Friday, July 9, 2010

Another loss

I have been pregnant for about 9 weeks. I found out on Wednesday that the baby stopped developing and died. There had been a good strong heatbeat at 7 weeks but when I went back this Wednesday which was 9 weeks, the heartbeat was gone and the fetus has stopped developing. Today I have to have a a D&E, a termination procedure so that I can miscarry safely. My friends here are taking good care of me. I am finally learning to ask for and let others help me when I need them. It is hard to allow them to take care of me but it is comforting too.

I feel angry and broken and too sad for words. I had just started to let myself believe in this pregnancy. Passing the 7 week mark, seeing a heartbeat. I feel like someone has beaten me up except I don't have the broken bones and bruises to show for it. I wish I had the outward signs of how broken I feel. I am terrified of the procedure today with doctors I don't know. They don't even put you fully to sleep just enough to make you groggy and comfortable - haha. My doctor said you can hear them talking through the procedure. I don't want that. Maybe I'll bring my ipod so I can listen to something else calming instead. I don't know if they will let me. I'm afraid I will have an anxiety attack in the clinic. In the procedure room.

I'm afraid I will never have this baby. I'm afraid all my eggs are rotten now because I waited too long. I feel like God is teaching me a lesson but I don't know what it is supposed to be. I don't know how I will be able to move forward with hope next time. But I'm not ready to stop. I truly believe - need to believe - that I am meant to carry and give birth to my child but I feel too broken and scared and I'm running out to time to heal again before trying another time. I just want everything to stop for a bit. I just want to go back four weeks to when it was still good. I just want it to be different.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Of joy and loss

As I write this post my body is shedding the last of the tissue that built up over the five weeks that I was pregnant. When the nurse called to tell me the news that my pregnancy test was positive, I was in shock. I had totally convinced myself that the test would be negative. I had even spent the better part of the weekend mourning another lost cycle. I made the nurse repeat the numbers and the results three times.

This was a frozen cycle - to transfer the one embryo that had been frozen since my first IVF cycle back in March. The good news began when they called to let me know that the embryo had survived the thawing process. Really the good news began when I made the decision to share my cycle with my close friend and to ask for what I needed - support transforming what would be a very clinical procedure into a sacred and spiritual experience. I made a choice that I wanted this cycle to be different and it was. I put out what I wanted and people both friends and strangers showed up. And it was a beautiful spiritual experience.

And then I was really pregnant - the embryo found a home and began to grow. The numbers were jumping up and up just like they are supposed to do. When you go through IVF they monitor your numbers every two days. But then the spotting started and I had to go out of town. I decided not to worry. Then at the next blood test the numbers stop going up the way they are supposed to. And the fear began. There was a small chance that things would right themselves but they didn't. So the monitoring turned from an excited waiting until the first ultrasound and heartbeat to an anxious waiting for the numbers to start going down so that we could rule out an ectopic pregnancy that would have required either medical or surgical treatment. Tuesday night the bleeding and cramping began. I chose not to take pain medication because I wanted to be present to the loss. I was exhausted and sad and overwhelmed and I wanted to feel all of it.

And now as the last of my lining is shedding and the overwhelming sadness is passing, I am able to find the things I am grateful for and the things I have gained through this cycle. I am grateful to learn that I can get pregnant. I had reached a point even though I had only been trying for a year where I wasn't sure how much longer I could continue trying without some success. And though it ended in a miscarriage, it was still a success in some important ways. And I am grateful that my body was able to recognize when the pregnancy was failing or the embryo was too damaged to thrive and it was able to shed the cells by itself and begin to renew. I am grateful for all the love and care that the universe has provided for me. I am grateful for the way my heart has been opening up to let others contribute to me and support and hold me. And I am so grateful for the strength and confidence this experience has given me to continue moving forward in my pursuit of motherhood.

So now I am taking the time to let my body finish shedding the cells meant to support a pregnancy and build itself back up. I am going to rest and figure out my next step and continue to open myself up to the love that there is for me to give and receive.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Embracing the New Year.

