The Things She Carried

[inspired by Tim O’Brien’s novel, The Things They Carried]

She carried 758 needles, 170 suppositories of the vaginal variety, and hundreds of blood draws—she was told she had good veins, like that was some kind of prize to win. She was weirdly proud of her awesome veins, because in this game of carrying and dropping, losing and winning, there’s not much else to be proud of.

She carried 63 ultrasounds, some of them a routine check for follicles, some looking in vain for beating hearts, some checking to make sure “the products of conception” no longer existed inside of her.

She carried names of drugs she could barely pronounce—Menopur, Follistim, Ovidrel, Ganirelix, Intralipids, Lovenox, Prednisone.

She carried four IUIs, three IVFs, 66 follicles, 33 eggs and 20 embryos. Some of these embryos were placed back inside of her, and some never grew beyond a handful of cells. All were loved.

She carried lesions on her ovaries, cervix, uterus and bladder. She carried a blood clotting disorder called antiphospholipid antibody syndrome. She carried overactive natural killer cells, which weren’t really killing much except teeny-tiny embryos too little to fight for themselves.

She carried one laparoscopy attempt. One actual laparoscopy. Three egg retrievals. Two transfers. Two D & Cs.

She carried 1,938 miles of travel—from the house to the fertility clinic; from the clinic to work; from Philadelphia to Manhattan for surgery; from Philadelphia to Woodbury to visit what she hoped would be a miracle doctor; from Philadelphia to Woodstock to spend the day with a fertility visionary. She carried $726 in parking garage fees, and even one parking garage accident.

She carried Please Gods and plea bargains. She carried what-ifs and what-will-I-do-nows.

She carried special diets—no gluten, no dairy, no sugar, no air.

She carried the love of a good man, but she carried it clumsily and sometimes carelessly. She lashed out. She yelled. “Why can’t you carry any of this for me?” she wanted to know. There was no good answer to that question—he knew it and she knew it, and at the end of the day she was lucky to still be holding his heart.

She carried the memory of lost babies—three at last count. First was Gabriel. She lost him on the bathroom floor at work, and by the time she got to the hospital she was so bloody it looked like she was starring in a Carrie remake. Then there was Anna, who was confirmed genetically normal and therefore should have lived, but didn’t. Anna, who said au revoir to the world on Christmas day, but who would never open a single present. Finally, there was Baby B, a loss too new to even get a name.

She carried a persistence that even she admitted was insane. She carried advice from relatives, friends, acquaintances, the checkout lady at Target, wondering why she was doing this to herself, why she didn’t just give up. Stop this nonsense. Be happy for what you have. Halt. Cease and desist before you ruin yourself, your job, your marriage. And she did want to stop, she did. But she needed to try one last time. One more needle, one more blood draw, one more doctor. One more.

And now.

Now she carries a baby inside of her, a little girl, no bigger than a winter squash. She feels her kicks, taps and nudges, and they feel like hope. She still carries the what-ifs—so many what-ifs—but now she carries something else as well—trust. Trust that this is the soul she is meant to meet. She sings to her baby every night, hands on her belly, heart wide open as a summer sky: ‘twas grace that brought you safe thus far, and grace will lead you home.

The View From Down Here

1rlsales024
A quick peek inside my head.

Well, here I am. A little less than two weeks post surgery. I’m feeling much better physically.

But mentally, yikes. If you could see my thoughts right now, you’d be like, whoa. They’d be all black clouds and evil robots and scary vintage dolls with those flip-lid eyes and I don’t even know what else.

Things were ok for a while. Initially after the surgery I felt relief. It’s over, hooray! I have endometriosis, hooray! It may seem strange to feel relieved upon finding out you have an incurable disease, but I was just glad that we finally had some answers. So many things were explained: the spotting before my period (endometriosis on my cervix), frequent urination (endometriosis on my bladder), the pain in my lower right side that doctors had been dismissing for years (endometriosis on my ovary) and my crap-quality eggs (endometriosis everywhere). And even better, all of it was removed! (P.S. the surgeon did remove the endo on my ovary – in my anesthesia-addled state I misheard the him.) For the moment at least, I am endometriosis free!

