Tuesday, July 29, 2008

With a Cherry on Top

Mel's post about the Ice Cream Parlour last week got me thinking.

My anxiety is getting off the hook. I wake up in the morning with my jaw tense and aching from clenching all night long - even in my sleep; if I am lucky enough for exhaustion to override tension and fall asleep. I need to dump, I need to let it go. I am hoping if I verbalize it all I can release it somehow.

My upcoming surgery is weighing heavy on my mind. Those closest to me think I should be partying, eager, happy - though, to their credit, it is because they know how miserable physically this has been for me. So, I understand that. I need my emotions acknowledged though and you don't exactly go advertising for sympathy for your hysterectomy on Craig's List . .

So, here you go - and I offer up my comments section too, come on in, dump your emotional baggage. I won't offer any advice, just a sympathetic ear, an ample shoulder to cry on and a "we'll get through this". Maybe we can all leave feeling a little lighter - even if only for a brief respite.

I'm scared. Absolutely scared. There are so many things that worry me about this. Will I feel like me afterward? Holy cow - I'm getting neutered! Neutered! Will my husband still feel about me the same way? If our reproductive organs are there for the propagation of the species and we are biologically driven to seek out and are attracted to those who are seemingly most fertile (though - we were both a bit deficient in that area) how attractive does that make me when it is completely out of the question?

Will **it** feel the same afterward? Will he notice a difference? Will I? Will I be forever devoid of any desire or will I continue to "want it"? (Lack of antecedents out of deference to keyword searches) Will he find me less somehow. Will I?

My bladder - oh my gosh my bladder. Will it survive this? More children were out of the question because we - me, my doctor - didn't think my bladder could ever withstand another surgery. How is it suppose to survive this?? I've done the catheter thing before. I could easily live another 40 years, I really would like to be able to pee like a normal person for the duration. I would trade incontinence for not having to wear a bag and permenant cath - just please, let me be able to pee when it is all said and done. I know what it felt like to not be able to pee afterward - so far, those were only temporary situations. Permanent - I can't, I don't want to go there. My uterus is huge, my bladder completely fused to it - because of that I have to have the surgery abdominally. I will be cut open, just like I did when I had my csections. My uterus is large enough that I look like I did when I was 5 months pg. Which means people are constantly asking about "the baby" and assuming I am pg. I know I look like it - but I am not. This is such a loaded question - I hated it when I was ttc, I hated it when I was miscarrying. While I am neither ttc nor miscarrying, it still hurts. Kneejerk reaction perhaps - hurt is a hard habit to break sometimes. A reminder of what isn't and what is going to happen. So much of my energy and focus was centered on this organ for so many years - this was my career! My career for over a dozen years - getting, staying, being pg. I pummeled my parts with drugs; subjected them to procedures - treated them abysmally, maligned them, hated them, needed them, begged them to work - bargained, pleaded, cried, threatened. Blessed them when they worked - when they produced my beautiful babies, all of them.

Will I cry? Will I be able to stop crying? Will I dry up - a hot flashy, bitter, cranky old woman?

And then there is my Aunt Julie (scroll down after link). My beautiful, amazing and vibrant Aunt Julie. I was 18 - old enough to be acutely aware of her loss and feel its impact. This is my first and lasting experience with hysterectomy. This scares me spitless. She never saw any of her grandchildren - I want to see my kids grow up. Her surgery was flawless - textbook. Recovery killed her - a mistake, just one little mistake with devastating consequences. The nurse in recovery set up her PCA pump wrong or it malfunctioned and she was overdosed on Demoral. My uncle, her dh, saw her right after, she was fine, happy, talking, alive - left to get some of her things while they settled her into a room, came back and she was gone. My dad, her baby brother, insists on being here while I have my surgery - requested Family Leave from work. He is scared too. He doesn't come out and say it - but I know, I feel it - I know it is on his mind; I hear it unspoken in our conversations about "September". He lost both of his sisters - one by her choice, one by accident. His brother, his parents - gone now too. The last of his family, the survivor. We all know loss - we all fear it, we know those we love can be gone in an instant.

I trust my doctor. She has been through much with me - the ttc, the miscarriages, the procedures, the deliveries - the good, the bad, the unequivocal. I wouldn't trust anyone else to do this. Do I trust me?

I'm not even 40 yet. I'm not old. Why do I feel so darned old?

