Reading (I will never stop whining about that book). I know I sat next to a girl who would become my best friend and maid of honor, but didn’t speak to me at all for the first few months (because high school is weird). I remember Mrs. Hall making hilarious jokes on the regular. I also vaguely remember one day when another friend of mine let people duct tape her to her chair, for fun. I’m certain Mrs. Hall was out of the room then. Teenagers are weird.

By all normal social patterns Mrs. Hall should’ve been the woman who taught me 9th grade english and that’s it. I would’ve had a few funny stories from the class that I could tell my mom after school. I would have made my way through another round of Shakespeare (I’d already studied him the year before in North Carolina) and just powered through her exams. I would’ve left her classroom on the last day of the year and never really spoken to her again except for the occasional polite hello in the hallway.

I would’ve done all of those things except I don’t think I had the slightest chance of just being a kid who passed through her class. Mrs. Hall doesn’t teach like that. She cares about her students in a way that parents wish all teachers would. I was a new kid in a small town high school when I first took her class. Everyone had been in school together since 6th grade, and some since kindergarten. I can’t say for sure, but the way I remember it she seemed to look out for me a little more than most.

Her classroom was the first one that made me feel comfortable.

There was something about the way she could make 9th graders want to pretend to care about 16th century Shakespearean works while still peppering her lectures with sarcastic comments to bring us all back to the 21st century classroom full of teenagers.

I think by the end of high school I’d had Mrs. Hall as a teacher 4 different times. Only one was required. I used a couple of free periods to be a teacher’s assistant in her classroom.I took a theatre class… so completely out of character for me… just to have her as a teacher one more time. In the 9 years since high school we’ve kept in touch, and gotten together from time to time (not often enough). She’s helped me navigate adulthood and the real world sometimes knowingly, sometimes not. She’s given me the kind of support and encouragement a person needs to pursue a dream as terrifying as trying to write for a living (yeah, someday). I was and still am fascinated by the way she balances educator and friend with a hint of mother.

I don’t know much about all the standardized tests and evaluations we put our teachers through now. I’ll be the first to admit that I’m still confused by common core no matter how much I read about it. I know there are good teachers whose students leave the classroom with a solid knowledge of the lessons of the year (even if they’re pretty sure they’ll never totally get commas). For all the things I do not know (again, commas), I’m fairly certain a great teacher is one who has helped even just a single student grow the way I’ve grown by knowing Mrs. Hall.

If she were normal she would’ve just been the teacher who made me study Mythology and Shakespeare, neither of which I cared for. 13 years later she’s a woman I still go to for advice, and (as I’m nowhere near a high school student anymore) a friend with whom I can dish about life and writing over a glass of wine.

 

((I have literally dozens of friends and family members who are teachers. They’re doing incredibly tough work with grace and joy. I’m so glad they all exist — but I’m especially thankful for Mrs. Hall and a couple of others who’ve made a lifelong impression on me that goes far beyond my classroom education:
Mrs. Bogan — who made me laugh all year long in 10th grade Spanish class and seriously never stopped doing so.
Mrs. Howard — who taught many of my closest friends but never taught me and has still somehow managed to become one of the women I most admire, and an unexpected friend. Thanks for all of your support and kind words, always.))

Update 2

I swear we haven’t forgotten to update, we’re just in a waiting period.

That said, I couldn’t let Infertility Awareness week pass without saying something.

So here’s what’s going on —

The timeline has changed since the last time I wrote. We were originally expecting Russ to have surgery in late May and thought all of this would be behind us (provided there were no major issues) by the end of June.

As it turns out, that won’t be the case, but we’re lucky because the only reason the timeline has changed is scheduling issues. There are about a million little things that can extended the waiting period and many of them are far more frustrating than a doctor’s packed schedule. ((Full disclosure: this was not my attitude when we first found out about the delay, but I’m going to go ahead and blame that on hormonal changes and take credit for the fact that I realized relatively quickly that I was overreacting.))

In the meantime, we’ve been able to nail down some of the less exciting, but very important logistical things like…

-We secured our baby loan! We’re not big on carrying debt. We’ve been actively working to knock out a student loan and car payments and we cleared any credit card debt we had over a while ago, so adding a new loan isn’t the most fun thing, BUT we’re really thankful that these kinds of loans exist, because the payment is manageable for us and because a baby is going to be worth it – no doubt.

