Thursday, March 22, 2012

Put Yourself First Sometimes

Sometimes you have to do what is right for you.  On Monday that is what I did.  I haven’t updated because I’ve been recovering.  That’s right; I had my Tubal Ligation.
                All I can think to say is so far I feel great.  I spent so much time worrying before but as soon as it was done I felt free.  I don’t have to worry about the morals of getting pregnant.  That has always been a real issue for me.  When every pregnancy ends sadly how can you keep reliving it?  I spent years trying to do what I thought was right by my religion.  I never considered what was right for me.  Once I came to a place where I was able to look beyond what was right and wrong and ask what would give me the most comfort I chose this surgery.  My family was relieved because they too had always worried about what would happen the next time I got pregnant.
                I got scared that I was making the wrong choice over the last few weeks.  I grieved the loss of future pregnancies.  I probably will cycle back to that grief.  But when I made the decision I felt peace and now that I’ve followed through I feel free.  I feel confident in my decision.  I haven’t felt this kind of rightness since I made the decision as a teenager to move away from home.  That surprises me.
                The actual day was stressful.  I didn’t get there until 1:30 pm.  I was hungry and dehydrated and we waited for hours to get in for surgery.  They said the procedure would take an hour and it took two hours.  I vaguely remember waking up to an oxygen mask and a man talking about me with words like blood loss, tachycardia and atropine.  All I know is that I was so thirsty and couldn’t get my mouth wet.  I looked up atropine when I got home and found out that was a side-effect.
                When we got out of there it was 7:30 pm and we had to find an open drug store.  Thankfully, we found one that accepts our insurance and was on our way home.  It was a long day and I haven’t felt much better until today when most of the scarier side-effects wore off; like my low blood-pressure.
                It’s because I’m feeling better that I wanted to write this to all of you.  I want you to know that what may seem like the wrong decision to other people can be the right decision for you.  If you have something hard to face and you know what is right even if your choice could alienate you or scare you it will feel much better to be true to yourself than to live a lie for years like I have.  I spent so long feeling boxed in by choices I didn’t feel I had the freedom to make.  Now I’m living out of the box and a great weight has been lifted off my conscience.  I wonder what other choices I’ll have the freedom to make?

                The world is an open book for me right now.  I can finish school, have a career, adopt, use a donor egg; anything I want and I don’t have to be weighed down by self-doubt.  I don’t feel I have to live my life trying to make the perfect baby.  Just imagine your life with that kind of freedom.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Handling Infertility Depression

