March 30, 2008

Bellies, Bangs, and Blues

*disclaimer: I did not take these photos*

I took a belly dancing class today. The woman in the middle of this picture was my teacher. I have always wanted to learn and there was a free class today - so why not?

Did you know that belly dancing originated from the movements women made during labor to ease the pain and help the baby move into the birth canal?

I had read this before, but had forgotten. When our teacher reminded us today I kind of gasped. I loved that I was participating in something tied so closely to birth and labor. I thought about being in labor with my child one day but I also thought about the labor I feel I have been in for quite some time. It has been painful, intense, and there have been times I thought I wouldn't make it through the next "contraction" - but all the while I have had to believe that the labor is bringing something very very good.

The other really powerful thing about the class was how completely connected and proud I felt of my body, my hips, my tummy, my breasts. I cried a little, with joy, as we shimmied and spun. I realized it had been a really long time since I had felt that content and happy with and in my own body. I felt like I owed my body a bit of an apology for that.

Our teacher was a middle aged to older woman who grew up in Romania. She had this soft squishy tummy that looked as if it had nurtured a child at some point. She was far from our culture's standard of beauty - but here she was: belly exposed, legs bare, breasts swaying - and looking completely beautiful, free, and sexy all the while. Her husband was there too, he was playing a drum to help us with the rhythm. He stared at his wife with joy, admiration, and desire. His attraction to her was obvious.

I loved this moment, this reprieve from thinking about what's wrong with my body - what isn't working right. I loved not wishing for it to be or do anything different - and just enjoying it in that moment. I want to be a woman like her, free and proud of my body - sensual and fun - and I want my husband to stare at me the way her husband stared at her today, forever.
This is a picture of Feist - I love her. Well, I love her music. And her bangs.

On a whim today I called to see when my stylist had an appointment next available (she's usually booked at least a week or two out). She had an opening today. So I went in and I got bangs! Feist bangs! My hair isn't as thick and my bangs are just a touch shorter and more sharp. But I love them. I really needed something new and bangs it was!!! Yay bangs!


So - pretty good day, right? Yes, but that's where it gets tricky.

I remember seeing a interview weeks ago with a severely anorexic woman and I will never forget when she said that she worried if she wasn't "thin enough" no one would help her. She talked about how miserable she felt inside and how much she knew she needed help, but she worried that if she wasn't a severe enough case, if she wasn't practically on her death bed, no one would take her seriously. She had a history of abuse as a child and I thought in that moment - "I know how that feels" - I know what it is like to feel that if your outside symptoms aren't shocking or terrible enough then no one will really recognize how much pain you are in on the inside. I spent years feigning or inducing illness or self-harm when I was younger for this very purpose. I didn't trust that anyone would hear me or help me if I seemed too "ok". And really - I was always so strong, and capable and so terrible at asking for help - that I was kind of right about this.

I have been feeling that same feeling again lately. The fear that if I have a good day, if I let anyone know that I have experienced joy - that they will forget or ignore that I am still hurting, still grieving, still struggling. That they will not know that even when a good day happens, even when I laugh - the "infertility" is always there, the weight of what is ahead is always there, the longing and aching to be a parent is always there - and for now, the grieving I am going through - it is always there. It doesn't go away. It isn't all better just because I was happy for a few hours, or even a whole day. It doesn't take a break. It lives with me, with us, every second. And I guess in some ways I feel like it has been such a struggle to express this - to feel heard in this - that I am afraid of losing that. I am afraid my friends will think, "well she seems just fine now!" and expect me to be ok, expect me to be "myself" again.

I also feel guilty for having a good time. Especially since losing Mr. Jones. It feels as if I am not honoring my grief if I am able to enjoy something too much. I know this isn't true. I know I can hold both. I know there is space enough for both. But I am afraid that in these moments of joy, I might forget that still hurting and broken space within. I might forget why it is there. I might forget to tend to it. I might neglect myself. I might forget myself.

I want to be able to enjoy days like today without fearing that I will lose the support I need right now, without fearing that no one will see me - the happiness and the grief, without fearing that I will forget myself. Because it is possible to receive these moments, hours, and days of tremendous gifts and beauty - even in the midst of hurting really deeply. The two can and do coexist. Life and death together. Light and darkness.

As Annacyclopedia so eloquently stated on her beautiful blog recently:

"there is still a beautiful, fertile garden inside me that requires care."

In the midst of pain, there is still this beauty within - but both the pain and beauty, both are a part of my garden and both require care.

March 28, 2008

My "stash", my calendar, and IVF 101

As is a picture of my meds stash. Behold the awesomeness. Well, awesome - I don't know. But these are my many little friends who are accompanying me on the road to babyville. And I guess my Dr. thought I might be lonely because there sure are a LOT of them.

I arranged them from bottom to top in the order in which they will be making me clinically insane entering my body.

I want to make a special note of the box of Menopur that is lying on top of the other boxes of Menopur. This is a very special box of ridiculously expensive hormones. This box was donated to me by a perfect stranger. She found out I was needing meds and she stepped up, saving me somewhere around $300. The day I received her package in the mail, it felt like the best care package in the world. Because I have been having quite the shitty time of it lately (as you might have read) and here this stranger has reached out to me in this really surprising way. So now, I am calling it my lucky box of Menopur. I just have to decide whether I should start with it, or finish with it? Either way, when I open that box I will surely smile. Thank you Menopur fairy - you know who you are.

Also, I was inspired by another friend's post and decided to post my "IVF calendar". For those of you completely new to this whole process I will post some kind of short explanation of what this all means at the end, K? (also I am linking all the meds so you can click on them and get an idea of what they do.)

