Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Hormone-induced Amnesia?

Anyone who has been trying and failing to conceive should skip this (very long) post. Or accept my apologies in advance. Because it’s going to sound horribly ungrateful and ridiculous. If I’d read this six months ago on someone else’s blog, I would have rolled my eyes strenuously and had to physically restrain myself from making a snippy “get over it” sort of comment.

I should also warn that this (interminable) post falls into the Too Much Information category, so feel free to skip if the minutiae of my reproductive system don't, in fact, interest you. (I can’t imagine!)

A year ago today, we’d been trying for nearly 8 months to get pregnant, going at it like rabbits on Viagra, and I was starting to get discouraged by our lack of success. I’d had only 3 periods since going off the pill, one of which was induced with a 10-day progesterone supplement from my doctor after 9 weeks with no flow.

I shouldn’t have been surprised; my periods had been irregular all my life. I got the first one when I was just shy of 14, then didn’t get another one for an entire year. After that, I had them anywhere from every 4 to every 10 or so weeks. Almost as soon as I got to college, I went on the pill, tired of constantly fearing pregnancy. (Not that I was getting that much play, but still.) I was on it for almost twelve years straight. I thought that when I came off, maybe my cycles would suddenly, miraculously be normal, but no such luck.

I visited the fertility docs last December, and while my blood work, fallopian tubes and A’s numbers were all fine (his numbers were staggering, in fact), an ultrasound showed that my ovaries each had a “string of pearls” of small cysts, indicative of infrequent or nonexistent ovulation. A possible, mild-end case of PCOS (polycystic ovarian syndrome) without, luckily, the hirsutism, diabetes or obesity that often come with it, but with the high cholesterol, irregular periods, and tendency toward depression that also do.

Meanwhile, I’d wasted countless pregnancy tests and ovulation predictor tests, all of which always came up negative. I’d taken chasteberry extract and cut back on caffeine and alcohol (well, I tried, anyway). I’d charted three (irregular) cycles but never saw a thermal shift or any consistent pattern to other fertility signs. I was starting to feel like I was defective. It was never going to happen.

So when the doctor said he thought fertility drugs could help me, I didn’t hesitate for a moment. I was dying to be pregnant, wanted to have not just one but two kids eventually, and wasn’t getting any younger, so why wait? In fact, the only thing I initially balked at was having intra-uterine insemination because it seemed so cow-like and clinical. I wanted to see if we could pull it off the more “romantic” way. But I got over that fairly quickly. Babymaking sex, as I’m sure some of you know, gets to be the antithesis of romantic (hot, erotic, interesting, etc.) after a while.

Anyway, after a failed Clomid cycle and a failed cycle with injectables/IUI, I started to prepare myself for a long haul. Friends and acquaintances were getting pregnant left and right, like it was the most natural thing in the world (and isn’t it?) and I felt like I would forever be on the outside. I would have given anything to be in their shoes. A. and I were soon to celebrate our 5th wedding anniversary, and had been together as a couple for years before that. I was so ready for us to become a family. Abso-bloomin-lutely 100% ready. At the same time, I was feeling incredibly pessimistic and generally bummed out.

Then, whaddya know: after the next cycle of injectibles/IUI, exactly one year and three months after we started trying, I was knocked up – and how. I got my positive blood test results the day of our 5th anniversary, and was thrilled beyond belief. Finding out it was twins was certainly a lot to swallow, but I told myself, hey, better two than none. Anyway, that’s the risk you run when you take fertility drugs. And if I hadn’t taken them I probably wouldn’t have gotten pregnant. At least not for a good long time.

So, here I am, 5 months pregnant, and I love these little babies. My girls. I am dying to meet them. Today, they have been kicking up a storm, both of them, and each time I feel it I get giddy with joy and excitement. I want to tell the whole world. When I push on my belly, they push back. I’m interacting with them! Last night, A. got to feel a couple of good solid kicks for the first time, which thrilled me even more than it did him, I think. See? I said, I’ve got our children in me!

And yet…and yet. Recently, increasingly, there is also this part of me (the same part that has always told me things like I don’t exercise enough, I make stupid clothes-buying decisions, I am not disciplined enough about my writing, I drink too much, spend too much time online, etc.) that’s saying, in a scolding, smug little voice, why didn’t you keep trying longer on your own? You didn’t have to end up with twins. It might have happened eventually, and you’d most likely only be pregnant with one right now, instead of an overwhelming, career-ruining, life-shattering two at once. You’d been on the pill for 12 years, after all. Maybe you would have started ovulating. Sure, it might have taken another year or two, but, jeez, you’re only 32. 15 months of trying really isn’t that long. Think of all the people who try for 2, 3, 10 years and eventually succeed without medical intervention. Why so impatient, Missy? Why mess with fate?

