Friday, December 14, 2012


There are moments in our lives, moments that come along and knock the wind out of our breathing lungs, stop our beating hearts, confound our curious minds, leave us grasping for purpose, for answers. 

As I sit watching the news coverage of the unspeakable, crushing horror at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, my whole being recognizes this moment. Before we can even comprehend this tragedy, the speculation and analysis begins. Who, what, where, when, how? What if? What now? (WHY!?)

Even if we find, or come across, or are fed the answers to these questions, where does that leave us? Twenty babies will not return to their parents' arms today. Another community has been upended and will never be the same.  

And we, the helpless observers, will go 'round and 'round with each other (most likely on Facebook). 

Well, my plea - my contribution to the conversation - is simple, and it's not new.  It's an idea that we know, and we occasionally see in action. But it's something that all too often gets lost in the rat race, in the stresses of the mundane, in the pressure of the bad that feels like it's continually closing in. (LOVE.)

It's a word we toss around.  It's an emotion we can't always pinpoint. It's a force that, despite its innate vagueness, means something specific to every human being. And it's something I do not express rightfully and wholeheartedly as often as I should. But the truth is, I am so unspeakably grateful for so much and so many - my comfort, my security, my health, my talents. My amazing husband, my unmatchable parents, my beautiful sister, my wise and stalwart grandparents, my vibrant aunts, uncles, cousins, in-laws, my peerless friends, my talented coworkers, the very dear and endlessly inspiring children in my life.  (I LOVE YOU.)

So my request, in the aftershock of such stabbing brutality and senseless loss, is for each of us - we, the helpless observers - to pause, take a breath, close our eyes, and determine what love means to us, specifically.  Once we see it clearly, I then would humbly request we each act on that determination in whatever way seems most appropriate.  (YOUR LIFE IS TREASURED.)

My soul is tired of the darkness. It shrivels a little bit more with each utterance of bitterness and each degree of desensitization. It's time to spread joy. It's time to let the ones we love know, every day, how they fortify our spirits, how they perpetuate our joy, how they make this life worthwhile.  (YOU ARE MY HAPPINESS.)

To steal a sentiment from one of my dear friends (Alexis, you have a beautiful heart), it's time to honor those precious lives lost, those families ripped asunder, the flowing tears of that weeping New England town, and the frustrations of this tormented nation.

Ready? Let's start.  


Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Gratitude 2.0

'Tis the be thankful (I know what you were thinking). A few months ago, I wrote about my deep appreciation for my Lifelines along this perilous journey. On this day - a day for which I am desperately trying to do my part in preserving the gratitude that seems to be slipping into the abyss of door busters and early-bird savings - I will seek to expand on the thankfulness that seven months later has instilled in me. And hopefully perpetuate the grand defense of the turkey. 

So, to begin the belaboring of food-related puns...let's dig in!

I am thankful for this blog and for all of you out there reading it. I have vented, whined, lamented, hoped, and observed. I have found a peace of mind and a soothing of heart here in Internet-land. Admittedly, this whole thing started for purely selfish reasons, but I know it's grown beyond my own healing.  I am so thankful for and humbled by the mutual support and camaraderie flowering from each post.

I am thankful for "alternative" medicine, this whole new world that has opened up avenues of health for body and mind.

I am thankful that my body is responding to treatment - whether it be Western, Eastern, or au naturale, by body is responding and normalizing.  At this point, it is only a matter of time and routine to get us to our goal.

I am thankful I know my body. If I have learned anything along the way these past 2 1/2 years, it is how to read my body.  It is how to pay attention.  And it is knowing the effect outside elements have on my body - good or bad.  I've said it many times, but it is SO important that I will continue to preach this: Learn how your body works.  Know what is normal for you.  Pay attention when normal interferes with basic functions.  Speak up when what you know - through your own research and intuition - is not being properly addressed by medicine. Be your own health advocate. Do not be afraid to try, fail, try again, fail again, and continue to explore new things until something adjusts normal into the basic function that has eluded you.

I am thankful for financial security.  Without it we would never have been able to pursue any kind of treatment.  We would be in the dark about our obstacles. It is a travesty that couples in our position need to spend so much emotional currency on the stress of money, but it is where the healthcare system of our society sits at this point.  Parity is rare to non-existent when it comes to fertility treatment.  Jeff and I are fortunate to be in a position where we have managed to scrape by paying out-of-pocket for my fertility specialist and for weekly acupuncture and periodic naturopath appointments.  I am tempted to ask why we have to in the first place, but just being able to is enough to make me grateful.

And in that vein, I am thankful to have a job that offers me the flexibility to be able to go to the appointments I've needed to go to. To be an emotional and hormonal wreck (at times). To take a break every now and then to focus on my personal crises.  This has been a support system in and of itself.

