How Does the Fox Feel?

January 7, 2015

I’ve been having a rough time of late. I had thought it was just the New Year and its endless onslaught of articles and proclamations about this year will be better and if you just do X, Y & Z – or STOP doing X, Y & Z – then you will be happier.

Well, we’re a week out and I’m thinking it’s more than that.

I’ve been reliving my ectopic #1 hell. More or less in real time (Sep – Feb). September and October weren’t any worse than other years but it kicked into high gear in November.

I believe this is largely for two reasons:

    1. TimeHop. Yes, I know I should just delete this horrible app that is a constant reminder of the loss and grief I was suffering 4 years ago. At least once a week I get the reminder that I was going for betas All.The.Goddamn.Time. You know why that is? Because at this time 4 years ago I as going for weekly betas. At this time 4 years ago my betas were all <50. And yet I still had to go for them and STILL ended up needing more methotrexate. It was a super dark time and I could barely function. Beta didn’t reach <5 until February. So I’ve got a few more weeks of this. At this point I feel I need to see this through to February. And THEN I will delete or mute TimeHop.  But, while TimeHop is a punk ass bitch for reminding me, I don’t really need the reminder to relive it all – it happens all the time, just usually it’s more compacted and less drawn out over time. The fact is I’m just not over it. Or past it. Or even through it. I still feel broken. And occasionally, like now, fragile. That’s pronounced frah-gee-lay by the way. It’s Italian. Look it up.

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  1. The contest I judged. I think this one may be more to blame than TimeHop, honestly. I’m still processing the emotional fallout from it (I haven’t even talked to my therapist about it yet since the drama of Xmas came first and I had to cancel on her just to judge the contest in the first place). When I agreed to judge the Sher I Believe contest I knew that there was going to be someone there making a documentary and I’d need to consent (or not) to being filmed. What I *didn’t* expect was that we’d all go around and tell our respective stories in front of that camera. I seriously doubt I’ll make the cut in the final documentary since the focus of the documentary is the 2013 contest. This is just some follow up footage, the majority of which will probably not be used. I write freely here in this space about my experiences. But you can’t see me while I type. So being filmed was…new/odd/interesting/more difficult/uncomfortable? As I said wrote, I’m still processing all of this so I’m not sure exactly how I feel about it. I just know that there were several elements of judging that contest that were difficult and one of them was telling my story on camera. Although… funny story…while telling my story (I went last) I felt like it was getting too long and I somehow completely skipped over my hysterectomy and endometriosis excision and jumped straight from surrogacy (which I only glossed over) to adoption. …Aaand this is why I need to blog more. Just typing out that sentence made me realize WHY I forgot to mention the surgery. In all candidness, I did truly forget in the moment. But I think it was because the looks on the faces surrounding me were too sad. I think I wanted to spare them all the sad. I have to live it. You don’t. Seeing people react with sadness to my words made me want to stop saying them. I write here to help me process. Not for sympathy or pity. Also, I do not like being the center or focus of attention. I know everyone thinks bloggers are narcissistic assholes but really, I can’t stand it. However, here on this blog, just like you can’t see me writing, or crying as I type, I can’t see your face while you’re reading. If I could…I’d probably just shut up. I mean…why do you think I always insert a joke when things get serious? When I do tell it in person, I usually require that everyone have a drink in hand. Preferably two. And yes, buy me one too, please. Or two. It’s a double fisted drink kind of story. So yeah, telling it, in person, on camera and without drinks…? Well…that’s why I brought chocolate.

So add on top of these two triggers that Xmas was a bit stressful and drama-llama-full, New Years proclamations irk me to no end and our adoption paperwork is STILL on hold and the Fox is just a bit – OK a lot – out of sorts.

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October

October 7, 2014

Honestly, this year I really wanted to sit around and watch horror movies and ignore October as the Pregnancy & Infant Loss Awareness month (day?). But the movement seems to have grown. Or I’ve just managed to find more members of my tribe. And so it’s become even harder to ignore.

But there’s this familiar feeling of not belonging that comes with October and miscarriage, stillbirth and infant loss awareness. I know people consider ectopic pregnancy as part of this remembrance – even if it’s not specifically listed – but I still feel different. I’ve never had a miscarriage so I can’t truly compare the two experiences. But those who have experienced both tell me that their ectopic experience was, in fact, different.

I recently had to talk a friend through an ectopic scare. Her situation pretty much screamed ectopic but turned out to be a miscarriage. Her second. But the days and weeks she spent not knowing whether the life inside her was trying to kill her…it seemed to change her. She experienced a much more complex spectrum of emotions. Which makes me feel a bit vindicated in thinking that they are, in fact, different experiences. I won’t try to argue that one is worse than the other – a loss is a loss is a loss – but I will argue that the complexity of emotions that come with an ectopic pregnancy are inherently different. And, well…more complex.

