strangest moods i’ve ever lived…

Fuck aneuploidy. Really, truly, my eggs are a mess and apparently my uterus is all too happy to implant chromosomally abnormal embryos, or not. I don’t expect the Femara to get around this one very dire problem and perhaps I’ll suffer another devastating loss. My RE shrugged off IVF with PGS testing and went straight to donor eggs. Which I’d do in a second if my finances allowed. Eh, strike that. If I had they money and emotional stamina, I’d choose adoption because pregnancy after loss is a fucking nightmare. I think that since I am myself adopted, I don’t have as much attachment to my own genetics as other couples might.

My unicorn is named Scruffy and he’s currently taking a smoke break and has been for months. Occasionally I hear him wheezing in my ear: your golden egg is in there. Here, Scruffy, I brought you some malt liquor and we can lay in bed watching Raising Arizona and laughing our cynical asses off at the absurdity of my life. Cheers, mate.

I see my psychiatrist next week. My experience on Femara has been uncharted territory and I’m unable to ascertain the status of my mental illness when I’ve yet to have experienced the hormonal upheaval it wrought upon me. I’ve been sobbing all day but I don’t feel particularly sad other than the sudden bursts of despair that wash over me from time to time. My eyes are just crying. Eh, whatever. I have zero fucks left to give.

moods and memories 

Time slowly drips down the yellowed walls. Another day stretches out in front of me, ten days past my ovulation and waiting for my period to show. I’m not knocked up this cycle, believe me when I say I just know. I’ll start the Femara 3 days into my bleed, and I am terrified. 

I got an email from one of my oldest friends on my birthday, and just today sent my awkward reply. Mind you, this is the friend that just won $15 million on a fucking SCRATCH TICKET, so wtf do I write in response? I complimented her on her beautiful children (knife to the heart), and demurred when it came time to answer her question. So what’s going on with you? Well, girl, I wake up in the morning convinced that I’m waking up from a nightmarish gynecological surgery and silently screaming my baby! and I reach for my bbt thermometer so I can monitor my ovulation and then I think so should I even bother with peeing on a stick? and the weight of my existence crashes down and I know I’ll spend another day broken and probably won’t leave my house. My husband comes for a quick lunch and worry furrows his brow and even though he’s 47 years old I see an injured little boy trapped inside of him and all I can say is, I am so so sorry, my ovaries are fucked up and the house looks like a trashpit and all of it, it is all my fault. 

I think there will be better days ahead. The amount of time I may spend waiting to see Molly again scares me silly. What if I live another FORTY years? I remember before my termination there was this one night and I was laying on the bathroom floor of our shitty old apartment and Geoff came in to check on me and I was screaming, I want to go with her, I want to be with Molly! I think I broke his heart a little and that was the absolute worst I have ever felt in my life.

So, dear friend, you will not understand any of this so I will say I do a lot of writing and I pray for the better days but to be perfectly honest those good days won’t be quite as good as your good days (I’m so glad you had fun in Aruba!) and I kind of am not sure who I am praying to anyhow. Don’t worry, I am fine and no, I’m not planning to go back East anytime soon but if I do ever make it back to Boston I’ll totally call you right away. RPL has taken everything from me. Write back soon!

And I lie back on the couch and I cry and I cry.

fire

Maybe I’m supposed to stay in this town where there is so much suffering. Each time I emerge bleary-eyed from my apartment, I wrap my cloak of loneliness around my shoulders. I straighten my spine until it is stiff and haughtily shake out my dark hair waiting to challenge the patrons of the streets of Olympia to comment on the grief I emit from every single pore in my once unmarked skin. I project hostility to potential friends, I see empathy as pity and retaliate with wrath. As a child I had temper tantrums; my mom would say someday you’ll have no one but yourself and she was right. My words cut like daggers, and my eyes glitter with hate. 

So I try not to go out when I’m like this. I hole up with my cracked smartphone, my shitty WiFi connection, and my books and records and I try to be invisible but I get in trouble anyway: firing off nasty emails, snarky posts on message boards, blistering comments on Facebook in response to innocently posted videos of a stand up comic doing a routine called, “What People that Don’t Have Kids Will Never Understand” posted by one of the very few women in town that is still kind to me after I announced my tfmr… She doesn’t know we’ve been trying for the two years since, about the miscarriages and PTSD. She doesn’t have to.

