Good morning all! Today seems like a perfect day for a Squawk Box post. Today I know a bunch of infertile women and men in the US are going to speak to congress re: infertility. They are being such bad ass advocates and I wanted to do a small part of advocacy myself today and so decided that it would be a good time to let another infertile voice come through. I’ve been behind a bit on the Squawk Box posts as last month I had too much of my own stuff to share and so didn’t post one. I apologize. We will now return to the regularly scheduled once monthly squawk posts!
Remember, if you’ve any stories you feel like sharing with the rest of the infertility community you know what to do…
Send them here: firstname.lastname@example.org
Today’s Squawk goes up for fellow blogger “RealityCzech“. She is a bad ass infertile who has had to travel far from her home in the USA to receive treatment in the Czech Republic, due to many factors. This journey is hard enough without having to leave the comfort of your home to make treatment a possibility. She is pregnant, but as you will read below, she’s been here before. There is much to learn from her and she offers a lot of raw emotion and support in this peice. I hope you enjoy it as much as I do.
Image today is of a bull elephant. Sometimes fighting this journey feels an awful lot like pulling an elephant uphill. And like an elephant we never truly forget. Memories upon memories that impact our present. So, I give to you… RealityCzech!
Where Do We Find The Strength?
Written by: RealityCzech
Published with the authors permission.
To my fellow goddesses and wounded goddesses of the war on fertility, I pose the question of “where do we find the strength?” The blue whale is said to be the strongest species on the planet, but I believe that should be re-evaluated not against a human being, but a woman going through a fertility struggle. Now I’m not saying I’m a super goddess. I am so far from it. (but it sounds sexy, doesn’t it….and who couldn’t use a little sexy right now) I will say that I believe truly that we are not ever given more than we can handle and that those who are dealt the hand of infertility must be the strongest species alive. Why are we strong? I don’t know. I cry regularly, feel like I cannot handle anything, and have been told by my own husband to “man-up,” so I guess that makes me weak? No. I am strong with the support of women like yourselves who have walked this path and continue to give me hope that allows me to keep walking it.
We’ve all experienced the emotions of infertility, some of us the brainlessness of pregnancy, and others of us the blinding pain and hopelessness of miscarriage. We try to put one foot in front of the other, we try to say “next time we’ll try this,” we laugh to get ourselves through the day, we stand up and try again, we pat ourselves on the back for trying again, we stumble and fall again and again, and then we pick ourselves up and keep trying. Just writing that exhausts me.
Before I continue, let me give you a little background. My husband and I started trying in the October of 2013. By March, 2014 we were diagnosed as “infertile.” Hogwash! This term in and of itself is the largest joke in “infertility.” I say that because I’ve been pregnant 4 times since hearing that term. As I say on my own blog, this is my “fertility journey” because at the end I will be a mom. We did 5 inseminations and got pregnant twice. The first one ended at 8 weeks with a blighted ovum and the 2nd one was a chemical pregnancy.
By October, 2014 we decided to switch clinics because what we were trying wasn’t working. After further testing we were told that my “eggs were crap” and we needed to move onto a donor egg. Sure thing, let’s move right along with that. It’s only $40,000 (USD). Gulp! Now I don’t know about you, but I just couldn’t justify spending my typical $40,000 weekly paycheck on anything other than Prada and Dolce and Gabbana. Oh wait, reality check! I am NOT a superstar and no I don’t and never will have an extra $40,000 laying around. What’s even crazier is that $40,000 doesn’t get you the family of three you always desired. It only potentially gets you ONE child. My husband and I are hard working professionals and make a respectable living, but this was absurd to us.
By November, we VERY quickly regrouped and decided to go to the Czech Republic for an egg donor cycle. That was only $7,000 and we would get a nice vacation in Prague. We were SO excited to start the next step in our jouney. Before starting the birth control (first step of a donor cycle) we found out that we were pregnant NATURALLY. Surprise!! The fertility doctor had told us we had a 1 in 255,000 chance of natural pregnancy. I have NO idea how they put they do probability and statistics, but it’s clearly different than what I learned in college. This is the day that most women dream of, but for me it led to tears and pain that I cannot describe. I KNEW I was on the path to another miscarriage. After all, the doctor had told me that my “eggs were crap.” A week later (January, 2015) I had my third miscarriage.
I don’t know how you deal with your miscarriages, but here’s what I’ve done with mine. I pick myself up, decide the next plan of attack (next IUI, donor cycle, etc), try to do things that make me happy, stop by a few miscarriage support group sessions. I’m here to tell you that basically I just tried to move forward and I don’t think it worked. I decided after the third miscarriage to skip the miscarriage support group. They had scolded me for laughing AT SOMETHING I SAID because “this isn’t really a place for laugher.” I reminded them that “laughter is the best medicine” and that seemed to be met with some judgment. What I wanted was hope. I didn’t want to mourn a miscarriage. I wanted to look forward to the future and be hopeful for our next steps. So I decided to return to church. I hadn’t been to church in years and found a great church that gave me such positive messaging and hope.
