Monday, September 13, 2010

It's All About Values

One month ago, I had my fourth miscarriage in a row.  That's four pregnancies and four miscarriages in one year.  I've been pregnant seven out of the past twelve months with nothing to show for it.  At this point, miscarriage is becoming just another regular event in my life.

After the first miscarriage, my attitude was that it was an isolated event, so I went into the second pregnancy feeling that it was probable that it would be successful.  However, I quickly had signs of an impending miscarriage, so I wasn’t surprised at all when I lost that one.  But because the first and second were so different, going in to the third one I still felt like it was probable that it would be successful.  In fact, I convinced myself on the third pregnancy that “this was the one!”  It wasn’t.  After that crushing blow, I couldn’t take pregnancy seriously anymore.  For this pregnancy, I continued to drink a glass of wine if I felt like it, I took ibuprofen, I went on roller-coasters, and I ate sushi.  The only concession I made to pregnancy was to stop using two medications that had less history of use during pregnancy.  I didn’t even calculate my due date.

Getting pregnant, for us, has almost nothing to do with whether we’ll have a baby.  It’s less than a first step.  It’s just a prerequisite for something that is highly unlikely to happen--maybe a little like the relationship between getting a part in your elementary school play and becoming a movie star.

That is not true for most people, but it is true for us.

A long time ago, on one of those cheesy TV shows about pregnancy and birth, I recall seeing the story of a woman who had had seven miscarriages over the course of seven years before she gave birth to her first baby.  I thought she was insane.  Who in their right mind would go through that so many times, and dedicate seven years to the project?  It’s just too much.  You probably expect me to say that now I’ve seen the light – that I understand that woman’s motivation and have changed my mind.  But you’d be wrong.

My situation is a bit different because we’ve only been working on this for 17 months, and also because we already have one child.  But the amount of time, focus, money, energy, physical pain, and emotional trauma that it has taken to get through those 17 months is not something I am willing to do forever.  So many things in my life have been on hold because of this, from deferring big plans like writing fiction to leaving bedrooms in the house cluttered and unfinished.  I’m in limbo in many ways, which is the state of existence I dread the most.  Sure, I’ve actually learned some important life-lessons from the whole experience, but I don’t think allowing it to go on and on would lead to any other positive side-effects like that.

I've had many friends tell me, "just keep trying - it'll happen."  I used to find comfort in that advice, but it is simply not true.  You always hear the success stories, but you never hear about the failures.  People are ashamed of infertility, and they understandably don’t want to broadcast their pain.  The fact is that our chances of having a baby go down with each miscarriage, and with each passing month.  And since there is no evidence of any problem, all we have to go on are statistics.

I can’t say for sure when I will quit, but I’ve told Adam that I think I only have one more try in me.  (He has some say in the matter, of course, but it is my body and ultimately, it’s up to me if I need to quit.)  I might change my mind if and when the time comes, but that’s my sense right now.  But if we do have one more failure and that’s all I can take, there are still two more options:  using an egg donor and adoption.

Adam and I haven’t fully discussed either option because we’re not there yet, but I’m at the information-gathering stage regarding donor-egg right now.  The idea of having a child that is genetically related to Adam but not to me was almost revolting when I first considered it.  And it still might be a problem for me.  But the more I think about it, the more comfortable I get with the idea.  I’m actually a bit more comfortable with adoption in some ways, but there are other downsides to that (the biggest one being that I would not get to be pregnant and give birth, with all the bonding those things entail).

For now, we’re taking a break on the baby-making project.  When we left the doctor’s office after the disappointing ultrasound, I told Adam that, because I hadn’t gotten my hopes up, I didn’t feel a huge loss this time, but that there were two things that were bothering me.  First was what I’ve already described – the problem of continuing to be in limbo and unable to move forward in so many ways.  Second was how fat I was getting.  It probably sounds petty to anyone who hasn’t gone through it, but I have no control over my weight right now and I’ve gained almost 15 pounds since we started trying to get pregnant.  My wardrobe is a disgusting conglomeration of fat-clothes, all purchased on an emergency basis at Target because I got too big for my last set of pants, and all expected to only be worn for a few months.  I can’t diet because I’m pregnant most of the time, and my hormones really control my weight regardless of what I eat anyway.  I can’t stand looking in the mirror, or even seeing my shadow on the sidewalk.

After I told him this, Adam was quiet for a bit and then he proposed two ideas.  First, we should chuck everything and take our long-delayed honeymoon in Italy as soon as possible.  That is a value that we can pursue right now, that we could not if we were about to have a baby.  And second, I should feel free to spend his hard-earned money on liposuction if I want to.

Now that’s a great husband!  It's not that he's generous or sympathetic or anything like that.  It's that he's always focused on pursuing values, and he's my inspiration to be the same way.

So, that’s what we’ll do.  Last week, we cleaned out the “nursery,” which had unintentionally become a messy storage room, and turned it into another playroom for Sam.  This week I have appointments with two plastic surgeons, I’m going to an informational session about donor-egg, and I’m working on replacing my lost passport.    We’re planning to attend OCON next summer, which means we have to delay any attempts to get pregnant for a few months anyway.  And in spring, we’ll be in Italy.  I’m trying not to think any further ahead than that.


  1. You are an inspiration. I salute your brave embrace of things you can do. And your focus on being present (sorry, to sound new age, I'm fresh from yoga class)! I know that "secondary infertility" is completely heart-wrenching, and I am glad you are taking good care of yourself as you live with it. Allow me to add my wish that you add adoption right away into that mix of things you are pondering, I've seen really beautiful things happen when people make that choice! I hope you research it more and perhaps come to welcome the idea. All the best.

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