The next thing to try

Tomorrow we meet with a counselor, actually a PhD psychologist, to learn all about the emotional aspects of building our family with donor sperm.

My therapist, who specializes in baby loss, infertility and parenthood after, reminded me last summer during the IVF to consider donor sperm as a possible back-up, so I wasn’t pinning all my hopes on the IVF. I didn’t want to do it, I did pin all of my hopes on the IVF working, and I was devastated when it didn’t. The massive amount of pain from the extra blood that had hemorrhaged into my abdomen didn’t help.

I have been trying to come to terms with this idea since then. I didn’t want to give up on having a child that was genetically related to my husband (The Dad). There is so much about him that I admire and treasure and hope he passes on to our kids, and I wasn’t willing to let that go. I would have been much more able to give up on passing on my DNA to our kids. That’s mostly because of what my mom has always called “defective brain genes”, the hereditary Persistent Depressive Disorder I get from her.

The Dad was much more willing to move towards donated sperm. He is very logical and patient. He knows that he will be the dad, he knows how incredibly influential environment is for people, and he knows that experiencing, and especially watching me experience a fifth miscarriage would be extremely painful for him.

Last fall we met with my therapist’s clinic partner to talk about being ok with it. She had her children through egg donation and help us through a lot of the conversation. But I still wasn’t convinced. It just seemed like giving up on full genetic siblings for the children we had lost, which seemed like a betrayal.

What finally did it for me was something an OBGYN said to me. I only saw her because I needed urgent appointments and couldn’t get one with my regular one. I had some crazy pelvic pain, (which is being successfully treated as related to the crazy upper left quadrant abdominal pain I’d been having) and some strange bleeding from cycle day 23 to 28 last cycle (which appears to have been weird and undiagnosable, but nothing to worry about).

So I saw this doctor, and she said, “You’re 33 and you want to have 2 kids, it’s time to start trying something different.” I told her my issue with it, and she said it didn’t have to be the end of the line for trying to conceive with The Dad’s sperm. If we had one with a donor, and tried again naturally after, a loss would probably be less traumatic. It would no longer be all of my children. I wouldn’t be a generally-unacknowledged mother. I know I wouldn’t have as hard of a time pulling myself out from under when the most important person in the world needed me.

Technically one of my brothers is a half-brother and one is originally a half-brother, but adopted as a full brother, and they’re my brothers. I never mention the half-brother part, except on those rare instances that I’m explaining why I just mentioned my brother’s dad. There’s no reason it should be any different for my children.

We have already decided that this will not be a secret. If we do successfully have a child this way, we want him or her to know their history without shame. There are medical reasons he or she should know about it. Finding out later in life is often traumatic, and we don’t want that.

Our children are ours, they are loved, and we want them to know that.

P.S. This OBGYN, who I’m 90% sure I’m switching to, said something else that has made a difference. I said I wasn’t sure my antidepressants were doing enough because I was still so sad. She said that I had been going through a lot of stuff that just sucked, and it was reasonable to be sad about that. I liked that. Not the fact that it’s true, but the validation.

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Further update

After the attempt at an IVF cycle failed miserably and painfully and I had a breakdown, I was given most of August off of work to recover. I did another partial hospitalization program, at a different hospital from the one I did in 2011. A much better hospital.

It was really good to have the structure of getting up every morning with somewhere I needed to be without the stress and responsibility of work. As therapy, though, it was more of a stop-gap than actual treatment. It was 6 hours a day, but with an hour for lunch, and an hour of guided meditation, during which I always fell asleep. Support and validation and a little education on distress tolerance were helpful components. I also visited my regular therapist twice a week from August through October.

By the end of September, the pain from the hematoma (what happens when you hemorrhage internally, and the blood sits in there in the way pushing on stuff) finally left.

At the beginning of November my strange abdominal pain and nausea came back. I immediately called Mayo in Rochester for an appointment with their GI department. But, I missed more work days, and despite getting the required doctor’s note, I got fired for absenteeism. I was really disappointed and upset, but, I realized that without the job I could focus on figuring out what was wrong and getting treated. Plus, I wasn’t going to be eligible for paid vacation, and even then, only 1 week a year, until I had been working there 13 months. Also, even though I was doing the same job as one of my co-workers, who had not finished his Master’s degree, which I have, he was full time and a scientist and I was a part time technician. I didn’t have a very good deal.

At Mayo, the gastroenterologist was incredibly thorough, and figured it out within half an hour. This pain and nausea that I had been dealing with on and off for 6 and a half years was not serious and deadly and chronic. It’s called abdominal wall pain, and is very common, but rarely diagnosed. The theory is that most doctors don’t think about it when there’s a possibility of life threatening illnesses. After you rule out all the possible organ failures, someone should think of it, I think. The treatment is a steroid and pain killer injection into the worst part of the pain. I finally got that done November 21st, and within 24 hours, my life was changed. The pain, nausea, exhaustion, anxiety, and even a lot of the depression, so much suckage just stopped.

