Thursday, July 30, 2015

G'night, Gracie.

It's over. On July 10 we went and signed the papers to destroy the three embryos at Big Shiny Fertility Factory, the last of the Nine.

It was just too much. In the end, my desire for another child was overwhelmed by the sense that the time for that had passed. I'm almost 42. Her Indoors is 50. Small Boy is 6. In the end, I'm unwilling to gamble the time, the money, the sorrow, for an unlikely payoff. I put ten embryos in my uterus. Presumably, if there were a tiny soul that were meant to be part of our family, it would have taken one of the ten fucking chances it had to hop aboard and stay for the ride.

But nope. It's over. It no longer matters how much scar tissue my uterus has. My super-light periods are now nothing but a convenience. Small Boy will never have a full sibling; I feel intensely lucky that we have met some wonderful donor siblings via the Donor Sibling Registry. I will never pee on a stick again, never hold on the end of a phone with blood roaring in my ears waiting to find out a beta number. I will never, ever have another goddamn miscarriage. Sometimes thinking that makes me want to weep with gratitude.

During the last one I held the infinitesimal thing in my hand and thought "welp, this is it, it's over." I then immediately thought "no, no it's not, I'm not at the end, there's still a lot of road left." But my first instinct was correct. Gravida 5 Para 1, that's me, and that's how I shall die. Gravida 6 Para 1 if you count the chemical. Despite a wee Google I can't figure out if you're supposed to count chemicals.

I did not carry these embryos home and burn incense over them. Big Shiny Fertility Factory definitely didn't seem set up for that kind of malarkey. Really, they had a hard time finding someone to witness the forms at all since there was some kind of staff meeting going on; I just wanted to get out of there. Maybe it's because the embryos from Al's were Small Boy's batch. If the embryologist had gone one to the right, one of them would be with us instead of Small Boy.

Or not. Maybe that somewhat crappy-looking embryo, which turned into a perfect little boy, was the only one in the bunch. Maybe it was the only one in both of my ovaries that was fit to make a baby, or whose peculiar chemical balance could overcome whatever clusterfuck is going on in my uterus. Maybe in all worlds it's him or no one.  I can't know.

I had to try, though, didn't I?

Monday, December 22, 2014

the closing of the year

So Al's IVF Shack shut down, or... was shut down, or something. The upshot is that Al's was no longer going to be offering the service of changing the ice packs and playing developmentally-enriching Mozart to my Tiny Frozen Americans. I had to get 'em out, and get 'em out by December 1.

They notified us in November, and it sent me into a bit of a tailspin.I have been moving towards making a decision... very, very slowly. Not with two weeks to decide.

Now here's the point at which this could be a different story. I could say, dear reader, we did a crazy whirlwind cycle, it was all a blur, my lining came up surprisingly well despite the lack of fussing and greymarket drugs, and surprise! I'm pregnant! and I didn't want to tell anyone until I'd seen a heartbeat!

But that's not what happened.

It was unseasonably warm and sunny on November 25. I called the lab and they agreed it was a fine time for me to come over. I went to the lab. I signed papers. They handed me an medical-supply envelope containing five tiny plastic tubes. The tubes were covered in frost when they handed them to me, but by the time I reached my car they were already just cold. I took them upstairs. I sat in Small Boy's room, which I had thought would keep being the nursery, as it's the smallest room in the house. I wanted to sit in the rocking chair but we had already sold it on Craigslist, to a nice couple with three small children who needed it for #4. I sat on the rug instead. I cried. Then I found the pack of wood-resin incense that I burned back when I was pregnant with Small Boy, praying with every cell of my atheist's heart that he would be okay. There was one stick left in the pack. I stuck it in the little bowl incense holder. I snipped open the tubes and emptied them into the bowl. Five straws of embryos made half a teaspoon or so of fluid. I had the urge to swallow it, to at least have it in me that way, but I'd talked about it before with Her Indoors and she reminded me that there are some serious chemicals that go into embryo culture medium, and I agreed that it would be an incredibly fucking stupid way to get sick. I lit the incense, and it burned.