-We chose a sperm donor. This is still a backup option and we are still hopeful that we’re just paying for something that we’ll never actually need, but it was a necessary step and now it’s behind us. I’ll probably sit down and write about that experience at some point, but I’m not sure I’m ready to do that yet. It was surreal.

-We requested the necessary time off for all of these things. It looks like mid-June we’ll have a nice week of vacation with a side of everyone going through major medical procedures then watching a billion hours of Netflix on the couch.

On top of all of that, I’ve recently had two different in-person conversations with women I know who’ve been or are going through this process and those were incredibly uplifting.

One of them is an old friend I haven’t seen in roughly a decade who is just a month or so ahead of us in the process at the same clinic. We got coffee and spent an hour or so just talking through the strangeness of the process. It was an awesome chance to be candid with someone face to face and just share the ups and downs of all of this. It is also cool to be able to be a cheerleader for someone else’s process. I feel like I’m rooting for her success as much as I’m rooting for my own and I’m really looking forward to the day we both can share great news.

The other was a friend who successfully went through the IVF process twice more than a decade ago and has healthy, beautiful, happy children. She’s one of those people who just glows with positivity and a genuine appreciation for life. As someone whose optimism has waned a bit over the past few months, it was great to be able to talk with her about how she handled it. I left our lunch feeling like Russ and I can totally handle this – That’s an incredibly valuable thing to feel. I’ve been saying it, but to really feel it is different.

OH… AND… it turns out the nurse who will walk us through the IVF orientation process is a friend of a good friend. A familiar face is going to be so helpful, particularly when she’s giving me all of the details of the injections I’m going to have to give myself.

So that’s where we are. That’s a lot of good things! Plus we’ve reached a point where we’ve had long enough to process our situation that we’re feeling pretty calm about it right now.

It’s sort of nice to be in this quiet waiting period where all we have to do is make sure I take one daily pill and we continue to have honest conversations about this whenever either of us needs to.

There’s plenty ahead of us, but right now feels pretty good!

 

 

 

 

Fertility stuff: Update 1

If this seems like it’s out of left field, you might’ve missed my last post. This is an update.

We had an appointment today to get the process started and we both left smiling.

Seriously!

After having a few weeks to process what is ahead and realizing that we are emotionally equipped to handle it, we’re feeling very optimistic.

The genetic odds haven’t changed, but we’ve been able to talk through just about every outcome and process it together.

Not to mention the fact that we’ve had a few weeks of knowing there is literally nothing we can do right now to make this happen on our own and that’s oddly freeing. We’ve just been having fun and enjoying each other’s company – the way it should be and usually is.

Did I mention three years ago today Russ asked me to marry him? Engagement anniversaries aren’t really something we celebrate, but given our appointment happened to be today, it feels worth noting that saying yes to everything that comes with this partnership was and still is a good choice.

Now we have a timeline. In a couple of weeks, I’ll start a process of drugs that, oddly enough, begins with birth control and is followed by a couple of weeks of hormone injections. That part sounds really terrible to a person who just a few years ago cried before getting a tetanus shot (I’m not proud of that, but in the interest of keeping it all way too real…)

Honestly, the injections just sound like an opportunity to finally grow past my way too extreme fear of needles.

Other than that, my job is far easier than Russ’s, at least leading up to the pregnancy (we’ve chosen to believe that it’s going to work out at this point). He’s the one who has to have surgery and that won’t be any sort of party, but the recovery time is short and we really do believe it’s worth it to have a final answer on whether we can have his kids or not.

