when you open your eyes and it hits before your first breath…

I am irritable and nervous. The sun is already shining hot, I am home alone wishing for a friend. And my ears ring with the sound of my unicorn galloping full speed into disappointment and grief. I cannot visualize winning this full-scale war I’ve waged against my broken ovaries for years.

My mind races; perhaps I need to bump my mood stabilizer. My reflection in the window shows a skinny girl with a head too large for her frame, stretched out on an unmade bed with greasy bangs sticking to a long and narrow face. I feel a pang of sadness–years ago I was an unconventional beauty with flashing dark eyes and the rounded hips of excessive fertility. I waited too long. Unable to place a finger on which physical attributes now combine to make me look old and weary, I let a tear slide down my cheek. Letrozole, 2.5 mg. Take 1 tablet by oral route daily for 5 days days 3-7 of cycle. Can these stupid, possibly impotent, little pills bring redemption? 

I’m 9 days past my ovulation, wondering if I’ll randomly experience a pre-fertility treatment miracle. Laughter echoes in my ear. I could kill ALL of this by taking one of the 50 home pregnancy tests I keep stashed in the bathroom but I won’t. The cat curls up under my chin, as always, desperate for affection. 

And I hate hate hate this, I’ve been doing this for years and it wears me down and from now on I’ll go it alone with only Geoff by my side if I can somehow not drive him away with my vitriolic heart…

God laughs, the same God that took Molly and cursed my body to cling to her so she had to be ripped brutally from the comfort of my womb when I loved her so very much. The same God that took my sister when we were both only children. I’m so so sorry, Molly. I’m so so sorry, Meg. I would have done anything to save you. The stray sunbeam that dances over me makes me think of fire and I close my eyes, knowing sleep will come soon. Please visit my dreams, all my loved ones; I’m still trapped here. Here on Earth, I’ll move forward alone.

unicorns and sunshine and glitter and rancor

I only seem to get pregnant when my health is poor. Eight days past my ovulation, if my admittedly lax tracking can be matched with my instinct to pinpoint the elusive event. I generally have no ovulation symptoms like middleschmertz so it sometimes boils down to hunch, albeit a hunch informed by years of careful tracking. I’m feeling particularly robust this cycle, so I’m positive my period will show on schedule in five days. And three days later, I will start my first round of letrozole. 

My psychiatrist was uninterested in my concerns about mood swings while on fertility meds. I sort of thought she might be, but I really wish she had mentioned that she’d be in Hawaii for three weeks while I’m moving forward with my plans. Sigh, I can’t blame her…I’m a difficult and high maintenance patient, although I never was until I started ttc. I try to channel my frayed nerves by exercising and eating well, but the 100 degree heat this week sure makes it hard to cook healthy meals and get out exercising. I’m two pounds away from my target weight, a magic number I’ve crowned ideal because it’s what I weighed when we conceived Molly. Failed pregnancies, medication changes and stress and depression make it difficult to maintain consistency with my weight, but I have to confess my vanity and say I feel pretty confident when I can fit back into my size 27 jeans. 

But really, someone shoot my unicorn. After years of disappointment and heartache, even a sliver of hope is dangerous–there’s only that one sliver but when it’s dashed it’ll really fucking sting.

So, Universe, keep me safe from potential pharmaceutical mayhem and help me sleep a little more regularly so my BBT charts are accurate and if you could kind of make sure I actually ovulate, give me a chance to catch that egg (eggs?). This is the closest thing to prayer that I can possibly pull off while so bitter and jaded, and I know it’s not a lot but maybe after all I’ve been through you could maybe throw me a bone?

and you move past history how?

I’m antsy as hell waiting for this cycle to end so I can start my Femara cycle. I’m not letting myself blow glitter, though. I know that my best odds are still very low odds, and above all I am a realist. Thirty-nine years old, trouble conceiving plus recurrent chromosomal losses since I was thirty-five … But I can still hope for a miracle, can’t I?

