Tomorrow

Is egg retrieval day. Holy hell, that got here fast. I had my appointment yesterday and I think more had grown, or at least had grown bigger. I had my blood test and by that afternoon I received a call saying Wednesday was a go. Part of my instructions were that I had to be ‘sober by midnight’, along with no food or drinks after that time as well. I promised I would do my best to show up sober to the retrieval.

I’m getting really nervous. When we decided to start this process back in June, this all seemed so far away. Even when we had our first appointment in August, I figured it would take a couple weeks at least. I never thought I would respond so well and have dates moved up. It’s all actually happening, and while I’m also excited, I’m mostly terrified. I could actually have a baby in my belly next week. This has all seemed so abstract for so many months. Each time I did Clomid, I just figured it wouldn’t work, and it proved me right time and time again. This is as high of an intervention that there is, and the whole point is that it very likely will work. Yes, this is what I’ve been trying to achieve, but has any one else become so scared when actually faced with it really happening?

I talked to my mom the day I found out I would likely be retrieving sooner versus later and she seemed to think I was pretty normal for feeling this way. She told me about how scared she was when she found out she was expecting my youngest brother, who is baby #4. Even though she’d really wanted a fourth, as soon as it was confirmed, she said she left the appointment thinking, ‘Holy shit, what have I done?’. Like anything else, she just had to process it all, and in a week, felt much better about it and says she wouldn’t change a thing if she could (in fact, my dad has been known to say he wishes they had gone for a fifth). That made me feel a lot better and more ‘normal’ (as normal as anyone can ever be).

I can say that I’ll be glad to be rid of some of the physical symptoms. I’ve noticed a couple little bruises on my belly from the shots. Since Friday, I’ve developed nausea throughout the day which has been kinda miserable and resulted in me vomiting once (and nearly a second time on the bus ride to the hospital yesterday). I look about six months pregnant right now and really can’t suck it in even if I wanted to. I gave myself the Pregnyl shot yesterday, which oddly enough has proven to be the most painful shot thus far! It’s still tender to the touch on my stomach, and after all the other shots I’ve given myself, I haven’t had that symptom. I used to think I was just bad at giving myself shots because anytime I gave myself Pregnyl, it always hurt for a few days, but I didn’t have that with the IVF shots. I used to ask my doctor to give the Pregnyl because it didn’t hurt when he did it. I thought for sure this one wouldn’t hurt anymore because I was a shot pro, but whatever, it hurts. I have not mastered Pregnyl yet. Maybe one day. Or maybe never again. I can dream.

Wish me luck for tomorrow! Hopefully we get a good number of eggs, and that a decent number fertilise from there.  Ready or not, here we go!

Overachieving Ovaries

Well, there’s a first for everything, and today was that day when it came to follicle growth for me! I’m used to going in for a scan after a round of medicine and being told nothing had grown, resulting in more medication to get one little follicle. I’ve only been on Puregon for four days, and my ovaries has responded really well. I’ve got eight good sized follicles on my right ovary and some smaller ones on my left. I’ve never seen so many follicles on a scan ever! As a result, my retrieval will likely be upped from Friday to Wednesday now and I don’t have to give myself the Puregon shot today. I’ll resume it tomorrow and Sunday, but at a lower dosage. I have another appointment on Monday morning, and I’ll know for sure if I’m doing the retrieval Wednesday. In the meantime, today was the first day that I’ve truly felt the bloating, and it’s as uncomfortable as I’d been told it would be. I’m enormous and clothes feel awful, unless they’re sweatpants. It’s only for a few more days, but I don’t know how my belly could get much bigger as those follicles continue to grow. It’s only going to last a few more days though, so I can certainly handle it. 🙂

That being said, I think I’ll be spending the majority of my weekend in comfy clothes, laying on my couch, and letting my overachieving ovaries rest.

