Mother’s Day

I don’t even know where to begin. Today doesn’t feel so different from the past. I’m awake too early, watching reruns of How I Met Your Mother. I’ve overbooked my day against my better judgment.

And yet, a lot has changed.

This day used to be ridiculously hard for me. Which is probably still an understatement. There is a particular indescribable pain in waiting for something that never comes, gradually magnified by feeling left behind. Conversations for which you have no input and you’re not sure you ever will. Our brief brushes with hope always stung a little extra around Mother’s Day.

I’m not sure I’m able to let go of the pain this day brought and embrace the excitement. Maybe it doesn’t feel real yet, despite the near constant flip flopping and inconveniently placed kicks that stop me in my tracks. Or maybe I’m still slightly afraid to embrace it. I met with HR to discuss FMLA. I’ve been navigating a bunch of annoying red tape preventing my access to my short term disability benefits and yet, every conversation begins with that I’m “anticipating” a maternity leave in August. Not that I’m definitely taking one. 26 weeks in and I can’t shake superstition that our little rainbow will actually show up.

And in a weird coincidence, Bad News is the episode that just started. 50 is the first number. This episode kills me every time. I actually posted on Facebook about this episode last year on Mother’s Day. I will do my best to not read too far into it, that it counts down until the moment of pure shock and devastation. Though the reason it kills me is that I can deeply feel Marshall’s loss because of losing my own Dad, who I wish more than ever was here to hold his grandson someday. It’s interesting now that I think about it. As I was bleary eyed making a cup of coffee, a baby cardinal flew across the yard. Immediately I said “Hi Daddy”. So maybe it’s a reminder about our rainbow after all. Kind of like the rainbow at the end of the great flood when the Father promises never to destroy the world again. Maybe I’ll never understand his timing, but somehow this is the fulfillment of that promise.

Wow. This certainly took a different turn.

Happy Mother’s Day to all the moms of children on Earth and in Heaven, and for those whose children are still in their hopes. Happy Mother’s Day too, to those who love another woman’s children as her own and touch their lives the same.

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Flip the Script

A particularly meaningful National Infertility Awareness Week is coming to an end and this year’s theme is, of course, Flip the Script. The intention being that it’s time to talk about all the different types of people who experience infertility, not just the stereotype of the busy neurotic executive seen in most Hollywood depictions.

That being said, I feel like I need to also flip the script on what is considered viable treatments for infertility. I feel like I’m betraying groups of people and communities that once held me as their own at every turn in this journey, but (insert qualifying statement that I’m not able to construct at 7:22 AM). I think it’s time to talk about weight loss as an actual treatment for infertility.

My first reproductive endocrinologist used medical terminology to tell me I was fat and that he wouldn’t treat me until I was less fat. I hated him for it and was relieved when he left his practice and my insurance had to allow me to go to BIVF. They tipped their hat to my fatness by noting that my BMI couldn’t reach 45 but that my level of obesity was ok. I was probably within 10 lbs of that limit though.

I went through 4 painful IVF cycles, the details of which have been discussed ad nauseam here. I honestly believe at this point there wasn’t any amount of scientific mojo they could have done to force my body to sustain a pregnancy.

I lost a person worth of weight, was cleared to remove my birth control and 5 cycles later was expecting my son. The fact that I belong to a handful of online groups dedicated to pregnancy after weight loss surgery tells me I’m not the only one.

Why is it then, that outside of my bubble of people who lost a bunch of weight and miraculously conceived, am I too afraid to mention it as an option? I saw a post the other day in another group I belong to where a Mom was experiencing infertility and part of her post suggested to me that she may be obese. I got halfway through my response talking about how IVF didn’t work but weight loss did and I deleted it. I don’t know if I expected to be attacked for fat-shaming or if I feared it would come across that way or what but I couldn’t offer my story.

It’s not just massive weight loss either. I have a beloved friend who lost 30 lbs cleaning up her diet and is pregnant now.

I think we have to get over our pride a little bit and admit that for some people, obesity is the root cause of the infertility. Certainly it’s not the cause for every overweight person and may not be the magic fix, which I think is the case for any infertility treatment.

