How to Accept Childlessness

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If I ever wished for a how-to book to exist, it’d be called How To Accept Childlessness.  And the byline would read something like ‘…Without Being a Failure Who Gave Up.’   It’d be pretty awesome to have a guidebook to know if I’m doing the whole ‘I surrender’ thing the right way.

Acceptance of our childlessness state has majorly been on my mind these days.  Not that I’ve fully accepted childlessness (yet).  But I am getting there, little by little.  This… Thing… in me that I never before knew existed is starting to pop up—a Thing that’s okay (*gulp*) with not having a child.  The fact that The Thing even exists causes me unease.  The Thing has evolved slowly, in myriad little ways that are impossible to describe.  Regardless, The Thing is here.  And it grows stronger with each failing cycle.

We’ve been fighting for more than seven years to have a baby.  It’s been degrees of fighting though—from the trying-not-trying phase to full-out maniacal trying.  We’ve had months when we were lackluster in timing intercourse, and we’ve had months when we’d frantically take pregnancy tests the moment my period was late.  Either way, we’d always fight and try and keep going—the idea of giving up just didn’t exist.

But those lackluster months are becoming more frequent lately.  Somewhere along the way, I’ve quit taking my daily basal body temperature.  Two out my last three cycles I’ve left my fertility monitor and ovulation tests forgotten, to gather dust on the bathroom shelf.  Anymore, the prospect of monitoring my cycle seems both tedious and monumental.

I think to myself, “So this must be how it begins—acceptance.”  And I feel a mixture of peace (mixed with melancholy relief) and apprehension (as I watch the sand dwindle down in the hourglass of my fertility window) when the thought comes.

I don’t know how someone knows when it’s time to accept childlessness.  I guess there’s no magic formula—like most things, it seems to be a slow fade.  And, like all journeys, the road there is traveled one step at a time.  I’m at a crossroads, where my options are to either: (1) accept childlessness, or (2) dig my heels in and really, REALLY try for a child with all my might.  But option two means another IVF and that’s not something we can afford now (and possibly ever again).  I mean, how else can someone “really try?”   There’s obviously only one way to “really try” for a baby naturally, and we’ve had nearly 90 of them.

I guess the real question is: How badly do I want this?

And the answer seems to be, not badly enough to throw down and continue to fight.

 

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“There’s Nothing Wrong”

I hope you all had a wonderful summer.  Although I took a blog break, I’ve still been stalking everyone else’s blogs this summer and commenting here and there. I guess this post means that I’m back… for now! 

Although I can point to a reason [endometriosis] for my thus-far lack of babies, my unexplained non-period bleeding persists. I’ve been blogging consistently about intermenstrual bleeding for two years now.  I know you’re all bored stiff by it.  So am I. I’ve visited umpteen docs in that time, none any better than the other, who’ve performed procedures (cauterization), run tests (biopsy), and cut me open (laparoscopy) to try fixing the issue.

No-go.  Still, I bleed.  Like clockwork, each doc unhelpfully informs me that, “It’s just your hormones,” “Nothing can be done,”  or, my personal favorite, “You’ll have to find a way to learn to live with it” (like, what do you think I’ve been doing these past two years?!).  None of these docs actually test my hormones, mind you.  They just give me the same old canned answers out of, I don’t know what…  noncommital laziness, perhaps?

This summer I visited my GP because my pelvic pain has been worsening and the bleeding is taking over my life.  My GP (Dr. Cooper for today’s pseudonym) is a totally awesome chick, and visiting her is like chatting with a girlfriend who also just happens to be a super smart doctor.  I had high hopes she could help.

After patiently listening to my side of things and asking well-thought questions, Dr. Cooper developed an attack plan: I’d have a much-needed updated pelvic ultrasound and my hormones thoroughly tested. After reviewing my results and some careful cogitation, she’d refer me to another doc worth their salt.  I liked her plan: simple, yet effective.  The prospect of answers and relief was very enticing.

Other than showing that I have a uterine fibroid, my ultrasound was unremarkable. Same with my  blood work. All was in order, save that my Sex Hormone Binding Globulin Serum (or “Sex Goblin” as Jake and I like to call it) was off the charts because of my still-uncontrolled thyroid.  Much as I’d like to blame him, my misbehaving Sex Goblin isn’t responsible for all this bleeding and pain.

