Hannah Wept, Sarah Laughed.: What IF?

Whit if sharing our story can help thousands of other couples?
Check out this amazing video by Keiko Zoll.

What IF? A Portrait of Infertility from Keiko Zoll on Vimeo.

Dear Awesome Fertility Doctor

I was visiting Julie at her blog One More Time, With Feeling this morning. Nice to have coffee with you Julie! She mentioned that her doctor can't seem to remember her history, meaning that she has to repeat it over and over. I've heard this from way too many of us. Another web friend who went in for monitoring for her 5th donor IUI was asked when her husband would be coming in to leave his deposit. She described it as rubbing salt on an open wound. 

One of the first things I did after we made our first appointment with our first awesome fertility doctor was to write a letter. I needed this doctor to know how hard this was for us, and to remember that we were human. I wanted him to see us as people, and know that we were in a very delicate emotional state. I've submitted variations of this letter with almost all of the different doctors we've seen. I just ask them to read it, and add it to our file. They usually look confused by the request, but then read the letter, then soften and do a little more compassionate hand holding. I really think that it has helped. 

After reading Julie's post, Why doesn't this add up, it occurred to me that I should share my letter with you all. Feel free to make it your own.

Dear Awesome Fertility Doctor,

We were devastated to learn that we could not conceive naturally. What we expected would be an intimate, private experience has become an expensive, public, medical condition. We are hopeful that we will successfully have our own family, and grateful for the innovations in assisted reproductive technology.

Everything about this process is overwhelming. We appreciate your kindness and compassion. There are a few things we would like to request of you and your team:

  • Please remember that, for us, every conversation with you is highly emotional and stressful. 

  • Before the end of our visit, or conversation, please ask us if we have any final questions.

  • Our insurance does not cover anything related to fertility testing, diagnosis, or treatment. We need your help to code our bills so that, if possible, we will receive insurance reimbursement.

  • Since we will be paying out-of-pocket for most treatments and services, we appreciate any cash discounts that you might be able to offer.

  • Our options for treatment will be limited by our financial resources. We would appreciate receiving clear and complete breakdown of the cost of the treatment options that we will be considering.

  • We are traveling 3 hours each way to be able to see you. We have to take the day off of work in order to travel to our appointments. We've made this commitment to travel so that we can receive treatment by you, a leader in the field of infertility, and ask that you help us coordinate tests and treatments to minimize the number of trips we need to make.

Thank you for taking good care of us.


Mr. and Mrs. Foxy Popcorn

No Cavities

I went to a new dentist this morning. They gave me a new patient questionnaire to complete. Name, employer, general health history, etc.  Then there was the question that gave me pause. "Are you pregnant / trying to get pregnant / nursing?"

Really, it is a simple question with a simple answer, but as I stared at the question, I was almost offended. (offended really isn't the right word, but I can't figure out a better one.) For a decent number of women who complete that questionnaire, that answer is far from simple. I understand that their reason for asking is all about the x-rays that they take and their intent to protect the unborn. So while the truth is that I am desperately trying to get pregnant, the fact of the matter is that they don't need to protect me from the x-rays because there is no chance that I am pregnant.

I thought about circling the "trying to get pregnant" answer, since I really am. But it would have just led to a pointless discussion that I didn't really want or need to have.  So I left it blank. As far as my dentist is concerned I am not trying. Why, I wonder, am I so bothered by that?

Maybe the question could have read, "Are you pregnant? Is there any chance you might be pregnant?" I wouldn't have to lie about a question like that.  (I do know that this is taking it a bit far, but it is honestly where my mind went as I lied there with my mouth open and full of instruments.)

Maybe I am a little obsessive, but I thought about this question for the duration of my cleaning, and now I am here writing about it.  Now I can let it go.