I am thankful for humor and perspective.  Coming (nearly - the saga continues) full circle, looking back, and anticipating the future, my heart has only been able to heal - scarred though it may be - because of the love and support of those around me.  But also because of those lighter moments of laughing at the completely absurd nature of human fertility, conception, and pro-creation. To my dear friends who keep me smiling (you know who you are), you have saved me time and again.

I am thankful for me.  All narcissistic undertones aside - and fully recognizing the role others have played in my survival - I have been through hell.  I may not have climbed completely out yet (call it the shallowest circle) but I'm still going strong.  Human beings are incredible creatures, and I find it perfectly acceptable to acknowledge when we've been particularly resilient. I was reminded of this by watching a Good Morning America update on the condition of Robin Roberts - a woman whose seemingly immeasurable strength beautifully exudes through her spirit.  Here is what she said: "We're all a little stronger - just a little bit stronger - than we think we are.  And that is all we need." We tend to overlook our abilities to thrive, but I will take this moment to admit I am both proud of and surprised at my own fortitude. 

And finally, I am thankful for traditions - for good food and beautiful family, for the Macy's parade providing the day's soundtrack, for wishbone breaking and watching "Christmas Vacation" after Thanksgiving dinner, for "A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving," for mom's carrots and pumpkin pie drowned in Cool Whip, for holding out and not turning on the Christmas music until Friday -  for all of those things that remind me why I keep fighting.   Viva la Turkey-day!

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Are We There Yet and Fa-La-La-ing

So many times along this journey, I’ve had to stop and simply ask “why?”  But probably not the why most people would think.  It’s not “why hasn’t this worked out the way we planned,” but rather “why am I putting myself through this physical hell?” and “why is this emotional and psychological turmoil worth it?” and “why should I keep playing the waiting game month after eternally long month?”

I’m a great believer in experiential living, in the idea that what we expose ourselves to greatly shapes who we are, who we will become, and what we ultimately value as essential parts making up the whole of what we call life. (Excuse me while I wax philosophical.)

So when I ask myself why I want to be a mother, why I am trying so hard to create a family, I turn to the experiences of my life.  And when I experience something that adds another layer to living, I remind myself that this is why I want to have a child.

Let’s back up a bit.  My husband and I recently embarked on an epic journey – a 10-day road trip to and through the American Southwest.  We drove anywhere from six to ten hours a day and slept in hotels running the gamut of dated and cheesy to plush and upscale. We saw friends, family, and the awe-inspiring Grand Canyon.  We took interstates and back roads and listened to every CD in my collection. And we created a jewel in the expanding treasure chest of our lives together.

Now, I am no stranger to such trekking.  My parents enriched my and my sister’s lives exponentially with every summer they packed us up in the truck (small though it was, and smaller though it seemed to get) and herded our little family in a general direction. These two-week trips took us all over the western United States.  We hit the big ones – Yellowstone, Mount Rushmore, Disneyland, the Golden Gate Bridge, and the Grand Canyon. And we stumbled upon the more obscure – Dinosaur National Monument (VERY cool for the budding post-Jurassic Park paleontologist), the Rocky Mountain Oyster Festival (quite fascinating and extremely gross to the 6- and 10-year-olds), and serene Flathead Lake (soul food for an introspective and moody adolescent who decided to pick up a camera one day). 

But we also experienced the countless in-between moments – driving across Utah's Bonneville Salt Flats at sunset, our feet hanging out the open truck window; or trying to guess the mileage between points A and B along the incredibly sparse and surprisingly long straight-stretches between Reno and Vegas; or escaping the flash flood at that KOA in South Dakota, taking shelter in the Twilight Zone rec room above the campground office; or the record Arizona heat toasting our bread before we had time to make the sandwiches; and especially the countless inside jokes we still laugh at from time to time (“Slow down!” and “Let me out!” come to mind).

All this is to say our little road trip a few weeks ago was the beginning of a new generation of Americana on the road, or two-week treasures that continue to add immeasurable joy to my life.  Everyone deserves to feel the nurturing effect of a family road trip.  And I so want to pass on this small legacy to a family of my own.  I want to pack up my kids every summer and show them not only this great country, but also the passing moments that build and sustain memories and photo albums. I suspect that my parents look back on those trips as fondly as I do, and I know something will be absent from the experience of my life if I am not able to someday do the same. I want to know that a new generation will someday look back and remember the inside jokes and even the nostalgic frustration of sharing that small backseat with your little sister for hours and miles on end.  That is why I want to be a mother.

Let’s back up even further. There is a minor phenomenon circulating Facebook world these days – it is the “30 Days of What I’m Thankful for in November” phenomenon. And as I’ve seen friends post their thoughts each morning, I have noticed, without exception so far, that every beatitude comes down, at its core, to family. When you’ve gotten lucky in family, what else is there, really? And here is yet again, another bittersweetness for me.  My childhood was filled with family, and the older I get the more thankful I am for that – and for them. I want to create a life that will one day look back and be so grateful for its family and for the life its parents have crafted and nurtured and pined for. What greater way to honor your family than to reflect that love – that pumpkin-spice, cinnamon-stick, hot-chocolate comfort – onto your own children. Pay it forward (can I use that cliché) and create a new generation of happy, grateful human beings who will want to emanate life and love around them. That is why I want to be a mother.