To my dismay, Dr. Cooper referred me to Dr. B.  Yes, the very same Dr. B. whom I long-ago fired because he had the personality of a potato.  Aaaand the same Dr. B who also no longer practices medicine; I guess Dr. Cooper missed that part of the story.  Another dead end.

Still, I bleed.  Unresolved.  It’s slowly driving me crazy.  And isn’t that the worst way to go?

White. flag. waved.

 

Summer Blog Break

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Hello, blog friends!  Today I realized that it’s been a whole month since I last posted on here.  Aaaaand, let’s be real: it’s summer. the weather’s great. the sunshine is currently slaughtering months’ worth of Seasonal Affective Disorder’s influence on my brain. I’m outside doing things every day.  Bemoaning Blogging about fertility stuff just isn’t on my radar.  I’ve completely dropped off posting (although not stalking… never stop stalking) my other social media feeds.  So it’s fitting that I take a break from the blogosphere as well.

Besides, I really have nothing new going on in Fertility Land.  Jake and I just had our 7-year TTC anniversary—or whatever you want to term it—last month.   We’re currently in negotiations about doing another stim cycle.  “Negotiations” essentially involve me convincing Jake to agree to another IVF.  Buuuut, we’re also in the process of preparing to buy a new house, so I kind of have to decide if I want a house or a baby more at the moment.  It’s a tough call because both would be stellar, but neither are free.  Well, baby making should be free…

Anyway, unless something radically awesome (or awful) related to fertility/infertility happens in the next eight-ish weeks, I’ve decided to step away from this space til after Labor Day.

Cheers to sunshine, flip-flops, and (vegetarian) BBQs!

 

 

Clearblue Fertility Monitor Review

As promised, here’s the skinny after wrapping up my first cycle of using my new (well, new-to-me) Clearblue Fertility Monitor.


Background

A fertility monitor is more advanced than ovulation prediction kits.  A FM measures and compares both luteinizing hormone and estrogen, as opposed to strictly an LH surge. The FM is also more sensitive and accurate.  And, a bonus for me—there’s no test/control lines to squint and analyze. Huzzah!

Using a fertility monitor is easy enough (although I still recommend reading the entire instruction booklet. Considering the financial investment of the monitor, you’d better believe I read that booklet cover to cover!).  You simply power the monitor on first thing every morning of your cycle to determine two things: 1. Whether the FM wants to be fed a test stick; and 2. Whether your personal fertility chances that day are low, medium, or high.  You POAS (must be FMU), insert the cleanly capped stick into the FM, and wait five minutes.  The display then shows one of the following:

  • 1 bar = low fertility.
  • 2 bars = medium fertility.
  • 3 bars = high (“peak”) fertility, replete with a pic of a tiny egg.

If your cycle ends in a BFN, pressing the monitor’s only button (aside from the power button), tells it that a new menstrual cycle has begun, and the whole process repeats.


First Use

A FM learns your individual cycle over time. I hope this means that it requires less test sticks over time too, because I went through ten of those suckers this cycle alone ($)!

After receiving my monitor in the mail and giving it a thorough cleaning, I reset its internal computer, which you should do when buying a used one.  A reset means it knew nothing about my cycles, and we started out our very intimate relationship as strangers.  The FM asked for its first test stick on CD6 and required daily testing until it was finally satisfied on CD16.

The FM provides not one but two days of high or “peak” fertility. Unlike OPKs, the positive window for the first peak day lasts 24 – 36 hours (as opposed to 12 – 48 hours for OPKs).  I liked this narrower window because it really helped me to pinpoint the exact day I was the most fertile.


Convenience

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The actual fertility monitor. 

Clearblue’s fertility monitor is palm-sized and discreet.  There’s no wording or other markings on the monitor itself that could give away its function to someone who stumbles upon it.  This makes me feel comfortable traveling with it or leaving it in the cabinet when guests use my home restroom.  However, I have an older model; the newer monitor pics I found online look very different than my monitor, pictured above.  The monitor could also easily slip into my pants pocket or purse, if needed.

And, as mentioned above, the most convenient part is not having to interpret test lines!


Fertility Monitor vs. Ovulation Prediction Kit

Eventually, I may reach to the place where I replace my OPKs with the FM.  That said, I took no chances and still used Wondfo OPKs my first cycle.