* * * * 
Unrelated to the dentist, I cam across an old post, "Confessions of a lurker", on "Somewhat lower" that I need to share. Sara talks about how and why the pain of infertility is different. She says: The fact is that little in life can prepare you to have to make such potentially life-changing decisions, often with so little information, and with so little social support."  Something about reading that was so incredibly validating for me. Of course. I am learning how to deal with this as I experience it. It is like learning how to swim after being dumped in the middle of the Ocean. Considering that, I am doing a pretty good job!

She also talks about the length of time that we are left alone in that Ocean. She says: " I think that's the problem. With many other kinds of loss, the loss happens as an event. With infertility, it's not an event, it's a process that can go on for years. The outcome is not clear. The only way to know if a decision was good was with 20/20 hindsight. So, it's hard to know when to laugh, when to cry, when to mourn, when to pick yourself up and try again, and when to move on."  With so many other kinds of loss, there is a specific event, a specific time-frame. We can see the shore and swim towards it. But with infertility we are swimming in a direction that we hope will take us to the shore, we could be swimming in circles, we might have chosen the wrong direction and actually are swimming away from the shore. And all the while we are using up our energy, our limited resources. Reading Sara's post made me feel like I am not alone in the Ocean. There are others who are out here with me - and a team of cheerleaders back on shore rooting for me to keep going, knowing that i will eventually get there. 

I felt like she was reading my mind. It is an incredible post. Thank you Sara.

Vees Imagination


Oh my goodness, these images took my breath away.  These images communicate a raw emotion that only a picture can convey.


These images spoke to me in a way that I felt heard.

My Expectations of Life

One of the things I have really appreciated being a part of this community is that it is safe to explore. To explore other people's stories, to empathize with those who are just starting this journey, to feel like I am not alone with those who at the same point in their treatment/diagnosis as we are, and to learn from those who are moving on to options that I never thought we would consider.  When we started there were options I was sure I would never consider, but even then I reserved the right to change my mind at any point. Maybe part of that close-mindedness was the grief that I felt over the loss of natural conception. And the fear - the fear that I still can't seem to match words to. 

At first it was so hard to focus on anything other than the loss of a dream. Being a mother was the only thing that I have ever expected out of life. I've never known what I wanted to be when I grow up, I didn't have a vision of the man I would share my life with or the kind of wedding we would have or the house we would live in, or anything like that. I just knew that I would someday be a mother. Lucky for me my life has turned better than I could have ever dreamt it could possibly be. Somehow I met and married the most amazing man who I adore and respect and absolutely love sharing my life with. We have a beautiful home and the sweetest dog. I have a job that is both challenging and so rewarding. I look at my life and am overwhelmed with gratitude. 

Since I've known my husband, my dream of someday being a mother has only grown stronger, seeing little glimpses of the amazing father that he would be someday. My dream expanded to being a parent, with him, of us together raising our family. Seeing him years ago with our new puppy, so lovingly anticipating and meeting the unmet needs of this helpless little animal. The first night we had the puppy, back when we thought it would sleep in its crate, climbing into bed, hearing the puppy cry, and watching him so quickly get up and bring the little animal into our bed where it would be safe and warm. As my love for him has grown over the years, my desire to share with him the experiences of parenting have only grown stronger. I see everyday the way that his strengths compliment mine and just know that we would be such a great team as parents. 

Clearly we've encountered some speed bumps on this journey to parenthood. But I have a renewed faith that we will someday get there. In large part thanks to this community. Thanks to  being able to see that there are so many who have been here before us and successfully moved on to make choices that I once considered impossible to make. 

