Monthly Archives: October 2014

part 4 of 4: the inconsolable soul – the end

part 4…the end.

this is the part in this crazy story where i should be able to start out this post with these words:

‘with every great story comes a happy ending and in the end it was all worth it because we are pregnant!’

this is not that story and that is not our ending.  we are not pregnant.

every new beginning comes from some other beginning’s end. – semisonic

in the years since our story begun, we have come a long way – we still have a long way to go, but we are on the right path.
before our “break,” in my last conversation with dr. w, he said that if we wanted to come back to him he would recommend ivf but that he didn’t feel that would even help.  he told me in his no sugar coating fashion that the medicines would be tougher and considering what i went through the past few months, i could and should expect the worst when it came to the side effects.  as reassuring as that was, we talked about it.  we really did.  we dissected our thoughts and actions, we looked at the positive and negative, and we prayed.  at the end of the day, we decided to wait.  we didn’t really want to do ivf at that time since the percentage of success would be so low.  and, we wanted to give ourselves extended time to heal before we tried any more iui’s, so we waited.

in our waiting, we were faced with new challenges.  challenges of dealing with, and learning to live with, infertility.  one of those challenges was being able to respond to people when they ask why we weren’t pregnant and asking if we just didn’t want kids.  it takes time to respond to those people because with each question it rushes me through all of the stages of grief.  when i get back to the acceptance stage, i don’t know how to answer.  i don’t want to make the person feel bad because they didn’t know, but all i can really do now is give a sad smile and shrug.  sometimes when people complain about their children or their pregnancies, all i can do is breath and relive the pain.

**i am not saying now, or ever, that 1. i would have been a great mom that didn’t complain.  i might have, but having been through all of this, if i could have gotten pregnant i would have embraced the bad and horrible because for me it would have been a victory.  it would have been better than being in the state that i am in right now.  2. That people can’t complain. everyone has a right to be miserable in their own situations and i get that.  sometimes it is hard for me or other people going through infertility to grasp what people are saying because we are stuck in the mentality of “if only i had that problem.”  3. that other people can’t share their happiness with people going through infertility or that we expect people to only be sad around us and not share their good news and their joys.  it isn’t that we aren’t capable of being happy for anyone, because often times we are.  but with everyone else’s happiness inside us, there is still that sting of heartache.  that with everyone else’s happiness, even though we are genuinely happy, there is still a place in our heart that breaks.  and i am not sure that there is anything that will make that go away.**

each month that passed, a little bit of sadness enters in, but it eventually leaves.  most of the time that we have been taking a break has been uneventful.  i have had some more cysts rupture (but nothing that sent me back to the hospital) and i have had some lingering effects of the treatments (mental and physical).  i am telling you, my hair used to be so sleek and shiny instead of the afro fuzz ball that it is now.

in april of 2013, i found myself having some issues.  i started bleeding and wouldn’t stop.  i called my doctor and told him i was annoyed and to fix it.  he prescribed something and told me to call in 3 days.  i did and he said “did it stop?”  i said “no, what else is there?” he gave me another medicine and told me to call a week later.  i called and he said “did it stop now?” i said “no and if it doesn’t stop soon i am going to go insane.”  he told me he would call me back.  he wanted to check into something.  a few hours later, his nurse called and told me that he wanted me to have an ultrasound (still not a fun one) and to come see him in the office.  this has become a new way of life – just do what we are told when it pertains to my “mickey mouse.”  i went to the ultra sound and the tech asked me if i was familiar with the “type of ultrasound we were doing that morning.” i laughed at her and said yes.  i am sure that she didn’t get the joke but i giggled.  if only she knew where this all started.  i had the ultrasound and when i asked what she was looking for, she wouldn’t tell me.  i asked her if it looked ok and she said, “the doctor has to go over it with you.”  i will admit, i wasn’t overly concerned because i have been here before.  after the ultrasound, we had several hours to kill because my appt with him wasn’t until that afternoon.  we went and had breakfast.  we went shopping and i got to go to target – i love target!  we killed time and i went to my appt.  andy went in with me, but opted to stay in the waiting room.  when they called me back, i went into the room and the doctor walked in. he sat down and pulled up the ultrasound so that we could look at it together.  he showed me that my ovaries were fine (not in the ‘you can have a baby’ fine, but in the, fine for alison’s screwed up ovaries).

he then went on to show me my uterus. he said, “ok, do you see this?” and showed me something gray and white on the screen (let’s be honest, everything on those screens is white and some shade of gray – but i digress).  he told me it was the lining of my uterus.  oh – i don’t know why i didn’t recognize it because years before, i got to see it each month four or five times a month.  he told me that the lining was a great thickness and he was glad to see that.  i looked at him as he continued.  he stated, “i was worried that since you were bleeding so bad and since you didn’t stop with those medicines that you had cancer.”  i nodded. “oh ok – wait WHAT?” he told me that because my ovaries don’t work right that i am at an increased risk for cancer (which dr. w did mention to me at our initial consultation).  he said that when i was talking to him on the phone that he had a bad feeling about it and wanted me to have the ultrasound and come in to talk to him about it.  he stated that he was concerned that he would see a very thick lining and if he did, he would want to do a d&c to clear it out and do biopsies to diagnose.  he was certain now that i was fine and that for some reason unknown to him and to myself, i just had a lot to bleed the past month and a half.  he offered to do a biopsy if it would calm my nerves and put my mind at peace.  i said, “um, yes please.”

he got his nurse and told her that we were going to proceed.  then he told me how he was going to do it and that he was going to get several samples.  he told me it was going to be a bit uncomfortable.  i remember hearing this when i had the xray and when they did the actual iui procedure, so i said ok – thinking that this would be the same.  i was on the table and he said, “here we go.”  all i have to say is: uncomfortable, my ass – it hurt like hell!  he did the first biopsy and i almost climbed over the top of the table.  i was mad.  i may or may not have said a choice word and told him through clenched teeth before he took the second one that he needed to revisit his definition of uncomfortable.  he moved a little faster and at the end of it he asked if i was ok.  i said i was, but i wasn’t happy with him.  all in all, i was glad that he had the forethought to be worried even when i hadn’t been. i had labs drawn that day as well and those were a piece of cake – since i am an expert now!

time passed and the results came back.  i was fine – cancer free and, for the time being, worry free.  he counseled me on what to look for in the future and when i needed to come in for more tests or biopsies (which i told him i didn’t think i would ever do again).  that biopsy was something that you can do once because you don’t know, but once you know that pain you wouldn’t volunteer for it again – ever.

at any given moment you have the power to say this is not how the story is going to end. – christine mason miller

In our story, we will always be labeled as an infertile couple (if not by other people – by ourselves).  we will always be a part of that club even if we didn’t ask to be.  we will always wonder what could have been.  but we decided that our story is not going to end how so many do.  we were going to stay together and love each other.  we would not let this rip our relationship to pieces.

something that i haven’t talked about that much is andy.  yes he is sprinkled here and there in the story, but i haven’t really focused much on him.  through all of this, he was my rock and my sanity.  he was my punching bag (verbally) and the recipient of my anger and lashing out.  he was my voice of reason when i went on an irrational rant.  he was the calm to my raging storm.  if I was having a bad day, his look of understanding and compassion and a smile of “bring it on, i can take it” was all i needed to see that there was a light at the end of this.  in his eyes, i could see, and still see, the promise that he made me – that i was his forever.