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Show & Tell with Mel Sunday July 27th

Feeling a bit remiss in that I haven't done S&T the last couple weeks thanks to a crazy busy summer. Though I was determined this weekend to participate. I was trying to figure out what to share and then I decided to share ME!

This is one of my senior pictures. I graduated in 1987 from Manitou Springs High School in Colorado. I was one of 104 graduating seniors. The photo I chose for the yearbook was a serious looking headshot. I thought it made me look cool and mature. Nowadays - this one is my favorite shot. Probably the only one of me really smiling - the others are serious or just me wearing what looks like a smirk. Aside from how skinny I was, check out that hair! Do you have any idea how long it took me to get my limp, fine stick straight hair to do that 80's layered thing? Two hours - I kid you not. I had to curl, spray, comb, curl, spray and repeat with backcombing and then spray within an inch of my life. By lunchtime my hair was completely limp - but fortunately the pictures were taken in the morning! I use to find it truly annoying that most of the bands in the 80's had guys with hair that was prettier than mine.

The picture shows me standing at the beginning of my adult life - I was fresh, ready and raring to go - before boyfriends I took too seriously crushed my heart, before recurrent pg loss crushed my soul; before hopes and dreams and plans had to conform to reality or fade away altogether. Though, you know what? The me today - older, hopefully wiser, greyer and lined with life experience - I wouldn't trade in for her and all her bright-eyed idealogy. Though - I would love to be able to fit in that dress again!

Since I am hitting 40 years soon - here are 40 things about me:

1. I lived in 9 different places by the time I was 6 and then stayed in that last place until I was 21
2. My dad is my hero
3. I couldn't stand my oldest younger brother growing up
4. Now I think he is one of the best people I know
5. I am the oldest of 8
6. I changed most of their diapers - sometimes I remind them of that just to bug them!
7. When dh and I first got married - I had a hard time cooking for less than 10 people
8. I was a dj when dh and I met and interviewed Kenny Loggins on air the same week I got engaged
9. I love to sew
10. I hate sewing
11. I don't read instructions - I'm a dive on in kind of gal, most of the time it works
11. I sing - like really well
12. I taught myself how to play the piano
13. I'm not that great at playing the piano
14. I love to write - not writing like writing books - but actual writing - the putting of pen/pencil to paper - I like the feel of it
15. I collect cookbooks - most of them I've never cooked anything out of - I just like looking at them!
16. My first pet was a grey tiger striped kitten named Pixie
17. I have a HUGE box full of Nancy Drew mysteries in the basement
18. I have a HUGE box full of cassette tapes right next to the Nancy Drew books
19. Some people look at the glass and say it is half empty, others look at it and say it is half full - I look at the glass and say "who's gonna wash that?"
20. I miss my Aunt Julie terribly
21. I hate that my parents are getting "so old" - I worry about them, a lot
22. I hiked up to the top of Pikes Peak with a 40 lb pack on my back and met Bobby Unser Jr at 14,110 feet
23. I use to write stories when I was a teenager
24. I want to still write but lately only spin the tales in my head while I try to fall asleep
25. I need more sleep
26. I need a lot more sleep
27. The first time I went to a bar, my date was 43 years old, I was 20 and we went to listen to some local jazz
28. I was born on the same exact day as the infamous "Heidi Game" - which is why I am a diehard Raiders fan
29. If you ask me what my favorite music is - the answer will depend on my mood
30. If you ask for any genre of music - I probably have it in my collection somewhere (give it a try sometime! I am a little short on Indie - but I do have some Gregorian Chants in a box somewhere . . )
31. I spent most of my teenage years impatient for the day I could leave Colorado
32. I have spent every day since leaving wishing I could go back permanently
33. I talk too much
34. I love to bowl - and I really suck at it too
35. Because of my asthma I can't breathe in bowling alleys
36. I am 5'8" and have only one sibling (out of 8) shorter than me - I am next to runt
37. When we got married, Dh and I could wear the same pants/shirts
39. We have the same size feet - his smell a lot worse
40. Even though I don't need it anymore and it is trying to kill me, I really don't want to lose my uterus in 6 weeks - for some of my babies, it was the only way I was able to hold them

For more Show & Tell with Mel - see here

Monday, July 14, 2008

You're Gonna Stick that Camera Where??!!