My Elephant

Our infertility is like an elephant. A huge grey invisible elephant in a world where no one has ever seen an elephant. It follows me everywhere I go, I cannot escape it. It is everywhere that I am, yet no one else sees it. Sometime I try to tell them about the elephant and they say things like, oh yeah I have a cat, thats the same as your pet elephant. But they don’t know. Other people don’t know that my elephant is in the room with us. I try so hard to hide the elephant and fear that they will notice it and ask about it. I’ve never had a pet elephant before and it is to find the right words to describe it to other people. I am afraid that I’ll use the wrong words and it will keep them from understanding how big and grey and unbearable it is to carry this elephant around with me. Sometimes I am afraid that I will tell them too much and want to take something back later because the elephant forces me to consider things that I never would have imagined possible before. And it takes up so much space that at times I can barely breath. Sometime it feels like the elephant is sitting on my chest it is so hard to breath. This elephant lives off of my energy and consumes so much of it that I feel like I barely have anything left for the other things in my life. The grey of this elephant is the deepest grey I’ve ever seen. I hate grey. I try over and over to paint the elephant either black or white, but the grey is so thick that it washes my clean colors away everytime. Sometime the elephant sits quietly, ever present and consuming, but still. Other times the elephant throws a fit and wails its trunk and stamps it huge feet and tosses me around leaving me weak and wounded and ever more fearful of the beast. I can’t get my arms around this elephant. I fear that even if the elephant wants to leave that it will just get smaller but never disappear. 

I actually wrote this a while back, but it seems appropriate to post it here. There is something so empowering about being able to describe my feelings like this. This was a start, and now I want to start building the picture of the future that I want, a future that I love, a future someday. 

* * * * * 

I spent the evening volunteering at a local parent education program my mom works at. It is an amazing program for new parents to attend with their little ones. I was really involved for a long time because I think it is such an important cause, then took a year off. I recommitted to volunteering last year, around the time that we got our Azoos diagnosis. It was really hard to be in the facility surrounded by moms, and toys, and little ones, and I was just so exhausted, but I'd made a commitment so I kept going. Tonight it felt so easy, so easy to sit on the floor in the classroom and talk with the other volunteers. I want to recognize these and be grateful for these good days and my strength to continue doing the things that I love regardless. 

Nelson Mandela

A friend gave me a copy today of this 1994 Inaugural Speech from Nelson Mandela. It lifted my spirits and validated my need to make my voice strong on this IF journey. 

“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness, that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, and fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small doesn’t serve the world. There’s nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We are born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us, it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.” 

Yesterday afternoon I was hit with a wave of sadness that I haven't felt for a while. I was in the car driving home, maybe it was a song on the radio, maybe it was that I missed him, maybe it was just that I've done so much emotional work these past few weeks that I was tired, and I got sad.  It was that heavy exhaustion, that settle in your stomach on the verge of tears sad. It reminded me of the hopeless sad that I felt for so long after our initial diagnosis, but it was much lighter than that. 

The emotion persisted through the evening and woke up with me this morning. I hate being such a grump at work. Then this afternoon a friend gave me this poem, and the wave almost immediately started to settle. I thought about the people that I work with and how amazing they are. I thought about the people I volunteer with and the way their passion inspires everyone around them. I thought about my bff and the way she embraces motherhood and trusts her instincts to meet the needs of her little one so lovingly. And I thought about you, the way you all share your stories, your truths, so openly. Your presence has done so much to expose my fears, the fears I don't have words for yet and the fears I have words for but am still afraid to talk about. Your honesty has liberated me in so many ways, and I am so grateful to share my honesty with with you now. 

It should be me

Not that I know how I feel about this, but two of the three girlfriends who will come on my summer Girls weekend have little ones. Little girls who will be coming along for their very first girls getaway. You know, I was supposed to have a little one who would be tagging along with me too, but I don’t. I started trying years before these friends ever thought about it. In fact, I should have two little ones by now.

It wasn’t until recently that I’ve had any feelings of anger or jealousy. I have so many friends who have recently become parents. I am so sincerely happy for them. They are beautiful wonderful grateful mothers and I love seeing them in their new role. I wish for them all of the happiness and joy and love that they share with their perfect little ones.  So its not that I feel jealous of them.

But I do feel like it should be me. What did I do to deserve this? To be prevented from experiencing that joy and love? Why does it have to be so hard for us? It is just not fair and I hate that.

