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 jeffandamandad@gmail.com or message me on Facebook.  There are more nitty, gritty details I have left out for the simple grossness or heeby-jeeby factor.

Monday, July 9, 2012

A Little Something New

About a month ago, I was contacted by Broadsheet360, a local online magazine, and asked if I would be interested in submitting a piece for their July issue, themed "The Back Seat." 

I was humbled and honored to submit my perspective on the infertility journey, and I'm pleased to share it here.  I also want to thank Broadsheet360 for giving me the opportunity to let their readers in on what has become a way of life for so many men and women.

Check it out here: Left-Behindness