there are days that i still question if he will wish he walked away when he had the chance.  there are days i wonder if he will ever resent staying married to me because of all of this.  there are days where i feel so insecure that no matter what he says i believe that he will hate me.  but then there are the rest of the days.  the rest of the days that have built our relationship. the days where we were in the midst of our darkest time together – in the midst of anguish and despair that a lot of couples don’t experience together.  it wasn’t like there was one sided, earth shattering grief for one of us where the other was there to hold you up. it was earth shattering grief for both of us.  we had to hold each other up and keep from falling in the process.  we were fully invested in the good days, where we hoped and dreamed of having a family.  and we were fully there in the dark days when it seemed like a black cloud was flying over us raining down despair.  our story, as horrible as it was, gave us a foundation stronger than we ever thought was possible.

because of the lack of spontaneity and intimacy that comes with fertility treatments, we have spent the last few years re-falling, deeper and deeper in love.  we have found tremendous joy in doing even the simplest things together because, through all of this, we have realized that we don’t need to take things for granted.  we run our errands together.  we make a game of giving ourselves challenges (find the most random gift for someone or something we can restore) and go to thrift stores to try to fulfill those challenges.  we are more intentional about having date nights (something that we didn’t really do before we realized we had infertility problems).  we find simple pleasures in random mini road trips, looking for hidden treasures in the world.  i knew that i loved andy a long time before we even started dating and i knew i loved him when he asked me out.  there was no question in my mind that i was head over heels in love with him when he asked me to marry him and on the day that we said “i do.”  and as cliché as it sounds – the love that we had back then is nothing compared to the love that we have right now.

every great story on the planet happened when someone decided not to give up, but kept going no matter what. – spryte loriano

when we said our vows, i believed that ‘for better or worse’ would come with old age – dealing with ailments and sickness.  i never imagined that it would creep in so early in our marriage.  i can honestly say that andy has been there through the best of times and the worst.  he has seen me at my best and at my very worst.

our story, as imperfect and unwanted as it is, has been our greatest love story.

Even the darkest night will end and the sun will rise. – victor hugo

i feel God again.  that doesn’t mean that i understand everything that he is doing in my life.  i still don’t understand why he put the desire for children in my heart if he knew that i would never be able to get pregnant.  it doesn’t mean that i agree with everywhere he has led me.  it doesn’t mean that i don’t still get angry with him and ask him why.  especially when i see a new mom with a 4 week old baby and the mom admits she did heroin 3 weeks earlier.  it doesn’t mean that i have to like what he has done in my life.  it doesn’t mean that i am not broken anymore, because i am.  it doesn’t mean that the sting isn’t there sometimes.  it doesn’t mean that i only have good days now.  it doesn’t mean that i have it all together and don’t cry anymore.  the important part is, i feel him again.  my faith has returned – a little damaged but there.

the youth and their families we worked with in monroe and here in greeneville have helped.  family and friends have helped. little glimmers of hope for peace have helped.  understanding and compassion from people in and out of our situation have helped.

as weird as it might sound, pancake helped.  i was already doing better (most of the time) by the time we moved to tn, but i feel like i have been doing even better when pancake arrived.  we loved going to the farm and riding around and hanging out with the animals (even when they didn’t have the time of day for us).  it was a scene of calm and peace and we needed that.  we would sit and listen to the cows chewing on the grass (which is surprisingly louder than you would think).  we would watch jack wander around, ignoring us.  we would listen to the river and look at the mountains and ponder why they never looked the same.  but when pancake arrived a whole new ballgame began.

i was responsible.  ok, i really wasn’t “responsible” for anything other than love and treats because gene fed him and took care of basic needs, but i felt responsible.  we uprooted him from his family and took him to a strange place and contained him in the barn for a few weeks.  i watched him go from refusing to leave the barn to waiting for me in the barn lot when i took too long.  i watched him go from standing as far away from me as possible to running full speed to us when he saw us.  pancake.  my weird little donkey.  i watched his personality develop and with each development, we laughed more and more.  everything from his squeaky bray to his obsession of walking behind the other animals with his head on their rump made us laugh and smile.  we shared our stories of pancake and his equine friends and we noticed that other people laughed too.  it seemed like there is something about an ass that makes people smile (not all people, i am sure, but just go with me here).

we were talking one day about doing some fundraising one day and our ideas became bigger and bigger and we decided we needed to just start a company.  we played around with it (one of andy’s wild ideas) and came up with a name and a concept and a business plan.  we laughed about it.  one day at lunch, andy told me that we had a website.  that our fundraising idea was now no longer just an idea.  it was real – tangible.  within the last little bit, we have a business license and a website.  we are business owners.  we are starting out small, but our plans are huge.  pancake and his equine friends made us happy and helped heal us and if it brings a smile to someone’s face, then we have made a difference.

from the pits of despair to the path of healing, we have turned the story into something we never could have imagined.  so sometime tomorrow, november 1, 2014 will be the first day of:

the bossy donkey company

http://www.bossydonkey.com

tomorrow will be a new adventure in it’s own right with the launching of our own company.

i know that infertility has robbed me and us of certain rights of passage, and no matter what happens from here on out there are some things that deep down i will always grieve, but it is ok.

our story has lead us here and in the end, our story is just beginning: we are adopting!

part 3 of 4: the inconsolable soul – numbness

Sorrow is knowledge, those that know the most must mourn the deepest, the tree of knowledge is not the tree of life. – Lord Bryon

i took my break.  i told andy that we would get through the summer and reevaluate our situation.  andy agreed.  i went through stages of intense crying and apologizing.  the more tears that fell and the more i said i was sorry, the more i realized how much i was hurting andy.  i did my best to hide the tears from him.  i cried a lot in the shower.  i took really long and really hot showers.  the noise covered the sobs and i was able to have my outlet and andy didn’t have to watch me cry –  again.

those five months of intense treatment were catching up with me.  i was able to process what happened because while it was going on things happened too fast and really left no time for coping with each failed treatment.  i was able to analyze our movements and our numbers.  i was able to reflect.  i cried a lot.  i would sometimes wake up in the middle of the night and the realization would hit me.  i would roll over and cry into my pillow while andy slept beside me.  sometimes he would wake up enough to roll over and pull me close.  i was able to breathe and i started putting my life and my soul back together.
i was off pretty much all of the medicines and i felt myself slowly coming back.  i could look in a mirror and see the life coming back to my eyes and feel a little bit more like myself.  no more hot flashes.  unfortunately my hair stayed a frizzy fluff ball.
during infertility treatments, timing is obviously everything.  because of that timing and the type of infertility treatments we were doing, we quickly learned that spontaneity and intimacy were gone – just bury it in the back yard.

dealing with infertility is very much like dealing with the stages of grief: denial/isolation, anger, bargaining, depression, acceptance.  i guess because in a way, it is a loss. it is real, heart breaking, soul shattering grief.

denial/isolation:

we dealt with this early on.  maybe not the denial part because all of this was pretty hard to deny!  but the isolation part really hit us. we found that being around certain people hurt more and if we controlled that, it seemed that life hurt less.  it wasn’t that we thought that we could cause the pain to cease to exist, but we thought sparing one ounce of hurt would break our hearts less.

with the group of 4 couples, in a way, you could say that we isolated ourselves when i sent that letter asking for space.  we were told that nothing would change and that i was wrong for insinuating that things would change.  whether we want to admit it or not, life experiences like marriages and pregnancy will change group dynamics.  it might not be intentional but those changes will happen. when we noticed those changes within our group, we slowly withdrew to allow even more space (for them as well as us) and unfortunately after a while of declining invitations, we stopped getting them all together.  i tried to stay in touch with people individually sending private messages when life happened (birthday’s, Christmas, death in the families, etc), but after a year or so, i was told that “it is kind of obvious that you don’t want anything to do with us” and was asked to stop sending birthday wishes and Christmas cards.  at the end of the day, i still try to keep up with our group of 4 couples through other people or personal messages sometimes.  in isolating ourselves we didn’t stop the hurt because that came even when we were in a room alone, but it dimmed it just a little and that little bit helped.

