Monday, December 2, 2013


For three weeks, DH and I thought we would be parents this Advent. I spoke to an expectant mother, she chose us, we met her and got to know her better, and then mere weeks before the birth, she decided to parent.

We were praying all along that she would make the best decision for herself and her family, and we trust that God has answered our prayers.

And now, I have to get down to the grim business of untelling. My boss has been resisting my efforts to advocate for a maternity leave for adoptive mothers. I untold him.

My friends with babies have been giving me baby clothes and advice. I untold them.

My piano teacher, people in my choir, I untold them.

There are many silver linings to this situation. It's better to receive this news one week before the birth than two days after. I might meet my work deadlines. I can go to my conference in January and see all my grad school friends.

But still, it's hard orient ourselves to this new, new reality.

Monday, October 14, 2013

How to Choose an Adoption Agency, Part I

Perhaps I'm jumping the gun by writing this post; after all, we are towards the beginning of our adoption journey. However, I have seen a number of blog posts recently which made my heart ache, because couples have been poorly served by their adoption agencies. No one deserves this, particularly infertiles who have already been repeatedly traumatized on their journeys to parenthood. So I've put together these posts in the hopes that future prospective adoptive parents (PAPs) can avoid further heartache and trauma.

1. Why use an adoption agency?

Many couples do not use an adoption agency at all. Instead, they network to find birthparents and then use lawyers to handle the legal transfer of parental rights. I do not recommend this. An honest and ethical agency can help you avoid minefields.

Case in point: I recently read the heartbreaking story of a couple who found an expectant mother, flew to her city for the birth, met the baby in the nursery, fed him, changed his diapers, took him back to where they were staying and parented him for two weeks. Then their lawyer called. The birthmom wanted her baby back.

But there's a catch here: The mother had never signed the TPR (Termination of Parental Rights) papers. The baby did not legally belong to the adoptive parents. Not only was there nothing they could do, but there's a word for taking a child with whom you have no legal relationship. It begins with a "k".

An ethical adoption agency would have both protected both the mother and the PAPs by insisting that the PAPs not cultivate a relationship with the baby before the papers had been signed. Perhaps there are adoption attorneys who would do the same thing, but an attorney's primary responsibility is to handle paperwork, not review best adoption practices with PAPs.

Another factor is cost. I was stunned to learn that adoption attorney's can charge as much as $30,000 per adoption! From what I've seen, many agencies charge less and give you more.

An ethical agency will also offer counseling and post-placement support to birthmothers (see #3 below).

2. Does the agency have a religious affiliation? Is the religious affiliation the same as yours?

If the agency has a religious affiliation that is not your own BEWARE. There are agencies which require all PAPs to sign a "statement of faith" which you may or may not share. (For example, a very large Christian organization here in the US requires PAPs to sign a statement of faith which Catholics cannot sign.)

If you are considering a religious agency, bring up your (different) religion in the first phone call. "We're _________. Do you work with ________ couples?" Also, make sure that the denomination of the adoption agency does not have a record of problems with your denomination. You do not want to encounter any discrimination from your adoption agency once you have signed up with them, as it could involve an extended wait.

I hate to point out particular denominations, but evangelical Christians have a reputation for thinking that no one is saved except fellow evangelicals. If you were evangelical, would you want to adopt children to parents who were bound for hell? No, you would not.

3. What support services does the agency have for mothers, both before and after placement?

Every time I hear a blogger complaining that an adoption agency "only cares about birthmothers," I roll my eyes. Keep in mind that as PAPs, you are the most powerful member in the adoption triad. I know you don't feel this way. I know that you feel that you are powerless because your body can't do what everyone else's body can. But you are the ones who have tens of thousands of dollars that you can spend on this adoption. You're the one who can provide a child a stable safe home and myriad educational and economic opportunities. Women who are even considering making an adoption plan have none of this. You are not the one who is facing the painful choice of either parenting a child without the financial or emotional resources to do so, or placing her in the care of complete strangers, where you may not ever see her again.

If an adoption agency can be trusted to be fair and just to the vulnerable women who are not paying them, then they are more likely to be fair and just to you. The reverse is also true.

If an agency doesn't have much support for birthmothers, especially post-placement counseling, I would think twice about signing up with them.

These women are entrusting us with the most precious thing in the world. The least we can do is make sure they have the support they need during the most difficult times of their lives.

4. What is the agency's reputation?

This is tricky, because it involves digging up dirt on agencies on-line. Most agencies have at least a few negative reviews. Read the content of the reviews and try to ascertain whether the complaints are 1) consistent with one another and 2) reasonable. Pay no attention if the reviewer is complaining, "They only care about birthmothers." Or "They didn't return my non-returnable applications materials." (Yes, this is an actual quote.)

But if review after review alleges that the agency mistreats birthmothers, be very, very careful about proceeding. If the agency pressures or coerces mothers into placing their babies, this is not the kind of agency you want involved with your family.