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Today’s bloating. It doesn’t look as bad as it feels–the shirt is a good cover 🙂 

IVF Has Begun

Jason and I had our IVF counseling on August 4th. It was an hour and a half of being pretty overwhelmed, but we got a lot of good information (although Jason was eventually sent out for blood work as the doctor could tell that his eyes had glazed over from too much information). The egg retrieval seems like scariest part of it all, besides the tons of shots I’m doing. I have a feeling this whole experience will be an exercise in how much I can embarrass myself though. During the appointment, as the woman doing the counselling was going over the forms with me, there was a release form for the anaesthesia that I’ll be given for retrieval. It’s all in Dutch, so she offered to go through it with me and fill it out. That seemed like it would make my life easier, and I was happy to do so. We came to a question that asked, ‘Have you ever felt pressure in your chest?’. Being an anxiety sufferer who used to have lots of panic attacks, my first thought was that, and I asked, ‘Do you mean like anxiety?’ to which she replied, ‘Yes’. So, I said that, yes I’ve had pressure in my chest, when I’d had anxiety attacks, although I clarified that I hadn’t had them in many years. As she was debating what to write, I realized the question probably was meant more along the lines of  ‘Do I have trouble breathing in general’, which I don’t. I tried to clear it up and say that, no I don’t have pressure on my chest, that I just have had that feeling back when I suffered from panic attacks. It was clearly a case of a language barrier impacting the meaning, but by then she had already circled the ‘yes’ on the questionnaire. This then resulted in the ‘yes’ being scratched out, ‘no’ being circled, but not before having it written down that I have suffered from panic attacks, just not for the last 3-5 years. So, that’s cool. I can only imagine the eye rolls my doctor and the anaesthesiologist will share when reading over my paperwork. I spent the remainder of the afternoon feeling like a dumbass.

I started shots that same evening. For the first three days, I just did one shot. Starting Monday, I moved to two shots a day. The second shot that I start is the one that will make my follicles grow. I’ll likely take it for two weeks before having the retrieval. The first shot I’ve been taking is relatively idiot-proof. They’re pre-packaged shots with the medicine in them. There’s no mixing vials and sucking them up with different needles. All I have to do is open the package the shot is in, knock out the air bubbles, pull off the top, and stick myself. That being said, I managed to screw it up by day 2. As I was pulling off the top to stick myself, I somehow yanked the trigger out from the bottom, and the medicine poured all over the kitchen counter. Well, alright then. I used a different shot, obviously, but had to call them on Monday because in Belgium, they give you enough medicine to last until your next doctor’s appointment so that nothing goes to waste. This is fantastic, except when you screw up your medicine. I spent two hours on the bus yesterday to get one single shot from my hospital so that I can make it until my doctor’s appointment on Friday. The woman who did my counselling was in and seemed incredibly intrigued by how I had managed to pour all the medicine out. She was kind enough to tell me that ‘these things happen all the time.’ I have no doubt they don’t.

So, I’m one day in to shot #2 and thus far I’ve managed to do it perfectly. We’ll see how it goes….

🙂

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Shot #1 going down

To the Bone

I watched the Netflix movie ‘To the Bone’ the other day, and oh man, did it bring back some memories. I’d seen it pop up under ‘New Releases’ or whatever, and had actively avoided it in the beginning. We had just traveled back from the States to Belgium and I knew I had put some weight on during our five weeks away. Constant moving every week or so, a wedding/wedding preparations, and a lack of working out just aren’t conducive for maintaining weight. I’d done my best, but I worried that watching the movie could be a little triggering for me, or bring about the large amount of the guilt that I am often prone to when it comes to body image. Some things I still haven’t beaten. I don’t know if I ever will.

I broke down one afternoon after I’d had a few workouts under my belt and wasn’t feeling as bloated and disgusting as I’d been feeling for the past month (keep in mind that I’m starting IVF anywhere from a couple days to a couple weeks from now, and will be in a perpetual state of bloating at that time. I’m incredibly nervous for that part of it—besides having to inject myself and have 12314908743 ultrasounds done at the start of a new school year. Should be a stress-free transition for sure).