I was watching the American version of Being Human (because I’m a geek like that) when I heard a quote that resonated with me.
Sally:  I’m never gonna know what it’s like to wanna protect my child and fail.
Josh:  I don’t think it has to be your child.  I think if you love someone - anyone that much - you’d surprise yourself with what you’d do.
I never thought I could get enlightenment from B Syfy show before this moment.  The point is that I have been thinking the same thing.  Put someone in the middle of tragic circumstances and the things they do for love will have them in therapy for years.  It’s the things we do to save someone that have us resenting them and sometimes even hating to love them.  Yes, that can happen when your child dies.  You can even glimpse the pain Sally's Mother must have been in when she died (Sally is a ghost in the show).  The Mom can't even stand to be near her daughter when she becomes a ghost out of her own guilt at not having been there when she was needed most.  She was helpless, so was Sally and so are we sometimes.
When we are young we always want more so we take what we have for granted.  When we get more experienced we so often see what went wrong that we still take what we have left for granted.  We become blinded by what we are missing.
I am missing my kids, my fertility and my future pregnancies.  Like so many women I can’t have kids but like Josh says love transforms a person.  I’ve often wished I could sacrifice myself for the life of my child.  Women tend to think that way when protecting their babies.  The love of them transformed me and I never even took mine home.
But when you can’t have kids it can make it very difficult to see what you are capable of.  As many infertile women experience depression and low self-esteem as those with cancer and cardiac problems.  I’ve even heard one specialist suggest that IVF is more stressful than Chemo.  If you are like me you may not have spent your whole life dreaming about kids.  One day you find it’s all you think about.  Before you know it your whole world revolves around fertility when it should revolve around the things that make you truly happy.
Depression creeps in.  You forget things that you enjoy, put them on hold and eventually forget why you ever enjoyed them to begin with.  You replace those things with a hope for a baby.  Before you even realize what has happened that baby is the missing puzzle piece to your happiness.  If you don’t have the baby you can’t feel happy.  You need the baby like you need air. 
Society doesn’t make it easy on infertile couples either.  People ask about kids.  They talk about them.  They say stupid things and give ignorant advice.  Each comment makes that puzzle piece in your heart ache.  Even the things having nothing to do with kids make remind you of the missing baby.  If you are seated at the bar in a busy restaurant it’s because you don’t have a baby.  If you go to a graduation you think you’ll never go to your baby’s graduation.  When you are playing video games you realize you’ll never share this with your baby.  Any situation, even bad ones, can remind you of the baby.  But there is no baby and there may never be a baby.
We all find things that help us cope but most of them eventually lead us to letting go of that possibility.  It’s only negative to give up hope if we are giving up a chance at finding happiness.  It’s acceptance that leads us to real possibilities.  Anyone who tries to tell you that you are wrong for giving up is naive at best and more likely delusional from their own skewed sense of morality.
Asking someone to carry the burden of infertility with them forever is asking them to sacrifice their lives to depression.  Deciding to find something other than kids to fill that gap is a positive step forward.  Trying to get back to the things you used to love and rediscovering why you loved them can be a fun excursion from the negative cycle of life without kids.
From everything I’m learning I, like you, can come to a point where we have come to accept our life minus kids.  There will be times of grief.  There are always times of grief.  It’s ok if you don’t want to get out of bed every once in a while.  Don’t let yourself be intimidated out of spending your life in a positive way.  No person, religion or political group should have that kind of power.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Tubal vs. Essure

I had my consultation today.  It was kind of funny.  I told him about the Balanced Translocation I have and he got excited like kid finding treasure.  I showed him a picture of the BT and his response to it was, “Those are really rare!”  Is it weird that I felt pride in being unique at that moment?  Then he looked at the pictures from my laparoscopy and pointed out all the issues he saw.  There were more than a few. 

                There was no question about getting this done.  I told him what changed my mind and talked to him about being Catholic and being sterilized.  He calmed my fears about it because he’s Catholic too.  That made me feel much better.
                I went in thinking he’d glance at my records for a minute before telling me I need this procedure and left with choices I didn’t know I had.  Today I discovered Essure.  It’s safer than a tubal.  It takes 10 minutes to do.  You don’t need anesthesia.  When you walk out of the office you can go about your business that same day.  Sounds awesome, right?  Well nothing is perfect.

                First I have reservations about it because it’s only been around for five years.  It scars up your fallopian tubes.  The scar tissue blocks the tubes.  I don’t know what side effects I’d have years after the fact.  I read on-line about some women who had this done and a few years later were bleeding heavily and were in pain though it’s not supposed to be painful; much like Post Tubal Ligation Syndrome.  Two women sounded as if they were describing menopause with the symptoms they’d had and one of those two ended up being out of work on disability.  There is a chance of an ectopic pregnancy but there is a chance of that with a tubal also.  My real reservation is I have to wait 3 months after the procedure to see if it worked.  During those three months I could still get pregnant.  If it didn’t work I don’t know what to do.  Hopefully, they wouldn’t be able to get the wires in because that happens to some women.  The wires aren’t supposed to be removable (but there are some doctors who reverse Essure).  How could they go in and give me a tubal with these wires in the way?

                If I were normal and having this done to keep from having more kids this is the option I’d go with because there are less risks.  My husband and I decided we wanted to be sure I couldn’t get pregnant.  There are more risks that come with surgery but they outweigh the downfalls of Essure.  I will call and give my decision tomorrow.  Next step is to decide when I can schedule this.  April and June are supposed to be out because Isaiah can’t take time from work.  We might get either my Mom or Mother-in-law to come help.  It will all work out.
                Now you all know when you decide you don’t want kids there is this shiny new option available.  Yes, there are downfalls but if you don’t have a medical need to keep from pregnancy this is a safer option with less recovery time.  It’s a lot cheaper to boot.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Fur Babies

We all know the benefits of having a pet in the house.  They can lower blood pressure and cholesterol.  They have positive results on patients with depression and the grieving.  If you have an active pet they can help promote a healthy exercise routine.  You see clinics using Mastiffs with Autistic children.  They promote happiness.  One of the natures greatest joys are pets.  When you are having trouble finding happiness what better way to find healing than through adopting an animal?  Most of us have a cat or dog.  They are our family members.