But as painful as it may be, it may be time to flip the script and start considering weight loss in the continuum of infertility treatment options.

In Process

I originally titled this “Resolution” as in resolution to infertility. That’s the term people use when they stop trying to conceive. They’ve either conceived a child, adopted, or accepted a child free life. I somehow can’t bring myself to commit to saying that my infertility is “resolved” because as Michael Scott famously said on The Office “I’m not superstitious but I am a little stitious”.

I feel like a cliche. I hated and always felt a little betrayed by blogs about infertility that magically resulted in pregnancy. I admonished Resolve for always posting stories with happy endings of a miracle IVF baby because “Some of us may never get there!” I’m too lazy to scroll back in my newsfeed but I may very well have been unknowingly expecting when I said it, or it would happen shortly thereafter.

I wish I could tell you that everything is wonderful once the test is positive. Maybe it’s because deep down I never thought it would happen and it was with significant eye rolling and resignation to disappointment that I even peed on that stick in our upstairs bathroom. When it ever came up positive, I had too much shock to feel joy. Some time after the 4th home test I sent Hubby out for, I had accepted that we had conceived. But in the same thought, I believed I would miscarry again. The first blood test seemed to reaffirm my fear. The beta was 50-something, like Blastkap was. They like it over 100. They told me it’s different with spontaneous pregnancies. They couldn’t pinpoint how many days post ovulation I was, and like the others, it just had to double. I couldn’t hear them. I wouldn’t get attached. Every twinge convinced me of the end. I scoured the bowl for the telltale signs that never came. I thanked God every time.

Three long days later, much to my surprise, the numbers looked good. I started sharing the news. It was 3 long weeks before they would verify that an actual living thing was present. I was a mix of hope and continued terror at every twinge. I had the chance to tell my family at Christmas which I had dreamed of forever. I told myself I would do it because I may never get the chance again.   I promised myself I would get emotional and excited if it had a heartbeat. There was a beating heart but I didn’t get emotional.

I’m 18 weeks now and I resent what infertility and pregnancy loss has done to us. Hubby and I hold our breaths until we hear that the heart is beating strong. He borrowed a friend’s portable doppler and take turns having random fears and having to lube my belly with aloe and make sure he’s still there. I’ve slowly allowed myself to get attached to my son but I still am deeply fearful with every ache and pain (which are numerous in the second trimester). I still look for blood and I really and truly resent that. I resent that there are people who’ve never lost a pregnancy that are excited from the positive test without a single thought that it might not be permanent.

I am so excited to raise this little boy, who didn’t cooperate for his anatomy scan yesterday and they couldn’t get a good enough look at his heart. I smiled to myself that his personality was showing and like a storm cloud creeping in to ruin a beautiful day, my fear is nudging me that something is wrong with his heart and we’re going to lose him and I will feel so stupid for getting excited, for believing that this really would happen for us.

This is what the last six years have done to me.

 

Hope Addict

I don’t really have a clever way to open this post tbh but we’ll start with my recent trip to Target. I went for a PSL and spent $40 on stuff that I clearly realized I needed once I got there. I passed the baby section and started to cry. Out of nowhere, blindsided by these huge unceasing tears. Oddly enough it didn’t feel like sadness, just like…a sunshower popping up in the middle of a perfect day and the sun is still shining and you’re like “the hell did this rain come from”. I got nervous. “I’m broken again” I thought. Or I’m more broken then I have been. I got home to find that I had started Day 1 of my cycle. “Ha!” I thought. “I knew I wasn’t a weak ass bitch!” My inner monologue is a bit of a renegade. “I’m just ovary acting!” She’s kind of funny too.

This of course was my third Day 1 since stopping birth control after the all clear at my 1 year post surgical follow up. This was the end of the 3 months we said we’d give ourselves for the magical reversal of infertility after losing 100 lbs. It’s sort of why I did this crazy thing, thinking maybe it would fix me. A lot of people have unrealistic expectations for surgery, that it will fix all your problems. I had hoped it would fix just this one. But alas, the 3 months of #summerlovin’ with its own Amazon music playlist of slow jams is over. It’s September, a few weeks shy of our 8th wedding anniversary and the 6th year of seeking the stork, and as Hubby so succinctly put it: “What now?”

