Thursday, April 29, 2004

Infertility

As much as AOL frustrates me at times, I thank my lucky stars that the AOL online community existed when I stopped working. Being a stay-at-home-mommy can be a very isolated existence. My small town has no playgrounds, and until just a couple months ago - no organized mother's organizations. I was hard pressed to find a playgroup back in the early days of being a new mom. The internet was a huge help there. The sad fact is, I used to work my ass off and was never home. I am not an outdoorsy person and I only know one of my neighbors on sight. When we moved here I was thrilled to be moving to a neighborhood full of transplants (new construction) and everyone seemed to be around our age and stage of life. Young couples trying to have a family or young families. Perfect environment to make new friends, right?

After settling into my daily routine in the new house it became quickly clear that that routine would be this:
1. Wake up
2. Go to work
3. Come home WAY too late
4. Eat and collapse into bed
5. Lather, rinse, repeat until you need a vacation or go postal.

Other than an occasional wave from someone vaguely familiar looking in a car headed up the street as I was pulling into my driveway at some ungodly hour, I didn't have any contact with my neighbors. My hubby faired a little better in that department. He had a home office and was outside now and then to mow the lawn, take out the trash, or get the mail. I got all my neighborhood news from him. "Did you know 'The Doctor' sold his house?" No! They were in there for less than a year! "Yep. There is a For Sale sign out front..."

This sad state of affairs was bound to change once we had kids, right? The whole point of buying a house in the 'burbs was to have a family (that's why we moved to the town with the good schools). I fantasized about staying at home with my baby...walking her/him down the street in the stroller and waving to the neighbors "Hiya Bob! How's it going Janey? Hey Laura, how is Katie doing in pre-school this year?" And "Laura" would invite me in to hang out in her pretty kitchen that looked so much like mine...shoot the breeze as our babies rolled around on a blanket together. Yep. Life would be sweet.

Then there were the joys of being pregnant, giving birth, breast feeding... I was looking forward to all of it with eager anticipation. We had been so careful throughout our relationship, my husband and I. We were always "safe". Used that birth control religiously. I didn't want a little one to arrive too soon and spoil the plan. I could probably take a 3-week vacation to Hawaii on what we spent on birth control over the years. I can almost laugh about it now. Almost.

But first came 5 painful years in our pretty new home. The agenda was simple. Stop using birth control, get pregnant, live happily ever after. Women did it every day! Never dreamed it any other way. A year passed...a couple times when my period was late I would get SO excited...nada. My cycles had never been "normal". They were long...too long. Who wants to bleed for 8 or 9 days? They were HEAVY too. I ruined so many skirts over the years. Then there was the pain...can't tell you how many times I missed school in my teens and 20s because the cramping and stabbing pain had me feeling nauseous and like I would faint. My Mom always chided me about what a baby I was regarding that time of the month. "All women suffer like you. It's what women have gone through since the beginning of time...blah blah blah, get out of bed and go to school."

I went to see my first gynecologist when I was 17. Not because of my periods, but because I wanted to go on the pill (oooo naughty girl!) He asked about my cycles and I told him the truth. He was the first person to use the word "endometriosis". He also said that to be sure I would have to bring my mother in to talk to him about my undergoing exploratory surgery. First of all, I couldn't very well tell my mother that I had snuck off to my first gynecologist appointment without her, plus he might tell her why I came to him (no way!) and then there was that word...surgery. Scary for a 17 year old kid! So I did nothing (except fill my birth control prescription). [By the way, Mom found out anyway that I went when the Doctor's office sent a statement to my house (addressed to me) and my Mom recognized the Doctor's name on the return address and opened it. She had a friend who used him as her doc. Thank heavens for me that there was no mention of birth control in that envelope.]