Day 1: March 19 - started my period
Day 3: March 21 - started Birth Control Pills
Day 14: April 1 - start Lupron and Dexamethasone (continue up till embryo retrieval), and take one cytotec (vaginally) in the evening to open my cervix for the laminaria placement the next day.
Day 15: April 2 - Laminaria placement (seaweed stick in my cervix to open it for embryo transfer in a few weeks - so the embryos aren't squished)
Day 16: April 3 - remove Laminaria.
Day 18: April 5 - take last birth control pill.
Day21: April 8 - expect period. again.
Day 23: April 10 - Blood work and ultrasound.
Day 25: April 12 - Start stims: 2 ampules of Menopur in the morning and 300u of Gonal F in the evening.
Day 28: April 15 - Blood work and ultrasound. (Mr. Spicy gives "back-up sample" this week) - adjust meds according to results.
Day 30: April 17 - Blood work and ultrasound. Adjust meds according to results.
Day 31: April 18 - Blood work and ultrasound. Adjust meds according to results.
Day 32: April 19 - Blood work and ultrasound. Adjust meds according to results. (get pre-retrieval physical some time this week)
Day 31: April 20 - Blood work and ultrasound. Adjust meds according to results.
Day 32: April 21 - Blood work and ultrasound. Adjust meds according to results. Tentative trigger shot (with Novarel)?
Day 36: April 23 - Tentative embryo retrieval (under anesthesia). Tentative start of Medrol and Tetracycline.
Day 39 or 41: April 26 or 28 - tentative embryo transfer. Also start estrogen patches (Vivelle) and Progesterone in Oil injections (PIO).
Day 50: May 7 - Tentative first Beta hCG test for pregnancy.

From start to finish, just over 6 weeks....I am hoping hard that all goes as planned!


For those not immersed in the world of IVF and infertility - here are the basics:

- The birth control pills kind of "shut everything down" so to speak, giving us a "clean slate to work with. They also help prevent cysts from forming on my ovaries.

-The Lupron will prevent my body from ovulating on its own during the cycle and will help prevent just 1 dominant follicle from taking over (as happens in a normal un-medicated cycle), allowing more follicles to form and mature all at once. It is injected through a small needle into my stomach.

-The Dexamethasone, taken orally, will help manage hormone levels during the cycle - this is supposed to help with egg quality.

- I need a laminaria because I have a very tight cervix. They put it in for 24 hours, 3 weeks prior to retrieval, to help the cervix to open up a bit so that when the ebryos are transfered back into the uterus through a catheter they don't get squished. (squished embryos = bad)

- The Menopur and Gonal-F will stimulate my ovaries to produce many eggs. They are injected through small needles into my stomach.

-The bloodwork and ultrasounds will be to determine how many follicles I have, how quickly they are growing, whether they are mature, how my uterine lining looks for implantation, in addition to general monitoring of hormone levels etc. - these results will determine what dosages of meds I am taking and when the retrieval will be scheduled.

- When I have several mature follicles and my hormones are at the right levels - they will schedule the embryo retrieval. Exactly 35 hours before the retrieval Mr. Spicy will give me an injection of hCG in my buttock. This injection should cause the eggs to "fully ripen" and become ready for retrieval. (I just typed "buttock", heh heh)

- The day of retrieval I will go under anesthesia and Mr. Spicy will give a sample (more fun with cups - yay!). During the procedure, an ultrasound guided needle will go through my vaginal wall and into my ovary where it will proceed to pull up the fluid in each big follicle - hopefully resulting in several healthy eggs. Obviously, this is repeated on the other ovary as well.

- After pulling out the eggs and looking at them, the embryologist will take half of them and mix them with some of Mr. Spicy's swimmers. They are led to a darkened room with soft music playing and left to fertilize on their own. The other half of the eggs are each injected with one perfect little swimmer. Sort of like dating vs. arranged marriage.

- We will get a fertilization report telling us how many were successful. The average is about 50-70% (I think).

-For the next several days, all the little embryos will live in little dishes of specially prepared nutritious fluid (medium) - like little swimming pools full of chocolate pudding (if chocolate pudding were good for you and helped you grow).

-Then, depending on how many embryos we have and how healthy they look, the transfer will be scheduled. Basically, if we have many embryos and they are healthy and thriving 2-3 days post retrieval, they will let them grow another couple of days (in the chocolate pudding) until they reach the blastocyst phase. At this stage they are thought to be more successful in implanting into the uterus. But, if there are only a few embryos, or they are not looking too happy (not everyone likes chocolate pudding) - they will schedule a transfer 3 days post-retrieval as the embryos are much more likely to do better within the womb and there is a risk of losing embryos the longer they are left in the "chocolate pudding swimming pool".

- the embryos (we will only transfer 2) are transfered back into the uterus through a small catheter, guided by ultrasound. Then I will lie there for an hour. Then I will go home home and lie in bed for 24-48 hours watching movies and bad TV and willing those little embryos to stick, with every bone in my body.

- Any left over embryos will undergo cryopreservation - a fancy name for being very quickly frozen, for use at a later date (hopefully for future siblings).

- I will use estrogen patches and injections of progesterone during this time to help encourage pregnancy and to help the lining of my uterus be a nice welcoming place for the embryos. I mean, I will be competing with their memory of the chocolate pudding pools - I'd better have some prime uterus cushiness to offer them!

- And 2 weeks from the date of the embryo retrieval I will go in for a blood test to determine if we were successful.


If just writing it all out is overwhelming, what am I in for when this all really gets rolling? Jeesh!

(I am scared - but also? I can't wait! We could be pregnant in 40 days!)

March 26, 2008

Grieving and Anticipating...


I have deliberately avoided blogging for the last week. I felt as though I needed to just leave this space here, for Mr. Jones, for me. I am finding myself heartbroken in little ways all throughout my day. I miss him terribly and yet can't shake the feeling he is always here. I keep looking for him, thinking I will walk into my room and find him curled up in our pillows. And then I remember.

I saw my counselor today. I had avoided all out crying for the most part since last week - until I saw her. Something about her presence has a way of undoing me at times. We talked about Mr. Jones and the lessons he gave me while he was here - which were always generally somewhere along the lines of "Pay attention - Right now" She suggested that maybe even in the timing of his passing he might still be trying to remind me to "pay attention" to something very important right now. So I am, I am paying attention - to this crazy and full time. Full of loss, full of anticipation, full of "to do"'s and "not yet"s... I am paying attention to how delicate and sacred this time feels, how fragile my heart is right now in the midst of it all - how my heart needs the space right now, and the permission, to both grieve very deeply and to anticipate fully. Because there is much on the way. I am paying attention to myself like I imagine a mother might pay attention to her wounded child. I am giving myself permission to feel very sorry for all that I am having to carry right now, all at the same time.

And I am listening to myself - to that small little voice inside, when she says she needs something.