Tomorrow in synagogues all around the world we will read the stories of infertility reprieved - twice. For the past five or more years, I have chanted the story of Hannah - the barren woman who prayed with all her heart and soul to be granted a child so she could demonstrated her love of God by raising the child to serve the Divine. Her story is a parallel to the story of Sarah - wife of Abraham and mother of Isaac. Both women wanted a child to express their love and to fulfill their destinies and both had their wombs closed. Both women were tortured by the fertility of the other women in their families - Sarah by Hagar her maid and surrogate - and Hannah by Penina her cowife.

I've been thinking about whether or not there is a Hagar or Penina in my life. Certainly in the past year, many friends have gotten pregnant and given birth. And as the year moved forward and more and more women I knew were achieving their dreams while mine ended in blood and tears each month, I felt jealousy, anger, frustration with God, with my body, with myself. And yet, I was also happy for them, for the miracle of their stories and the continued proof that women my age and older were conceiving and giving birth. Certainly, I have not been actively taunted by these women as Hannah was - but then I think that perhaps it is part of the perception. Clearly the text says that Penina taunted Hannah - but we don't know the content of those taunts. Perhaps the taunt was simply that each year Penina's easy fertility felt like a taunt, a barb, a showing off to the infertile Hannah. I have had moments over the past 16 months of feeling that another's fertility - hard won or easy - was a personal affront. Rationally I knew that was not the case but Rationality is rarely present when emotions are high. Yet as the months passed the feeling of personal affront, of some kind of divine Judgement of me, eased. The personal feeling of loss that comes up each time I hear of another pregnant friend or relative hasn't dissipated completely. I'm not sure that it will until/unless I am able to conceive, carry to term and give birth to a healthy child of my own, but I am now able to separate it from the true joy I feel for others. I have taken up a practice of silently wishing good health and an easy time to every pregnant woman I see. Offering my own silent blessing to strangers and friends alike reminds me of the miracle that it is and that is available.

The stories of Sarah and Hannah are both a source of prayer, inspiration, hope and pain for me. Especially the last few years, as I come to the holiday still childless and unsure what this new year will hold for me. This year I am at the beginning of a new cycle. It feels somehow appropriate as though all my cycles, spiritual, reproductive, emotional are aligning. I realized this morning as I pushed against what felt like a huge weight just to get out of bed that I am anxious about starting this new year. That for me holiday means family and loved ones and it is a painful experience as the new families are called to the Torah that I am still just a witness.

I have worked hard over the past year to release myself from feelings that I have been abandoned by God, that my lack of a partner or a child is somehow punishment for something I had done to offend. But, I have realized that in fact, I have had a large role in creating my life as it is which means that I also have the power to create a life that is more reflective of my soul. That I can be more open to the love that is and continue to take risks - perhaps even more - that I might get what I want. Which doesn't mean I ignore the sadness - the feelings of loss that come up for me as these holidays approach and I am once again shredded by the gap between what is so and what I wish, want to be. But I think perhaps this year if I can really give myself the gift of feeling all the emotions of love, sadness, fear, hope, desire, joy, strength, weakness and inspiration then I can enter this new year more truly connect to myself, my core, my soul and thus God and everything. More connected which is something that can only be good.

Shana Tova

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Yes, No, Maybe, I don't know

I'm on vacation this week. I decided to repeat what was a lovely vacation at the beach last year the week after labor day. It was a great weekend with friends but the weather has now turned colder and over cast. So instead of being on the beach and playing in the surf or kayaking in the bay, I am sitting in the condo writing and musing.