In addition to feeling like more people are sharing their stories this year, I also feel like they are sharing more blog posts and articles about the topic. Some of them are How To Support Your Friend Through A Miscarriage/Stillbrith/Infant Loss. Most of them talk about how important it is to name your lost ‘children.’

Yes, I put ‘children’ in quotes. That’s my way of distancing myself from my losses because they were so early. I did not lose children. I lost embryos/fetuses. It’s a distinction that I make because it helps me. What you do for your own situation is fine with me. But this post is (mostly) about my losses and in general I’m writing about early miscarriages and ectopic pregnancies, not stillbirth or infant loss. So, no, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with people naming their lost ‘children.’ Regardless of how early the loss was.

But I won’t – I can’t – name mine.

First, I have no idea what gender my three were. Sure I could assign gender neutral names or just pick arbitrarily. But I prefer not to.

Second, not only do I have no idea of gender I also never met my little ones. I never saw a heartbeat. I never saw a blob on an ultrasound that looked like an alien. OK, so there was a blurry blob of some kind with my second ectopic but it didn’t look like anything and the docs could barely tell it was there. The docs only thought it was my pregnancy because they didn’t see it elsewhere. Ectopics don’t typically show that well on imaging. My little ones never had proper room to grow. They didn’t develop normally. There was nothing to see even if the ultrasound could find them. It’s doubtful that any of them developed a heart to beat.

Third, despite never being technically alive (by definition of a heart beating), THEY STILL TRIED TO KILL ME.

And now we arrive at the crux of the complexity. This life, that may or not be actual life as defined by heartbeat, but most certainly is a blob of cells that are dividing and growing, became a danger to my own. This life, this life inside me that I desperately wanted, would have killed me without medical intervention.

And just for shits and giggles, let’s pare this down to just my first ectopic pregnancy. The one where I had to REPEATEDLY try to kill the two…life forces(?) growing inside me that did not want to go quietly. Five months. I battled them for 5 months. Every single shot of methotrexate I received felt like an abortion. Like I was killing them all over again (and I basically was). But they didn’t want to die. I loved them. But had to repeatedly kill them. Even if you weren’t the horror movie buff that I am I think you can easily see the comparison. If not, let me just spell it out for you:

You repeatedly shoot your kid-turned-zombie until you finally realize that a head shot is what it takes. Or maybe you’re just a really bad shot. Or too grief stricken to aim properly. Except you don’t actually have any memories of your kid from before she was a zombie. THAT.

So, no, I don’t want to name them.

I respect your decision if you choose to. But I just…can’t.

It’s so much easier to kill someone or something when they don’t have a name.

So while it absolutely is a loss…it is also something else. And that…something else is simply not capturer on October 15th. At least, not for me.

My feathers are ruffled. Earlier today, I read this: http://www.nbcnews.com/health/womens-health/hidden-dangers-miscarriages-scar-would-be-moms-n212646

I came across it on Facebook after Resolve posted it and several friends shared it. I applaud the message. I think it’s important for people to understand that pregnancy can be dangerous. It’s one of my core beliefs in being Pro-Choice that women should not be forced to continue any pregnancy because pregnancy can be dangerous and traumatic.

But it does a disservice to awareness to convey incorrect medical information. How can we expect people to understand and believe these dangers are real when the ‘experts’ can’t properly define them?

A woman characterized as a “professor of obstetrics and gynecology at Brown University and a maternal-fetal specialist” was quoted as saying “Most typically, in an ectopic pregnancy (when the egg is fertilized in the fallopian tubes), the fetus can’t can’t grow before bursting.”

Sigh. Where to begin?

Perhaps with a lesson in normal pregnancy. Let’s go back to the birds and the bees, shall we?

In a normal pregnancy the ovary releases an egg into the fallopian tube. Sperm must find that egg IN THE TUBE within about 24 hours in order to fertilize it. It then takes 5-7 days for the fertilized egg (often referred to as an embryo at this stage) to travel down the tube and arrive in the uterus. If all goes well, the embryo will ‘hatch’ and implant itself in the uterine lining inside the uterine cavity and grow for approximately 9 months.

So. As you can see…fertilization of the egg is SUPPOSED TO HAPPEN IN THE TUBE. That is not abnormal or ectopic. By this ‘expert’ definition all normal pregnancies are ectopic.

WTF!?!?
I can only hope NBC misquoted her.

So what *is* an ectopic pregnancy?