The main character is a 20-year-old female named Ellen. Ellen has been in and out of inpatient facilities for what seems like awhile, before ending up at an inpatient facility that is run completely different from most normal programs. There is one scene where they’re having group therapy. The therapist is talking to the group, and mentions that it’s not about a ‘goal weight’; that is never has been and that there are much deeper factors, usually feelings that the patients don’t want to feel. Which hit me in all the feels.

When I was diagnosed, I was a little bit older, at 22. My mom realized I was sick relatively early on, but I hadn’t hit a weight that was low enough for doctors to take her seriously, at least not initially. I can remember weighing about 125 pounds, which doesn’t seem like a low weight, but I had dropped it rather quickly. She took me in to a doctor who basically said I was at a healthy weight, and agreed with me when I said I was just trying to get healthy. As weight continued to fall off of me—I lost nearly 30 pounds in about a month—she set a meeting up with one of her friends, who was a recovering anorexic. I was incredibly annoyed by this, but agreed to go, knowing I could fool this friend into thinking I was fine. When my brain decided to stop eating, it was like a switch flipped. I just stopped. I ate on average 200-250 calories a day, but some days, as little as 150 calories. FOR AN ENTIRE DAY. And I ran about 2 hours per day. It amazes me what you can put a body through and still survive. Anyways, that’s where I was when I met up with this friend. In the course of our discussion, I can remember saying that I was ‘fine’ and was just trying to get to my ‘goal weight’—and of course I had a number I could provide (I think it was 110 at the time), and as soon as I hit that, I would stop. I now realize that’s a common phrase for us anorexics and if everything else about me didn’t tip her off, I’m sure that didn’t help. She told my mom I was sick, and shortly after I found myself being taken to a new doctor who specialized in eating disorders.

I was furious the first time I went to that doctor (and for many appointments after). By this point, I knew something was wrong with me, but I had no interest in rectifying the situation. The doctor I was taken to was incredibly blunt, which is best when working with me, but annoyed me at the time. She weighed me, said I was unhealthy, and that she recommended inpatient. I refused. There was no fucking way they were getting me to check in to a place when I wasn’t sick. The doctor looked me dead in my eyes and told me she wouldn’t make me go to inpatient, but that if I lost any more weight when I came to see her, I was going in. My parents had already agreed they would take away my rights to force me into inpatient if needed. The doctor said my weight was definitely low, but that I wasn’t in as much danger as other patients. This infuriated me as well, and I saw it as a competition. I wasn’t as ‘sick’ as others? Then I’ll show you sick. Challenge accepted.

I went home that week and lost another five pounds, putting me around 105 pounds. Again, it probably doesn’t seem that thin, but on average I usually weigh around 130-135 and appear thin. I’m pretty muscular. People noticed something wasn’t right with me, and I can remember my sister stating that I looked like a skeleton. By the time my next appointment was rolling around, I had started to panic that the doctor and my mom would make good on the threat of inpatient. The day before I was to go in, I started chugging diet cokes and ate cereal, something that I binged on when I got too hungry. It wasn’t enough to get me back to where I was when I started, and the scale showed that I was under my previous weight. The doctor looked at me. I promised it was an accident and that it wouldn’t happen again. It kept me out of inpatient, but only with the agreement that I saw a nutritionist and a psychologist weekly, on top of seeing my doctor weekly. It was a fuck-ton of appointments and I found them all to be enraging initially.

