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A very long post about infertility, pregnancy and (some) politics.

I'm having a baby. Which is exciting stuff for sure! Baby knits! Baby names! Morning sickness! (Oh wait, that part sucks!)

I've had a very, very long journey towards pregnancy. It's something that I'm supposed to be ashamed of and keep hidden, apparently. But honestly, I'm the kind of girl who instagrams my lunch. Do you really think I'm not going to give a ridiculous amount of detail regarding my attempts to create life???


I've never seen myself as someone who would be a mom. Kids make me kind of uncomfortable, I don't have any sort of natural maternal instinct, and while I enjoy kids when I'm talking to them, babies squick me out sometimes. I was at a friends house once, and they had tacos. TACOS! I was so hungry for tacos! Then one of the kids, put her hand in a bowl, got a fist full of cheese, put her entire cheesy fist into her mouth, (So impressive by the way. How the heck did she fit her ENTIRE fist into her mouth? Especially when that fist is full of cheese!) Then wet, formerly cheesy fist goes back into the cheese bowl. Repeat. I silently gagged. I did not touch any food in that house the rest of the night. Everyone who had kids? Totally cool with it. They all got to enjoy delicious tacos.

Now, let me stress something. If my dog licked something and someone didn't want to eat any food because of that? I would be freaking insulted. Is a dog that licks his butt any different than a small person who's had a hand in her diaper? Probably not. Nevertheless, one grosses me out and one doesn't.

I wouldn't say that I didn't want kids in the beginning of my marriage. My husband and I threw contraceptives out the window, since birth control made me a miserable human being. We figured if it happened, it happened. When it didn't happen, I just figured that was someones way of telling me that I shouldn't breed. Dill had also warned me that years of being around stuff in the military had probably ruined his fertility. Two guys in his unit had gotten cancer, and he always wondered if it was because of the things they were exposed to in their work. Plus, we're happy together! We have a rad life. We go on trips when we want. If we don't feel like cooking dinner we go to a nice, quiet local restaurant and chill out over a beer and some good food. I can't imagine those things could happen if we were responsible for a small person.


Part 1: Hey! This hurts!

After about 13 years together, I did start thinking... "what if we had a kid?". We would talk about it sometimes, and we flirted with the idea of adoption, but holy cow, the cost... the paperwork... that is not an easy path at all! Kudos to those of you that have done it!

Then, when I was between insurance, I went to Planned Parenthood for an annual screening, and the nurse asked if I had ever been pregnant. When I told her no, she asked about my periods. When I told her they put me in a crippling amount of pain, she said that I probably had endometriosis, and that I needed to get it taken care of.

Now. Let me rewind, I've researched my period symptoms before. Because they are a nightmare. I've broken bones. I've had surgery. I've torn muscles. I would have gladly taken all three at once, 24/7 in trade for my weekly period pains. I've of course complained to doctors about it, since the age of 14 when I realized that my friends didn't have it as bad as I did. I received prescriptions for extra strength advil, phrenilin, and even vicodin. I took them when I was desperate, but honestly, what's the difference between being unable to function at school or work from pain vs. unable to function because of pain killers? I had mentioned to doctors that I'd researched endometriosis, and they would just shrug and suggest the painkillers, or that if I got pregnant it would help. (There is research to suggest that pregnancy can help endometriosis. But endometriosis makes it almost impossible to get pregnant!)

Ok, so back to the nurse. I told her my history, how no doctor would help me. She suggested I go to another doctor, explain that I had pain AND I hadn't had kids, and he would recommend me to a fertility doctor, who would take my endometriosis concerns seriously.

Keep in mind I'm between insurance at this point (I had another 60 days before it kicked in) but I was so hopeful that someone might finally give me answers, I shelled out the $250 bucks for the first doctor visit, which honestly lasted 45 seconds, as he recommended me to a fertility doctor. With that in hand, I started my path to real answers.

I waited till I had my insurance lined up to see the fertility doc, who said "Sounds like endo to me!" and scheduled me for surgery.

Which my insurance denied, because clearing up endometriosis could be seen as a fertility treatment, which they don't cover.

We fought them for 6 months, which hell, 6 more months at this point of pain was really nothing, because now there was a light at the end of the tunnel. Once it was finally approved I went in for what was supposed to be a quick 45 minute procedure.