Today I sat in a room filled with men - the one woman among them. A room full of men sitting in the Urologist's waiting room. Men who all had about 20-30 years on me - some deaf, some crippled. The faint scent of ammonia hung in the air - seriously. This was new territory for me. Dh has seen a urologist a time or two - but not me. I have to say - I was rather disappointed in the waiting room literature. My bad - forgot my book. A couple men wrestled over the lone issue of Time. The issue that had Mother Theresa's image on the front (Yes, the same Mother Theresa who hasn't graced the cover of Time for a few years now). My choices were an Entertainment Weekly announcing the new fall line-up for 2007 (little did we know about the writer's strike looming on the horizon) and Prostrate Health Monthly. Hmmmm . . .

The nurses were all barely old enough to drive. They often had to repeat the patients' names as they called them in turn, getting progressively louder each time. After the fourth or fifth call, an elderly gentleman would get to his feet and shuffle slowly to the door. I so do not belong here!

Finally it was my turn. Eager to get out of the waiting room and hoping the exam rooms might have the better reading material, I quickly jumped to my feet.

The exam room proffered less literary satisfaction. There was an outdated Good Housekeeping (who vacuums in a dress and pearls anymore?) and the issue of People that, I kid you not, the newest piece of magazine tripe in the whole office and it is the issue with JLo and her twins on the cover. OY!

Fortunately, I was spared any long waits with the "opulent nursery a deux".

Now, I've had an ultrasound or two - abdominally and the other way. I've also had a catheter on more than a few occasions. Never have I had a catheter that was also a camera (nor had this particular part of my anatomy assaulted in such a manner sans epidural). Yes, it is as unpleasant and uncomfortable as it sounds . . . particularly when this heretofore perfect stranger not only shoves a catheter cam up your pee pee, but also fills your bladder with fluid - COLD fluid no less and then in all seriousness asks you to cough.

He didn't even buy me dinner first.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Apples and Oranges

Today I listened to a good friend of mine speak in church. She spoke about the longing to have a child and how for years, she and her dh had tried to get pregnant - only to never see it come to pass. She struggled with her emotions as she talked of how her sister, unwed and much younger and less settled, became pregnant. She grappled with the feelings this brought up as so many of us do. We who are trying to do everything "right" or the "right way". I felt the emotions and tears welling up within myself as well. She and I fall on the "other side" now - no longer in the thick of battle with our respective IF struggles and trying to get on with life afterwards; but yet we still can be moved to tears by the memories.

Somehow, achieving the prized goal of becoming pregnant is often expected to erase the emotions, the disappointments, the frustrations and the pain. For those who have lost a baby (or two or more) along the way to stillbirth, miscarriage, preterm labor, etc - the ultimate arrival of a living, breathing baby should instantly replace whatever sorrow we carried with unending joy and gratitude. A pregnancy going well somehow must make up for all the pregnancies gone wrong or the ones that didn't go at all. Adoption a resolution. We must stand up, a stalwart beacon of hope and courage and proclaim loudly "I am healed! It was all worth it! " The reality is - there is joy and there is still sadness. I was not allowed to own my discomforts or my fears - they were not understood by others, and sometimes not even by myself. "a different pg." Yes - a different pg; and there in lies the hope and the fear and the reminders and the acute knowledge, that yes, this one or that one, or the next one is/was different. What I once had, I cannot have back. You cannot be wounded so profoundly and not forever bear the marks. There is a set of words we often hear over and over again - sometimes posed as a question. "Aren't you over that yet?" Sometimes they are hurled at us in frustration "Get over it!" Sometimes we say these words to ourselves. We know we will never get over the losses we have endured - yet, somehow, we almost join the ranks in the same deluded ideal that somehow we can - with enough time, with enough distractions.

Emotional healing is non-linear. While there is definitely a beginning - or rather, an injury that requires healing to begin - the middle and the end are somewhat oblique. I am done - I am so done, and yet I am not over. I have been through, still grapple now and then but never over. I couldn't even go around. Under? Not an option. I somehow expected to arrive at some point in my life - done and maybe over? Yet, even years - YEARS later - those losses still hurt. The disappointments still prick, the frustrations still gall. I can listen to a dear friend who is even further through than I am - see her tears and feel the same things. I am not overwhelmed or consumed by them like once I was - but they are there, always there - bubbling to the surface, on certain days; bidden to the forefront by a certain song, a memory - never forgotten, never over. An undercurrent of experience that is so much a part of me and who I am that I cannot deny its existence anymore than I could deny my own DNA. Sometimes a subtle stream of unconscious thought - other times a raging torrent, the emotional soundtrack to my life. Most of the time I am okay - I've learned how to hope again, smile again, laugh again - live again.