And that was that.

I still have three embryos left at the Big Shiny Fertility Factory, three out of the nine. I'll have to make a decision about them in April or May. Or, more correctly, I'll have to make the decision about them in April or May. The evidence keeps piling up. I know what I have to do.  But oh, do I shrink from doing it.

Friday, September 19, 2014

A year later

Coming up on a year since I was last pregnant, with what is looking increasingly like my last pregnancy. September 16 was the FET. It was all over by October 6.

At some point over the last three years -- I think it was between miscarriages #3 and #4 -- I started taking Prozac. I was so incredibly fatigued that I couldn't get anything done, so I went to my GP. She looked at my recent medical history and said "Hey, I think you might be depressed. Prozac?" Sounded plausible to me.

It turns out that the Prozac did nothing for my fatigue (changing my blood pressure medicine was what fixed that) but it did lift and steady my mood quite a bit. Better living through chemistry, yay.

At the beginning of August I stopped taking it. I just wanted to see what was under there. I felt like I didn't want to make any decisions that I couldn't live with unmedicated.

The verdict: now everything makes me cry. It's not necessarily a bad thing. The Prozac muffled my affect to some extent, and although I'm very grateful for it -- my affect was in great need of muffling -- it's kind of nice to have life in full-HD again. But everything makes me cry.

Things I have given away or sold in the past few months: baby gates,  baby wipes, strollers, carriers.  Maternity clothes. Baby clothes. I keep telling myself, if I find myself pregnant, I'll buy more.

I'm premenstrual, and possibly perimenopausal. A good stiff breeze can make me cry. Driving time is pretty much crying time for me. American Pie on the radio made me cry, for chrissake.

Monday, June 16, 2014


I've been feeling emotionally pretty steady, but my subconscious is working hard. I dream about children almost every night.

Last night's: I had two children. Small Boy was 6 and the other one was maybe 1 or 2 (in real life, Small Boy is almost 5 now.) Small Boy asked if he could take the baby for a walk and I said "Sure".

He returned later without the baby. I was panicked and started searching the town, running up and down streets calling out, crying, looking all around. In the pit of my stomach I knew the baby was gone and we'd never find (her? I think it was her.)

In my dream, I didn't blame Small Boy at all -- I blamed myself for letting him take the baby, for not thinking it through well enough when he asked.

Sometimes I comfort myself by thinking about this: there's a decent chance that my secondary infertility was caused by the c-section. I never had lining problems before. The two miscarriages due to SCH, that's an implantation problem, which is something I also didn't have before. It seems likely that my uterus just reacted really badly to being swabbed out after the surgery.

I have finally accepted that the c-section was about as necessary and inevitable as they come. See also: obstructed labor, impacted fetal head, obstetric injury, obstetic fistula, stillbirth, maternal mortality. I am goddamned lucky. I needed a c-section, and I got it, promptly. I spent the months after Small Boy's birth angsting about breastfeeding and PPD, not dealing with grievous injuries and the death of my baby.

If while I was in labor someone had said to me: hey, I'll cut you a deal. You give up your future fertility, and I'll guarantee you that Small Boy will be healthy and happy and everything awesome.

I would have taken that deal in a second. I cared about nothing at all more than getting him here safely.

Maybe I did take that deal; I just didn't know it at the time.

Everyone rewrites narratives until they find one they can live with. Maybe this is mine: that there is no world in which I got to have Small Boy and another baby. The price of Small Boy and his truly enormous 98th percentile noggin was my future fertility. It's a price I would have agreed to.

In Sandman, Death once tells someone who -- upon dying after a long span of time -- says "I did pretty well, didn't I?" and she says "You got what everybody gets: a lifetime."

Maybe I got what everybody gets: a family. This is mine. Railing about wanting a different one makes no sense, because if it were a different one, it wouldn't be mine.

I guess it's realizing that wanting more family for me really means wanting a different family. And I don't want that.