Summer Plans

A girlfriend emailed me today to make plans for a girls weekend this summer. She doesn’t know about our challenges with infertility. She proposed a date in August. First thing I had to think about was where we might be in our treatment. Can I make plans for August? What if I need to stay close to home for treatment that weekend? How will I explain if I need to cancel the trip? Maybe I just shouldn’t make plans at all.

Time-Out. My plans have been on hold for so long. Trying to plan my life around the possibility that we might be moving forward with IVF on a certain date is making it impossible to live my life. I wrote back and told her that I would LOVE to plan a girls weekend and the date she proposed would be perfect.

There is a scenario in which I’ll have to cancel because of treatment, but the chances are so small. Even though I just know that we have more bad news waiting for us when we get our next SA at the end of July, I want to believe that they will find sperm and we will start IVF with my cycle that month, which would mean I couldn’t go away. Small chances, so tiny, not even worth mentioning. Its amazing how a glimmer of a chance can be enough to control my life. I sure don’t plan my summer around the chance that I could catch the flu, get laid off, break my leg, win the lottery, etc. Crazy. When I think about it like that, I feel a little bit crazy!

Final Summer without Kids

It was a few years ago that I started thinking this could be the last summer we do this or that free from the burden of kids. (yep, we used to say things like that - little did we know the burden would actually be getting those kids.) What stands out most in my mind is a summer camping trip we take every year with a group of friends from college. Definitely not the kind of trip that would be appropriate for little ones, but loads for fun for us bigger ones.

We were on one of these adventures the first time we ‘slipped’ up on our birth control. It was late afternoon, we were having the most wonderful time, we got caught up in the moment, and, well, one thing led to another. I knew it was late in my cycle, but oh my god, we hadn’t planned on this, and anything was possible. I was happy. Really happy. Just knowing that there was a possibility that we could have conceived made me so happy. Just knowing that he might be ready to really start trying made me so happy.  It was a pure innocent kind of happiness, a calm happiness that I yearn to have again.

I was sure that trip we were on that summer would be the last one like it that we took without kids.

Fast forward to 2010. Yeah, so here we are years later planning the annual summer camping trip, headed back to the same forest where the first (what was supposed to have been fateful) incident took place.

I am excited about a vacation and spending time with our good friends. I especially love vacations because I get to spend so much time with him. The timing of the trip is really nice because we will be just finishing up four months of hormone therapy that is supposed to generate sperm production. We’ll get the SA before we leave, (expecting negative results), and will probably appreciate a chance to get away and grieve together.

I don’t find myself thinking anymore that maybe this will be the last summer we do this without kids. I just want to find a way to enjoy the experience without any expectation of what comes next. I want to enjoy the moment, to love in the moment, to let go of these expectations and fears and enjoy it for what it is. This is my life and I’ve spent too long thinking about conception and planning my life around it. This is it. It may or may not be our final summer trip without kids. Regardless, this is my life, and it is up to me to live it.

Lemon Cheesecake

We made my mom the most delicious lemon cheesecake for Mothers Day dinner. It was so good, and I ate way too much.  I thought that Mothers Day might be hard, but it was fine. I am grateful to have such a wonderful mom and family. I am happy for my friends who have perfect little ones and are expecting perfect little ones. It was my mom who brought it up, who expressed her grief for me and hope that maybe next year there will be reason to celebrate.

Hope has been so elusive, and although I feeling a thousand times better recently, I still can't bring myself to think that "maybe next year at this time" we will be parents. There is way too much hope in a statement like that.

* * * * *

I read a study that there are a disproportionate number of female bloggers. The researchers found that teens and young women were empowered in communicating their thoughts and feelings and ideas and fears in the form of a blog. Blogs offered a mix of diary-writing and public validation. I've been thinking about this blog for a long time and ready to give it  try. I need my voice now more than ever.

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