Yesterday, the man I just began dating came to visit for the day. He drove the 3+ hours each way to spend the afternoon with me so we could see each other and talk. It was great that he came and it made me recognize how much he wants this to work. We talked about a lot of things - about what each of us sees as possible or wants. I stated what I needed from him to try to make this work with the parameters. I've spent so much of the past five years shut off or only superficially opening myself to the possibility of relationship. I know that taking the risk is the only way to figure out if something is what you want. There is a part of me saying no - disappointed but recognizing that what we want for ourselves may be too different and it would take too much compromise on both sides for it to be compatible. His lifestyle is different from what I have envisioned for myself. But then I also think that some of this NO is coming from my old friend FEAR. It's about cutting my losses early so I won't get hurt in the end. It's about being more comfortable with the hurt I know of disappointment and loneliness than the risk of some future heartache or even bliss. It's the addiction to predictability that has me wanting to run.

Fortunately it's countered by the YES - that isn't as much about M and the possibility of a future together as it is about me wanting to take action in service of my desire to find a life partner. It is a yes to the possibility and reality of love in my life that is real rather than the fantasy I have created of what that is or will look like. I went to see "500 Days of Summer" with a friend the other day. I enjoyed the back and forth of the film. Towards the end there are mock interviews with his friends and boss about finding love. His best friend says his wife isn't necessarily the girl of his dreams. That the girl of his dreams would be taller, more into sports, and have bigger breasts. but then the character say, "She's better than the girl of my dreams. She's real." I've spent so much of my life rejecting some and pursuing others because of the man of my dreams that I've wound up single at 40. And now that I know this and can see the patterns, I want to change. Exploring things with M - wherever that leads - will bring me one step closer.

So I feel like I am finally embracing the land of I don't know and learning to live here with confidence that I will know what I need to know when I need to know it and that the key is to honor and listen to my feelings and then share them with M and others so I can keep moving forward. It's not unlike the fertility stuff. I can hold out a vision of what I want and desire - a child to be a parent to be blessed with the gift of carrying and giving birth to that child myself - but there are no guarantees that is only taking each step of the journey, each small or big risk along the way and then evaluating where I get to next and how I feel about it. It's a really uncomfortable place to be but perhaps discomfort is part of the bargin of being human and living.

Diagnosis and the single factor

Once it became apparent that I wasn't getting pregnant easily, I began to wonder about the single factor. How much of the challenge I am facing is that I'm single. Even before I started trying, but once I was 30, I began to wonder if the fact that I hadn't ever gotten pregnant despite the more than I'd care to share # of times I'd had unprotected sex. (Yes, I count my lucky whatever that I am also disease free given my at times totally irresponsible behavior.) Certainly in my early twenties there were a few scares but no unplanned conceptions- funny how age and perspective shift can change your evaluation of something.

Here I am 15 some odd years later and every missed cycle or unsuccessful attempt has me wondering if I've always had some underlying issues or if the biggest challenge is that I'm single and trying to get pregnant using frozen donor sperm. When I first started, I was sure that I'd have no trouble and would be pregnant after only a few tries. I went full force forward into doing two IUI's - no drugs - per cycle the first two cycles. After neither of those cycles worked, I dialed back to one IUI per month till I used up the six vials of my original purchase. For those of you using known donors or married to a fertile partner - the cost of one vial of frozen donor sperm not including shipping averages between $400 and $600. If you want to use a donor who is willing to be known - i.e. a child you conceive with that sperm can contact the man at age 18 and the bank will continuously send you health/lifestyle information - it is usually $100 more than other vials. Granted in the grand scheme of having a raising a child, a few $100 more seems like nothing.

I began this post more than 6 months ago. I had just met with the RE I have been working with for the past eight months. She diagnosed me with Endometriosis and petitioned to move straight pasted hormone stimulated IUI to IVF. Her reasoning was both that I am working with frozen sperm and that the hormones can make the endo worse so IVF is a better option. My hormone levels are all still very good - though the more I learn the more I realize that FSH and LH and TSH etc are only vague indicators and the quality of the eggs is more the issue. So we proceeded blithely ahead with the first round of IVF - okay not blithely but I certainly knew less than I do now. The hormone shots and the testing was stressful but not terrible. The waiting and the expectation followed by the spotting and the definitive negative pregnancy test were devastating. I wasn't sure I could continue. I just felt so sad and cosmically punished.