There is really only one stop left on the road to biological children and it looks like I’ll be calling my old friend Dr. Brian Beautiful. I am scared to fucking death. I’m scared of the emotional Tower of Terror I may be about to ride all over again. I hate that ride. You spend the entire time waiting for the drop and it’s always after a series of mini drops you’re convinced are the free fall, and you finally think it’s fine and then boom, you’re plummeting.

I’m scared to be hopeful again, afraid that I’m not reading the signs properly that this isn’t meant for me.

And yet, I’ve had several conversations lately about a reality where I’m carrying our child someday with a dragon themed nursery and gluten free cupcakes at my shower. As much as I fear hope, I’m also helplessly addicted to it. I always come back to the book of Romans, when paraphrased, that we also rejoice in our suffering because suffering produces perseverance, perseverance produces character and character, hope and hope does not disappoint us.

Maybe it was never the hope that did me wrong. Maybe I’m not wrong to want to hope again.

But why does it feel like I’m about to fall?

Snow Day Ponderings

I swore I was never going to become one of those “everything happens for a reason” people. I want to protest and maybe as long as I don’t say the words, I can maintain that promise to myself.

But I am starting to appreciate the ways that my failure to conceive a child has actually blessed me.

I was so ready my last IVF cycle. I was so sure. I was “healed”. It was time. I had been through enough. It was my turn! But I was also “she who is never not broken” and I began to accept that I would never feel whole again. That my new normal was this somewhat tenuous “okay”. Or I thought that I would seal the cracks by being a mom and that this child would seal me. I’m so glad I didn’t become a mom then. What kind of mother would I have been if I placed the entirety of my self worth in a child? That’s a heavy burden to place on such tiny shoulders. I’m glad I cancelled the next cycle the day I was supposed to start it. I regret wasting the medications, seeing as some people never become parents due to their inability to afford them. I paid a very small percentage and they all expired in our fridge. For that I am sorry.

As a result of cancelling the cycle, I changed my life forever. A month later, I had a consultation for weight loss surgery and now, around the time of what would be Blastkap2’s first birthday, March 22, because you never forget that stuff, I’ve lost 103 lbs and gained a wholeness I didn’t know was possible. It’s kind of superficial to say that I didn’t heal until I lost weight, but that’s also not the whole truth. There’s this cliche that weight loss is less about what you’re eating and more about what’s eating you and there’s clearly some truth to it. I would put the level of misery of the weeks (and months) after my surgery pretty close to the profound sadness of our infertility losses. It makes sense though. I couldn’t eat (or drink) away my problems anymore. I was left with no choice but to confront my bullshit. Every day I’m still left no choice but to confront my bullshit and either push through it or find a different route around it. Not every day is a push through it day. Some days are pity party days and I escape to reality TV. Some days I lean on those close to me and they remind me that I’m a brave warrior princess and/or they remind me that I don’t have to be one all the time.  A lot of days I just have to kiss it up to God and just say “Help me help my stupid self”. But some days, slowly but surely, I fake it until I make it and I’m doing ok.

I have found a level of confidence I didn’t know I had. I’ve started to advocate for my own needs, knowing that I’m worth it and scary as it seems, knowing that I can walk away from situations and relationships that aren’t in my best interest.

I started a small business which was a huge leap of faith and continues to be a huge leap as I try to grow it, but it is also my “baby” of sorts and it makes me so much the “me” I want to be. Plus it’s 99% social media, which anyone I’ve ever done training for knows is my favorite way to pass time. I maintain that should I ever be on a unit for people with dementia and I’m agitated, the staff should hand me a phone and tell me to scroll Facebook and I will calm down.

I’m not saying I’m not still kind of a hot mess and my kids are going to have to accept and forgive that but I can say I’m truly glad I have had a little more time to become a little less broken…and I still have seven more months to become my best me before it’s even a bridge we need to cross again.

What the actual?

So I had a plastic rod put in my arm today to prevent me from getting pregnant for the next year. So there’s that.

