I was listening to Train’s new album and heard the song, “You Can Finally Meet my Mom”.  Some days things like this don’t affect me at all, other days they bring me to tears.  Today it was the latter.  There are a couple of other Train songs out there that reference death, so I googled it, and sure enough, Pat Monahan’s mother died of cancer.  I instantly felt a bond with the singer.  I spent an hour reading interviews in which he talked about his mother, and songs that were inspired by her death and the grief process (“Drops of Jupiter” and “When I Look to the Sky”).

“You Can Finally Meet My Mom” is a song about death and how important it is to spend time with the ones you love while you can… and of course about the afterlife, and that his wife can finally meet his mother.

I thought of how lucky I am that my husband got to meet my mom.  And then I cried because my son will not… at least not here on earth.

And as much as I would rather not have had this experience, I’m also lucky to have learned some important lessons at a relatively young age.  Cliche, maybe, but at the end of it all, the number of hours you’ve worked doesn’t matter nearly as much as time spent with loved ones.  And I would trade all the money in the world for another week with my mom.  Sometimes I forget these simple lessons and then a little reminder comes along…

“These eyes got too wide, seen too much of life’s goodbyes
Should have spent less time making loot
And spent more time in my birthday suit with you”

-Train, “You Can Finally Meet My Mom”

I’ve been reading a book entitled “Motherless Mothers”.   Hope Edelman,  whose mother died when she was 17, also wrote “Motherless Daughters” and compiled “Letters from Motherless Daughters”, both of which helped me get through the immediate period after my mom died.

I particularly like “Motherless Mothers” because she interviews women who’ve lost mothers at all different ages and have experienced pregnancy, childbirth and child rearing without the support and advice of their mothers. (“Motherless Daughters” focuses on women who were 17 and younger when their mothers died.)

I am still in the pregnancy and childbirth part of the book and can very much identify with it.  I cannot ask my mom if she had trouble sleeping, or what she took for indigestion, or if she sometimes got freaked out by the idea of childbirth.  I cannot call her to whine about my morning sickness, or share the joy of feeling those first movements.  I nearly had a meltdown in the maternity section of Macy’s last week, when I saw a mother shopping for maternity clothes with her daughter and telling her how cute she looked.  “That should be me.”, I thought.   I am lucky in that I have a great support network of friends and family– but I do not have her.

When the women in the book were surveyed about whether they had a preference for a boy or girl, many women said that while they just wanted a healthy baby, they felt like they would be able to recreate the kind of bond they had with their mothers with a daughter of their own.  I hadn’t considered that, but it made perfect sense.  I realized I’d subconsciously been imagining buying cute Easter dresses for my daughters, mother-daughter shopping trips, and giving her my ballerina music boxes.  I was imagining raising her the way my mom raised me.

Of course, we are having a boy.  I will admit, I briefly grieved for the loss of the above experiences (at least for now).  I feared I wouldn’t be able to bond with him the same way I would with a daughter.  Would he want to hang out with his mom?  I am certainly not the person to go to to toss around a football or play catch or any “typical” boy things.  But hopefully he will love his mommy anyway.  :)  I have bought little onesies with fire trucks and am now imagining cheering him on at little league games.  At the end of the day, he is my child-- and that is what matters.

It’s easy to lose perspective sometimes.  Five months ago I swore that I would stand on my head for an hour, drink tabasco sauce straight, and shave my head if that’s what it took to have a baby.  Those bouts of nausea I used to have on Follistim were awful, but I promised the Universe/God, etc., that if I could just get pregnant I would endure months of nausea happily.  The Universe came through on its end…  I cannot say I took the nausea with as much grace as I’d promised to, though.

I love being pregnant, but it’s not without its challenges.  Fourteen weeks of nausea and vomiting, constant heartburn and headaches, blurry vision, and now an unending backache.  I haven’t had a good night’s sleep in two weeks.  These are just the facts, and I am trying my damnedest to take it in stride and remember to be grateful for what I have.   (A good life practice in general, I think.)  I try to remember what a friend said to me when I was having a bad day many months ago: “Eyes on the prize.”