Yesterday, she needed roses. And so, I found a deal on roses and bought myself 3 dozen roses. I am not usually drawn to roses but yesterday? Only roses would do. Bright, spring colored roses. Everywhere. Next to my bed. On the mantle. On the table. By the door.

I woke up this morning with roses on either side of my bed. I felt loved. And I smiled.

I may buy roses through this entire next month. There is just something about them.

I received my box of meds yesterday, as well (excuse me? I ordered the LARGE?) - I plan to post some pics of those tomorrow as the sheer volume of medications that are about to enter my body in the next 4-6 weeks is truly something to behold. But, in the spirit of true anticipation and my desperate need to be the honor roll IVF student - I bought a wall calendar! A giant wall calendar! To write all my meds on! In color coded permanent marker! (I swear I was an elementary teacher in a past life) Though, as excited as a trip to De.pot, with money in my pocket to burn, would usually make me - I did have a near nervous breakdown. twice. The first time was because I suddenly panicked about all the money we are spending and, you know, how I don't have job right now? The second time was when the cashier almost refused to give me my FREE bonus package of photo paper with my purchase of a twin pack of printer cartridges. I literally almost started crying. Really. Because, you know - that photo paper costs money and shit! And she was being like, totally unfair. But I got my damn photo paper - and avoided a trip to the psych ward. again.

*and yes, I did glue those words to my calendar - I actually plan on adding a lot more, images and words - a collage really. all over my calendar. subliminal messages and such. *

Also yesterday, and don't worry I won't post a photo of this, I found a large gaping hole on my oldest dog's back. Apparently she had a little scuffle while I was out of town and Mr. Spicy had missed the wound when he checked her. I went into full-on protective momma meets ex-vet tech mode. Wanting to avoid the vet (just not ready to go back yet) - I hit the store and loaded up on supplies. Some predictable ones: betadine, triple antibiotic ointment, cotton balls. Some not so predictable ones: A book on Homeopathic pet care, a homeopathic remedy for trauma and injuries, herbal healing salve, tea tree oil, vitamin C, and cod liver oil. (and this is why I am the
spicy sister) I am dangerous in a natural foods store - watch out! But, my regimen is working really well. In about 24 hours the wound has healed up about 50% and shows no signs of infection. It is giving my over-active nurturing side something to focus on, and she seems to enjoy the extra attention she is getting. Win win.

Speaking of being out of town - I left last Wednesday night to go see my grandmother. I took the overnight train. Which I really don't mind at all, in fact I kind of enjoy the solitary time with my I.pod and my thoughts. It was a hard trip, as we had just said good-bye to Mr. Jones that same day. But the time alone was really good. Once there, I stayed with my very hip 21 year old cousin and her boyfriend - who taught me to knit. Yes, her boyfriend taught me to knit. He's just that cool. I have wanted to learn for a long time, and it was a great creative outlet to focus on - especially on the train ride home. And the two of them? Truly adorable.

It was really good seeing my family. I was pretty sad and out of it most of the trip. But it was ok, because everyone there is dealing with their own stuff as well - so I didn't have to hide it, but I wasn't asked to talk about it either, which was perfect. And seeing my grandmother was really really good. I am so glad I went to visit her. She made us laugh - she told raunchy stories about her apparently "wild" past and she was tender and vulnerable at times in ways I have never seen her. At one point she hugged me in this way that a child hugs you, just collapsing into your arms - and my heart just broke for her. It is so hard for her right now. She is aware that she isn't her "normal" self - she knows she has had a stroke and it is affecting her. She gets frustrated when she can't think of or say the right words, you can tell she knows in her mind what they are, but they just aren't coming out. She is deeply resentful of the restrictions placed upon her in her current facility - no smoking, no TV in her room, no cell phone, no going outside. She is a fierce and independent woman who has had to give up most of what brings her joy - being told "no" so many times each day must be absolutely infuriating. Thankfully, my aunt who lives there is a powerful and compassionate advocate for her. She is working very hard to get her moved to a better place with more freedom and more of what she is used to. Especially, (as she is quick to remind us) the ability to smoke again.

She was doing really well the days I was there, and I am so grateful for that time with her. I was always visiting her with an entourage of other family members (my gramma is like the rock-star of the place) - children included, and it was really amazing to watch her interact with all of us. Especially the kids. She just adored them and loved on them completely. She even shared her chocolate brownie ice cream with them - now
that is love.

And I loved seeing the kids too - my youngest cousin who is 9, my niece (and goddaughter) who is 8, and my nephew who is 3. There is just nothing that makes me smile and touches my heart more than these kiddos. They just continually amaze me. I could fill a whole separate entry up just with stories about how incredibly awesome all three of them are. Maybe I will some day.

Actually, there are so many stories I want to share here about my time with my family - but in the interest of length, suffice it to say that I have a really crazy and wonderful family and I am really grateful for every one of them. I am glad I belong to them.

Soooo - last but not least, also last Wednesday, I started my period. Or rather it started on its own, I don't think I had anything to do with it starting - at least not willfully. Which means two things. First - as Mr. Spicy sadly pointed out - we are all through with our chances to get pregnant on our own, that was our last chance. From here on out it is "go time". Second - as I just mentioned - it is "go" time. I started my BCPs (birth control pills) on Friday night. I will be on those for 16 days. I start Lupron on Tuesday, and I have my Laminaria placement on Wednesday. It is about to get really real here, very soon. We are really gonna do this. I could be pregnant by this time next month. Wow.

My counselor and I talked today about how the grieving I am doing, the loss I am experiencing - it is carving out a place in me, opening me up. Both of us were actually afraid to even say that we hope that the space that is being carved out, is for something very very good to come. Like, oh I don't know....a baby?

All I can say for sure is that the space is being carved. I am being opened up. And it hurts.

But I hope, oh I hope - that it will soon be filled with
someone really really good.

March 19, 2008

An Eulogy for Mr. Jones

Dear Mr. Jones,

In August of 1993 I began the process of moving into my very own apartment for the very first time. I was just about to turn 19. I knew the first thing I would need to take care of was to find myself a pet. I had always loved animals and had lost my dog, Corky, who I had spent 15 years with, less than 2 years before. My apartment lease stipulated that I was allowed a neutered, declawed cat. So I hit the local shelter looking for you.