The next inkling I had that my pregnancy plans were going wrong was at the end of that first year of "trying" when one fine Saturday night I suddenly collapsed on my bathroom floor in the worst pain of my life. Less than 24 hours later I was on the operating table as 2 surgeons tried desperately to save my life. Apparently I had a belly full of gargantuan tumors - blood and gunk filled cysts, one of which had wrapped itself around my right ovary and fallopian tube CRUSHING them and cutting off the blood supply. One of the cysts had ruptured and the resulting toxic shock from a massive infection is what caused the pain that put me under the knife. I was also a mass of scar tissue, my uterus was glued to the wall of my abdomen and much of my lower organs were stuck together with adhesions and endometrial lesions were everywhere. I hadn't picked a new gynecologist since we had moved to the new house, so it was meant to be that one of the men who saved my life would become my new doctor. He brought me my surgical report when I had recovered from the anesthesia. He solemnly told me I was now sporting a 13 inch incision across my lower abdomen (a bikini cut, giggle snort) and apologized for having to open me so wide...he had to make room to remove the TUMOR THE SIZE OF A NERF FOOTBALL that was growing in my gut...along with 15 lbs of other gunk that was removed (worst diet plan EVER). He smiled and told me that I was the worst he had ever seen...a "trailer park after a tornado" is how he described it.

I listened with increasing dread as he described the condition of my right ovary (crushed and lifeless/removed), tubes (one crushed/removed, the other mildly damaged but might recover), left ovary (removed cysts and scar tissue, thinks it will be OK) and uterus (banged up but otherwise healthy looking from the outside). He smiled encouragingly and said even if my tube doesn't recover, as long as my left ovary was producing eggs there was something we could do to have a baby. I asked him to be honest about our chances and he said only time would tell. I was in shock and wouldn't come to terms with the news until long after I was home from the hospital. After 7 days in the hospital, the pain of recovery at home kept my mind pretty occupied. My abdominal muscles had been rendered useless and the pain of the huge incision trying to pull itself apart with every little move I made...well, I had a hard enough time just rolling over in bed. It was 8 months before I started to feel like I was almost back to normal. I never did come all the way back to how I was before the surgery. I suffered extensive nerve damage around my incision....I have no feeling from about 1/2 inch below my navel down to about a 1/2 inch above my pubic hair. I still can't do a sit-up to save my life. Oh and the prognosis from all of this? Yes indeedy I had Stage IV Endometriosis. The docs had removed all they could but the disease is incurable. It grows back over time. But Endo will be the topic of another post, another time.

Back to the plan! I could have a baby with one ovary, one tube and an OK uterus, right? We gave it another year...all the while doing mega research on infertility treatments. Hubby heard that the folks who lived across the street had conceived their baby using IVF. He asked the husband about it one fine day when they were out working on their yard. They went to the very hospital clinic that we had read so much about in our research and had pretty much decided on going to. We got a glowing recommendation from them (a plus). At the end of the year's time, we went to the clinic for our first consultation. A battery of tests were scheduled...shooting dye into my tube (hysterosalpingogram)...OUCH...filling my uterus full of fluid to check my lining...OUCH OUCH...exploratory laparoscopic surgery to see how much new damage the endo had caused...OUCH OUCH OUCH...and so it went...along with mondo amounts of blood tests and the dreaded (for hubby) sperm testing. That is actually a funny story...for another post.

He tested fine. I, on the other hand, had problems. Well, duh. Big surprise! I was now suffering from a condition known as "frozen pelvis". I had so much new scar tissue and adhesions that everything below my diaphragm was frozen in a huge webbed mass of tissue. They were unable to drain the fluid from my outrageously distended fallopian tube (it was block at both ends). Oh well...who need a tube when you are doing IVF? Not us! Plus side of frozen pelvis? My intestines were frozen in a favorable position...the years of horrible IBS I had suffered prior to my first surgery were a distant memory. Negative side? It was gonna hurt like HELL when those adhesions started snapping like millions of rubber bands as my soon-to-be-pregnant belly expanded. Oh well...the pain would all be worth it! The years of crying every time I saw a pregnant woman walking the halls at work, crying as friends had kids, crying at family showers, crying at TV ads for diapers (for pete's sake); it would all soon be a distant painful memory! After the shock of how much IVF would cost wore off, we very practically decided that we would make 2 attempts. If it didn't work, then we look at other options. The test for my uterus showed I had a small fibroid forming, but our new infertility specialist told us not to worry. It was "in the back and high up" so it shouldn't affect my ability to carry a child to term. This clinic had the best results in the state and they were one of the top 10 in the country - needless to say, our hopes were VERY high.

