25 January 2009

Mr. Snake

There's a little fable about bad relationships. It involves a snake.

Once upon a time, a young girl was walking towards the steps leading up to a bridge that crossed a wide river. A poisonous snake was coiled next to the steps. Upon seeing the girl, the snake asked: "Please, I need your help. I need to cross the river, but I can't climb the steps and make it across the bridge. Can you please pick me up and carry me?"

The girl replies: "You're a poisonous snake! If I pick you up and carry you, you'll bite me!"

The snake pleads: "I promise I won't do that. Please. Help me."

The girl spends some time talking with the snake, and listens to the snake's sad story about how he is so misunderstood. He's a snake, but he's not a bad snake. All the other snakes give people the wrong impression. He would never harm the girl.

The girl finally makes a decision. She trusts the snake, believes what he says, and gently picks him up and carries him up the steps and across the bridge. Upon reaching the other side of the river, the snake, nestled safely against the girl's chest, promptly bites her, spewing toxic venom into her body.

The girl cries out: "You promised me that you wouldn't hurt me! Why? Why?"

The snake, as he slithers away, grins as he answers: "You knew what I was when you picked me up. "

I'd like to introduce you to my Mr. Snake. He's my ex-husband. I was the girl.

I was involved with Mr. Snake for seven years, and married to him for almost five. I met him during a time where I was trying to regain my footing in the world. I wasn't looking for a relationship, but I readily welcomed one. (I had been having "fun", but not engaging in any behavior that might be construed as a long-term relationship.)

Looking back, there were warning signs, but I foolishly ignored them - and in one glaring incident, it was my unfamiliarity about divorce law in my state that should have sent me running lickety-split in the opposite direction. (He claimed to be divorced when I met him, and then three weeks into the relationship, stated that the divorce had been "annulled" by the courts because his wife (or as he put it - ex-wife) had contested in the 90 days after the proceeding.) I never questioned that...and found out when I consulted a lawyer before I left him...that there was no "90 day period". You met with the judge, you got a final divorce decree. Really? I've been suckered for seven years? You can imagine how good I felt.

I should have known, and I should have trusted my gut instinct, and I've spent a lot of time and money talking with therapists as to why I chose to believe him despite the repeated warnings. But I didn't...and I chose to stay with him for much longer than I should have. He got the best biological years of my life, and I got bit. Repeatedly.

A year after Mr. Snake and I began dating, he made an announcement. He had decided that he did not want to have children. I was shocked. At that time, we weren't married, and when we had discussed the concept of living our life out together in wedded bliss, he had made comments insinuating that children would be involved. His proclimation was followed by several in-depth discussions, tears (by me), and then a decision that I regret. I told him that given the choice between living with him without children, and living without him with children...I would take the former.

Ahhh...stupidity. Thy name is Ms. Monkey.

Over the next few years, we got married, moved away from family and friends (actually left the country for a while for a job), and continued on our dysfunctional relationship. Over dinner one evening while on vacation in Paris, he stunned me by saying: "I think we should have children before we get too old to enjoy them."

If you've been following along, I think you understand that I was...floored. The relationship was bad - I was in therapy. He believed that I was the problem in the marriage, despite the fact that I had caught him in a bold lie about a woman with whom he was teetering on the brink of an inappropriate relationship. (There was actually an inappropriate relationship, but by the time I realized that, he had backed out and denied everything.) We were barely in a relationship, never mind a marriage, and I believe he was scared that I was going to leave him...and leave him alone.

Fool I was...I took his word, and because I am a diabetic, it's not as if I can say: "OK, let's do this!" My blood sugars needed to be stabilized, my doctors needed to sign off on the whole baby thing for my health...and when he made this announcement, we had just begun the process of moving back to the United States.

He and I lasted a little over a year and a half after that dinner. We moved, built a house, moved in, began new jobs, started a "new life", and all the while, I was working with my doctors to become healthy enough to prepare my body for pregnancy. Granted, Mr. Snake and I barely created opportunities to "practice making a baby"...and I was not in love with him anymore. I had begun therapy again to discuss why I was so depressed about my life (one guess: Mr. Snake and me), and this time, the therapist got through to me. I had been manipulated - willingly - and was privately in a controlling relationship. If you knew me at the time, would have been the last thing you would have believed. "What a happy couple you two make!"