I spent the entire day meeting cats in a little "meet and greet" room. None of them really seemed right for me. I began to think maybe I just wasn't a cat person?

Near the end of the day, the shelter informed me that I could try their "long-term" facility. That's where they kept cats who had been with them longer than the standard time allowed. These cats were usually harder to adopt.

I drove across town to arrive at the "long-term care" facility less than an hour before it closed. I don't remember if they showed me any other cats there. I only remember meeting you.

You were this medium sized, soft gray kitty with a regal panther-like head. They put you into this tiny room with me and you immediately began softly pawing at my shins and jumped into my lap. I was a little shocked. But then, you placed your paws on either side of my head, one on each shoulder - and you stared me straight in the eyes. It was as if you were saying, "Look no further....I'm the one." And you were. You are. You finished off your declaration by licking my face and taking a little nibble on my chin. I was completely hooked.

The ladies working at the shelter were so excited when I chose you. They said you had recently stopped eating and they suspected it was because you were so sick of being there. You had been there a very long time, they said. Your whole life, you continued to despise being put into any kind of cage, carrier, or car. I wonder now if it was because of your earlier experiences at the shelter. I also wonder who in their right mind could have ever given you up.

So, they sent me home with you. They thought you might be a Russian Blue and about 2.5 - 3 years old. I thought you were amazing, charming, and delightful. I still do.

You quickly ended your hunger strike once I brought you home. You ate everything I put in front of you and yelled for more. You gained weight quickly.

You were loud and insistent, always, about everything. I named you Mr. Jones after James Earl Jones - because of your amazing voice. Shortly after bringing you home, "Mr. Jones", by the Counting Crows, hit the radio and I thought it was an appropriate serenade to you.

There were times, in that first studio apartment, when I ran out of money to buy food for either one of us. I baked up potatoes and we ate them together on my pull-out bed. On paydays I would bring you home some yummy cat food from the corner store and I would bring Ben and Jerry's home for myself. You were happy to share in my ice cream as well.

There were also times, in that first studio apartment, when I neglected you - stayed out too many nights, didn't spend enough time with you. So, you got pissed off, and you bit me. A couple of times. Just to make sure I got the message. I stayed home more, spent more time with you - and you mellowed out again. You weren't only reminding me of my responsibilities to you, you were protecting me. That was a wild and dangerous time in my life and needing to come home to you at night often saved me from some pretty bad situations. Thank you.

Then, you suffered moves across the country and back, with me. You suffered the introduction of a new little kitty (who you hated and who eventually - for her own protection- went to live with a roommate of mine) and the introduction of a puppy who soon became a very large dog and then, much later, another puppy who became an even bigger dog. You always did much better with dogs than cats. I think it is because you were always such a bad-ass and could never stomach the idea of sharing your territory with another cat. But somehow, dogs were ok with you. In fact, I think you really liked them.

Your voice remained your signature characteristic throughout your life. Whether you were waking me or my roommates up because, god forbid there be a closed door in the house somewhere, or whether you were just saying hello - you were loud and proud of it. Often, when I was on the phone, someone would hear you in the background and ask if there was a baby crying. "Nope, that's just Jones" I would say. Between your loud commanding voice and your motorboat purring - there was never any doubt of your presence.

The last five years or so, you have lived with me and my husband (your papa) and the two dogs. You have been part of a family. You loved my husband from the get-go, in fact it seemed like sometimes you just couldn't get enough of him. I was devastated when we first married and we thought he was horribly allergic to you. Thankfully, we were mistaken - and you have slept upon our heads, our hair, our faces, and our pillows, ever since. You loved being as close as you could get to us. And even though this was incredibly inconvenient for sleeping - we loved you for this as well.

The last couple of years have been hard. You lost a lot of weight. Your voice changed a bit. You sometimes woke us up in the middle of the night yelling from the bottom of the stairs, seeming confused and lost in your own house. Your coat became matted and dull, you slept all the time, and you began drinking water obsessively (and only out of specific containers - namely, the toilet, the dog bowls, and a random orange cup). But you were tough and you seemed to be hanging in there. We began putting out water-downed canned food every night to supplement your meals, and you loved it. By now of course my preference in cat food had matured a lot since 1993 when I was poor and single in a studio apartment. I obsessed about getting you the best, most natural, most healthy food I could provide. I was trying to do everything I could to help you to live as long as I could.

You lived a long life, 17+ stayed strong until the very end - two days ago it was obvious you were beginning to let go. You stopped eating, you became very lethargic and weak, and you lost more weight, very rapidly. Still, I kept hoping. I brought home every variety of soft and tasty foods I could find, I gave you fluids under your skin. I felt terrible for poking you with those needles - I hope you know now that I was only trying to do anything I could to make you feel better.

Today, I gave up. I gave up the fight to try to make you better. You seemed as though you had given up already yourself. I agonized over this decision. I wondered if I was doing the right thing. The Dr. said "yes", your papa said "yes", even you seemed to be saying "yes, it is time". But it killed me to say so, myself. I would have done almost anything if I thought there had been any hope. But I couldn't justify sticking you with more needles, cooping you up in a cage (which you HATE) for several days - just to find out if we could squeeze a week or a month more out of our time with you. That would be selfish. But still, even now - I feel so unsure. I wonder if we made the right choice - I wonder if we took the choice away from you. I hope somewhere somehow you know that we did this because we love you so much and we didn't want you to be in pain or suffer - you deserved much better than that.

You have always been an amazing companion to me. You've been in my life longer than any other "guy", you have protected me, comforted me, challenged me, and forever, forever - you have changed me. Thank you for coming into my life, into our lives. Thank you for choosing me all those years ago, for believing that I - that crazy 18 year old girl - could be the one you love, could be the one lucky enough to share a life with you, could be the one you trust. I hope that I have become the person, the companion, the mother, you believed I could be and I hope that you know that so much of who I have become is because I was so lucky to have you to love and to love me.

Thank you.