You can also post a query on on-line adoption forums. Many of these websites have a policy against gossiping about particular agencies, but you can ask that people who have used the agencies in question respond to you via private message or email. Again, take everything you learn with a grain of salt.

Next up: Wait Times, Fee Schedules, and Home Studies

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Manifold Updates

My longest ever absence from this blog was born not out of sorrow or trauma, but out of simply being overwhelmed by all the adoption-related stuff. In addition, I have been doing a ton of writing at work lately. Most days, all I do is write all day long. This has completely sapped my writing energy. I rarely work on Sundays, but the very last thing I want to do on my one day off is MORE WRITING.

But my two loyal readers probably wouldn't mind an update, so here it is:

1) Homestudy: We are done with our part of the homestudy, but we are waiting for a police clearance from Washington, DC, which is about to run out of money due to the shut down. So basically, though we filled out the form two months ago, our homestudy has been delayed indefinitely due to forces beyond our control.

2) Adoption Profile: I have finished a draft of this. I need to send it to our neighbor the graphic designer for feedback, but I'm so depressed by the whole endeavor that I can't manage to. DH and I simply aren't picture people. We didn't even own a camera until we bought one specifically to take pictures for our profile. We have hardly any pictures of us, other than the ones we took specifically for the profile. There is nothing to be done about the fact that we have limited photos, but the reality depresses me and makes me self-conscious nonetheless.

And...things have been difficult in our marriage recently. Being married is a funny thing, isn't it. The moment you say your vows, bitching to your girlfriends about how your boyfriend is always late, talks too much, doesn't do enough housework, etc. becomes an act of disloyalty. So I end up feeling like mine is the only marriage with so much strife. Which is why I like complaining about this on my blog, because I KNOW ya'll don't have perfect marriages.

The Adoption Profile itself has been causing a lot of the fights, along with DH's continued underemployment. DH told me that he would take care of the profile, being unemployed and all. Plus, I am visually incompetent and the thought of choosing fonts and background colors makes me feel exhausted and overwhelmed.

But I ended up doing most of the work, because it turns out that DH isn't all that great with software and spent two weeks trying to create the profile on iStudio, the worst publishing software EVER. I switched the whole thing to MS Powerpoint and worked on it every night after coming home from work, which, I believe I've mentioned before, has been completely sapping my writing energy.

So, in the event that you were unemployed, dear reader, would you, after your dear wife came home exhausted on Friday evening, cooked you both dinner and then plunked herself down in front of the computer to finish the profile, repeatedly moan about having poor, low-quality photographers? When your dear wife, in tears, begged you--BEGGED you--not to keep repeating that because she found it demoralizing to finish the profile while you kept reminding her of the difficulty of the task, would you get angry, storm off, and NAP ON THE COUCH WHILE SHE FINISHED THE PROFILE HERSELF???? And then, after a night in which you found yourself with the bed to yourself, because your dear wife had taken refuge in the guest bedroom, would you then proceed to point out to her all the ways in which SHE mishandled the situation? 

In other news, for the second year in a row, I will be taking the cats to the vet because DH "forgot" to get their vaccinations updated, even though we must get this taken care of for our homestudy to remain valid. Did I mention that he's unemployed and that now I must take time off work to get the cats vaccinated?

I'm still sleeping in the guest bedroom, and will be for the foreseeable future.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

TTC is a hard habit to break

Over the past two+ years, I've worried about the following things:

-High FSH
-Periods too long and heavy (pre-surgery)
-Periods too short and light (post-surgery)
-Late ovulation (Spring 2011)
-Early ovulation (2012)
-Blocked tubes pre-surgery
-Blocked tubes post-surgery
-Pre-menstrual spotting (pre-surgery)
-Tail end brown bleeding (post-surgery)
-Asherman's Syndrome (post-surgery)
-Premature Menopause
-Poor quality eggs
-CM too watery
-CM too acidic
-CM too thick
-CM insufficient
-Insufficient endometrial lining
-DH's sperm count
-DH's sperm quality

The vast, vast majority of these conditions never affected me (endo, blocked tubes-pre-surgery) or came and went on the odd cycle (anything related to ovulation timing and CM). In other words, I spent hours--days even--Googling many conditions that I didn't have that I didn't need to worry about.

Now that we're fully committed to adoption, i.e. the big fat check has been mailed off, it no longer matters. It does not matter when or whether I ovulate. It does not matter if my uterus and pelvic cavity are scarred into oblivion.

But I can't seem to stop. I keep Googling, though it must just be out of habit. It's harder to let go of TTC, when it has consumed me for more than two years. I try to turn the page, but my mind keeps me on the TTC train. It's time to let go, but I don't know how.