Anger:

anger was the biggest obstacle for me.  i was angry at myself and i was angry at God.  there were times i was angry at andy but those times faded quickly and i placed the blame and anger back on myself.  this anger was present from the emergency room visit and escalated into a rage over the course of the year.  my anger was directed at myself and i replayed everything in my life, wondering at what point my ovaries stopped working and asking myself what if.  what if i knew what was going on before we got married?  what if i did something wrong to cause them to stop working right?  what if?  i was lost in a world of ‘what could i have done’ – i wasn’t just lost, but consumed by it.  i looked in the mirror at my reflection with hate and couldn’t wrap my mind around why andy didn’t have the same glare when he looked at me.

**I am writing this knowing that some people may be upset by my perception of this, but this is how i felt in the moment.  feelings that are still very raw for me.**

most of my anger was directed at God.  i was pissed.  it wasn’t fair to me that we were “faithful people” that prayed, but i felt like we were being punished.  i felt like if i had done something better in my life, or with my life, maybe things would be different.  that maybe if i had been a better person, God would have allowed my ovaries to be good.  it wasn’t fair.  each and every day i was reminded of how unfair life was when i turned on the news and saw women killing their babies.  or women strung out on drugs getting pregnant in the blink of an eye.  when people who didn’t want those babies got them so easily and i wanted one so bad, i was willing to put myself mentally and physically to hell and back.  it wasn’t fair and i blamed God.

my faith, that had been pretty rock solid growing up, was spread thin.  really thin.  almost transparent.  i was really questioning why i believe what i do.  i was questioning if i still believed.  i was questioning if faith was real and if God was real.  i was searching for answers and couldn’t get past my thoughts that if God allowed this to happen to us, or made this happen to us, was this the God that i wanted to believe in.  i wanted to believe in a passionate, caring God that cares for his people.  with all the heartache, i couldn’t feel him caring.  i could no longer feel his presences in the wind.  i could no longer feel his arms around me in an invisible hug.  when i needed to understand why and feel God the most, i couldn’t.  not only was i abandoned by my ovaries and my hopes of being a mother, but God left me too.

i searched for him in all the places that i could look – if I was going to be enraged with him, i wanted to feel him because that meant he was near and that he could feel me.   if he could feel me, then i could inflict pain back to him like he was doing to me and andy.

we went to church each sunday.  sometimes i didn’t want to go, but i went.  i wanted my faith to be strong again.  i wanted people to ask me why bad things happen to good people and be able to rely on my faith for an answer – not bitterness attacking God.  i went to church.  the place that i should have felt God without question.  i was wrong.  i felt love from the people that went to the church and in hindsight, i could feel God in those people, but i couldn’t see that at the time.  but i couldn’t see or feel God from the pulpit.  i was sitting there each week wanting to see God and instead was yelled at and told that i was going to hell because i wasn’t singing.  lets face it, i don’t sing well.  i don’t.  i am not going to act like i do.  if i do sing, usually i sing quietly.  but to be told before each song that i had to sing, made me mad.  so now, not only did God give me bad ovaries but God gave me a crappy singing voice.  and now, apparently, i am going to hell.  it wasn’t a picture of the God i wanted to believe in.

maybe it was because i was already so critical of God and so angry at God, but i felt like all of the sermons were based on God hating some group, or telling me that i wasn’t good enough in God’s eyes.  that isn’t what i needed or wanted to hear.  what i needed to hear was that we are all broken and that even in our brokenness, we were still made in God’s image.  that faith goes beyond our understanding, our dreams and our needs. that faith pushes us to be better, to get better and to get beyond.  i needed to hear that God loved me, not that he was judging me.  i needed to hear that God’s grace rained down over me when tears poured down my face.  to let go of the anger, to be at peace and to give myself grace.  i needed to hear that it was ok to be angry at God as long as i kept talking to him.  i needed a place i could go on sundays to escape all of my negative feelings that i had during the week and to feel God.  i needed to hear about the God that i grew up believing in that was compassionate and loving.  that is what i needed to hear.

during all of this, i was working with a youth group.  it was through them that my faith flickered.  i surrounded my heart in ice to protect me from any more disappointment and it was those youth that started chipping away at that ice.  i latched onto those kids as if they were my own because, in a way, they were – and will always be.  they made me laugh and, for a moment, my anger would fade and i would laugh.  they made me so very proud.  they played sports and instruments and we tried to support them outside of church.  they took an active role in participating and they put up with me. they allowed me to interrogate their friends and, in their own way, would ask for advice.  they would ask questions and discuss faith questions.  their blunt honesty put an new spin on the faith that i was trying so desperately to reconnect with.  on a sunday, they were my sanity.  they were my angels that kept me from getting so lost in the darkness that i didn’t want to come back.

it was during this time that i learned of several other friends having infertility issues.  i made it a point to reach out to them.  with one in particular, we made it a point to go to dinner and be away from it all.  just a girls date night.  during dinner, we would take a few minutes to catch up.  we would fill each other in on life as we knew it.  there was always that moment where our laughter died down and we looked at each other.  the subject of infertility would come up.  she would ask what was new and i would fill her in on our story and  i would ask her how she was doing.  i leaned on her and still do.

in my anger at myself, our situation and at God, we decided to keep a lot of our story to ourselves.  it was too raw to really talk to most people about it because a lot of people just didn’t understand.  it was too hard to be able to admit how broken i really was.  how to admit that the vision that i had instilled in my own mind was unraveling.  how to admit that i was mad at God. we wanted to be able to control who had what information because, after all, it was our story to tell.  it was also too hard to deal with the look of pity.  people say that look doesn’t exist, but it does.  i was at a funeral and someone came up to me and gave me that look.  i said hello and she grabbed both of my arms and said “i am so sorry.”  i knew that she was genuinely sorry for us and meant what she said, but for starters, she should have never known – someone gave her information that she should have never known.  secondly, that look of pity – that look of, ‘i know what you can’t do.’  i know that you can’t create a family for your husband.  i know that you are broken beyond belief.  we also didn’t want people to know because we had hoped that treatment would work.  we hoped that if we kept it to ourselves, we would be able to “announce” a pregnancy to the world instead of having everyone know when our iuis were and knowing when the pregnancy test would be.  since it was based on timing, it wouldn’t have taken too long to figure out and we didn’t need the added stress of people knowing when to expect good news or bad news.

another thing that made me angry were people taking their pregnancies and their children for granted.  it wasn’t that it just made us angry, but that it shattered us into a million pieces.  we would have been thrilled and we worked so hard for it and nothing.  one of my friends told me that she was nervous that i would be upset at her when she told me that she was pregnant.  i will admit that my heart skipped a beat, but at the same time, i was overjoyed for her.  my only request was that she know how lucky she was and how fortunate she was to have this life growing inside her – to take the good and the bad and embrace it.

bargaining:

i bargained a little bit i guess.  i told God that if he allowed me to just have one baby i would do better.  i asked him what it would take.  i prayed and begged.  when i was home alone on saturdays (because andy was in school), i cleaned.  i would put my headphones in and listen to ‘doubting thomas’ by nicklecreek over and over while i cleaned and prayed.  i would sing  scream the lyrics hoping that it would help me move past the bitterness and the anger.  i would scream the lyrics and start crying hysterically listening to those words.  the words that were very much who i was.  i often found myself in the laundry room with my back against the washer sobbing.  i often found myself in the most normal situations sobbing – completely broken.  i don’t know if it was all the medicines coming out of my system or just every once in a while the reality hit me like a ton of bricks.  i didn’t bargain for long because it got me nowhere.