And then a little perspective landed right in my lap.  I came across the blog entry below and it really moved me.  It took me right back to five months ago and beyond, to the feeling of walking a tightrope, trying to somehow keep my balance.  And almost instantly, the backache didn’t seem so bad, the heartburn could be handled, and my head didn’t throb quite as much.  If I could make it through almost two years of infertility, I can certainly handle pregnancy-related aches and pains.

http://ilikepolaroids.blogspot.com/2012/01/be-gentle.html

I was getting ready to write another post, and found I’d never published this one.  I wrote it last month after a meeting of my infertility support group.  I will say that the support of two other newly pregnant “infertiles”  has made this journey a little less lonely for all three of us.

—–February 2012—–

I have been through more than most people, but not nearly as much as some.  Perhaps because of this, sometimes I feel like I don’t know where I fit in.  Last night reminded me of that.

I’ve been going to an infertility support group for the last seven months and there are no words to describe what a wonderful impact these women have had on my life.  In dealing with my mom’s death, I’ve learned how invaluable support from those who have “been there, done that” can be.  It is lifesaving.

When I found out I was pregnant, I contacted the group leader to ask her if she knew of a “pregnancy after infertility” group.  There isn’t one in the nearby LA area, but she said I could continue to come to the group at least for the first trimester (basically until I started to show).  I went last month, and was unsure as to how to share my news.  I didn’t want to hide it, but I certainly know how painful it can be to hear yet another woman announce she is pregnant.  (However, I loved hearing that from women who I knew had traveled this difficult road.)  The women at the group were very welcoming, and I felt more at home with them than I do in a group of pregnant woman who haven’t dealt with infertility.

Tonight I felt something different.  Someone commented that I am starting to show a little bit and I became conscious of trying to hide my belly.  Another jokingly said I can finally “graduate”.  I wanted to say, “But graduate to where?  Where do I belong?”  I don’t feel the same as a blissfully ignorant pregnant women, but I am no longer in the “TTC (trying to conceive) as an infertile” group.  I feel a little lost, somewhere out in no man’s land.

There is a line I heard a few weeks ago on a rerun of M.A.S.H. that resonated with me.  “I’ve seen too much to ever be wide-eyed again.”  While I have not seen nearly as much as many people in the world, I have seen more than the average person.  More than I ever wanted to.  I want to be blissfully ignorant.  I want to take life for granted a little… to not have the first-hand knowledge and understanding that life can end far too quickly, and sometimes it’s not an easy road to create a new one.

One of many lessons I’ve learned in the past 3 years is that there is probably someone out there who has gone through what you are going through.  Yes, your struggles may not be exactly the same, but if you open yourself up you may find just the support you need.  I know there must be others out there like me, others that feel like they are floating in “No Man’s Land”, not quite sure where they belong.  This has inspired me to try to start a Pregnancy and Parenthood After Infertility group in the area.  I have two other newly pregnant-after-infertility friends, so for now it is a group of three, and will hopefully grow and provide the same kind of hope and support I’ve found in the infertility group.

Remember Why You Kept Holding On. ” – Unknown

And this is why…

I am still in shock, weeks after getting this news.  This was the best Thanksgiving ever.  I only took a test just to make sure I could have a glass of wine with dinner.  I fully expected it to once again be negative, but on the very off-chance I was pregnant, I surely didn’t want to do anything to harm my long awaited dream.

I took the test, walked away, and almost forgot about it until I went back into the bathroom to get ready for my day.  I quickly glanced at it, picked it up and started to throw it away.  Then I did a double-take– like the kind you see in cartoons.  Wait– what was that?  No, it couldn’t possibly be an ever so faint plus sign??  I took another test.

I decided to walk away again.  I didn’t wait to sit and stare at that thing.  I set the kitchen timer and 3 minutes later I was staring at two double lines.  I was shaking.  I broke out another one.  I figured 2 out of 3 were pretty good odds. (I used all different brands, just to be sure.  I should’ve bought stock in home pregnancy tests 2 years ago!)  This time I watched as the two lines popped up within seconds.  I felt pretty sure at this point.  But this was a special occasion, so I broke out the digital test I was saving.  And there it was– the most beautiful word I’d ever seen– PREGNANT.  Pregnant.  Pregnant.  Pregnant.

