trapped on the fringes?

Last night, I dreamed of a fiery dragon. He was my last hope and for puzzling reasons, I woke up confounded about the dichotomy of predestination and free will. Since I lost Molly, my spirituality has become contingent on neurotic superstitions and a terrifying loss of any illusion of power over my future, a future that is bound to be much, much harder than I ever anticipated. I am impotent against a Universe that deals me damaging blow after blow — I have been fighting fate, and I have lost.

“It wasn’t meant to be,” my mother told me, referring to my ability to have children.

And I am spiraling, and I have no control, not even over the basic biological processes that are created in my own body and that most woman have the luxury of taking for granted. My eggs are but dusty vestiges of a reproductive process I imagine was once robust with all my youthful folly. I wasted so much time, jumping from one dead end relationship to another before marrying my soulmate at 34 and it was already too late for hoping.

I had a relaxing Thanksgiving; it was just the two of us. Geoff made a delicious traditional meal, we listened to one of Leonard Cohen’s more mellow and melodic albums all day, had obligatory phone calls with our geographically distant families and it was so insanely good to just feel a little okay for once. The days that followed, however, were full of desperate anxiety and panic attacks that came over and over in relentless waves as for the first time since our tfmr, I saw old friends.

I sense it may be possible to slip back into my old life like nothing had ever happened, but the fact remains that a huge chunk of the woman I used to be is gone. All my hope, optimism, faith in humanity, and easy empathy — those once vital attributes have atrophied and become necrotic. I may have waited too long; I may never get that part of myself back and I’m not sure if I can fake it. Recurrent pregnancy loss has changed me and not for the better.

And these friends, who despite everything I love dearly, have really hurt me. Their disappearance at a time we needed the support so badly…well, it has been a sting from which I’ve not fully recovered and their sudden renewed presence in our lives seems reliant on our being “back to normal”.

So I lie here wondering if I’ll manage to get out of bed today, momentarily relieved of the social obligations of another hell-ish holiday season without my babies and I’m fairly relaxed compared to the way I felt this past weekend and I have no idea how I’ve managed to keep going but no matter how hard I try I can’t just let it go…

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jersey barrier

The sun doesn’t come up anymore; it is winter in Western Washington and I’ve increased my dose of vitamin D as per doctor’s suggestion. She didn’t check my levels, just said practically everyone she sees in our rainy climate is deficient so I should go ahead and take more. Maybe it will help with my depression, which is crushing and inescapable and I believe is at least partially artificial, an unfortunate fact of my body’s response to Femara — another issue is, of course, my grappling with giving up hope for a family of my own. I don’t feel like my moods are doing their bipolar cycling thing; I don’t think med adjustments will save me from the gravity of my feelings about childlessness.

I’m tired of fighting, of waking up and abruptly finding myself in a state of vigilance against possible heartache, my nerve endings already singing battle hymns as I descend into hypersensitivity. I check the news and am frustrated with those in power, but mostly I don’t understand why under an insightful analysis of ethnic cleansing in Myanmar there has to be an announcement that Chrissy Teigan is pregnant — like, does anyone care? I understand she has struggled with infertility but I don’t really know the specifics, or, indeed, who she actually is and what she’s contributed to the arts (I don’t own a TV and am largely indifferent to pop culture in my old age). I hate pregnancy announcements and find they are the most triggery thing I am regularly exposed to, and maybe she’s dabbled with assisted reproductive technology…all I know is she’s on number two and my broke ass is still on zero.

Oh god, I’ve witnessed so many miracles and I’m just left wondering, “Where’s mine?”. Ugh, enough of the self-pity. Once I get started, it never ends. And I’m 7dpo, I know it’s early but I already know in my bones that I’m, once again, not pregnant. 

In December of 2014, I found out I was pregnant with Molly. I remember so clearly. I had sent Geoff to our favorite restaurant, a Mongolian grill where you assemble a meal and then they cook it, for takeout. He knew what ingredients I liked, I had the same thing every time…shrimp, scallops, broccoli, the sauce designated “sweet”, etc….unfortunately, the restaurant owner had decided to offer more exotic options that day, and my dear husband who refuses to invest in prescription eyeglasses and instead buys reading glasses from the dollar store mistook octopus for my scallops and attempted to feed it to me (I am not an adventurous eater). I didn’t even eat any, but I threw up for about a week from disgust before wondering if my distressed response was perhaps some sort of biological overreaction. Sure enough, it was morning sickness. We got our first BFP.

