the last bfn of all time

Here, curled up around a heating pad in bed…it is a beautiful fall day in Olympia, the kind of day I should not take for granted but as the noontime sun shines unapologetically outside the tightly drawn blinds, I am aware that the magic is not there for me, not today, and I am not sure I will ever appreciate the sunlight again. My husband feeds me yogurt, hands me my lunchtime antipsychotic to stave of the paranoia, but I just feel broken nonetheless. Forever. He dresses, tells me he is running to the market. And I am terrified, shaking because I worry he won’t come back, a tragedy will befall him and I’ll never feel his arms around me again…I have decided to give in to my irrational anxiety because I know I will hate myself if it happens again.

I dully recall the day at the perinatologist’s office when they first told us of Molly’s defects. I remember when the tech came back into the room — I was so happy having just seen our first baby swimming around in the safety of my womb, so unprepared for bad news and so flabbergasted when she revealed under my unrelenting pressure that Molly’s NT measurement was a whopping 10mm (around 3mm is when they suspect things are bad, chromosomally speaking). She fidgeted, knowing she wasn’t really supposed to tell but I had demanded insistently, and my head was swirling as she informed me the doctor was coming, driving down to the Olympia office from Tacoma, and I swore then I’d never be caught off guard again, I’d never be innocent or naive or allow myself to be blindsided…

I’m 10dpo and I never test early but I know full well that I cannot physically or emotionally keep going the way we have been, battling infertility, fertile week after fertile week with no hopes or expectations and the unrelenting pressure of performance has worn us down and our timing this cycle was no-fuckin’-bueno although we tried so hard. But here I make a rookie confession — I tested this morning. I never have symptoms during my LP that could be confused with early pregnancy, but this month my breasts are swollen and sore and the only times I’ve ever experienced that was during my three failed pregnancies. So I went out on the patio, found my unicorn Scruffy passed out among empty bottles of Thunderbird and stubbed out cigarette butts, gave him a swift kick to the ribs to rouse him, and I peed on a Wondfo that turned stark white negative after five minutes of torture. I fucking know better, it’s been three fucking years of ttc #1 and when I saw the bfn I knew (I know my body and trust a 10dpo result), hey, girl, something’s gotta give…

I am telling myself, one last Femara cycle to use that shit up (no meds this month for me, the shit makes me psychotic and I am not just casually tossing about that word, I am schizo-fucking-affective, if that word means anything to you). This was supposed to be a month off but I succumbed to neurosis, oh, that golden egg is in there, and here I sit, finally, truly accepting that I can not keep going for one more cycle after one more cycle, and I have lost this war with my own poor abused body and must find a new way to live. (My husband texts me from Safeway like I begged him to, he is on his way home.)

What will I do without message boards and camaraderie with other infertiles and me, here alone as usual, writing all day to desperately stave off the long depressive episode that is inevitably on its way, just in time for the rainy season? You know, I fucking hate it when a piece of writing poses too many questions, when there’s too many question marks that the reader cannot possibly answer, but lately I’ve been a tad disoriented and confused (another indication that for me precedes a depressive episode). I gotta pull myself together, maybe focus on our dream of moving out of the PNW, maybe try to find a couple of connections here in the meantime or resume working and writing for social justice but right now I can barely move…

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the baddest days

These days, I am extremely fragile. Free from madness for over a decade, I’ve somehow failed to find new trust in my unstable mind. Memories of the Bad Years haunt me, a tiny voice whispers at me, “Remember who you are.” A skinny beauty, weak and occasionally violent towards myself, arms dripping blood as reality swirled around me, dizzy from the pictures and screaming that I would be the one to rescue the latest band of medics from the end of days. A filthy-faced girl huddled in a cupboard as disembodied voices screamed at me that my mom would kill me if she had a chance, unrelenting paranoia and hallucinations, emerging only occasionally to see my caseworker, who sat my psychotic ass down in a ramshackle building downtown and grew impatient as she tried for the hundredth time to explain what a Medicaid spenddown was to a girl not even aware she was on a different plane …

Besides being a broke(n) infertile woman, I also have a psychotic disorder. I am bipolar I, and I hear voices whether I’m in the grips of a mood episode or not, making me schizoaffective, bipolar type. Does that frighten you? I’ve heard them all my life; I can’t imagine what it feels like to live in quiet like most of you. I function despite the noise, although within gentle parameters. I cannot hold a job without the madness creeping in, I have to avoid stress whenever possible. But now, with medication and unending talk therapy (which I am fortunate to have access too, and am fortunate that medication works for me because it doesn’t always help everybody), you’d probably not peg me a a psychotic woman. High strung, fuck yeah. You may see I lack basic social skills, I have a difficult time making meaningful friendships or maintaining them–I often disappear for years. But today, at thirty-nine, you’d see my anxiety and maybe witness a panic attack and see me cry, but you would not see a girl who used to get handcuffed by police and dragged off to the Crisis Unit in the ER of our local charity hospital…

She’s still in there but for now is quiet. I remember the perinatologist explaining Molly’s defects to us as I tearfully clutched my stomach. I thought it would break me, that maybe my brain would need a vacation from the incredible pain and the people that weren’t real would come back and whisk me off to madness again. I imagined my frantic husband waking to find me gone, getting in the car only to find me on a street corner shouting that I was chosen to save all of you from eternal damnation and then I’d maybe black out and find myself in four point restraints in some hospital and I’d be sick, really sick, and Geoff would go away forever. 

None of that happened. I’m not sleeping, leaving my house, or answering my phone but reality is intact even if it’s not good enough right now…mostly, I am very sad and angry, but I am right here.

And I am okay.

