Hopping Off the Mary-Go-Round

I am no longer seeking medical treatment for my infertility. I know that’s a jarring and blunt opening statement, but there’s no reason to surround this with fluff or filler. I’ve decided that I no longer want to subject myself to injections, bruising, bloat, mood swings, and acne. No more transvaginal ultrasounds and blood draws every other day. No more of my fridge and bathroom being overtaken by meds and needles. No more surgeries.

More than that, the emotional rollercoaster, the strain on my marriage, and depression and anxiety were becoming too commonplace in my life.

It is settled in my spirit.

It makes sense to me logically and spiritually.

I initially started this post on December 30, 2019. It sat for over a year. When I initially wrote this post, I thought I was in a good space. I wasn’t entirely. It was only the beginning stages of understanding and dealing with the decision and making peace with the decision. But there was so much more.

It really took almost a full year to continue to process this decision. I did not come to this place easily. There has been a lot of tears, yelling, therapy, skipped events, journaling, and isolation. I had to include my husband. We often forget for those of us with partners, we’re not in this alone. They have a say, opinions, and feelings. And while I had come to a place of peace and a decision, my husband had not. He has his own journey that is linked with mine, and it was important to allow him the space and time to come to his own conclusions and be at peace, and that we were on the same page. 

There was a time when I thought not pursuing treatment was giving up and not having faith. I thought I was letting people down: my family, my husband, those of you who follow this blog.

The guilt that I felt, I know we all feel in this journey. The loneliness. The inadequacy. The trauma of infertility is never going to go away. It can be managed, but not erased. There will always be baby showers, and women talking about how they got pregnant without even trying. There will always be days when I feel sad or guilty (or both) about my infertility.

 If we choose not to have children, we will always be questioned as to why. By not having children, I will always be seen by some as some pseudo-woman because I never carried a child. If we decide to adopt, there again will be the questions: Why? Where’s their real mother? Not to mention the trauma that comes with adoption for the child and their birth family (and to a lesser degree, the adoptive parents). There is no perfect ending to an infertility journey. Even when that miracle baby comes, infertility trauma is always right there.

This blog will continue to be a place where I tell my story. To give women a safe space. To talk about being a Black woman,  battling infertility and navigating life. An information resource. A support system.

Real Talk: I’m Not OK. Infertility and Depression

I’m excited to be back to blogging and getting back to normal, whatever that is.

If you follow me on Instagram or have followed this blog for a time, you know its been kinda quiet around here. Like, ghost town quiet. Not just for a week or a month. Maybe Mama was silent for a good eight months.

Eight. Whole. Months.

In an online space, eight months of silence is a long time when trying to send a message and build a following. I missed opportunities to share my thoughts and experiences, make connections with people, and grow my presence.

So, why?

DEPRESSION

I’m flipping the script to add yet another layer to this story of mine: My fight with depression. This is part of family building journey as much as Lupron, ultrasounds, and HSGs

credit to owner

Last year, in March and April (part of February too because of priming), we did our first IVF cycle. For my circumstances (low egg count, one ovary, high FHS/low AMH, ), I did pretty well in terms of output.

All in all, from one ovary, they got 8 follicles, 4 eggs, and they were able to create two embryos. I felt good about that, because I had already done better than expected.

Every day, my nurse would call to give me an embryo update. The embryos were dividing, and growing on schedule. Until they weren’t. On Day 4 the report was they were growing, but not as quickly, which was not necessarily a bad thing. The next morning’s call, they had stopped growing completely.

I didn’t really know what to feel. I was sad, but more so I was caught off guard. I knew that anything could happen at anytime, but things were going so well, I “forgot” to be worried that they wouldn’t make it.

My doctor called later in the evening to go over everything in more detail. I sat in my car, in the dark, with my teal “baby journal”, where I keep all my notes, listening and writing down all the important points and take-aways from our conversation. All the while, fighting back tears, trying to seem cool, strong, and unbothered.

This whole time, no one saw me break, and I was proud of that. But on this call, I could barely keep it in. I told myself to suck it up, and I focused on the clinical and scientific aspect of what was happening, and not on my disappointment, fear, and anger.

After a few minutes in the car by myself to process, I went in the house. When I went in, I told my husband the news. I broke down, but only a little. I didn’t want him to see me upset either. I knew my being upset would make him upset.

So I kept it together.

And I kept on “keeping it together”. Acknowledging that we failed but not really dealing with it. I kept on pushing, going about my every day tasks, only crying now and then when no one was around.

For those that knew I was going through this journey, I wanted to seem brave and strong. I wanted them to see how determined you have to be to even go through the infertility thing. I wanted to be a billboard for all of the women who have done this, once, 5, 10, 20 times. I didn’t want people to have pity on me.

For those who had no idea, I wanted it to remain that way. I never wanted to give off any hint that I had chaos going on behind me.

But being “strong” and unaffected was a front.

Those feelings of guilt, anger, doubt, and disappointment, were slowly creeping up on me. My veneer of cool was starting to crack. I could feel it.

Children under 5 gave me anxiety. Literally. I could not be around small children without getting upset.

I felt like I was just floating through life. It felt like I was existing in life as one of those floating perspective shots Spike Lee’s famous for.

I found a lot of things to distract me from my thoughts. I went out for dinner, happy hour, or day parties almost anytime someone asked. I started crafting, which was great to calm my anxiety, but it was mainly a distraction. When I felt anxious or sad, or something I couldn’t quite pin down: I ate.