I won't go into the nitty-gritty of all the drugs we used, how many injections, etc. (if you are looking in to IVF and want details, drop me an email)…suffice it to say that I was a walking pin cushion on the worst emotional roller coaster ride of my life. The hormones were out of control! I honestly think I had a legally defendable defense for committing murder. I wisely chose this time to make a change in my career and I took a MUCH less stressful and demanding job assignment at my company. Who had time to stress over work? I had enough on my plate as it was. I no longer had the excessively long days with loads of overtime. I was leaving the house and coming home on a saner schedule. I was actually enjoying going to work each day (minus the frequent breakdowns from my hormones being all wacky).

The first round of IVF was a complete failure. In the middle of the cycle, our world renowned doctor decided to leave the clinic and start his own private practice. We were talked into staying with the clinic and a new doctor to finish out our cycle. It would be too disruptive to bail out at that point. We let my body recover for a while after the first round and wisely decided to follow our doctor to his new practice for round 2.

More tests were done in prep for round 2 where it was determined that my formerly small fibroid was now the size of a VW bug. Hmm - guess those shots had an adverse affect and caused a growth spurt - oh and P.S. they also made my Endometriosis grow back with a vengeance. I'm sorry Becky, your uterus is now compromised. It is unlikely you could carry a baby to term. I just wanted to curl up and die. Then he continued - But have you ever considered surrogacy? WELL! That opened a whole other can of worms for us. We had talked about how far was too far. We always thought doing the donor egg was going too far. If the child wasn't 100% genetically ours it wouldn't be fair to ME. If we were will to go that far, what was stopping us from adopting? My husband's Aunt had offered this sage bit of wisdom in the midst of our IVF trials and tribulations, "What do you really want, a baby or a pregnancy?" Well duh! We wanted a baby.

So in the end, someone else carried our baby. And everything has been near BLISS on the personal front since his birth. Tyler is perfection. We burned out my poor ovary with those two IVF cycles - so no going back to the well for the next baby (and I am currently experiencing the joys of early peri-menopause). Adoption is our path going forward. We are eagerly anticipating the future when Tyler will have a little sister to play with. I hope it's soon. The unemployment has put things on hold (no one will give us a baby if we have no source of income - go figure). So I return to the start of this lengthy post - Thanking my lucky stars for AOL. I still haven't made friends with the neighbors. My outlet is the large number of online buddies I have made through the Parenting Boards on AOL. I chat with some of them every day! They are my sounding board, my source for advice, a shoulder to cry on - you get the picture. AOL and the internet have been an amazing resource in our infertility and adoption research too. I could write a book! And I just might. I hope our unemployment situation changes soon. I hope I can post about our journey to adoption soon too. I hope I never have to experience the pain and emotionally draining circumstances of infertility ever again. I am putting it all behind me. But you know...they come out with new treatments and technology every day...

Wednesday, April 28, 2004

Unemployment

We used to be D.I.N.K.S (Dual Income, No Kids). Ah the good ole days...the mid-90s; flush with disposable income; buying power-moon-roof equipped, leather seated automobiles; vacations in Bermuda and Hawaii; big screen TV with Home Theater/Surround Sound...*sob* Now look at us. Stock portfolio worth nearly nil. Darling toddler to feed and cloth and GASP both of us are unemployed. From yuppie to Walmart shopper in 1 year. Oh the humanity!

I was on maternity leave from a major telecommunications company when the axe fell on my head. {cough AT&T cough cough} At the time I really thought it was a blessing in disguise. I had pretty much decided when my leave was up, I wasn't going back to work. The Stay-At-Home-Mommy gig was too good to give up! Plus why worry? We could live very comfortably on my husband's salary alone...right? I actually played a few of my old "mosh pit" standards and slammed till my ears bled...the joy! No more hour commute each way, no more early mornings, no more sitting in endless traffic. Life was sweet! And now I was eligible for unemployment benefits, a "pension enhancement" (woo frickin hoo) and special outplacement services to teach me how to interview in the "real" world. Suckers!!

Fast forward a year...HP announces layoffs. Crap! Hubby has managed to survive 2 corporate take-overs (DEC to Compaq and then HP), multiple layoffs, and they finally handed him his head on a platter. In his case, with 20 years of service at his back, his severance was significantly better than mine. We would have more than enough money to live on for a year. Woo hoo! He could find a job in a year no problem...right?