I was also feeling happy with myself. Happy that I kept searching and digging until I finally got some answers. That I didn’t give up. That I trusted my gut and listened to Dr. Braverman when he told me to get surgery after a ten minute phone consult. I was like, well, this is totally crazy, but I think he’s right so I’m going for it.

And he was right. We both were.

So yeah, I was feeling pretty good for a few days, despite the pain.

But then, I don’t even know what happened.

Maybe it was the fact that recovery was worse than I’d expected.

Maybe it’s because, as relieved as I was, it started sinking in that I have an incurable disease. Yes, the endometriosis is gone, but it usually comes back at some point.

Maybe it’s because, despite my very best efforts, I can’t seem to get my stupid teeth situation under control. Like, I can’t remember a time when my teeth didn’t hurt. One gets fixed and another one gets jacked up. It’s never ending.

Maybe it’s because we’ve been going at this babymaking crap for over two years.

Maybe it’s because I’m staring down the barrel of our last IVF. One final chance and that’s it.

Maybe it’s because after all of our talk of adoption, I don’t know if that’s truly going to end up being a valid option for us. We don’t have the cash up front right now to make it happen, so we’d have to either borrow money, clear out our dire-emergency-only funds, save for years or a combination of the three. Not to mention the fact that this fertility journey has already taken a toll on my relationship with Tim. We’re not headed to Divorce City or anything like that, but I think we both agree that we’ve seen happier days. What would another two or so years going through the adoption process do to us? Yes, I want another child more than almost anything, but not at the cost of my marriage. I’m not saying adoption is off the table, but it’s certainly going to require further discussion and exploration.

So when all is said and done, we may end up without another child. Which means we would have spent years on this journey with nothing to show for it — nothing good anyway. Two dead babies. A sharps container full of needles. A strained marriage.  Not to mention that I’m now the kind of person who rolls my eyes when I see a pregnancy announcement — so essentially I’ve become someone who begrudges others their happiness. And I’m sure I’m a worse parent to Lettie than I would have been if I didn’t go through any of this stuff. How many times have I been obsessing about my fertility, or lack thereof, instead of being in the present moment with the amazing child that I already have? How many times? Just thinking about it makes me want to cry my eyes out. She deserves better than that. Tim deserves better than a wife who’s anxious, upset and preoccupied all the time.

And there it is, the root of why I’ve been feeling so low lately: maybe I’ve fought valiantly for the last two years, but I’m not sure I like the person I’ve become.

Extensive Endometriosis

Hi everyone, this is Tim. Tanya wanted me to let you know that she finally had her surgery yesterday, and to give you an update.

The doctor found endometriosis on her cervix, bladder, back side of uterus, and right ovary. He classified it as stage 3. Everything was removed, except for the endo on the right ovary – he didn’t want to risk damaging it. He said endometriosis isn’t usually seen on the cervix, so he sent that off to pathology.

Tanya is fine, but recovery is rougher than we anticipated. There’s lots of pain from the gas injected into her abdomen, plus abdominal pain from the surgery and some nausea. She’ll post more once she’s feeling better.

Thanks so much for all your support!

Anxiety At Large

hello-my-name-is-anxiety-1I haven’t updated you guys about surgery scheduling or anything else recently because I’ve been battling the anxiety monster. Like, we are in a full-on boxing match over here. And I’m losing. I’ve never kept it secret that I struggle with anxiety. I see a therapist, I visualize, I go to acupuncture weekly, I do yoga (when I’m not being a sloth). All of those things help. They keep it under wraps most of the time. But sometimes, man. Sometimes it’s rough.

Right now is one of those times.