Which leads me to another part of the movie. There was a girl in the inpatient facility the main character was at. She had been given a transfusion of nutrients through her nose. As they sat down to dinner, it came up how many calories might be in one of those intravenous drips. Ellen knew and told them all—1500 calories, which caused the girl who had the drip to leave the room sobbing at the idea of that many calories inside of her. Later on, there was a scene where Ellen was talking to the only boy in the facility, and someone she had developed a relationship with. He was much further into his recovery and was eating regular foods. She said that anytime she thought about eating something substantial, it would cause her to panic, like the world was going to end or something if she ate. That brought back the most memories. Eating any form of food caused intense panic for me. I used to feel that I could actually feel the fat forming if I ate—even if it was broccoli. There was an evening that my mom made me eat broccoli and cauliflower, steamed with nothing else on it. I sobbed and refused and yelled before finally eating some of it. And then I cried and panicked and felt like the world was falling at my feet. I used to say I felt like I needed to rip my skin off and crawl out to escape from my body. I just wanted to claw everything off, as I would lay there, feeling the fat forming on my stomach and hips and thighs, knowing I’d run longer and harder the next day, cut out a few extra calories to make up for the broccoli. The first time I saw a nutritionist, her plan for me was for 1,500 calories a day. I left the office in a blind panic and went to my therapist where I sobbed that I would NEVER eat that many calories. In my warped mindset, eating showed weakness. Those that needed to eat worthless calories weren’t as strong as I was. I could resist temptation and that made me stronger than everyone else. There was no way I would resort to eating that many calories, ever.

It took a lot of therapy and doctor’s appointments and pleading from my family and an eventual move before I started to eat again. I don’t like to say that I recovered. Because for me, I don’t know that I can ever fully recover from anorexia. Maybe some would think that I give it too much power. Maybe I do. Going through anorexia was one of the most challenging things I’ve done. Its impacts, for me, have been long reaching. But I have a good enough grasp on things to not let it rule my everyday life anymore.

When I was sick, I was convinced nothing could stop me. The thinner I got, the less I ate, the stronger I seemed to get. I could run for hours. I could survive on little to no food. I used to have to have heart tests run, to measure my heartbeat. It was so low at one appointment that my doctor told me I couldn’t drink diet coke or do any exercise because it could cause me to have a heart attack. A heart attack on a 23-year-old. I scoffed, went out to my car where I drank a diet coke on my way to the gym. I was so confident that I was, and would be, fine. My mom used to say she was watching me kill myself. I’d scoff again. I wasn’t going to die. I just wasn’t going to eat. Those things were perfectly compatible with one another. I sometimes can’t believe that was me. That I was so foolish to think that death couldn’t call on me. I’m so glad it didn’t.

My doctor looked at me one day, in one of our myriad of appointments, and told me I had a choice. Girls like me always reached this point. I could tip one way and choose to get healthy and live my life. Or I could tip the other way, and spend a lifetime in inpatient facilities, therapy, and sickness, until I finally wore myself out. Something clicked in me. I won’t tell you I magically started getting better. That would be stupid. My anorexia was fueled by a deep hatred for myself and a feeling of complete and utter lack of control over my life. Food and my weight were the only things I had that gave me self-worth and that I felt like I could control. I’ve been in therapy for 12 years now, on and off. I currently have the most self-esteem I’ve probably ever had. That doesn’t mean I have a constant overwhelming love for myself, but I know I have a lot of good qualities. I’m often still plagued by self-doubt and guilt, and my inability to have a child has caused a bit of a setback in the whole ‘self-love’ department, but I’m working on it. I have a good support system who cheer me on. I still have issues with control and while I try to work on them, I still feel the best when I’m in control of a situation, or at least feel like I am. I hate feeling like I don’t know something. Perfectionism is something I still crave. I still work with body image issues. I still struggle with feeling out of control when I’m not working out, convinced I’ll get fat. My self-esteem is still tied to my weight, to an extent.

Despite all that, I watched that movie and felt relieved that I didn’t live that life anymore, and felt bad for all those that were living it. It’s a long road to ‘normal’, or at least functioning. I don’t restrict and haven’t in a long time. I haven’t had a full relapse since my mid-twenties. The things I still battle are minor in comparison and I have enough skills to still live. Even though the scars are there, and some things haven’t gone away, I’m grateful for where I am today. I know I’m a much stronger person because of what I’ve been through and what I’ve overcome–and what I’m continuing to overcome.