I was so fucking happy. We had only tried once. I honestly thought we were having a baby, that I must be pretty fucking fertile. Eighteen wonderful weeks, ending in despair like I’d never imagined, having to have a fucking second trimester abortion for fatal chromosomal defects. She would be two by now but instead my arms are empty and I’m ready to quit . It’s just a fluke, said the perinatologist, said the genetic counselor. It’s very unlikely it will ever happen again. Uh huh, right.

I remember how happy my dad was when I told him we were expecting. How he was already making plans to come out and see me And Geoff and baby, who was due in September. And I remember my mom not being happy at all, and me not even caring. And now I think nothing good will ever happen again. What will I do? Next summer at 40 years old, then at 50, at 60? What will I do?

Infertility stories are supposed to have happy endings, or, at least, they seem to have them for most of the people I’ve communicated with over the years. They are supposed to tell of perseverance and determination, of overcoming all odds, of blessings from above. My story ends in pain and suffering that will never go away. My head throbs and I find myself reluctant to eat and take my meds, shivering with anxiety as panic grips me by the shoulders. I pull my little cat close — I am very very sick today. I reach for some candy, and for the Restoril. I just want to feel better. Maybe tomorrow I will.

hope is bullshit.

I woke up to an early Western Washington snow, the earliest snow date here since 197-something. There is scarcely any brightness to the day, I agonize over whether or not I will take my 5mg of Femara this cycle, with only hours to go until I either impulsively choke down the pills or say, no more! I have been on this journey since 2014…my RE messaged me to address serious concerns over my mental and emotional health. No one really knows how severely mentally ill people on fistfuls of (pregnancy safe, at least) of psychotropic medications will fare through fertility treatments. I get the impression that very few women with psychotic disorders seek treatments to conceive a baby. Makes sense to be sure.

I have survived all means of suffering throughout my life. I really thought getting pregnant with Molly was my ticket out of hell and fuck, did I love her! I’ve done a lot of work; fourteen years of psychotherapy, getting sober at twenty-five, overcoming the tragedies that plagued my younger days.

I’ve always been young; all the sudden I am old. I am tired of waking up fighting, of being hypervigilent, of all the fears that beseige me from which sleep offers no respite. I am very tired, and I’m only 39.

I lay here wrapped in a towel, shivering from the chill that follows a scalding hot shower in the winter. Time continues to ebb and flow, to skip beats, to disappear. I am dimly cognizant of the fact that I am proceeding like a train with no brakes, tumbling forward to no good end, winded and terrified of the crash ahead of me. I am destroying myself, and I can’t seem to stop. My hope is to hit bottom in a safe place, with Geoff by my side to transport me someplace safe…

The hospital. More specifically, the psych ward, ole 1-South at  St. Peter’s, a place that’s rescued my sorry ass more than a couple times. In my head, it’s the same as it was 13 years ago when I last visited. Where they have me stay nearest to the nurses’ station because I am not in touch with reality and may end up causing trouble. It’s a place I remember as safe, not like the other hospitals I’ve been in. Above all my worries and late night panic attacks, I’ve always felt safe knowing I could be there if I so happened to become afraid of myself again. My foundation is cracking, reality is fuzzy at best. I don’t want to end up there again, but for me it’s always on the horizon.

What will happen to me if I can’t let go of something that’s commanded my life since 2014? The elusive take home baby that I very likely will never hold. The family I need so badly. How can I let the last three years wind up as a complete waste of time?

And outside children are playing in the already melting snow, I am thinking of rebuilding a brand new life but am paralyzed, heart frozen, sometimes catatonic. I don’t feel like having sex anymore. I am researching IUDs, because if I stop I must let go of all this irrational hope.