I hear a voice in my ear. Miracles are for other people, never you. The disembodied voice cackles and I’m momentarily disoriented. I’ve seen DOR women find success with oral meds. I’ve also outgrown two infertility forums, the last one standing, everyone else bringing home rainbow babies while I wonder if my turn will ever come. And I’ve become angry beyond words, bitter and hateful of my lot in life. All I want is this one normal thing…

I was so happy when I was pregnant with Molly. Confidently, we announced at 12 weeks gestation. My dad was ecstatic, already looking into buying plane tickets for the month I was due. I brushed off my mom’s pessimism…I don’t want you to get too excited, she said to me. There are so many things that could go wrong.

I wish she wasn’t right. I think that was almost cruel, that one statement that planted a seed in my head that germinated and grew into an epic nightmare. Every moment of my NT scan is branded in my memory, sore, infected…10 mm cystic hygroma. Hydrops fetalis. Heart defect. If these terms are unfamiliar to you, consider yourself lucky. Molly had a slew of fatal defects, obviously caused by a chromosomal abnormality like Trisomy 21 (Down’ s Syndrome). People see little videos of adorable, affectionate kids with DS but that was not our daughter’s fate. Down’s is not just intellectual disability; it can cause severe and fatal medical issues as well and by our 16 week scan it was evident that Molly would not survive childbirth. The fluid building in her abdominal and chest cavities would severely restrict organ development. Her lungs would never develop and outside my womb she would never be capable of drawing a single breath. I had to choose termination, my value system would never allow me to continue her suffering.

I loved Molly with every cell in my being. And now that she’s gone, I’m always going to be a little bit broken.

fire

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

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

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

sad, sadder

I can show you sadder poetry 

Than you ever dreamed there could be.

I know all the saddest people

Most of them are dead now.

 – The Magnetic Fields, Save a Secret for the Moon

This town is full of horrible pain. The dying junkies sit with their dogs and line the sidewalks, offering nothing in exchange for the spare change and cigarettes they desire. Wild-eyed tweakers scream at passing cars and are run off by the sudden and inevitable appearance of sleek black cop cars. My kin, my fellows in schizo, mumble and duck their heads as they board the city buses…they don’t have phones so they can only hope for chance meetings with their friends as they travel with no destination in mind. And here I sit, privileged but knowing.

My friends are hurting now too. I know their problems, their official diagnoses and addictions and horrible family-of-origin stories. I get frantic emails, the random guy from Tinder doesn’t want to see them again, their cat’s died, their kid is violent and got expelled from school. I sat on the patio last night, trying to get fresh air while my panic attack subsided and this skinny teenage girl approached me. She was apologetic.

“I live in D7,” she said to me, “I got locked out, is there anyway I could plug this in for a moment?” She had one of those portable asthma machine things, I don’t know what it’s called.

She was red-faced, gasping for breath. She had no shoes, just a pair of wooly legwarmers in the 80 degree heat. Her legs were a mess of self-mutilation wounds, slashes of angry red lines everywhere, all up and down from ankle to hip. I plugged in her machine in the outlet beside the door, she loaded it up with a tube with a prescription label on it and sat quietly, sucking on the mouthpiece.

“Do you need me to call someone for you?” I asked. She shook her head, reaching into the pocket of her shorts and pulling out her phone. She held it up to show me. “I can go to the office,” I said, “They might be able to bring a key.”

“My mom’s on her way. She went to get me more medication,” she told me. I sat next to her. “You promise you’ll be all right?”

She nodded. Geoff came home; we soothed the cat as the girl headed home.

I got an email from a friend who said she thought she was dying, that she had aneurysms in her heart and they might explode and that’s why she’s been behaving so erratically lately.

And I sighed, swallowed my Serax and lay down on the bed. I stared at the little bottle of letrozole on my nightstand. Is this what I’m meant for? I’ve been plagued with deep philosophical thoughts: maybe the reason I’ve been through so much is that I’m here on Earth to help these sick and hurting people. Maybe that’s my job, and why I’ll never have a baby.

“Leave this town. Just gtfo,” my therapist had said to me, before leaving for her annual August vacation.