Fast forward another year...unemployment benefits have long since run out for both of us, the bank account has dwindled alarmingly, we are sifting through the tattered remains of our stock portfolio to see what we can unload (all at a loss, of course). Hubby is now seriously considering a career change to x-ray technician...or the wonderful world of Radio Shack or CompUSA (hey, at least they are hiring). How long before we have to dip into the retirement savings? How long will I have my broadband internet connection and digital cable TV? Wonder if anyone wants to buy my house full of hi-tech toys...perhaps on Ebay.

Monday, April 26, 2004

Education


No week's worth of journal entries is complete without the inclusion of a proud parent post. My boy is the cutest creature in all of Christendom (that is a completely biased opinion, of course).

We are going through the pains of picking a superior pre-school. We have slim-pickings in this rural suburb we call home. I am finding the available helpful articles (http://www.parentcenter.com/refcap/learning/schoolsuccess/41166.html) are not really all that helpful. Sometimes these parenting decisions just leave me paralyzed. Knowing that a choice we make could have life-long repercussions/consequences...daunting, to say the least.

Meanwhile, the object of my angst is running around in circles with an armload of matchbox cars yelling "Vroom Vroom! Race Cars! Vroom Vroom!" Ah the innocence of youth...

Journals

This new kind of journal writing is going to take some getting used to. I have always kept a notebook and pen next to my bed to record my thoughts, dreams, daily musings...to sit at the computer and do it still seems a little odd. I do post on a message board and in the beginning it felt like I was making an entry in my journal. Like I wasn't talking TOO anyone in particular. But then I got to know the ladies on the board and it was more like having a delayed conversation. Or writting a letter to a friend.

Writing a letter to a friend...I remember a writing class in college that told us to look at a journal assignment in this way. I guess to make the idea of writing in a journal each day less intimidating to the class. I could look at this journal in that way, I suppose. I know some of my friends may read this. If I am lucky, maybe some strangers will be interested too. If I am REALLY lucky, maybe a few of those strangers will become new friends. But knowing the way my mind works...it's more likely people will think I am weird. ;-)

Funny...most children's music doesn't seem to lend itself to concentrating on writing. Or doing most tasks that require brainpower, I am afraid. I'll have to come back to this later when my son is otherwise occupied.

Sunday, April 25, 2004

Faith


Did you ever feel like someone was trying to send you a message? Lately, I feel like everything I see on TV and everything I read is trying to tell me something. Duh! Of course they are telling me something. That is what books and TV do. But BEYOND the obvious. Underneath the surface...between the lines there is something else going on. A message is being sent that I have yet to fully receive and comprehend. Some of you reading this are already shaking your heads and deciding that I am just another kook on the net. No I do not hear voices in my head (just my own). No I don't think aliens are trying to contact me through my fillings. It's simply that I have been looking for something lately. There is a void in my life that I am just starting to notice. I guess I should start at the beginning.

I was raised Roman Catholic. Many painful experiences in my life lead me to question the purpose of organized religion; whether I was being told the whole truth, and whether the message I was receiving from the various priests and nuns I encountered in my lifetime was a "true" message. 1) Was I being taught the truth? 2) Or merely a watered down, biased and flawed version of truth. It didn't take long before I decided on the second of those two statements. I have seen nothing but continual proof of that fact in the 20 or so years since the time I first began questioning what I was hearing and learning.

"Ah", you say. "Another disgruntled Roman Catholic. One too many priests indicted for pedophilia or murder to suit your tastes?" No. Recent events in the church don't leave a very good taste in my mouth. But I have never believed in the "divinity" of the clergy. My parents always seemed to think that if you had "the calling" that somehow made you special. Closer to God, more holy, flawless and above petty human desires and needs...yeah, they really believe that! I, on the other hand, knew that priests and nuns were just men and women in not so attractive outfits with too much authority and an overly inflated sense of self-importance. Ouch! Blasphemy!

Let me pause and remind you that I am just words on a screen. Reading my thoughts will not send you to hell. These are the opinions and thoughts of one reasonably average american who reads a lot, sees a ton of movies and watches TV way more than is considered healthy. I am not a servant of satan, I do not seek to destroy the sanctity of the Catholic church and I am not looking to start my own cult or religion...yet.