I hope with my whole heart that you are somewhere right now, eating fresh grass and lying in the sun. I hope that you are whole, that you are healed, that you are strong. That you are more than you ever were here. I hope you have claws again on all four feet (you came to me declawed). I hope there is someone or something there to hold you, to love you, to rub your ears, and to lie upon - to your heart's content. I hope you are filled with all the love that I have for you and that your papa has for you as well. I hope you are happy and that you know that even though we miss you terribly and the space you filled in our lives and our hearts can never be repaired - I hope you know we will be ok. I hope that you don't worry about us too much. And mostly, I hope I get to meet you again in that place - and that we remember one another and that finally I will be able to tell you and be sure you understand just how very much I love you and how very much you have always and will always mean to me. And I hope - that someday I will hear your voice again, and I will finally really understand what you are saying.

Thank you Mr. Jones. We love you. More than we could ever express. Thank you.


For now.

These tears I cry.....

Today we took my 17year old cat, Mr. Jones, to the vet. Since Monday, he had been rapidly deteriorating. Despite my best efforts yesterday (feeding him by syringe, giving him subcutaneous fluids), he was not doing much better this morning. I suspected kidney disease. I was right.

My vet for nearly 10 years (I used to work for him) assured us that the kindest and best thing to do at this time would be to let Mr. Jones go. He was in severe renal failure complicated further by either hyperthyroidism or underlying cancer. He was very very sick.

I had held Mr. Jones all day yesterday, crying, and praying that he would just go on his own, in his sleep. I slept fitfully last night with him beside me, waking several times to again offer up the same request and to reassure him that it was ok for him to go, that he could let go any time. But he didn't.

So this morning we went in, we ran the blood work, we got the diagnosis, we listened to our vet, and we cried. Then we cried some more.

I held Mr. Jones to my chest, whispering to him, thanking him, telling him how much I loved him, how grateful I was to have him in my life. And I cried deep wracking sobs.

We took Mr. Jones outside and allowed him to walk around in the sunlight a bit. He was so weak he kept tottering and falling over. He kept looking around like he was looking for a place to hide. Finally, he collapsed in a pile of dead leaves.

We picked him up, we held him, we blessed him, we told him all the ways and reason we loved him so much, and we said our good-byes. And we cried.

Finally, after more than 3 hours at the clinic, we had the Dr. come back in and give him the sedative. And later, the medication to stop his heart. It was over. He was gone. And we cried.

I cannot remember a time in my adult life when I have cried so long, so hard, or so deeply. My eyes are almost swollen shut. My heart is broken. A part of my life is missing. A part of me is missing.

Tonight, I leave (a day late) on a train, to visit my grandmother who is living in a medical care facility due to her recent stroke. She will probably live in a nursing home or care facility for the rest of her life. She has lost a lot. I have more compassion for her than I ever have, right now.

You know how sometimes you have those days where things seem just so right and perfect and everything is going your way, and you think, "Hey, I should buy a lottery ticket today!" - You know that feeling?

Well, I think what I am feeling right now is exactly the opposite of that.

March 12, 2008

I feel like I am 13 again...

Waiting by the phone.

I am frantically checking email and my phone constantly to see if my stalkee the woman who interviewed me has contacted me about the summer or spring break positions. So far...nuttin'.

She said she would make a decision early this week. It is now mid-week. I am thinking this is not a good sign.

I really want this job. And I REALLY don't want to have to apply, interview, or subject myself to the stress of searching for another job. Can't just ONE thing go as planned? Just one thing. Please.

I really cannot handle one more drop of stress at this moment, it has been a monumentally stressful week. If you see me in the next few days, please try not to be distracted by my eye twitching and nervous tics.

Completely unrelated question.... When the kiddos come along, is it no longer acceptable to sleep on the couch because you are throwing a giant tantrum fighting with your husband?

Just wondering....

March 10, 2008

Thank you!

Thanks to all you ladies out there who responded to my meds query - you gave me great advice and mostly, I just appreciate you taking the time to reach out. It also gives me the chance to meet some of you (via your blogs) who I might not otherwise have stumbled upon - so thank you! You all rock!

Mama said there'd be days like this.....

By far, one of the things I hate the most about this journey of infertility is the intense, and sometimes unexpected, emotions. On the other hand, I do think these emotions are here to inform me - and I have learned a lot and grown a lot in the last 2+ years as a result of paying attention to them. But feeling so out of control (isn't that the theme of infertility - lack of control?) and so governed by them - it is hard for me.

It's like there is always this ache in my heart - this reminder of the "not yet", this waiting, this longing, this disappointment, this anger and frustration, that fills up so much of my heart and mind that my space for other things, my reservoir to respond to anything else in my life - is very very small.

I have always been a "survivor". I have always fought hard to find my way through any challenge life would bring my way. I have always valued my strength, my ability to endure. In fact, when I was 17 and was in college for the first time - I took this a step further and actually pushed my body and mind to the limit just to see how much I could take. I even managed to land myself in the hospital a couple of times that year due to exhaustion and dehydration. (I don't recommend trying to take a final exam after staying awake for 5 consecutive days - not pretty). I have also always been intensely independent. For most of my life I had to be. And now? Well, old habits are hard to break.

Really, in the last three or four years, I have been forced, against my will at times, to learn to listen better to my body, my mind, my heart. My first semester back in college, finishing my bachelors degree at 30, I broke out in hives all over my face and neck because I just couldn't take the stress like I used to. My body was rebelling. I remember an adviser reminding me of this as she helped me to craft my degree and my plans for the future. She said something to the effect that my constitution was not one that could tolerate lots of stress....I nodded in agreement, but internally I felt so much shame. Who had I become? I was supposed to be a warrior-woman! I can handle anything! Hear me roar!

I have had to learn when to say, "Enough", and "No". I have had to learn how to ask for what I need from others, to ask for help. This one is hard - and still very much a work in progress. Mr. Spicy and I revisit this almost weekly. He actually said this weekend, in the heat of an argument, "You share more about what's going on with you in your blog than you do with me." He's right, mostly. When I am happy, when I am pleased, when I am excited - I cannot wait to tell everyone I know. But when I am sad, depressed, stressed out, angry - I withdraw, it is very hard to share this with anyone, or to even know how to. I have learned in my life to only count on myself to get me through these times. It feels incredibly vulnerable, to the point of actual discomfort, to invite anyone into that space with me. And yet, I am so lonely there. It is a catch 22.

