"...Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience."
Romans 8:24b-25

24 March 2011

My Two Week Wait: Enduring the Silence

No, we haven't started In-Vitro or done a transfer.  No, we haven't attempted in any way to get pregnant at all this month.  My husband has actually been out of state most of the month and rather inaccessible. 

This two week wait is one I've never had to endure before, and one I hope I never have to endure again.

If you have been following my blog, you know that there have been recent moments of chaos in my life.  There's been much more going on than what I've shared here, so if you can envision a life of chaos from what you've read so far, amplify that in your mind several times over and you get a glimpse of how chaotic my life has felt.  Whether or not it's really been in chaos is up for debate, but the feeling of chaos has been present for a while.

Before I had to deal with the FN (fertility nazi), there was a lot on my plate that I had to deal with while my husband was away for training.  Enter the FN and the stress she interjected into my life and the "lot" on my plate seemed to double.  And after my encounter with the FN, even more was put on my plate.  Let me tell you, this girl is full.  I didn't want the serving I began with, and I certainly don't want the additional portions.  But they're there, so I'm dealing with them.

There are times in a military spouse's life where silence is dictated by the military.  At times it's a must to remain silent about future dates and events.  At times it's a must to be kept waiting in silence for the safety of the general population.  Then there are times when the silence, at least the quantity of it, makes absolutely no sense and isn't really about safety at all.

In the midst of his absence, my husband informed me that he would be out of communication for a period of two weeks.  No text messages.  No e-mail.  No Facebook.  No phone.  Nothing.  For two weeks.  Not ten days.  Fourteen.  Possibly more.

Some of you may be thinking that'd be heaven.  Some of you may need a break from communication with your spouse.  But at this point in my life, I really need his input.  I don't just desire it.  I need it.  

At first I thought I'd send him e-mail messages that he could read when he regained communication privileges.  So, I sent out recaps of my days into cyberspace to sit in his inbox for two weeks.  I soon realized that those messages were only fulfilling part of a need.

I am a very verbose person (clearly)!  Tiny details are important to me, so it's nearly impossible for me to leave them out.  I'm the same way on the listening end.  I want to hear the details.  I want to know the thoughts and feelings behind the story.  I want to understand the depths of what the person experienced or thought.  And I often long for a response, feedback, to what I've said.  (Feel free to leave comments on my blog, by the way.)

I thought, initially, that I'd be fine with the two weeks.  I wasn't happy about it at all, and I cried when we said "goodbye" in our last phone call, but I figured I could tough it out like a good military spouse.

I was wrong.  I did not anticipate how incredibly painful it would be to be completely cut off from the man who has shared my heart and life with me for the past nearly nine years.

In dealing with infertility, there are few (in the immediate, tangible sense) who truly understand.  I have friends in different cities a few hours away that I can call, but in my immediate surroundings, I have no one (aside from my husband).

Add to that the fact that we were keeping our pursuit of IVF a secret from family and fertile friends because we're not even sure we will get to fully follow that path.  For the first time in my life, I understood how it feels to deal with infertility completely alone.  I've never had to endure a procedure without the support of friends and family.  We've always kept them informed every step of the way.  And I've always had my husband at my side, or at least accessible via telephone, to keep him informed of how things went.

But this time, I was facing the FN and her ridiculous repeat tests alone.  The silence was more than I could bear.

I had silence from the one person in this world who knows me most intimately, so I could not draw from his strength or wisdom; and I felt I had to remain silent about what I was going through (fertility-wise) to spare my family and friends the pain of disappointment if things didn't work out.

I felt isolated, like one tiny speck on a perfectly white canvas.  There was all this world around me, but I had nowhere to turn.

I wish I could say that the communication blackout has been lifted, but I still have at least another day and a half of it to push through.  I can say that I was compelled to share with a select few in my immediate surroundings our plans to pursue IVF.  Not only because I needed someone to drive me to and from the hospital for the test, but also because I needed an outlet.  Did it make all the other stuff I have to deal with disappear?  Of course not, but it made that one big piece a little easier to bear.