depression:

when the anger faded, sadness filled the void.  i don’t think that we ever went into depression.  we were sad – yes, of course.  but we weren’t depressed.  we wanted to act like nothing was wrong and sometimes we could, but the truth was that it hurt.  there were some days that we couldn’t get cereal from certain stores because that aisle shared the diaper aisle and that was just asking too much.  i remember going to the store to get one thing and decided we needed poptarts.  i was in a hurry, grabbed them and when i turned around, i was looking at baby food.  i started crying in the middle of aisle 8.  we had good days and we had bad days.  we were very honest with each other about this.  all it took was “this isn’t a good day” and we knew what we needed to do to help the other one out.

acceptance:

i am going to get off topic right now and say that i have never liked this last stage of grief.  because i don’t believe that acceptance is really the end result.  i feel like with each loss (in the situation of a person passing away or the loss of dreams and hopes) there is no real end.  i think that you move beyond the first stages and you enter a stage of “mostly ok.”  it isn’t that you fully accept the situation but that you move past the rest.  acceptance is such a strong word.

the thing about grief is that it sneaks up on you.  even when you feel like you have gotten past the first four stages and move into the fifth and once you feel like you get through the fifth stage, there are triggers that will take you back through all the phases again.  the stages might move a little faster and don’t take as much time to process them through to the next, but all of those stages resurface.

since the word is acceptance, we have accepted a few things.  we have accepted that even in our own personal grief, we can still have joy.  joy for other people and joy for ourselves.  we have accepted that even though we were thrown unwillingly into the infertility club, that we will survive.  we have accepted that other people are going to take things for granted and our feelings will be hurt.  we have accepted that people will unknowingly ask us why we don’t have children.  we have accepted that people will ask us questions about when we are going to get pregnant.  we have accepted that even in the depths of the darkest place we have ever been, the world will continue on around us, regardless of our grief and loss of what could have been.

I write about the power of trying, because I want to be okay with failing. I write about generosity because I battle selfishness. I write about joy because I know sorrow. I write about faith because I almost lost mine, and I know what it is to be broken and in need of redemption. I write about gratitude because I am thankful – for all of it. – Kristin Arstrong

part 2 of 4: the inconsolable soul – a dark place

I’m my own worst critic and I think everyone in the band is a perfectionist. – Adam Jones.

i may not be part of a band, but i am part of this world and i can relate to where adam jones was coming from.  i think way too often we look at ourselves harsher than anyone would ever look at us.  i think we judge ourselves on things that shouldn’t really be judged.  i think we instill a perception of ourselves in our minds that isn’t ever really obtainable.  i think we expect more out of ourselves than is remotely possible.  i believe we are our own critics and we are the worst at criticizing ourselves.  i get it mr. jones.  i get it.

this is a side note to put a disclaimer out there.  my views of myself are not now, nor have they ever been, towards anyone else in our situation.  i can sit here and write all of these things about how i feel about myself and the situation. i can say how incomplete i am and have been and think i might always be, but i don’t see other people in the same light that i see myself.  i don’t think of them the way that i feel towards myself.  when i look in the mirror and see myself and our situation it is completely me, and when someone walks up beside me with the exact same problem and situation those feelings never project onto them, but rather a deep level of compassion and empathy pours out and my heart breaks even more for them than it has me.  it is as if my negative feelings and emotions have been locked inside for my own mind to wrap around.  it has become a strange phenomenon and a weird contradiction that i can make blanket statements and thoughts about me but don’t feel like they apply to anyone else.  i can’t really explain it and i don’t know that i ever will.

we were left with hope from dr. w.  he gave us homework.  he put me on several medicines to help get my hormones in check and to make sure that i was regular with my periods.  he wanted me to be on the pills for a while to get in my system.  he said to call him in two months and i would go back for lab work.  i called in two months and he said “wait one more month.”  after that additional month, he told me to come in and stated that everything looked great.  he said my labs were almost perfect, he had high hopes that we could kick infertility in the teeth and that i could get pregnant.  to say we were overjoyed at this point in time would be a complete understatement.  he rekindled my hope at a time where it was about to flicker out completely.  i was grateful for that.

it might be a good time to mention a few key things that were going on in our lives around this time.  we had a group of friends that we would get together with for game nights, dinners, cookouts, and any excuse to just hang out together.  it was 4 couples (which included me and andy).  out of the four couples, one or both of the spouses grew up with us (spouses that came later fit right in, making it a group of 4 couples instead of individuals) so out of each couple, we have been good friends for a long time.  we tried to get together each month.  sometimes we would get together more than once a month and sometimes there was a lull before we saw each other again, but we attempted to have our “group” get together as often as our schedules would allow.  each couple and each individual brought something new and different to the group and i believe that is what made our group unique.  i can’t speak for the other couples, but for us one thing was for sure – when we went our separate ways, we looked back fondly on the night with hurting cheeks from laughing and some new inside jokes.  all that to say that around this time, we found out that each of the couples were expecting (one couple already had a baby so this would have been baby two, and for the other two couples, this would be their first).  it was 3 out of 4 women pregnant and i happened to be that 4th.  i was the failure out of the group.  moving forward it would be 3 couples experiencing some of the same stuff at the same time and then there was us.  there would be fun conversations about nurseries, names, doctors appts, ultrasounds, heartbeats, a future of being mom and dad, and late nights.  and then there was us.  couple 4 – the infertile woman and her poor husband that got stuck with her.

this might also be an appropriate time to give a little background on the “group” before it was the 4 couples.  when we were individuals (not married), we were still a group: a few members varied depending on the year but for the most part we were the core group.  it was mostly me and one other girl (sometimes a third) and the rest of them were guys.  they loved to joke with us (especially about me being blonde) and about us being women.  it was all in good fun and we never got offended by their jokes.  i do blame them for my sarcastic sense of humor, stating that i had to develop it as a defense mechanism to put up with them.  we did guy things and that was perfect with our group.  we played poker (i won my fair share – but i knew to quit when i was ahead so that i can brag to this day).  we went to the batting cages (i didn’t do so well there).  we watched sports and action movies.  we went to concerts and cookouts.  i guess it fit my personality, but it was fun to be around the guys (less drama).  with that out there, the guys took advantage of the girls in their group.  they would joke that we needed to bring them refills and cook for them.  they were also an encyclopedia of “woman jokes.” one of their favorite jokes when the girls were giving their opinion on what to do or watch (usually it followed the suggestion of watching dirty dancing) was that a woman’s place is barefoot and pregnant in the kitchen.  i will reiterate that we never took offense to their jokes – sometimes we laughed harder than they did.  we knew that they were just that – jokes.  i can honestly say that i believe they didn’t mean anything by them.  i can honestly say that they didn’t believe the jokes that they were telling.  they were just messing with us.

it wasn’t until i couldn’t get pregnant that their favorite joke knocked me off my feet.  i went into a panic thinking that the definition of a woman and a good wife (especially according to my very best guy friends) went with the image of a woman barefoot and pregnant in the kitchen.  for years the jab hadn’t bothered me but now it cut me all the way to the core.  it has always struck me as weird that i put that definition on myself.  i didn’t see single women or women without kids and think any differently of them or that they are less of a “woman” – i don’t feel that way at all.  it honestly didn’t cross my mind.  it never caused me to look at anyone with this type of bias until i looked in a mirror.  it didn’t matter because dr. w gave me reason to believe that i could one day fit that image that i had put inside my head.