In my post on Hannah, Sarah and Infertility in the Torah I muse on the fact that fertility seems to be something the divine bestows on the foremothers after long bouts of not being able to conceive. If fertility is a gift that the divine bestows then what of infertility? Is it about learning patience and the lesson of not having control? Is it about a need to develop a strong love for life independent of children? I have for the most part moved beyond seeing it as punishment. Certainly in the Torah divine punishment is much more actively dealt out. It is not so much the lack of things as the destruction or threat of destruction. Perhaps it is simply indifference. There are thousands who struggle with fertility issues today and no doubt there were back in the ancient world as well. Sarah and Hannah had their wombs opened but the text is fairly silent on the whys of either the opening or the closing. As an older woman I try to see those texts as hopeful prayers and examples that anything is possible.

Of course Sarah and Hannah were in loving relationships with their male partners. So how much is the singleness a factor for me. Recently, I've begun dating someone. He is far away and has a child from a previous marriage. The relationship is very new and I haven't any idea where it is going or what I want from it. Nonetheless, it had me thinking about what I do want - a family with a partner. It has me thinking about how much I want the whole package. He knows I am trying to get pregnant and is very supportive. Though neither of us is ready to try to conceive a child together - the thought has crossed my mind to want to try if my cycle and our visits coincided. All the work I've done over the past year with my leadership development program, the healers I've been seeing has seemed if nothing else to strengthen my system and make my regular cycles even more so. (So much so that my first attempt at doing a frozen embryo transfer with the one remaining embryo from my failed IVF was canceled because despite being in low dose estrogen which is meant to suppress ovulation - I ovulated anyway.) It makes me wonder if M and I were in a place to be trying regularly without assistance if I might be able to conceive that way now. His one son was conceived when he was already 38. Of course it is all conjecture because we're not in a position to pursue that and I am not waiting until we are. I am grateful that he is supportive of me trying the way I am with donor sperm. Still I can't help but wonder. So I guess for now the singleness factor of my fertility challenges will remain unknown - like much of my other issues. And as I approach this new Jewish year and look back on where I missed the mark and what I want to change, I know that I'm trying to let go of the need to know and to embrace the idea that my fertility challenges are anything other than a combination of factors none of which have anything to do with judgment or who I am. I am moving forward with the idea that anything is possible and that single or not this is my path to travel.

I began this post as a bit of a rant - about how being single might be the biggest single factor in my fertility challenges and about the cost of donor sperm. I don't have any more answers than I did. I have found my way to a place of more calm and self-love but the cost factor and the questions don't go away. I had said that in the grant scheme of raising a child and having a family the $500 or $600 or even $1000 for the purchase and shipping of donor sperm is really nothing. Even when I add to it the cost of medication and treatment - and I am blessed to live in the only state that requires health insurers to provide fertility benefits - it is still minor compared to putting a child through college or raising a child just to get there in the first place. It's nothing.

Though of course it isn't nothing; it's the price of hope and desire. If I knew there would be a child at the end of it, I would gladly spend as much as I could but of course that's the thing about hope and desire - there are no guarantees just the willingness to take the risk with the knowledge that hopefully whatever happens I will be okay.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

I am everyone - in my dreams

On and off yesterday, I had this nagging feeling that despite working hard and getting to a good place that nothing was really different. I finished the three courses that make up the foundation of a transformational learning and leadership program. I created two projects, one of which was to organize the people on my street in JP to have their first block party ever. And I've connected with dozens of people around the issue of fertility and the struggle to find peace in the pursuit of parenthood in a world where Kate(mother of 8 through fertility treatments) and Nadya (the "octomom") are pitted against one another for the public to judge and ridicule. I've learned to let go of disappointment and regret more easily.