To continue with a really lame cliché...I am on a journey of self-discovery. (Oh man, that looks worse on screen than it sounded in my head.) I have told a few people close to me that I am a seeker. Once again, there is something missing in my life and I am looking for it. I think that something has to do with faith, hope or religion. I need to find a faith or congregation of like-minded people to share my thoughts and feelings, talk about the odd things that I realized and think about, and get some unbiased feedback! I don't want the Bible shoved down my throat each week. (Yes, I have read it. Cover to cover, in fact. It's a book. I read books. It's one of the things I do very well.)

So back to the message. God is love and free-will is at work in all our lives. There you go. OK, it's not as simple as that. I can boil it down to that one line pretty easily, but there is WAY more to it. If you believe in pre-destination, I believe you are on the wrong path. God has no "plan" for you. There is nothing you were "meant to do" in this life. Your life is a gift and what you do with that gift is up to YOU. Hence the free-will part of the equation. The love part is what we all need to work on. The message I keep getting is to look behind the lines...in the Bible, in books, movies, TV and see the real inspiration. See that we are all missing the boat by taking things at face-value. There is a deeper truth. I want to stop wasting my life by trying to be and do those things I have been "trained" to do by my parents, church and past history. I want to stop and just enjoy the time I have. Do the things that give me real joy in life...read, watch TV, write, talk with friends, play with my son, love my Husband...and stop stressing over the less than perfect. I need to have faith in ME. And I need to share that faith and love with others. Too much time is being wasted on the meaningless. We have heard it all before. Stop and smell the roses, life is too short, ... you know the rest.

I think I have said enough here. I am still seeking. I know what I DON'T want, and that is a big step forward. Now I just have to find what I DO want. I'll know it when I see it. And I will keep you posted.

Thursday, April 22, 2004

Suicide


Never thought I would begin my first online journal with such a somber subject. But my mind comes here sometimes. A scent...something I hear or read...eating a particular food... Tonight it was a movie. I watched and the tears came and haven't stopped. My inner voice is talking to me as I sit here and type. "She was only a friend. It's been..." I have to stop and count the years on my fingers -14 years? Can that be right? "You should have moved past this by now? What's wrong with you? Why can't you just live your life and be happy? Why do you wallow in depression, guilt...you're pathetic. Up in the middle of the night feeling sorry for yourself...that's all this is." My inner voice isn't very sympathetic.

She was the best friend I have ever had. Closer to me than a sister would be. Closer than anyone before...maybe even closer than my loving husband is to me. I call HIM my best friend...now. I read somewhere that the best friends you will ever have in life are made in school. Elementary, high school, college... once your life begins for real - the opportunities to make new friends are just no longer there. Or so I read. I believed that for a long time. My best-friend-making days are long over. I do have a couple new friends. I make new ones now and then. But the friendships have yet to last. Things in their life change and suddenly being my friend is no longer a priority. I am not that important. "There you go sounding all pathetic and whiney again."

Yeah - well I really need a new best friend. One just like SHE was. I could tell her anything. We did everything together, went everywhere, talked on the phone when being together in person wasn't possible. We raised a few eyebrows. Even our own mothers were suspicious of how close we were. They were jealous. They had to make our friendship into a perverted sex thing. My mom thought it was HER. She had the unnatural attachment to me. Her mom thought it was ME. Corrupting her sweet/pure daughter and turning her against her own family. She was being smothered in that house. If only they taught her how to rely on HERSELF and not everyone around her. But I can't start blaming them. Or her. Or me? Me. How could I have done things differently? "Oh sure...just a nice way of saying WHAT IF. There is no WHAT IF. Only WHAT IS and WHAT WAS."

She was only 22. Neverhad a real boyfriend. I set her up on her one and only date. I found him in an online singles BBS. AOL didn't exist yet. She fell for him instantly. He ended up falling for ME! So twisted. And just more fuel for her endless depressive self-defeatest attitude. So fragile. She could be so strong, brave and independent one minute. And then again, so clingy, helpless, afraid and hopeless. No self-confidence. She was tall, well proportioned...not fat, but sturdy. Thick chestnut red/brown hair, ocean blue eyes, freckles - porcelain complexion. Peaches and cream. She swore by Ivory soap. That made me smile. I had forgotten that. I have forgotten so much.

