Archive | July, 2011

Interrupting the narrative

27 Jul

Stories about healing are usually quite linear. Each day is supposed to get better and lighter. Distance is supposed to make things easier. We are supposed to pull ourselves out of sadness and dust ourselves off and move on. A co-worker actually said, “chin up” to me yesterday. As if this pain is something to be ashamed of.

I really have no idea when I am going to be okay. I don’t know how long it will take to get over the realization that I am not pregnant and I may never be. We will try again, but we will do so with a heavy heart. I can’t imagine it getting much heavier than this.

Embodied healing

26 Jul

After leaving a damaging relationship in my 20s, I learned that healing takes time and needs space to both take you over and dissipate. The crying still comes in waves, but they are smaller waves. More like weeping than sobbing. A feeling of sadness and regret lingers now that I’ve moved past the anxiety and intense grief.

One of the hardest parts about this process so far is the constant feeling of being a patient and a subject, rather than an autonomous and powerful person. IVF forces you to put a lot of faith in doctors, scientists, alternative health care practitioners and other so-called experts. Sometimes they give you contradictory advice. I got a lot of ambiguous information about how much I was allowed to exercise throughout this process. I erred on the side of caution and it made me miserable. I sunk into a low-level depression as I became more and more sedentary. I stopped trusting my ability to judge my own limits. I trusted doctors instead of listening to my body.

The real mourning process began for me last week, much before a blood test confirmed the worst. I knew that the somewhat ambiguous cramps I was experiencing had moved into menstrual territory. I could feel when my hormones shifted. I knew that everything wasn’t okay. My sense of dread and panic was palpable and it was prescient.

I went to the gym for the first time in weeks last night and it was a revelation. I certainly felt like I was out of shape when I was running on the treadmill — like jogging through gelatin. But it felt good to lift heavy weights and challenge my body to do something productive, rather than just lying there, monitoring symptoms and fearing the worst.

I need to reclaim my body as beautiful, strong, physically capable and valuable. I have spent too long hating it for what it isn’t doing for me. If the journey toward parenthood is going to be a long one, I need to transform my relationship with my body into a functional partnership. We’ve been in conflict for too long and it’s cramping my style.

It’s over

25 Jul

Second blood test shows that my HCG dropped from 41 to 22. Progesterone is also really low. I am definitely not pregnant. They scheduled follow-up blood work for next week, to make sure the HCG continues to drop down to normal levels. If it shoots up again, it would be a sign of an ectopic pregnancy. We meet with our doctor in two weeks to talk about what happened and figure out where to go from here.

Despite my latest propensity to dissolve into weeping at the sight of any child or anything that reminds me of our latest predicament, I have been genuinely touched by the kindness of our dear friends. A sweet friend from Toronto sent us flowers on Friday. Two visiting house guests spent hours over the weekend patiently listening to my tale of woe, interspersed with hugs and compassionate words. Another friend bicycled over with her daughter to drop off flowers and pastries. It’s like someone died. Actually it is like someone died. I don’t feel like I’ve ever cried this much in my life. The mourning period is cathartic and it has brought some clarity. But the tears keep coming in waves.

It has helped to get some perspective. Reading other lesbian baby blogs and seeing that other couples have taken a long time to get pregnant really helps. Hearing stories of friends-of-friends who spent two years trying to conceive and now have happy families helps. But my wife and I are just stunned and very, very tired at this point. We will try again. We will also look into the possibility of adoption. But it all feels very heavy and overwhelming right now.

Results

22 Jul

I have been spotting on and off for the last couple of days, so I moved my beta to yesterday. I just got the results. Looks like it’s a chemical or ectopic pregnancy. HCG level was 41, but progesterone was only 15. They instructed me to stop all of my medications and go for more blood work on Monday. My cramps have gotten stronger, so I am assuming that I will get my period full-on over the weekend. Apparently there is a tiny chance that things could improve. We won’t know till Monday.

These strange results seem to confirm my strange symptoms — breasts swollen, indigestion and constipation at the same time as cramping and spotting.

In some ways, this result is somewhat encouraging to me. At least my body tried to get pregnant. I just did a pee test and saw two lines for the first time ever. This is not the result I wanted, but I guess it gives me a tiny shred of hope that this may work next time.