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? 

implantation psychosis

Laying on my belly, trying to type with shaky hands…the luteal phase of my Femara cycle feels worse than when I was actually taking the pills. I’m 6 days past my ovulation per ovulation prediction strips; temping has not been accurate since I am plagued with insomnia. I figure that since progesterone peaks at 7 days past, after tomorrow my P4 levels will start dropping, and maybe these intense moods will dissipate. 

I can’t remember the last time I saw a friend, the last time I spoke with anyone besides Geoff and my crack team of mental health professionals. I shook violently through my psychotherapy session this morning, terrified of even discussing the grief I feel when I imagine living out the rest of my days childless. I long to hold Molly in my arms for even a moment. I am 39 years old and can’t fathom waiting another 40+ years to be with her again.

This isn’t me. In the past, I’ve been described as “vibrant” despite my struggles with schizophrenia and bipolar. Now, I am flattened on my bed as my hormones rage, the sky pressing down on my brittle body. I am lonely, and yeah, I get it–my grief and misery make people uncomfortable. I feel badly for them when they awkwardly try to make contact, so I spare them and keep my distance. And I lay in bed, trash and dirty dishes piling up around me. I am so sorry, Geoff–it was never meant to be like this.

I don’t indulge in post-ovulation symptom spotting, as progesterone causes symptoms that mimic the symptoms of early pregnancy, and it bothers me to hear other women go on about their sore boobs and mysteriously watery cervical mucus. I usually have no luteal phase symptoms at all, anyways, but here I am wondering if perhaps I’m having “implantation psychosis”. The thought cheers me slightly; I’ve seen women on forums wondering about much sillier things so why the fuck not?

the ugly side of timed intercourse 

My opk is back to negative, BBT is unreliable since I only got 2 hours sleep, lady bits are sore from all the action they’ve seen since my CM went fertile. It’s 3.21 AM and it’s an early day for me and hubs. I lay in wait so we can bang one out before things get hectic. Now, Geoff needs at least five cups of coffee before he can think about performing, and likes to relax and read his aging-punk-rocker Facebook group. I have online infertility forums; he has “Punk’s Dead and I’m Not Far Off”. Usually my loyal little cat has him up by now, but he is snoozing away in a carry-on suitcase with a faux sheepskin coat from Forever 21 tucked inside. I set it up for him yesterday. I wasn’t planning ahead.

My husband sleeps the sleep of the righteous, snoring away as if he is a man that did not marry a neurotic psycho insomniac like myself. I bide my time, waiting for a reasonable hour to pounce on him with all my seductive glory. I shiver in my Eberjey bralette–it is a utilitarian style, not particularly sexy, but it was pretty expensive. Ah well, it will have to do.

I have been trying to prove the hilarious theory that sex makes babies since November of 2014. This, however, is my first medicated cycle and those five tiny yellow pills I ingested one at a time from cycle days three through seven have taken the last shred of sanity I had left. It’ll be okay–I see my psychiatrist at 8am and since on Femara I’m ovulating a tad earlier than normal, she can feel free to ship me off to Western State. Antipsychotic medication has been shown to be safe for any schizo bitch like me to take while trying to conceive.

One last fuck and I’m through with this cycle. I just have to manage not to lose my shit. I swear, the sense of urgency I feel about every tiny little thing, the sense of urgency that is completely absent in my dear husband’s inexplicable brain–totally an East coast/West coast thing, nothing to do with my mental health diagnosis and Geoff’s lack therefore of…

Deep breaths. I hear the cat’s collar jingling; he’ll be in soon to beg for breakfast and then I can strike…stay tuned, sport’s fans. 

and i live in a place where there are no fucking limits

I’m waiting for the universe to decide when I’ve endured enough heartbreak. Or maybe I’m waiting for my own personal breaking point, for the bottom to finally fall out of my mind. One way or the other, I feel it’s just around the corner. We are on the cusp of something, my unicorn of a husband told me last night. I think he may genuinely believe that our suffering will be rewarded in this lifetime, in this fucked up cruel world that has not given me a single break in decades. I would be forced to say that I vehemently disagree.

Where have I been to? Where am I going? My apartment walls once held so much promise but today they fold in upon me and I cannot draw a breath. My fingers trace the scars of my past, gnarly and authentic lines I once carved in my own skin. Since then I’ve achieved a dull stasis, wrapped my pain like a chrysalis that sheds layers as it incubates my slow decline. I want to roll the dice again, start anew with a heftier character. And it will strike like lightening, burst forth with new life. I’m hungry for the cure.

Femara is not giving me an easy ride right now. I sat with my psychotherapist this morning and cryptically made reference to the precise instant I was derailed, oh, the drama of it, a psychotic depression and the long years of recovery. Now I lay on my back boiling and taste salt from the split in my lip–and my babies are maybe angels and I can’t process the laughter from their ghosts. CD 7, last dose tonight. Dear sweet God, if you’re out there, please let my soul find rest.

 

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.

sick

…and when I do go out, I hide in plain sight.

Days stretch out ahead of me like highways, interminable weeks, all the years of solitude. I sulk on damp streets, safe behind dark plastic lenses. I keep my hair tucked into my shirt. There was a time when I forced my grief on the world, made them see me wrapped in the rage of all things lost–these days I opt to remain transparent, nothing save a ghost of a girl in the wind.

I am sick with missing my babies. I tell no one about the patterns only I can sense. A leaf twitches and signals a man to round the corner. He makes a secret sign and a red car proceeds down the road. They’ll hurt you bad, whispers an unfamiliar voice. And it all fits together like a puzzle and I know that when I get this way it means things are not going well. I frighten my friends. And I don’t know anyone like me.