Inconceivable: Part III
I’d like to thank you again for the overwhelming positive responses to my posts. Your reactions and kind words and support mean more than you can possibly know. Many of you have been anxiously anticipating part 3, so here is a tidbit. I began to write it, but some details of medications and timing all became hazy to me. So in the interest of accuracy (thank you Ithaca College journalism program), I have requested my monstrous file from my doctor, which has been taking a while. I should be getting it soon, and it is then I will be able to finish this endeavor. Until then, I give you a taste of Part 3….
I needed a break. A break from doctors and sonograms and shots and blood tests and constant disappointment. I needed a break from feeling out of control and being angry with every pregnant woman on the street, and everywhere else for that matter. Why her and not me? Why that 15 year old and not me? Why 50-year-old Halle Berry and not me? Honestly, men were starting to look pregnant to me too.
I’m sure my husband needed a break from my crying fits, my ability to go from nasty bitch to delicate flower in 4.2 seconds and my inability to keep plans due to migraines, anxiety and depression.
So we took a break.
I was exhausted. I was numb. I felt less of a woman. My body was put on Earth to do one thing, and it couldn’t do it. I blamed myself. I couldn’t help it. My husband had supersperm and I had a body fighting against accepting them. If there was anyone to blame here, I thought, it was myself.
I kept flashing back to when I was 16 and brought to Schneider’s Children’s Hospital eating disorder clinic. I was 90 pounds of skin and bones. The doctor who examined me had the bedside manner of Clint Eastwood in that movie where he yells, “GET OFF MY LAWN!”
“Look at your stomach!” he exclaimed with disgust while tapping on my concave abdomen. “You can eat soup out of here!”
I just stared at him blankly. What could I say? In my demented mind, that comment was simultaneously a compliment and really creepy.
“You know,” he warned me, “you keep this up and you’re not going to be able to have kids.”
That stuck with me…for years. I really liked kids. I was always great with kids. I did want them, someday. But could my desire to be thin really affect that? Maybe that’s why I wasn’t getting pregnant. Had I messed up my body so much that I was unable to get knocked up? Did Dr. Eastwood’s prediction come true? Was this really all my fault?
Everybody had a story to try to make me feel better. So-and-so’s cousin’s best friend’s sister went through this for 12 years, gave up or decided to adopt and BAM! got pregnant naturally. My sister was one of those stories, in fact. After three rounds of IVF and a miscarriage, feeling defeated, she stopped treatments. A few months later, she was pregnant with niece #1 and less than a year later, pregnant with niece #2…both naturally. So I had hope. It happened to my own flesh and blood, so maybe that’s how it would happen for me.
All of this baffled my mother. She had no problem getting pregnant 5 times (2 miscarriages….one before me, one after me). The difference was she had all her kids by age 30. I was already at what was considered advanced age for baby making, 36.
While on our hiatus from dealing with infertility, a few people suggested acupuncture. A friend of ours, who also had been dealing with fertility issues, tried it and got pregnant the month after she started. My sister had also tried it after her multiple failed attempts with IVF and she got pregnant a few months later as well. If Western medicine wasn’t working for us, maybe Eastern medicine was the answer. It couldn’t hurt right? Well, except for all those needles being stuck into your body. But after 3 years of being a human pincushion, this didn’t deter me.
Our friend suggested an acupuncturist in Chinatown. I had a consultation with Dr. Wu (not his real name, but close enough) and he asked me of my woes. Beside infertility, I decided to see if he could also help me with migraines.
“I take care of you,” he said in his very heavy accent. “Headaches be gone and you have baby in no time.”
So we went to a stark white room, where incense burned and soft music played. He told me to lie down and relax. Then he stuck me with about 30 tiny needles in pressure points all over my body: arms, legs, belly, ears, face, everywhere. It didn’t hurt. It actually kind of felt good. He dimmed the lights, told me to close my eyes and said he’d be back in 20 minutes. After 20 minutes, he came in, asked how I was feeling, took out all the needles and said to come back in two days.
After that first visit I felt kind of rejuvenated. This might work, I thought. I was starting to feel a twinge of a foreign emotion I hadn’t experienced in years…hope. Then there was the second visit.
Going into visit #2 I had the beginnings of a migraine: I was seeing spots, I was extremely sensitive to sound and the pulsing was starting on the right side of my head. I decided to go anyway, thinking the treatment might actually help. He did tell me, “headaches be gone”. I told him how I felt. He said, “OK, when I finish, you feel betta.” Except I didn’t. I felt worse. I walked out of the office and didn’t think I was going to make it home. My migraine was significantly worse than when I got there. I was in bed for the next 2 days with one of the worst migraines I have ever experienced. I had no idea if the acupuncture affected the migraine in any way, but I couldn’t help but make the connection.
