I’m sitting here with uterine cramps. A dull, diffuse ache with the occasional piercing flare. It’s from all the estrogen I’m taking—four skin patches that I change every three days and, as of last Tuesday, two blue apple pip-sized pills that I place at my cervix.
I am not responding well to the patches. Last cycle, I reached an 8mm triple line in a week. This cycle seems to be dragging its estrogen feet. Perhaps it’s because the pharmacy gave me a different brand which seems not to stick to my skin as well. Tomorrow I return to the clinic for my second follow-up ultrasound: if I haven’t reached 8mm tomorrow, our cycle will be cancelled. Normally, they’d postpone transfer, but with the lab closed for half of December anyone who hasn’t reached 8mm by tomorrow’s cut-off date will be rescheduled for the new year.
I’m reassured by the cramping that something is happening with my endometrium, but I am seriously wondering if last time was a fluke. August’s cycle was postponed, then cancelled. October’s cycle failed. Is the third time a charm? Tomorrow will give me more answers, I hope.
In the middle of blazing summer, my sister emailed me to say that her boyfriend was paying for her to join him and his family for Xmas in San Diego. I haven’t seen anyone in my family since September 2015, nor have I spent Xmas with anyone in my family since 2008. I shrieked and whooped with joy! Back then, I was gearing up for the unmedicated cycle that we planned for August. I calculated that I might be about 14 weeks’ pregnant by Xmas, and perhaps my sister would be able to come to the nuchal scan and see her tiny niece or nephew wriggling on the screen.
Bah, thwarted. Life is what happens when we’re busy making other plans, right?
If this cycle isn’t cancelled, my beta will be on the day she arrives from Spain. If this cycle is cancelled, I will enjoy dragging my sister—who is visiting the US for the first time since she turned 21 a few years ago—to a couple of my favourite cocktail bars.
My day-to-day attitude towards all of this is fairly relaxed. But there is some meta data that I need to clear out.
I weaned V about 10 weeks ago. By now I expected to have fully moved on, but I haven’t. I feel resentful that I weaned her before she and I were ready. I am angry that I made that sacrifice for a cycle that didn’t work. I had no plans for tandem nursing, but I still feel like she and I were cheated out of something. I know I can be proud that I nursed my girl until she was almost two, but I know it was too soon for her because she still tugs at my shirt and asks to nurse. When she’s upset, she sticks her hand down my top for comfort. Sometimes, she asks to lay her cheek against my breasts. I think we are both reassured that my body can still provide her with comfort, but it’s not the same.
If I have another child, I can’t assume that I will be able to breastfeed again. Chances are, I will (if I ever get to that point); but chances are I will also have a hysterectomy. And who knows what kind of milk-production-inhibiting pain that will be?
Even if I have another child who latches beautifully and who is sustained by my milk, it won’t be V.
As I write this, I’m really struck by how much infertility affects you. I am more or less at peace with miscarriage and infertility, and I am open and proud about egg donation, but its tangled legacy hangs around my neck like a weight.
The weight of infertility ponders the statement, I thought getting pregnant was not my problem. Maybe it is, or maybe it isn’t. Or maybe it’s just that male embryos and me don’t mix. (More on that soon.)
The weight of infertility swings when someone you used to hold dear isn’t comfortable with how you created your family. The fist of gamete donation cries Stick ’em up! because when it comes to my precious family, you’re either with me or you’re not.
The weight of infertility drags you down when you put aside your flat- and bare-bellied feelings to cheer on someone else. Later, you cry. And few people understand unless they, too, have walked this path. They are, as the saying goes, worth their weight in gold.
Back in March, I shared with my OB our plans to try for a sibling. “With a bit of luck, I’ll see you in the Fall!” she smiled as she left the exam room. The autumn is almost over, and the cold of winter is creeping in, even in Southern California. I think about what I’ll say when I next see her. I hope it will be early next year when I say, “We had a couple of false starts, but here I am! Here we are.”
Infertility has brought some painful truths—and not just about my body. I’m ready to be done with this chapter of my life. I’m ready to move away from these trying times.