And let’s go forward a bit. As the Christmas-themed commercials begin to permeate the airwaves, hop-scotching right over Thanksgiving and stealing the turkey’s thunder, what about that Holy Grail of holidays? I would be in denial if I didn’t admit that my heart breaks at the thought of yet another childless Christmas. As my friends, cousins and in-laws make plans for their families – scheduling that first photo session with an ornament-strewn backdrop, or buying tickets for The Nutcracker, or standing in line for Santa at the mall, or bundling up their little ones for that icy hike through the tree farm – as those simple, perfect moments begin to play out, I’m still counting the days of my cycle and budgeting for ovulation kits and weekly acupuncture appointments. I’m remembering that nine short (yet oh so long) months ago, we expected we’d be celebrating Baby’s First Christmas too. I’m imagining and planning out what we might do “when we have a kid.” (Our agenda is so full of plans for that hypothetical – we’ve had two and a half years of it – that our children won’t have a free moment for the first five years of their lives.)

So it comes back to these experiences – to living life interestingly. To knowing that my children will have full lives and all the opportunities I’ve been blessed with – if only we can achieve that final blessing. All in all, I’ve led a very rich 29 years and 2 months. And if I’ve learned anything, it’s that life is not meant to be spent in solitude. And life also should not end. Now, I’m not advocating immortality. But we should live on through the imprint we make on those we leave behind. It is my strong desire to leave my imprint on my child, as my parents, grandparents, great-grandparents, have left theirs on me. I want to create a life of happiness, fulfillment, opportunity, and pristine experience for someone new to this world. That is why I want to – need to – be a mother.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012


I was reminded today that Summer is ending, Fall is about to begin, and Autumn is a pristine metaphor for preparing life for renewal. It also just so happens to be my favorite season (maybe because my birthday is in September), and so a fitting time for re-evaluation.

In Autumn, nature sloughs off the old in anticipation of the coming dormancy, the time when everything lies quiet beneath the surface before bursting forth refreshed and renewed from the long winter’s nap. Some may think of autumn as the dying season, but it is really the cleansing season. A time to get rid of whatever spring and summer may have built up and to prepare a blank canvas for the following seasons.

And so, to echo my last post about expectation, and in honor of the leaves that soon will golden and fall, I too am letting go. Call this my personal Lent.

I have already explained the many ways in which I have cycled through the varied definitions of expecting, so let me sum up: I am letting go of the expectations I’ve placed on myself and others along this path.  They are arbitrary in the grand scheme of how little I can control the outcome of such expectations, and they only magnify disappointment (it’s a cold and vicious cycle). 

And in that same vein, I am letting go of control.  This is not the same as giving up, keep in mind. But this past year has taught me nothing if not the brutal truth that I am not in control of the chemistry of my body, nor am I in control of my fate. There are steps I can take to potentially influence both, but I cannot maintain the expectation that I control how things will turn out.  I am one small human in this infinite universe – Hello, my name is Amanda, and I’m a control freak.  Wouldn’t that be an ironic 12-step program.

In letting go of control, it is my intent to let guilt and shame fall away right with it. We, the Infertile, live with an incredible burden of both shame and guilt. I have expressed this many times before, but it is so unfair that it bears reminding. We feel guilt over our resentment toward those who have what we fight and long for. We feel shame over our inadequate bodies. We feel guilt if we stray the slightest from our rigid health and medical regimens. (*Gasp* I ate a piece of licorice today and I didn’t work out!) We feel shame in our monthly “failures.” And on it goes. Well, I say ENOUGH. Circumstance, fate and genetics have already dealt me an uphill battle. I refuse to make the path any steeper. This Fall, whenever I feel those emotions oozing and sneaking their way in, I promise to myself I will stop, take a breath, and say “enough.”

I will do my damnedest to let go of stress. That is, the stress of infertility. There are changes in the works for my husband and me in our grand pursuit – changes not yet ripe for divulging – and these have put some peace back into my ramshackle mind. From where I stand now, it is my new goal to maintain some zen, some balance and perspective, and to allow life to unfold as it will around me. Five months ago, I never imagined I could ever feel happiness again. Two months ago, I saw happy cautiously peeking over the horizon. And now, I can honestly say I feel truly happy (albeit measuredly) more often than not.

I love my friends and my family. And I love their babies. But I would be lying if I said I have never felt resentment toward what seems like their ever-growing families. And in turn, it tears my heart in two when I realize I resent their joy (see above re: guilt). Similarly, I have harbored much animosity for pregnant strangers for no reason but the fact that they have managed to become and stay pregnant, as nature intended. It is all irrational, emotional, shameful. It has been by far my least favorite side effect of infertility, and I want to let it go. To my friends and family – I want to share in your joy and learn from your own journeys. To the strangers – I will likely never meet you, but when I see you walking down the street or shopping in IKEA, I promise to wish you bliss instead of my own projected frustration.

