The Holding Pattern and the Way it Hurts to Hope

Or Infertility is Ongoing

(Trigger warnings for discussions about infertility, pregnancy, medical treatment, and depression/anxiety).

An hour ago, I was struggling trying to figure out what May’s blog was going to be about. Would it be about my continuing lack of writing words or the fact that my reading mojo basically dried up completely except for ten to fifteen minute spurts of being able to listen to an audiobook? Would it be whining about my poor planning in trying to make this monthly blogging thing a goal for the year?

An hour ago, any of those was possible. An hour ago, I didn’t think I’d be writing about something that hurts so much.

I’ve mentioned in the past here and on twitter that I am dealing with infertility treatment. I’d even said in either this year or last year’s goals that I intended to share some of that journey here on my blog – I just… hadn’t managed to make myself do it prior to now.

An hour ago, I still felt like it was too much to deal with, like no one would want to hear about it.

As of five minutes ago, I don’t think I care about that. This is my space, my voice, and I’ll do what I want with it. And hell, I’ve gotten a lot of comfort reading about other folks’ journeys (looking at you, Susan Dennard – thank you for your words always!), so maybe this will offer someone out there some comfort, too. Even if it’s only the comfort of knowing that you aren’t the only one out there dealing with the pain of this.

So, infertility. Short story: it sucks. Long story: for me in particular, it’s been a two and a half year rollercoaster ride of realizing my cycles are completely inconsistent (no really, like nineteen days one round to forty-six days the next with light, medium, and heavy periods occurring with no sign of which it will be prior to it happening) and seeking treatment including: blood tests, diagnostic tests including everything from a bladder of contrast inflated in my uterus to so many sonograms/ultrasounds that I legitimately can’t count how many people have stuck a wand up my junk at this point, doctor’s visits after doctor’s visits after freaking doctor’s visits, and medications. So. Many. Medications. Medications via pills to make me ovulate. Birth control to get rid of the ovarian cysts caused by the pills to make me ovulate. Too many acetaminophen doses because everything is sore all the time. And finally, most recently, ten days of four to seven hormone shots in stomach and/or thighs in hopes of overdeveloping enough follicles that my doc could harvest enough embryos to have a shot at trying for IVF.

An hour ago, I got the news that the sole surviving embryo of the four we were able to harvest has a missing chromosome and would result in a miscarriage.

As of an hour ago, we’re back at square one. Again. After $20,000 PLUS spent on this retrieval attempt. (Yes, you read that number correctly.)

(That’s something that I feel like is only barely discussed with regards to infertility – just how painfully expensive it is and how few insurance plans cover any of it. Ours certainly doesn’t.) So on top of all the discomfort, the hormone fluctuations adding to my anxiety and depression and migraines, the injections, the testing, the waiting – dear fuck the waiting, we also are out the cost of a mid-sized car.

With nothing to show for it.

Just various options to try or try again, all of which ALSO cost an arm and a leg. It’s a nasty reminder that here in the US, even if you have the good job with good insurance or a spouse making good money, you still can end up on the wrong side of some enormous bills based on what isn’t covered by your insurance. If we were in any number of other countries, we’d had a lot more options for funding and a lot less stress about “Is it even worth it to keep trying if it’s going to keep costing this much? Was it even worth what we’ve ALREADY spent?”

I… don’t actually know the answer to either of the above questions. An hour ago, I would have happily said yes, but an hour ago, I wasn’t feeling pretty fucking hopeless about how much we’ve been through only to have a “no, nothing’s viable” at the end of it. Or at the end of this stage of it. I don’t know if it’s the end yet. I don’t… think it is? Probably? Maybe?

The husbeast and I still have a lot to discuss about this, to see if we can sort out what next steps we can try for, what options we have from attempting another round of harvesting or egg donation or adoption or or or…

To see if my heart can even take the uncertainty of ANY of those options.

I was talking with my therapist last week (pro tip, if you can afford one, I strongly recommend it, ESPECIALLY if you are dealing with infertility. I honestly waited way too long to get one), and she reminded me that as humans we’re not equipped for this kind of long running uncertainty. Worry is natural, yes, but it’s evolutionarily intended to help us come up with solutions to problems.

When faced with a problem that may not have a solution or one that just requires a “wait and see” perspective… well, we have issues with that. I DEFINITELY have issues with that. I’m a procrastinator by nature who turned to over-planning most often to try to fight off that procrastination and anxiety. But I can’t plan for this. There’s no to-do list of tasks I can check off as “done” while we’re going through all of these stages. One step may not lead to the expected next step, or even to any step at all, and I’m not handling that well.

The feeling of helplessness is just as bad as the waiting. Or perhaps is hand and hand with the waiting, which might be worse somehow.

As you can probably guess, I don’t have any answers or even much in the way of cope. I just have my experiences to share and maybe a shoulder to cry on for anyone else dealing with this pain. Because fuck it is painful, but it’s a quiet kind of pain. And I don’t think it should have to be that quiet, that secretive, like a shame we can’t do anything about.

I’m here. I’m dealing with infertility. I’m not alone.

You don’t have to be either.

All content © 2015 by C.L. McCollum unless otherwise noted.

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