Lucky 8

 

image

For as long as I can remember, 8 has always been my lucky number. It’s no coincidence that my husband proposed to me on 08.08.06 at 8 something in the evening on a sunset cruise. And just this past Tuesday we celebrated 8 years of marriage. It felt nothing short of lucky this anniversary, as we toasted over Moscow Mules after our first getaway sans baby 🙌🏼 {we both now agree it was long overdue & did us good}.

This post may seem far removed from infertility but in all actuality it’s very much relevant. You see I’m one of those that still believes in the sanctity of marriage. It’s something I dreamt of as little girl and then even more as a smitten teenager. I planned in my head it would happen sometime in my twenties ✔️ to my soulmate ✔️ we would be settled in our careers ✔️ become homeowners ✔️ and then a few years later start our family 🚫 repeat again ~three years later 🚫 and again if it was right 🚫…and live happily ever after.  The more and more I connect with others in the TTC and infertility communities, the more and more I hear how I’m not alone in this so-well-thought-out mentality.  That’s partially why I felt inclined to write this post.  It’s a hard nut to swallow when your life’s plan doesn’t seem to be going as you envisioned; while you’ve been blessed with your significant other, have built your nest, and possibly even have landed your dream job, having to wait to start your family can be devastating.  Moreover, it can impact all the aforementioned positive things you have going on in your life and have already checked off the list.

Eight years of marriage has taught us many things:  commitment, compromise, priorities, communication,    conflict-resolution (all which are still a work in progress 😝).  It’s also important to be one another’s biggest fan, best friend, and better half.  My best gal pals love my “marriage isn’t rainbows and Louis Vuittons,” drunken quote, but truthfully my husband and I always say the key to marriage or any long term relationship is getting through the ruts and falling in love over and over and over again.   There are days, weeks, maybe even months where you’re both ‘meh’.  It may not be anything, just the day-ins and day-outs of life.  Or it may be something tangible like the loss of a job or infertility that causes the rut.

It’s difficult to work past those times and those deadlines in your head telling you you’re almost 30 (or in your 30’s or almost 40-the age is irrelevant) and still childless.  I can recall our fifth anniversary as a poignant moment when the realization that my life’s plan had gone awry.  It had been just shy of a year from our diagnosis. I know a year seems minuscule and in comparison to others TTC journey it is, but if you’ve ever “tried” getting pregnant even just months of seeing one line on sticks, without actually being infertile, can be devastating.  I had imagined at least having one baby by five years of marriage and the evil plague of comparison had gotten the best of me.  Many of our friends who had gotten married around us or even after us were on #1, #2, or even #3 and here we were five years later basically in the same place as we had started.  See, I didn’t realize then how five years of marriage may have been what we needed to indulge in ourselves and evolve as “us”.  We went to Newport and had a nice, romantic getaway, but the infertility was still there and it was heavier to bear than usual.  My husband and I decided to re-new our vows at the same church where JFK and Jacqueline Kennedy Onasis wed.  It was a special and intimate moment that I am glad we chose and have committed to do every five years.  All my prayers, though, didn’t go to us; they went to sending us a child.

Thanks be to Him, we became parents a little over a year later.  Albeit, three years longer than my plan.  In the last couple of years, we have both strived to be the best parents to our little guy, learning and evolving as individuals and as a family more each day.  There has been so much joy and happiness since Mikie’s arrival that I can honestly say these are the best days of our lives. That’s not to say there haven’t been little ruts along the way.  With so much of our emphasis on him, it’s easy to put us to the side.  However this anniversary we are in a different place, or at least I think I am in my head.    This year, the lucky 8, I didn’t find myself squandering in the plan.  It was less about what we’re going to do and more about look what we’ve done.  I wasn’t thinking about where I had planned to be relative to where we are.  I wasn’t analyzing and comparing.  I was there, present in the beauty of what 8 years looks like.

Is baby #2 always in the back of my mind? Of course and I’d be lying to all of you, and more importantly myself if I said I didn’t have a plan (in the vaguest sense you can with IVF) in my head for that.  But after 8 years of marriage {like I’m some veteran lol 🙄} I can at least tell you newlyweds that while the plan may not always go as you had hoped, it can turn out even more beautiful.  Sometimes we focus on those big milestones: the engagement, the wedding, the big 3-0, first baby, 5th wedding anniversary without seeing how important the in-between is.  8 is a seemingly insignificant number, but it feels lucky to me and turned horizontally means infinity, so here’s to us, babe, from our 8th anniversary until forever.

image

 

Round & Role Call

Lately, my biggest concern going for #2 and another IVF cycle is the fear of it not working the first time around. I know we really lucked out with our first IVF cycle being a success and that the odds of this happening are not at all in any of our favor.

I know what an IVF cycle entails. I’m a pro at taking shots (of both kind 😝), have a good sense of what the numbers mean, and have acquired the patience of a saint. However, I don’t know if I’m equipped to deal with a failed cycle. It’s extremely unfortunate that I’ve been surrounded by unsuccessful cycles recently. My hearts go out to you~you know who you are 💞.