P.S. My TEBB (tail-end brown bleeding) has mysteriously vanished, just when I had planned to ask my pelvic pain specialist about it. Perhaps it was just that my uterus hadn't fully healed from the surgery until now.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Afraid of the Dark

Thanks to all who replied to my questions about TEBB. I think I'm going to schedule a visit with my pelvic pain specialist when I'm having the weird clotting black spotting and make him do some cultures. If nothing odd turns up, perhaps I'll revisit after we adopt. To be perfectly honest, I'm not entirely sure that it's a good idea to throw antibiotics at every case of TEBB, especially in the absence of positive cultures. Antibiotics wipe out good bacteria, not only in the digestive tract, but in the sinus cavities, ear canal, vagina, etc., and it can take a long time to rebuild.

But for now I need to be done with TTC for my own mental health.

We went to our adoption orientation, and it was fantastic. The agency seems to be a good fit with our values and ethos, the other couples were lovely, and best of all, they were very reassuring that they only accept as many couples as they anticipate placing within a year, and they only accept couples whom they feel are a good match for their birthmothers!

Despite all this reassurance, I'm struggling a bit.

The first issue is that we need to send in our big fat check. Once we do this, it's irrevocable. The money is gone, and it's a lot of money. DH and I have been discerning adoption for years now, and we had agreed that this is our best bet for becoming parents. We asked ourselves whether we could really pursue open adoption, and decided that not only could we do it, we didn't want any other kind of adoption. But now that we are on the verge of mailing the big fat check, I'm hesitating.

I want the safety and security of what is known: our current childless life. I'm like a child afraid of the dark. I'm afraid of where this path will lead. I'm afraid of the heartache that adoption, and parenthood, will inevitably bring. I'm afraid of the unknown and the unseen.

Friday, July 12, 2013

I Need the 411 on TEBB

Since my surgery, my cycles end with 2 days of brown bleeding, followed by another two days of black, spotted discharge. I would describe it almost like a scab that's flaking off inside off me. (It's great that there's no such thing as TMI in the infertile world.)

I've read enough bloggers who are using NaPro physicians to know that this could signal something VERY bad that could require 10+ days of intravenous antibiotics. But I also know that such regimens often don't work. 

At this point, I'm pretty much done with TTC. In a few weeks, we leave for our orientation weekend with our adoption agency. My mind is occupied by the homestudy and adoption profile. Once we make the payment to the agency, it really is best if I do not get pregnant. (Not that I can be bothered to avoid pregnancy.) We didn't even try this month because during my fertile time, we were out of town for my sister's wedding, sleeping in my old bedroom with ten other people in the house.

Still, I'm curious about this TEBB:

-Is there any problem with doing nothing? If I do have an infection, is it fine to just let my uterus be infected?

-Why would this have suddenly popped up after my surgery?

-Is there any chance it could be anything other than an infection? What?

-Did you have any other evidence of infection besides the TEBB? (e.g. foul-smelling discharge, etc, abdominal tenderness?)

-Did antibiotics clear up your TEBB? Have you conceived in the time since?

-Are there any non-NaPro physicians (besides Dr. Toth) who buy that TEBB is the result of infection?

-Should I go to my pelvic pain specialist about this? Or would he just laugh at me?

Any and all opinions, experience, anecdotes, and data are most welcome!

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Help, Thanks, WOW!!!!!*

Thank you all for your prayers! We got word today that we have passed the next round of screening by the adoption agency! This means that we are all but approved, pending police clearance and home study.

*More liberal borrowing from Anne Lamott.

Friday, June 7, 2013

In which I cut my heart out, put it in an envelope, and mail it away

DH and I finally finished the monster application for the agency, complete with 100 supporting documents (slight exaggeration) and 10 pages of essay questions (no exaggeration).

DH is back in school and had a midterm yesterday, so even though I have a terrible cold/flu, it was up to me to feverishly (literally) run from home to work to UPS and back. By the time I got home, my whole body ached, my head throbbed, and my unrelenting cough had returned. I fell into bed and slept for three hours.

And now we wait.

I'm trying not to read up on reasons that an adoption agency would reject an applicant. In our case, I feel like if we were turned down, it would be because of debt and DH's unreliable employment situation. On the other hand, many people turn to adoption after they have maxed out their credit cards from IVF treatments and then they have to borrow against their home equity to finance the adoption. Luckily, DH and I are not in this situation, but we do have some credit card debt, medical debt (from my surgery) and DH has a debt from a mistake he made years ago that we only recently found out about. But it makes us look bad.

Now that the application is finally off our desks, I'm trying to get back to work, stay away from the Google, and not think about it much.

Pray for us!

Friday, May 24, 2013

The Oncoming Disaster of My Sister's Wedding

Readers, please forgive this excursion into (mostly) non-infertility-related terrain.