I’m trying hard not to get lost in my own head and focused too much on what I don’t have and can’t do anything about until I throw myself into a downspiral and wind up paralyzed in a puddle of my own tears on my couch.

Life in most other aspects is going really well. I feel incredible. My weight loss journey is going well. The weirdest thing seems to be happening where I feel like I’m coming into my own…finally. It’s probably a confidence thing that I hid inside of a 300 lb shell and dared not make noise for fear of being noticed. I’m working on taking compliments and not taking any shit.

Today, the day of my wonderful arm rod, the busiest OB/GYN practice in Boston was, surprise, running late. As usual, ultrasounds and baby bumps galore. 45 minutes of silent eye rolls and Cyber Monday browsing later, it was my turn. After all was said and done, the NP apologized for the wait and the people-pleaser in me was about to say “It’s okay” but instead I said that the long waits can be challenging for me with my longstanding infertility because of the number of overexcited people in the waiting room. I’m a work in progress because it was laced with “it’s not that big of a deal” and “…and I know that really can’t be helped”. But at least I spoke up at all. The NP was actually pretty receptive though and asked for my input on how it could be better.

Hubby and I have a practice that medical procedures mean you get to pick lunch. I probably could have indulged more than a kale salad (though it’s one of my favorites!) and a skinny latte so I decided to binge on Netflix instead. Gilmore Girls!

*GILMORE GIRLS SPOILER ALERT*

That’s when I feel like they betrayed me. Paris runs a fertility and surrogacy clinic and Luke and Lorelei are there halfway through the first episode. Come on. What the fuck? This was supposed to be my nostalgic distraction from this adult crap. Gilmore Girls was a simpler time. I could stay up all night. Vodka didn’t give me hangovers. I could achieve anything. Fuck.

I think this is going to be a long year.

 

Ten Fifteen

So here we are again on October 15. Things are definitely a lot more settled around here, especially compared to last year and definitely compared to two years ago. Our infertility is no closer to resolution but my heart hasn’t added any additional scars. We’re just kind of on cruise control.

I’m in the midst of making some decisions and steps that could change life for us a little. I’m putting together an application for possibly a second masters to advance my career and/or looking into starting a side business as a break from my primary occupation. Both have developed super recently and at the moment I’m just not positive what the best course is. What is a huge change for me is that the possibility of being pregnant has hardly crossed my mind for consideration. Maybe it’s just acquired wisdom from experience that not being able to try for a year doesn’t mean it can or will happen exactly a year from now. In the past I would have been paralyzed by the “what if I’m pregnant” which has held me back from so much of the last 6 years. I’m kind of like “we’ll figure it out when there’s something to figure out” which I really have to admit is a big change for me.

That’s why it’s kind of weird that this year I felt compelled to do something meaningful to commemorate October 15. I had it planned for months: I was getting a tattoo today. I started researching designs, some more obvious than others. I settled on an overall concept that had to do with never forgetting and included three hearts that represented the Baby Rafkaps we never met. Hubby will certainly experience some guilt for this story, but this is his journey too and he is entitled to having his concerns heard. Anyway. He suggested I leave room…just in case out of superstition. I held back tears. It was like the bottom fell out of my stomach. I have only ever thought of the losses as something behind me. Something I’ve found the strength to get through but always remember. I stopped thinking that it could happen again. I think part of me knew that if we got pregnant that I would certainly have fear, but that it wouldn’t happen again. I’m actually a little surprised at my own optimism. Needless to say, I need to regroup a little and rethink because if I experience another loss, the last thing I want to do is run through my checklist like “MD to see WTF, Blood tests to 0, add heart to tattoo”. Yeah. No thanks.

I reconnected on Facebook with a relative that for my own reasons I hadn’t spoken to in a number of years. As is usually the case in these situations, the questions came “How are you? Any kids yet?” I responded about my surgery and how I’m feeling pretty good overall and I completely ignored the second question. I’ve generally been pretty outspoken about my journey and never have shied away from that question. This time, it was like I couldn’t be bothered to even respond that God hadn’t given them yet.

I really don’t know why. Not that I’m complaining.