An ectopic pregnancy occurs when an embryo (regardless of where it was fertilized – fallopian tube or petri dish for IVF) implants somewhere other than the uterine lining inside the uterine cavity. Most commonly the location is the fallopian tube but it can occur in other locations – including the uterus. Some ectopic pregnancies occur in or on the cervix or in the uterus but too close to the fallopian tube (interstitial or cornual – the 2nd most common type of ectopic pregnancy). Or, in my case, inside the uterine wall (intramural). Which is why I always teach that ectopic pregnancies occur in a location other than in the lining inside the uterine cavity. They can also occur in or on the ovary or in the abdomen, completely outside the reproductive system.

Point being this: ectopic pregnancy has nothing to do with where the egg was fertilized. It is about where the resulting embryo implants (which is also why I have an issue with saying a doctor implants an embryo via IVF but that’s another issue).

I have seen doctors and lay people alike use the words tubal and ectopic interchangeably because tubal ectopics are the most common type of ectopic pregnancy. Being most common does not mean the same. Here’s a handy Venn diagram in case you’re confused.

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Note: While I tried to make these representative of real life proportions, I did not measure them to scale. Nor do they represent an exhaustive list of types of pregnancies. They serve the specific purpose of this post.

If you find anything incorrect here please correct me. My goal is to be accurate without being overly technical. As such, some details have been purposefully sacrificed. If you take issue with that, just let me know and I’ll find a way to be more inclusive of all information.

Zanniversary

September 18, 2014

Every year I try to reclaim Right Guy’s birthday. And every year I fail.

I suppose I’m making progress. Although we rarely end up celebrating his birthday on the actual day. And, frankly, that helps.

For those who are just tuning in, four years ago I thought he was going to get to see our first child on ultrasound on his birthday. I thought it was going to be the most awesome gift EVAR and the best birthday of his life. Instead we got empty imaging and a trip to the ER followed by emergency surgery and a 10 day hospital stay for me.

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I give THE BEST gifts.

And it’s the gift that keeps on giving. At least to me. Although I’m sure he hasn’t forgotten about it I don’t think he relives it every year like I do.

So, yeah… the anniversary of the diagnosis that led to me fighting the zombabies for five months is upon us. Or rather, upon me.

It’s only upon you if you choose to click all the links. Some of those posts are a little…dark.

Holy Triggers Batman

April 7, 2014

What a truly bizarre two week wait.

I expected some of this. But not all of it.

I know how I felt during my FET.  It was WAY WORSE than I imagined it would be (even though I didn’t write about it all until later).  I thought that this time, since it’s not my body, it would be easier. And it is. At least in the fact that I’m not worried for my physical self. I thought I might be worried for B’s physical self.  But I’m not. Not yet, anyway.

What is happening is that I’m reliving the 2ww from my IVF (PTSD much?). My first injectibles cycle.  The one I postponed because Pops was in the hospital.  And then he landed in the ER at 4dp3dt. Which was yesterday for this surro FET cycle. He recovered fairly quickly from that ER visit.  Thankfully, he was at home doing fairly well by the time I landed in the hospital a month later.

And of course his cancer came back while I was still recovering from that pregnancy. And then he died.  And then I was cleared for FET.

And now my almost 16 year old hyperthyroid renally challenged kitty seems to be boycotting both food and the litterbox.

So.

The two week wait.  Pregnancy.

They STILL equate – in my brain – to death and dying. Even when it’s not my body.

So yeah.  This is tons of fun.

NOT.

It is a truly bizarre thought process.  My headshrinker says it’s completely normal. Memories are stored chronologically and when you access one you tend to get all the ones around it. Particularly if they are traumatic. So apparently I am not a raging lunatic for equating pregnancy (or even potential pregnancy) with death.

A negative beta will end it most likely as that will be a different outcome from the past. 

A positive beta (or home pregnancy test) will likely keep the triggers coming for a few more weeks.  This is not about the outcome of this surro FET cycle.  I mean, it partly is but it’s about so much more.

I should have seen this coming.  I suppose I did to a certain extent. But it’s proving to be far more powerful than I anticipated.

At least I’m not having panic attacks. I am not literally terrified like I was last time.  I just can’t stop the emotions from coming. Instead of abject terror engulfing me I’m staring at a tidal wave of grief. Preferable, yes. But still quite large and consuming.
 
I miss my Dad. I want to talk to him. I want to cuddle my sick kitty but she won’t let me.
 
I will be OK.  I always am. But this is going to be rougher than I anticipated. But also, once again, reaffirms that those embryos are way better off with B right now.

The New Math of Loss

March 30, 2014

You may recall that last Fall submissions were being taken for a book about miscarriage. I mentioned it here. After the movie Return To Zero came out they decided to do a book – an anthology of stories of love and loss to raise awareness.