Having to leave the hospital sans surgery two weeks ago really freaked me out more than I realized. It’s been looming over me, and the thoughts are spiraling: Will I get through it? Will something terrible befall me? Will it ever happen? Will it keep getting rescheduled until the end of time? Does that hospital have bad juju?

I was able to get the surgery rescheduled for this Thursday. This was a week earlier than what I had originally thought, so I was happy. Right around when I found that out, I started getting post-nasal drip, which is usually the tell-tale sign of a cold for me. Eff, I thought. Are you kidding me? Doctors really don’t like to do surgeries when patients have a cold. They like the immune system to be tip-top, and they want the airways to be completely open. This makes sense, obviously. So then it became a waiting game of will-I-get-sick-and-have to-reschedule-my surgery. And the anxiety just went downhill from there.

I went to the doctor yesterday because I having some chest tightness and achiness. I figured it was just from the post-nasal drip, but I wanted to make sure it wasn’t something more sinister, especially since I have asthma. The doctor listened to my lungs and said they sounded completely clear, but I seemed to be taking longer to exhale than normal, so he figured I was having a minor asthma flare up. He thought this, and the post-nasal drip (that’s such a gross term, by the way. Sorry for repeating it 65 times in one post), were caused by allergies. He said I had no swollen lymph nodes or anything else to indicate that I was sick. Lettie has a cold right now, so I am skeptical of this, but I really am not having any other cold symptoms. He put me on a “burst” of steroids to help with the asthma. He said I should be good to go for the surgery as long as my lungs still sounded clear on Thursday. He sounded really confident about this. So I felt better. For like 2.5 seconds. The steroids seemed to be working. I still had major PND (Does that sound less icky? Maybe a little.), but my chest weirdness was gone.

But anxiety, it doesn’t give a sh*t what doctors think.

I texted Dr. V. (my surgeon) after my appointment to see if the steroids were fine to take before surgery. He said they were. I then talked to him today. He asked me about my symptoms. I told him the tightness in my chest was gone, but I still had my friend PND. He said if I have any trouble breathing we should reschedule. I assured him I didn’t have any trouble, and he agreed that I sounded fine. He told me to call him tomorrow to check in.

After that phone conversation I worked myself into a panic attack. I somehow managed to get my work done, but I was freaking out all afternoon. I called Tim and could barely keep it together. He was all, “What? That convo with Dr. V sounded fine. It sounded like things are pretty much a go. It also sounds like he cares about you, which is a good thing.” All true, but I was out of control at this point.

All afternoon I felt burning hot. I was sure I had a fever. But when I finally got home and took my temp it was 97.6 degrees. No fever in sight. Then I could feel my chest aching again. Was this from the post nasal drip? Or from the anxiety? My guess is anxiety, but what if it wasn’t?

And so on and so forth.

Logically, post nasal drip is not a reason to reschedule surgery. I know this. And even if it does get rescheduled, so? It’s not the end of the world. I mean, I’d really prefer to not have this procedure looming over me anymore, since it triggered the worst case of anxiety I’ve had in years. Still, it’s not a reason to freak the eff out.

But anxiety doesn’t make sense. It doesn’t listen to reason. It doesn’t care.

It’s mean. It’s a monster. And some days it wins.

Sometimes Waiting Makes Me Want To Punch A Wall

il_570xN.487191779_8h7u-480x601
Ok, fiiiiiine. I’ll wait then. Whatever. [image]
You think I’d be good at waiting by now. Like, I should have my masters degree in waiting. Eff that, I should have my full-on doctorate. Right? Nope, I suck at it. Admittedly, I think I am getting overall a little more patient. These last two years have taught me that I have control over nothing. But the waiting curveballs still get me. I can deal with the expected waits, but I’m no good with the sneaky ones.

When I was talking to the doctor yesterday, he said we could reschedule my surgery for next week. His exact words were, “I can do it any day you want. I can even do it on a weekend if you want.” He told me he’d call me tomorrow.

He didn’t call, but someone from scheduling emailed me and was like, “The next available appointment I have is June 25th.”