Infertility has added a whole new dimension, a whole new battlefield if you will, to this struggle for me. Not only is infertility itself a deeply personal and intimate struggle - but I am nearly constantly in a state of emotion that leaves me feeling anxious, isolated, and exposed in the presence of others. So enters social anxiety. Fun stuff. I am reminded constantly how I cannot just will myself through this. I cannot climb this mountain with my strength alone. I am forced to recognize my own fragility and brokenness. I am continually invited and coerced into relating far outside my comfort zone.

And as much as I love to talk about and celebrate transformation and growth - this shit is HARD!

This shit is really really hard.

March 09, 2008

Calling all IVF'ers

In spite of the emotional tornado I have been riding lately - it is getting close to the beginning of our cycle and....I need to start researching where to get the cheapest drugs. For my IVF cycle, that is. And besides, I probably could do something more productive than lie in bed watching Sex and The City episodes all day (watched the 6th season again this weekend - good stuff).

So - I need some advice - which company did you go to for your meds? Why?

Thanks in advance!

March 06, 2008

Feeling out of touch...

I just met with a dear friend tonight and as I relayed all that has gone on in the last 6 days, I realized I wasn't feeling much about any of it. It is as if I have just maxed out.

I remember feeling really good and then a little freaked out, and then really good again after Friday's appointment. I remember feeling relieved and excited to be moving forward with IVF soon. Then, as I finalized the decision to leave my job, I remember feeling nervous, scared, and a little sad - but also really free and hopeful. And when I heard about Grandma....I remember feeling scared and feeling an urgency to get out there as soon as I can. Then, yesterday happened - and the combined effect of it all seem to have left me really jumbled. So much so that I can't seem to find what I feel about much of anything at the moment.

I feel manic - like I just drank 18 cups of Turkish coffee. I know that is the adrenaline, the stress hormones, my body going into "fight or flight" mode as a result of the recent stress cocktail I just slammed. I also feel numb and emotionless. My default right now is to laugh or be funny - which is weird, this isn't my usual way of dealing with stress. I also find myself just completely spaced out and tuned out to everything around me - this I am used to.

None of it I like.

I know underneath there are some pretty big and maybe even confusing emotions brewing and I know they will have to come out soon. I want them to. I don't like feeling like this. Good thing I have counseling on Monday. I know I am in very deep need of rest, of time away, of time to breathe and space enough to feel safe to let it all come to the surface. I know I need to start this process now - even in small increments. I need to make the space to let those parts of me feel whatever it is they need to feel right now - no judgment.

I think also what is going on is that I felt so good this past weekend, so sure about moving forward with IVF, and quitting my job. I felt free for the first time in a long time. I felt excited. I felt like myself. I felt HAPPY. And, I think when everything else hit, well, part of me didn't want to let it in - part of me wants desperately to keep holding on to that great, incredible feeling that I had before. So I feel like I am artificially trying to stay in that place, even though the rest of me is trying to face the here and now. I am divided. It has just been so long since I felt *that good* - it is hard to part with it so quickly. It is hard to face what is in front of me. The reality of what is happening with my family, the reality of what is happening to my coworkers and to the organization that I have given over 2 years of dedicated service and passionate work to - the reality of it all.

So - here is my first step....

It is ok to feel all of this. There is enough room for it. I can make enough room for it. I can feel this. I don't have to be ok right now. I don't have to be in crisis to just not be "ok" for awhile. I am allowed to rest and to breathe, no matter what it is that is causing me distress.

Maybe I am not totally ok right now. Maybe not.

But that will be ok too.

The Best Laid Plans....

As I posted previously, I gave my 30 day notice of resignation to my employer on Tuesday. ha!

Well, on Wednesday we had our monthly "all-staff" meeting. At the beginning of this meeting we were given cards thanking us for our contribution to the organization with personal messages. Mine was very kind. Accompanying these cards were $50 gift cards to WalMart (so NOT my favorite store - but it is the thought that counts, right?). Ok, so that was nice. Our staff has been through a lot in the last year, floods, fires, lots of changes, lots of was really good to receive, and to see others receive, recognition for all of this.

The meeting ended a little differently though. The director of our organization tearfully explained that for financial reasons, the organization would be re-structuring and several people would be laid off. The first on the list were those with no grant funding for their positions. One of these women is a fabulous woman who happens to be my closest work-friend (and the preserver of my sanity most days) and the other is an incredibly kind woman who was 2 months shy of completing 10 years with the agency. Next on the list is, of course, me. Since I had just announced to the group my intention to leave in April, I was next to be told that I will no longer be employed after next Friday. There will likely be several more layoffs before the week is over, as the ability to meet payroll is in serious jeopardy. Health insurance for those staying is also on shaky ground.

This is a big deal for an organization that only employs roughly 16 people, full-time, as it is. Many of the women I work with who are in jeopardy of losing their jobs in the coming week are single moms. They have no margin for error in their bank accounts. There is no room for things like this in their already maxed-out budgets. I am really worried for them. The market is not great, especially in the non-profit world.

I am also worried for the clients we serve. How will they be affected? Their need for services will certainly not decrease during this time....

How does this happen? I have no idea. Explanations were given - something about grants falling through, funding cuts, and bad decisions made by board members in the past....but it is all still very confusing to me. I think that non-profits walk such a fine line every day in determining if they will meet their funding needs, when one thing, or several things, fall through or go differently than planned - it has a huge effect on everything. Did someone make mistakes? Who knows? Does it matter now? Not really.

Mr. Spicy took me out to dinner last night to de-stress. He has been incredibly accommodating about all of this, especially considering that for us this means the loss of 2 more paychecks we had counted on. I even "allowed" myself a glass of wine last night. I figured that the alcohol was probably better for me than the dizziness caused by my blood pressure trying to climb the Swiss Alps and all those fun stress hormones having a dance party in my bloodstream. I did feel better after a glass of wine - and after massive helpings of spicy Mongolian bbq.

The thing is - I feel guilty even being stressed at many others, others I really care about, are in much worse positions. One dear friend that I work with cried through the entire announcement. I knew what her tears were for. She has little ones at home. She was already struggling with the money she makes now. There is no fat to trim in her household. I think a lot of my stress is for these friends, these women, who certainly don't deserve to go through this. It is the hardest thing, in some ways, to know that I am not going to struggle as hard as they will, that I am going be ok - but that there is so very little I can do to really help them.