it was while we were waiting on my medicines to “work” and before any procedures that i sent a note to our close friends asking them for compassion and patience with us while we struggled to share their joy amidst our own overwhelming grief of the unknown.  it wasn’t that we weren’t happy for them, we were.  it was because we were having a hard time showing that joy and disguising our pain.  we still wanted to be a part of the group – but at a safe distance.  we got a lot of “heat” from that note.  i was told on the front porch of my own house that “if you just relax, you can get pregnant.”  (gee, i should try that!  why didn’t i think of that).  i felt attacked from several people and while i understand what they were saying, it only made me want to pull away more.

we still went to dinners and got together during all of this for a while when our schedules allowed us to.  it was hard.  i would give andy a look and he knew that meant it was time to go.  for the most part i was able to contain myself until we got in the car and then i couldn’t hold it in any longer.  andy would hold my hand or rub my back all the way home while i let it all out.  it was devastating.  it wasn’t that they did anything wrong – it was me, us.  as much as they said conversations wouldn’t dwell on the pregnancies and on babies, it came up – a lot.  i guess being an outsider to those conversations made it really clear how often they came up.  so did the complaints of “being pregnant.”  i would have given anything to not be able to drink alcohol, or to only sleep on my back, or to be miserably hot or uncomfortably cold.  i would have given anything to have had morning sickness – because that would have meant that i was pregnant.  with the heartbreak that i was going through, i would have gladly taken all of the negative and been absolutely happy about it.

***warning: the next several paragraphs might be too much information for some people – can’t say i didn’t warn you***

november came around and dr. w said the best chance we had would be to plan on doing an iui: intrauterine insemination.  the procedure sounded easy, safe, and reasonable so we agreed with him and decided to proceed.  he told me that timing would be important so on day one of my period i had to call the office and report that i was “actively bleeding”.  i don’t think i was ever so excited for day one (november 8).  i called the office and was told by one of his nurses to come in on cycle day 3 (cd3).  (ok so now i have to keep count and records of everything).  cd3 was a wednesday and i had to be at the office at 7 am for blood work and an ultrasound.  we had to wake up early and go to the office and wait in line.  it was first come, first served so we tried to get there early enough so that we didn’t have to wait long.  once they drew my labs, i went to the waiting room to wait on my ultra sound.  this would be a good time to toss out there that in this office, there were no “fun” ultra sounds.  they were all invasive.  when i was called to the room and ready for the ultrasound, i was expecting dr. w to walk in.  but no, in walks one of his partners. i guess my look of shock was evident and the doctor explained that when i come in for things, because of timing, i will most likely just have to deal with one of the other doctors (and their nurses).  (now my modest self has been “exposed” to so many people that i have lost count and by this point in time, i realize that i might as well toss that modesty out the door).  he does the ultra sound and says some numbers that meant nothing to me, but i memorized them so i could write them down later.  he tells me when to take my medicine (cd5 – cd9) and when to come back.  i go back on cd12 for yet another round of blood work and ultra sound.  i get the same doctor that i had a few days before and he tells me when to take my shot – cd12 and when to come back for the procedure (cd14).

my medicines.  i have always been a person that has never dealt with any side effects of medicines.  never – minus a few allergic reactions.  the thought never crossed my mind to even read what the side effects were.  big mistake. when i started the fertility drugs, i experienced almost all the side effects.  i was at work and all of a sudden i got hot. not just the “is it warm in here” hot, but the “i am going to melt” hot.  i ran to the bathroom to put water on my face to cool me down because my heart was racing and my cube mate asked if i was ok because i was “all red.”  i felt like i was melting from the inside out – a volcano building and building, ready to erupt.  no amount of cold water made them better.  i learned that i had to ride them out (luckily they didn’t last long – just several times a day).  only problem was, this was happening while i was at work and i was wearing long sleeves.  i couldn’t roll them up because i didn’t want people to see my arms.  i spent a lot of the time on the porch at work in the winter air.  my smooth sleek hair morphed into an frizzy fluff ball.  i also became very moody, highly sensitive, emotional and didn’t feel like my self.  i had other side effects too, but those are the ones that stick out as being the ones most memorable and difficult to deal with.

most of my medicines came in pill form – except one.  i had to give myself a shot.  i had hoped andy would be able to give them to me, but he couldn’t and i wasn’t about to have him stick me and pass out, so i learned to give them to myself.  the shot had to be kept in the fridge and i had to give them to myself at the exact time my doctor told me (which was usually between 5 and 8 at night – depending on my cycle).  fun stories to be added about that dreaded shot.

all of this time, i have been getting to work at weird hours.  trying not to alert people as to what is going on (i had my reasons).  so i would make excuses like, “i was unable to sleep, so i got up really early and decided to come in,” or, “i wanted to get out of here a little early so i drug myself in,” or, “i wanted to work later because andy had a meeting so i came in later to avoid over time.”  i was glad that it was november because i was able to wear long sleeves and jackets to hide my arms, which were pretty bruised from all of the lab work. when the bruises started to fade my arms looked rough.

our iui was scheduled for cd14 which happened to be a sunday.  i was glad because i didn’t have to make excuses.  dr. w preferred that i took the day off after the procedures so that i could relax. because it was a sunday, i could go have it done, go home and relax for the rest of the day.  we got up early and went to the office and we had our labs done.  afterwards we had to wait two hours so we went and had breakfast.  we went back to the office and prepared ourselves for the iui.  another doctor came in (not dr. w or the one we have seen before, but someone completely different- and there went my last shred of modesty and dignity).  he explained the numbers to us and told us he would be back with help and we were left for a few minutes to sit in silence.  part of the time i wondered if andy would pass out (since he didn’t do so well with my wisdom teeth experience) and the rest of the time i stared at the ceiling and prayed.  the doctor came in with a nurse i didn’t know and did the procedure.  it was uncomfortable and hurt a little, but not too bad.  he said goodbye and patted my knee which was still in the stir-up.  for some reason that struck me as a little rude (even though i know he meant nothing by it), but then again who cares.  the nurse eased my feet to a dangling position, told me to lay flat and still and they would be back. we waited and waited and i stared at the ceiling while andy talked to me and held my hand.  i teared up and he kissed my forehead and told me it would be ok.  my unshed tears were interrupted by the nurse telling me that if i felt ok, i could leave.  she helped me to a sitting position and made me wait a minute, then helped me to my feet.  when i didn’t fall over in the floor, she said goodbye and told me to get dressed and leave.  i went home and crawled back in bed while andy went to church – he made it to late service and told everyone he just over slept.  on cd18 i started more medicine, taking it every other day and on cd26 i went back for a beta test (blood pregnancy test).  on december 3, shane (dr. w’s nurse) called.  he said “sorry hun.  (pause) it’s a no.”   i was at work so i smiled, said thank you, hung up the phone, went to the bathroom, washed the hurt off my face, took a few deep breaths, and worked the rest of my 8 hours until andy picked me up.  my heart shattered to pieces on a friday.

i didn’t have long to wallow in self pity because cd1 was 3 days later and we had to decide if we were going to try again.  we said ok.  dr. w said he was pleased with all of the labs and the procedure itself, only thing was that it didn’t stick.  so cd3 we showed up at the doctors and saw a 4th doctor, had blood work and an ultra sound done.  i took my medicine from cd3 – cd7.  came back cd12 and cd14 for ultra sound and blood work (because on cd12 they didn’t like what they saw), added a new doctor to the mix.  shot on cd14 (which i gave to myself at work because of the timing of everything.  so when i went to work that day i carried two lunch boxes…one with my lunch and the second with my shot that i put in the fridge and told people i was eating dinner there because andy had a meeting and i had to get stuff caught up for the upcoming end of the year).  iui number one for december, cd16 (add another random doctor) and another shot that night (in the comfort of my home). iui number two for december, cd17. praise God dr. w was there to do the second one.  we did two iuis that month, back to back, because during one ultra sound they couldn’t find one of my ovaries and felt that doing two trigger shots and two iui’s in the same month would give us additional percentage of something happening.  i started my medicine cd21.  went cd31 for beta test in the morning and later that day, on a cold wednesday, shane called and said “hey hun.”  he paused long enough to take a deep breath and simply said “sorry.”  i sent andy an email letting him know because i knew i wouldn’t be able to talk about it without getting mad or crying so i just wrote him BFN (big fat negative).  he understood.