I had been busting my ass medically for months, and the day finally came when my doctor reviewed my tests and records, smiled, and said: "I'm giving you the go ahead to try to conceive. Congratulations."

I drove home, elated (while I didn't love him anymore, I still wanted a baby...and I was still willing to work on the marriage...). I found him sitting out in the backyard, smoking a cigarette and staring off into the distance. Before I could tell him about my doctor's appointment (he didn't know I was going) - or anything about my day at all, he dropped the bomb.

"You know, I've been thinking, and I've made a decision. I don't want to have kids."

He never knew that I had gone to the doctor that day and was given the go ahead.

In that moment, a door closed - and opened. I made a decision, too. I was closing the door on him - and what he was, and opening the door to the rest of my life...one without him and with children.

We were divorced three months later. No screaming arguments, no recriminations, and the concept of children was never uttered when I told him that I was leaving him. It was an amicable divorce. After being with him for that long, I knew what to say and do to just get rid of him.

I knew what he was when I picked him up. The venom did course through my veins, and traces remain, but I have the best antidote in the world now.

I have an amazing husband who wants children, and me, more than anything else in this world.

Mr. Monkey.

I hope that we all have a Mr. Monkey in our lives. He doesn't give me seven years - the best biological years - of my life back, but he gives me something much more precious.


And thus ends the story of Mr. Snake.

23 January 2009

I'd like you to drop me from your list...

Ever get a whole bunch of unsolicited spam email from a company? Annoying telemarketer calls? Even sign up to receive updates for a product, service, or something that might have interested you in the beginning, but you are so inundated with information that all you want to do is never hear about that product or service again?

If you're like me, then raise you hand. I'd like to be dropped from the club that no one wanted to join. The one that we all belong to, the group that has been weaved together by heartache and frustration and not giving up.

We have no secret handshakes.

We pay our dues in tears and losses and silent (and sometimes not so silent) longing.

Members never get to leave, even when, after their own struggles, they achieve what some of us have yet to accomplish - motherhood. Even then, life has been permanently altered, and forever tinged with the emotional toll of living with knowledge that we hope future generations never have to learn.

We are the ones who celebrate with close friends who announce their pregnancies in a gentle, kind way to us. We are the ones who hold other people's children carefully, staring into innocent eyes, and then handing them back to parents who may (and sometimes may not) know how lucky they are. We are the ones who may not be able to sit through a baby shower, or may have to leave the table when someone complains about motherhood.

We are those who roll their eyes, shake their heads, grimace, scream, and laugh hysterically when someone is thoughtless and disparages the struggle we have endured.

Our membership roll call is not announced by cutsy pink or blue announcement with pictures and ultrasounds, but rather clinical printouts and tissues.

No one wants to be in this club. I certainly don't.

However, this band of sisters who rally together... no finer group of women.

So, today, I will wear my badge. I will make my pledge, with hand on heart.

I promise...
To be true to myself,
To be mindful of others,
To keep close in mind and spirit,
Those who support me,
And watch over those who need my support,

Which is all of us,
All the time.

20 January 2009

Joke's On Them

They offered me the job today.

I took it.

How is this going to make an impact on our life?

The significant upswing in my salary will make additional choices available to us in the way of "we could rob people, sell plasma, and perhaps even set up a Ponzi scheme" to "hey, we can probably afford to do a round of IVF if that's what it takes".

I will also work more. (Wait....I am already working a lot..ask my subconscious, who won't pipe down at night when I sleep...)

I can make decisions that will impact a huge amount of people. It will be my decisions, I will own them, and I will make an impact on where my organization's future is headed. I have wallowed in making suppositions and suggestions for the past few months. I feel like I can finally breathe.

I get a better parking spot. And they pay my cell phone.

I get the corner office in the downtown office building with the windows that I always thought I wanted when I was young and career-oriented.

I get to sit in on the super secret management meetings...just like the one they had when they proclaimed me C.I.A..

Joke's on them. Why?

I would trade it all, in a heartbeat... for a tiny heartbeat.