My sister's wedding is rapidly approaching, and I am having a really, really hard time with it. Her fiancé, well, the best way to put it is that he's really not a functional adult. At age 36, he cannot cook, nor organize his day, nor pack a suitcase in under three hours, nor arrive anywhere within twenty minutes of when he said. He recently took a job on the opposite coast from where they lived. She quit her job and followed him, only to have him fall apart from the stress of his new job. (Not that she told me any of this--I heard it from my parents.) I don't want to reveal too much about his career, but suffice to say that it's close enough to my own field of work that I can say with confidence that although it is stressful, it is hardly neurosurgery. He works 80-100 hours a week because he compulsively re-does work he's already done. He interrupts her work in the middle of the day so that she can come to his office and help him with the work he is too stressed to do himself. I called her on Easter Sunday, and she was by herself, because of course, John* was working.

I don't want my sister marrying this man. The fact that he cannot handle his more-stressful-than-average-but-a-long-way-from-neurosurgery job does not bode well for their future. What on earth is going to happen if she has two children, a husband who works 100 hours a week, and no one to help her with the cooking, cleaning, or childcare, because he doesn't have the practical skills to give the kids a bath?

And then there's the issue of faith. Now, I'm not one to throw stones at someone leaving their religion of origin. (DH and I go to an Episcopal church together; we were married in that church.) But I also don't appreciate slanders either of my religion of origin or my adopted religion. Her fiancé refused to get married in a Catholic church because it "would be a betrayal of everything [he] believe[s] in." My sister refused to get married in a Quaker church because "the service makes [her] uncomfortable." So they hatched this plan to have our agnostic uncle get ordained over the internet in the Universal Life Church and cobble together some Catholic-feeling service with my help. I told my mother that I would not participate in cannibalizing the Catholic wedding liturgy to put together a fraud service, led by a fraud clergyman from a fraud church.

Luckily, my dad put his foot down (he who pays the piper, and all), and he and my mom dredged up an Episcopalian minister who's willing to officiate at their wedding despite the fact that no one in the family (except me, I suppose) has any connection to The Episcopal Church, nor do the bride and groom have any plans to worship at an Episcopal Church once they get married. So they are borrowing a faith tradition to plaster some legitimacy on their wedding without any plans to commit to that tradition long term.

But even this Episcopal wedding is not set. The latest development is that John has suddenly (well, this is the first I've heard of it) decided that he doesn't believe in the Trinity, and banned his mother from singing Mozart's Laudate Dominum  at the service, because it ends with the Glory Be. In Latin, a language he neither reads nor understands.

Um, have you looked at the Book of Common Prayer wedding liturgy? It is replete with references to the Trinity. I understand not being able to make a vow "in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit" if you don't believe in the Trinity, but he has a problem with anyone praying to the Trinity at his wedding? Have I mentioned that their wedding is SIX WEEKS AWAY?????

So I emailed my sister, and pointed out the obvious problem with asking an Episcopalian priest to remove references to the Trinity from the BCP wedding liturgy. Her response? "Thanks for the info!"

In my (many) fights with my mother about unwillingness to help with the ceremony, my insufficient happiness, and my "rigidity" and "rule-obsession" I have the impression that my sister's wedding is more important to her than my sister's marriage. Having her family and friends, reunited in her hometown from all over the world has become the most important thing for her. The fact that the bride and groom have not sorted through their conflicting values enough to decide on an officiant and a ceremony, six weeks before the blessed event should give her pause, but it doesn't. I almost think that she would prefer that the wedding go on as planned, and that my sister just get a divorce later, if John doesn't turn out to be the one.

I almost wonder if my sister is planning not to tell John that they have to use Trinitarian references, and then present it as a fait accompli at the rehearsal. Yes, deceit will make a lovely beginning to their life as husband and wife.

My poor father seems to be alone on this. He doesn't like it, but he feels that standing in the way of the wedding will harm his relationship with my sister. I have encouraged him to keep on top of my sister and to make sure that she and John go for their canonically-required premarital counseling sessions at an Episcopal church where they live. If this officiant is going to fall through, either because John will suddenly decide that some priest he's never met should not have authority over his relationship, or because John will refuse to have the Trinity mentioned at his wedding, then my parents need to know ASAP.

For my part, I have wondered if my sister is closing her eyes to the obvious fact that she will have to take care of this man for the rest of her life because of my infertility. Surely the fact that I have had trouble getting pregnant, the fact that two of our aunts suffered the same fate, surely this history has impacted her. Perhaps she's afraid that if she leaves John, she'll miss out of having her own children the way I have. And the thing is, she might be right.

*name changed, obviously

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Let the paperwork commence!

I so should not be posting this when I'm supposed to be working....but a big fat envelope arrived in our mailbox yesterday. We passed the initial screening and the agency sent us the extended application!

DH and I spent an hour on the short answers for the questionnaire last night. We didn't even start on the essay questions, and we're not even done with the short answers.