Over 3 hours later, I woke up from surgery, with the doctor telling me I had the worst case of endometriosis he had seen in all of his years of practice. He called me a "pioneer woman" for actually getting up and functioning every month. He kept shaking his head and saying "I don't know how you did it".

Which has me thinking, how many women are living with the same level of pain that I lived with? I didn't see the same doctor my entire life. I told my symptoms and my pains to multiple doctors over the years, male and female, and they all just shrugged it off and wrote scripts. Why? Just because the pain is in my "lady bits" and not my stomach, or my back, it's not a valid pain that should be cured, or at least looked into?


Part 2: So, babies?

At my follow up visit (where the doctor gave me pictures of my surgery. Ew.) he asked if I wanted to see if I could have kids. He couldn't tell me definitively of course, but we could do blood work, see where my egg count was at, try some stimulating drugs and see if I produced follicles. We did those things and the results weren't great. All the years of just dealing with the pain of endo and not getting it taken care of was probably a contributing factor. Dill got tested as well, due to his aforementioned fears of his military career causing problems. He was declared, "excellent" which I think he is considering putting on a tee shirt. (Seriously, ask him about his sperm count. He's very proud.)

We tried an iui, and that didn't work. Then we tried another and again, no go. This went on for a few years (in the meantime, let me tell you how fun it is to do infertility treatments and have various friends declare they had "oops! Gotten pregnant") so we finally pulled out the big guns and did IVF.

It was humbling. 4 shots a day. Doses increasing every couple days as my body doesn't respond. Then finally, finally, 2 eggs. We did the extraction, made a couple embroys, implanted and... nope. Fail.

At the follow up appointment, the doctor says I should consider doner eggs. I could "maybe" get pregnant with my own, but it would be a lot of money, and a long road. I felt like a complete failure. My body didn't work, I couldn't have kids, all this money was gone and I was told that if I wanted to have kids, ever, I had to pick some random person out of a book, pay an even larger amount of money that I didn't have, and have a kid that wouldn't even really be mine.(hormones and emotions talking. Of COURSE it would have been mine. That was my upset, knee jerk reaction)

I politely said no thank you, and went home and cried.


Part 3: That's what friends are for.

Look, if you're anything like me, your hairdresser knows way too much about your life. So when I saw mine just a couple weeks after getting the news of a fail, I told her everything, including the part about the egg doner, and how there was no way I could afford it and how upsetting it was.

"Dude, you can have my eggs! I've had twins naturally, they're probably great!"

Um, what? Seriously?

"Sure! I'm all about it!"

I told her to think it over for a few days to see if she was really serious. She was, and made an appointment with my doctor.

So a few months later, we go in for IVF number 2, this time with my friend Sarah's eggs. Which, were freaking great. We got over 10 out of her, and turned 6 of them into perfect embryos for me and my husband. I bawled like a baby when she did the procedure. I mean, come on! Not only does my friend give me perfect hair, she gave me baby making dna!

2 embryos in, and I waited for the line on the stick to turn pink, because of COURSE I was pregnant this time! Everyone was in such a good mood during the implantation! The nurses were like "Test early! Don't wait for the blood test! That way you can get excited right away!" and even the doctor said "This is gonna be twins!"

And I was pregnant. For a second.

I had a very, very faint line 12 days after the procedure. The blood work said my hcg was 20. Then it was 5. Then it was 0.

Failed. Again.

(At this point, one of my friends announced they were having natural twins and another got "accidentally" pregnant for the second time. Awesome.)

PS- According to Mike Pence I should have had a funeral for my period that month.



Part 4: This is it.

At this point, my doctor wanted to do more tests. He wanted to see if my body rejected my husbands. (insert jokes here) Sure enough, a crazy expensive blood test later, we learned I have something called antiphospholipid antibodies
.

Which meant, if I wanted to try IVF with some of our frozen embryos, I needed to:
1) Go on daily aspirin.
2) Have a nurse come to my house every 4 weeks for a 2 hour intralipids IV treatment.



(That entire bag goes from the fridge into my arm!)

3) Inject blood thinners twice per day.

Those three things were of course, on top of the OTHER stuff you have to do for IVF. I had to inject lupron twice per day and an inter muscular shot of progesterone every night. And the pills. So many pills!



