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.

.

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me right now and I’m adorable.

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

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ghosts

My uterus is full of ghosts. Sometimes I still wake up feeling flutters thinking Molly is still within. I couldn’t save her, but I will never forget. She touched my life so briefly that my mind is boggled by the impermanence. In my dreams, I never see her face.

The world spins on its axis, inevitably circling a sun that never warms me. I find myself shivering cold and impassive, an automaton seeking blood. I stumble through interminable days as the seasons change, inexorable and relentless. My hair covers my face, hanging down in greasy tangles; impatiently, I toss it back over my aching shoulders and try to go through the motions of living. How long has it been since I’ve sat sipping cola on the beaches near my distant home? How many summers will pass by unnoticed as I lay tangled in blankets with the shades drawn, no sunlight, no escape from my self-imposed prison? 

CD 13, a day that counts insofar as I might be in my not-so-fertile window (RE says I have less than a 2% chance of conceiving a chromosomally normal baby the old-fashioned way). I continue to troll infertility forums and fuck, wondering if my sins are revisiting me because this is a special region of hell that I never dreamed of when I married my loving husband five years back. Perusing my wedding album is like being stabbed in the heart, me in my black thrifted dress smiling at friends that have all but disappeared leaving me to wonder how things took such a turn for the worse.

Fuck infertility and recurrent pregnancy loss. The anger is the worst, the thing that drives me to perdition and forces me to dig an alligator filled moat around the squishy core of my being just to keep love out because I’m sick of everyone’s disappointed stares and radio silence when I pathetically rest my hands on my now-empty womb and keep them there until the sorrow spreads to my eyes. 

And I remember all the saddest things…
 

words i whipped out as my husband cooked me dinner

I walked into my therapist’s office feeling broken, and left feeling pretty much the same way. I don’t know what I was expecting, really. I don’t know why I still seek comfort from a woman that has four grown children and grandchildren. 

“Miscarriages can certainly be disappointing,” said the woman who, over the last fifteen years, has saved my life and my sanity more times than I can count.

Words swirled in my head. “Disappointing”. How about invalidating, minimizing, silencing. You fucking bitch, what’s wrong with you, I’m bleeding??? She hesitantly ceded that yes, my eighteen week pregnancy termination for medical reasons was a traumatic event, and my subsequent nine week miscarriages were “re-traumatizing”. 

I honor the memory of each of my lost children. Molly, yes, Molly was my closest. I wear her name tattooed on my forearm, under the little Moomin tattoo that Geoff and I used without permission on our Xeroxed wedding invitations (once a zinester, always a zinester, I suppose). I felt Molly moving inside me, yes, Auntie, a fetus just shy of nineteen weeks does move and quite certainly is more than a blob of cells “barely the size of the tip of my pinkie with no discernible features whatsoever” (and yes, I believe in abortion nonetheless). 

People talk to me about healing when I reach out in the land of the Interwebs. I have a very strong drive, perhaps a habit formed from years of group therapy for my bipolar/schizo stuff, to find others who have suffered in similar ways that I have. But those women all have rainbows, or rainbows on the way. My search for women who are childless after loss hasn’t unturned much of a support network. There aren’t any therapists specializing in infertility and pregnancy loss in my area, and the pregnancy loss support group here in town is sparsely attended by young women that just want to talk about getting pregnant again (and is run by the chaplain at our local Catholic hospital to boot). I don’t actually want to get a new therapist after cementing a strong therapeutic relationship with my current one–fifteen years is a very long time to be working with someone. I just want to make her see me because I feel invisible. 

What do I do? Where do I go? I’m terrified, being so alienated but I’m even more scared of the insensitive comments, especially from those closest to me. That’s why I don’t leave my house. That’s why I don’t talk to any of my friends.

 violence

CD 3 came and went, and I didn’t take the Femara. But here I am, still a train wreck. My little cat curls up behind me and offers comfort as my mind spins and my body shakes. The thought of facing another fertility window, medicated or not, paralyzes my limbs and I feel them heavy against our hard mattress with the memory foam that fails to yield to the bones that jut from my tender flesh. Everything hurts today, and I am alone.