Friday, May 2, 2014


I just mailed off a notarized form requesting to have our remaining vial of Small Boy's donor's sperm destroyed.

I asked our donor-parent group and nobody wanted it. I think the ones who wanted more kids have already all had them now. They're done.

Saving the vial didn't make any sense. I'm 40. My eggs are now problematic. If I want to try again, my best bet is my remaining frozen embryos.

I'm continuing to reconsider how good a bet that is at this point. I started trying for #2 at 37. It looked different, then. Her Indoors is older than I am. I've had four miscarriages at this point, three of them consecutive. There are lots of different ways to parse the statistics from here on in. None of them look good.

And there's another thing I have been resolutely ignoring. I loved being pregnant. Loved it. I had little to no morning sickness. Never threw up once. Slept beautifully, the sweetest, deepest, most satisfying sleeps I've ever had. Somehow I managed to carry Small Boy in a perpendicular fashion, poking straight out from my (extremely shortwaisted) body -- I was simply enormous, measuring five weeks ahead for the whole thing, everyone assumed I was having twins. But because I was carrying him in such an absurd way, it was darn comfortable. He wasn't pressing on my lungs, stomach, bladder. I could breathe fine, I could eat a full meal, and I didn't have to pee THAT often. Because I spent about two months looking like I was about to give birth at any second, I was vastly amused by the mingled fear and solicitousness my condition constantly inspired from bystanders. Totally fun. I could've kept going. And having Small Boy be part of me like that was pure magic. I would lie awake at night and thrum with joy.

But. But. But. All that aside.

I had insulin-dependent GD that was only barely controlled with large doses of insulin. I've since then developed high blood pressure, which is a strong risk factor for preeclampsia.  I had a totally un-fun flirtation with peripartum cardiomyopathy, which can, oh yeah, kill ya.  It took ages for my liver function to return to normal after the pregnancy. I felt fantastic. But I wasn't fantastic. My body was successfully juggling something that wasn't at all easy for it, and managed to keep all the balls in the air long enough to carry Small Boy full term and get him here safely. I will never stop being grateful for that.

But. Getting real old. High chance of miscarriage. High chance of complications.  A few years ago I was willing and able to plug my ears and forge on ahead. Who can pay attention to statistics when there's a chance of a wee tiny baby with soft soft skin and little fists? Who could be cold-hearted enough to consider the numbers when there's an entire life, an entire family member on the line?

Me, I guess, increasingly.

Small Boy is an funny little independent soul, an introvert who likes his quiet time. He's not begging for a sibling. Her Indoors thinks that one is the perfect number of kids. It's just me who's having trouble letting go.

Never is such a long time, though.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

I Am Your Mother?

A while ago I stumbled across this retelling, helpfully tagged "children's stories made horrific":

Are You My Mother? by Mallory Ortberg, courtesy of the Toast.

I read it a few times, with a big ol' lump in my throat. Got me right in the gut. I felt it from both sides -- the horrible vulnerability of the little bird, the dog's desperation. Sometimes the membrane between this universe and the one where I didn't have Small Boy seems way too thin. I wonder if part of my drive to have more kids isn't wanting to put more distance between myself and that universe.

We were at the bookstore last week and I told Small Boy that he could pick out a book. He made a beeline for Are You My Mother? I visibly recoiled. "No, that one's creepy, don't get that."

He looked a bit disappointed and then, in his generally easy-going way, shrugged and said "You pick."

Well, didn't I feel like an awful mother then, inflicting my infertility-damage on Small Boy. I guiltily bought the book, and read it to him that night in the very brightest tones I could muster. And I'm going to keep reading him the goddamned thing until I can do it with a real smile.

Also, when we got home, I discovered we already had a copy. So now I have two copies. Okay, Universe, very funny. I get it.

Friday, February 28, 2014

And today's a sad day.

Today's a day when everyone around me is casually swinging around one of those portable car-seats. So very many babies. I don't know what I should do.

I think there are more peaceful days than sad days. I should track it. I'm sure there's an app.