i had to work after both of the iui’s in december because i couldn’t come up with an excuse as to why i needed off so close together. that night i cried.  ugly cried.  cried gut wrenching sobs that wouldn’t stop.  i climbed in bed and otis curled up next to me i latched on to him and pulled him close.  he sank into my arms with his head on my pillow and didn’t move when my tears soaked his fur.  my hopes had been high and because we prayed and prayed and because andy said he believed that we were on the right track and he believed that something would happen it was even more devastating.  i believed because i “felt different” and my period hadn’t started and it should have.  i believed because i wanted it to be true.  i did everything the doctor said and i had hope.  in my tears my soul poured out.  my hopes, my dreams, my wishes, my prayers, my life, andy’s life, our everything emptied out of me in one of the most heart wrenching weeping episodes of my life.  there was no consoling – Lord knows andy tried.  i hurt from the inside out.  my soul was damaged – still never really recovered from before.

december was possibly the worst.  i was hopeful for a miracle because “tis the season.”  i was hopeful that we would be getting the best gift possible that no money can buy – well in our case, actually, money was “buying” it (but let’s not get too technical).  december sucked and for the second time in my life, my feelings for Christmas dimmed and i couldn’t wait to get the decorations down and for all of that “crap” to go away.  the spirit of Christmas failed me.

one morning right before Christmas, i had to run to target and pick up a few last minute items (Christmas and travel).  i will admit, i went in my pj pants and a coat – i wasn’t going to be gone long because i had a list and i knew i would be in and out in no time.  plus, that early in the morning, i knew that running into anyone i knew would be slim, so who cares if i wore my pj pants and coat! i got to the line and there was a woman and child in front of me. i smiled at the mom and she smiled back.  i smiled at the kid in the buggy because she was looking at me. i started to unload my buggy and rolled my coat sleeves up because they were getting in the way and the woman looked at my arms – which were bruised (from all shades of healing) and she quickly pushed her kid away from me and got away from me as fast as she could.  it only took a fraction of a second to realize that when she looked at my arms she believed that i was using drugs.  with the bruises and needle marks, i don’t blame her for the reaction or the assumption.  i just wish i could have explained – no it isn’t what she was thinking, but rather my desire for a baby so bad i would do anything…

i went on auto pilot.  i wasn’t myself.  once again i wasn’t given much time to process.  3 days later was cd1 and i called the doctor to set up for cd3.

it was january and it was cold and miserable which was fine because it matched my mood.  between all of the medicines, side effects and the misery of two failed months of iui’s, i wasn’t myself.  i looked in the mirror each morning and felt like a stranger – a messed up version of what i had hoped to be at this point in my life.

we woke up extra early on cd3 because they had been calling for snow.  everything was covered in snow and ice. when i called to set up the appt, i talked to shane about what we do if it snows.  he said they would be there because they had to be and when we saw the snow and ice we debated on calling and telling them never mind, but we knew that meant we would miss january all together and wouldn’t get to “try” again until february.  so we left the house and braved the snow and ice (we almost had a wreck which did nothing for my nerves) and went in on cd3 where we saw yet a different doctor and i was annoyed at that.  because of the snow, there was no one at the doctor’s office so i was able to fly through my lab work and the ultrasound.  i got to work really early that day and made some petty excuse of being early “because of the snow i wanted to leave early to give myself plenty of time and it wasn’t as bad as i thought it would be”.  cd3 – cd7 i took my medicine.  cd12 i came back for more labs and another ultrasound and was told to take two shots that night (instead of just my one).  i went back cd14 for the iui and was glad that dr w was there.  started my other medicine on cd18 and went in cd28 for my blood test.  shane called late friday afternoon and told me it was a no.  there was no sugar coating any of it anymore it was straight shooting.  i started to cry on the phone and told shane i had to talk to dr. w.

dr w called me that night and told me not to give up.  he still had hope for us even if he didn’t understand because he felt like my labs were so much better, andy was perfect and timing was working out perfectly.  he said to continue what we were doing because the important thing was that i was responding to everything – just not getting pregnant.

as far as the group of 4 couples…i told each of the pregnant females that i would welcome emails, texts, facebook messages, written letters, etc from them about their pregnancies but not to be surprised if i couldn’t ask because it was too hard at times to look at them without crying, let alone talking to them.  i stalked them on facebook and emailed individually several times.  even after the negative response from my email asking for understanding, we were still invited on their outings even though we had to turn a few down (we had concert tickets one time, church commitments another time, and a mini weekend getaway another time – our schedules just didn’t match up).  i did get accused of trying to “avoid” the group and was told that i should change my plans and was chastised when i didn’t, but it was truly a scheduling conflict.  in november while the 3 women were still pregnant, our schedules lined up and we went to dinner with them.  one of the couples found out that day what the sex of the baby was.  i wanted to show my support, but couldn’t just come out and ask – it was too much for me to be able to do.  so instead, i asked her 3 times how her appt went, hoping that she would feel free to share as much or as little as she wanted to (including the sex of the baby) since i brought the subject up.  she said “fine.”  with each of my questions, i got “fine,” so i didn’t ask again.  later she sent me a message, mad because “it would have been nice to have been asked” about the sex of the baby and the pregnancy.  i was enraged and hurt.  i did ask.  however, because i wasn’t able to ask the one specific question she wanted to hear, she refused to open up.

it made me mad because you wouldn’t ask someone who has ptsd (triggered by gun shots) to go hunting with you.  you wouldn’t expect someone who is dying of thirst to ask for a cup of water if you have it readily available just like you shouldn’t ask your friend struggling with infertility to pry pregnancy information out of you.  in all this time, some of the couples were expecting us to ask all these questions when we just mentally couldn’t and yet none of them asked me how i was.  how we were.  this situation was new to all 8 of us and no one really knew the right way to handle it.  i dealt with it the best i could and the way that made it hurt less, and others believed that my way was the complete wrong way.  now, i am not trying to say that one set handled the situation better than the other, but rather that all parties (including us) should have done better.

after that dinner, one of the couples had their baby in november after our first iui, but before we knew that it didn’t take.  a second couple had their baby in january, 7 days after our january iui.  the 3rd couple was still not due for a few more months.  we tried to be there (in person or through technology) but it was hard.  emotionally and physically, it was hard.

two days after I talked to dr. w, cd1 started and he told us if we felt like it, he wanted us to try again.  he felt very hopeful and felt like the odds would be in our favor.  cd3 i went in for blood work and an ultrasound.  took medicine for cd3-cd7.  cd12 and cd14 more blood work and ultrasounds.  on cd16 i gave myself a shot.  on cd18 we went in for the iui and dr. w was there.  i was glad.  he took a few minutes to come in before the procedure and talk to us.  he wanted to reassure us and talk about some things in person.  he stated that he felt like we were on the right track and that we were doing great with everything.  he asked each of us how we were handling things.  he cared.  on cd22, i started more meds and we went in for a beta test on cd31.  veronica (dr. w’s other nurse) called that morning (they never called before lunch) and asked if i could come back on cd33 for another beta test.  my heart lept in my throat and i could barely form words, but i asked why?  she stated that dr. w wanted me to have another test because he wanted to make sure the first one was right.  i asked, “does that mean it is positive?”  she wouldn’t answer, but told me to be there two days later.  on cd33 i had another beta test done and that afternoon i got the call.  my levels had been high, but they were back down.  BFN.