Halloween marks one year since the tragic end of my first pregnancy after my eighteen week abortion. My only natural pregnancy loss, when I passed the gestational sac as a cold, dispassionate tech rammed the dong wand roughly inside me, refusing to allow me the dignity of losing a baby in a private solemn moment with my husband by my side and refusing to honor me as the pain and cramping wracked my body, because the Rules dictated that she take the dimensions of the wasteland I call my ovaries like it was the only possible time for them to do it. We had seen a heartbeat weeks earlier, but our second baby was dead and gone.

I hate the term “angel baby” because fuck God for needing angels. I don’t believe in angels or heaven anyhow.

Coincidentally enough, I arrived in the States at three months old on Halloween of 1978 to meet my adoptive family at JFK International airport. It’s always been a special date for me and my parents and I hate that now it’s tainted by grief. And, whew! If only adoption now was as easy as it was then.

At this point, I’d rather stick my arm in the garbage disposal and flip the switch than face another TV ultrasound. This isn’t an abstract concept to me; if offered that choice, I’d genuinely prefer a maiming to another date with Wanda, followed inevitably as always by heartbreaking news. I’m scared my already dysfunctional mind will someday just crack wide open–it has happened before, why shouldn’t it happen again? I feel burdened and weighed down, my back aches and I cannot tell if it is physical pain or a metaphorical projection.

Scruffy has taken paid time off, in as such as I feel no more hope but I am paying for it in blood. I’ve bled out three babies and my god, there is so much blood it is as if an act of violence has been precipitated against me and I stand as a survivor that nonetheless is permanently damaged and too sensitive to step out into a cruel world devoid of caring. I really don’t think I’m going to get pregnant again, yet am occupied with the fear of another loss, especially another abortion for medical reasons. So many possibilities for suffering, and I’m, like, I’m half-past give a shit. Do I go back on birth control? Will I even be able to afford birth control? *wry grin* Fuck the President too, while I’m at it…hey, I already took a shot at God.

I don’t think I can go on trying until I’m 40, the way I’ve always said. I think I need to save myself and my sanity before then, and if I must accept childlessness in order to accomplish that, so be it. 

reprinted from my fb

Hey there Paul Ryan with your smug little grin…fuck you! I understand that abortion is a touchy subject with women experiencing infertility, but if you are not pro-choice, you’ll probably want to unfollow me right now…or else read on and see if my words make sense to you now.

It’s taken me a day to process how I am feeling about the 20 week abortion ban, the Pain Capable Pseudoscience Bullshittery Act, call it what you will. I’d sworn off talking publicly about the second trimester abortion I had on April 7, 2015 because it caused me so much pain — no, I didn’t mind being called a murderer or being compared to Casey Anthony, but apparently it made my friends uncomfortable and Geoff and I experienced a great deal of alienation from even our most liberal friends. It’s been over two years since we decided to terminate our first, meticulously planned and much wanted pregnancy due to our daughter Molly’s fatal chromosomal defects and I am still nearly incapacitated with grief, sorrow, and loneliness. We loved Molly more than anything; she was the product of our love for each other.

I did not choose to abort for shits and giggles. I did not choose termination because we didn’t want our baby, because we were irresponsible. It was not a nbd situation…it nearly destroyed us. And incidentally, we didn’t walk into a rundown clinic past protesters with me visibly pregnant because we didn’t want a disabled child…but I might have (that wasn’t our situation, but had it been I may have chosen to terminate nonetheless…I can’t say).

Since I was 36 when we conceived Molly, my obstetrician recommended having early genetic screening done at 12 weeks gestation because at my age there is an increased risk of chromosomal abnormalities. We opted to have the Nuchal Translucency scan and we did so without much foresight. I didn’t anticipate bad news, we were arranging to move into a bigger apartment and let me tell you, as a disabled Medicare patient, had I known how much money our out of pocket expense for this scan would end up costing us, I would have skipped it. The level 2 ultrasound showed a 10 mm cystic hygroma and the beginning stages of hydrops fetalis. We were told a perinatologist was driving down to Olympia from Tacoma just to speak to us. After much ado, we were advised to have a CVS done to check for chromosomal abnormalities and we would have done that had they not informed us that our only chance to have this test would be to get to Seattle in 45 minutes…it takes 1.5 hours to get to Seattle!  Remarkably, we were told these defects may very well go away on their own  (we now know this was nothing but false hope). We opted to wait until 16 weeks to have the gold standard test, the amniocentesis (the clock’s ticking down).