I close my eyes, feeling Geoff’s presence next to me. I’m not completely alone, and for that I’m grateful. With thoughts of existentialism swimming through my head, I fell asleep.

gawd damn

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

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

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

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

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

down in a hole

When the sun is shining, I forget about the cloudy days. I’ve spent the week sparkling and hopeful but here today it is gloomy and quiet. I feel utterly alone, sad about saying goodbye to my only close friend in this godforsaken town. Life’s gotta go on though. I’ll start up BBT temping again tomorrow, just to get back in the habit and I will forward to better chances ahead.

My Internet friends are a lifeline for me, and as pathetic as that might sound I wouldn’t have it any other way right now. No one I know IRL would understand; pouring my heart out to a trusted friend while hearing her loving child fussing in the background gets old real fast. I still long for a solid connection sometimes, from someone other than my therapist, who, awesome as she is, still charges $150 a 45 minute hour for her commiseration. I received a kind email from my oldest friend, a girl I’ve known since before I could remember. She has two beautiful boys, and, incidentally, recently won $15 million on a scratch ticket. I did the email equivalent of shrugging her off, “oh, my life’s not like yours,” and it was heartbreaking. Leave me alone with my schizoaffective and diminished ovarian reserve. How does one get around that?

I can’t help feeling that I’ve lived a lifetime of bad decisions, all leading up to today’s significant depression. And yes, I’ve done foolish things but not EVERYTHING is my fault…is it?

I know I’d feel better if I went for a walk, but the shoes I ordered should be here today…

 scrambled egg musings

The ups and downs of bipolar disorder are definitely amplified by a little case of infertility. Here I am, 39 and struggling to get through my days, to navigate cherished relationships that are suddenly mind-bogglingly complicated. I feel like a child, raw and incomplete. And I go through my days bumfuzzled, so full of manic energy that nothing in the whole wide world makes the slightest bit of sense.

I try to keep my emotions and behavior in check. I’m worried something awful about the bridge I lit aflame last night. I’m pretty sure things would be recoverable had I not informed my now-former best friend that I found her wife “insufferable”. I think that’ll be the deal breaker…granted, she IS insufferable but prudence and respect should have guided my fingers so that they did not tap out that one, unretractable word.

But to be honest, despite all of my attempts to slug my unicorn into submission, my mind is primarily focused on the little orange bottle of letrozole hanging out on my nightstand. The sliver of hope it represents, the kind words of my refreshingly middle-aged RE reverberating in my stuffy ears. Three months of meds + timed intercourse, then perhaps a switch to Clomid. Seasoned infertiles, answer me this: should I request a trigger shot for TI? My husband and I get busy at least every other day throughout my cycle so I’m not worried about timing, and I’m afraid triggering would ratchet up his delicate nerves and cause irreversible stage fright, but I don’t want cysts. Is this more of a concern with Clomid?

My psychiatrist was somewhat dismissive of my concerns about mood & mental changes on Femara, but did say she could prescibe Serax for any potential problems. Reassuring enough, I suppose. She did make the ever irritating, “stay out of the chat rooms,” comment, as if I don’t peruse peer-reviewed studies and yes, I do pick up knowledge from my trusted friends who have been right here before me. So, as far as I’m concerned she can fuck right off.  

I cannot wait for this cycle to be over. CD 19, fertile window slammed shut. The tww is nothing to me these days…just hanging on until I bleed again. I can’t help this sudden rainbow of hope bursting forth from my dormant heart. I’m asking you, Universe, just one take-home baby…

an argument for protecting your heart at great personal expense

I seriously burned a bridge today. It’s not often that I snap, but I did; I was just in no mood for the bullshit I am constantly bombarded with from fertiles. I’ll probably regret it tomorrow when the anxiety meds wear off but today #sorrynotsorry.

I won’t bore you with the childish argument. My friends have disappeared one by one as we struggle here, in this haunted apartment. We are just too tragic and in the solitude of daytimes my heart simmers and boils over. I’m unfit for life here, in this quiet town filled with junkies and tweakers, yoga enthusiasts and liberals. My presence chafes, they all avert their eyes. I don’t recall the last time someone asked how I was doing. Life goes on; the loneliness festers. 

Black cancer spots my heart. We need a new home, a new start. I’m paralyzed by indecision but I have to keep breathing.