 

I was definitely a little frustrated when I wrote my last post. Although, frustration seems to be the dominating emotion I feel most days, not always for fertility reasons, just in general.

We’ve been in the States now for 3 weeks. I have loved being able to see our family and spend time with them, but we have slept in about 10 different beds in those 3 weeks. We’ve moved about every 5-6 days, and are living out of suitcase upon suitcase. Most nights I don’t get great sleep, usually because I’m up early for something and can’t fall asleep till late. I try to keep in the forefront of my mind that I will miss everyone when we leave, and I will, and I’ll wish I were home, so whatever frustration I’m feeling right now is temporary.

I’ve started birth control this month, as that was recommended by my doctor prior to starting IVF. I’ve never responded well to birth control, and this time isn’t much different. I’ve found that I’m incredibly emotional and am having a hard time keeping emotions in check (although, I’d guess all the moving around and lack of sleep is playing a role in this too 😉 ). I cry a LOT. I’m crampy all the time, and bloated, and have spotting on and off. Not the end of the world, but I feel like a thousand pounds. Feeling fat and emotional is every girls dream!

So, not much else is new in our world of fertility. We’re in a nice little break. I’ve been able to get a lot of vitamins to prepare for next month. I’ve got about 8 pills I take daily that I’ve read in my different forums are good for conception. I’ll gladly take them if they help!

In the meantime, I’m taking deep breaths, reminding myself that nothing is permanent, and taking each day by day.

Happy Birthday

I turned 34 yesterday. I also started my period that day. Happy 34th to me! I knew going into my birthday that I was unlikely pregnant, but I was still technically in the ‘Two Week Wait’ (at 16 days past ovulation). I’d taken a pregnancy test around 14 days past and it had come up negative, so I shouldn’t of been surprised. I don’t know if it’s all the hormone medicine I took this cycle, or the fact that I was definitely going to be doing IVF starting in August, but I was a mess. A huge, fucking, hot mess. I cried the day before my period started for half the day. I didn’t know why I was crying, other than I needed to cry. I cried half of my birthday when my period started. I was really sad when I was officially not pregnant.

I was sad because I now knew that even if I got pregnant on my first go round with IVF, I wouldn’t deliver until a month before my 35th birthday. I know that’s not so old, but I never thought I’d have my first baby at 35. I never thought this was going to be so hard. I cried because I grew two good eggs this month. I knew I could take a pregnancy test on my birthday, and I knew if I got pregnant, my due date would be my sister’s birthday. It seemed like it was meant to be, but it wasn’t. Why didn’t one of those eggs fertilize? Why haven’t any of them fertilized after 6 months of blood work, transvaginal ultrasounds, and timed intercourse? Supposedly women are more fertile the first two months after a hysteroscopy. Why wasn’t this the case for me?

I cried because sometimes this is all so overwhelming. We have to pregnant by a lab, and that’s okay, but it complicates life. We didn’t have a time frame for how long we’d be in Belgium. We knew at least two years. But now, with our embryos that will eventually live there, we won’t really be able to leave until we’re done having children, or risk losing whatever embabies we create. We can’t bring them to the States because who knows what that transfer would look like or cost and we don’t know how expensive it would be to store them if we came off the universal coverage that Belgium offers.

I cried because everyone is so excited we’re going to be trying something new–and I’m glad too. But I’m so tired of hearing that it’ll happen when it’s time, or when I stop stressing, or when I stop thinking about it, or when I stop planning for it. For most people, that may be true. For me, not so much. I wish I could just stop thinking about it, or stressing about it, but the reality is that it dictates my life. I see a doctor at least four times a month, and all of those visits involve me stripping down to have a giant rod shoved up me to measure my follicle growth (or usually lack of follicle growth). I’ve grown pretty accustomed to it at this point, but let me assure you that when that is happening with the frequency that it is, combined with the shit-ton of medicine I take, I can’t fucking forget about, or de-stress about, what I’m going through unless someone wipes my memory. It just is there all the time.