So, until then, I get to revel for a while and do some good. (Don't think there wasn't a serious discussion before they offered me the job about my abrasiveness and what I needed to do to (my quotes) "play well with others". ) But right now... it's the best thing that has happened to us in a while.

And I am holding fast to what Mr. Monkey said to me when I called him to tell him I took the job: "Maybe 2009 will be our year."

I hope he's right.

19 January 2009

The C.I.A. and me

So, this isn't so much about my mucked up reproductive system as it is about me.

I'm C.I.A.. Obviously, I'm not actually in the C.I.A., because if I was, I would say that I worked for the Department of Agriculture or that I was an accountant or something very mundane. Spies don't announce they're plotting to overthrow the crazed dictator between the soup and the fish courses, right?

No, I am C.I.A., which stands for...

and...wait for it...

Now, please, don't take my word for it. In fact, I really can't take any of the credit, either. Those very words used to describe me came from my performance review, which was discussed amongst all of the department heads of my place of employment.

Imagine if you will....a boardroom with a long, glistening table and comfortable "let's sit a while" chairs. Around this table are several individuals who have known me for approximately six months.

Some of these individuals I have worked with closely on a daily basis - and a few of them even knew what was happening during the last miscarriage. (Some were supposed to know...and others were told without my permission or knowledge. But, that's another story.) Other members of the group were people who have only heard me express ideas because we were in a large meeting - and one individual, in fact, had only ever sat in a single meeting with me. Apparently, that was the meeting that started my induction into the C.I.A..

I'll let you in on a secret. I'm not shy, nor am I quiet. At. All. I have been described as "enthusiastic", "a fireball", "infectiously exuberant" (I love that one), and even, dare I admit: "tenacious as a pitbull". But I'll never pass as wallpaper or a champion poker player.

I wear my heart on my sleeve and every expression on my face is the one I mean - if I'm pissed, I show it. If I think you said something outrageously stupid, I'll try to compose myself, but really....when I smile after you say something stupid, people know why I'm smiling. If you are amazingly brilliant, then you'll see it when I talk with you. It's all over my face.

So, I had built up a rapport with my boss after six months. It was a kind of "hey, you and I joke a lot about stuff, and it's all cool, because you and I respect each other." relationship. He was a fountain of information, but was unwilling to unburden himself of some responsibilities because he had a bad run of staff before I showed on the scene. I adore this man as a person, and he is genuine.

He and I had been on a few business trips evaluating companies for a project we're undertaking. There was an issue about how the whole process had been handled (not enough research by said boss), but in the end, the final product was going to be under my management. I knew which company was going to be the best suited for us, and my boss agreed. We did not agree on our second and third choices, and it was a technology issue. No big deal, right?

During the meeting with the CEO and CFO, after giving my opinion about timelines and what needed to be done, I was told that I had to push the timeline back approximately three (possibly four) months. My face showed my displeasure. Later on, I apparently made a remark that was construed as condescending.

A month later, my boss is giving me my annual review (If it's an annual review, then why is it given after six months? "Because we do all the annual reviews in December." If it's annual...oh, nevermind.), and while I'm doing a fan-fucking-tastic job, there are some "areas of concern".

And that's when the C.I.A. showed up.

He explained that everyone evaluates me during this super-duper secret meeting (they evaluate all employees at the same time). He gives his overall review, and then asks for comments.

Apparently, not only am I abrasive and condescending, but I am impatient and a "know-it-all" (this knowledge comes from my secret spy...who is a double agent, if you catch my drift).

He ended this whole thing with..."I thought you should know this all before you went in for the interview." Yes, I was headed into an interview - for his job, because he was leaving the position (not entirely by his own choice).

So, I went home and recounted the story. Mr. Monkey listened patiently as I ranted. he explained to me that they hired me because I get things done. Now they're just rewriting my job description.

Then I called a friend, and when I told her that they said I was C.I., and A.....she replied: "So? Tell me something I didn't know. We're New Englanders, damn it. This is how we are."

I told another friend, and he laughed so hard that he snorted. Then he sighed and asked what I was going to do now that I knew how the department heads felt about me. And you know, I'm not feeling so fabulous about me at this time.