i was so infuriated that i called andy and we went to eat.  i flew between rage and hysterical tears at lunch.  i am not sure either of us really ate lunch that day, but we sat there staring at each other, waiting on someone to have something to say.

cd1 started 3 days later and we went back.  it was march.  blood work and ultra sound done on cd3 and my first round of medicine was from cd3-cd7.  on cd12 i went in for my blood work and ultrasound.  while i was laying on the table, i noticed the stir-ups.  they were metal but had socks on them.  in my mind, i recalled all of my other appts and realized that they changed the socks on them all the time.  at Christmas, they had snowman and tree socks and the ones i saw today were shamrocks.  it annoyed me.  they were bright green and happy and i wasn’t in the mood for them.  that night, i gave myself the shot and on cd14 i returned for my iui.  cd18 started more medicine.  on cd29 i took a home pregnancy test and it was a negative.  on cd30 i called the office and told them my period hadn’t started, did i need to come in?  they said no, but to take another test on cd32.  i did and it was still negative but my period still hadn’t started.  they told me to stop my medicines and see what happens.  i took two more pregnancy tests and called because they were both negative.  they gave me another medicine and told me to let them know if my period didn’t start in the next few months.

i called dr. w and he said sorry.  his voice didn’t have the usual effect it had on me.  it wasn’t calming – it rocked me to a state of complete and utter despair and back to that level of uncertainty that i had in the emergency room.  he sounded genuinely sorry for us.  he told me that he didn’t think any more treatment right now was a good idea. he said that we could try again in several months down the road.  he said “alison you are tired.  you need a break.”  i told him no, that i would do whatever. he said no, take a break.

i hung up the phone and looked at andy and i lost it.  he was already pacing (as he does when he is on the phone or if he is waiting to hear what is going on) and he came up behind me and wrapped me in his arms, keeping me from collapsing on the floor and rested his chin on my head.  i sobbed.  he held me tight.  all I could say was “I’m sorry.”  i repeated it over and over and over.  hoping that he could understand that i didn’t mean for this to happen to us.  that i didn’t mean for my ovaries to suck.  that i didn’t know this was going to happen when we first started talking about having a family and kids.  i am so sorry.  somehow he maneuvered us to the love seat and that is when i felt his tears.  i looked at him and knew that i couldn’t trap him.  it wasn’t fair for him.  he would be a great father and i was depriving him of that.  he deserved someone that had good ovaries and because i loved him so much, i had to let him go.  i pulled free of his arms and looked at his soaked face and told him he could have his out.  that he could walk away now with no hard feelings and no questions and i would understand.  i would make others understand too.  he said no.  i told him to really think about it because i couldn’t give him a son or daughter.  i told him to think about it, because i didn’t want to stay together if years down the road he thought that he would look at me with a look of regret or resentment or bitterness for what i was unable to do.  i told him to think about it.  he started to shake his head no and i told him i was leaving for a while.  i got my purse and keys and went to my parents’ house.  they weren’t home.  i don’t remember the drive.  i don’t know how i made it to their house because i was crying so hard.  i don’t know how i made it to their bathroom before i threw up.

i gasped in some deep breaths and closed my eyes trying to pace my breathing – in (pause) and out, in (pause) and out,  swallow down the bile, repeat.  i loved andy so much that i was willing to let him go so that he wouldn’t regret our marriage.  so that he wouldn’t despise me.  breath in and out.

my inconsolable soul.  i went home – to the house that andy and i had made a home.  when i opened the door, i found andy sitting right where i left him an hour earlier.  he didn’t look any better than i did.  i walked to the love seat and sat down next to him and he kept his arms in his lap.  i picked up his right arm and slid right next to him and he tightened his grip and we cried together in silence for a little while longer.  it wasn’t the devastated, end of the world, body shaking sobs but the quiet tears of loss.  of knowing that our illusion, of what we imagined our life together, was shattered.  of knowing what limitations i had placed on our dreams.  i was sorry.  i looked up at him through my tears and met his eyes through his and said “i am so sorry.”  he kissed my forehead and said it wasn’t my fault.  he said he wasn’t going anywhere and that i was his forever.

i went to bed that night alone.  andy went to the garage to work on some projects and told me he would be in later.  i just wanted to be asleep.  thinking that sleep would make it all go away.  thinking that sleep would ease the pain and the hurt.  when i thought there were no more tears to cry, i was proven wrong.  i wrapped my arms around my pillow and buried my face and wept until the darkness of sleep graciously consumed me.

part 1 of 4: the inconsolable soul – in the beginning

leaning against the cold wall with the taste of bile lingering in my nose and throat, my knees bent with my toes touching the base of the cold porcelain toilet, i knew i had to stop sobbing.  i was beyond the being sick phase and was dry heaving because there was nothing left to come out.  my cheeks were soaked from the shed tears and my head was starting to pound.  i gasped in some deep breaths and closed my eyes trying to pace my breathing – in (pause) and out, in (pause) and out,  swallow down the bile, repeat.  what got me in the floor of the bathroom in the house that i was raised in?  why was i here?  an inconsolable soul.

i offered my husband, a man that i love so incredibly much – an out.  i knew that i could never be the wife that he deserved/needed and with that realization came my deal to him – leave now with no questions asked.

rewind to 10 months earlier

10 months earlier, on a saturday in may (2010), i found myself in the ER.  i was at the church in Monroe getting things set up for the silent auction dinner (while andy was still at school) and i had a massive cramp that took my breath away and knocked me to my knees.  i was able to catch my breath and get up, but the cramp turned into more with each one getting more intense.  each month i get cramps (like most women) but i know my body and i knew that i have never ever in my life experienced pain like this.  it wasn’t much longer that i realized that i was bleeding uncontrollably.  i sucked it up and got through the set up until andy showed up and i eased away and called my doctor.  she said go to the ER.  i went and was told that i had a cyst rupture.  this was causing the cramps that took me to my knees (literally) several times and the bleeding and the clots.  i asked what that meant.  the ER doctor shrugged and told me to follow-up with my regular OB/GYN doctor.  i left the ER with less money, less pain, a cool paper bracelet, a million questions, and a level of fear and uncertainty that i hoped to never experience again.

i made an appointment with my regular doctor and told her what happened and she started doing tests.  she ordered labs and an ultra sound (this would be a good time to note that i was unaware of the different types of ultra sounds).   i went in the room and assumed that it would be the one that was “lift your shirt and put cold jelly on your belly.”  it wasn’t.  it was very uncomfortable – especially since i wasn’t expecting that kind and since i am a little modest to begin with.  if you want to know the details, google the different types of US to look at ovaries (hint – it is a little invasive).

this would be a good time to note that we weren’t “trying” to get pregnant, but we also weren’t “trying to not” get pregnant (i will admit i was very hopeful each month and would have been delighted).  after all the tests, my doctor asked a ton of questions and i told her this. she shifted her eyes down and i could tell she was buying time.  she said, “well alison, i don’t really know what to tell you.  it looks like something is wrong with your ovaries – they aren’t acting like they should.  it could be nothing but then again, i don’t know.”

she gave me 3 months worth of medicines to try and i took them.  nothing happened.  i went back and she told me that she didn’t think there was anything else she could do to help me so she set me up with a specialist.

 by this point in time we were given a shaky idea of what was wrong with my ovaries but nothing real solid.  we researched everything that we could to educate ourselves about our upcoming specialist appt.  we had no idea who we were seeing out of the group and didn’t know what was going to happen when we went, but i filled out 8 pages of new patient paperwork and we went to the appt.