So I’m not pregnant again. I’m doing better today than I was yesterday or the day before, and I’ll be okay. Hopefully by this time in two months, I’ll be able to say I’m pregnant and this frustration and isolation and overwhelming-ness that I feel will have gone away. Some days I feel like I’m legitimately losing my mind. I’m not, but it’s an easy little slope to traverse to feeling like an insane person. I know this to shall pass, but goodness, it has not been easy.

So, happy birthday to me. I truly hope 34 will bring a similar joy that 33 brought. I’m looking forward to it.

IVF Consult

We had our initial IVF consult today. I’d been doing research all week to get as much information as I could so I would know what to ask. All the research didn’t prepare me for the reality of it all. Leading up to this appointment, I’d been kind of excited for it. It meant we were taking the next steps and doing more than pumping me full of Clomid month after month. Once there and realizing just how intensive it all was, I’m still excited for the next steps but much more overwhelmed than I was before. IVF is no joke.

We were given some paperwork to review. In Belgium, six fresh transfers are covered by insurance. All we have to do is send off the form from my doctor to the insurance company. Not too bad. Then we were given paperwork that we have to sign, mainly saying we are agreeing to do IVF. However, part of that paperwork requires that we have to decide now what will happen to any potential unused embryos after six years. We can destroy them, let them be used by a couple, or donate them to science. I don’t want to destroy them, as that seems wasteful and just not right. I feel like the right thing would be to let a couple in need use them, but the idea of my child being born to someone else also feels not right at the same time. Or, it just feels weird. That leaves donating the embryos to science, which could be a happy medium. Our doctor said that it’s rare that couples use others’ embryos in Belgium, so maybe donating to science would be best. We have the next 6 weeks to think about it, so no rash decisions have to be made.

Our first appointment was scheduled for August 2nd, where they’ll look at everything and see if I’m ready to begin. I’ll also be given a crash course in all the new medication and shots I’ll be taking. For right now, I’ll start birth control as soon as my period starts and am to take it until August 1st. On August 4th, we have our counselling session. This is to go over the procedures and what all it entails. For example, after they do the retrieval of my eggs, Jason will be required to take them in a box that has to be hooked up to a charger on the car ride to keep it at the correct temperature. He will ride in a cab to the hospital in Antwerp where the fertilization will be completed. It’s done at a different hospital because that’s where the actual transfer of embryos will take place. My doctor will do everything except that transfer. We’ll likely do a five day transfer, meaning we’ll transfer the embryo five days after it fertilized. I’ll be asked to take 3-5 days off work, once the transfer is complete. It’s pretty intense–more so than I thought.

In Belgium, they only transfer one embryo at a time. The doctors and the insurance companies got together and made the agreement that if doctors transfer just one embryo, insurance will cover the IVF. There are age restrictions, so for example, if you are 36-38, you can transfer more than one. After 38, there is no restriction on the number of embryos transferred. As I’m turning 34 in a couple weeks, we will be transferring (hopefully) just the one. The remaining will be frozen until we’re ready for them again. There is still a slightly higher risk of identical twins with IVF but not crazy high.

I’m still kind of processing it all. Like I said, I’m happy to be taking the next steps, particularly after I got my first negative test for this month, and we had two eggs going into it. But all the hormones, shots, appointments, time off work, the retrieval, transfer–all of it makes me nervous. There’s a greater chance it will work, but the success rate is still only 28%. I haven’t considered how I’ll feel if it doesn’t work. I’ll cross that bridge when it’s time. So that’s where we’re at. We fly home today to the U.S. for five weeks, and it’ll probably be a nice break from all things baby for a bit. Once we’re back, we hit the ground running almost immediately. Bring on Baby P!