And I think to myself, if I get pregnant again will ALL of this just go away? Not when a positive pregnancy test means nothing, certainly not that I will carry past nine weeks or eighteen weeks or any time at all. With infertility and repeat loss, the gentle irritability of My hypomania blossoms into unchecked rage, a palpable red energy that burns and stings. I swallow my pills and close my eyes and I wait and I wait and I wait…

gawd damn

I’m not religious. I grew up in the Episcopal church, but my family was really more into the social aspects of that community and never really pushed the Bible stuff on us kids. I remember how happy my dad was eating doughnuts and pastries and sipping on black coffee after the service; we were always the last family to leave because he liked to talk to <i>everyone</i>. They elected him Senior Warden, the highest rank for a layperson…I think it was a matter of no one else wanting to do it, but he was so proud.

We stopped attending church when my sister grew ill, our priorities changed and we instead spent weekends in Boston hospitals learning dire words like “myelodysplastic” and seeing firsthand just how hard a run of chemo and radiation is on the weakened body of a child. My mom moved temporarily into the city, and the church ladies would come by every couple of days with suspicious looking casseroles for my dad and I…this was so comforting to me as meals had become my responsibility, but despite the outpouring of caring my teenage spirit had withered. I grew angry with the Universe and any deity that may technically be able to fuck with the people I loved. 

But things happened. I got sober on April 22, 2004 and a lot of talk of God and God’s will infiltrated my everyday world. I resented it for awhile, but I was dying. I do believe in living life based on spiritual and moral principles, but there is no overarching religious belief system that controls my values. I keep that personal to myself. However, while I may not be able hold my own in an analytic conversation about the Bible, I do value community and charity. The old ladies at St. Peter’s Episcopal taught me that without proselytizing, and for that I’m forever grateful. They shaped my value system more than hellfire and brimstone ever could have.

But now I’m alone. I don’t have a community to lean on for support and man, am I misguided and jaded. I never believed in an afterlife, in prayer, none of it. But when Molly died, things changed. I absolutely have to keep believing that I will see her again, that one day beyond planet Earth and all its mundanities I will finally be able to hold her in my arms. My sister will be there too, my beloved maternal grandparents, the friends I’ve lost to suicide and drug overdoses, and all my cats. The fantasy spins out…my little squirrel Scooter, that pudgy friend that used to come visit me on my patio daily so I could hand feed him peanuts; well, he’ll come tumbling towards me like he used to and welcome me to Paradise. Even if I am a sinner. Even if I’ve been right all along about the non-existence of God. 

I’m a skeptic, aware that I may be delusional or worse, lying to myself. But I can’t get through my days without this fantasy. I’ve tried, but I absolutely cannot do it. So I won’t. 

fuck old times

My post-RE-consult euphoria left like a thief in the night. I awaken with fat tears coming from my dark eyes, dribbling a path towards my pillows. I’ve had this dream before: me, a prodigal daughter returning to Boston, calling old friends but no one wants to see me. I remember all of their phone numbers but we haven’t spoken for years. Behind my closed eyes, I see my smartphone screen registering gibberish as I try to reach out after years of absence.

I think it was the photo I saw on Facebook last night, my childhood friends reunited and posing on the beach with their gleaming-eyed children. That sense of missing out on the life that was promised me. I want to be part of that so badly that it must have drilled itself into my subconscious, leaving a path for the loneliness to come streaming out in the images and sounds that echo through my dreams.

I haven’t really spoken to anyone since I admitted to my friend that sometimes I hear voices. She hung up on me. This isn’t my fault! I want to scream. It’s like having diabetes or high blood pressure, I need to take meds. But it isn’t, not really. Once you take a breath, spit out a word that starts with “schizo-“…I guess after that, you can never go home again.

I wonder if Molly were in my arms, her black hair shining blue in the sun the way mine once did, my freckles darkening on her pudgy cheeks–I wonder if I’d be redeemed.

I heard from a couple girls when I brazenly announced my tfmr on the Facebook. We grew up good Democrats, and they praised me for sharing my story in support of Planned Parenthood. But they didn’t say they were sorry. That they thought I may be hurting to lose a sick child. Everything was strictly political and I kept my chin from trembling but in my gut the anger grew into the fierce bitterness that makes it so hard to have friends today. How dare they, with their perfect little lives? Fuck the past, fuck Massachusetts. I carried on with my head held high, tossing my long hair insouciantly with middle finger extended to the cloudy grey skies. 