And it bothers me that what my husband said rang true. They hired me based on recommendations of my past work as someone who gets things accomplished, keeps people on task, and makes sure that all the loops are closed. I don't always play nicey-nice, but I am the first person to ask someone if they need help getting something done.

I call it "work ethic". I guess these people call it "bitchy" and "agressive". I'm finding myself not speaking up at meetings unless someone asks my opinion now. I did go to the interview, kicked ass....and almost two months later, they still haven't made a hiring decision about who will lead my department. To be frank, it doesn't matter if it's me or someone else (as long as they're qualified), but...oh...when the CEO asked me to "handle things" until they do hire someone, I learned to play poker really fast. "Sure. It would be my pleasure."

I'm struggling here. Work is exhausting - emotionally, mentally, and physically. I'm not sleeping well, my blood sugars have been swinging up and down, and the last miscarriage took the life out of me (literally and figuratively). Yeah, yeah.... I'm seeing a therapist. Mr. Monkey is seeing a therapist. I'm just drained, and keep hitting a wall. No closure, no decisions.

I need a break, but it's not coming any time soon. Mr. Monkey quit his job two months ago, and is not actively looking for work at this time - not that there is any to be had in the area in his field...layoffs in IT have hit hard in this bustling metropolis. I can't take a vacation, because we're (obviously) short-staffed, and my travel schedule is looking like a series of Venn diagrams strewn across a calendar. Ever try to figure out how to swing being in town around your peak ovulation period when you really are supposed to be three time zones away?

Nah. Me, neither.

You Begin

You Begin
You begin this way:
this is your hand,
this is your eye,
this is a fish, blue and flat
on the paper, almost
the shape of an eye
This is your mouth, this is an O
or a moon, whichever
you like. This is yellow.

Outside the window
is the rain, green
because it is summer, and beyond that
the trees and then the world,
which is round and has only
the colors of these nine crayons.

This is the world, which is fuller
and more difficult to learn than I have said.
You are right to smudge it that way
with the red and then
the orange: the world burns.

Once you have learned these words
you will learn that there are more
words than you can ever learn.
The word hand floats above your hand
like a small cloud over a lake.
The word hand anchors
your hand to this table
your hand is a warm stone
I hold between two words.

This is your hand, these are my hands, this is the world,
which is round but not flat and has more colors
than we can see.
It begins, it has an end,
this is what you will
come back to, this is your hand.
-Margaret Atwood

And with a poem I have always loved, I begin this way.

18 January 2009

If It Wasn't...

So, just to fill you in...

I actually started this blog, oh... a good long time ago. I wrote a couple of quick, witty posts about my rising betas and my wishes that the monkey would grow and become a baby. (Mr. Monkey and I called it Monkey.) That was almost two years ago. I stopped writing when the betas didn't rise anymore, and I just....fell.

Now, I am older, grittier, and just need to vent. There's something about casting your private thoughts out into the public Internet sea that speaks to me.

A little background on me and the state of my reproductive system...

I'm thirty-eight, took my time, and got my life in order before I felt it was the right time for me and Mr. Monkey...physically, mentally, and emotionally. I never thought it would be difficult to get pregnant when I decided that it was the right and proper time...and I was right. Mr. Monkey and I had a task, and while it took a few months, we worked hard to reach the final goal. Ta-da! A positive pregnancy test, and I became the poster child of what NOT to do after finding out you're pregnant.

I told EVERYONE. Parents, friends, and even the cashier at the local grocery store. No one was safe from my excited, gushing announcement. I walked around talking to the Monkey under my breath, telling it how happy we all were.

I had some classic symptoms...falling asleep on the couch, Pillsbury DoughBoy boobs ("pop n fresh") that hurt something fierce...and we thought things would just gently flow into parenthood.

We had a week of bliss that I will never be able to experience again. It was magical, innocent, and far too brief.

I began spotting, and promptly freaked out. I called the obgyn, who called in a favor, and Mr. Monkey and I found ourselves in a small room with mood lighting and a technician who tried, as best as she could, to find something positive. For someone whose name I didn't know, her face will forever be imprinted in my memory - that grimacing gaze at the screen before she turned to us and said that she needed to talk with someone.