And the heat is cranked up, I’m under a Pendleton blanket that I inadvertently inherited from Billy Frank, Jr. (look him up), I am shivering and shaking and I wonder if I’ll ever really feel the sun again.

confusing times are upon us

Today would have been my estimated due date to miscarriage #2. Rain courses down my bedroom window and I am above the grey spitting clouds, having just swallowed the tranquilizer prescribed to me to take the edge off my emotional emergencies, the flashbacks and panic attacks that occur when I am triggered by images and situations that hit me especially hard. I don’t take them lightly, and am closely monitored for potential substance abuse, in case you were wondering…I do have a history.

My little cat curls up in the hollow of my belly. EDDs don’t hit me as hard as loss anniversaries but today I feel like right now today I’ve already lost my last hope for a family. I am confused by time, which I sometimes lose; I wake up, or come too, unaware of what day it is, if it’s morning or night. I am not sure if I had fallen asleep or just zoned out, or perhaps it was but a momentary slip of consciousness because I can never figure out how long I checked out for. I feel okay about it because I still have insight and with that am reassured that I’m not having a manic or psychotic break…yet. 

Madness slithers around my spine. But as of yet, I don’t feel it curling up in my head. I block it out by focusing on politics; the tax reform unveiled today  could drastically affect me, my Social Security and Medicare and I’m a bear about it right now…if Medicare raises it’s premiums, my monthly disability check will be reduced and I will weep bitter tears and curse everyone from the Trump camp to the DNC in its current state of disarray to a Universe that day by day deflates any hope I may be privileged to feel. I obsess over the ramifications of the Mueller probe, hoping to see a lot of bad guys go down because schadenfreude and revenge fantasies are all I’ve got at the moment. I am keeping sadness at bay, here; later it all will hit me.

Three lost children, rusted and rotted ovaries, and eggs that are anything but golden. I haven’t decided yet, at CD 2, if I’ll continue ttc, if I’ll go out in a bang with my cool 5mg of Femara, or if I’ll try naturally this cycle, or just rest. 

It doesn’t seem to really matter. 

And in my head, my head that spins, I remember that I’m not really a nice person with a pure history, and through the endless years I’ve made so many grave errors in judgment that this could be what I deserve. 

It is Thursday, November 2, and I am cold and alone, and my belly is nothing but an abyss. 

* does anyone know where to look for support and resources for women accepting childlessness after loss and infertility? please comment.

always bleeding…cd1 blues.

It seems widely agreed upon that the way you heal emotionally from pregnancy loss is to have a healthy baby and move forward with your life. That will not happen for me. My grief has only intensified as I’ve struggled to conceive after my 18 week abortion for fatal chromosomal defects in Spring of 2015, and I’ve had two nine week miscarriages since, and the heartache has piled up on me and left me reeling. I mentioned yesterday how hopeful I was before our second pregnancy ended in  painful and bloody tragedy; I’ve reached the point at which I am less frightened to face a childless future than I am to experience another loss. I think if I were ever again to have to lie on my back in stirrups, frantically anticipating bad news while scanning the ultrasound tech’s poker face for any clue of how things are looking in ole Mr. Uterus — I think I’d pass out from the terror. And to wait for the doctor again, shivering uncontrollably while simultaneously sweating and panting, until whatever OB has agreed to take me on (I’m a difficult patient due to my anxiety) comes in somber-faced and saying how sorry she is…

I think I’d lose the last tatters of my sanity then and there. My ovaries have been faithfully spitting out chromosomally compromised eggs at since I was thirty-six or maybe earlier; my uterus, on a whim, will cheerfully implant and try to grow them…

Donor eggs are not by any means financially or medically possible for us; adoption is not an option either. 

I’m crying uncle. My mind spins as I grieve, leaving me disoriented. You’re gonna be late for work, I tell my husband at 8pm, convinced I’ve already slept. His brow furrows in alarm. No, sweetie, he answers. It’s nighttime. I’m right here.

I’m bumbling through my days. Wake up, take my happy pills. Ziprasidone, oxcarbazepine, paroxetine, benztropine, temazepam. I eye the bottle of letrozole, feel a sense of impending doom. Absentmindedly, I chop eight inches off my hair (I’ve been on prenatal vitamins for four years and nobody even notices if I lob off chunks of it…it was that long). 