A long road

21 Jul

I think what saddens me the most is that this is going to take a very long time. This prolonged period of hopefulness, followed by doubt, anxiety and profound grief is going to repeat itself for an indefinite period of time.

We will probably try IVF one more time. Maybe two. If that doesn’t work, we will consider both private and public adoption. But none of those processes are easy, quick or morally neutral. I keep going back to read the comments on this thread on Metafilter. The original article that people are commenting on (“The Age of Mechanical Reproduction”) is a poignant description of the IVF process, from the perspective of a husband who is watching his wife suffer so badly. The comments that follow in the Metafilter thread are breathtakingly sad as they explore the heartbreak of failed infertility treatments and the major risks and ethical dilemmas associated with adoption. All of these processes take time and money. They are all risky and prone to failure. It’s hard to know when to stop, when to change gears and when to take a break.

My wife and I cried for hours last night. Each time we start another attempt to get pregnant, I can’t help but project forward to what it may be like nine months later. And each time it fails, I feel like I am mourning the soul of an imaginary child that will never get to enter this world. My closest friend got pregnant on the first try and then suffered a devastating miscarriage at 12 weeks. She is now 25 weeks pregnant and thriving. Every time I think I may actually get pregnant, I think about how I will have to temper my joy. Pregnancy is such a risky and fraught process. That’s why I want to at least begin the process, understanding that anything could happen from there onward.

I moved my blood test to this afternoon, so I will get the results by the end of the day. I am taking today and tomorrow to grieve and try to move on. We have a good friend coming to town to visit with us this weekend. I think the distraction will be good for us.

Is my sadness anti-feminist?

20 Jul

I know that the title of this post may seem absurd. But in the depths of my sadness I have been reflecting on this question for the last couple of days. This week, I found out that I received stellar comments on my Major Research Paper for my MA in Women’s Studies. I continue to be well-respected at work amongst colleagues who are decades older than me. Even though my prominence in the queer community has diminished since I stopped writing a column and dropped out of sight to do grad school, I know that my work and my voice are well regarded in the activist community. I have spent years as an activist, writer and academic attempting to denaturalize categories of gender and to make women feel less shitty about themselves. I talk the talk about fat activism, queer notions of extended family and alternative ways of living in relationships.

But in the meantime, I am totally gutted about the fact that I can’t seem to get pregnant and I feel terrible about the weight I’ve gained over the last year of intense school work, full-time paid work and ever-escalating fertility treatments. Yep, this feminist feels inadequate because I am overweight and can’t get pregnant. It feels almost foolish to write it down, but it’s the truth.

We went to a lovely baby shower for a couple of dykes last night. They are expecting a little one in September. We became friends a year ago when we all started trying to conceive. They succeeded. We did not. And the reality is that it’s going to take a long time to build our family. We will likely try IVF one more time. And if that doesn’t work, we will be thousands of dollars in debt and contemplating our next move. I am not opposed to adoption, but it is another long and drawn-out process fraught with potentially devastating emotional challenges. It also will require me to come to terms with the fact that I am not likely to give birth to a child or raise a baby from infancy. This is something that never occurred to me. Infertility is rarely discussed in the general public, forget the queer community.

I guess I need to learn to accept that the family I so desperately want will likely not be the one that I get. But I know we will build a family somehow. I have never been good at patience.

I think I’m out

18 Jul

I spent the better part of yesterday sobbing — even though it was my one-year anniversary with my sweet wife. My ambiguous cramps have turned to unmistakable menstrual cramps. I did a pee test yesterday (10 days post 2-day transfer) and it was negative. I know that it’s still early and that early pregnancy can mimic the symptoms of PMS. But I feel instinctively that it didn’t take. I am so deeply sad about this. My official blood test isn’t until Friday and it will be hard to wait. I have a baby shower to go to tomorrow, but I really don’t think I can face it.

When we started the process of trying to conceive a year ago, I had no idea it would be so hard or so painful. I don’t know how much more of this I can take. I feel really fragile and transparent today. Just trying to take deep breaths and make it through.