Monday, May 6, 2013

Expecting--just a little bit

One of the hardest things about infertility is the lack of social acknowledgement. When someone announces a pregnancy, communities respond with heartfelt congratulations, with showers. My friends tell me that when they are visibly pregnant, strangers smile and offer congratulations.

Infertility, in contrast, is surrounded by silence. When I first told my friends and family, I got lots of sympathy and offers of prayers. But when the period of TTC stretches from months into years, people follow my lead. And since I never seem to want to talk about it, my friends never bring it up.

After years of silence, I was unprepared for the following:

My distant uncle and his wife were in our city were business. They had missed our wedding and wanted to meet DH, so after work, we headed over to their hotel for drinks. After an hours or two of chitchat, my aunt asked, "So, I was so happy to read in your Thank You card that you guys are saving for adoption! How's that going?"

So I told her that the very next day, we were going to send in the initial application form. My aunt and uncle both beamed and said, "Congratulations! We are so excited for you!"

I was completely caught off-guard by this. I am so used to disappointment and its attendant silence, that I couldn't believe someone was actually congratulating us on our plans to build our family.

I know that adoption is not a sure thing for us, and I know that there are probably many more plunges of the roller-coaster in our future, but I couldn't help but think that DH and I are slightly, just a little bit...expecting.

Friday, May 3, 2013

Wishful Thinking Freakout, or WTF

You might NOT be pregnant if you experience:

-Sore breasts
-Abdominal cramping
-Nipple twinges
-Frequent urination
-Slight, sudden onset incontinence
-bleeding gums
-queasiness in the mornings
-increased hunger
-a post-ovulation rise in BBT
-A late period

These are all symptoms of a condition known as Wishful Thinking Freakout (WTF). Although WTF is rare among the fertile, it occurs all too frequently among the infertile. WTF symptoms flare as the menstrual period approaches and become acute if a menstrual period is late.

 If you are experiencing WTF, do NOT take a home pregnancy test. Do NOT call your doctor.

WTF has no cure, though certain life-style techniques can help manage the symptoms, including copious amounts of chocolate and wine.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Overdue Adoption Update

I'm about a month overdue on my monthly adoption update. Here's the short story:

Even though Agency #1 had stolen my heart a long time ago, I called Agency #2 just to do my due diligence. It didn't go nearly as well. Even though DH is below their age limit, I was informed that he is probably too old and that a bmom would be unlikely to place with us. They also have a three year marriage requirement, but since their website said that they could make exceptions to this rule, I decided to call anyway. The director said she would have to check with her boss, then never called me back.

Even though I never had my heart set on Agency #2, this was quite upsetting. All I could hear was, "You guys aren't good enough to adopt."

Still, Agency #1 was looking better and better. A couple of weeks ago, DH and I sent in the initial inquiry form. If we pass that screening, they'll send us the long, scary application. If we are accepted, we get invited to an orientation and THEN we get put on the "Available Families" list to wait for a bmom to choose us.

So, after two short months, my adoption updates are now at an end. We will be filling out the paperwork as it comes to us.

I've been having quite a bit of anxiety over this. Whereas before, I was stressed and sad about my body stubbornly refusing to get pregnant, now I'm stressed that these people in [City] will decide that we are unfit parents and reject us.

They say that adoption is no quick fix for infertility. They say that adoption is its own rollercoaster.

Dammit, they were right.

Saturday, April 27, 2013

The Land of the F*cked

A recent series of posts at Airing the Chapel stirred up quite a bit of controversy. Airing observed a pattern in the replies: fertile women who never question Catholic leaders versus infertile women who do. I'm not at all interested in rehashing any of the debates over on ATC's blog (though I would be happy to discuss Augustine anytime), but I was struck by this division. On infertility blogs, I'll often hear people described as fertile and infertile. For example, "My fertile best friend came over yesterday," or "There's another infertile who works with me who...."

Infertile women seem to live in a different reality from everyone else. Our bodies don't work the way they should. Sex does not lead to pregnancy. For some of us, the normal process of menstruation is excruciating. For others, our cycles are completely unpredictable; our bodies are beyond our control. (The other day, I walked past the condoms at CVS and marveled that there is all this stuff designed to prevent pregnancy. I can't imagine ever again being in a position where I would fear getting pregnant. I barely remember what that was like, to feel like sex was this awesome thing that could actually bring a new person into the world.) 

So I can see why some of us feel like humanity is divided into fertiles and infertiles. But upon reflection, I think there is a division, but it's not between fertiles and infertiles. There are the folks who marry the love of their lives in their 20s, avoid pregnancy when they need to, get pregnant when they want to, and have healthy children. They live, or seem to live, in a land of sunshine and rainbows.

