Alrighty so a lot has happened since the last time I wrote. Impossible to try and recap. Buuuuut it’s all been good. Really, really effin’ good. I mean, no, I haven’t started farting gum drops and dolla bills (would that I could) but life has calmed the eff down while also speeding the eff up – only this time it’s actually gone in the general direction I’d always been hoping for! Most days I feel like I can breathe again and the sweetness…. Oh the sweetness. Life is bittersweet(er) now. Instead of just bitter. I no longer feel like I’m trapped in a waiting room. And I no longer feel as if I am trying to keep it all together with a baby I desperately wanted, while existing on .25 hours of sleep a day.
Although, I am crazy enough to be transferring in an embryo to start all the newborn craziness over again! Yeeesh. I miss you already sleep. SO MUCH. BYE SLEEP. YOU WERE GREAT SLEEP. THANK YOU FOR BEING IN MY LIFE SLEEP.
Ok, so you didn’t stop by to hear me wax poetic about sleep. You want the goods. I wanna give you the goods. But I also want to share a tiny bit of info that maybe, hopefully can help another one of us struggling with this crazy town we call infertility….
So like I said, I’m putting another little embaby in the old oven. Yeay. Tomorrow. Sometime around 11 or something. I forget. WHICH NEVER WOULD HAVE HAPPENED PRE SMOOCHIE. I would have had a giant red circle around the date on my calendar, alarms and reminders up the wazoo. Now, I have a toddler (we still call him Smoochie, Smooch or Smoosh-a-roosh) tearing up my house and leaving a goldfish trail and a strange, sticky substance of indeterminate origin on everything he touches. And work and dogs, intermittent attempts at fitness, friends, books, DH and really fast growing cuticles that I can’t seem to stay on top of anymore…. But mostly I have a toddler and for that I am so grateful, so changed, so released from the grind of IF that although I will be hurt and sad if this transfer doesn’t stick… I won’t come undone.
And no, this is not a douche bag post by someone on the other side, rubbing it in to say that life is PURRRFECT post baby. I’m saying what we all suspect – when you’re struggling for years for one baby, you change A LOT. And when you add in losses you change A LOT. And, and, I’m just gonna go ahead and say it – but for me, I came undone.
There you go.
Specifically, the things I want to share apply to anyone who has experienced trauma before they even started down the road of IF/IVF/multiple pregnancy loss, or who find themselves experiencing a lot of shame around this process.
If that doesn’t apply to you, this post might still be interesting though perhaps not as helpful.
If it does apply to you, I really, really hope my sharing gives you a little bit of comfort to you know you’re not alone and you’re not “weaker’ than other IVFers. You are just coming from a different place. And don’t worry, getting re-traumatized by IF does not mean you’ll be a shitty mother or if you decide to stop because it’s not working, a bitter, childless bitch. Quite the opposite. Get the help you need and I promise life on the other side, whatever that other side is, will be all the more beautiful because of what you will learn about yourself and the world.
I had a dysfunctional childhood and in early adulthood I got counselling and I adulted real good with my updated tools for about a decade. I dealt with as much of my loss, sadness and sense of being alone and unmoored in the world – and often extremely overwhelmed by said world – as I could. The rest I shoved in a box labelled “deal with me later.” I figured I’d be one of those women who’d go back into counselling in her late 40’s and have an Oprah style re-invigoration. I wanted to be ‘normal’ for a while and goddamnit, I wasn’t gonna let some problems getting pregnant stop me!
But then they dragged on and on and there were surgeries, pregnancy losses, IVF, blah blah blah! UGH. And all that undealt with shit just started leaking out from the corners of the box. And for some reason I was dead set on not addressing all that and going “nah nah I don’t see you!!!” and IVFing like my life depended on it.
But there it was – and now it wasn’t just a fucked up childhood, dead parents, estranged sister and too much drinking. It was all that, IVF, pregnancy loss and a sense of grief and a loss of resilience that made me feel like I was losing my damn mind.
And the worst part was? How I talked to myself. How little compassion I had. My inner alter ego is a drill sergeant and he was always shouting: SHUT UP ALREADY WITH YOUR WHINING ABOUT YOUR SHITTY CHILDHOOD, YOU WENT TO COUNSELLING, YOU’RE FINE!! AND IF YOU DON’T STOP BEING MASSIVELY DEPRESSED AFTER THESE PREGNANCY LOSSES PEOPLE WILL THINK YOU’RE UNFIT FOR A BABY, SO STOP FEELING SAD!!!! GO FOR A RUN AND BE NORMAL!!!!!!”
Very helpful amiright?
So that’s the first thing I wanted to share. If you feel like you’re going crazy and you’re judging yourself for it, doubting your ‘worthiness’ because this is grinding you down, please hear me: this shit is crazy making. It’s not you, it’s infertility. It hurts. You’re not a pussy. It’s hard. That’s why there’s thousands of women blogging. They’re trying to process the unprocessable. And if you add in any trauma from your past and any mental health issues like anxiety or depression, holy shit — you have a perfect storm for feeling like life just kicked you in the ass.
Cuz it did.
I think counselling during IF is good. But I also think if you’re anything like me, when you’re in the thick of trauma, it’s hard to receive the help.
I liken IF to being in jail.
In my regular life, I wouldn’t shiv anyone or barter cigarrettes to buy off gangs so I won’t get a beat down. (My version of prison is very OZ). I have the luxury in non-prison life of conducting myself with as much grace and integrity as I can muster. I can shield myself from uncomfortable situations and safely decompress or isolate, or whatever. In prison, you’re basically in a human cesspool of sadness, powerlessness and rage. Your every move is monitored, the guards are there to keep everyone from killing each other and all the other inmates are a danger until proven otherwise, and even then… who knows.