The biggest bummers (barring the things that *might* go wrong during surgery/implantation/pregnancy that we’re choosing not to dwell on) as we go through this are:

  • Not knowing how I’ll react to the medicines. I’m not a medicine person. I don’t even like to take headache medicine if I can help it. I’m sure my hormonal changes will make me a party and a half to be around for the next couple of months. I’ll do my best to keep those in check…
  • Not being able to run – I’ve gotten back into a really good routine of running about 6 days a week and it’s put me in a great mental space. The doctor says I’ll have to cut that out beginning the month leading up to egg retrieval and then again in the month leading up to implantation. This is a bummer because it means I’ll lose whatever stamina I’ve built up and likely have to forego running for the whole pregnancy since you shouldn’t pick something back up that you haven’t been doing lately. This is honestly probably my biggest loss in the whole process (provided the pregnancy actually works out), so I’m sad about it. But light to moderate activity is okay, so I’ll just start swimming more often, plan on more walks with friends and ramp up my yoga class attendance. And then post-pregnancy, I’ll start running again… from scratch.
  • Cutting alcohol – we’re not heavy drinkers by any stretch of the imagination, but we enjoy the craft beer scene and breweries/taprooms are common hangout spots with friends. Both of us will have to cut this out for the month leading up to retrieval (essentially end of April to end of May). The nice thing for Russ is he can get back to enjoying some beer after his surgery. As for me, hopefully I’ll have to hold off for another 10 months after May… because that would mean everything went as planned. That’s a price I’m definitely willing to pay… in addition to the actual $ price $ we’re having to pay.

So that’s the latest. If all goes as planned, we’ll start meds later this month. By the end of May surgery and retrieval will be behind us and a month after that we’ll start cooking up a little baby, barring any major speed bumps. The timeline is kind of cool actually, because it works out so that we could potentially have a positive pregnancy test almost exactly a year after the original positive pregnancy test that turned out to not be so. It would be nice to finally put that darn ‘What to expect when you’re expecting’ book Russ bought me to use.

Like I said, we’re feeling optimistic. We’re choosing to believe this is going to work out and it’s incredibly nice to be moving forward with a plan.

And we’re beyond grateful for the huge amount of support we’ve received.

To the people who’ve asked if we’re doing a GoFundMe or if they can give us money. We so appreciate your support and that you would want to help in such a way. The weight of that gesture is definitely not lost on us, but we’re also very lucky people. We are blessed to be equipped and supported in ways that we recognize many couples are not.We hope that you’ll understand that, while we so appreciate the gesture, what we want most is for you to keep being the amazing, loving, supportive people that you are. 

So here’s the thing

Take a deep breath and ask yourself if you’re cool with reading something very personal before you read this. This is going to get kind of science-y — think body parts, reproduction and things you probably should’ve been taught in health class. Some people may read it and think “I would never put my business out there like that” or feel that they have a better way of handling the situation. Those are not the people who necessarily need to read this, though anyone we love (or anyone with internet access, I guess) is welcome to. Russ and I have chosen *together* to share our story because we firmly believe this is something people should be able to talk about instead of feeling alone in a heartbreaking situation.

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We can’t have children the natural way. That’s a sentence that is somehow easier to write than it is to say aloud, though it’s becoming more natural as the days pass and it’s really just the beginning of the story.

2018 has been a bit like hell. We started the year feeling optimistic. Months of trying to conceive a child and tracking cycles so we could get all of the science down pat felt like it might finally work out.

January was our month.

I’d somehow become so certain that we’d finally gotten the formula right after eight months that I was comforted as we started a new year.

In 2017 I was heartbroken three times.

Once when we had what was either a false positive test or chemical pregnancy in July; the first month after we started trying.

Again in November, when I wasn’t pregnant by the time I turned thirty; an arbitrary deadline I’d set for myself because it seemed so possible when we started trying five months earlier.

And once more when we wrapped up the year without any sign of a baby in the near future.

Science, health, bodies don’t give a crap about my deadlines.

January was fresh and full of optimism –– certainty even.

I was watching ‘Friends’ on the couch in the middle of the night on Jan. 31st, like I do on the very rare nights I can’t get any sleep, when I broke down. I’d been restless all night and had done more than my fair share of crying.

Another month of disappointment.

In a moment of pure weakness, I posted something to Facebook – Facebook… the land of baby pictures and pregnancy announcements. I thought maybe just maybe there might be someone out there drowning in the same sea of “why is this working for everyone but us?”

It wasn’t just one. Dozens of friends and family reached out to me to say they understood the struggle or were close to someone who did.

I was strengthened.

I was heartbroken, but I really felt stronger with the knowledge that it isn’t easy for everyone.

