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.