With this renewed hope we planned our trip to Prague for our first egg donor cycle and took off in March, 2015 to make our dream baby. Prague was amazing, the clinic was a so wonderfully helpful and compassionate, my donor was PERFECT, and everything was looking so bright and wonderful.
We returned and began the 2 week wait and just found out last week that we are PREGNANT! This is exactly what I wanted and I had already told myself that if I got pregnant this time to let myself be excited. After all, our donor was 23 years old and a proven donor. Her eggs are fantastic and what could go wrong? Unfortunately the news of “you’re pregnant” also came with “and your progesterone is dangerously low and you may miscarry.” Immediate panic! Now we’ve all known panic. There’s panic that lasts for a second and goes away. Like the time that I sat down in the dentist chair last year and looked around for the stirrups only to realize the super cute dental tech was watching me and he’s like “can I help you find something?” Panic….for an instant….maybe even some embarrassment….I was so used to throwing my feet up in stirrups every time I went to a doctor. This panic is different. It’s absorbing every minute of my day and all of the meditation and laughter in the world is not really suppressing it.
I was already on 600 mg a day of progesterone suppositories. My clinic said that sometimes that won’t show up in your bloodstream, but still supports the pregnancy. They put me on additional progesterone in oil shots as a precaution and sent me on my way to wait a week. This Friday we go back for an ultrasound to see if the pregnancy is progressing. The bottom line is this: I may miscarry, but I may also have a totally normal pregnancy. That being said, I cannot shake the worry that has now overtaken the happiness of a pregancy. I have never had an anxiety attack and my heart is racing all day and sleep is difficult. It doesn’t matter how much I try to calm myself, meditate, tell myself that stress cannot be good for the pregnancy, etc, I feel panicked.
I spoke to someone about this and they said it could be aside effect of the added progesterone and I can only hope it’s that simple. That being said, I started to do some research and found that there are a few other possibilities. One is that some women can just “feel” their heart working harder to support the baby. Another possibility is that I am suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Say what?!?! I wasn’t a prisoner of war! I didn’t watch someone get murdered. How can THAT be? Apparently, ladies, it’s more common than we want to believe. What I am finding is that women who have multiple miscarriages and don’t allow themselves the avenues to properly heal can often get anxiety and a mild case of PTSD during their pregnancies. I don’t know if that’s definitely what’s happening with me, but I wanted to write about it to bring an awareness to it.
All over the internet you find forums where women ask of stress or anxiety can cause miscarriage. There are reminders all over that women have babies in war zones. That being said, I want to be calm and happy. I don’t want to feel like a prisoner of war….or a wounded goddess, as I am more favorably terming it. Goddess sounds so glamorous. I try to laugh my way through this and enjoy and embrace the journey. I have laughed at and with many a doctor…..especially the one who told me to “put one progesterone capsule in each vagina twice a day”…EACH VAGINA?!?!….there’s two of them? I thought I was doing well and being strong to put one foot in front of the other. Maybe, just maybe, I was wrong. Maybe I needed to heal. Maybe I needed to stop moving forward and mourn my losses.
We spend so much of this journey finding strength and reminding ourselves to be strong. I find such hope in the amazing stories of fertility sisters like most of you. I find strength in the pregnancies that finally DO happen, the ability that women have to keep moving forward, and the fact that we are going to be amazing moms who teach our children about resilience and perseverance. For all of that strength, however, I want to add a new “tool” to my fertility toolbox, my friend toolbox, and my eventual mothering toolbox. That tool will be vulnerability and mourning. It’s exactly what I have fought this whole journey. I didn’t want to mourn. I didn’t want to “let it get to me.” I saw something so much more respectable in being strong. Maybe what I needed this whole time was to allow myself a breakdown, to allow myself to mourn, to allow myself the sadness, etc. Maybe if I had done that I would be stronger and happier right now, today, while I AM still pregnant.
So, wherever you are in your journey I ask you to pause and ask “where do we find the strength?” I ask that because sometimes the answer doesn’t lie in showing everyone else what they need to see, but it is really about giving ourselves what we need. I previously felt like I’d be stronger if everyone else saw me being strong. I have suppressed a lot of sadness and emotion and needed mourning to be strong so others could see me being strong. My journey changes today. I will still laugh, reach out for support, make the “next plan,” look for stirrups in the wrong places, etc but I may also cry more, mourn more, and grieve as I need to. Grief and morning don’t need to always take a dark shape. I planted a garden to “bury” my first miscarriage. I’m going to find something positive to do to mourn the 2nd and 3rd. I am going to tell my friends I’m still grieving and that there isn’t a time limit on that grief and that DOESN’T make me weak. Strength takes a new form today. Strength includes being strong enough to allow myself to be vulnerable and weak.
I wish you all the support and strength to laugh, cry, grow, move towards the next step, fall and get back up again, be weak, be angry, mourn, grieve for as long as you need, and go on to hopefully be amazing mothers of your dream babies.