They don’t teach you that in school. My high school health class didn’t spend a lot of time on the reproductive system and what we were taught was focused only on avoiding the risks that come with s-e-x, not what to expect when you are actually ready for your body to make a baby human.

No one ever talked about how difficult it can be for some people, or even how long it typically takes if everything is working right. Did you know, even if everything is functioning perfectly, the odds of getting pregnant in any given cycle are just 20-25%?

I DIDN’T.

That would’ve been nice to know.

But that’s beside the point for us, because everything isn’t working properly. In fact, some things are working so poorly, there’s a pretty significant chance that we won’t be able to have a child that is genetically connected to both of us and we already know we definitely won’t be able to without the help of medical professionals with specialty degrees and sophisticated tools at their disposal.

And that shit (sorry) is devastating.

I mean, it’s heartbreaking. It’s cry in front of the doctor, cry randomly at your desk at work, cry on your husband’s shoulder while you feel him crying on yours as you hug across the center console of your car in the fertility center parking lot level heartbreaking.

For months I was told by so many people that it would work out when I just stopped stressing. I was told to just try to stay calm. I was told so many things by so many sweet friends that honestly turned out to be very well-meaning bullshit.

And I’m thankful for each of those friends who tried. I’m grateful for everyone who’s encouraged us and said whatever felt like the most appropriate thing to us in these moments. I don’t, for even one second, blame someone for not knowing the perfect thing to say. I don’t know the perfect thing to say and it’s my reality. There is not enough thanks in the world for anyone who’s just been there in the last several days, weeks, months.

But it doesn’t always work out. The truth is sometimes life is messy and hard.

Sometimes the plan is absolutely forced to change, no matter how you feel about it.

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Over the past few weeks we’ve been questioned about our medical history, we’ve distracted each other with conversations about the Patriots and why Raleigh is so great (two of our favorite rambling topics) while a nurse named Karen stuck needles in our arms and took our blood for tests. One of us even had our most intimate parts inspected by a doctor in front of the other in a tiny cramped office.

None of that was as uncomfortable as the truth that we learned two weeks ago. We have a huge decision to make if we want to birth children.

We can choose the relatively uncomplicated and inexpensive first option. Choose a sperm donor and try insemination (roughly $1,400 for each month of treatment). It’s straightforward and simple, but it would guarantee any baby conceived would be genetically mine and genetically not Russ’s

or

Spend roughly $20,000 for Russ to go through a complicated procedure to find out if he has any viable sperm (or if there never were any), have backup donor sperm on hand and go through IVF to have an embryo implanted that would either be genetically linked to both of us or just me, depending on the outcome of the first procedure.

We’ve chosen the second option. The decision itself wasn’t even all that difficult for us. I’m still not in a place where I can imagine having a baby that doesn’t have Russ’s blue eyes, chubby cheeks or deep dimples. Maybe it’s denial or maybe it’s hope.

We decided we ultimately couldn’t live with not at least trying to find out if having his own biological children has ever been a viable option for Russ.

The thing is, we know without a doubt what kind of parents we will be whether a child is genetically mine, ours or adopted. I know that there’s not another soul on Earth I’d trust with children more than Russ; the guy who spends hours playing with our nieces and nephews, is absolutely in love with our best friends’ daughters and gets down on any kid’s level to look them in the eye when he talks to them.

If we find out after thousands of dollars and a complicated operation that having children genetically linked to Russ was never a possibility, it won’t be easy to face that fact. I’ll probably be angry. I know I’ll be sad. It would be downright cruel –– honestly, it would be a hell of a loss for a world that could use more eternal optimists with contagious smiles like Russ.

It would be the toughest thing we’ve both personally experienced to date, but adoption is another option and one we are certainly considering.

We’ll come out on the other side of this with children. One way or another, we will be parents. It won’t be an easy process, but we’ll get there and we’ll appreciate the opportunity and each other more after all we’ll go through to get there.

It’s already happening. I can’t imagine going through this with anyone else by my side.

So that’s where this story begins. We intend to share as much of this journey as we comfortably can, because we need to, but also because there are probably others out there who need to know that they’re not the only ones.

Forgive us, please, over the next few weeks or months, if we don’t seem like ourselves. Forgive us if your words of comfort seem to fall on deaf ears. Forgive us if we’re just not ready for advice on how to handle it.

