continuing updates, tw

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Initial beta is 313 at 14dpo. I can live with that. My repeat draw will be tomorrow. I feel like an animal on high alert, scanning the horizon for signs of danger, trembling and precious. My little cat curls up close, offering warmth and comfort as I wait to hear from my psychiatrist. 

For my readers with less experience with the common perils of early pregnancy: the “beta” is a measure of the level of the hormone HcG in a women’s bloodstream. This is the hormone produced during pregnancy — when you take a home pregnancy test, this is what it looks for. The level is supposed to double every 48 hours…some people say, I think, every 72 hours but I don’t hold with that. So tomorrow (Friday), I’m looking for my number to be at least 626. I’ve made it through beta hell before, but still miscarried. The thing that really matters in my case is whether or not this embryo is chromosomally normal. It either is, or it isn’t, and I will not know until I either get to genetic screening at the end of the first trimester or miscarry again. Nothing I do now will change the outcome…this little spark’s future has already been scripted.

ETA, 2PM My psychiatrist is fine with the med changes I want, which is to get off my anxiety medication (Restoril), drop my anticonvulsant mood stabilizer (Trileptal), and start Lamictal (a different anticonvulsant mood stabilizer) instead. It’s going to be rocky, I don’t handle medication changes well. If my beta doubles tomorrow, I will contact my psychiatric obstetrician, who manages my bipolar meds during pregnancy. I don’t want to have to go see her (her office is up in Seattle) until I feel a little more secure in this pregnancy, if it does end up coming to that.

I wish I could shake this horrible sense of impending doom. In our conversations about embracing childlessness (however reluctantly), Geoff and I have considered practical aspects of the decision to stop ttc, noting that the GOP is hell-bent on coming for our health care, which for us and many other families is a huge fucking deal. Stopping ttc would have been the sane thing to do. I am a disabled Medicare patient with regular large bills from psychiatry to contend with. Sigh. This won’t be easy, no matter what the outcome. 

I’m getting ahead of myself. Scruffy came back from the gutter and keeps nudging me gently with his singular stabby horn. I know how dangerous hope can be. 

ETA, 3.30 PM.  Commenced panicking about my beta tomorrow, and I listened to the panic attack audio segment of my app, Stop Anxiety and Panic! Yes, there is an app for that, primarily consisting of cheesy guided meditations and mindfulness exercises, and for me it’s indispensable during pregnancy. The panic attack audio is basically a recording of a lady that yells at you to settle down. God, how is this my life? Me, who scoffs out loud when my psychiatrist tells me to light scented candles and take baths…just give me the drugs, bitch! Why can’t I be a normal woman, with a normal brain and a normal egg reserve, who can have a normal uneventful pregnancy resulting in a healthy baby? Lab opens at 8 AM Pacific time, I will be there crying to the phlebotomist. 

Speaking of the phlebotomist…the phlebotomist is at my general practice clinic, where my former OB works. These people have been horrible to me in so many ways, and are horrendously incompetent to boot. My OB there said she wouldn’t see me during this pregnancy, because she doesn’t handle AMA pregnancies as they are, apparently, fraught with horrible perils requiring attention from a doctor who is a specialist in geriatrics. I mean, wtf?? An OB that won’t treat a patient over 35 yo? WT EVERLIVING F? Plus, she’s seen me through two AMA pregnancies. I realize I’m a difficult patient, but if she’d said she couldn’t work with me because of my psych issues, I’d understand that. But it’s not like if you’re a waiter, you can be like, “oh, i don’t serve assholes”…suck it up. But I digress.

At the lab yesterday, there was one gentleman in front of me. I was off in panic attack la la land, but Geoff recognized him as someone we don’t know well, but who moves in similar social circles as we do. When I calmed down, I recognized him as well. He went into the lab, and annoyed the shit out of me by engaging the phlebotomist in a lengthy conversation about their dogs. Hey, we were in a rush! After he finally left, I went in while Geoff had a brief conversation with him acknowledging our mutual friends. 

“Sorry about that. He’s terminal. Bad liver. Only has a couple months,” the phlebotomist told me.