I squealed.  I jumped up and down.  And then I started crying.  I was crying so hard I couldn’t stop and I started hyperventilating.  I’d never cried tears of joy before.  I had my doctor paged, and when she called back, I again started crying.  When I finally got it together, I told her my news and she scheduled a blood test that afternoon.

My husband had to work that morning, and I didn’t want to tell him over the phone, so I had to hold it until he came home.  I wrapped up the tests and told him I had a Thanksgiving present for him.  He opened the gift and stared at the tests for a few seconds.

“Is this what I think it is?”, he asked.

“Well, read the blue one.”, I responded.

“Pregnant?”  He hugged me and then we both stared at the tests for a while; neither one of us could quite believe this was finally happening.

The Beta (blood test that measures hcg) came back positive, and went up 2 days later.  It was official– I was knocked up!

In the weeks following, I’ve had 3 ultrasounds and all looks good.  (Since I was seeing a specialist, he has been monitoring me.  I “graduate” to a regular OB this Friday.)  I am just praying this little one sticks and that in 7 months or so I have a healthy baby in my arms.

Three years ago on December 2, 2008 my mom had a massive stroke.  She died in the hospital a week later on December 9th.  And so begins what I unaffectionately refer to as “Death Week”.

I still remember the phone call I got from my husband.  It was 11:30 am.  I was at work.  I hadn’t picked up the phone when my brother called three times, and I ignored my husband’s calls until he sent me an email saying to “PICK UP THE PHONE. IT’S AN EMERGENCY!”.  That morning work was more important.  Oh, how I’ve learned since then!

My husband (then fiance) said my brother had called him to tell him about the stroke, after not being able to reach me .  My dad was 30,000 feet in the air, traveling for business.  Poor guy barely landed before getting right back on the same plane for the return trip.

I called my brother.  He was in the ER waiting room.  He was with my mom when it happened, and I could tell he was overwhelmed.  He shuts down when scared; I go into full-on survival mode.  There is probably a happy medium somewhere in between those two, but we did not find it on that day.

He put me on the phone with one of the doctors who was, given the chaos of working in an ER, extraordinarily patient.  She gave me the broad strokes, took my cell number, and promised to call back with more details.

In the meantime, I searched online for flights to DC and tried to finish up all my work so that if I were gone for a week or so, there wouldn’t be loose ends.  In retrospect, I maybe should’ve just said, “Fuck it– I’m outta here.”  But that was “before”.  I didn’t yet have the insight of the “after”.  (And like I said– I was in survival mode.  I kept pushing through because I just didn’t see any other option.)

The ER doctor called me back a few hours later.  I was in my car taking a break because I just wanted to be alone.  I jumped to grab the phone.  My mom had had a hemorrhagic stroke and there was massive bleeding.  Surgery was a remote option, but first the bleeding had to stop.  I asked her whether I should make plans to fly back or if it could wait a few days.  I essentially wanted to know how bad it really was, without asking that particular question.  I will never forget her response.  She said,”If it were my mother, I’d want to get on the next plane, and if you were my sister, I’d like you to be here.”  Done.  I hung up and started bawling in the car.

I finally got it together, went back to my office, filled in my boss (who’d been out that morning), and left.

My now husband came with me.  We booked flights with returns the following week.  I had no idea what to expect, so I booked it figuring we might change it.

I remember packing and I pulled out one of my favorites dresses.  It is a wool black and white checked dress, very “Jackie O”.  My mom loved that dress.  Somewhere, in the back of my mind, there was a little “What if?”.  In my typical fashion, I always wanted to be prepared.  And yes, that was the dress I wore to the funeral.   To this day the dress is still hanging in my closet.  I can’t wear it, but I can’t get rid of it.

We got to the airport and I settled in for the worst plane ride of my life.   And that was the beginning of Death Week.

Today I am feeling ok.  I don’t know if it will hit me later.  I’ve found in the past that this day is actually worse for me than the 9th.  The 2nd was really the day everything changed.  In the past three years my life has changed unimaginably.  Some changes for the better, and some for the worse.  Today, I am trying to make an effort to remember the better.