Today I am broken. No one is gonna fuck with me again.

and the verdict is…

My appointment with the fertility specialist went perfectly. I had been so fucking nervous, scared that my mental diagnosis  (schizoaffective, bipolar type) would slam yet another door in my face. The doctor was unlike any doctor I’ve seen since I first sought a pre-conception appointment with my GP at thirty-five. And I’m a strong-willed, difficult patient, basically walking in off the street with an Interwebs researched plan and a list of demands. She took it all in stride. I think I love her.

My husband took off work to accompany me to the appointment. He really is a great guy and didn’t get frustrated when I started wailing at him for being unshaved and sporting his work clothes–since he is a screen printer and it is a hot day, he was sporting camo long shorts covered with ink and emulsion  (the emulsion stains his clothes blood red, so he basically looked like a transient who had just butchered a dead cow or something). The waiting room was devoid of patients; it was lunchtime, and I had anticipated encountering at least a couple preggos (ahem, trigger city).

So a medical assistant took my vitals, my normally treacherously low blood pressure was through the roof. “I’m not worried,” I told her, “it’s usually very low but I am extremely nervous.” She smiled at me, explained that the appointment would mostly be a lot of talking. “She might want to do a manual exam,” she advised, handing me a paper sheet. Great, a semi-naked convo about my last two years of tragedy.

I’ll be clear: this appointment was my last ditch effort. I realize the odds of having a healthy baby at this point are scant, and was not pinning all my hopes on the outcome. I am also a disabled Medicare patient and cannot afford aggressive treatments. I didn’t want a lot of testing, I’m fairly confident that I am a DOR  (diminished ovarian reserve) patient with shitty remaining eggs, and I can’t afford to deal with that with donor eggs or IVF with PGS testing. I have a single year left to conceive a healthy baby and I am hopeful yet realistic–all I want is to try oral medications to improve my chances of catching a golden egg.

The make-it-or-break-it point with this reproductive endocrinologist–revealing I am on multiple medications to control a psychotic disorder (my official diagnosis is “schizoaffective, bipolar type”). Start spitting out a word that starts with “schizo” abd even trained medical professionals’ eyes will fly open in alarm. This doctor did not flinch. She said she was unfamiliar with the diagnosis, so I explained what it meant and she took it at face value, even deferring a bit to my greater familiarity with my illness. She asked compassionate, thoughtful questions on how I was managing my symptoms and if I had a plan in place to take medication that would be safe during pregnancy. I didn’t feel like I was being judged, or that she was uncomfortable treating me (I once had a dermatologist refuse to prescribe me ointment for poison ivy because he was not comfortable with my psych meds). I felt really safe discussing this with her.

“Well,” she said, “I think your plan is perfectly reasonable.”

She agreed that CD3 bloodwork, AMH and AFC would likely reveal DOR. “With your history, I would probably end up recommending donor egg IVF, but I see you’re not interested in that.”

I can’t afford it, financially or emotionally, I told her. She didn’t make me feel shitty about being poor. 

“The oral medications we use are Clomid and Femara,” she said, “Did you have a preference?”

I explained I’d like to start with Femara, because of less side effects for a shorter duration. I’m terrified of mood changes–I am severely bipolar. We talked about this and she called in a script for me. 

I got exactly what I had wanted, plus compassion to boot. Doctors have in the past been terrified to medicate me. I’ve been dicked around a lot since my ttc (trying to conceive) journey started in 2013. It was finally time for me to catch a small break.

Now, where are those jeans I ordered from Free People?

the twisted knife of memory

My thoughts are racing and images flit by my closed eyes. The protesters at the abortion clinic, stunned to silence at my pregnant belly. Laying down on the table, the doctor taking my hand in his. “I am so so sorry,” he said to me. The counselor asked if I had any pets. 

“I have a cat,” I told her, smiling faintly, “When are you going to start?”  

“It’s over,” she said. And Molly was dead.

It must have happened yesterday; it’s been more than two years.

And still I am damaged. Those moments are branded into my skin, especially since I took my story public in support of Planned Parenthood. In my small town–the people here will never let me forget.

“Get out,” says my therapist, “There nothing here for you now.”

It’s 2.15 am, I wait until I can take my next dosage of meds. My appointment is later today and my jitters have superseded my sleeping pills. I feel dizzy at the the thought of getting pregnant again –could I survive another termination? This question has preyed upon my consciousness for two years–two years of basal body temping and ovulation prediction strips and blank pregnancy tests and miscarriage. I’ve grown older and lost my innocence. I’ve grown bitter and hard.

i just want to be normal…

I know “normal” is at best a completely arbitrary term, at worst maliciously exclusive…but I don’t really know anyone like me. One of my two all-time favorite books is Katherine Dunn’s Geek Love, a dark story about a family of carnival freaks that really challenges conventions of “normal” and makes social norms look dreary and undesirable. I’ve thought a lot about this novel since I first read it, as I’ve lived my own story while witnessing the kids I grew up with finish school, start satisfying careers, get married and have beautiful children. 