we met our “specialist.” we will call him dr. w (for wildman).  when he walked into the exam room he looked like a cross between a sociopath and mad scientist with crazy hair  or someone who arrived each day at work via jumping out of a plane.  he walked in and i was tempted to walk out.  i thought it was a joke until he opened his mouth and something about his voice and his words calmed me.  it wasn’t that he was saying overly positive things – but that he was talking to me and answering the questions i had before i even asked them.  he was giving it to me straight and there wasn’t an ounce of sugar-coating anything.  he told us his initial thoughts and said that even though it looked like my doctor was doing a fine job he wanted to run his own test.  he told me i would have to come back and have my blood work done, but he wanted to go on and do an US.  he did it and this time at least i knew what to expect.  he made notes and told us (because he wanted to make sure exactly who’s infertility we were dealing with) when to come back for labs and said to follow-up afterwards.

a few days later i had to be at the office at 7am.  (i was instructed to drink as much water as i could because of all of the blood they would need).  when we got there we had to wait in line and my legs were crossed because i already had consumed almost 64 ounces of water.  i signed in and quickly learned that the lab was first come first served.  andy was called for his lab work and i was left sitting in a room wondering how much longer before i could pee.  after several people went, i was called.  i climbed into the vinyl chair and lowered the bar across my lap and rolled up my sleeves.  the lab tech came over and confirmed my name and date of birth.  she looked at my order and said “ok, let’s do this.”  i nodded.  she reached over and started pulling vials that she needed to fill.  she turned and asked if i had been drinking water this morning and i told her yes.  she smiled and said “good, because we have 16 vials to fill.”  i wanted to cry.  she sat down on a rolling stool and asked me which arm i wanted her to try first.  i looked at her and smiled and she laughed.  “you have hard veins don’t you?”  i nodded.  she laughed again and said, “well, here we go.”  in only the second time in my entire life, she stuck me once and got blood!  she filled the first vial and then the second and on and on until she had 16 vials full of bright red blood.  after i signed all of the labels i watched her put the stickers on all of my vials and went back into the waiting room and andy was waiting on me.

i went to work and kept my sleeves rolled down because a huge bruise was forming on my arm and i didn’t want to answer questions about it.  we went back to see dr. w a week later and went into his office (which i remember as being mostly organized, which seemed odd to me because of his hair).  even in our second meeting, it was like the first time we met him and made me think a little bit of jim carrey in ace ventura  when he drives with his head out the window – it made me smirk a little but then the reality of why were there came crashing down and the smirk faded away.  we sat in chairs and prepared ourselves for the results.

this is what we learned.  andy was perfect in every way.  all of his labs and test came back better than what dr. w could have hoped.

me on the other hand – it wasn’t good.  he stated that he thought the issue was with me and my ovaries.  he hesitated, but tossed out possibly pco.  he said he wanted to do one more test before we decided what to do.  he wanted me to have a hysterosalpingogram  (x-ray to see if my fallopian tubes were open).  he said once we had that answer, he would have a game plan for us (if it goes good, he tells us what he thinks we should do, and if it is bad, he gives us a few other options).

i showed up for that appointment at 8am and was humiliated.  the facility where i had to have this x-ray done is the same place people go for a million other tests, as well as radiation and other types of specialized treatments.  to look at the fallopian tubes, you have to go through the uterus.  when they called me back, the nurse escorted me to a door right next to 15 chairs in a waiting room (like a fitting room in a department store).  she reached in a built-in drawer in the closet, handed me a paper gown that opened in the back, told me to undress from the waist down and put the gown on then come on out to the waiting room (luckily she gave me a second gown to put on like a robe to cover my exposed back side).  i was mortified.  the waiting room wasn’t secluded at all.  there was a hallway (that might as well had been a highway full of people) right next to it.  i turned bright red, did what she said, took my plastic bag with over half of my clothes in it and found a seat.  it wasn’t long before i was joined by an elderly man wearing a similar gown and carrying a similar bag.  not long after he sat down, another woman sat down.  none of us would make eye contact.  it was humiliating to sit there and have all these people walk by staring.

they called my name and escorted me down the hall (i was so very grateful for the second gown at this point).  the nurse walked me into the room through a special door and pointed to another door. she told me to empty my bladder.  i did and she told me to sit down in the chair, and i did.  the room had a huge machine in the middle with computers all around.  there was another nurse standing behind a glass wall with more computers and more gadgets.  i didn’t see dr. w and i was a little nervous.  the nurse that had me sit down came over to talk to me.  she asked if i knew what was going to happen and i told her what i knew.  she verified that i was correct and added some details that i didn’t know.  she paused and asked if i had any questions and i did.  “i read online it hurts…is it going to hurt?”  she laughed and said “well, it will either be fine, with no pain or you will be in excruciating pain – that is what i see most.”  silently i am thinking “great, that wasn’t really reassuring.”  she leads me to the table and i climb up.  dr. w walks in.  there is something about his wild hair and sociopath killer look that is so familiar and surprisingly calming to me – i still haven’t figured that out yet.

he comes over where i am sitting on the table and takes both of my hands and asks if i am ready.  i nod.  he smiles and looks at the nurse and nods.  she comes over to him with a mask, x-ray padded vest-type-thing and x-ray thyroid guard.  the nurse is already in this get up.  i lay back and she drapes a padded vest over my chest and neck.  he walks me through the procedure: put your feet here.  this is going to be cold.  breathe. this is what i am doing now.  this is the dye i am about to inject. (about this time i notice that the nurse is right by my head and has been the entire time, but the other nurse, that was behind the glass, is now dressed like an alien with the rest of us and is helping dr. w).  the nurse asks if i am ok.  i barely nod.  dr. w asks if i am ok.  both the nurse and i nod. the nurse touches my arm as dr. w says “here it goes.  don’t forget to breathe, ok alison?”  i can actually feel the dye in me.  it is weird.  i hear the machine make noises and i see a flash of light above my head.  i try to look without moving and dr. w notices this.  he says, “go on, put your head back and look.”  i do and i see my uterus and fallopian tubes on the screen (at least that is what he tells me i am looking at).  he smiles, looks at me and says, “do you see that?  do you see mickey mouse?”  the nurse helping him takes a pointer and points out mickey’s face and ears.  i say yes.  he says “that is mickey and mickey is a good thing.  you have a happy uterus and fallopian tubes, meaning nothing is blocked.”  for the first time in the past 3 months since i was in the er, i was given good, positive news.  dr. w continues to walk me through the process and tells me when he is done.  he helps me to my feet and they send me through, back to the bathroom to finally get dressed. the nurse asks me if i am ok and if it hurt.  i tell her that, surprisingly, it didn’t, and that i am starting to cramp.  she tells me i should go home and take it easy.  i can’t because i have to go to work and act as if nothing is wrong or going on.

since everything was good, i talked to andy and told him the news.  i called shane (one of dr. w’s nurses) and told him to let dr. w know we want to proceed with the plan he laid out earlier since the x-ray was fine.  so i start some different medicines and in two months have my labs repeated (thank goodness they only took 3 vials of blood this time) and we go back to talk to dr. w in his office.  he tells us that my labs look better since i have been on the meds and he thinks we would be wonderful candidates for an IUI (intrauterine insemination).  we agree to go forward, he writes more prescriptions and tells us what to expect in the next month.  he gives us clear instructions, details and a smile.

in his smile i have a sense of hope.  hope in the form of dr. w.  hope in an IUI.  hope in andy, that his labs are perfect.  but the important thing is that, for the very first time in 5 months, i have hope.