WHAT ABOUT HIPAA?? Patient confidentiality? Fuck. Now we know this horrible thing we’re not supposed to know about a man we run into from time to time…ugh. He apparently didn’t mention his health problems to Geoff when they were talking…just, ugh.

I’ll be back in the morning to freak out in either despair or elation tomorrow…this is real. This is our last chance. I am terrified. For now, goodnight. 

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tw: continued, with updates

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My nerves are singing; I am terrified. I go through the motions, getting dressed, putting on make-up that does nothing to address the lines gathering ominously around my middle-aged eyes. If this is my miracle, I will be one month into my fortieth trip around the sun when I give birth. Too old, I tell myself. My age is no bueno, a harbinger of potential loss. Regardless the outcome, this will be my last pregnancy. I don’t have it in me to do this again. I was ready to stop, and now this.

I am waiting for Geoff to bring me to the lab for my initial beta, drunk on reluctant hope and shaking with withdrawals from my unsafe-for-pregnancy anxiety medication (it seems to be balancing out for now). When I get my test results, I will spring into action. I have to call my psychiatrist and psychiatric obstetrician to debate my Trileptal. I’m hoping to switch back to Lamictal, a mood stabilizer that my primitive research and admittedly scarce past experience suggests is safer. I will probably have to redo my release of information paperwork allowing them to work with each other…ugh, I’m getting ahead of myself. This all could be gone tomorrow.

The second line on my Wondfo pregnancy test this morning was so much darker than yesterday’s squinter, tho…

I will continue to update this post throughout the day, as for the likes of me early pregnancy is like a full-blown psychotic episode, but worse. If you need to protect your heart, please unfollow me — I would do the same for you *wink*.

ETA, noon. Geoff is taking his sweet time, and I cannot go to that clinic alone again. I find myself relying on the tips for getting through panic and psychosis my psychiatrist taught me, taking my pulse every half hour and inhaling slowly for eight beats and then exhaling for the same count. Thank you to all who have been following (um, guys, I have visibility to my reader stats and while I can’t know for sure where you ladies are coming from, I can speculate with a degree of accuracy), and thank you to those who have very tentatively reached out to me outside of WordPress. 

ETA, 2PM I finally got my beta and progesterone drawn. A little cross it took so long (c’mon, Geoff!), and I had forgotten how much I hate the phlebotomist. However, as unicorn-y as she may be (just draw the blood! don’t comment on my actual medical situation!), she can find my teeny-tiny veins on the first try every time. I’m unsure if I’ll get my results back today, but I know it’s Friday’s draw that I really have to worry about. Still, I do admit I’m hoping for a strong number…I do think my Wondfos are appropriately dark for 14 dpo. I’ve never had my progesterone drawn for any of my pregnancies, though. Sigh. I’m too old and grumpy for this. I really want a stiff drink. And it’d be real nice to, I don’t know, NOT have to worry about World War 3 today…

ETA, 5PM I guess I won’t get my test results today…stupid Geoff! Not entirely his fault, there were issues getting my RE to get the lab orders to the lab closest to my home. I just woke up from a lengthy nap and have commenced freaking out over my boobs not being as sore as this morning. I also need to stop trying to track progression on HPTs since all I do is guzzle water. The anxiety med withdrawals are a BITCH.

ETA, 6PM I’ve been in regular hell for a while now, but beta hell is worse. This has got to be a chemical pregnancy. Geoff should be home from work soon. Signing off for the day. 

trigger warning for the infertiles/rpl’ers

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There is a second line on my FRER. For this one moment in time, there is a spark of life somewhere inside me (I dare not speculate on where). I have no expectations of having a healthy baby; I just feel kind of numb. My boobs are sore and I can hardly keep my eyes open. I’ve yet to call any of my doctors for betas or psych med adjustments. Negative thoughts flit through my sluggish brain: what trisomy will it be this time? what horrors do the next weeks hold? The 5 mg of Femara seems to have produced a result.