I had 4 weeks to wait, 4 weeks to bond with my unborn child. Every day, I listened to her heart beat on my at-home fetal Doppler. For 4 weeks I prayed Molly would be okay.

At 16 weeks and change, we went back to our perinatologist. Level 2 ultrasound showed the large cystic hygroma had grown, and Molly had developed full on hydrops, fluid around her and inside her that left no room for growth, no room for organs like her lungs to develop. She had a severe heart defect, along with a huge list of additionally defects. They could not perform the amnio and suggested we try again in 2 weeks (tick tock).

We opted then to terminate and did so at 18 weeks and change. Our hospital is Catholic, our local clinic did not perform second trimester abortions. We drove to a shabby building in Tacoma, where I met the kindest people in the world. The grief counselor and the doctor performing the dilation and evacuation procedure (which is a 2 day process so brutal and painful I still wake sweating from nightmares about it) held my hands. I’d been administered Valium and anesthesia, both of which cross the placenta, and if she’d been able to feel pain (real science says she could not have)…she would have no awareness when they stopped her heart. I asked them when it would start…they told me it was over. “I am so sorry,” the doctor said softly. They were still holding my hands…I was moved to tears at their compassion at the darkest time of my life.

I came in under 20 weeks. Any more setbacks, a couple moments of very human indecision…the Republican party would love to see me jailed. Geoff and I were both privileged enough to have been raised in solid families. Our value systems would not have allowed us to keep Molly, who, had she survived to viability, would have been born without the ability to draw a single breath. She would have died in front of us and it would have destroyed us all. We could not in good conscience have let that happen to her, to us. My own physical health was at risk as well… mothers with hydrops babies can develop Mirror Syndrome, where fluid builds up in her own body and can threaten her life.

On my road to healing, I have met many other women that have endured the same as Geoff and I, and worse. We are not monsters–we are making painful decisions with our healthcare providers, decisions about our bodies, our families that are well thought out and emotionally devastating. And I’m angry, really fucking angry that at our time of greatest need our rights are being chipped away by who? These fucking clowns that have no fucking clue what it’s like to have a  and deal with the responsibility of carrying a child? These are women’s basic rights…it was my basic right to make the most painful decision I’ve ever been faced with in my life to do the best thing for myself, my baby, and my family. You fucking right-wing nut job Representatives have no business in my body or personal affairs.

And don’t even start in with the thinking I’m an exception. I am proudly pro-abortion even though I myself can’t seem to have the healthy baby I’ve always wanted. I believe that the existence and availability of the abortion procedure is fundamental to allowing women true autonomy over their bodies and thus equal rights in society. Anf if you think you can protect the rights of women in my situation without protecting all women, you have another think coming. Facebook informed me yesterday that it’s been 37 weeks since I last updated my status…almost enough time to carry a baby to term. I return to you in outrage over this blatant attack on reproductive freedom. Please…support abortion rights for women, support organizations like Planned Parenthood and NARAL and support women like me retain a say in the decisions we make for our own health, well-being, and families.

a desert island with you

I’ve let silence settle in a cumbersome mass around my shoulders and heart. Words are sticky in my throat and I wake from fitful sleep gagging on jumbled mussitation. My mind is clear yet offers no insight. 

My mental health providers would disagree, I’m sure, but I really don’t feel as if I’m experiencing bipolar depression. I don’t lack motivation because I’m too depressed to give a shit, but instead find myself living in terror of random acts of God that will cause me to suffer more. I haven’t stopped walking around the Westside because I lack energy; I’m acutely terrified of being struck by a car, becoming a victim of violent crime, having my feelings hurt when I try to explain to a rogue tweaker that I am not withholding cigarettes because I lack generosity but because I, in fact, simply don’t have any so could s/he stop  threatening me? I don’t stay in bed because I feel there’s no point in getting up, but because I’m petrified of going about my day and forgetting I am cursed only to receive news of something terrible that is going to hurt me even worse than I’m already hurting. The events that have transpired in the last three years (losing babies, botched surgery, medical complications, infertility) have left me acclimated to receiving horrible news, to being struck by lightning.