The tattoo on my forearm makes me pause as I examine myself in the mirror. I stare at her name, Molly, now permanently inscribed on both my arm and my heart. I imagine her as she has appeared in my dreams, black hair, dark-skinned like me, maybe, always out of reach. Maybe in some parallel universe she exists, things worked out like they were supposed to and an alternate version of me holds her close, makes her smile. Maybe one of my miscarried babies is there with us too, crowded on the bed on a Wednesday morning, me catching Geoff’s eye and feeling the way normal people feel. You’ll be late for work, I say, this time at the correct time and he kisses us all and heads off to his shop…

But today, another CD1, it is always CD1 for some reason, time loops around and around and I am spinning out, words that I use like devastated, damaged, broken; I’ve repeated them time and time again and they’ve lost all meaning. I check the clock but the numbers mean nothing because I am in no-man’s land, drifting, bobbing, at the mercy of the sea. I am thirty-nine, I am 22 and in the psych ward again, I am 36 and staring at a positive pregnancy test in disbelief thinking, well, that was easy, I am 48 and ugly and lonely as hell. I am not here, I am someplace else and I am free.

trick or treat 

I wouldn’t talk to my mother for about a month after I terminated our first pregnancy. She wanted me to have an abortion right off the bat, and hadn’t been supportive of the pregnancy in the first place. I don’t want you to get too excited, she said carefully after I announced I was expecting, at twelve weeks. She didn’t elaborate, and I suppose I should be grateful she didn’t go into the details of whatever the fuck her problem was at the time. I mean, I guess she was right. Although I was blissfully unaware, Molly was doomed from the start.

She called me today. It’s Halloween, and I’m sure she forgot that it marked one year since my first miscarriage. It was the second baby I really thought I’d get to hold one day–I suppose it was naive of me to think that since I’d gone through the indescribable pain of ending a wanted pregnancy in the second trimester, and subsequently suffered 14 cycles of infertility (but they told me Molly’s chromosomal abnormalities were just a fluke!), that I was finally going to catch a break. So I spent the day swinging from the depths of protracted grief to the obsessive distraction of watching for new headlines about political happenings. Halloween used to mean something else to me, my family…thirty-nine years ago, I was adopted and delivered to my patient new family, arriving stateside at JFK International and being delivered by courier to the expectant arms of my forever mother and father, my ecstatic and wonderful maternal grandparents, me, at three months old. So, I let fat tears slide down my cheeks as my mom described her first few moments with her first child. Even though she was talking about me, I felt the sting of bitterness hearing of a joy I’ll never experience.

The nuances of the suffering of infertile couples are lost on my mother, my mother that has breathed a very audible sigh of relief every time I’ve lost a baby. You don’t need a baby. Just worry about you, she tells me, in harsh tones I find completely inexplicable. Only they’re not inexplicable at all; my mom thinks I am too sick to raise a child. She’s seen me at my worst — I must have been, what, 24 years old? when we had our last of the horrible visits before antipsychotics saved my life. They had given me some new med, Serzone (I don’t think it’s on the market anymore, was an antidepressant), and I, true to form, had a weird reaction to it. In short, it made me walk over and over in small circles, endless tortured circles, and I could not on my own volition stop walking in circles–pretty crazy, huh? I think she finally accepted my illness at that visit, and now in her mind, I’m nothing but a mental patient. 

So I didn’t mention the miscarriage anniversary, I didn’t let on I was shaking and crying my eyes out all day, I didn’t mention that despite getting a full night’s sleep, I feel hypomanic AF. I let my mom have her happy memory, told my oblivious father for yet another year that yes, I’m grateful that I did not grow up eating trash on the streets of Seoul, blind as a bat with teeth growing out my ears (my extreme nearsightedness and orthodontic misery have cost him a pretty penny over the years–ah, the narrative of the great white savior that plagues interracial/ international adoptees through their lifetime!) I indulge him; he honestly doesn’t know any better. I let my loving but neurotic parents relive a blessing I’ll never have with my own husband.

It occurs to me that I should take my meds. Three years ago, I was in pretty good shape to accept the challenges of new motherhood, but I have to restate: now, I am fucking damaged. I hung the sign the apartment management thoughtfully provided requesting trick or treaters to move on to the next unit on the front door. I cannot look at children and their proud parents tonight, maybe not any night, maybe not any night for the rest of my life. I crawled into my bed, which has pretty much become my world, swallowed my pills and turned on my heating pad. I pulled the blankets up to my chin and closed my eyes. Bring on the nightmares, I said to myself. They can’t be as bad as this.

how?