In the midst of all of this, I did something last night, out of panic, that I feel rather foolish about today - and so, I will share it with you for your enjoyment:

Well, Monday, I interviewed for a summer position. Basically it is a day camp counselor position working with kids and animals - can I just say how perfect this would be for me???? So, anyway, they asked during the interview whether I would be interested, or available, to work a position at their day camp during spring break. I explained that I would not be available during that time as I was not leaving my current position until April (double ha!). Well, last night, I frantically called and left a message for the woman who interviewed me letting her know that I would be available for AND interested in a position over Spring Break, you know, if she decided to um, hire me, or something. And then I laughed nervously, repeated myself, wished her a nice day, and hung up. But, oh no.....that wasn't enough. I emailed her as well. You know, just in case she like, doesn't check her voice mails or something, you know? And in my email to her, I misspelled a word!!!!! Yep, classy. That's me! When I want a job, I will call you, I will email you, I will electronically stalk you, but I will not, I repeat, I will not take the time to proofread my emails to ensure proper spelling or grammar. Nope, that's just not my style. If you know what I mean?

So - the woman emailed me back:

"Thanks for the update. I will be making decisions early next week."

And I can imagine her adding:

I am only being polite to you because, frankly? You scare me. Next week you can expect that I will very politely let you know that we did not decide to hire you (big shocker) and then I will promptly change my phone number and email address.

I blame the wine.

March 04, 2008

30 days, 30 nights....

So. I gave my 30 day notice at my job today. That would be the 30 day notice of my resignation, that is. And yes, we have planned this for a while - in fact, it was a large part of the inspiration for the post where I whined incessantly about our money issues. Because the smartest thing to do when you are worried about a large financial cost looming in your very near future is to, of course, quit your job. Yep.

Ahem. Yep. I did it. It's done. So done. Wow.

I am still reeling a bit, so I am having a hard time writing about it.

I know it is good. It is good. It will be good.

But it is also completely crazy. Completely, utterly, "72 hour hold" crazy.

And hopeful. Let's not forget it is hopeful. I am hopeful.

I am going into that mode you go into when you are contemplating breaking up with a boyfriend who you know you have no future with, but dammit if he didn't just bring you some flowers tonight? So, they were picked from your own front yard....well, it's the thought that counts, right? That mode where you are trying to hold onto those last three things you really adore about him and will honestly miss...and afraid that even though it is clearly not going to work between the two of you...What if you never find anyone else, ever again? - And what if you die a horrible lonely death from falling in the shower because you were tripped by one of your 58 cats? And what if no one is there to help you? And what if you haven't shaved in weeks??...and, and??
You get the idea.

So yeah, I am already mourning a little what I will miss about my job. The top three things I will miss are: the kids, the kids, and the kids.... These kids I get to work with? They are so inspiring. They rock. Really. Often I just sit there and listen to them or watch them, and I think how they really have so much going for them, how so many are just so incredibly insightful, and honest, and real. They are true survivors, in every sense of the word. What always amazes me is that spark of innocence and hope and the will to thrive that is still burning in them, even after they have been through incredible traumas and tragedies. It gives me faith in humanity, in our ability to heal and transform, in our deep goodness and light, in our desire to be whole.

But, at the same time, I am moving on for me. (and I can't begin to explain how selfish I feel just writing that) I am moving on for my family. I am moving on as an act of faith. Faith that there is something more for me. Faith that I will have nothing left to give these children or any others if I stay here much longer. Faith that I will have many many opportunities to give again, and to give even more. Faith that if I follow my heart and I dream big the entire universe will come alongside me to help me.

What I do know is this: Yesterday I was driving, and as the mountains rose in all of their spectacular glory before me, I realized I was smiling. I was smiling with my whole heart. I recognized this feeling I had not felt in quite a long while, the feeling that there is some golden string extending from my heart, going forward into the space before me - I cannot see where it ends but I know it is pulling me towards something good.

For the first time in a long time,

I was not only aware of the thread,

but I felt free,

completely free,

to follow it.

March 03, 2008

Conspiring for her good....

I found out today that Grandma Penny has taken a turn for the worse. She has been readmitted to the hospital after being home with constant supervision for less than 2 weeks. My aunt has been working around the clock since she was allowed to go home. She has ensured that Grandma has had someone dependable and loving (usually my aunt) at her side 24 hours a day without exception. Unfortunately, Grandma is experiencing further mental deterioration and has become violent to others and has made threats to herself. So, she's back in the hospital until they can find a suitable facility for her.

All of us know that once she is in a facility she may just continue to deteriorate even further. I feel like we are losing her. It makes me so anxious not to be there with her and the rest of my family right now.

Initially, when she had the stroke, I thought I would wait until they knew more, until things had calmed down enough so that I wouldn't be in the way if I came out. Then, I wanted to come at a time when it would be best and most helpful for my aunt and everyone else. Now, I just want to be there. I want to see her.

My mom is heading there tomorrow to spend a week with her. I may go out after that. We are trying to figure out the timing and expense of it all. We will do whatever we need to. Of course.

Ok, so here's where I might lose some of you....

I am thinking right now of an experience I had today. I was in an appointment with Shelley. She was leading me through a visualization of all the friends, all the family, all the healers, all the people in my life right now who are supporting me and walking with me through this journey towards motherhood. The people, my team, they were holding hands around me in a circle. Beyond that circle were literally hundreds of others: wise old women, women with full pregnant bellies, young women, and men too - from all over the world. There were also children, hundreds of children, and they were running in and out of the crowd of people. The children were diverse and absolutely beautiful - and they laughed and laughed as they played.

All of these people, all of them, were sending me blessings. They were all wanting for me, for us, what I myself have wanted for so long. I could see that all of them were working together for my good. I knew that the hundreds on the outside of the circle were connected to me - they are connected to my soul, either directly - or through their connection with those holding hands around me. Some of them are teachers, some are healers, some are spirit guides, some are angels, some are ancestors, some are just loving souls....but all are here to help me. To help us.

I am thinking of this right now because as I think of my Grandma and I think of her deterioration, her confusion, her anger, her loss of pieces of herself and I think how inside of it all she must feel so alone, so misunderstood.

I wish for her this image: That she would see all of us who love her, all who are praying, all the medical staff working on her behalf, all those who she has touched with her life - that she would see all of us surrounding her with arms entwined, creating a safe place for her, creating a place of peace. Then, just outside of this circle - I hope she sees all those who stand behind us, who love us, who have given us guidance and support and healing - and that she knows that all of us, all of us, all of us are sending her our blessings and peace ...