I am letting go of the What Ifs – both past and future. The past is unchangeable. It was dark and stormy but I am stronger for it. What doesn’t kill us, right? The future is unwritten, at least in a medium my human eyes can see and my tiny mind can comprehend. If we are destined for more pain, we will deal with it. If we are destined for more of the same, we are already dealing with it. If we are destined for joy, in whatever form deemed fit for us, we will embrace it and be forever grateful.

I am letting go of February 24, 2012 – the day I conceived.

I am letting go of March 7, 2012 – the day we got our confirmation – the happiest day of my life.

I am letting go of April 16, 2012 – the day I miscarried – the day we lost an irreplaceable part of our hearts – the worst day of my life.

I am letting go of November 19, 2012 (in advance) – the day our Unborn should have been due.

So finally, I am letting go of grief. Letting go, but never forgetting. I don’t know if grief is a seven-stage process, but I’ve been through it. I was drowning in it. But somehow I managed to force my head above the water and find the air again. And while I know I’ll never be the same, I also know I can survive. I know I can find inspiration beyond the darkness. And I know it’s OK to let go – when I’m ready. And today, I am ready. It has taken every single one of the past 150 (exactly) days, and every single hug, word of sympathy and shed tear, but I have finally found that “better place.”

This Autumn, I am wiping the slate clean, going with the flow, come what may, hell or high water, and all those other lovely clichés. And when we come through on the 2013 side of winter, we’ll just see where we sit.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012


I like words. I like manipulating them. I like studying them. I like marveling at them.

And so I had to laugh to myself when I considered a brief stream-of-consciousness moment the other day that ended with a word that is, you might say, pregnant with meaning.  You see, I am staring down the barrel of a deadline – a self-inflicted deadline – my 29th birthday.

I haven’t really thought about it much this past year, strangely enough.  My life has been turned upside down since February, and my five-year plan of 24 months ago really doesn’t hold much legitimacy anymore. But I’m getting ahead of myself.  The deadline. I long ago decided that I should not be any older than 28 by the time I have my first child. 

It sounds completely silly, I know, especially standing where I am now. And that’s part of what induced that cynical chuckle a few days ago. A few months ago, I would have been quite depressed at yet another reminder that I am still fighting this battle, but my point-of-view evolves so rapidly these days.  So I decided I needed to explore the idea of arbitrary expectations in relation to becoming a parent.

Expecting. How fitting this word has become a stand-in for the state of being pregnant. Maybe I should title the blog post “Great Expectations.” But that’s too cliché. “Expecting”? Now there would be an amusing linguistics experiment – how many readers would see that word and assume I was announcing the long-awaited achievement? No, I’ve lived with too many expectations (I’m sensing a theme) about this journey for too long.  I want the title of this post to reflect my end goal in writing it – to break free from these ideas of what should be, what should happen, what check marks are required in order to be what I should be.  (There, now you’ve gotten a glimpse into the inner-workings of my mind.  You lucky ducks.)

So there it is. 

1) Expect – believe strongly; anticipate
2) Pregnant – carrying; expectant; in a family way; with child
3) Abide – stop temporarily and wait for
4) Assume – believe; take for granted
5) Believe – assume or suppose
6) Conceive (no, not that kind of conceive) – understand

These are the first six synonyms for “expecting” from Roget’s online thesaurus.  There are 47, by the way. I was curious where the pregnancy definition would fall, so I casually looked it up. But as I started to peruse further, I realized my blog entry was about to write itself. I have experienced a progression of the definition of each of these along the path of infertility. If I had looked at this list several years ago, these words would have meant nothing more to me than their face value.  What a magical thing perspective is.

So here it is. The more complete version of these definitions that I have learned and now know by heart.

1) Expect – believe strongly; anticipate. This is a multifunctional definition because, at first, I anticipated a very easy fix.  Why not? Modern medicine is a marvel. Expectation = shattered. What I’ve learned is life doesn’t revolve around easy fixes (color me sheltered and privileged). But I now believe strongly in the power of taking what comes and attacking with every tool available, even if those tools are not what I expected them to be.

2) Pregnant – carrying; expectant; in a family way; with child. Well…really. How should I tackle this one? Let me count the ways. Here’s the deal: Becoming pregnant is not the be all and end all.  It is a fragile, random phenomenon that doesn’t care about your expectation that pregnancy will result in a family way. My clock started ticking years ago, and I have been with child mentally and emotionally since then. “Expecting” a child does not have to mean that pregnancy is required. Just ask any childless parent if they are expecting.  We are carrying that child with us long before that first heartbeat is detected.