I began heavily bleeding the next morning after having blood drawn. When the lab called, I already knew.

Friends were kind. Family was supportive. Those who said those inane sentiments like: "It wasn't meant to be." and "You can try again." were not shot on sight, but summarily dismissed with a smile, and a thank you for your concern. All the while, I was screaming inside: "If it wasn't meant to be, then why did it happen in the first place? I don't want to try again. I wanted this try to be a success."

It was our first miscarriage, and gosh, seeing as it was our first, when the doctor said that we could try again...we did. We just kind of tried a little earlier than most others.

I felt the same leaden eyelids, the same ouchy balloon boobs, and I knew that I was pregnant again. Back to back pregnancies. Back to back miscarriages. This time, we told a subgroup of our family.

My sister-in-law won a permanent "fuck you" for her statement to my mother-in-law (who, I don't know why, felt it necessary to tell Mr. Monkey). It was something along the lines of this... Mr. Monkey and I were not married at the time. (We owned a house together, were committed to each other, and planned on getting married when we decided.) She said the miscarriages were God's way of telling us we should be married.

You're joking, ma'am. Really? As if God really takes an interest in my reproductive system and the state of my legal (and religious) status. Was she blind to all those unmarried teenagers who get knocked up? What does God have to say about them? Thank goodness that my SIL and I do not talk...Mr. Monkey's family is not that close. Just close enough to lob emotional grenades into my fragile psyche at times.

So, where was I? Oh, yes. Two miscarriages down...and three to go. The perinatologist we saw upon becoming pregnant a second time in rapid succession was so fearful that we would conceive a third time (Mr. Monkey has pretty strong mojo, you know), that he made me pick up a Plan B prescription at the local pharmacy. (And boy, that was fun. Nothing like being judged by a pharmacist.) This was after the diaphram search (Five pharmacies...and I swear they dusted off the package at the sixth.), the intense discussion about using all forms of protection available (diaphram + spermacide + condom = are you kidding me? We spent months avoiding this crap, and now...::sigh::).

Timing, being what it is, is a matter of...oh, you get where I'm going. We got pregnant the third time two months before our wedding, and as I quietly sung to myself later on..."Third verse, same as the first" (Thank you, Violent Femmes). I was starting to see a pattern. I make it to almost six weeks...and then nothing. Betas don't double, bleeding starts, and I generally lose my mind. As a special treat, my wedding day coincided with my first period after the miscarriage. There's a story there, and it's not pretty, and it involved crying and scrubbing blood off my wedding dress.

By this time, we had graduated to a reproductive endo. Three times was the charm to be labeled "habitual aborter" (Hands up: who likes that name? No? No hands?), and we were off to give blood, wait, and have a discussion about what was next.

Chromosonal analysis, a complete panel work up costing a ton of money, a HSG (forget waterboarding as torture...iodine up your hoo-ha would have me spilling secrets from here to Bagdad.), and what did we get?

"We can't find anything wrong with you.

It's just bad luck.

Keep trying."

Bad luck? Lyrics from a blues song kept running through my head: "If it wasn't for bad luck, I'd have no luck at all."

The endo wanted me to use a Clear Blue Fertility Monitor, track my cycle with it (Fertility Friend mocks me these days, but I used her back then...and now still.), and once I became pregnant again, start on heparin and baby aspirin. Thank you very much, and please take this sheet to check out.

We got pregnant the first month we used the fertility monitor. Not shocking, because it appears that we don't have a problem getting pregnant...just staying pregnant.

Six weeks. Bleeding. Good-bye. Pack up the baby books, put them in a closet. Try to not lose it when brother and sister-in-law announce they are pregnant after two months of trying. Try to be happy for those who have kids. Try to not break down at baby commericals. As Mr. Monkey states: "Major fail." (He's a computer geek god. It make sense to those who worship at the altar of nerdcore.)

We make some major life adjustments. We put the house on the market, move six hours away to the big city, no jobs, no friends....just a fresh start. Things were rough. We went to a new repro endo, who, without looking at my charts (even after I asked the old repro endo's office to fax them up...), summarily announced, that based on my verbal history, our only option was IVF with PGD (preimplantation genetic diagnosis), and oh, did I mention, without insurance, that will be $22K (give or take). It was a less than five minute consultation, and I cried for days afterwards. Mr. Monkey didn't know what to do with me anymore.