Memories that come to mind: her riding on the roof rack of my crappy blue hatchback after we had a fight. She wouldn't get in the car until I forgave her. She was trying to make me laugh. It worked. She didn't think I would drive away with her up there. It's a miracle I didn't get pulled over and arrested. Her meeting my first real boyfriend...and hating him instantly. She was a good judge of character. He was a psychopath. But a sweet and sensitive psychopath. Why was I the only one who could see that in him? Ha. Her getting SO angry with me because I went to see the movie Beaches with another friend before I went with her. It was advertised as the "movie you see with your best friend". So she naturally assumed...I was such a bitch that weekend. Her turning down an offer from her Aunt to pay for her dorm room and board at college. She wouldn't take charity from family. She would live at home and commute. She should have gotten the hell OUT of that house! She needed her own life...to grow up and become independent, self-sufficient, strong enough to survive.

A week before her birthday...the call at work. She wanted to have lunch with me. Needed to talk. Having a hard time with her school and making enough money for her tuition. I was working in a great job in the worst work environment in history...back-stabbing, gossip, sexual harassment...I was so stressed and distracted. No time for her. No time to listen to her whine AGAIN about the damn tuition. About how her family couldn't afford the money. About not having met HIM yet. She wanted a boyfriend so badly. I couldn't do it. I snapped at her. Too busy! No. Don't come here. No. I can't go there. No! I will see you later...LATER! Good bye!

The phone call. Her mother asked for my boss. Asked him to bring me into his office. In private...he hands me the phone. my friend is dead. What kind of woman thinks of my privacy at a time like that? On a day like that? So calm. I was not. Couldn't think. Couldn't breath.
Her clothes laid out neatly on the bed. She is dead on the floor of her tiny pink bedroom with the shitty blue carpet. Her little brother finds her there after he comes home from school. Walked all the way home. Sister wasn't there to pick him up at the bus stop. He found her there. Alone in the house. I didn't come over for lunch. She's gone now.

A week after the funeral her mother calls me. Come over for dinner. Shows me her room. Not her room. Now her brother's room. New carpet...paint...where are her things? Gone. Spare room has her furniture...but not HER. Her things. All gone. Given away to strangers. What's left for me? Her letters? She kept EVERYTHING I ever sent her, gave her, loaned her. Gone. All gone. No pictures of her anywhere. Gone. She has been erased. Her mother hands me an envelope full of photos and negatives. None of her. Some of them are of my new apartment...so her mom thought I would want them. The rest were for her photography class. And a coupon for pizza. From her car glovebox. I could use that, couldn't I? Bye bye now. Keep in touch. Don't ever come back. She isn't there. Never will be again.

Did she leave anything for me? She was a letter writer. Wrote diaries. If she were going to kill herself, there would be a NOTE. There would be SOMETHING. Say goodbye! SAY GOODBYE! Don't leave me like that!!

Nothing left. All gone. Erased. Nothing left of her. So generous. She would give you her last dime and shirt off her back. She gave it all away. Her organs, her eyes, her skin...nothing left. So many saved. I can take solace in that, can't I? Doesn't that make me feel better? No. Her mom had to have something to bury. What was left? Her head and her hands...and an ugly dress stuffed with god-knows-what. She would be so angry. Never wore dresses or skirts. JEANS! Where are her favorite jeans? Her peach shirt that made her skin glow like she was lit from within? Given away to strangers. She never wore makeup. Who WAS that in the coffin??? I don't know that girl.

Fast forward 2 years. I am getting married. She knew him. Thank god he got to meet her and know her. She was to be my maid-of-honor. She saw my ring. She was so happy for me. So sad for her. She knew I would leave her and move to his home state. She was right. Time to throw my bouquet...I throw a different one. Left over from the cousin who let me down. The flowers I carried down the isle - my peach roses. They are for her. They were always meant for her. The peach dresses my bridesmaids wore...her color. I give my precious and beautiful bouquet to my other school chums. They knew her too. But not as well as I. No problem. They will make sure she gets her flowers. They take my bouquet for me and place it safely on her grave.

Good bye Kathleen. I'll love you forever.