While I know all the appropriate things to say when someone is encroaching or in the midst of an IVF cycle , I’m clueless when it comes to cycles that end in a BFN.  Sure from my experience, I know better than to say things like “well at least you have some frozen still” or “it’ll be easier next time around”. I’ve become very cogniscent of my words and what they can evoke. I try not to undermine what has really occurred and I encourage these amazingly strong women to take time and grieve the loss. I note that my heart is aching for them and that I’m praying for them, but I don’t discuss the next step until they bring it up to me. I try not to say things like next time will be better because I don’t know that for sure. I certainly don’t try to figure out why it didn’t take this time, because honestly who the hell knows. I don’t know what it’s like to see a BFP, only to get declining Beta numbers or to get a positive beta, but see an empty sac. Therefore I cannot give these ladies the validation of articulating what they’re feeling. That said, I’m inspired by you ladies who have the bravery, courage, and tenacity to pick yourself up for cycle #2, #3, and so on.

What I do believe, though, is that you probably go into each cycle taking on a different role of sorts. In hopes of bringing some humor to infertility, I introduce you to my IVF Characters {{drumroll, please}}

image

Meet Positive Penny. She’s bubbly and full of spirit. It’s most likely her first cycle. So while she loves to chat about being bloated and show off her bruises as badges of honor (which they are, girl 🏅🏅🏅) she is uber excited about all these cycle milestones because it’s one step closer to getting her baby. Positive Penny knows this is her time. She looks for affirmations and signs along the way, but mostly just has a gut feeling that this is going to work.

image

Next, I’d like to introduce, Realistic Rachel. Realistic Rachel is probably a left-brainer, good with numbers and stuff. She’s as excited as she is nervous, but goes into every appointment cautiously optimistic. She never loses sight of her end goal, but realizes that the odds of it working the first time around are much less than 50/50. Realistic Rachel has prepared herself imperviously for either outcome: BFP or BFN.

image

Have you met my friend, Aloof Alice?  There aren’t many of her kind ’round these parts, but when you come across one it makes you all like 🤔. Aloof Alice, also typically a first time IVFer, sort of knows what’s involved with an IVF cycle. She’s kind of baffled with all the appointments, acronyms, and bloodwork results. She wants a baby just as bad as her other fertility friends, she’d just rather not scour the Internet incessantly for hours on end. Aloof Alice definitely hasn’t researched tirelessly, she kind of just does what she’s told. She has no idea about fertility herb diets, why everyone has pineapples on their IG page 🍍, and thinks to herself wtf is a #TTCtribe?

image

This is Scared Sally.  She’s literally scared shitless about everything.  It doesn’t matter if it’s her first or third round of IVF.  Scared Sally is afraid of needles.  She’s too embarrassed to ask questions.  She follows you on social media but only puts generic quotes, enough to make you wonder is she struggling with infertility too?  But Scared Sally is too nervous to tell anyone and is worried they might think less of her.  She’s scared to POAS before beta, but she’s just as sacred not to.  Even when she gets a beta of 816, she’s afraid it’s not high enough.  She worries at each subsequent appointment if there’s still a heartbeat.  She gets through each test, each procedure, each ultrasound beautifully but she’s scared to see how courageous she really is.  Scared Sally, let me be the one to tell you, you’re a heck of a lot braver than most.  You’re an infertility warrior 💪🏼.

image

Last but certainly not least, is Drained, Damaged, Drained Debbie. Drained sounds nicer, but let’s face it’s she’s a bit of both and rightfully so. Usually Drained Debbie has been through the ringer. She’s suffered failed IUI’s, multiple losses, and, if that’s not enough, has also maxed out her IVF coverage. Drained Debbie questions her doctor if changes aren’t being made next time because let’s face it, she doesn’t know how much more she can take this shit.   She may be rushing into another cycle without recovering from the last, but just like the rest of her friends, no matter how drained she is, she’s still holding onto that glimmer of hope.

I wanted to get you better acquainted with these ladies to see if you could relate.  Let me know if I’ve forgotten anyone.  I’m sure I must have.  Not only is our circle big, but I presume that we change roles with each round.  I, for example, was the ever-so-popular Postive Penny the first time around.  To be honest, I don’t know if it was because I was so shocked to actually get to that point or what.  I didn’t really give the whole IVF failure much thought because I was too consumed with if we were even going to have sperm to work with.  This may, in some odd way, have been a blessing in disguise.  It also may have been the reason I wasn’t a Realistic Rachel or Scared Sally.

Given that I’m on the “other side of infertility”, and an IVF First-Timer Success you’d probably suspect that I’d remain a Positive Penny.  I don’t know, though, because my emotions and feelings are so different now.  We aren’t there just yet, but even thinking about another IVF cycle I feel much more guarded, more of a Realistic Rachel.  I’m doubtful that we could get this lucky twice.  My husband and I are so blessed and in such a happy place, raising and loving on our son, that I’m literally more scared than Sally to go back to that place.  That place can be so alienating, life-sucking, and dark that the distant memories still haunt me from time to time.  I’d prefer this happy place of changing dirty diapers, family date nights, and 2,461,085 toddler timeouts for a little while longer.  Yet, just like you gals, I know all too well how worth it going back there could be.