One thing that I have learned in this silence made it easier to endure.  As I sent out e-mail and text messages to my husband, I knew they were not received and that I would not get a response.  I was void of anticipation, and felt very stifled.  But that realization was juxtaposed against the reality of my communication with God.  (Bear with me.)  When I think or speak something to my God, it doesn't fall on deaf ears or bounce off the atmosphere into nothingness.  The way I know this is I receive responses.  No, I've never heard the audible voice of God, nor do I expect to this side of Heaven, but there is movement in my heart, prompting in my spirit, and thoughts at the perfect moment that do not come from me.  I can think, speak, type, call, and write to my husband all the live-long day, and no matter how desperately I desire a response from him, there will not be one in this blackout.  But even as I long to hear from my husband, I can hear from my God through his word, his Spirit, and even his people.

It was just very exciting to me to be reminded of how truly miraculous communication with my God actually is.  So, in the midst of the silence from my spouse, my God whispered to my heart that He's very much here with me. 

I would like to be able to say that I've endured this two week wait with grace, dignity and poise, but much of it has been spent fretting over and being angry about my circumstances.  Thankfully, there have been small victories, but two weeks (as you all well know) is a very long time.

May your two week waits be few in number and filled with hope and peace!  You are some of the strongest women I know!


17 March 2011

Deployments, Doctors, and Disregarded Time

I've been wondering lately what life in the realm of infertility will be like when my husband is deployed.  It's during his absences for trainings that I contemplate such things.

I would say that this will be uncharted territory for us, except for the fact that we already have a 15 month deployment under our belts that fell just as we were wading into the area of fertility treatments.

Medically (and I get it, even though I don't like it), that 15 month deployment cancels out a year and 3 months of our infertility.  Meaning- since we couldn't have sex for 15 months, then we weren't infertile during those 15 months.  It's silly, if you ask me, but I understand the strange logic in that.  

Early on, after enduring that 15 months and being told by a fertility specialist that those months didn't count toward our accumulated time of being infertile, it only slightly bothered me.  It knocked our number of years of "trying to conceive" from 4 years to a little over 2 years (or something like that).  It wasn't a big deal because we had accomplished a lot during that deployment. I had all kinds of testing done in preparation for my husband's return, I took birth control pills for a short time while he was away to get rid of some giant cysts on my ovaries, and I became educated in what we were about to face.  It made sense to me, at the time, when I was told that months without intercourse don't count toward infertility.

This time around, however, it's a bit different (and yet strangely familiar).  This time, instead of attempting IUI (intra-uterine insemination), we are trying to get our ducks in a row for IVF (in-vitro fertilization) treatments.

This time around, instead of 4 years infertile, we are 7 years infertile.

I say "7 years" with confidence.  In spite of being told last week that b/c of the 15 month deployment we are only considered 5 1/2 years infertile, I still say "7 years" with emphatic confidence, and here's why:

Seven years ago, we stopped preventing pregnancy.  For seven years we have been prepared to have children introduced into our lives.  Seven years ago an ever deepening longing to have children and to become parents began developing in our hearts and in our minds.  
The fact that we were only able to have intercourse over a period of two weeks during a 15 month deployment does not negate the reality that we wanted to have children.  It does not negate the fact that we used every opportunity we had during those two weeks to attempt to become pregnant.  
To take away from the overall equation those 15 months and reduce our status of infertility from 7 years to 5 1/2-ish years, is to rob us of our right to grieve over those 15 months.  We could not change our circumstances during those 15 months, just as we have not been able to change our circumstances over the course of these seven years.  
It's abundantly clear that having sex hasn't brought about pregnancy for us for those 5 1/2-ish years the medical world recognizes as our time of infertility, so then, why disregard a period of 15 months where we were unable to perform an impotent act?  
Clearly the issue for us in not that we are unable to become pregnant because of a lack of having sex.  I assure you, we've had lots of practice over the last seven years.  Basically, we have spent the last seven years trying the same thing over and over again and expecting different results (um...isn't that the definition of insanity?).  The times we have gone in for medical help, we have been almost chastised for counting 15 months (minus 2 weeks) when we were unable to perform that action.  My question to them is, "What does it matter that we couldn't?  Do you believe we are going to get different results?"  If so, then what does that make them?  Yes, insane.