I don’t feel my moods are out of control save from when I take Femara and in fact, I think taking Femara has only underscored the fact that my moods have been relatively stable since receiving news of Molly’s many incompatible-with-life defects. I think my psychotropics are doing their thing. I think I am, for lack of a better word, shellshocked. And I hate to use that word when there are so many out there who have arguably lived through worse (my brother in law is a combat veteran for fuck’s sake), but I feel the comparison is valid because of the intensity of my reaction. It may be easier for my doctors to diagnose mania when I am simply shaken to the core with rage over the things I’ve endured and a support system that ghosted me because they didn’t approve of a second tri abortion or because my grief made them uncomfortable. And, when I express the depth and weight of my sorrow, I’m sure it’s easier to say I’m having a depressive episode because how could I be that upset over an 18 week fetus (note my therapist has 4 children and my psychiatrist is childfree by choice)?

I need to heal from trauma, but I’m at sea as far as knowing how. I don’t even know where to go for help.

And, just to keep everyone in the loop, I’m 13dpo and waiting for my period…I know it’s coming.

anniversary day

Despite the dreadful rain coursing down my window, I feel a bit lighter today. I’m allowing myself some time to rein myself into my own head, to daydream more than usual, to relax without the usual social pressures that I without fail, usually crack under. I’ve detached from anything that could be described as social media save for this blog. My husband and I agreed to take next month off from medicated cycles and stick to the ole fashioned way with no tracking ovulation save for my fairly consistent CM patterns (I know, gross!). We’ll resume Femara the following cycle.

Today is our five year wedding anniversary. I have no idea how he puts up with my moods and neuroses, which our battle with infertility and recurrent pregnancy loss has amplified to an unholy degree. Getting married to my dream guy was exhilarating and we spent one heady year as blissful newlyweds before contemplating baby making. I spent a year adjusting my psychotropics to levels and dosages suitable for our endeavor (all the changes ultimately turned out to be dead wrong thanks to my inexperienced prescriber, but that’s another story). Oh, how I long to have that year back! And we dove in, conceiving Molly in our first try. 

Losing her broke us. It felt like it completely broke us, but we stuck together and since that fateful day in which we made the agonizing choice to let her go with love…well, we’ve been broken a little more with each passing month. Immediately after our pregnancy termination, I developed a condition called serotonin syndrome in our attempts to mitigate my grief and post-partum depression with the powers of antidepressant medications–very rare, and psychologically debilitating. I then suffered dental issues due to a combination of my having a fucked up jawbone and having had bad orthodontics, leading to a botched surgical procedure by an unscrupulous oral surgeon, so for months all I could eat was mush or slop. Fourteen months of negative home pregnancy tests, two traumatic miscarriages that brought on symptoms of PTSD from my original loss. We now contemplate childlessness, with unfathomable sorrow.  And through this all, my husband has been my rock. I literally think I would have died without him.

He reads this blog sometimes, which I find sweet and endearing. Geoff, if you are reading today :

Thank you for being in my life. I love you, and always will.

My whole life, I’ve been told that what I was feeling was wrong. And it is. Being bipolar, I can never control the intensity of my feelings, the heart-stopping rages I get, the profound depressions that despite my best intentions, make me crave oblivion and have me wanting nothing more than to leave my blood all over everyone’s hands.

I hate the world right now, and everybody in it. I don’t trust anyone who I feel has not suffered, and the lines I draw are completely arbitrary.

I’d rather embrace the horrible loneliness that kills my spirit than let anybody hurt me ever again. My mother, and her audible sigh of relief when I told her I had to terminate my much wanted pregnancy. She doesn’t think I should have children. Fuck her. I’m sure, as usual, she’ll end up getting her way. I think she sort of hates me; I think she always has. And her tyrannical sister, who when I was upset about terminating my baby tried to soothe me by telling me the baby was “no larger than the tip of your little finger, with no discernible features whatsoever”. My belly was round, I was feeling her move. I had just shared a fucking ultrasound picture.

I’m pro-abortion, btw. I just think it’s a much more complicated issue than the rhetoric of both sides makes it out to be.