...all of us are conspiring for her good.

She is deeply loved.

March 01, 2008

"The wings are wide..."

"I feel it all. I feel it all.
The wings are wide. The wings are wide.
Wild card inside. Wild card inside."

By far, the most memorable moment yesterday was sitting in our car in the parking garage before our appointment. Mr. Spicy and I cranked the radio up loud and we sang/yelled along to Feist's, "I feel it all". It got us all pumped up and ready to face whatever would lie ahead in the RE's office. I am just loving this song with my entire being right now. I have listened to it like 4 billion times in the last week.

It just resonates deeply with my desire to stay present in this whole process, to "feel it all". I usually yell this part at the top of my lungs - like a mantra meant to reach the deepest hidden caves within me - reminding me that I am here and I want to feel every part of this - I want to be present for all of it.

"The wings are wide..." - I think this really speaks to my hope. I am choosing to imagine myself strong and empowered and free in this process - not oppressed by it. I literally visualize my arms wide open to embrace everything that lies ahead and the wings wide to carry me through it.

"Wild card inside"...well - this just points to the risk and the chances we are taking....and this "wild card" that will literally be transfered into my body. There are no guarantees here...biggest gamble of my life!

"I know more than I knew before" - isn't this just so true for anyone getting to this place? I know so much more than I knew before - things I wished I never had the need to know - but nevertheless, I know them now.

"I don't know what I knew before, but now I know I wanna win the war." - This feels like my rallying cry right now - I want to win this war! I am filled with uncertainty, and still reeling in ways from the journey it took to get here, but dammit - I want to win this thing! I want to be a mamma, I want to be pregnant, to give birth, to breastfeed, the whole package - and I want IVF to work for us, to allow us to do this. I must believe, I do believe, that it will. I want this war to end - and soon.

This concludes the interpretive music portion of this blog for the juicy details:

It was a really good visit overall. They moved us through from blood draw, to semen collection, to hysteroscopy, to ultrasound, to regroup, to consult, with the ease of a well-oiled machine. Nice when it works that way!

We had our blood drawn - quick and painlessly. (Ruby is the best!)

Ultrasound went smoothly. My uterine lining was superb. The blood flow to my uterus was great. The ultrasound tech/nurse (not sure which she is) was really kind and talked me through everything she saw, which I really appreciated. She sure knows her stuff!

We had a little issue with the hysteroscopy - apparently I have a very tight spot where my cervix is basically clamped down right at the opening. They never had a problem getting the catheter in for the IUIs, but the IVF catheter is much more pliable and wiggly - so this tight spot could cause issues. The RE said that she worries about it "crushing the embryos" at the transfer. That is NOT a comforting image. Initially she thought I had a bend in my cervix but it turns out that my cervix is just a little uptight. (ha!) Thankfully, there is a solution. 3-4 weeks prior to transfer, the Dr. will insert a laminaria stick into my cervix. This little seaweed stick (yes, it is REALLY a stick made of seaweed) will sit in my cervical opening for 24 hrs and fill with fluid, slowly dilating my cervix. Wooohooo! (Actually - I think it is kinda cool really).

Because of this spot in my cervical opening, Dr. Deb had to work a little harder for the hysteroscopy. They numbed my cervix with local anesthetic injections and then she got right in and looked around. The actual procedure was not too bad - I just kept breathing and trying to relax during the whole thing. Dr. Deb said my uterus looked "perfect" and then kept commending me for doing "great", doing "amazing". I kept saying, "Thanks!" But was puzzled as to why she and the nurse seemed to think I performed so well. It seemed like they thought I should be in more pain. But I was ok, really. Until several hours later - when the local wore off (at least I am assuming that's what happened) - and the lower part of my abdomen just felt really pissed off and inflamed and ready to kick someone's ass. I understand. I do.

So, while I was in the chambers of vaginal poking, Mr. Spicy was in his own little chamber, having "fun with the cup". We then met back up for our re-group with Dr. Deb and our IVF consult with our nurse, Amber.

Our re-group was great. I honestly cannot say enough good things about Dr. Deb (Minjarez) - the more time I spend with her, the more I adore her! She gave me a huge hug when she came in to do the hysteroscopy, and later when she met with us together she was just so kind and encouraging, and warm. She confirmed that she will look at my chart every day and that she will sign off on every decision made, every test run. SHE will determine our protocol and adjust it based upon results throughout the cycle. This was really comforting. Plus, she never rolls her eyes or laughs at any of the crazy questions I come in with. And, let me tell you, I have given her some doozies!

Our IVF nurse Amber seems really amazing as well. I feel really lucky to have her and Dr. Deb working on our case together. She has this great combination of warmth, kindness, humor, and just absolute competency and expertise. She also did not roll her eyes or laugh at me - which can be quite the feat at times, I am sure. She gave us our "IVF bible" - literally a huge binder filled with everything we will need to know, understand, and digest for our IVF cycle. She then went through the binder with us - which was really helpful. She also let us know that as an IVF coordinator she and the other IVF coordinators are there for us completely. All they deal with is IVF. She said I could call her every single day of the cycle if I needed to (I may test her on this one!) - and really made us feel like ANY questions, ANY issues that arise for us during this process will be taken seriously and responded to promptly with understanding.

Now of course, I know that how things seem now and how they may actually end up may be very different. But for right now, we feel like we are investing this money in receiving this amazing service and care for what feels like it will be the biggest and most important medical adventure of our lives. This alone, this peace of mind, this feeling that the people taking care of us care about us, are going to be available to us, are going to do everything within their power to get us pregnant, and are really really good at what they do - this? It's worth every penny. Add the possibility of finally having a child, and well - it is truly priceless. less than 3 weeks I will start BCPs (birth control pills for those not immersed in the IF world). This will allow us to start the IVF cycle with a clean slate - Once this begins, we are ON!!!!! Amber made our schedule and it predicts us for a retrieval around the end of April. We could be pregnant by May!!!!

We are both overwhelmed by all the information and what lies ahead - but we both feel strangely excited and giddy about it all too.....

I feel it all. I feel it all.
The wings are wide. The wings are wide.