So I immediately called her and said, “Dr. Vidali told me he could get me in next week.”

And she was like, “Oh, he did? Ok, let me call him. I’ll call you back today after I work everything out.”

I didn’t hear from her. Tim called her at the end of the day to check in. He left a message. She never called back.

So who knows. Maybe next week will still work out. But we need to make childcare arrangements and hotel arrangements and work arrangements, so we kind of need to know soon.

And even if we have to wait three more weeks, it’s not like it’s the end of the world. It’s three weeks, not three years — or even three months. I need to chill. But I thought I was having surgery yesterday. And then I thought I was having it next week. And now, who knows. Not to mention part of me is wondering why I’m even rescheduling this at all after the whole disappearing power act yesterday. That sh*t was freaky. But I digress.

I still need to update you guys on the appointment I had with Dr. Vidali on Wednesday. Dr. Vidali is the surgeon who works with Dr. Braverman. He’s also a reproductive endocrinologist. Oh, and in addition to those things, he’s very charming. We had a great visit with him. I’ll post about that soon.

But for now I just want to say &@#^#*&$*&, and give a big middle finger to the waiting that surrounds every single step of this babymaking process.

Every.

Single.

Step.

Well, So That Wasn’t Meant To Happen Today

I just left the hospital. Without having my laparoscopy. During the procedure before mine, the lights shorted in the OR. They have backup generators and everyone was fine, but my procedure was cancelled until they can figure out the cause. The surgeon was visibly freaked out as he told us this. I can’t imagine performing a surgery and having that happen in the middle of it. I’m exhausted and bummed that we spent an extra several hundred that we don’t have on a hotel that we didn’t really need, but it is what it is. Safety first, obviously! The doctor said he’ll call me tomorrow to reschedule. So we’ll see. Freaky.

Surgery On The Horizon

I am now officially a patient of Braverman Reproductive Immunology. Last week, I sent an email to my local clinic telling them I would not be proceeding with my planned IVF. I felt legit sad writing this email, as I’ve become quite attached to everyone there. They are a class act — kind, compassionate and just generally awesome. But alas, it is time to start a new chapter.

That new chapter begins next week. Bright and early Wednesday morning I’ll head to Braverman’s NYC office to have blood drawn for immune testing. 15 vials of blood, to be exact. I asked. The lab rep was like, “Wellll, I usually don’t like to tell people this ahead of time, but…”

Tim is getting three vials drawn, by the way. A mere three.

After bloodwork, I will meet with the surgeon. He’s going to check out the blood flow to my uterus using a doppler ultrasound. I told my boss about this today and she was all, “Oooh, will it be like a weather map?” I don’t know the answer to that, but I sure hope so. Uterine weather map! Just what every gal’s always wanted. Anyway, apparently this doppler ultrasound can help detect endometriosis. Based on that and the rest of the examination, he’ll assess whether I need surgery — if I do, I’ll get it the next day. Unless he’s like, “Hey girl, you do not need surgery. You have the prettiest uterine blood flow I’ve ever seen,” I think I’m going to go ahead with it. I’d really like to know beyond a shadow of a doubt if I have endometriosis.

After surgery, if it ends up happening, Tim and I will stay in a hotel for a couple of nights while I recover. Staying in a hotel near New York isn’t cheap, so we’re pretending it’s a mini vacation. This “romantic getaway” will be our birthday present to each other this year (we both have birthdays in the summer). Surgical vacations, guys. They’re all the rage! Seriously, though, I’m kind of looking forward to a few quiet nights in a hotel, even though I’ll likely be in pain and doped up on opiates. I’ve clearly lost my mind.

That’s about all I got. I won’t actually meet Dr. Braverman this visit (or maybe never, as we will likely get our immune testing results over Skype), so that’s kind of a bummer. If you could send good thoughts my way on Thursday, the day of surgery, I will love you forever. Well, ok, I already love you forever, but I promise to love you forever-er.