I had three fabulous pain free weeks. And then I missed two doses of Effexor because Target didn’t fill my prescription the first two times I asked. The night sweats started Sunday night, after the first missed dose. By two hours after the time I should have taken the Monday dose, I was so dizzy that moving my head made the world go black. I got these funny electric shock feelings every once in a while, just little jolts, especially in my hands. There was no possibility of eating. Target finally got my prescription filled so that I was only three hours late on the dose Tuesday morning. The shocks finally stopped Wednesday afternoon. I could eat again Wednesday night, but I was nauseous and a little dizzy for the first few hours of the day for another month. DO NOT miss your Effexor!

About six weeks after the miracle injection, the pain started coming back. The shot shouldn’t be more often than every 12 weeks, so my next one is tomorrow. I’ve been using Lidocaine patches to get me through, and they help a lot.

Wednesday I hope I’ll be done with this bronchitis, and the abdominal wall pain will be gone again, and I will feel great!

I’m back!

Tomorrow it will be a year since we lost Greg. It’s been more than four and a half years since we started on this journey to parenthood. We still have no living children.

In June I had two weeks of abdominal pains, and decided that the answer was to go down to the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, MN, where they have the country’s best GI department. I made an appointment for mid-July, but the pain stopped by the end of June, so I cancelled and moved forward with the IVF plan we had made.

My last post was our IVF egg maturation and retrieval schedule. I started Lupron on time, my first shot I forgot the pinch and fast jab instructions and bruised really badly. I can still see it. I was completely exhausted and pretty pissy for all three weeks of injections. After an insane number of transvaginal ultrasounds, (seriously, one day I had to have 2, because the first nurse couldn’t find my left ovary) I had my egg retrieval on July 24th. We got 8 eggs, 7 mature.

About 7 that night, the pain had gotten so bad that anytime I moved I had to scream and cry and hyperventilate a little. My husband took me in to the ER. Hooray! Another transvaginal ultrasound! At least this one I had IV dilaudid first. They found that my right ovary had been hemorrhaging, and was 8 x 10 cm (normal is 2 x 3.5 cm). They put in a large bore IV in case I needed a transfusion, but it took two tries. I stayed overnight and they checked my hemoglobin every three hours. Normal is between 12 and 15 g/100mL. My usual level is 14.5. It bottomed out at 9.3. I was sent home when it started going back up, meaning that the bleeding had stopped. Actually they wanted to discharge me when the falling numbers slowed, but I refused to leave until it went up.

We had gone to the hospital connected to my RE’s office so they could call him and get his input. He didn’t even return the calls and pages until Friday morning. He actually did show up for a few seconds. He emphasized that I had had a little bleeding and it was causing a little pain. I made an appointment to go to the office Saturday morning to have some more blood checks. It took the lab tech there four tries to get blood, bringing my count of needle pokes for Thursday-Saturday to 14.

Four eggs fertilized. On day five, scheduled biopsy day, one had stopped growing and the other three hadn’t grown fast enough. On day 6, the last chance for biopsy, none of the embryos had enough cells to be eligible for biopsy.

The whole thing had failed before we even got any answers.

There was no hope anymore. It was all over.

So, it was another ER trip, this time for suicidal ideation. I couldn’t bear another stint inpatient, so I agreed to partial hospitalization, a three week, six hour a day, five day a week, intense therapy program. It helped.

That’s enough update for now.

It’s better

Since I last posted, I have spent a lot of time moping and letting scary thoughts swirl around in my head. I felt terrible. I felt like I weighed 400 pounds and every movement was a chore. I ate three boxes of store-bought gluten free cookies. I watched a ton of television and hardly payed attention to any of it. I called in sick on Tuesday with a cold that was barely there and may have just been allergies, because I couldn’t get out of bed.

But also since last Tuesday, I have gotten a promotion. It’s mostly just a title change and more hours, but now I get a 401K and vacation. I’ve found assisted living for my Pa, and handed the reins of that horse back over to my dad when my parents came back from Alaska. I was elected Vice President of Education for my Toastmasters Club. I’m in charge of scheduling all meeting roles and making people do their speeches, and I’m second in command of the club., starting July 1st.

So, I seem to have been quite successful at hiding this deep dark depression I’ve been in. Now to climb the rest of the way out.