I began OPK testing on CD10 and received a positive on CD11.  Conversely, the monitor begin testing on CD6 and gave me the first of two positives on CD12. Clearly, one was wrong.  But which?  I wonder—absent blood tests and a few dates with an RE—how to know.  I wish I’d bought this monitor during my days of visiting infertility docs, as it would’ve been handy to know which test was right!  One day’s difference might not sound like a big deal to an outsider, but, since the ovulated egg is only solidly good for twelve hours, that one day can make or break a cycle.

To be safe—and much to Jake’s delight—-we took no chances and TTC’ed on CD9, 10, 11, 12, 14, and 15.


Consensus

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Clearblue advises that you not interpret your results based on the test lines.  But I still do anyway, because I’m fanatic like that. 

Being that I’m gearing up for cycle number two, the monitor failed in that I didn’t get pregnant.  It’s not entirely the monitor’s fault though: all it can do is advise me the best day to have sex.  It’s no miracle worker.

I completely forgot to reset my monitor on CD1 this month, mostly because I stowed the thing away weeks ago and am not yet in the habit of resetting it monthly.  However, if you’re forgetful like me, there’s a way to override the FM’s computer and catch it up to your current cycle day.  Good work, Clearblue, for making an option ‘B’ for women like me who space out on these kinds of things!

VERDICT:  I think I’ll keep using the monitor for the next few months.  When/if I: (a) stop TTC, (b) get tired of buying test sticks, or (c) get pregnant, I’ll either resell it online or give it away.

Overall rating: A.

When Does Endo End?

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I hate endometriosis.

I’m writing this post at the end of an exceptionally bad cycle.  Except this cycle, and the one before it—and the one before that—were all exceptionally bad.  Worse, in fact, than the usual degree of bad.  Something is wrong in my body, specifically my uterus and hormones, I know it in my heart and I know it in the symptoms that manifest.  Yet every doctor I visit does nothing but send me on my way with words of regret that there’s nothing they can do.

What constitutes a cycle being “bad” are my ovarian pain levels, the number of days of irregular bleeding, and the amount of cramping.  This cycle I began bleeding 4DPO, or CD17.  Last cycle I began bleeding 2DPO, or CD15.  I bleed daily throughout the remainder of my cycle.  Then I get my period, which is a different kind of bleeding.  Finally, the bleeding ends.  But the ovarian pain?  It doesn’t end.  Ever… never.  EVER.  After a new cycle, the cramps resume at ovulation and I continue cramping the rest of my cycle until approximately CD2.  Irregular bleeding has been going on for two years now.  Ovarian pain has been nonstop for more than six.

All of these factors cause Jake and my love life to take a serious nosedive.  We’re fortunate if we can have sex ten days out of any given cycle.  Once the bleeding and pain begin, we have to kiss sex goodbye.  I hate that not only can I not provide him children, I also have to deprive him in this way.  It’s not fair that this affects him too.  My feelings of failure mount.

The level to which endometriosis is beginning to affect new aspects of my life is causing me emotional pain.  I feel defeated and hopeless more often than not.  I find myself retreating inwardly in ways I can’t describe.  Normally I can tough it out.  But I’m getting beat here: beat by this disease, beat by this pain, and beat by the knowledge that I have no control over any of it.  The white flag of surrender is so close; it’d be so easy to wave it and cry uncle.

I feel desperate for relief.  I’m endlessly seeking a reprieve, but it’s elusive.  Pain meds work only for the short term.  A hysterectomy is not an actual solution.  Docs tout hysterectomy as a “fix” only because the the almighty dollar reigns.  Birth control pills for someone who’s TTC is the most laughable solution I’ve heard.  (As an aside, why on earth would I feed my body estrogen [BCP] to help tame a disease that feeds off of estrogen?)  There is no answer to endo, and it angers and frustrates me to the point where I could scream.  I feel like I’m shaking my fist against the wind, one tiny sliver of resistance among a storm of catastrophic proportions.

The struggle is wearying.  Slowly, systematically I’m wearing down.  Yes, things could be worse, much worse; I’m aware of that.  But just because the struggle I’m facing isn’t as grievous as it could be doesn’t mean it’s still not a real struggle.  I cry because I just want the pain to end, the bleeding to end, and—sometimes—even the TTC to end.