(The little one is my blood thinner, it goes in my stomach twice per day. The big guy alternates between my thighs and my butt. It feels about as painful as it looks.)

Want to see a picture of my stomach after all the injections? Of course you do!



(Also, see that weird piercing mark? Take heed kids, that's why you don't pierce your own belly button in high school!)

Before we went in for the next procedure, we decided to take a vacation. I was tense and stressed and no part of my mental state was going to be good for getting pregnant. We decided to go to Wizarding World in Orlando. I cashed in a bunch of points, we flew our asses first class, and learned that if you mix Firewhiskey with Butterbeer it costs you $20 to get a small buzz.



It was exactly what we needed to relax.

I'll also say that during this time, the November election happened and made us really sit down and think about what we were doing. Do we want to bring a child into this world? What will happen if our baby develops with no brain and abortion rights get taken away? Will new legislation put my life at risk if it becomes law for a doctor not to tell me everything that is going on with my pregnancy? There are a lot of new and scary factors with this administration. In the end, we decided to go ahead, but that if this didn't work we might wait and see how new laws shape up before we tried again with our other embryos.


So finally, we go for the next implantation. The mood was definitely less hopeful and I was just trying to cling to positive thoughts. And also trying not to pee myself. If you've never been through an IVF procedure, it involves drinking a ton of water to make your badder full, having that bladder pressed on for the ultrasound to guide the implantation, then not moving from the bed for an hour during which time you literally start counting seconds until you can get up and go to the bathroom!

Dill also thought his MST3K shirt was incredibly appropriate because it says "it lives".





Part 5: Holy crap, we're pregnant.

I took 2 days off work after the procedure. For those who know me, you know I don't take time off work. Taking time off work is a huge deal when you own a brick and mortar store. For 2 days I just laid on the couch and tried not to move very much. Day 3 I peed on a stick and got a negative. Day 4 our friends were having a huge reunion show for their band, and I really, really wanted to go, but I decided to play it safe and stay home instead of jumping around a mosh pit. Dill went, and when he came home at 2 am it woke me up and I thought, "well, technically this is day 5, the earliest I could possibly get a positive result". Peed on the stick, set it down, glanced at it as I left the bathroom and did a double take.... there was a second line. A very, very faint second line.

I didn't go back to sleep. I tried to tell Dill, but he was in a comatose state at that point. I tested every single day, waiting for the line to disappear and send me on my typical roller coaster of ivf emotions, but instead it got darker each time. Then the bloodtest came, and instead of the low numbers I feared, I was in the 200's for my hcg level! At this point, I had to retest every week, with the goal being that the levels would double every 48 hours. Which they did and then some! Then the ultrasound and there it was, one perfect little heartbeat. (We had put in 2 embryos, but only 1 took)
The next ultrasound, even bigger embryo, and still a solid heartbeat.

So I was officially "graduated" from my infertility doctor, and now I'm pregnant, sick as can be, and absolutely delighted. (except for the sick part. Have I mentioned that it sucks? Because it really, really sucks.)

Part 6: The ugly parts.

Here's what people don't always talk about with infertility. The jealousy. Even if you're not convinced you want kids, seeing everyone around you get effortlessly pregnant, or accidentally pregnant, or pregnant on the very first time they try... it's rough. I had to hide people from my facebook feed and unfollow them on twitter and instagram. It's not like I don't love these friends, or that I'm unhappy for them. It just downright sucks to see someone achieve something that you can't.

I couldn't even read Amanda Palmers book, because she mentioned there was abortion in it. Look, I am ALL ABOUT a womans right to choose. I am as pro-choice as they come. That doesn't change the fact that hearing about someone getting an abortion when you can't even get pregnant in the first place is just not possible sometimes.


The judgement
Oh my gosh, do people like to tell you what they think of IVF. It's immoral! It's murder! If God wanted you to have kids you would have them! Reading up on egg donation and so many sites advise you not to tell anyone you did it. There are people who are so ashamed of it they don't even tell the kids that are a result of egg donation. There are political movements right now that will actually endanger IVF. Some Republicans want embryos to have "personhood" status. Which means freezing them or discarding the ones that are unhealthy will be an absolute no go. I've attempted to argue the point before, and have been called a murderer for not accepting "gods will" and for having embryos frozen. There are other Republicans trying to pass bills against same sex couples, arguing that only the biological, DNA parents can be on the birth certificate. Which, if that were to pass, could mean that I couldn't be on my own kids birth certificate, since I'm not the DNA parent.