And twins aside, do you really want to be a parent yet anyway? You haven’t published a book yet, and your husband’s career is still developing. And it’s not like you’re rolling in dough. What was the hurry? You could have both used a few more years without kids. It’s really a shame that you couldn’t hang onto just a little more perspective, young lady.

I ask you, my wise readers, what is all this self-loathing static in my brain? What is this strange amnesia, causing me to forget how badly I wanted a baby and how hopeless I felt about my prospects for having one? Is it, maybe, a by-product of my recent, shitty mood? Or perhaps simply panic setting in as I feel more and more pregnant and these babies feel more real to me? Or am I just a hopeless control freak, wanting a degree of authority over my life that simply isn’t realistic or healthy?

I know, I know. I should just shut up and be happy. I am, I swear. Just yesterday, I made myself cry thinking about how completely shattered I would be if I miscarried, or if one or both of the babies didn't survive. I love them, truly and completely. But I'm also prone to analyzing my every action and fretting over every possible wrong choice in some vain attempt to lead The Perfect Life. Such contradictory emotions! Such complexity! (It's enough to make a neo-con hurl himself, screaming, off a cliff!)

I may regret posting this. It’s awfully honest. Which is an awfully scary thing to be. Please be gentle....


Blogger Heidi said...

Nothing not to be nice about...they're your feelings and you have a right to feel however you one can or should tell you that you are wrong to feel one way or screw anyone who does..

And if you're worried, I've already offered to take one of the babies off your hands if you want ;-)...

5:49 PM  
Blogger Motel Manager said...

I think this sounds totally understandable. I'm sure that everyone must go through this, except perhaps for the unfailingly optimistic and/or delusional. You've got a big change coming up, and it is natural to worry.

But I also can't wait to meet the little gals! You guys will be wonderful parents. And I have faith you'll still be creative powerhouses.

8:28 PM  
Blogger bihari said...

Honeychile, this is right on. Only dumb parents are of one mind about having children--one mind as in hoorah, hoorah, never looked back, so glad to have our lives change irrevocably, whee! Everyone else I've ever met--though, granted, some to a greater degree than others--has this strange experience of divided, I want to say loyalties, almost. We would all go under a bus in a hot second to spare our children any pain whatsoever, and we all love them with a strange, umbilical love, and at the same time we are completely capable of being miserable in their company and longing, day after day, for bedtime. We are also capable of waking up Saturday morning and thinking, "If only I hadn't procreated, I could lie here all morning and then go drink coffee and read the paper." Or maybe it's just me who descends to such depths of shallowness.

My point is (I think) that what you're feeling is a big part of parenthood. Not the fun part, but a big part nonetheless. I used to watch y'all during the Workshop years and just long to be able to go out at night and drink and dance and have some fucking FUN and then sleep in the next day. It didn't mean I wasn't grateful for my children, either. It just meant I missed the parts of my life I had to give up for a while. I still do, very much.

But, as you already identified in your post, the bitch of it is that once you HAVE those babies, even before they're born, you can't go back to the pre-child years without tragedy...i.e. the only way I'll ever be childless again is--I don't even want to write it. And of course, there's them babies themselves. And they are pretty damn good when you've got them.

Oh my GOD I have to stop writing such long comments. I think I'll email you...lots to say on this subject. (Obviously)

Much love to you and girls.

10:29 PM  
Blogger scruffylooking said...

I loved this post. I really miss talking about periods and cycles since I stopped working at the ob/gyn clinic.

Also, I blame every negative emotion I have on hormones. it's great - you should try it.

I fretted about everything when I was pregnant but it wasn't any different than before I was pregnant and I would feel slightly suicidal and then freak out about maybe dying of cancer in the same 10 minute span.

You will be a great mom and you will be thrilled (mostly) once your babies are born.

11:26 AM  
Anonymous Leah said...

I struggled with fertility too. Finally concieved naturally, had a high-risk pregnancy and a happy ending/beginning. I had intense moments of "WTF have we done?!! There's a PERSON living in me! A Person! A Person we have to care for! We don't even floss frequently" I worried constantly about the health of my baby, or anything really. I bawled at work one day after reading that polar bears are eating each I was bringing a person into a world that might not have polar bears! This made even more stupid because I live in Alaska and work up there, you know, where the polar bears frolic!

I personally think your thoughts are perfectly healthy and appropriate. And as was said earlier in these comments - this is parenthood. Being a mother means that you will doubt, you will worry, you will despair but these thoughts will all be undeniably smooshed under the greatest joy, love, and happiness your children will bring you.

And you know, when my son is whining and screaming and fussing, and I'm at my wit's end, I turn to my husband and say "WTF did we DO? The Person is making me crazy!" My husband will answer as he takes his turn with the baby. "Yeah, but it's a GOOD crazy!"

1:54 PM  

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