Anyway, I will no longer show vulnerability to anyone but my husband, who I trust implicitly most of the time. And in my semi-anonymous writings, to people I’ll never know. All my angst over facing the end of my fertility…well, I have to get it out somewhere.

For the record, I am 6 dpo on what will be my final Femara cycle. 
 

dream small

Five days past ovulation, and my heart is weary and worn. Truthfully, I can’t imagine feeling any worse than I do this morning. My loneliness is palpable and i wear it like a cross. I hate playing victim or martyr, and am hypersensitive to coming across as needy or desperate so I choose isolation. Better not to inflict my selfish misery on others.

I wonder if I should call my dad. Lately, I’ve been so nostalgic for New England but I dare not return…all my childhood friends with their beautiful children. Nope, can’t deal. My house is a disaster–instead of fretting over the mess, I have just not been wearing my contact lenses so I don’t have to see it. Geoff comes home in the evening to make me dinner. I feel useless; I haven’t brushed my hair in over a week.

I’m not sure if my depression requires a tweak in my meds or if it a result of letrozole. I refilled my prescription for next cycle but am unsure whether I should give it another go. My thoughts revolve around stopping ttc. Would it be an act of self care or giving up on my dreams? I long to hold Molly just once and really wish I could have had a labor & delivery termination instead of a d&e at a filthy abortion clinic. I regret not having her remains cremated–i chose to donate fetal tissue to science instead but I have nothing left of hers save a few ultrasound pictures. I realize I was not that far along in my pregnancy with her (we terminated at 18 weeks), but I still consider her my child. It was the last month I had with her that fills me with grief and sorrow. Her defects were evident at our 12 week NT scan…hydrops fetalis, a 10 mm cystic hygroma. I was first told I needed a CVS, and I was told that I had to be in Seattle in 45 minutes to have it done, but it takes 1.5 hours to get to Seattle. Wtf. Remarkably, the MFM told me these issues may resolve on their own and I was specifically told not to Google. If I had, I would have learned the condition was fatal, that there was no hope.

So, I waited 4 weeks to have an amniocentisis. Four weeks of feeling my heart swell with love for my very sick baby, four weeks of hearing her deceptively robust heartbeat on my home fetal Doppler. I fell in love.

And it ended so badly…

My heart aches that Molly might be my only child. I’m scared and alone, a full two years later and I’ve felt worse and worse every cycle since. I wish I could afford IVF, but am likely to be a poor responder so even if I had the money, I don’t think I could try it.

everyone is nicer than me

When I heard my baby was dying, I stopped talking to her, and her, and her. Just cut them all out of my life. Those girls with their blistering innocence who painted nurseries before they went off their birth control. I can’t be happy for them; does that make me a sociopath? My therapist was shocked, Kathleen, these are your friends, trailing off when she saw I wasn’t joking and her expression became one of pity. I held my head high, met her eyes with my steely eyes and. just. held. steady.

I still choose solitude and call it loneliness. I make new fake friends online with troubles like mine. Like maybe they also struggle but I don’t get attached. I sometimes can’t bring myself to congratulate them when they move on without me, thinking only of myself, of my pain. Sometimes I resent their money and the options it affords them while I rip out my hair trying to save money in case I ever need to pay for another D&C. I didn’t have a neat and tidy hospital abortion; instead Geoff borrowed a car to bring me to a grungy clinic in Tacoma and I walked with my hands gripping my second trimester bump past hateful protesters who fell silent upon seeing my state. Something broke inside me then, leaving me hardened and cold.

Sometimes I can’t deal with women with secondary infertility. With women who say they would have chosen differently. With women who’s doctors didn’t immediately say “donor eggs”. With women that can choose to stop their antidepressants to have a baby. With all of them. Sometimes I can’t deal with anything. I wander dark corridors at night, looking for my heart.

Does it matter if I donate money to hurricane relief, write about injustice naively trying to tell people’s stories, ask the world to be a kinder place? Does it matter, if I still harbor so much hatred inside of me? If I’m always going to be like this, does any of that matter?

My feet need to touch pavement. I lay on my hard mattress with blankets piled round, I pray for the fleeting comfort of sleep. I resist the temptation to give bad advice.

I know. But I can’t seem to help it.