And then there are the rest of us, the inhabitants of what Anne Lamott calls "the land of the fucked." Those of us who wander for years longing for romantic connection, wondering why there seems to be a partner for every other woman, but not for us. Those of us who are stricken with cancer. Those of us who find ourselves married to abusive, alcoholic partners and who must choose between our most sacred vows and our safety. Those of us who get married, get pregnant, and find ourselves parenting children with developmental disabilities, or far worse. And of course, those of us who planned to have children, only to find it's not as easy as we were always led to believe. 

We, the inhabitants of the land of the fucked, ask the hard questions. We live at the margins of normalcy, in the grey areas. We make tragic choices. We hunger for compassion, only to find that the sunshine and rainbows crowd recoils from us. 

We frighten them because we know the truth: the separation between the two lands is a mere line in the sand, not a fortified wall. Anyone at any time could end up in the land of the fucked. Healthy living, prayer, good choices: these things offer no protection. Rather than face this reality, it's much easier to turn away, to take turns as Job's comforters, or to offer empty advice, "Just relax and it will happen."

No, it won't. But it would be better for you, emissary from the Land of Sunshine and Rainbows, to believe that it will. 

Saturday, April 13, 2013

It was always in the back of my mind

I have an aunt who was infertile. When my periods started, along with the severe pain, my mom told me that Aunty V had also suffered from terrible cramps her whole life. When she was in her 50s, they found stage IV endometriosis; she had a complete hysterectomy and a bowel resection. Whenever I was doubled over with pain from my period, my mom would reflect that Aunty V had suffered the same way. And so, at the tender age of 13, I began to worry that I too would be infertile.

When I was 24, I met the man I wanted to marry. Unfortunately, he didn't want to marry me. He didn't think "we" were ready, but I really thought that meant that he didn't think I was ready. When I finally left him, a week before my 27th birthday, I remember thinking "My time is running out. I might never be able to have a baby."

Growing up with the specter of infertility has proved surprisingly advantageous in coping with actual infertility. I saw how my aunt and uncle lived rich, full lives. They traveled the world; they did all kinds of charity work. Though my extended family is dispersed all over the world, they found time to visit all of the branches of the family at least once a year. Their home is filled with beautiful artwork that they wouldn't have been able to afford if they had children. My aunt and my mom are both amazing cooks, but for my mom, who had to put dinner on the table, cooking was drudgery. For my aunt, who always had the option of going out to eat if she wanted, cooking was a passion. I saw first hand that infertility is not a death sentence. Living child-free can open you to the world.

Like many immigrant parents, my parents always emphasized education. My dad's sister never went to college because my grandfather believed that educating girls was a waste of money. My dad saw how his sister had to marry someone with no interests or social skills, because it was her only way to survive economically. My dad didn't want that for his daughters. He always told us that if we had an education and a career, we wouldn't have to get married unless we wanted to. Even when I was a teenager, I added in my head, "And if I can't have children, I will always have my career."

I've been thinking about this recently because I've been realizing that in many religious sub-cultures, women are supposed to be mothers first and foremost--not only mothers, but mothers of six, eight, ten children. While motherhood can supposedly be understood spiritually, many girls in these communities grow up with dreams of having big families, staying at home to nurture and educate their children, and then enjoying their grandchildren in their later years. For many people, this works out just fine, but for others, including us infertiles, life doesn't go according to plan. With one in six couples struggling with infertility, we need to do a better job of preparing our girls for a Plan B (no, not that one).

Girls need education. They need to be able to envision larger horizons and more creative futures. They need to develop talents and capacities unrelated to motherhood. Most of all, girls need to hear that motherhood is only one of several wonderful possible ways to love and serve one another.

Monday, April 1, 2013

Treatment for Infertility: When are the costs too high?

Jen at This is More Personal recently stopped blogging for the best of reasons: in December, she and her husband adopted a baby girl.

Jen's struggles have helped me so much in my own journey. After one round of IVF, which resulted in a chemical pregnancy, and a few canceled cycles, Jen and her husband decided they couldn't take any more. Jen's experience put words to something I had been thinking for a while: IVF has emotional, financial and physical costs that are rarely, or perhaps never, acknowledged by the medical profession. Reading through Jen's narratives of her IVF journey made me clearly see that IVF would break me. The stress of spending $15K on a twenty percent chance of getting pregnant, the mood swings that come with high doses of hormones (for whatever reason, I'm extremely sensitive to all medications), the anxiety of being constantly poked and prodded.....I knew I could not do that. The emotional, financial and physical costs of IVF would be too high for me.

(This actually had very little to do with most religious arguments against IVF. I'm not convinced that the unitive and procreative purposes of marriage should never be separated. As for the destruction of precious embryos....what was my body was doing with my embryos every month for a solid year? I was unlikely to produce dozens of eggs, and a couple embryos would probably have been safer in the hands of a competent embryologist than in my inflamed womb.) 