I can’t even remember what my days were like before my first pregnancy loss and subsequent journey into infertility, but I know I was happy. Geoff and I were newlyweds, broke but all smiles and living in a tiny, scrappy apartment with our beloved and sedate cat Bandit (R.I.P)…

I was 36, so AMA already, but barely…that’s what they told me, at least.

I had been working with my psychiatrist over the past year to adjust my psychotropic medications to levels that were safe for pregnancy. It was a tough experience — most notably, withdrawing from a large dose of my central medication (for the mental health warriors out there, I’ll specify that the med I’m referring to is the atypical antipsychotic Geodon) unmasked a serious side effect called tardive dyskinesia, where you cannot volitionally control movements of whatever muscles it affects. In my case, I came to realize that I could not stop my toes from wiggling ever, and that simple repetitive movement led to intense muscle pain so it became very hard for me to walk without limping. Still, I was sunnily optimistic about our future, even declining treatment for my aching feet because I knew the suffering would be worth every second.. We were getting our finances together, Geoff had a secure job he enjoyed, and I spent time…doing what?

It was a lifetime ago. I cannot remember what I did all day before my descent into grief and infertility. I probably wrote a lot, I remember feeling my motivation levels go up with the reduction of my medication dosages. I’m pretty sure I had friends, I know I went to recovery events and meetings. I’d pop on Facebook now and then but I certainly didn’t let hours fall into the black hole of Internet support forums. I believe I did a lot of shopping; perhaps I was experiencing a touch of hypomania or maybe I just cared about clothing and shoes to a degree I now find puzzling, seeing as I now have little concern about my appearance and usually only get dressed for my weekly psychotherapy and our weekend trip to the Goodwill, during which I feel dull and not present and intimidated by other shoppers. I simply purchase things I imagine I would have liked in my former life and end up throwing the stuff into piles in the room I still think of as Molly’s room.

I wrack my brain for more memories. What was important to me back then? How did I fill my days? And, most importantly…is it possible to get back to that sort of life?

I don’t think it’ll happen. I see the damage in my own eyes when I look in the mirror, the furrows around my lips and eyes. I tacked a sign up in my room that said, “Un-fuck yourself!” but I took it down immediately because I realized it was too late. I’ve been operating under this delusion that in order to heal, I have to have a healthy baby, that’s what everybody else does…and now I have to accept that that particular path is not an option for a woman in my position. I have to blaze a different trail, and I feel like this has to be done alone.

Sometimes I’m not even sure how to reach out to Geoff anymore, although I’ll still assert he is the one I love best. The good days I remember through layers of dense fog…I will never get them back, and I have to prepare to mourn the loss of my innocence. 

I really thought I would have a baby. I really and truly thought that, and I hate myself a little for that.

tonight we’ll be fine for awhile…

I feel almost okay, post-therapy appointment, having remembered to eat and take my afternoon medication in a timely fashion. I brushed out the rat’s nest tangles from my hair, lit an apple-scented candle, took out my contact lenses and put on the new Leonard Cohen album that Geoff found at the Goodwill last weekend…can I possibly find comfort in the banal activities of everyday life without TTC? It drives me crazy how women seem to lose all sensibility during the fucking TWW, testing obsessively from 6dpo onwards and taking to the Interwebs to demand tweaks…oh my boobs are super sore, my uterus feels heavy and I’m getting bfns but whaddya mean “tracking ovulation” do you think I’m preggo what are my chances? Like everyone’s a fucking psychic–there is no way a stranger on the Internet would be able to answer that. I’m over it, really, though I will cop to becoming neurotic during my fertile window. But once that’s done (and this cycle, it didn’t really get done), I can breathe deeply and take it easy, patiently waiting for the bleeding to begin and scoffing at shit like pineapple core and prayer.