I can remember being in high school when my sister came home one day and said one of her friends had found out she wouldn’t be able to have kids when she was older. I don’t remember what the reason why was, but as a high schooler who didn’t have kids in any kind of near future, I remember brushing it off and commenting that it wasn’t like she wanted kids now anyways. How flippant and insensitive of a comment but in my young mind, I couldn’t find the empathy to understand why someone in high school cared about having a baby.

I often think of my sister’s friend and wonder about her and if she wants kids and if medicine has advanced enough that maybe she could carry a child, depending on what the reason was. I think about how flippantly I dismissed her infertility and now find myself in slightly similar shoes. We spend so much of our young lives being told to be careful. Use protection or you’ll end up pregnant. Don’t have sex, or you’ll end up pregnant. Take your birth control at the EXACT same time every day, or you’ll end up pregnant. On antibiotics? Don’t even think about having sex or you’ll definitely end up pregnant. Even as a teenager, I can remember my mom having ‘The Talk’ with my sister and I. After she made us tell her what sex was (which was a super fun conversation), she told us that if we ever found ourselves as young moms, she would love us no matter what and support us no matter what, but that we would be raising that baby ourselves as she was done having children.

As I moved into my twenties and had a few sexual experiences under my belt, I can remember taking pregnancy tests every now and again when my period would decide to go on vacation. I think of all the times I took tests, not knowing that I had PCOS and that that’s why my period was absent. All the times I took tests, not knowing I didn’t ovulate on my own. What a waste. By the time I started dating J, I had a suspicion that things weren’t quite right. I’d spent enough time researching by then to suspect PCOS but didn’t get the diagnosis for a year after that. We had a couple ‘scares’ in the beginning of our relationship that required trips to the pharmacy for Plan B. Even then, I would tell him that I thought we were wasting $80 or whatever it was because I was almost positive I couldn’t get pregnant on my own. Needless to say, my new boyfriend didn’t give a shit about my ‘almost positive’ and we got Plan B each time.

All those talks and precautions and tests, for something that wasn’t going to happen on it’s own. Now we’re having timed intercourse every month, hoping one of those sperm can penetrate my incredibly resistant eggs. It’s super romantic. All the planning in the world can’t prepare you for when the opposite of what everyone tells you to watch out for happens. Have timed intercourse, but you still won’t get pregnant. Take Clomid for a thousand days each month, but you still won’t get pregnant. Induced ovulation? Get the fuck out of here, you aren’t pregnant! Surgery to check your tubes and uterus? That won’t get you pregnant either. Just relax and let nature take it’s course? Excuse me while I stick my fist in your face, but you still won’t get pregnant.

Life is tricky like that. It’s easy to get bogged down in the stress and sadness of navigating through infertility. It’s harder to remember that life is still okay, even if things aren’t happening the way you thought they would as a teenager, doing everything you could not to get pregnant. I try to find the humor in it all when I can, and when I can’t, I try to find a good shoulder to let me rant it out on (or I just go write). And when all else fails, I remember that I can still drink a glass of wine or two and I go and do just that.

It’s Just Emotion, That’s Taken Me Over

Tied up in sorrow, lost in my soul…..

Don’t mind me, I’m just dramatically quoting old Bee Gee’s songs like normal people do. I’m having a moment, or more accurately, enough moments that have made up the last 12 hours.

I had a classic me meltdown last night because I’m a hormonal mess and because the world just seemed so overwhelming. We had just booked flights for the fall as my brother and his wife are coming to Europe. One of the flights was a lot more expensive than I’d hoped, and it caused me to really stress out. It’s unusual for me to stress out over money, but I think between end of the school year stress and life stress and baby stress, it just was too much and triggered the meltdown that happened shortly after. I’ve wanted to live abroad for the last 12 years or so. I fought really hard to make it happen. I knew I wouldn’t want to start a family until I had achieved this one big goal I had for myself. I am a HUGE believer in following through on dreams. I’m also a big dreamer and don’t think there is anything wrong with going against the grain if it’s what you need to do. As it turned out, somewhere deep in my core was the desire to see the world, but not in a once a year vacation way. I’ve wanted to experience another culture and get to jet off on weekends. And so, here I am, after years of planning, interviewing, scheming, and overall just trying to make it happen, living abroad in Belgium. And it’s so much harder than I thought it would be.

When we were offered the job in Belgium, and accepted, I truly felt like we were being sent here for a reason. I’d had numerous rejections that recruiting season, often coming in second place. It devastated me each time I was passed over and I couldn’t understand why I wasn’t being hired.  I wasn’t even initially thrilled with the idea of Belgium, as it’s small with shitty weather and often overlooked. As more time went on, and especially in my first few weeks there, I felt like being brought to Antwerp was a blessing. There were so many wonderful things about it, like everyone speaks English, the healthcare is phenomenal, we are in close proximity to travel to lots of places, cost of living is affordable, etc. I really felt like we had been sent here for a purpose.

Fast forward 10 months later. I still really love Belgium, but they don’t make it easy to live here as a foreigner. My husband has found it nearly impossible to find work due to work permit and visa restrictions. We weren’t told any of this before moving over here, so the inability to find work has been incredibly frustrating for him. He feels like he’s lost a sense of purpose, which I can completely understand. We do okay on one income, but obviously there are more financial stressors than if we had more disposable income to play with. Everyone knows that finances are one of the biggest causes for tension in marriage. Between the no job and the lack on additional income, my husband has found himself battling situational depression. I find myself battling a lot of guilt. Guilt that this was my dream, guilt that I’ve created a situation that has made him so miserable at times, and guilt that I don’t want to go back to the U.S. at the end of the two year contract. Because while some things are much harder, some are so much better.

Even though we don’t have a ton of cash, we have done more in the last 10 months than I’ve done in almost 10 years. I’ve been able to travel all over and it feels like the world is so much more at my fingertips than it ever felt in the U.S. My job is far less stressful. I don’t take it home with me most nights. No one wants to sue me because their life sucks and it makes them happy to see others suffer. No contentious meetings with parents. No intensive IEP meetings. It has made a world of difference on my mental health in that way. We started a fertility journey with a fertility doctor in December. When we started, I think we both assumed I may have to take some medicine due to my PCOS, but that it shouldn’t be tough to get pregnant. Here we are at six months, a LOT of Clomid and shots, blood draws, ultrasounds, and a surgery later with no explanation for why I’m not conceiving. We have an IVF consultation next week, so that we can begin the process in August. Never did I think we’d be going down this path. Because Belgium has such a fantastic health sector, all our IVF treatments will be covered. We won’t have to pay for this out of pocket. Thus far, we only pay about €25 per visit and €40 per month for blood work. It’s doable. If we were in the U.S. with both of us working,  IVF would likely cost us about $10-20,000, which shockingly we wouldn’t have lying around. Maybe we were sent to Belgium to have a baby but I have to believe it was more than just that. I worry the stress of conceiving combined with the stress of being abroad, J not working, and finances, is inadvertently preventing a pregnancy. Or that something bigger than me doesn’t think I should be a parent, or maybe just not yet. This then leads to a lot of doubt about whether having a baby is the best choice, particularly if you’re relying on modern medicine to create the baby for you.

I don’t doubt the number of hormonal medicines I’m on is making me more emotional. We’ve got a lot of flights in the next two weeks and I don’t like to fly so I think the stress of that is also causing me to be a bit more emotional. I’m just ready to see my parents, and my siblings, and my grandparents, and my dog and I want it all to go smoothly. Some days are better than others, and yesterday and today have just been rough ones. It’ll pass, but I am just HOPING it passes with an eventual job for my husband and a baby when it’s time. One can continue to dream, right?