Your friends are idiots
If your friends don't know about your fertility issues, they will say the dumbest things. Hell, even if they do know, they'll say dumb stuff sometimes!
I was grieving the loss of a friend, and another friend said, "be glad you don't have kids. You don't even know grief unless you have kids. Once you have kids and lose someone, you can actually feel the true level of emotion."

Great. So I'm not only infertile as hell, now I'm also an unfeeling robot? Fantastic.

I'm sure that friend didn't mean anything awful by that, but it felt awful. There's also a certain amount of ostracizing when you're the only people in your group without kids. You're not likely to be invited to the kid friendly cookouts, or the kids birthday parties, or to dinner hangouts where there will be children. I'm sure no one is doing it to be mean, but it makes you feel even more isolated at times.

And when you do actually get pregnant, there's age judgement. I've been told that I'm too old, that my husband is too old, that it's not fair to our kid that we're so old and just starting out, etc, etc.

Look, if biology would have allowed me, I would have waited another 5 years! My goal was to have the house paid off and a newish car before we had a kid. Obviously, the expenses of IVF put a big pause on that, and now the expense of a kid is going to put an even bigger pause on it. Is my kid going to be born out on a farm, with plenty of country and horses and a pet cow? Nope. It's going to spend it's first few years in suburbia, with our neighbors loud dog and even louder kid, and the cars that go too fast down the street, and the room that's probably just a little bit too small, and clothes that are going to be secondhand. Sorry kiddo.

The great part about being older parents? Dill and I have had 17 years together to figure each other out. We don't fight very much. We don't raise our voices to each other, we're both pretty chill about everything. We know our faults, we know our strengths, and we don't have to spend time figuring that out with a little adorable blob that needs all of our energy and attention 24/7. I know that I'm not nearly as moody as I was in my 20's, and I'm going to be way less likely to shout or lose my temper over the little things.
I'm definitely not saying that if you had a kid at 20 you did it wrong. I'm just saying that it would have probably been the wrong decision for me.

You aren't allowed to whine.
There's this expectation that if you've gone through infertility you aren't allowed to complain about any part of pregnancy. Sorry. I'm going to complain. The morning sickness is freaking terrible. I'm in "puking purgatory." I am constantly on the edge of throwing up, but I can't throw up. I'm hungry and I can't eat anything. I get headaches and can't take advil. I have SO MUCH work to do, but I can't even sit up to get it done.
There. I broke the rules and whined. Expect more of it.


There you have it. That's what it's taken to get pregnant. I'm terrified of the labor. I'm even more terrified of the cost. (My insurance covers some prenatal, but not delivery unless there's a complication) I'm worried that my insurance will be even worse, or gone completely by the time I give birth (Thanks "pro-life" Republicans!). I'm terrified that the kid will be born and scream every time I pick it up, since that's what kids do with me. I'm worried that we'll just sit there and stare at each other and have no idea what to do. Overall though, I'm excited. A baby! From me! Maybe it'll love horses and books, or guitars and music, or maybe it'll want to do nothing but play sports all day long! Either way, I get to meet a little person that we've made! That's incredible!

I promise this blog won't turn into all babies, all the time. However, I am planning on being extremely open about this whole process, and I will post a ridiculous amount of cute baby knits!

And as an aside, the book is still full steam ahead. I've just had to take a few weeks off as I lay on the couch in misery trying not to hurl.

xoxx


PS- Since I started this blog post, I had another ultrasound and saw little legs and arms moving! There's a little MOVING person n there!

14 Responses to “A very long post about infertility, pregnancy and (some) politics. ”

  1. Congratulations! I highly recommend checking out Matt and Doree's Eggcellent Adventure podcast if you haven't given it a listen yet. It's a funny and equally frank telling of their ivf journey.