I almost didn’t get a pet.  Now I have two and it was just by chance that they found me.
After my twins died I was a complete wreck.  It was as if I'd died.  It had been seven months and I couldn't bring myself out of it.  I wanted someone to take care of.  I lost babies and my husband felt he had to take care of me but who do I take care of?
I talked several times with my husband about getting an orange tabby because they are the color of our twins birth stone but he saw that as a bad financial move.  We were still paying for the headstone and obituary and I wasn’t working so why add a mouth to feed if we don't have to?
It was two days before my husband was deploying.  I was facing a reality where I would be alone.  My family lives thousands of miles away.  I had pushed most of my friends out of my life and the rest were "giving me room to grieve" meaning they were waiting for me to come to them when I was ready.  And NOW my husband was going to leave.  I didn't even have a job where I would be around people I could have small talk with.
We were smoking on the back porch when this orange tabby peeked around the corner.  My husband slowly crept inside to get milk, leaving the door open and this cat followed him into the kitchen.  He was a Daddy's boy right from the start.
We looked for the owners, alerted different organizations that we had him if anyone came looking and we babysat.  It never dawned on me until later how many people let their house cats outside to wander.  I was completely smitten by this cat.  The way my husband played with him I knew he was in love too.
Then he deployed and I had this beautiful orange cat to come home to.  He played with me and made me laugh when I hadn't laughed in months.  He makes me laugh every day.
The day after my husband left was my first Mother's Day.   That is the worst day of the year and was alone.  But I wasn't alone because that orange cat was there to comfort me as well as be rowdy by attacking the faucet water and pouncing my bunny slippers.
I was taking care of him and that felt so good.  As a Mother that is all I wanted; to be able to take care of someone that needs me.
The day after Mother's Day the owners found me.  I handed over a few things I had bought him like food, cat litter and some small toys and I handed over the little orange kitty.  They seemed disinterested in how I was telling them what a good cat he'd been but I kept talking all the way to their car.
I went back to being dead inside.  I tried getting out just for the sake of getting out but it did little good.
Then I got a call from the owners about a week later.  It seems that Oliver (my cat’s name) had gone "crazy" since he'd been home.  All day he was going to great lengths to get out again to come back to my house.  When he couldn't get out he would go "mad" running around breaking things and tearing the house apart.
They decided he was now too much to handle but they didn't want to take him to a shelter and wanted to know if I wanted him back.  I almost cried on the phone I was so happy. I see now that they were being nice.  I recognized the woman who came to pick up Oliver as a friend of a friend.  My guess is she heard what had just happened with the twins and let me believe this cat needed me.  I’ll always be thankful for that.
I realized that my babies couldn't be here so they sent me just what I needed.  I've always looked at Oliver as my Mother's Day gift from my babies.  He makes me laugh every day.  I play with him every day.  Now I'm a cat lady.
Oliver was so full of life and I couldn't keep up so I started looking for another cat while my husband was gone so he couldn't say no.  After a few days I found Pirate.  He had been at the no kill shelter longer than any of the other cats because he only had one eye.  People there had rescued him from the pound because he was slotted to be put to sleep.  He needed to be rescued.  Just like any good rescue you find that you are the one who is really being saved.  The shelter said he was shy but I got him home and he was in my lap the first day.  He's been there ever since.
He is so sweet.   He likes to make friends.  His little fangs hang down past his mouth and he has the most beautiful mixture of white, tan and black fur that even the vets I've taken him to have commented on.  No matter if he is sick, hurt or playful he’s always being sweet.
I know they aren't child substitutes but they are the best healers I've met so far.  Every day I shower my cats with love because having lost so much I appreciate them much more.  They helped me learn to smile and laugh again.  I make up stories for them (Ollie becomes Sir Oliver who battles the Evil Water Monster and his bubble minions to save the innocent villagers while Pirate becomes an anime ninja cat who is the familiar of the most powerful wizard in all the land.  Pirate can save your life with just his meow and I have been saved many times because he makes a lot of noise.).  I read to them and nap with them.
Any time I find that I want to give up and jump headlong into sadness those cats are there.  If I cry they are there to make sure I get some cheering up.  Honestly, if I tear up one or the other nudges their head under my hand for me to pet them and they give me kisses.  If I leave a room they follow.  If I sleep they curl up with me.
That is the job of a pet.  They are there for you.  We love them for that.  The benefits to having pets make it worth any cost.  It’s worth it for your health and your happiness.  I think we can all expand our families to include a little more joy.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Egg Donating is Not a Quick Buck