My point to that tirade is that when we were newbies to this whole infertility thing, the logic made sense; we hadn't invested the very depths of our hearts into longing for children.  Now that we have walked this road for coming close to a decade, I say, "Give a couple some credit and count their full journey!"  I assure you, we wanted children very, very much during that 15 month deployment and it killed us to know we couldn't make many attempts at that, just as we still deeply long for children and it's killing us that all of our attempts at it are fruitless.  At this stage of the game, those 15 months should be to our credit, not discounted.

So, why the rampage?  (It's not really a tirade or rampage, although it would be fun to imagine my voice that way while reading this post...truly, I am very calm at the moment.)

Our big mystery, as you probably already noticed, is that we are moving forward toward pursuing IVF treatments.  We haven't shared this with many people because it's not a sure thing that we'll even be allowed to pursue IVF.  If this seems strange to you, let me introduce you to the military and the world of government health-care ;-)

In the military, it is not impossible to get a referral to a civilian doctor that specializes in something outside of general practice; it happens all the time.  What is almost impossible is getting a referral to one of four military hospitals across the country that perform in-vitro fertilization at a significantly reduced cost to those in the military.  (Before you go tooting horns about yet another example of how awesome government health-care is, keep in mind that you get what you pay for...bedside manner becomes terrible when doctors and nurses aren't competing for your business.)

Getting a referral should be the easy part, but where I live, it's not, thanks to the "lovely" lady I so sweetly referred to as the "fertility nazi" in a previous post.  I thought about my choice of words later and realized they are extremely politically incorrect and might offend some people.  If you have been offended by that, I am sorry, but I leave that title for this woman because I am still appalled, wounded, and angered by her behavior.

But, the truly sketchy part, after getting a referral submitted to the hospital, is what transpires afterward.  Apparently, there are a LOT of people in the military dealing with infertility and pursuing IVF.  Because of that, there is usually a waiting list for the treatments.  So, here's the basic process of "can I please have an IVF at a significantly reduced cost?"  

  • First, you get a referral.  This should be as simple as visiting your PCM and answering a few questions, but in my world it has involved me being given "the runaround."
  • After you get a referral, it is submitted to the nearest of the four hospitals conducting IVF where it sits in a pile for a MONTH before it is even looked at by anyone.
  • Then, someone picks up the referral, examines it for whatever parameters are required, and if it measures up, it is submitted to the powers that be to be considered for approval.
  • At this point, someone looks over the case, I'm assuming they request any testing that may be missing (I'm not sure), and then they decide if this couple is worthy of an IVF (and I don't know how they make that decision).  At which point they approve or decline the couple.
  • After approval, there is still a waiting list.  It can take anywhere from 4-6 months before the couple is called in for their first appointment.
  • Finally, the couple is called in, and the real fun begins.

So, because we don't even know if we will be judged "worthy" of IVF treatment by the hospital, we haven't really made any big announcements that we're traveling down this path.  It took a great deal of effort and a lot of running around (and going behind the fertility nazi's back) to get a referral submitted to the hospital.  It will be another month before we hear anything.  

Tomorrow I am having a redundant, slightly invasive test done (redundant because it's the second time I've had it and there's truly no cause to order it again, other than it's what the fertility nazi [FN] wants) to make sure that my uterus, fallopian tubes and ovaries are all still beautiful and in perfect working order (as they were the first time I had the test done).  We'll see what comes of it, but hopefully all will be well (mostly b/c if it's not then it means the FN was right and she prides herself on being right and having power).  

Then, at the end of the month, I am having hormone levels checked.  I'm okay with this test because frankly I'm surprised there isn't more emphasis placed on monitoring hormone levels when a patient presents with infertility.  It seems, instead, that a lot of time is spent controlling hormone levels because we have the power to do so.  But what if it's something as simple as a person producing too much of or not enough of a particular hormone that's keeping them from getting pregnant?  My only regret about the end of month blood test is that it reinforces the FN's sense of power and control.