3) Abide – stop temporarily and wait for. I was impatient two years ago, expecting instant gratification, when I stopped taking birth control and started taking ovulation tests. I was impatient when I visited my OB/GYN and attempted five months of Clomid. I was impatient when I put my faith in Miracle Metformin. And I was impatient when I expected one round of hormone therapy would make my dream come true. I have abided the disappointment inherent in impatience, and I now look forward knowing that life doesn’t accept five-year plans and that temporary can feel permanent from the inside out, but the wait just might make the waited for that much sweeter in the end.

4) Assume – believe; take for granted. You know what they say about those who assume, right? I have been humbled by the intricacies involved with the miracle of life. And I have been beaten down by my delusions of being in control. The day-to-day is one thing, but I did not – could not – understand how small and powerless we humans truly are. One would expect such an epiphany to crumble one’s confidence. But I now understand that it is completely unfair to expect we can take on the responsibility of such a thing as creating life onto our frail, mortal shoulders. It is unfair and it is also arrogant. So many people take for granted the miracle of regular ovulation, of conception, of a viable and then a healthy pregnancy, of birth and the blessing of a child. I not only believe, I know I will not take any of that for granted ever again.

5) Believe – assume or suppose. See Number 4. And add my deep belief that parents can be made in a number of ways, and families can come in all shapes and sizes if true love and humility lie at the heart. And my belief that my child is patiently waiting to join our family.

6) Conceive – understand. What I understand today – all of what I have written in this post and throughout my brief history as a blogger, plus everything unspoken – I never conceived of two years ago. And I am pretty sure it would be impossible to conceive of what this journey is – what it means, what it feels like, how it shapes a person and a couple – without going through it. I never knew I could withstand such pain - a pain that will never truly go away.  The wound may scar over, but that scar remains as a reminder of all I've learned and all I cannot conceive of that is coming my way and that is still yet to learn. I also never understood what a beautiful camaraderie and silver lining could come out of the most difficult experience of my life to date.  (Little known irony as a side note to 5 & 6: My husband and I wear matching lime green advocacy bracelets for infertility awareness.  They read “Believe – Conceive.” Visit to get yours today!)

So the lesson from all this, I suppose, is expecting can take many forms, including but not exclusive to the “What to Expect...” variety. The greatest lesson I’ve learned is not to expect anything when it comes to this journey. Doing so has brought me great disappointments and pleasant (you heard me right) surprises, but never the results I anticipated.

And so it is ironic and fitting that an expectation I placed on myself years ago would come back to me on the figurative eve of my 29th birthday and help me realize I’ve reached a turning-point at which I must articulate one more expectation.  But I think I’ll call it something different this time. Let it instead be an aspiration (Roget’s: “goal; hope”). Out of fairness to myself and the millions of to-be families, I give up all expectations surrounding my ideas of “family building.” Instead I will dare to hope but also attempt to keep my mind open and uncluttered by the details along the way to my goal.

So bring on Year 29.  I expect it will be full of the unexpected.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

My "Babies"

Today’s Facebook community question from RESOLVE:The National Infertility Association: How do your pets help you through the infertility journey?

Needless to say (if you know me at all), this topic screamed “blog post” at me.  But before I get ahead of myself, there are a few things you need to know about our two cats, Dante and Subie (pronounced SOO-bee). In my small circle, these cats have become…well, let’s call it like it is…legendary.

I adopted Dante more than six years ago from a college friend (whose previously stray cat happened to be pregnant when he took her in) upon my graduation. All of the kittens in this litter were pitch black, despite their creamy-white Siamese mother. My sister and I picked Dante up on my way home from college in McMinnville, Oregon, for the last time, and we spent the whole trip trying to christen him with the perfect name.  We finally agreed on Dante Andrew Mao.  There are very specific reasons for each of his three names, but I’ll try to keep the tangents to a minimum.  Just keep in mind Dante Alighieri once wrote a little poem about a very southern clime. 

Dante is a tough character to describe.  He likes to talk – a lot – in many voices that my husband and I can distinguish to the point of near-conversational, inter-species communication.  He is smart – creepy smart at time.  He’s very adept at opening doors, and he plays obnoxious games (such as “Run out of or into any door as soon as it’s opened just because I can make the humans chase me”) just to be obstinate.  A cat should not be able to comprehend obstinacy, but I’d bet my next paycheck Dante does.  Example: He once stole a dollar bill from my cousin’s pocket as she was lying on the couch and proceeded to run away with it.  She followed him and found it jammed under his litter box as if he were stashing it out of sight before she caught up to him. 

Dante is goofy beyond all description, always doing something to make us question his sanity, like standing as close to a wall as possible, looking up at the ceiling and howling in his “talkin’ to walls” voice while lolling his head back and forth. But then I remember – he’s a CAT.  But he’s the most human cat I’ve ever met, and I’m pretty sure there are degrees of sanity when it comes to the feline species. 