The holidays used to strictly be a time of anticipation and joy.  I love Thanksgiving, and I have more Christmas decorations than could fit into our 2 bedroom apartment.  My mom loved the holidays and she made them incredibly special.  There were traditions that I looked forward to and have tried to keep up myself.  Her table settings were like something out of a Martha Stewart show (which, incidentally, she used to laugh at until she retired and channeled Martha all too well).

Much of my entertaining style has been influenced by her– with some HGTV thrown in for good measure.  If I had a doubt about anything I’d ask her.  Three years ago when I cooked my first Thanksgiving (the first without her), I had no idea what size turkey to buy.  Was there a  guideline for the ratio of pounds of turkey per person?  In a rare instance, I didn’t even think to Google this question.  (I’ve found that Google has answers to most of life’s great questions… and when I am stuck, the Magic 8 Ball always has an opinion.)

So there I was in Ralphs (our local grocery store), staring cluelessly at the turkeys.  I looked around me at the other women, most older and presumably women (mothers?) who’d been doing this for quite a while.  I wanted to call my mom so badly.  I finally chose one of the women who most reminded me of my mom and asked her what the general rule was for the ratio of turkey pounds per person.  She said she didn’t know, but she usually bought a 15-16 pounder for 8 people.  So that would’ve averaged about 1.5-2 lbs per person.  Then I asked another woman and she said 1.5-2 lbs per person.  Finally, just to be sure, I found the butcher and he said 1.75 lbs per person.   There.  That was my expert answer.  Of course, there were no 8.75 lb turkeys available.  So I just grabbed the smallest– a 12 pounder– and figured, “What the hell, we’ll have lots of leftovers.”

Fast forward two years to this year, my 3rd time hosting Thanksgiving.  I wanted new napkins to go with my nice tablecloth and my Nana’s china.  I ventured out to Bed, Bath and Beyond yesterday to find some pretty gold-toned ones to complement the gold-rimmed plates and cream colored tablecloth.  Nothing was exactly to my liking.  I found napkins that matched the tablecloth I already had, but not in gold, only the cream.  I wasn’t sure what the “rule” was about that… would it look weird if they both matched?  Would the napkins blend in to the tablecloth?  What if I put them on top of the plate??  Once again I thought, “Mom would know.  I could call her and have this question answered in 30 seconds flat.”  I found some gold-ish ones, but wasn’t sure about the fabric.  So, as with the turkey, I just stood there in front of the Wall of Napkins, staring cluelessly.

Another woman was standing next to me looking at the napkins, too.  She clearly had a plan, so I cautiously asked for her opinion.  Then, in her thick Jersey accent, she said, “Well, ya wanna know what I do?”  I imagined her sitting down at a Sopranos-inspired Thanksgiving table and figured whatever she did was not going to be my style.  But low and behold, she surprised me– and simultaneously made me sad.  She said her daughter always does Thanksgiving, and she (the mom) decorates the table.  She layers two napkins– one to match the charger below the plate, and another to match the tablecloth.  She grabbed a gold one and the cream one and showed me.  Brilliant!  This was completely the sort of Martha Stewart-esque thing my mom would do!

Unfortunately, a charger and two sets of napkins was not in my budget this year, but that didn’t matter.  In some bizarre way, this “Real Housewife of New Jersey” type was channeling my mom.  Of course, she also reminded me that I did not have my mother to help me decorate my Thanksgiving table the way her daughter did.

Next year I’ll get my gold charger plates and layered napkins.

I recently received an email from a friend in my infertility support group.  She just completed the transfer on her first IVF cycle.  She was so pleased that the transfer went well, and that she had 2 embryos with 10 cells and 9 cells at the 3 day mark (when they were transfered).  The average is 5-6 cells. She thanked us for our support and good thoughts and prayers sent her way, and shared some pictures of her embryos.  They are amazing and brought tears to my eyes.

As I’ve mentioned in earlier posts, I was never much of a science enthusiast growing up, but in recent years have become incredibly interested in biology.  And at this moment, I am in awe of science.  These pictures amaze me and give me hope and I had to share them with you.  Now, this is intelligent design. I’ve seen this quote (that is a twist on the original, which omits the science part) in various places, but can’t find anyone to credit with it.  “With God and science all things are possible.”