I am 13dpo. No congratulations please; just prayers. This brief moment of hope demands witnesses. It could all be gone tomorrow and I’ve learned to honor my babies, however unlikely the circumstances, however brief our time together…

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…

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.

the jumping off point for the rest of my life

I am looking for storytellers whose eyes might reflect my own. Seeking. Oftentime it is a painful journey, full of sorrow and rage locked deep in the corridors of an isolated woman’s wounded soul. All humans suffer; such is the nature of living on a cruel dying planet where immorality is sold as a commodity and unethical behavior reaps rewards beyond my disability-class family’s discarded dreams. Out there in the world I have been eschewing as of late, there are multitudes of women suffering, silenced by fairytale narratives that we on the fringes cannot access. I am naive — I believe suffering will be rewarded. And I see it happen in real time, time and time again, while I continue to decline into chaos and misery.

I’ve watched my sisters in infertility and RPL reach a point of utter despair… a spiritual bottom, as we twelve-steppers frame our experiences with addiction. And their miracles seem to come about right on time. The treatment worked, the stars aligned and bam! They are redeemed, reinstated into the lives that left them behind temporarily and now welcome them back from the fringes and they move forward with a simple thought or a prayer to those they leave behind  (and we all know how dismissive the offerings of thoughts and prayers are by now). They are jubilant to move forward, glad they’re not like me, it must be my own fault for longing for a child despite living below the poverty line and having waged a lifetime war against mental illness which, by the way, is often passed on to any offspring. I must not deserve a baby; I don’t even own a house, all I have to offer is love and in the real world love won’t pay the bills.

Maybe I’m projecting my own insecurities. But maybe these are things that I’ve seen reflected back at me from others.

I’m being abstruse. I’m honored that some of you have noticed my absence. I’ve been miserable on this round of Femara, and I feel, that since recognizing this is the end of the war against a recalcitrant reproductive system, against my own body that makes up a huge part of who I am and what my essence is…I have declined rapidly. I don’t remember the last time I left my apartment; I eat nothing but yogurt and bread with hummus. I’ve been skipping showers; I hacked off about 10 inches of the long hair I was so proud of with a pair of pinking shears. At this point, I don’t want to get pregnant again — I want my Molly back.

Surely there is someone out there whose story is similar to mine, who are childless after loss, infertility, or multiple losses. Who has terminated a wanted pregnancy, who struggles with mental illness, who maybe is just as overwrought as I am to be governed by a malignantly narcissistic liar…

So where have I been? I’ve been reading voraciously and trying to find a place for myself in a cruel world. I’m in a place where I have to arm myself with knowledge, seek out the storytellers, and I am looking for stories of suffering while recognizing that my own problems are admittedly first world. I’m lost and ready to listen. 3DPO, starting progesterone and Scruffy has gone quietly into the night. He may have left me, but I am still here. I always will be.

which voice is my own?

I feel a desperately cliched urge to find a voice after everything I have been through. Here I am, imprisoned by my own mind, scared to leave my bed and engage my fellow man. I write all day, sometimes well. I’ve grown thin again despite the fistfuls of pills I toss back every day, I am isolated by my odd behaviors, and my inner flame is all but extinguished. You’ve lost the war, say the voices that protect me and I rail against all my desires to do so gracefully. Go down fighting, a different voice tells me. 

And so indecision haunts me, fills my dreams. I check out regularly now and am unsure if I am falling asleep for brief moments (are they really brief?) before finding myself awakening confused. I’ve stopped taking care of myself, choosing to take my meds with candy rather than nourishing foods and neglecting my appearance and the housework. No one understands how I’ve let myself spiral down into intractable grief; I slouch around my apartment all day, guzzling coffee and soda in the t-shirt and running shorts I’ve been wearing all week.

About thirteen years ago, I fell for a lie…that getting sober would lead to a satisfying and fulfilling life. I poured my energy into recovery, dogged in my determination to spend my life helping the still suffering addict. I no longer have that patience, that naivete. There are scores of good people out there willing to pour their efforts into saving lives from chemical dependency and though I value my sobriety I just don’t have the passion for twelve step anymore. What I want is to find other women whose chronic mental illnesses precluded their desire to have the children they always wanted, and find that proverbial voice through connecting with and supporting them. Is that even possible? Are there even other women that have gone through what I’ve been through, the hopes and dreams, the unwavering love for a spouse and then the horrible descent into recurrent pregnancy loss and infertility on a disability paycheck with no hope they could procure the money, or even reduce the medications or uncontrolled symptoms that stand between a functional and thriving psychotic and assisted reproductive technology? 