So instead, I turned to alternative therapies. I had always had a healthy diet, but for a solid year, I eliminated alcohol, sugar, refined grains, fried foods, and caffeine. I ditched exercise that I loved, like swimming and intense yoga and instead stuck to the brutally boring Fertility Yoga. I took my temperatures every single morning, stressing out when I ovulated a few days early, because of course, women with DOR "always" ovulate early (except when we are completely asymptomatic). I meditated, I prayed. I structured my days around what supplements I needed to take and when. My entire life became about trying to get pregnant.

It didn't work. Eventually, I realized that these alternative therapies also have high costs. When you give up activities and things that used to give you pleasure in order to get pregnant, and you don't get pregnant, month after devastating month, you begin to lose your soul. Eventually, I realized that I could not continue to live that way; even if I did eventually get pregnant, didn't my child deserve better than the person I had become: jealous, bitter, joyless?

So, I've stopped. I need to update my supplements page, because beyond a few vitamins for basic health, I've stopped taking them. I still do Fertility Yoga, but I also swim and go to Ashtanga Yoga once a week (even in the luteal phase). I'm still staying away from fried foods, because they really do make me feel sick, but if I feel no immediate benefit to eliminating a certain food, I just go ahead and eat it (in moderation).

More joy in my life makes it easier to face infertility, and the fact that I might never get pregnant. Because really, nothing--not even motherhood is worth my soul.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

CD 1: Procedures and Policies

This is the last time I will announce CD 1.

Why? This is an infertility blog. The odds that I am not pregnant on any given month are far higher than the odds of a pregnancy. In my continuing quest to manage expectations, I'm going to expect my period fourteen days after ovulation.

To help me cope with CD 1, each month, I am going to do one small adoption-related task. This is jumping the gun a little bit. We want to see whether I'm still really infertile post-surgery, plus DH needs a job before we can actually apply to an agency. But adoption-related tasks and decisions will help me feel less desperate when my period arrives again. So for those of you playing along at home: until June, adoption-related updates will signify that another cycle has come and gone.

DH was turned down for a job last week, which was a bitter disappointment, right when my PMS was at its worst. But I started feeling better on Monday, when my period started in full force. Tuesday, I called Adoption Agency #1 with a list of prepared questions, mostly cribbed from Stirrup Queens. Actually, before I called, I had a full-on panic attack. I was convinced that the Agency would be quick to tell me that there was no way in hell any birthmother would choose us to be parents. I expected a long list of questions about our ages (too old, especially DH), our home (rented apartment), finances (lots of medical debt) and mental health (touch and go, most days).

But instead, there was lots of good news. Agency #1 adopts mostly Latino and African-American infants. They place about 25 children a year and have 15-20 families on the waiting list at any given time. The average wait is 6-12 months for 95% of their couples. The five percent of couples who wait longer usually have strict criteria for the birthmothers and potential children. (The agency led me to believe that these are the couples who only want white children who've been protected from any potential harmful substance their entire stay in utero. That's definitely not us.) So....6-12 month wait! That's crazy fast.

The money aspect looks like it will work out for us as well. For our recent wedding, we put the word out that we are saving money to grow our family through adoption and our friends and family were most generous. Plus, I get a generous adoption benefit through work. And the Adoption Tax Credit means that as long as we have the money saved up in advance, we probably will not bankrupt ourselves adopting.

[I would like to take a moment now to reflect on the fact that my (former) RE said that it was a "shame" that I wasn't willing to try IVF because my chances of success were a good 20% per cycle. At a cost of $11-15K per cycle. In what society is it reasonable to pay more than $30K for a chance to parent your genetic offspring?]

So for now, I'm not focused on CD 1, but the fact one day in the not-too-distant-future, DH and I will be parents.

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Alternative Therapies: Restoring Fertility Yoga DVD

I ordered these DVDs in May of last year, and I have been using them most days (I took a break for my surgery and recovery). Each workout is 35-40 minutes long and coordinated with your cycle. There are four phases: Menstrual, follicular (end of menstruation to day 10), ovulation (days 10-14) and luteal. They claim to treat a variety of conditions that cause infertility: endometriosis, PCOS, irregular ovulation, etc. The creators of the DVD are practitioners of Chinese medicine, which views infertility as the result of imbalance in the body. The goal is to balance the various energies in the body, after which fertility should result.

Each workout is short. Even on days when I'm exhausted and busy, I can usually squeeze in Fertility Yoga. Before my surgery, the workouts seemed to be alleviating my cramps a tiny bit. (It would be unfair to expect 30 minutes of yoga a day to dissolve a 10-cm adenomyoma.) I love all the twisting and hip-stretches in the menstrual and follicular phases.

The authors are very on top of their Amazon reviews, and respond to the questions and comments therein. This is how I know that these DVDs have the potential to help women with DOR, but it takes as long as 13 months for new follicles to emerge.