The Lord knows that I’ve prayed for healing.  I’ve gone to healing rooms for prayer and to the alter at church services to receive prayer from others.  I’ve believed, stood firm when it seemed bleak.  Yet I also know that I live in a human body that’s subject to aches and pains and problems.  Faith isn’t a magic cure-all to make our ills disappear.  Faith doesn’t make the daily reality of pain and the symptoms any less real.  I wish I knew where the balances lies in my beliefs vs. the medial decisions I have to make.

Even though I know it’s not a cure, I find myself tentatively navigating the waters of having a hysterectomy.  The prospect of no more ovary to hurt and no more uterus to cramp and bleed is like a ray of sunshine in an otherwise gray sky.  Long-term hormone replacement therapy, increased cancer and dementia risks, and loss of libido aren’t thrilling prospects.  But I wonder if they’d be outweighed by the years of pain and bleeding relief I’d find in between.  I can’t believe I’ve reached this point, because I’ve always been so anti-hysterectomy.  But anymore I find myself slowly drawn to the idea.

Of course hysterectomy = no baby.  I guess I have to keep holding out for that.  For awhile at least.

Sorry for the negative post today, but I just have to be real.

 

 

 

Circle + Bloom Giveaway

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Nearly three years ago I purchased Circle + Bloom’s IVF/IU Mind-Body Program meditation set, which is a 4-CD set of meditations for women going through ART.  As it turns out, C+B accidentally included two disc “1’s” in my order.  When I wrote to notify the company of the error, C+B generously sent me another full CD set as a replacement—not just a replacement disk, but the entire set!

Now I have two (well, 1.75) once-used C+B sets collecting dust on my bookshelf.  Since I spent good money on them—and since I now regret my very secular purchase of something I disagree with on a spiritual level (meditation)—it’s time to re-home these babies.

Which brings me to this post.  I’m going to give away both sets to two people who can use them.  Each set is valued at $59USD.  Now, I haven’t opened the disk cases in quite awhile, so I can’t say for certain who will get the set with two disc-ones, but, hey—it’s free!  All I ask is that you are someone who currently follows my blog or I follow yours.  If you blog anonymously and enter the giveaway, I promise promise promise not to reveal your identity EVER.  Because #1 that’s totally uncool, and #2: then you’ll know my identity too—leverage!

So, hey: If you’re down for possibly scoring a free C+B meditation set, submit the form below.  I’ll draw two random winners on June 1, 2018 and mail the set to you.

Peace.

 

Opting Out of M- Day

It’s fast approaching. That day of the year. The one that fills me with a special kind of pain: Mother’s Day.

Reminders of MD are unavoidable, as everywhere I turn advertisements oh-so-helpfully remind me of its impending arrival: “Don’t forget mom!”, “The perfect gift!”, “She’s worth it!”   It’s epidemic.

All my life, MD has been the one day that I yearly want to kick in the nuts.  See, I never knew my mother.  And the person who later became my so-called stepmother managed to scar my psyche in myriad ways against the concept of mothering…  but that’s entirely too much crap to cram into a blog post.  Toss in six-plus years of infertility and three miscarriages and here’s the result.

This is only pain talking.  Deep pain.  Real pain, not to be mistaken with bitterness.  Just sayin.

The last several years I purposely avoided church on MD.  Then last year on MD—fueled by some unexpected bout of starry-eyed over-enthusiasm—I attempted to attend church.  I lasted exactly ten minutes, congratulating myself on my valiant strength in the face of adversity all the while.  That is, until I encountered a fellow parishioner who’s five years younger than me and has four children.  Wearing matching mommy-and-me dresses, she and her youngest toddler paraded through the church hallway holding hands, smiling, and basking in compliments on how adorable their matching garb was.  Yep: that was the catalyst.  Jake and I ducked out before service even began.

I won’t make that mistake again.  This year I’ll resume skipping church; avoid restaurants; stay away from the grocery store; flee Facebook like the plague.  Instead, I’ll hang at home with Jake, Puppy, Netflix, and a pint of almondmilk ice cream.  Maybe even pop a painkiller, because this is the third consecutive year that I’ve had my period and monster cramps on MD weekend.  *insert extra gut punch*

Sometimes you just need to protect your heart.

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