And yet, I found myself with no plans yesterday and running errands and then sitting on my couch listening to NPR on a hot but beautiful day because I had no one to spend it with and these days the dog is too weak for me to have her as my walking/hiking companion. And I had this nagging feeling that I am really the same. But I pushed it away - calling friends who needed help moving and going to see a moving with one of them after we'd finished.

Still when I got home at 10 pm, instead of going to bed I watched more than an hour of a DVD of shorts. Perhaps it was the final story of a dysfunctional family yelling at one another that I was watching as I was falling asleep or the very violent film that filled me with anger that we had seen, or perhaps they were both combined with the nagging feeling I'd had all day - but this morning I woke from a dream in which I was being evaluated along with a close friend by someone who was a gate keeper you might say to the next level of courses or growth in the center where I had taken my leadership and self expression course. My friend and I answered questions - most of which I don't remember - and then the "instructor" told us whether we were ready or not to move on. My friend went first and was passed. Then it was my turn and I was told that I was not ready. The dream me - exploded with rage - not anger but rage. I chased the woman around the room screaming at her that she didn't know what she was talking about begging her to see all the change but of course even as I did it some part of the dream me - or perhaps through the consciousness of my friend - knew that of course by reacting with so much rage and violent anger I had in fact proven the point of the instructor. The rest of the dream is me rushing angrily out of the center; having the "friend" tell me that from what she saw I hadn't really fully opened up or shared in my class honestly and that what I shared was only the surface; and then finding my teacher and having him placate me as my awareness of failure rose.

And then I woke up stunned and full of residual dream sadness, turmoil and a sense of being on the brink of failure. I lay there for a few minutes thinking about the dream and about the emotions and remembering something that a therapist told me about one philosophy of dream interpretation. That you are everyone in your dreams. Which of course makes some sense since I am in the consciousness of all the characters. So if I am everyone in my dream that clearly that nagging feeling I had all day was a voice I need to listen to and since I couldn't or wouldn't look at and listen to it while I was awake - my inner self - my soul or the part of me that wants and knows what is my highest and best - figured out how to yell or shout at me to literally wake me up. So here I am now awake and recognizing how I was/have been slipping into old patterns and habits and feelings of loss and fear. Not seizing the day or making plans to create a day or life full of the meaning I want - living life powerfully and living a life that I love - (which was/is the promise of the courses I took).

What do I do with that knowledge? A list I subscribed to recently asked us to look at what we believe is missing from our lives and one things we wish we had. Are they the same? If we look carefully do we find that the having of that thing will make us truly happy - or fill the thing that is missing. The question of course resonated with the philosophy of the course I just finished - that I have the power to create my own life and to live it powerfully and fulfilled or not. It is my choice. If I were to answer the question honestly the answer to what is missing in my life is partnership - the opportunity to love and be loved by someone and share my life the highs and lows with someone else to have companionship and a shared future to imagine together. That is what is missing from my life. I suppose others might expect me to say a child - since I am trying to get pregnant. And yes that is something that I want. But more and more I have come to realize that while I am still committed to pursuing pregnancy and want that too - what I really want is family of my own. A partner and a child or two - a family to grow and learn and explore and share this crazy up and down life with. I don't really care how the family comes together - if the children are mine own or some combination of mine and his. I just want that - I want all the love and challenge and hardship and joy that I see around me that comes from that. That is what I see missing from my life the thing I want. So what am I doing to pursue it? Trying to get pregnant - half-heartedly putting myself in the dating game but then not really following through on emails. Riding the roller coaster of fertility and dating someone who lives more than 400 miles away. Trying to change my habits of eating and exercise to feel more powerful in my life. So I am doing something. But I also know that I still have so many "can't" messages in my head. Messages that stop me from acting powerfully to pursue what I tell myself and others that I want. Treating myself and my life as I have taught myself I should based on my past instead of creating the possibility of the future I want and living into that future powerfully.