I did more research about RE's in our new city. Found another group (and doctor who specializes in recurrent pregnancy losses), and made an appointment. This new guy was....comforting...and personable...and spent 45 mintues with me going over my chart and listening to me. And then ordered five blood tests that hadn't been done.

After almost three years of "You're normal.", it was a perverted sense of bliss to hear that they found something wrong with me. I am homo MTHFR C677T, which means that I have not one, but two (always the overachiver, me...) genetic mutations that affect clotting...and messes with folic acid intake.

So, easily fixed. I take a prescription of folic acid, B6, and B12, start Lovenox shots after I ovulate, and baby aspirin is now an essential part of my diet. We found the answer. This is great. Things are looking up. We sell the old house. We both get jobs. We buy a house.Things are....good.

I had no idea that I was pregnant the fifth time. Mr. Monkey accompanied me on a business trip, one where I drank gallons of Diet Coke, ate all sorts of things I shouldn't have (and some were worth it...), and even stopped the Lovenox shots because I began spotting.

Joke was on me. We got back from the business trip and I felt...off. I only spotted, rather than a full period, and I figured that once I saw the "not pregnant" on a digital pregnancy test, my body would comply and I could start a new cycle.

I stopped by Target on the way home from work, bought the test, and decided that there was no better time....and promptly made my way to the closest bathroom...which was, ironically enough, in Target. I didn't want to pee on a stick at home, because...well, I figured it would be a disappointment to Mr. Monkey if I said: "Hey, I'm off to pee on a stick for closure. Don't mind me."

Peed on a stick, washed my hands, picked up the stick, and promptly choked on my own saliva.

Wandered home, stick in pocket, and quietly let myself into the apartment, where Mr. Monkey sat on the floor with Ms. Dog (see...not everyone is a monkey in this family). I stood there, until he grew alarmed and asked what was wrong. I drew the stick out like it was something distasteful, held it with two fingers and handed it to him.

We both said nothing. What do you say after doing this five times already? I knew that I had already comprimised myself by stopping the shots and not being diligent with blood sugars (yeah, yeah...did I mention that I've been a Type 1 diabetic for 25 years?), and this was going to be an uphill struggle.

Not only did I make it to six weeks before the betas stopped doubling, but I gave myself some extra credit. My betas refused to go down after two weeks, I had only lightly spotted, and finally, out of sheer frustration, I asked for chemical inducement. Fun, fun, fun...

I bled for almost 8 weeks. The nurse I didn't like at my RE told me that it was normal. (Oh...she's a barrel of laughs. That's a whole other post.) I told her that it wasn't for me. I finally asked for an appointment to see my RE, and an ultrasound showed that I had polyps. (Power to the patient who doesn't believe in "normal" anymore.) Those were removed less than a month ago, and we are back to square one. (Or pick a number...I hate counting at this point.)

It's also CD21, and apparently, my body decided for the second time I've ever tracked it....to not give up an egg this month.

This last miscarriage was the hardest. We had hope. I had something wrong, but we knew that it could be overcome. The numbers were going up, and I just kept saying: "Just let me get to a heartbeat, and then I can have hope." We pulled out the baby books after Mr. Monkey had a discussion about how this was happening, and I have to have faith. I took a breath, and hope peeked out behind the curtain.

I spiraled down after the call (from the bitch nurse) in which she gave me the numbers before reading my chart....and when I told her that the numbers hadn't doubled, her response was: "Oh, then this isn't a viable pregnancy."

Thanks. I think I figured that one out. It's not my first time at the rodeo.

I'm talking with a mental health professional who specializes in infertility. I'm taking the antidepressants. I'm trying. I'm writing this blog because I don't want it to spill out anymore than it already is into my life. I think that some people are just getting tired of talking (or not talking) about the fact that after 3 1/2 years, all we have to show for our effort is...the wanting.

And every night in bed, before I drift off to sleep, the last thing I do is mentally rock an infant in my arms. Dear Monkey. This is for you.