Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Scrapbook of Infertility Memories

Most people when they think of scrapbooking think of creative ladies armed with a pair of scissors, a glue stick, and collection of colorful papers, photos and mementos ready to be collaged together. They will gleefully cut and paste the "best of-s" and favorite moments of a lovely vacation trip, a family history, or a precious baby's first year. I, on the other hand, am required by my agency to create a scrapbook to give to a potential surrogate telling her who we are and why we need her help to make a baby. 

So I spent last week collecting photos of me and my husband in our various life activities along with a letter telling our story. Now it's surreal enough to step outside yourself to tell a stranger why we are worthy of her help, but it's also really odd to read "my story." All us bloggers are writing regularly about our stories, but to read a summary story about myself was like being a third person looking at me and my husband and how insane it has been. It wasn't emotional, it was almost like I was reading someone else's story and thinking, "Wow that's damn sad." 

To make things worse, they require FIVE copies of the scrapbook. So once I finished one I became a scrapbook sweatshop and cranked out four more copies. By then, you really feel like you are reading a pre-packaged storybook about a seemingly happy-go-lucky couple whose been really shit on. 

But if I were going to be true to the craft of scrapbooking and didn't have to worry about freaking out someone, my keepsake memories would go well beyond a letter and some photos of me and my husband. Mine would have a title on the cover saying "The Barren Years." I would maybe have a smattering of photos of all the embryos transferred in me with captions, "This one lodged in my right tube," "This was lodged in my left tube," "This one implanted in my uterus but decided not to develop anymore after week 6." And then I do some cut outs from my fertility clinic bills in the shape of flowers and paste them against some pretty pink paper, then maybe a couple syringes to glue on with some ribbons, and for sure a rip out from my progesterone and menopur boxes, and if I could manage it, I would get a hand print from my doctor to show what's been in my uterus through the years. 

What insanely dark things could you put in your scrapbook?

Friday, July 18, 2008

I wish, I wish upon a star. Oh wait, I'm just dreaming

Sing along to the tune of "When you wish upon a star"
When you wish upon a star, makes no difference who you are
Anything your uterus desires will come to you
If you're sick of IVF dreams, no request is too extreme
When you wish upon a star as infertiles do

Is fate kind? Maybe it can happen naturally?
The sweet fulfillment of our secret longing

Like a bolt out of the blue, your period steps in
and fucks with you
When you wish upon a star, am I a damn fool?

Fuck fuck, I got my god damn period today. How many of you still dream of having a natural pregnancy? As absurd and as impossible as that seems, I am sad to say that I still do. It's pretty laughable that there is even one ounce of hope for this since trying the old fashion way has never amounted to anything. I've only gotten pregnant with IVF. Even though I am suppose to be "on break" waiting for my surrogacy match, I am all too aware of when I am ovulating, when my LH surge is, when I might have implantation, when I feel every cramp in my body - praying it's not my period coming. So much for trying to forget about getting pregnant. I am all too aware of my hopes for somehow getting out of this hell hole sooner than later.

Against my better judgement, there is this little evil voice in me that keeps saying, "This is all bullshit and you are just going to get pregnant on your own." Even though I scoff at all the urban legends of people adopting or using a surrogate and then getting pregnant naturally afterwards or women doing years of IVF and then falling pregnant after quitting, I still have this childlike wish for impossible things. How many of us have heard these stories from people trying to comfort us even though this presumes somehow this is all our fault because we are apparently overly obsessed with our fertility. Most of the time these stories of oops-we-got-pregnant-naturally-after-all end up passing around because they are so unusual, not because they are common. But I find myself buying into that crap sometimes and thinking that this could happen to me. As soon as I get these ridiculous thoughts in my brain, I know I have already cancelled out the chance of this oops-natural-pregnancy just by the fact of being aware of it. My guess is that anyone who actually has one of those never truly expected it or hoped for it every second of their cycle. I've got to get this fantasy out of me. I can't keep feeling sad when I get my period. It's like I've regressed to my early days of trying naturally and feeling that pain every time the first red splotch appears, warning me of the blood flow to come. So I need to stop dreaming and wishing upon a star. There aren't even any stars in my Manhattan sky, just a lot of haze and heat.

Monday, July 7, 2008

A Disease of One's Own

Idiopathic is an adjective used primarily in medicine meaning arising spontaneously or from an obscure or unknown cause. From Greek ἴδιος, idios (one's own) + παθος, pathos (suffering), it means approximately "a disease of its own kind."
A simple word can be quite powerful. All that I needed was a letter from my RE stating my fertility history so my surrogacy agency could have it on record. The agency prefers to have the RE state that he has advised me to pursue surrogacy but since my case is so gray they told me just a fertility history would suffice. So I had told my RE that I just need my fertility history stated in a letter to give to the surrogacy agency. When I received my RE's letter in the mail I expected to see just the review of my three tragic IVFs on paper, typed out before me as another confirmation of my story. But at the end of his recap, my RE stated, "Due to idiopathic uterine defects, it appears that [my name] will not be able to carry a pregnancy to term."

Whoah! At first I felt sort of stunned by this. All I could look at were the words "will not be able to carry." Was he just saying this so the surrogacy agency would work with me? Did he finally have a diagnosis for me and why had I not heard it before? Why was I so hurt by the wording? Why did I even care if I want to do surrogacy anyway? Clearly I was still holding on to some hope that I could carry a pregnancy. All the REs I talked to never made it so permanent by declaring I cannot carry. The uncertainty of my case made all of them assume I still had a chance verses assuming I no longer had a chance. I guess I wanted to feel like I wasn't forced to choose surrogacy, but I was making a choice to spare my body potential pain. It wasn't an issue of "can't" but "won't." 

But then I turned to the word idiopathic. What the hell did that mean? And then I realized how little it really means. It essentially describes my entire experience with baby making. It's been my "own suffering" due to unknown cause. I have my very own special disease. If I were Virgina Woolf, my book would be called "A Disease of One's Own." All this to say that it's the medical world's total cop out term. So unscientific. So obscure. So unanswerable. So lacking cause. It points to that space where all the brains, teaching, higher education, and fancy degrees are meaningless. It's a diagnosis that says nothing. I read online that in the book The Human Body by Isaac Asimov, he comments that the term "idiopathic" is a "A high-flown term to conceal ignorance." I also read that in the television show House, the main character says the word "comes from the Latin, meaning 'we're idiots, because we don't know what's causing it.'"

So yes, due to my idiopathic bad luck, my idiopathic losses, my idiopathic uterus, my idiopathic fallopian tubes, my idiopathic life, I've moved on to surrogacy -- but for me, not for the diagnosis. It's the big unknown whether I could ever carry myself but I am reminded that we are beyond that question now. I realized I still hold out hope that I could carry someday but right now it's just not feeling like the right move. But wouldn't it be great if this word could actually be of some use to me? Could it be loosely thrown around explaining myself to stupid fertile people? For instance:

"Oh, you asked when will we have kids? Due to idiopathic uterine defects we are a little delayed on that front."

"Oh, you want me to come to your baby shower? Due to my idiopathic uterine defects my RSVP is NO."

"Oh, you are pregnant again? Well, I have idiopathic uterine defects so would you mind fucking off?"