Embryos

If God made us in his image, then we are infinitely intelligent.  We have been gifted with such intelligence that there are those who are able to help men and women create biological families where otherwise there may have been no hope.  I believe in God, and I believe in science.

Disclaimer:  I am in no way pushing my thoughts, beliefs and values on anyone else.  You may not agree with me, and I respect that… these are just my views.

I found out about Initiative 26 (also known as the Personhood amendment) a little late in the game.  I will credit a wonderful friend for posting it on Facebook, actually, and standing up for those women and men who have IVF to thank for their children.

The Personhood movement asserts that life begins as soon as an egg as fertilized, and Initiative 26 would have given that fertilized egg the same rights as a living breathing person.  (Thankfully, it was defeated by a vote of 58% to 42%, however, there are many other states, such as Colorado and Virginia, that have proposed similar bills.)

“Initiative #26 would amend the Mississippi Constitution to define the word ‘person’ or ‘persons’, as those terms are used in Article III of the state constitution, to include every human being from the moment of fertilization, cloning, or the functional equivalent thereof.”

Now, bear in mind that a woman is not actually considered pregnant until the fertilized egg implants in the uterus.  There are many women who unknowingly have very early miscarriages because the egg fails to implant or doesn’t survive more than a day or so.  The fertilized egg is unable to sustain life without nourishment from the mother or another outside source.

How does this affect infertility treatments?  If a “person” is defined as a fertilized egg, then the embryos which are developed to implant into the uterus are also considered people.  If a woman has additional embryos after a successful IVF round, she can freeze them for later use, or she currently has several other options: 1. Discard the embryos, 2. Donate the embryos to other infertile couples, or 3. Donate the embryos to science for research (stem cell research).  Under this Initiative, option 1 and 3 would be considered murder, so in theory the woman would need to implant all of the embryos.  Of course, then we’d have lots of “octo-moms” running around.

Resolve, the National Infertility Association, has said this of the proposed Personhood legislation: The Personhood Amendment would produce so many legal uncertainties about the status of embryos that RESOLVE anticipates it would be difficult or impossible for reproductive endocrinologists to treat infertility patients using long-established assisted reproductive treatments (“ART”).

You can read more about Resolve’s stance on Personhood legislation here:                                                                                                                  http://www.resolve.org/get-involved/mississippi-initiative-26.html

At heart, this is meant to be an anti-abortion bill.   But as you can see, it has other far-reaching effects.  I can’t help thinking, “So, a woman that chooses not to continue her pregnancy (even in extreme cases of rape or medical endangerment) must have the baby, and those men and women who so desperately want to become parents are s*** out of luck.”  You might find this last statement to be a bit extreme, but it’s the thought that stuck with me as I researched this.

For those of us battling infertility it is a difficult road, and obstacles like this one only make it more so.  So, thank you, dear friend “C”, for standing up for us infertiles.  We love you for it.

Every time I hear of yet another pregnancy, another new mother or father, or I am at the grocery store surrounded by strollers, the Rime of the Ancient Mariner comes to mind:

“Water, water, every where,
And all the boards did shrink;
Water, water, every where,
Nor any drop to drink.”                                                                                          – Samuel Taylor Coleridge, The Rime of the Ancient Mariner

I remember reading this poem twice– once in high school and once in college.  The first time it frustrated me.  It was long and cumbersome, and I just didn’t have the patience.  Reading it again in college, I understood his struggle more clearly.  Unexpectedly caught in a storm, his ship was driven off course and he had no control of the situation.  (This, of course, is simplifying it, but it’s one of the themes that speaks to me.)

And now I find myself thinking of the verse above.  I sympathize with the poor mariner, stuck out in the ocean, dehydrated and taunted by the surrounding sea of salt water that won’t quench his thirst.  An unorthodox comparison to my situation, yes, but it resonates with me.   Who knew it would take infertility to finally give me appreciation for a poem I never really liked?  (I wonder what would my college professor would have to say about that?)

Babies, babies everywhere, and not a nursery to arrange;
Babies, babies everywhere, and not a diaper to change.

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