“Just so you know,” I told Dr. Wu on visit #3, “My migraine got worse after treatment. I actually had one of the worst migraines of my life. Could the acupuncture have made it worse?”
“Ooooooohhhhhh, yeeeesssss,” he replied shaking his head. “That happen sometime.”
Well, it didn’t happen again because I never went back.
We briefly considered adoption. I searched different websites for information, spoke with a colleague in-depth about the process she went through to adopt her daughter. We even had a specific kid in mind to adopt, Jesus. OK, not a name a nice Jewish girl from Long Island would choose for her own child, but the irony alone intrigued me.
Jesus was a boy at the pre-school where my husband worked. Jesus was in foster care and absolutely adored my husband.
“MEE-shell!” Jesus would say in his Brooklyn Mafioso accent. “You got pajamas on?” I guess this half-blind tot believed my husband’s new plaid shorts were a poor fashion choice. Besides being painstakingly adorable and possibly the next Tim Gunn, Jesus was a known pickpocket at the ripe age of 4.
Although I am sure we would have provided a wonderful home for this budding criminal, he also had 2-year-old twin siblings who were visually impaired as well. We just weren’t ready to take on that kind of responsibility.
And at the risk of sounding completely selfish, I wanted a child of my own; one that came from my body and made up of pieces of both my husband and myself. I was willing to adopt if that became our only option. I was willing to love and care for any child, but I wasn’t ready to give up trying to have one of our own. I also wasn’t ready for what I knew was the next, much harder step, IVF. Not yet.
In those months after our 6 failed IUIs, as I was trying to recover both physically and emotionally, I felt a void, an emptiness. I’ve always imagined myself being a mother. I’ve always had this desire/need to help and take care of others (probably to avoid really taking care of myself). I needed something. I wanted something. That something was a baby, but that was proving to be quite a challenge. So we finally did decide to adopt…dogs.
I grew up with dogs my entire life and thought, if I can’t have a baby, at least I can be a momma to another living being. My husband on the other hand, had very limited experience with pets. He had a pet turtle for a while and there was also Cesar, the cat. But poor Cesar “ran away” once it became obvious that my husband was severely allergic to cats.
Sensing my doggy desire, my husband decided to get tested to see if he was allergic to dogs too. Once we learned he wasn’t, it was full steam ahead on becoming puppy parents. My new obsession was looking for adoptable dogs.
There was Burt Lancaster, the blue eyed husky. He ended up being a little too mangy and a very heavy shedder. Then there was Jason Bateman, a shiny-coated black lab. He was a bit too timid for our taste (and, as we later learned, also bat-shit crazy because our friend’s cousin adopted him). Then came Daisy… Daisy Fuentes.
Daisy caught my husband’s attention from afar. It was like love at first sight: he saw her across a crowded adoption event—panting heavily, golden coat shining in the autumn sun, eyes twinkling. He had to meet her. Boo Bear, a mini-German Shepard looking pup who looked like she wore eyeliner, sat beside Daisy, a bit more aloof.
We weren’t planning on adopting two dogs, but a lot of things weren’t going according to plan in our lives. As my husband likes to say, I wanted a dog, he didn’t, so we compromised and got two. We were told these pups were bound together, sisters from another mister, if you will. They grew up in the same home, rescued together, so the adoption agency was hoping to keep them together. They were kind of superstars in the adoption volunteer circle. As a matter of fact, Daisy almost made it into O magazine for a spread they were doing about the dog adoption agency. Unfortunately, she didn’t make the cut.
So on October 5, 2013, Daisy and Boo became our fur babies and made me a momma. Those girls desperately needed a home and I desperately needed to be needed, so it was a win-win for all.
Getting “the girls”, as we have come to call them, was exactly what I needed at that time in my life. I was sick of people trying to console me and distract me and give me advice. The girls did exactly what I needed them to do: they provide me with unconditional love, unlimited snuggling and brought me comfort and smiles I had not experienced in a very long time. They brought my spirits up and kept my mind off of my empty uterus.
After almost 6 months of a much-needed break, clearing my head and body of toxins and soaking up the love of our new pups, we decided to take the leap and try IVF in the new year. We understood the challenges we were about to face, the money we were about to spend and the heartache we might encounter, but we had to do it. We owed it to ourselves to try. We owed it to the kid, who could be the product of this process, to be able to have us as parents.
Our doctor explained what the cycle would be like. It was intense, she told us; even more so than the IUIs. But she didn’t see any reason why it couldn’t work for us. I appreciated her honesty and her positivity.
So in February of 2014, it began again. Morning visits to the hospital in the depressing waiting room full of hopeful, sad women, more probing, more blood work, more drugs, more waiting and anticipating.