My therapist gave me a bunch of recent copies of the New Yorker…I’ll at the very least be entertained this afternoon, or at least distracted. As much as I fret about her lack of experience with recurrent pregnancy loss and infertility, I still think she’s pretty awesome…for example, I do agree that there’s something horribly wrong with a certain orange faced public figure that plagues both the news and my Facebook feed, but feel dismissing him as mentally ill is insulting to mentally ill people such as myself. There’s a big difference between “mentally ill” and “evil”, my therapist asserted, leaning on her belief that there are big distinctions between organic mental illness and personality disorders, DSM-V be damned. I don’t think I’d do well with a more conservative provider.

I might be a little loopy, having had decided to give 5mg of Femara a go this coming cycle…I think I’ll be okay, though…eventually.

randomness and existential crisis

The rain is back and resolve stiffens my spine — I will not let another summer fall into the sucking hole in my life that is infertility, not when summer days in the PNW are so few and precious. I still dream of life elsewhere, somewhere sunny and warm and closer to family, but I lack confidence as I face the looming threat of slashes to Medicare funding. We continue on here, broken and isolated and desperate for healing.

What is healing, what does it look like when you’re as sick as I am? 

I remember seeing my first therapist; I must’ve been in the third grade or something. My mom arranged to have my best friend’s older sister watch my younger sister, so the whole school ended up knowing there was something wrong with me — I was crazy under my mask of timidity and fearfulness. My moods and tantrums baffled my parents and I never slept, and I had an overactive imagination to explain the fact that sometimes I heard and saw things that no one else could see or hear. I was only vaguely aware that there was something different about me, I was doing well in school.  It was the eighties and childhood onset mental illness wasn’t a thing that was recognized by mental health professionals. They said I had abandonment issues because I was adopted. Even I believed them. My poor mother was permanently traumatized, to this day convinced that this is all her fault.

There was a lot stacked against me, and things got worse after my sister died. I struggled with addiction, I went on meds. Therapists paraded through my life, both caring providers and toxic wannabe do-gooders that should have never been allowed to practice, until finally I found someone that could help me. I was so unhinged but I fought like hell, found people to connect with in a meaningful fashion, and got my disease into remission in my late twenties. I thought I, too, could have a normal life, the sort of life I believe most people deserve. Then I met Geoff, who is amazing, and we lost Molly and spiralled into grief. And then the sickness came back. And I don’t know what to do.

It’s different now. My brain isn’t cycling through moods, my psychosis is as controlled as it can be. But here I am, shellshocked not just from my pregnancy termination, miscarriages, and infertility but from life and its infinite randomness, by the knowledge that lightning can strike arbitrarily and there’s nothing you can do to prepare for it. Children can be stricken with severe mental illness or they can die of cancer, babies can have their chromosomes put together all wrong, and the ones they leave as living witnesses will suffer. So I live my days in terror. I pray to no one that I’m wrong about the nonexistence of God. I do anything I can to ward off bad luck. And I never leave my house.

.

.

me right now and I’m adorable.

CD 16, so not in the mood. Overslept, missed my chance with Geoff. UGH.

thirty-nine years and three months 

Do I look hopeless? 

The soft light washes away the fine lines around my mouth. My hair has gone long from three years on prenatal vitamins, still black as ever with no help from Clairol. I still blush when strangers speak with me. I like to think I don’t look old and crazy.

Inside though…

An East coast neurosis simmers in my belly and I always feel a sense of urgency. I try not to do crazy things or inadvertently send out cries for help, but with my bipolar in check all that remains are the powerful vibrations of an anxiety that stands solid in the face of yoga, herbal teas, unending meditation classes. Yeah, I’ve always been high strung but since things started to go wrong in reproductive land I find myself struggling to make meaningful connections for fear of something, anything, setting me off in an all-too-frequent full blown panic attack. I battle with narcissism; no, not clinical, but a sudden dangerous obsession with both how I present to people and why I do certain crazy things. I talk too much, I don’t ask people how they feel. 

The real world calls, and I’m so lonely and broken. High school wasn’t bad for me; I had friends, albeit cruel ones, I never sat home alone in weekends. How did I end up trapped in solitude?

CD 15 and we’re barely moving…

Oh, the things that stand between me and the world: an unrelenting grieving process, regularly occurring psychotic symptoms, withered old ovaries and an empty pocketbook. If I can have a baby, will the world take me back?