I'll have to share my story about the FN later.  As it is, I have already written too much for one blog post.  Guess I'm making up for lost time ;-)

As for being in uncharted territory, it's a little difficult for me.  My emotions are less stable and more raw in this place and I don't have the luxury of comfort keeping me sane. I'm happy to invite you all along for the ride, but I fear I may not always be as uplifting and encouraging as I had hoped to be through this blog.  If you'll grant me a little grace through this process, hopefully there will be moments that will make it worth reading.

Grateful for your support,

11 March 2011

The Pregnancy Test Phenomenon

Forgive me for my lack of posting the last couple of weeks.  Things have been beyond chaotic in my life lately, and I've had neither the time nor the presence of mind to sit down and compile my thoughts into something worth reading.  Tonight I decided "enough is enough" and that whether I had the presence of mind or not, I needed to post something.  So please bear with me.

You may recall from a previous post that I had an unusually long cycle between January and March.  It's a rare occurrence, but it's also happened enough that our hopes were not even slightly elevated in regard to pregnancy.

During a visit to the doctor, upon learning of the unusual length of my cycle, the doctor insisted that I take a pregnancy test then and there, despite my assurance that I could guarantee the results would be negative.  I complied, peed in the tiny cup (that a man obviously designed because the thought would never occur to a man that a cup that size would result in a guaranteed "peeing on the hand" scenario for a woman - truly, we need Solo brand party cups for those tests), and learned before I left the clinic that the result was negative.  

There were no thoughts of the possibility that levels might not be high enough to detect in a urinalysis, or that perhaps there was something faulty with their test.  I had no doubt in my mind even before the result was given to me that it would be negative.  It is always negative.  Even the time I thought I saw a faint second line on an at home pregnancy test, I knew in my heart that the second test would prove to be negative, and it did.

So, I continued about my daily life, taking care of the chaos surrounding us and enjoying the fact that I did not have to deal with my monthly slap in the face just yet.  The entire month of February was "slap-free" - happy birthday to me!  :-)

As the number of interim days passed 33, rounded 44, and approached the 50's, I began to notice tell-tale signs that my reprieve was about to end.  And then I woke up with nausea.  I chalked it up to stress and perhaps something I ate, and ignored it.  It struck again, ever so slightly, one afternoon, and I dismissed it as readily as it came.  Finally, on day 51, a wave of nausea hit me suddenly as I was about to enter Target.  I decided a pregnancy test was in order.  I waited for the nausea to subside, called my husband to give him a head's up of my plan, entered Target, and bee-lined toward the pharmacy, then the checkout counter, and (after paying) I went straight to the bathroom and took the test.


The actual test
I took in the bathroom
at Target
No surprise.  No genuine disappointment, because I wasn't "appointed" to believe that I was really pregnant.  I knew without a doubt that it would be negative when I was making my way to the pharmacy.

But there's an interesting thing that has been a trend with my body and my mind throughout the last seven years.  If my body is going long on the interim time between first days of cycles, I can almost guarantee that if I pee on a pregnancy test stick that I will start my period the next day.

For whatever reason, hospital tests do not cut it.  Apparently, for my body to get the signal from my brain that it is in fact NOT pregnant, I have to physically hold a stick that has come into contact with my urine and wait for it to indicate (whether by lines, plus/minus signs, or words) that I am not pregnant.

It's like my ovaries are in limbo, wondering, "Do we ditch the corpus luteum, or do we keep it around?" when they suddenly receive a signal from the brain that confirms that they do, in fact, need to ditch the corpus luteum and commence the flow.

True to form, after peeing on a stick in Target and reading the result "not pregnant" on the stick, the next day, day 52, became day one for me and I was spared the extra horror of explaining to the fertility nazi I met for my appointment a few days later why I considered it "normal" to have a 51 day cycle.  She does not know it went that long, and is actually under the impression that my cycles are regularly every 33 days.  And as far as I'm concerned, she'll never know any differently.

As to why I dubbed her the fertility nazi, that's a story for another day.  Let's just say for now that I can't remember the last time I cried as long or as hard as I did after my encounter with her.  And, yes, I get the privilege of having to see her again in the near future.  That should be fun.

Has anyone else encountered this strange pregnancy test phenomenon?