My little sister had MDS. She died of complications from a bone marrow transplant right around my high school graduation. I wanted to take a year off, but my parents dragged me kicking and screaming onto a plane to Cleveland so I could do my freshman year at Oberlin College as planned. I don’t blame them–they needed their own time to grieve, and thought it would be best for me to continue my life as planned. However, instead of succeeding I had a psychotic manic break, crashed into depression and took a bottle of Tylenol. I survived, but thus began my life of mental hospitalizations, outpatient programs, medications and therapy. To this day, with a few blips along the way such as a brief struggle with drug addiction and alcoholism (today I have 13 years clean) and a shockingly successful 3 year “career” as a phone sex operator and fetish wear model, I am still basically a professional mental patient. 

I often talk about feeling like I exist on the fringes of society. I felt that way before I met my surprisingly “normal” husband, fell madly in love and then learned I was infertile–and let me tell you, finding out you are infertile by immediately conceiving a chromosomally compromised baby and having to have a second trimester abortion so she would not suffer as she died is brutal as fuck. The loneliness that had plagued my adult life since forever became a living, breathing entity that suffocates me and leaves me exhausted and desperate before my eyes flutter open each morning. It feels self-indulgent to say it, but my life is hard (I do however recognize that my solid middle-class background has bestowed many privileges on me). I’ll say it again: my life is fucking hard.

Maybe Molly was my last shot at normal. The thought sends shivers down my spine. Sure, maybe someday I’ll get my shit together and have a career as a writer, but right now…idgaf if I do or not. I want to see my husband smile as he holds our child in his arms. I remember when I was pregnant with Molly how he’d want to sleep with his hand on my belly…in my subsequent pregnancies, I’ve been too terrified to let him. Those innocent little moments we had with her–we’ll never have them again. And I fucking hate it. I really fucking do.

briefly…

It’s a sunny Saturday and I can’t bring myself to go outside. CD 14, I occasionally ovulate this early. Post-miscarriages though, its more like CD 17-18. Lackluster and uninspired intercourse has already transpired, remaining fun shopping budget has already been blown. Geoff and I are drinking coffee (oh, the decadence!) and spinning records, talking shit about our former friends, and otherwise wishing our lives away.

Have I mentioned that I have the jitters about our appointment Monday? While most people’s OBs seem to hand out Clomid and Femara like candy, most people are not taking fistfuls of psychotropics and on disability for schizoaffective disorder. We’re coming up on last-ditch efforts–I really want this. My biggest fear is finally popping out a chromosomally normal egg, and missing it. Maybe if I could get a little help conceiving, my golden egg chances would improve (she says in desperation). Stranger things have happened, and I know I am strong. Us infertile women have to stick together…we are the warriors no one contemplates and if you’re out there, you have a friend in me.

morning after pills: birthday hangover part 2

The anxiety pills are going down a little too easily these days. I’ll have to stop them soon as they’re not safe for any chromosomally doomed pregnancy I could possibly achieve. Post-thirty-ninth-birthday: the hypomanic and destitute infertile awakens, drinks her morning coffee and numbs out, only to suddenly remember she’s set a little money aside to fucking go shopping! Giddy with excitement, she buys a vegan leather backpack. I’m tired of my beat up American Apparel book bag–since I live within walking distance of pretty much anywhere I’d need to go, and since Olympia has enacted a ban on plastic shopping bags, I often find myself stuffing my purchases in the book bag and looking like a homeless shoplifter as I enter my next destination. I figure if my back pack is a little classier, I won’t be mistaken for a transient methamphetamine addict carrying her life’s possessions from store to store.

Completely neurotic reasoning, but I gotta go with what I’ve got. My husband on the other hand, will stuff the things he plans to buy in his pockets, carefully emptying them and placing them on the conveyor belt at Safeway and paying for everything honestly. I’d be too scared to, say, jam cans of unpaid merchandise in my pockets even if I did plan to pay for it, someone would surely alert store security and humiliation would ensue.

Anyway, I love vegan leather because in Western Washington it rains a lot, so the artfully textured plastic of the bag will also keep my shit dry. I feel a hint of self-righteousness at making such a practical purchase. Surely, I will be a far superior mother if one of my babies miraculously lives. Just look at my grown up backpack!