I could dye my hair blond - but I would still be a brunette. Apples and oranges.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Double B Book Brigade: Tour 13

This tour's selection was "The Empty Picture Frame" by Jenna Nadeau.

  1. Depending on where you are on your IF journey, how did this book affect you? For example, if you have a child/ren after IF was it easier or harder to read? If you are in the middle of your IF struggle did the book help or hinder? Give me your thoughts on how you were affected reading the book no matter where your IF journey has taken you so far.

Since I fall pretty squarely into "post struggle" this book affected me in a flashback sort of way. All along there are echoes of thoughts, feelings and situations I struggled with. Some parts made me sad as I read them and said to myself "Oh yes, oh yes - I remember how hard that was." Still other parts made me laugh as I recalled the craziness that often engulfed me - the sad, tragic - yet comedic gyrations of trying to coordinate a "normal" life interposed with syringes and tiny vials of white powder, frequent monitoring (which required 4 hour trips each time) and all at the whim of my Auntie Flo who often was sporadic in her appearances and had a knack for showing up at the most inconvenient times.

  1. On p. 141, Jenna describes hiding out in the bathroom during her nephew's third birthday party but then realizes, "I couldn't even come close to having fun. I hate myself for that... I don't want to turn every moment into a moment about me and my sadness. It is never my intention, but it is always my impact." She describes how she doesn't like the person looking back at her in the mirror. Have you had a similar "mirror moment"? If so, describe it. Did this realization result in a lasting change in your outlook or relationships with others? How much of the responsibility for "impact" lies on the infertile person's shoulders?
Our struggles to get pg and especially our losses made being involved in certain events difficult and another struggle. On the one hand I hated myself for being unable to let my happiness for others - especially since I truly cared about them - override my personal disappointments and failures. My mirror moment came for me when I was injecting Follistim in my bathroom hoping to achieve my 11th pg and that pg would end successfully. I prepped the area - swiping my abdomen with the alcohol swab, grabbed the readied syringe and plunged. As I withdrew the needle I caught sight of myself in the bathroom mirror - my pale bloated belly exposed, riddled with bruises and the scars from the recent laparoscopy for my tubal and failed multiples pg and remember thinking "That can't possibly be me!" I hardly recognized her. I decided I didn't want to be her anymore and determined that cycle would be my very last - win, lose or draw. I just couldn't do it anymore.

As for the responsibility - we make our own choices and responsibility for our happiness doesn't lie on the shoulders of others. Some choices are harder than others, particularly when behind them are strong and emotionally charged emotions. Some days I was less than valiant - others I surprised myself with a strength and grace I didn't know I possessed. I came to believe it wasn't so much what happened to me, but what I did with it and I was determined to not let it destroy me and permanently turn me into the bitter, unhappy person I sometimes saw flashes of over the years. That said - I didn't expect myself to be admirable and perfect every day either though! Nature of the beast - some days are just going to require herculean effort just to get through, smiling not an option! Just surviving it being the objective.

3. On page 147, the author talks about being more aware of the pain of others. How do you
feel your infertility has affected your relationship with others?

Okay - in honesty, I lost friends along the way. Oftentimes my dh could not understand why I was so miserable and tried to tell me that other people's happiness did not detract from my own. My own family - those who should love and support me the most - often failed in being the support I expected. Not everyone understood my need to talk - but I have a bit of the martyr in me and I continued to talk even though I knew it made them uncomfortable at times. The interesting thing is - all that talking did have a beneficial effect later on - a sister in law had a few miscarriages and my mother told me that because she had seen me go through mine, she felt better equipped to help my sil through hers. My baby sister lost her baby to SIDS and suddenly I was the family expert on baby grief and I was constantly asked what they should do, what they should say, how do they respond? My family is much more open and compassionate about baby loss and infertility struggles now than they had been in the past - while this is a sad thing, it is also a good and comforting thing.

I "see" hurt people now. I see in the eyes of others the hurt and frustrations I saw countless times in my own. Sometimes I feel like I can "come to the rescue" and say I understand. Other times, I flashback and I start shaking from the memories and recalled anguished feelings and I have to remind myself it's over now and I am okay, that I survived and pray that we both find our peace someday.

Hop along to another stop on this blog tour by visiting the main list at Stirrup Queens (http://stirrup-queens.blogspot.com/). You can also sign up for the next book on this online book club: Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert.