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The Sacrificial Lamb

He loves to nurse.

I mean, what sweet, plush, toddling being doesn’t love to snuggle up to Mama and be nourished while he tugs her hair and rests his head against her warm chest?

But this kid — my kid — loves to nurse. When he sees me walking towards his bedroom, where we do all of our breastfeeding these days, he starts laughing and nearly skipping as he leads the way. He then enthusiastically pats the chair I always sit in and hands me the Boppy pillow. And when he latches on, his eyes roll into the back of his strawberry blond-haired head and he releases the softest sigh. Sometimes he falls asleep. Sometimes he signs “milk” to me over and over. Sometimes he tugs on my hair or tries to put his finger in my ear/mouth/nose/eye/all of the above.

Often, we play a game while he drinks. I ask him question after question — Are you happy? Are you funny? Are you special? Do you love me? Do I love you? — and he nods his head to each one. He has started nodding before I even ask him anything. And sometimes he smiles or laugh. Sometimes he mumbles something. But he never lets go of my nipple.

He loves to nurse.

For a while, I was in turmoil over the decision to wean him. I didn’t want to. It was physically uncomfortable at best, leaving me breathless, and deeply painful at worst, sending spasms throughout my body whenever I even thought about it. I wasn’t ready and he was showing no signs that he was either. But you know me — I’ve always wanted at least one more kid and my desire to move forward with that somehow, though just barely, won the battle with my desire to keep nursing. And so every five days, I cut out another nursing or pumping session. And every five days, my breasts and my heart ache once again.

In some ways, it feels like I am choosing one child over another. Choosing a child whose face I have never seen, whose weight I have never felt against my chest. Choosing a child with no name, a child who hasn’t been born, a child who hasn’t even been conceived. I am choosing the idea of this child, this fantasy, over my sweet, living, breathing son who gently lays his head upon our dog and laughs at everything I do. My poor baby. My sweet sacrificial lamb.

But that could just be a mix of my anxiety and my hormones talking. I have been known to be a little melodramatic when those two come together.

Either way, it’s times like these when I wish so hard that my body worked differently, worked better, and that some way, I could magically fall pregnant with those elusive unicorn babies I’ve read about in the dreamiest fairy tales, without having to sacrifice anything at all.

Wouldn’t that be something?

One Small Step

A week ago, I stepped into my OB/GYN’s office for the first time in over a year. A half hour later, I left with a new prescription for Clomid, Provera, and Metformin. It all felt so familiar, it was as though I was living my life of two, or five, years ago.

Except I came home to a house full of children, screaming and fighting, and a floor that was unseeable because of the massive field mine of toys that stretched from the front door to every corner of every bedroom, and I had to ask myself, can I even handle another child? Can I handle the constant stress and mess and lack of rest? Because some days it feels as though I am seriously failing. Some days, it feels as though my head might explode if one more child whines about what is on her dinner plate or about how itchy her shirt is or about having to pick up her toys before bedtime. There are days when the monotony of parenthood — the barage of reminders I have to give Cupcake in the morning so that she will be ready for school on time, the taking of Skittle’s hand numerous times a day to lead her to the potty, the gentle (but infinite) guidance I have to give Poppy to keep him from unplugging every lamp in the house, the meal planning, the drawn-out bedtime routines, the toy pick-up over and over and over — seems overwhelming and exhausting. And so often, the worry that ebbs and flows over my children’s health — worry about everything from allergies (yes, lots of them) to asthma (probably not) to mysterious fevers, strep, UTIs, and yeast infections (the last four of which have all made an appearance at our house within the last three months) — just feels like so. damn. much. TOO much for one person, or for at least this one person, to handle with any sort of grace or dignity. And to think of doing it for one second longer than I have to seems foolish.

And then there are the other days. Days like yesterday, when I take just Cupcake out for hot cocoa and we talk about wonderful things while we sip from our cup and she is a delight to be around and declares it “the best day ever.” Days when Poppy takes a few steps on his own and then collapses onto the ground in a fit of belly laughs because he is so proud of himself, or  when wide-eyed Skittle crawls into my bed and whispers into the darkness of the room, “I love you, Mommy.” There are days when the kids are happy and loving from sunrise to sunset, and thank me sweetly for the cookie on their plate at lunchtime, and play nicely together all day long. Or maybe they don’t — maybe they fight or argue about who-knows-what and yell and snatch toys away, but then they say “sorry” unprompted and give each other an affectionate, genuine hug and all is well again. And there are days when we go on adventures as a family, near or far, and nothing on our list of daily tasks to do weighs on us. And there are days when we spend a relaxing morning at home, us adults sipping coffee with our littles snuggled next to us on the couch while we watch home movies, and I am suddenly reminded how quickly the years go by and that they will be all grown up in a flash. Those are the days when my heart explodes and I wish I could do this a million times more.

Though we are not taking any preventative measures — and haven’t in nearly eight years — we are not yet officially “trying” for our fourth take-home baby. But we are putting a plan in place. I have significantly cut back on sugar and caffeine. I will wean Poppy over the course of five weeks starting in April. I will order my regime of vitamins at some point in the future if necessary. And now I have my prescriptions, for better or worse. And perhaps I won’t even need them. Perhaps lightning will strike twice and I will fall pregnant with my one lucky, post-weaning ovulation as I did with Poppy. But that seems like a little too much to hope for and so I am preparing for a harder journey.

I don’t know what will happen in the months to come. I am hopeful and excited. I am apprehensive, scared, and even a little sad. This very well may be our last baby. It’s a relief to be at this point, but it’s bittersweet as well. It hurts to think that this could be the very last time I do any of this. Even more, it hurts to think that I may not get to do it at all. I mean, let’s get real, you guys. My ovaries don’t work as they should. None of this is a given. And so I’m fearful of what is to come. What I will have to endure. What I will put my family through in doing it.

It’s a difficult thing to go forward, knowing that the path ahead could be nothing but a journey towards failure, disappointment, heartache, and loss while also knowing that it’s probably possible to be perfectly happy with what I have right this minute. My children are incredible. My life feels full. It’s hard to imagine being much happier than this. And yet, without this fourth baby, I know that it will forever feel as if someone is missing around here. Our family is not complete and missing someone who could have been here, if only I had tried, is not really the way I want to live the rest of my life. I have never let fear or doubt stop me when it comes to going after something I really want. And this — this big family — is something that I want so much. I have longed for it since childhood, long before I met my husband or ever heard the term “infertile.” Even when we were celebrating just having one, so grateful for the opportunity to be parents at all, my heart always yearned for more. And it feels so, so close.

So we will try. Come what may, we will try to achieve what always feels impossible. A miracle.

One Year

It was this day, one year ago, that I got my first period since giving birth to my daughter and we started trying for baby #2. Guys, we have officially been trying for one year. One year. I know that nearly everyone in this community has passed that dreaded one year mark and, in the big picture, that’s not much time at all, but it feels long. And I never thought I would be at this one-year point. Again.

A year ago, when we embarked on this journey a second time, I thought things would happen faster than they did with TTC my daughter. Since we went straight to 100mg of Clomid without TTC naturally first and without experimenting with 50mg of Clomid, I thought surely I would conceive much quicker than it took with Cupcake. I was right. Two months of Clomid and I had my Teddy Graham. And then I lost him. A huge heartbreak and a huge setback in this whole process. And now here we are once again at the one-year mark, nary a baby or another BFP in sight.

This is all starting to feel a little familiar. I have been here before. Which is troubling and comforting at the same time. Troubling because it is impossible to know if the next year will bring only another 12 months of infertility, or a miracle. Troubling because, one year ago, I never thought I’d essentially be in the same place that I was at the beginning of it all. Troubling because having to go through this once was hard enough. Why a second time? But I’m comforted in knowing that, having done this all before, I am better equipped to deal with it now. I have coping mechanisms that I didn’t have in the beginning. And I know, from experience, that even after one year and several cycles of failed treatments, there is hope.

There is always hope.

More Odds ‘n’ Ends Brought to You by the Letter “F”

Please forgive these somewhat scattered thoughts. My head aches and I have a lot I want to cover, as quickly as I can. (But you all know me, and that’s not often quickly at all…)

Failure: That’s how I might describe this cycle, and certainly today’s CD15 ultrasound (the FIFTH medical appointment I’ve gone to in FOUR days, between my daughter and I!). Follicular progress? None. Practically no growth whatsoever. Possible shrinkage, but that left ovary is a bit shy and they have a horrible time finding and seeing her, which means measurements for the follicles on Lefty are approximate at best. Today, my largest follicles were 11.0 and 11.5. No bueno. And while I haven’t given up hope completely (see last month’s cycle for proof of what can happen), it’s hard to stay positive. And it puts a big ol’ black cloud over the upcoming Christmas festivities. I was hoping for hope and optimism this Christmas, instead I have dread and uncertainty. I return on Wednesday for one more u/s to see if there’s been any change. Really, really praying for it tonight and in the days ahead.

Frustration: I’m losing patience with Clomid. It maddens me so that my miracle drug, the one that has never caused me any grief and gave me my precious daughter and a second short-term baby to boot, is now failing me. I want to try Femara first, but my doc is already talking Follistim, which is going to cost us some mighty dough. Sigh. There are days when I am thisclose to just throwing in the towel altogether and giving up.

False Positive?: I rarely get a false positive on an OPK, and I’ve never had one this early in my cycle, but today that second line was very comparable to the control line. I’m not super confident in the accuracy of it because my urine was extraordinarily dark (from drinking, oh, one glass of water all day yesterday because I was too freaking busy), but it’s suspect. Is it wrong? Is it because of concentrated urine? Or is it that my body is preparing to release an egg before one is mature — and could that be my problem with the last four cycles as well? Is that even possible my body would do that? Or could the u/s techs just be completely wrong about my follicular measurements? So many questions! My OPK tomorrow may give some answers…I hope!

Family: For those of you who care to know, I did get to have breakfast with my family this morning. We (my mom and I) were an hour late (because of a pointless ultrasound, mind you), but we still got to spend a fantastic hour with them. Every time I see these people, I am reminded how lucky I am to have so many in my life whom I love and feel so loved by. Anthony Brandt once said “Other things may change us, but we begin and end with family,” and for me, how true that is.

Face: Mine is clearing up. It’s very weird. I had great skin in my teens, but have struggled with cystic acne through most of my 20s. And now, for the last month, I’ve had hardly any pimples at all and no cystic ones. For the last several cycles, I was breaking out especially around ovulation and my period, but didn’t see one pimple appear around CD1 two weeks ago. I love it, but still wonder, what gives? Is it that I’m just getting older (turning thirty next year!) or is something changing hormonally? Hmmm…

Fever: I’ve had a low one for the last three days, 99.5 to 100.6. No other symptoms. I went to Urgent Care last night because my GP was worried about a UTI, but everything is coming back negative so far. We’re still waiting on blood work, but the on-call doc seemed very concerned about a suspicious fever. I’m supposed to go back tomorrow if it persists, but only plan to do that if the fever is above 100.0. What really irritates me is that, even if I do ovulate at this point, I will have no solid confirmation because my BBT is already elevated. I did ask the nurse at the fertility clinic about a fever, though, and she seems unconcerned about it affecting eggs or my ability to conceive this cycle. So I guess that is one small thing for which to be thankful.

Well, I think that will do for now. Hope everyone’s last couple days have been more relaxing and less eventful than mine!

Hope Schmope

I’m having trouble figuring out how I should feel about this cycle. Am I allowed to be hopeful? Do I have reason to? And I know we always have some hope, because otherwise why would we keep doing this? But I’m talking about real hope. In my last two or three cycles, that kind of hope has been nearly dead. Like, so close to death, it’s on life support. There just hasn’t been much to make me feel like any of my recent cycles were going to be any different than the cycles before them, you know?

But this time, we’re switching things up. The changes for this cycle are:

  • Increasing Clomid from 100 to 150mg
  • Adding a trigger shot
  • Using progesterone suppositories after ovulation

I’ve also decided that I need to feel like I’m doing something more than just going to doctor appointments, so I’ll be doing a few extra things to pretend that I actually have a little bit of control over all this:

  • I’ll be using Softcups after intercourse to keep my husband’s precious liquid close to where it needs to be. (These are generally a period solution, but I’ve heard they can help in TTC too. And for $10 with shipping, I decided, why not?)
  • After sex, I usually stay in bed for 10 minutes before getting up and moving around. I will be changing this to 30 minutes now. We even bought a nice wedge pillow to keep my booty elevated for that half-hour.
  • I plan to dine on some pineapple core after ovulation…if I can stomach it.

All in all, that is a total of six things that I will be doing differently this cycle. I mean, that must increase our chances, right? Even if it’s only just a little?

But how do I keep from being all, “Oh, man, this cycle is going to be the ONE!”??? Because I don’t want to have that much hope. It will only lead to heartbreak if I’m wrong. And logically, I know it very well might not be The Cycle. If Honey’s sperm morphology is really as bad as they say, making all of these changes may not do a damn thing. But it’s hard to convince my heart of that. It’s hard not to get my hopes up. I’m finding this balance between hope, expectations, and logic a tricky, tricky business.

Addendum

This is an addendum to my last post.

I just spoke with our fertility clinic about my husband’s SA. I was obsessing over the morphology, so I called for clarification. And just as I feared — morphology is low (read: bad). In fact, it is very low (read: very bad). Only 1% of his sperm are shaped as they should be.

Um…what???

How can it be that, with sperm like that, we conceived a healthy baby girl the first time I ovulated back in 2010? And how can it be that, even in my last pregnancy, we conceived on my first ovulation if Honey’s sperm morphology is so rotten? Unless…the morphology is what caused my miscarriage. Maybe? (Maybe not?) And isn’t it possible that with a higher-than-normal sperm count (as Honey had), that there might be a smaller percentage of “good” sperm (but still the number of good sperm would be adequate)? And is it at all possible for the lab to get this wrong? I don’t know. I’m just throwing ideas out there and I’m not sure we’ll ever really have an answer.

Either way, they (“they” being the nurse I just spoke with) are now recommending IUI.

And I am crushed. I am not ready for IUI, not financially, not mentally or emotionally, not right now. I just can’t do it. I can’t.

And I can’t quit crying either because now it’s feeling like this cycle is already a bust and like we may never be able to give my daughter a sibling. I feel as if we’re already at the end of the road.

Today, I wouldn’t mind if the Mayans are right. Wouldn’t everything just be easier if the world ended next month?

CD12: U/S & SA

I have to laugh because if any Joe Schmoe from off the street was to read the title of this post, I’m sure there would be a big “Huh?” echoing through the room. But you guys know what I mean. Right?

And as my title says, it is day 12 and I had the first ultrasound of my first monitored cycle today. And it was pretty much as expected. I’m not ready to trigger. Not even close. The largest of my follicles are 8-9mm right now. So I will be going back for another u/s on Friday, but my guess is that I won’t be quite ready even then and will have to return yet another time. Ugh. I’m just really hoping this doesn’t drag out until Thanksgiving, when we will be out of town visiting the in-laws. Because then we’d have a problem. On a positive note, though, the u/s tech did say my lining is nice and thick (though she didn’t say how thick or if there is the triple-striped pattern), so that’s something to be thankful for. I guess I’m one of those lucky ones who has not suffered any Clomid side effects. Like, at all.

Also, my husband’s semen analysis results came back today. And they are:

Count: 50 million/mL

Morphology: 1

Motility: 60%

I’m no SA expert as we’ve only done this once before (and even then were never given the numbers), but I think these are good. Question mark? I’m a little concerned about the morphology because the online patient portal says that he has 1% abnormal and should have less than 4%, but isn’t the result usually given in percent of normally shaped sperm (in which case, it should be above 4)? Or am I just totally confused? There were some other things that were tested as well (pH, viscosity, forward progression, and more), but they all came back as normal. One number was slightly higher than it should be — immature forms (SABs). There should be less than 3 million/mL of those and my Honey’s results are recorded as exactly 3 million…but I don’t know what that means. Or if it’s important. Or if it’s a big deal. Having gotten up at 4:30 a.m. today, this is really just all too much for my brain to handle right now. Anyone have opinions about these results?

And now, we wait some more.