But as ornery as he is, Dante is all bark and only rarely bite.  He’s a giant (and I do mean fat) ball of black fluff and yellow eyes. And he loves me unconditionally. He’s been known to show affection to others if the mood so strikes, but he is definitely a mama’s boy, and, in his eyes, I am his mama – his one, true love. 

Subie is a beautiful white and gray four-year-old tabby who we not-so-reluctantly adopted from my cousin after she discovered his fondness for climbing her months-old daughter like a scratching post.  That should have been a sign of the emotional instability to come, but as soon as we saw him, we were hooked. 

Subie is the quintessential cat – with a twist. He is prissy – a constant groomer – and he is a comfort creature to the max. He’s stand-offish unless affection is granted on his terms.  He loves to play with anything and he loves to rough up his “brother.”  That is, when he’s not grooming him instead. We joke that Subie should have been a mama cat.  

The twist, you ask? He requires twice-daily doses of Prozac.  I’m not being witty when I say that – he really does take Prozac – the same formula prescribed to humans only chicken flavored. You see, Subie has a little anxiety problem.  And by little, I mean spraying-the-walls, making-himself-sick-to-the-point-of-pet-ER-visit anxiety.  Oh, not to mention special-prescription (i.e. expensive)-food anxiety.  We can’t pinpoint the causes, but, let’s face it, all that really matters are the effects. But when we weigh the options of dealing with and funding his kitty mental health or living without him, there’s only one way we could go. One look at him splayed out at the foot of the bed, basking in a bliss only he seems able to achieve, and your heart completely and irreversibly melts. 

That’s a long way of saying our cats have a very special place in our lives and precise roles to play in our home.  So it’s a little hard to differentiate how they’ve helped us along our “infertility journey” from how they’ve impacted our lives in general. Here’s my take on it.  

They are a diversion from the frustration and drudgery. Whether it be the new, off-the-wall weird thing they are doing at the moment or the unpleasant duty of cleaning up their bodily fluids, they are a distraction, a reminder that everyday life continues on.  There is a world outside of myself.  Here are these small, seemingly insignificant life forms that need our attention and care right now.  They don’t care if my ovulation test was positive or negative or what dose of hormones I need to inject today – they just want their nightly crunchy food and will whine until that manna is delivered. 
They are comic relief – all the time.  I can’t remember the last 24-hour period to pass during which one or both of the little beasts did not make me laugh out loud at least once.  Even when I’ve been in the depths of despair, I was guaranteed to crack a smile or let slip a chuckle at watching Subie’s “wind-up” butt wiggle as he stalked a scrap of paper or at hearing Dante “chatter” with the pigeons that roost on our neighbor’s house, the would-be companions he so longs to befriend. 

They are training ground for parenthood, some have said. Let me say up front that I know taking care of a couple of cats is nowhere near what caring for a child is. I’m not delusional. But consider the following: they are completely dependent on us. I am positive they would not make it in the wild. Well, maybe Subie, but definitely not Princess Dante. We change their diapers (litter box), and they have scheduled feedings. We have to take them for check-ups and the occasional (God forbid frequent) ER visit. We try to teach them to share their toys and not bully each other. We have to arrange for a babysitter when we’re out of town.  No, it’s not to the degree of caring for a child, but being a (responsible) pet owner has to count for something in the life experience column leading into parenthood.  Especially being the pet owner of two very high-maintenance felines. 

They are a vast comfort along the wasteland of this path. All true animal lovers (sadly, not all pet owners can be classified as such) know the magic of that unique connection between the human soul and the soul of a beloved furry (or not so much) creature. Many of us have undoubtedly experienced the healing power of that warm, breathing lump of fur sitting in our lap, ignorant of all of life’s injustices and pain, simply soaking up every ounce of affection, and in return, loving us the way only they can. How many times in the past six years have I sat lost in my own despair only to look down and see Dante gazing up with complete adoration (the kind discriminatingly reserved for dogs) and communicating to me that no matter what happens in this life, he will always be right there ready to head boop me and purr at my slightest touch?  Chicken soup for the soul, indeed. 

And so now, as I traverse the greatest physical and emotional challenge of my life, here is yet another silver lining: true acknowledgement of just why we put up with what “outsiders” may consider ridiculous devotion to our pets. Yes, they can be (are) dirty. Yes, they can be expensive. Yes, their behavior baffles the human brain at times. But nothing can replace how Subie and Dante, my “babies,” have enriched my life and strengthened my soul at a time when circumstances threaten to strip it bare and leave it for dead. 

There has never been a time in my life when I’ve lived in a pet-less home. Even in the dorm days of college, my aquarium always contained at least one fish (rest their toilet-flushed souls).  And I never intend to be pet-less. With a little luck, a lot of money, and the perfect storm of treatment options, I will soon have a child who will grow up with these two little fur balls who, unbeknownst to their oblivious little beings, have been a part of my infertility journey all along.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012


I can see him. He's sitting on my living room floor between the coffee table and the love seat. He has dark hair, bright, curious eyes, and a wide, luminescent smile. He turns away from whatever he is playing with and looks at me, his mommy.