How can you be your best self in prison? I guess some people could. But I’m not that person. I would do what I had to do to survive with as little damage to myself and others – knowing damage would be done regardless. It would be a minimization and “just get through this” strategy.
And when I’m the thick of it, just surviving, the finer details tend to get lost and the higher level emotional processing is stalled. That is a biological fact. And if you experienced trauma in the past – your brain is already wired to ramp up into a traumatic loop/protection cycle and so good luck getting and staying grounded during highly stressful ongoing periods like multiple losses or a divorce.
Can it be done?
IMHO, debateable, depending on the level of past trauma, resources for help and length of current trauma. Eg if you’re “only” in IF hell for a year, sure.
That’s gonna be some $$$ counselling.
So I share that because now I have the hindsight to see that while counselling was good during the thick of IVF, it also couldn’t get through my tightly bound survival walls.
And again, hindsight, I heard that from a lot of other women on the other side after a few years. Like me, they felt like they were going slowly insane, tried to get help but because the trauma continued until they had children or stopped, nothing really ‘helped’ until they were on the other side, whatever side that ended up being.
(Let’s not even get into the whole part about how in many ways, this is “self-inflicted” trauma, in that we could ostensibly stop at any time but feel driven to continue until there’s a conclusion – cause that’s a whole other ball of wax.)
So if that’s ringing bells for you – just know you’re not alone. (But still keep getting help! It lightens the load as much as you can let it and makes it easier to reach out later, when it’s safe to deal.)
The other thing I wanted to share is around hormones. So, tomorrow is transfer day and prior to that, as with all my FETs, I start estrace two weeks before, promethium a week after that, and medrol.
My history is that I got pregnant but lost several pregnancies before Smoochie, who came to us by embryo donation, and ‘stuck’. So I have done about 9 FETs.
Before I had the experience of carrying a baby to term, ye old drill sergeant would have a field day with me for conversations like these:
Me: oooh it’s one day post transfer, I really FEEL pregnant this time!!!
Drill Sergeant: STFU, you’re not supposed to be obsessing and you can’t feel pregnant this early on. STOP IT. You are ridiculous. No wonder you keep getting depressed, you have got to start managing your expectations better and stop being so emotional. You have to grow up.
Sigh. First off, again, I would never talk to a friend that way, so talking to myself that way? Not helpful. (sorry me!!!) But that aside, actually drill sergeant you were wrong.
HAHAHAHA. Take that!!
Because as I can now attest, having successfully carried a child: those meds DO MIMIC PREGNANCY VERY ACCURATELY.
How you feel on estrace and progesterone – sometimes before you even transfer? Yes, that is how you feel in a normal early pregnancy. You are not crazy. I was not crazy. I always feel heavy and achey and twingey in my uterus. The hormones are supposed to mimic the hormonal conditions of pregnancy. I know we all know that cognitively, but for all the people like me, who felt unhinged and excited, scared and uber hopeful during the tww – and embarrassed at how much they felt all that, let me repeat: those drugs are supposed to create the same hormonal conditions as pregnancy.
So even though your head KNOWS you’re not pregnant, or not yet, or might never be and therefore getting your hopes up seems crazy; some primal part of your body recognizes these hormones for what they are: the start of life.
I always felt secretly ashamed of myself for not ‘managing’ my expectations better. I was an early tester and I always had hunches – most of my hunches we were right, btw. I’m a feeler. I walk into a room and I can tell who’s arguing, who’s happy, who’s got a secret etc – just by feeling the space. My body has always had it’s own sixth sense about many things and I spend most of life poo-pooing that.
Well, not anymore, and this time around, with actual pregnancy under my belt, I have so much fucking sympathy for past me, that I am bursting with a need to go back in time and give me a hug. Since I can’t do that, I will pay it forward by repeating loud and clear: You are not crazy for feeling that way on your TWW, you’re body is supposed to feel that way and if you’re the kind of person who’s super in tune with your body – how could that not be a confusing ninja mind fuck – especially when there’s a couple thousand bucks and a heart filled with love for the family you are dying to create mixed into the stew!!??!?!
I used to read forums and stuff with posts written by these super militant women who didn’t test until beta, put the TWW out of their heads completely, etc etc and chastised anyone who didn’t act like them.
Well fuck that.
I can’t relate. Because I was was and am excited like crazy during every two week window! That might be a baby in there. My forever baby! But I’m also terrified because the worst has happened, many times. And I’ve lost babies. So damn right I’m a crazy person, peeing on sticks and making charts, yes, charts, of pee sticks. And damn straight girl friend is not able to “manage” herself down to a mild interest in the whole thing. For me, it was life and death. Family or no family. How I could I not invest every fibre of my being?
So you do you.
And if you’re like me, an over-feeler, an over-thinker a ‘too-mucher” with no off switch, I give you permission to dive in. You’re going to dive in anyway if that’s how you’re wired, why not do it without shame?
If it helps, think of yourself as preggers. Don’t clean out the cat box. Avoid processed lunch meat. Test every day. Day dream and Pinterest to your hearts’ content. Just don’t feel bad about it. Don’t second guess it. Give yourself, unlike me, permission to feel all the feels. If it helps to remember that the drugs are mimicking pregnancy and you’d rather try and remain grounded, than cool. But if you do get swept up in it, and you do get a BFN or have a loss, don’t make yourself ‘pay’ for it by attacking your joy and excitement for feeling pregnant during that TWW. You did not cause anything bad to happen by embracing naive excitement and you do not need to ‘punish’ yourself after.
You have every right to feel that way and indeed, again, as far as your body knows, you are in the early stages of pregnancy. AKA: you’re not crazy for losing control during the tww and peeing on all the sticks. You are very, very normal.
(Or you are totally crazy but in good company!)