If I found a voice, would I still be alone and lost in an uninhabitable forest?

My only hope is to write my way out of this hole. I’ve treated this blog like a daily bipolar mood journal, an infertility timeline, and I know I am capable of harnessing more power with words when I am not so incapacitated by the agony of grief and apathy towards the outcome of grieving. I must do better, and I will…I just don’t know when.

all over the place today, guys

CNN article on Trump’s claim that we have a mental health problem and not a gun problem

Just sayin’… how about we don’t scapegoat the mentally ill, who are far more likely to be the victim of violence (I have been) than violent themselves (I have never been, and I have a psychotic disorder)? And who have all the marginalization they need already? Past violent behavior is way more predictive of future violence than your diagnosis…and the Texas shooter had that in spades. And I’m talking mental illness, like bipolar, schizophrenia, depression…not personality disorders like sociopathy (antisocial personality disorder) or Trump’s malignant narcissism, that don’t get better with medication. And I will put it out there; I’m perfectly willing to turn over any rights I may have for gun ownership. 

Okay. 

One dose left of Femara and my emotions run amok. It’s a chilly grey day in Oly — I got home from my therapy, fed my little cat (he’s having a rough time, the time change has messed with his precise mealtimes so he was already frantic for his lunch), and dove into bed, under my Pendleton blankets and atop my heating pad. I am shaking but I don’t think it’s because I’m cold.

No. I just shake now. I don’t think it’s pharmacological because it only happens when I have to talk to people that aren’t Geoff. It makes me look like a freak, so I avoid going out; even on my small patio, I must remain constantly vigilant and duck inside if someone approaches. Also, a small flock of blue jays has been harassing me. 

And on Femara, all of this gets magnified. My bed is the only place I feel safe. It gets pretty boring; I think I’ll reread Animal Farm which I haven’t read since college, or research why the DSM-V reclassified personality disorders as mental illnesses when there are huge political ramifications to the elimination of Axis II, or post on silly and triggery infertility message boards, or rage-stalk the President across Asia…oh, please don’t start a nuclear war! Inside, my eggs are turning to dust. I am so fucking depressed.

And angry. I am angry to be losing the battle of my life, to be in a place where there is nothing I can do but quietly accept that Geoff and I will be a family of two. I fucking hate quietly accepting things. Let this be the only time I’m forced to acquiesce. 

And out in the world, things go on without me. My friends are raising their children, my mom travels the Mediterranean, Geoff works his ass off, and a tweaker just got a bfp. Mass shootings. War. Sexual harassment. All these things continue. And I sit here broken. And apparently if you mix benzos with Femara, you get too high to write well. 

Oh, well.

 poison

I am floating; I’m not sure where my head is. Day by day, I get smaller. My little cat curls up at my feet — it is so very cold, and I am comforted by the gesture. I no longer seek to connect with the real world and its people, people that are out there now on their phones and in their cars just living and my belly is full of seething fire and smoke because I will never be like them. I don’t know what I did wrong. This life confuses me.

And I long for normalcy and banality, a routine everyday of going to the market and not freezing up and God, if you could help me stop shaking…

I did it. I took the Femara after forswearing it forever. I guess I wasn’t done and I wish that I could be because I’m crazier than ever on it. I was dreaming that Geoff and I had a child, a boy that was six years old. Geoff was angry at me for giving him coffee and it was no big deal, we were just hanging out — a normal family except for me. Me. This is all my fault. My crazy is destructive and I’ve mowed down everyone around me and even in the safety of my home a horrible anxiety plagues me…

I am thinking of my childless friends as we move towards the completely unavoidable holiday season. I have good memories of Christmases past; now most of my loved ones are gone. I feel panicked at the thought of seeing my parents but I only see them once a year. If only things were different…

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.