This is the image I see every time I lie down on the table for an acupuncture treatment, close my eyes and settle in for the hour-long session. It is fitting that I had an appointment the morning following my last post, in which I pretty much complained about the physical weariness that sometimes gets the better of me. Leaving my last appointment, I felt ashamed for dedicating my energies to whining. I am more far-sighted than that.

And besides...there is a soul. It is out there waiting for its physical vessel, its chance to be born into this world and grow up with Jeff and Amanda Delapena doting on it, loving it beyond measure, providing for and guiding it throughout the hills and valleys of life. It is my duty to not lose sight of my responsibility to do all in my power to provide that vessel for that precious soul. Or at the very least, provide a home for it. The physical aches and pains, the emotional twists and turns - it all evaporates when I close my eyes and picture my son. All that's left is the nearly unbearable longing and drive to make that vision a reality.

And so this is my apology to you, my child, for forgetting your face. For getting wrapped up in the daily, weekly, monthly routines - the details of the how trumping the overarching, all-important why. I am sorry for those moments of despair and the urge to ask if it's all worth it. Of course it is. When you are born, I want you to know that your mom and dad wanted you so badly we were willing to sacrifice anything. But more than that, we were willing to sacrifice anything without regret.

This is not about me. Really. It's not. It is not about Clomid, Metformin and Follistim. It's not about Progesterone, follicles, hCG, and glucose levels. It's not about the Paleo diet and cutting out caffeine. It's not about Day 1 or Day 12 or Day 28. It's not about money and time off work for appointments. It's not about negative results and disappointment. It's not about message boards and What to Expect. It's not the ticking of that primal biological clock. It's not even about matching DNA.

This IS about love and our family. It's about future camping trips and vacations to Disneyland. It's about playdates with Brody, or Brynn, or Cassidy, or Frannie, or Aubrey and Kylie, or Kamiya, Kaci, Sophia, Hailey and Tyson. It's about Christmas at Grandma and Grandpa's house, and it's about baking cookies with Auntie Sarah. It's weekends filled with morning cartoons and visits to the park and Crayola artwork wallpapering the refrigerator. It's about learning to read and ride a bike. It's scraped knees, dentist appointments, the occasional flu and a lot of hugs and dried tears. It's lullabies and nightlights and moments of stillness. It's trick-or-treating and school plays. It's daddy showing you the stars on a clear night or mommy chaperoning your first field trip.

It's about the bliss of the mundane. It's about innocence and wonder and dreams.

This is about a promise to that unborn soul. It is all for the love your mommy and daddy already have for you and all the love you will feel for all of your life-to-be. It is the scar we will forever carry as a reminder of what we lost and what we cherish and what will be the greatest blessing and miracle and knowing we will never take you for granted. It is a love too great for two hearts to keep to themselves. It's about that little boy and his carefree smile. And maybe he has a twin sister.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Sick & Tired

*Warning: The following may (will) contain unbridled ranting, raving, and generally un-serene sentiments.

Following that disclaimer, I have to start by saying everything - almost anything - will be worth it if, in the end, we finally have a successful pregnancy and our child filling out our little family.  And I'm not looking for sympathy - what I endure I know I've brought on myself with the bigger picture in mind.  But we all need to vent sometimes.  And those times when I start feeling sorry for myself is when I know I've got to release the pressure valve a little and try my best to crawl back to my happy place.

But, while I've tried very hard to maintain some underlying positivity to the tone of my posts, I can't always eek out the silver lining of my situation. Case in point: my poor, abused body. Which, yes, I realize comes with the territory of child bearing in general, but it sure would be nice to have a child to bear in exchange for the toll we chose to take on my body.  At this point, I'm left with 2+ years of physical beat down and nothing to show for it but a perpetually empty bank account, tried patience and a scar from what might have been.

That it has been two years, pretty much uninterrupted, of feeling all-in-all crappy (word choice be damned!), I have gone back and forth in my ability to rise above it. For the most part, the psychological turmoil has been front and center, leaving my body to take the brunt of my all-out warfare against my infertility. But lately, I've been inches away from "uncle."

It may help if I paint the picture.  Or, rather, provide a snapshot of my Independence Day.  And I literally mean July 4, 2012.

Start with the third urinary tract infection (complete with Urgent Care visit) I've had since September.  Add to it the digestive issues, which most likely caused the UTI in the first place, brought on as side effects to the fertility-related medication I've been on for a year and a half.  Plus an atomic head cold instigated by a weak immune system worn out from fighting the UTI and sustaining the super-drug antibiotic swallowed to wipe out the UTI and any other good bacteria that just happen to be caught off guard. Oh, not to mention (but I will anyway) the perfect timing and ironic rare appearance of "Aunt Flow" - who visits me MAYBE three times a year (the whole reason we're in this mess to begin with) and her gift of an oh, so special brand of nearly faint-inducing pain...the lingering remnants of the miscarriage rubbing salt into the wound I thought was finally beginning to heal.  Add it all together and you get me lying on the couch most of the day on the 4th of July, wallowing in self-pity, Kleenex, ibuprofen and cranberry juice, praying the neighbors won't burn our house down to top it off.