TWW Survival Guide

image

I can only speak from my experience and what worked for us during the dreaded two week wait. Regardless of how you tackle it, I’m sure we can all agree, though, that it is an uphill battle. It starts off with the euphoria of knowing your embaby(s) are getting comfy cozy and gradually seems to go slower once you digest your last piece of pineapple core. The first week, thus, is bearable, but the second is intolerable. It’s in the second week that you start to symptom spot, that every ache, thought, motion is either a sign that this is your happy ending or you’re greatest fear: a BFN. The second week goes at a snail’s pace and typically involves an influx of pregnancy announcements and pregnancy test commercials that really test all the hormones raging inside of you.

My recommendation is first and foremost do what works for you and your significant other. Remain in that constant state of infertility: cautiously optimistic. Use these as a guideline, rather than an end all be all, because while I was one of the lucky ones I’m not sure how many TWW’s I would’ve been able to tolerate.

🔸 AVOID GOOGLE

Sounds as impossible as surviving the TWW, I know. However Google is like a woman in the TWW’s crack. It is so addicting and so easy to get caught up doing, but gets you nowhere. If you’ve made it to the TWW, then you’ve done all your research. You know what to anticipate. Searching for “specific symptoms 4dp5dt” will give you no concrete answer. All it will do is make your mind play all sorts of crazy tricks on you.

Go ahead, look up cute maternity dress websites and plan your entire baby shower through Pinterest. But please, my dear friend, do yourself a favor and avoid at all costs using Google to “predict” your outcome.

🔸 N O  T E S T I N G before B E T A

Again, a personal choice, but one I strongly recommend. My husband and I made a vow to one another that we would wait until we received our call on Beta Day. It wasn’t easy but I made sure that there weren’t any leftover tests lingering around the house and stuck it out.

From my perspective, testing before Beta can lead to two devastating outcomes. First, with a fresh transfer, your HCG from trigger can still be recognized on a pregnancy test if you test too early. This could give you a false sense of hope that you’re pregnant when it could’ve been the residual hormone in your system.

Second, you could test early and get that BFP that you’ve dreamed of. It could quite possibly be one of the greatest moments of your life all to come crumbling down on Beta day when your number comes back lower than the magic number. In this instance, you typically have to keep going for more bloodwork to see if the number changes. So basically the TWW becomes even longer and more devastating.

In my opinion, testing before Beta is a complete mind fuck. Just like googling, it’s a dominos effect. If you say you’re only going to test at day 8 and then the line is so faint, you’re anxious to test again at day 9, 10 and so on.

🔸 F I L L  Y O U R   S O C I A L
C A L E N D A R

You may have to swap the Pinot for Pellegrino, but make plans. Girls night outs, date nights, or even coffee outings to help give your mind a break are all welcome. They’re great for keeping you on track, maintaining your positivity and sustaining your sanity.

It may help to talk about what you’re going through or you may opt, especially when out with your significant other, to forgo discussing your infertility altogether. Either way it’s a time to feel like yourself, which is easy to lose when on this journey.

🔸 P U R G E or P R O J E C T

In less than 9 months you could potentially be nesting. Why not get a head start?! It’s true what they say-Clean house, clear mind.

It’s important mentally to rid yourself of some of this excess.  Doing so physically can be helpful too.  Reorganize those cabinets you’ve been meaning to for the last 7 months.  Or maybe you can start and actually complete that DIY project you’ve been meaning to tackle.  Either way, they’re both a wonderful strategy for making the time pass while being productive.

🔸 P R A Y

Cliche I know, but I’ve noticed the overwhelming amount of faithful ladies amongst us.  Regardless of how you pray or Who you pray to, prayer or meditation of some sort can be a source  of peace.  If not for yourself, do it for your little embryos that need you in a place of calmness.  It’s also a way to connect with yourself and your embaby(s).  In my experience, the majority of our TTC tribe use prayer as a way to cope with the pain and suffering of infertility.

🔸R E W A R D   Y O U R S E L F

At the point of the TWW, you have done everything possible to make this work. Maybe you’ve done acupuncture, changed your diet, or tried fertility herbs. Maybe you’ve eaten the pineapple core for 5 days or worn socks since transfer day, even if it’s 90 degrees out. Whatever it is you have done, you’ve done it to the best of your ability. Reward yourself for that-a handbag, a daytrip, a good book, a piece of jewelry (obvs my top pic 😝💎).

No matter the outcome this time around, remind yourself that you’ve done everything in your power to make this work.  Know this, honor this, applaud this.  You are a warrior and not everyone can say that.  More importantly, not every child can say that about his or her momma-but yours child-to-be can.