Well that book, Three Minus One, is now out. My submission was not chosen to be in it. But someone I know on Twitter is in it. Both her Twitter and her blog are private so I won’t link here but I do want to give a big shout out to Lauren! So proud of you! Congrats!

Three Minus One book cover

I had hoped to be a part of this since I still struggle so much with my first pregnancy. But I don’t think the world at large is ready for the darkness that was the Zombabies. Nobody wants to hear about how hard it was to kill your much wanted babies over and over again. I’ve been thinking about them a lot lately as we get closer and closer to SurroFET. I worry that these last two embryos, the rejects of the crop, will not take. And then all my babes will be gone. And then I think about the first two. I think about how beautiful the RE said they were. I think about how hard they fought me to stay alive. And I hope their siblings are just as strong… but with a better sense of direction.

[Also, why are embryo GPSs still not a thing?!]

It’s never been Three Minus One for us. It’s been 2 + 6 -2 -1 -1 = 2. Soon we will find out the end of that equation. Will we be three? Or four? Or will the Six Return to Zero leaving us as two?

Facts About Pregnancy

December 8, 2013

The recent Facebook and blog fad of posting facts about your pregnancy experience really rankled me. In part because I felt like I was being excluded from playing a game. Even though I really didn’t care that much about playing it. Tell me I can’t do something and I will respond in predictable fashion by wanting nothing more than to prove you wrong.

Tell me I can’t have a biological child and I seek fertility treatments. Which is how I landed in this mess to begin with. And so I posted my own 12 Facts About My [Ectopic] Pregnancy.

But the other reason that this fad got under my skin is the lack of general knowledge about the dangers of pregnancy. Please don’t misunderstand, my goal here is not to scare the proverbial crap out of fertile women everywhere. Being blissfully unaware of how pregnancy can go horribly wrong is a state of innocence that I envy.

However.

There are consequences to this innocence. General ignorance about pregnancy and reproduction cause fucktard comments like this one: Legitimate rape doesn’t cause pregnancy. The idea that life begins at conception, aka the Personhood movement, could not take hold as well if more people knew that 25+% of pregnancies end in miscarriage and if more people knew IVF success rates. Not every embryo has what it takes to become a baby on the outside. Not every womb is capable of properly growing a baby. And these things are widely misunderstood as pointed out in this HuffPo article.

Basically this silly fad bugs me not just because it makes me feel left out but because it perpetuates the myth that the worst things that can happen during pregnancy are swollen feet and horrendous heartburn. And maybe you’ll hear about bed rest. But only if it ended well.

So, without further ado, here are some pregnancy facts.

  • A fertile couple has a 25% chance of becoming pregnant each month if not using protection. It’s actually pretty surprising that some people manage to do it so easily.
  • Miscarriage Rates: Although exact numbers are impossible to compute since many pregnancies miscarry before the mother even knows she’s pregnant it is estimated that 15-25% of (and possibly more) pregnancies end in miscarriage (I’ve seen multiple numbers cited). This article indicates that as many as HALF of all fertilized eggs die (before implantation) or miscarry (aka spontaneously abort).
  • Ectopic Pregnancy: Ectopic pregnancies occur at a rate of 1-2% in the general population. They occur more often (2-4%) in women who have used Assisted Reproduction Treatments (ART). Once a woman has had one ectopic pregnancy her risk for another goes up. Ref
  • Preterm Birth: About 11-12% of deliveries in the United States are classified as premature, which is a birth that occurs between the 20th and 36th weeks of pregnancy. This is a dangerous condition for the baby, which might not be able to survive outside of the womb (Ref). Endometriosis (affecting approximately 10% of women) is one cause of preterm birth.
  • Other issues that can affect pregnancy and the health of baby, mother or both are: Gestational Diabetes, Pre-Eclampsia, Subchorionic Hematoma, Placenta Previa, Cervical Incompetence…I’m sure there are more but I think I’ve made my point.

I invite you all to list any complications I missed in the comments. I assure you I did not intentionally leave anything out. I just ran out of steam because there are SO MANY of them.

Perhaps if more people understood how dangerous a pregnancy can be fewer people would try to mandate that a woman not be able to choose whether to carry that pregnancy. The only people that should be involved are the woman and her doctor. And the father. Nature and biology can think up some pretty weird shit and no law can account for it all.

In short, I think it does the world a disservice on various levels to hide the ugliness of life. Life is not pretty. Or easy. Sometimes it can be and I’m all about rejoicing when it is. But not at the expense of hiding the ugly. Hiding the ugly just makes people feel more alone at a time when they desperately need to know that they are not alone.