But please, don’t stop loving us. We need that.

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I saved this site for one more year. We’ll see where it goes.

A week ago I was letting this site go. After four years of a website bearing my name, I decided I hadn’t made it amount to much beyond sharing my ramblings with a handful of people who already know and love me.

That’s okay because that’s what I intended it to be in the first place. Actually, I intended it to just be a creative space for me. I never really thought anyone else would read it.

In the eleventh hour, I couldn’t bear the idea of losing it before I gave it another shot, so I ponied up the few dollars it takes to keep the site alive for a year and decided I would really try to find a focus in the next year.

Since 2014 I’ve used this as a space to write about friendship, family, falling in love and things that upset me, both small and large. Some of it has been shared, some of it has barely been seen.

But it’s been a space where anyone who wanted to could follow along.

So I’m keeping it alive for at least one more year. I’m promising myself I’ll write more often and be okay with whatever response it does or doesn’t receive.

Writing has always been my outlet of choice. Whether I feel my writing is worth sharing has little bearing on my decision to do it.

But this site is good for me, if for no other reason than forcing myself to be a little more brave with things I write and share them even if I’m not convinced they’re worth it.

I guess this is basically a warning to the 80 or so people who get emails whenever I post here. I’m going to be publishing more and while nonfiction, biographical, reflective posts are my tendency, I have short stories, poems and just general musings in notebooks all over my home and I plan to let them spill over to this space.

If you’re not up for seeing more of that, more of me, this is your warning.

If you are, well, I’ll try not to disappoint you.

Happy 2018!

Happy 2018 y’all!

I’m thrilled to be starting a new year right here – I mean that in both my physical location and emotional state.

2017 was a wild ride. Around this time last year Russ and I were doubling down on our plan to buy our first home. (I shared details of what we were doing to save money here). I can’t say enough good things about that. Saving for a house further solidified our roles as teammates working toward a common goal and reminded me of the importance of recognizing want versus need – something on which we can probably all use a regular refresher.

Here we are starting 2018 and we’ve been in our house for a few months. We’ve made a few minor improvements. I painted the laundry room and guest room. We (with a lot of help from my parents and brother) put down new flooring in one guest room (okay… they mostly did it). And we added a fire pit and lights to the backyard. Unsurprisingly, the backyard is our favorite part of the house. And I swear it’s not just because we can let the dogs outside on their own and don’t have to endure any more late night walks in the cold while we wait forever for them to take care of their business.

So far the house has given us a collection of small projects, but in 2018 we’re going to do more. We’ll start out garden and compost area. It was too late to plant a garden when we moved in late last summer. We could’ve started composting, but I was distracted by other things. So all of that will come early next month.

Our master bedroom needs a reboot. It’ll be getting new floor that matches the floors in the main room and guest room. That part should be relatively easy because we’ve already somewhat learned how to install that flooring and will likely again have help from my family (yeah, we’re lucky).

The master bathroom will probably be our biggest project this year. Right now we have what feels to me like an old hotel style bathroom. The sinks are open to the bedroom, visible from the bed. On the right side of the sink area is a shower room. On the left is our closet.

The set-up a little strange, but we’re thinking a sliding door would make a world of difference. It’ll be nice to feel like our bedroom and bathroom are two separate areas.

We’re also planning to replace the flooring in the bathroom and closet area. We’re looking at tile for the sink and shower room and probably the same floor we’ll be putting in the bedroom for the closet.

We’ll take our time on improvements here, because there’s no sense in screwing up the financial situation we’ve carefully built. Eventually we’ll turn the standard tub/shower combo into a tiled shower-only. I love a flippin’ bubble bath, but not as much as I want my bathroom to feel like a sophisticated space.

All of these changes come at a cost. One we’ll have to balance with our 2018 financial goals. This year we’re putting a bigger focus on paying off Russ’s student loans. The nice thing is we are armed with the knowledge that we can handle budgeting and planning to accomplish big financial goals. We saved enough for a house in just about a year and we did it without sacrificing much. Those of you who think it’s not possible, take heart in knowing that neither of us makes an impressively large salary.

It’s totally possible.

That’s the attitude I’ve adopted for 2018. For all things I hope to accomplish — it’s totally possible.