I got to meet with my new psychiatrist on Wednesday, after a month of waiting. It was so hard to get an appointment with a psychiatrist. Most of the ones in my health care system aren’t accepting new patients. Ones in other systems only accept patients in their system. I finally found this one on the opposite side of the metro area. It was a 35 minute drive there from work. Anyway, she asked a billion questions and asked me how I felt about switching to Wellbutrin from Abilify. They’re both pregnancy category C (risk cannot be ruled out), but Wellbutrin has a longer track record, it’s less expensive (read: not $800), and most importantly, is a great add-on to an SSRI (selective serotonin-reuptake inhibitor). She said it might make me anxious at the beginning, but if I could handle it, it would get better. So I started that yesterday. So far, I feel great!

I met with my counselor this morning and I mentioned the Wellbutrin switch to her. She warned me that I might feel like I’m on uppers for a couple weeks, and then level off and feel fine. Some people get scared and think it stopped working, but it’s just leveling out.

She also gave me homework for improving my cognitive distortions.  Catastrophizing: like thinking I should kill myself based on freaking out over seeing someone else with a baby. Magical thinking: there are only a certain number of babies to go ’round, so if she has one, I can’t. I’m tasked with finding these thought before they start spiraling out of control, identifying them as distortions, and fighting them with facts. Fighting them with weak affirmations I don’t believe won’t help. I need actual facts that I do believe.

For today, I asked a question about shipping costs on an e-bay listing for a piece of equipment my boss wants. I got no answer, but the Buy it Now price jumped from $1,000 to $2,600. Of course, my brain went immediately to “They have done this because they don’t like me. It is my fault that this happened.” Instead of actually believing it when my thoughts jumped to “Now we can’t ever have this piece of equipment and we’ll lose the customer and that’s all my fault, so I’ll lose my job,” I said “That doesn’t make any sense.” They have no reason to dislike me, and all other quotes for identical pieces of equipment are $2,500 to $3,000, so it was probably just correcting a mistake.

The real test will be tomorrow. All of my husband’s cousins are coming over for a party. It was planned two months ago and they kind of invited themselves over. Our house is the biggest of the cousins’ houses and centrally located. I will be fine. I will be fine. Nope, I don’t believe in repeating affirmations either.

These people love me and they don’t want me to hurt. No one stole my babies. There is no reason I can’t someday have a baby. Those are facts I believe, most of the time.

Another breakdown

So apparently I can’t handle family gatherings with my in-laws.

You would not believe the rage I feel. I mean, somewhere inside me I know that she didn’t steal my babies. But the rage is as if she did. I can’t stand the sight of her or the baby.

Some women can be happy for other women’s pregnancies, even as they’re sad for not having one of their own, but I can’t. I’ve been extremely upset about this baby since I first knew she existed. Other pregnancies upset me, but this one was so much worse. Maybe it’s because of the way I found out, from her mother, with the flippant “Guess the birth control didn’t work” comment and the fight insisting I celebrate and support this. Maybe it’s how many times the parents have broken up and she’s sworn she’ll never go back. Maybe it’s that neither of them has a steady job. Maybe it’s just that it’s so horribly unfair that they have a baby and I had yet another miscarriage.

After Christmas with the family I cried until I threw up. I left town so I didn’t have to go to a party with them in January after three days of negative pregnancy tests though I was so sure I was pregnant. (Turned out I was, but I didn’t know until 5 days later.) I shouldn’t have gone to this party. I cried for an hour  just thinking about it. I stopped about an hour before we needed to leave, so I thought I could handle it. We agreed that when I was done we would leave the party. Luckily for me, she and the baby were three and a half hours late. But the child of the other accidental pregnancy in the family (same grandparents) was there and that was bad enough.

When I’d had enough torture, I told my husband I was done and he convinced me to stay another half hour. I couldn’t do anything but stare at my phone the whole way home. I started crying when we got home. He tried to make me feel better, but he really wasn’t helping, so I told him to go downstairs and let me cry by myself. I lit a candle for each of our babies. I bawled until I threw up again.

I miss our babies with a visceral pain as if I just lost them. But I’m also as hopeless and lonely as if I’ve lived a lifetime without them, and will live another pile of lifetimes without them.

I started thinking about how badly I want to be with them. That if I knew I could be, I would die. I don’t know why I can’t be sad without going there. I told my counselor in the morning. We made a deal that I would call her if I got worse or the thoughts got scary. I think it’s better. But I really need that psychiatrist appointment next Wednesday.

There’s something seriously wrong with me that wasn’t wrong before Josh and Caroline and Anastasia and Gregory, and I don’t know how to deal with it. I don’t know if it can ever be fixed, or if I will always feel this broken. Even if I do eventually have a baby that lives, will he or she always live in the shadow of dead siblings and their mother’s inability to cope?