This is where my issues come in. These workouts are very mild, probably because according to Chinese medicine, exercising to the point of depletion is a bad idea when trying to conceive. All well and good, but the exercises were so mild that after a few months, I had lost a lot of muscle. (I am a thin person who must really work at muscle building. I've never had nor desired a rock-hard, muscular body, but I don't want to be skin and bones, either.) While you can do other kinds of yoga, between the end of menstruation and ovulation, for me that's only one week, not nearly enough to prevent loss of muscle. The luteal phase yoga, on the other hand, offers no challenges for stretching or resistance for two weeks of every cycle. Doing this for a couple of months would have been fine, but for more than a year? It didn't seem like a good idea to scale back my exercise so much for so long.

Now that I'm not letting infertility steal my soul anymore, I still use these DVDs on days when I have no other workout planned--about 3-4 days a week. I go to my Vinyasa class, even after ovulation (though only once or twice a week). I go swimming because nothing, NOTHING soothes my anxiety like swimming.

The authors are very insistent that menstruation is a vulnerable time when women are pre-disposed to overextending themselves. I take their advice and just do the DVD menstrual phase workout and no other, which provides a nice rest during my period.

****This post is a reflection of my own experience and does not constitute any medical advice to anyone.****

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Life post Surgery

Having the adenomyoma removed was the best decision I've ever made.

Pain: I am free from the heavy and painful periods I've had ever since I was a teenager! No more do I spend a day curled in bed vomiting. I do have some cramps and fatigue, but I usually take Aleve and get on with my day. I do have an upset stomach on CD1, but usually avoiding heavy or greasy food takes care of this.

Bleeding:  Instead of five days of heavy bleeding and two days of light bleeding, I now have three days of light bleeding. I thought there was something wrong with me, until acupuncturist informed me that the regular tampons are named thus because that's what most people use.

Energy: Lighter periods mean that I'm no longer in a constant battle with iron-deficiency. My energy is far, far better. Enough to get me through a ten hour work day, plus a work out, plus centering prayer, plus cooking dinner some evenings, cleaning, and practicing. For the first time in years, I spring out of bed easily instead of dragging myself out of bed after oversleeping my alarm by an hour. Exercising is no longer a chore; I go to the gym because I look forward to stretching and moving my body.

PMS: Before the surgery, I used to have a full week of PMS: fatigue, tender breasts and belly, irritability, despair. Now, I have one or two days of fatigue and a day of sadness.

Other benefits that may or may not be surgery related: I no longer have diarrhea most mornings. My sex drive is back (though that may not be surgery related).

Lingering problems: I still have my "spot" of pain on my lower right side. Dr. S says that he may have missed some of the adenomyoma or that I could have some ovarian issue causing pain (though my ovaries looked normal before the surgery--hypofunctioning, but normal). He said that as long as it's not interfering with my quality of life, I should leave it alone. I should give him a call if my periods get heavier or more painful.

Really, my only regret is that I didn't do this much sooner. I was making the best decisions with the information I had, but I do feel sad that diagnosis and misinformation took so many years of my life.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Infertility Vacation

I have had a lovely three months. No TTC, no charting, no obsessing during the 2WW.  After a year of thinking of myself as "the infertile one," I once again learned to see myself as a human being. Part of this was a tiny bit of self-delusion. I could almost tell myself that instead of being the couple without children, that we were the couple without children--yet.

But still, it was really good for me to have this time away from TTC. For one thing, after about a year of struggling with very low libido, my sex drive came back in full force after the surgery. I don't know whether this was because my body changed after the surgery, or because there was no pressure to have sex at a certain time on a certain day. Or maybe it was because we hadn't had sex in months by the time DH came home after working away, so I was just starving.

It was so wonderful to have sex just because we wanted to have sex and to reconnect with the idea that sex is pleasurable! and fun! Who would have thought? 

Another positive change was that now that for the first time in about a year, I'm enjoying my work again. Despite the constant drama at work, I really do enjoy what I do and I feel like I make a contribution to my field. 

The most positive thing is that overall, I have learned to love my life as it is. I enjoy good food, a loving husband, making music, my career, working out (I have so much more energy now that I'm not fighting iron deficiency all the time!), pets, church and prayer. I almost don't have time to enjoy everything. While I would like to be a mother and to grow our family, I no longer feel so desperate to have a child. I'm sure the dark times will come again, but for now, I am at peace.

A while ago, I read on a blog that "Infertility should be thought of as a terminal illness. Instead of destroying your body, infertility destroys your spirit." The blog has long vanished from the interwebs, so I don't know what became of the 29-year old whose ovaries had suddenly, inexplicably, and inexorably shut down. 

My advice is as follows: Don't let it. Don't let infertility destroy your spirit, steal your identity, and define your life. I was perilously close to spiritual death by infertility when stepping away from TTC saved me. 

Do what you have to do: adopt, commit to living child-free, focus on your career, hobbies, exercise. Whatever it is you have to do, do it. Just don't let infertility steal your soul.