It really was the perfect storm, and it laid me low mentally and physically to the point where I threw up my hands (at least it wasn't my lunch) and declared, "I am sick and tired of being sick and tired."

This all hit me at once, but it made me reflect on the very physical aspects of fertility treatment and the ongoing torture we'll put our bodies through for that ultimate goal.  We tend to focus on the emotional frustration and pain and the medical diagnoses and treatments, but let's not forget about the day-to-day side effects we tolerate because we have no other option. For me, this has been a very gradual, trial-and-error process.  It started with the end of my birth control days and the short-lived introduction of at-home ovulation tests. I had delusions of normalcy in those days.

From there, knowing something wasn't functioning right, I began taking a low dose (quickly followed by progressively higher doses) of Clomid, prescribed by my doctor month after failed month for about half a year.  Let me tell you about Clomid.  That is, if you do not suffer from infertility, as Clomid is probably the most frequently prescribed remedy for infertility there is, and if you're infertile, you've no doubt learned about it already. Clomid is designed to stimulate one's ovaries and, ideally, force ovulation from ovaries not used to regularly ovulating.  It does this hormonally, and medical professionals determine if you've ovulated through a blood test at the end of each cycle.  This was also the beginning of my needle days.  Clomid side effects, for me, included dizziness, headaches, bloating, hot flashes, and general skin-crawling craziness. Call it PMS on steroids or a preview of menopause - take your pick. Each month I would take these tiny, inconspicuous white pills, live through the lovely side effects, go into the lab for a blood test (which sounds easy enough but just ask any lab tech who's ever tried to find my veins) and then get the news from my doctor's office that no, in fact I did not ovulate this month. Multiply that by five or six cycles, and what you get is me moving on to the next saintly drug: Metformin.

When I looked at the word Metformin just now, my twisted brain automatically read Mephistopheles. Appropriate. You may not know this, but Metformin is the Devil. It's one of the most common "non-invasive" treatments for Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS), but I would argue it's about as invasive at it comes - I swallow one to three of these pills a day, depending on my stamina, and in return Metformin tears me up from the inside out (details deliberately omitted).

Metformin is a drug originally designed for mild diabetes. It addresses abnormal sugar levels and insulin processing, which happen to go hand-in-hand with PCOS, and physicians stumbled across it's ability to correct PCOS by accident when diabetic women started getting pregnant right and left after starting to take Metformin. I have heard it called a miracle drug for infertile women.  To me, it is the six-month reason why I broke down last Christmas and decided to get serious about seeing a fertility specialist.  Metformin just wasn't miraculous enough to do anything but make me miserable. Imagine my dismay when my fertility doc told me to keep taking it anyway.  So for now, the Devil gets to possess me indefinitely.

Jump to February and the beginning of - ta da - hormone injections, bi- and tri-weekly ultrasounds (yes, the invasive kind), frequent blood draws and interuterine insemination, coupled with weekly acupuncture and diet overhaul. As bad as Clomid was, injecting concentrated female hormones into my stomach every night was, well, skin-crawling crazy times 10. At least, for my sake and the sake of those around me, it was only for a week.  Follow it up with the insemination - think of the worst bloating you've experienced and add in ovaries like water-logged baseballs. Pleasant. But by that point, I had resigned myself to whatever physical sacrifices I needed to make.  And, in hindsight, it did lead me to pregnancy.  It was a long road of what I know now to be ineffectual experimentation, but at least we finally have a formula that theoretically works.

Looking back from where I stand now after playing my role as lab rat, with miscarriage as the finale, and looking forward knowing round two of the injections is staring me down, it's difficult to not get disheartened, to not let that poisonous thought creep in - what if it's all been for nothing?

I know there are women out there who have been through all of this time and time again, and those who have endured even more. I am in awe of your resilience and persistence.  I hope I have the stamina to keep up.  And I by no means intend to belittle in any way the physical trials of pregnancy of any woman, but at this point, I say bring it on...please? I'm dying for physical/hormonal trauma that has not been artificially forced upon my body, even if by my own hand. Ugh, why can't I be "normal"?

Well, I think that about covers my tantrum for now.  Thank you for your patience as we've worked through this unscheduled purge of pent-up hostility.  We now return you to your regularly scheduled programming with, hopefully, more serenity to come.

*I dedicate this post to all of the women suffering some degree of infertility who have endured the literal pains of treatment for months and years.  If you are just starting out on your own personal fertility experiment, you have PCOS, and you want to know more about any of these treatments from someone who's been there, email me at or message me on Facebook.  There are more nitty, gritty details I have left out for the simple grossness or heeby-jeeby factor.