I've disconnected the cable but I still have the TV and as in the past am able to find crap to watch just to distract me from the loneliness I feel. A step in the right direction but only half way. I swam a mile last weekend after not having been in a pool for over a year and reminded myself how much I love that form of exercise but I haven't made a plan to give myself the gift of swimming. And I've spoken to many people about the project I've created to collect stories from people who are or have dealt with fertility issues but I haven't done enough to follow up on collecting the stories - or revising the website or creating the graphics.

But I am here now writing and confronting and feeling my feelings and that is important. I am learning to take charge and call friends even last minute and not to feel left out if I don't have plans. I am recognizing the power I have to create the life I want. Which sometimes means learning to see what I do have as opportunity instead of lack. I'm getting much better at that - much better.

So I can see how I am everyone in my dreams
  • the teacher who told my dream self that I haven't fully enacted my newly found power
  • the friend who is both competition and a loving truth teller
  • the "dream self" who is full of rage at the others who are telling the truth
  • the teacher who consoles and reframes the issue
I am all those selves and now that I am awake again, I can see how to integrate with love and creativity all the different perspectives to grasp again at the power I know myself to have and use it to recommit to living my life powerfully and creating a life that I love. I know it is a challenge and this isn't a pollyanna moment of everything will be all right now - it is a moment of remembering that I am the only one who can create the life I want. I just have to act from love.

In this course, we use the language of possibility to express who we are. We choose a possibility or two or three that resonate with who we want or know ourselves to be and that is how we introduce ourselves in class. The possibilities I chose were - abundance, love and creativity. I am still trying them on and learning to see if they fit and what it means to live my life from the context of being those possibilities in life and in the world - not just for myself but for everyone. Wondering what it means to live life in the context of the possibility of abundance, love and creativity. I think I am learning what it means to live life from the possibility of love - of being love. I am trying on abundance in this time of scarcity and lack - learning to think of it not simply in terms of money and means but what if I lived my whole life - everything I want to create - from the context of abundance. And creativity - a wish more than a context - something I know myself to have but that I have shut down for so long that it is painful to exercise those atrophied muscles consistently and with confidence in relationship to the things I want.

So perhaps the dream, which was set in the context of the course I just finished, was a reminder of who I have chosen to be. A reminder to live my life from that context. That who I am in the possibility of abundance, love and creativity and what is possible what does life look like coming from that context?

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

I'm so happy for you

Monday as I was trying to get out of the office a friend with whom I have both personal and working relationship called. She clarified that she was calling for personal reasons and then said she had some news and that she wanted to share it with me but that she knew that it might be news that would be difficult for me to hear. At which point without her saying it I knew she was pregnant.

I wished her b'sha'a tova- the thing Israelis and other Hebrew speakers say to one another to congratulate and avoid tempting the evil eye. It means in a good hour - i.e. everything in its time. This is a friend who is three years older than me and gave birth to her first child at 40. Honestly I am happy for her. I know how much she wanted this and that unlike the first pregnancy when she conceived after the first IUI, this time she had more trouble.

Even though I expressed my happiness for her, she continued saying that she knows how hard its been for me and that she wanted to be careful of my feelings and that she still wants to be able to support me. I appreciated her support but I ironically, I found her worrying about me upsetting. I wanted her to be able to just be happy in her moment. I trust her and know that she will be supportive of me but I was also happy to let that moment be about her. It made me think that while sharing about my fertility issues has overall been liberating, it has clearly had an influence on how people see me or how they think I will react to their good news.

The fact is, I did cry a little after I got off the phone. I cried out of frustration and probably jealousy. I cried because I want to be truly happy and not have the joy of my friends be seen in contrast to my own challenges. It is still hard to be around. The photo of another friend's pregnant belly on her facebook page - as the new thumb-nail - or the announcement of another birth still gives me pause or pulls me up short sometimes. It isn't that I am not happy for them but despite my wanting it to not be so it is tinged for me with my own frustrated desires. But I guess I want my frustrated desires only to tinge my sense of things - not to spill over onto others. And yet I know and can see that her concern for me in that moment was truly an expression of love and care. One that perhaps missed the mark or maybe hit it square on and this is why it stung.