                It’s possible for me to do IVF with a donor egg.  Perhaps someday in the future this is how I’ll get and stay pregnant.  There are always options if I change my mind on having kids.  This is also the cheapest route for me at about $15 to $20,000, with maybe the exception of fostering to adopt an older child.  Those can range anywhere from $3,000 to $40,000 depending on the adoption (I’m not touching the issue of international adoption).
It’s a definite perk that I won’t have to use a lawyer or gain approval of social services to adopt an egg.  You have no idea how terrifying the idea of a home study is until it’s on your doorstep.  I’ve heard horror stories that left me afraid to say the wrong thing but I’ll share that in my adoption blog.
If you want to donate an egg that is what women like me dream of.  It’s discreet.  There is nothing wrong with not being able to carry a baby or not having a child that is genetically yours.  It’s heroic.  The reason it’s heroic has a lot to do with stigma.  I have a hard time telling people I can’t have kids.  No matter the motivation to donate your eggs I can’t help but get a little embarrassed or even angry at the notion of adopting them.  It’s pride.  I don’t want you to be better than me just because you can make babies.  In a world where a lot of people think that is a woman’s only job I don’t want to suck at it.  I’ve already tried and failed at several “man jobs.”  I want to be really good at something but it’s not this and I am frankly jealous of you for that.  If I’m mean that is probably why.  It's still a beautiful thing you are doing.
Remember to be careful if you donate eggs.  You can usually make about $5,000 but ask questions.  Some programs pay for all the medical procedures while others won’t.  Make sure to ask who will pay your bills.  You want screening done.  Ask if you’ll have to repeat any tests later on for the programs adopting your donated eggs.  Ask what will happen if you get complications or what will be done with all your personal information.  Be prepared to give an in-depth medical background (family, mental and physical health) and be prepared to be turned away because of health issues.  You may even be drug tested at random.  Do research before you decide to answer an egg donor add.  There is a lot that goes into this process and not a whole lot of money to be made for your efforts.  It takes about three months so it’s not a quick buck and there is a 90% washout rate so you have to expect to be turned away.  It helps women like me so if you do donate, thank you.  You don’t get paid enough for changing the life of someone who deserves to be a Mom or a Dad.
While the donor is getting ready I’ll probably be taking meds to get my cycle to match hers.  From there it’s a lot like regular IVF.  They will fertilize the eggs, transfer them and I’ll take a pregnancy test 10 days later to see if it worked.  Across the country there is one law that makes me feel safe with this decision.  The parental rights are removed from the donor so I never have to worry about giving my child back to its donor mother.  That terrifies me about adoption.  Every time I hear someone say, “It’s so rare that you don’t have to worry about it,” I want to show my cynical side and say, “yeah, I’ve heard that one before.”  Just because something doesn’t happen often doesn’t mean it won’t happen to me or to you so be prepared. 
This is probably the broadest overview possible of the IVF/donor egg option but I’ve never done it myself.  I can’t say what kind of complications can happen though I know you could end up hospitalized.  If I ever do this I’ll document everything so all of you can know what to expect.
I’ll bet there are a few of you out there who have never thought about spending twenty grand just to get pregnant.  Most of you just hop into bed with someone.  You spend the next nine months finding baby goods and happily collecting presents from your friends and relatives.  It’s supposed to be fun.  I’m glad there are people like you in the world.  It doesn’t make it easy for me to watch but I don’t want you to understand this.  Just do your best to be thankful for what you’ve got and I’ll do my best to be thankful for what I’ve got.  Now we are even.