  2. Congrats on being pregnant! I'm so happy for you. And don't listen to all the judge-y people. Everyone woman different in pregnancy. And you aren't too old...my SIL had a baby at 42. Also, I can commiserate on the painful gross periods every month. I've had them since I was 11 yrs old. I suspect I have endomitriosis,(sp?) but never diagnosed. I get the same run around with just take some advil and deal with it. I did manage to have two daughters at least, but they are 5 years apart in age and never used birth control in between. Both were high risk pregnancies though. I'm glad you shared your IVF and pregnancy issues. I hope it helps others. Happy Baby Knitting. :-)

  3. I have never been prouder to be your friend. This is an amazing post and for the record, you and Dill are going to be wonderful parents.

  4. I am so happy for you both, and f**k anyone that tries to diminish this joy! I lost my uterus and and ovaries due to endo, normally I bawl when I see pregnancy and birth announcements. But this Joan, it makes me cry tears of joy. You two are going to give this child the world.

    Meg

  5. Thank you for sharing that Joan. Of course, I had no idea, and I am so sorry that you had to go down this long and hard and painful road to get something that most of us take for granted. Both my brothers have had fertility issues with their wives. My older brother and his wife tried IVF many times without success to try for a second child. They got pregnant with their second child and then realize that the baby's brain was not developing, so they had to choose to medically abort, which literally broke them. My other brother and his wife suffered for a long time with fertility issues tried all the IVf and everything and nothing for 15 years, and then out of the blue she gets pregnant, but then miscarriage two months later, another devastating blow. But just as they were about to give up she got pregnant with Jackson carried to term and our miracle baby was born, then, not six months later she was pregnant again with my second nephew. This all came out of the blue as they never thought they'd have kids together. Now they have two beautiful boys.
    I am not sure why anybody should be ashamed to do whatever is necessary to achieve the goal of having a child. Ignore those folks Joan, you're going to be a great mom, just know that, when you see your baby for the first time you will have no doubt. You guys are going to make the best parents and that kid is lucky to have you guys. I've known you all these years and I have no idea about your endometriosis, clearly you are very good at hiding things are keeping that private. I became a mom at 21 and again at 25 and that was the right time for me I needed my kids to help me through trauma that I went through as a kid, it seems silly but my childhood was so bad that I was so committed to making sure that there's was a great one. So happy for you guys, and I'm so happy for that little baby

  6. I am amazed by you and your commitment and the love you both have to give. And, yeah, morning sickness sucks donkey balls. I still shudder about all of those weeks of feeling generally barfy and woozy every moment of every day.

    Rock on, Joan and Dill.

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  8. Congratulations Joan and Dill!! I love you both so much! I couldn't be more excited for you.

    P.S. Joan, girl... I know... we should have a date soon. ������

  9. First of all, as someone who married late (age 34), and never had a child, believe me, I understand everything you wrote about the isolation when all your friends start to marry and have children. It's like I fell off the face of the earth on the social calendar. I didn't see some of them again until their children were grown. Later on, at work I once had someone say I should go ahead and work on a Holiday because they had kids and I didn't, and they wanted to spend time "with their family" and it was only fair. WTF. I didn't have a Mother, A Father, A Sister and a Nephew (who was a child at the time) that wanted to see me too during Christmas Day? Just unbelievable what people will say to you. Or the questions and comments about why my non-child state. As if it made me less of a woman because I never was pregnant. Unbelievable. So you forge on ahead with what is right for you and Dill. I am over the moon you are pregnant. I am so happy for you and Dill. It's all going to be okay. You just do it one day at a time, including raise a child. Don't worry about anything. You will be magnificent.

  10. Wow! What a journey you've been through!! I'm so happy for you and Dill. Look - every parent is scared shitless, no matter what they tell you. I'll never forget how scared I was that we were going to take the baby HOME without any nurses to help us! I have no doubt that you will be fantastic parents to baby Dark Hero. <3

    ~Genevieve

  11. You are so brave! You've had more than your fair share of grief. I wish you nothing but joy henceforth!

  12. Thank you for sharing! I'm my third cycle of IVF and hoping things work differently than the last time. The bruised belly is a beautiful and painful testament to how badly we want to conceive. So happy for you! Congratulations. ��

  13. I'm SO happy for the two of you; it makes me giddy every time I think about it! You guys are gonna rock as parents--don't you listen to those negative Nellies! Sorry about the morning sickness. Hope it eases up soon.

  14. Good luck to you! It seems that the third time seems to be the charm for so many people! (Which is obnoxious considering how expensive this is!) Take time off after!

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