I had random waves of sadness and cried.

I bought a lot of clothes, shoes, and things I didn’t really need.

Some days, I didn’t want to see or talk to any humans. I barely wanted to get up out of bed.

One day, I looked around and I realized the literal state of mess I was living in. Our bedroom (well, my side mostly) was a mess. Dining room: clutter. I felt embarrassed. How could I let it get like this? I spent the whole weekend cleaning the apartment. I realized this was an outward representation of the state of my inner self. This was not me. But I kept on pushing. I’m fine. I’m good. I’m OK.

More and more, my conversations with my husband centered around babies, or lack of babies, or our(my) infertility. The majority of those conversations ended with me crying.

Finally, one day, my husband looked at me very lovingly and said ‘Maybe you should see somebody’

I paused.

I wasn’t offended. He didn’t say it to be malicious. He could see me struggling.

I started thinking about those past 6 months. I knew I wasn’t myself. I was probably depressed.

“Maybe you’re right.” I had a therapist I had seen about a year before for a few sessions. I decided I’d reach out to her.
I procrastinated for another 3 months.

I didn’t want to admit I was depressed. That my cycle failing upset me. I never thought the death of two, four and a half day old embryos would make me feel so much loss. Then I got upset with myself for being sad and depressed: “Women have lost actual babies. Miscarriages. Still births. Why are you so upset?!”

But then I realized: I was not just grieving the death of embryos, but of a dream. A tiny piece of hope stopped growing in that lab that day. It was OK to not be OK. It was OK to grieve. It was OK to admit I was depressed and needed help. To be 100 transparent, I have dealt with anxiety and depression in the past, but never at this level.

In January 2018, I started seeing a therapist, which was difficult at first. Three months later, therapy is poppin’ and I’m in a much better space, and feeling more like myself. Which is a wonderful thing.

I’m sharing this because just like there are women suffering infertility in silence, there are women pushing through depression in silence.

Don’t.

Its OK to seek help. You can pray and go to therapy. God won’t be mad at you.
You’re not less of a woman.

As Black women, we feel we have to always be strong, always be stoic and carry the world on our shoulders. Be long suffering and always wear that Superwoman cape. Who told us that? Being sad or depressed does not make you weak. It makes you human. With all that’s going on in the world, on top of what you may be feeling in regards to your fertility journey and other family or personal stresses and feeling like you may be at a breaking point.

  • Practice Self-Care
  • Know when you need to take a break from treatments. Time is not always on our side depending on your fertility journey, but don’t let your doctor push you into a new cycle if you’re not ready.
  • Allow yourself to grieve any failed cycle or loss
  • Connect with someone not your spouse/partner: a friend, another TTC sister, a support group.
  • See a therapist if you feel it is necessary.

7.6% of all Americans report being depressed at some point. About 4% of women and minorities all report having experienced depressive mood, as compared to about 3% of white men.

As always, links and resources below.

Especially check out Therapy for Black Girls!

What is Depression?

Infertility and Depression

Black Women and Depression

Infertility Warrior Badge 2018 final

I Skipped My First Baby Shower…And I Don’t Feel Guilty

In the infertility world, we talk a lot about doing what’s best for you to make it through this crazy journey. This was the first time I truly did what was best for me no matter how anyone else felt about it.

I skipped a friend’s baby shower. I never thought I would be one of those. But I was, and I don’t feel bad about it.

March was our first IVF. The ultimate result was a fail. Our embryos didn’t make it to blastocyst (stopped growing on day five), and I was caught off guard and a little depressed. OK, a lot depressed, but that’s a story for another post.

Up until this point, I would say I was pretty positive

Insert our friends and their pregnancy.

This is a couple we have done a lot of things with: date nights, birthday parties, game nights, Cookouts, Weddings, Critiquing other friends’ girlfriends/boyfriends. We even got engaged within a few weeks of each other and married in the same year.

We did a lot together…except get pregnant. Of course they have no idea about our struggle. When I first heard the news about the pregnancy, I had that mixed feeling many of us know all too well of happiness and despair. Excitement and panic. Joy and pain. (no sunshine or rain)

Once we got the announcement around the holidays, I started stressing about the shower. I knew it was coming because we saw one of the grandmas-to-be at another event, and she told me the date they had in mind for the shower.

I went back and forth in my mind about going, months before it even happened. Eventually, the invite came, and it got real. It was a co-ed shower, so both hubby and I were invited. He was an emphatic “Yes”. I was still undecided. I felt bad, but I had to pop his bubble a bit and ask him if he was prepared for questions about us having a baby. We had just found out about or failed IVF cycle a few weeks before and were still processing. I know men handle this differently, but they do have feelings. I didn’t want him to be caught off guard when someone asks, and he was triggered. I had to remind him it’s a little different now, and that he may feel some type of way when someone says, “You two are next!” I’ve become an expert. He’s still a rookie in these types of interactions.

He said he’d be fine. The real question was if I was going to go.

“Put me down as ‘yes’ for now, but I’m not sure.”

The weeks passed, and finally we’re at the week of the shower. I was still on the fence. We needed a gift, so of course I volunteered to stop at Target after work to pick up some items off the registry.

I always like to give books as part of a baby’s gift. I like books, and I want to create little readers. Plus, reading is great bonding time with parents and kids. I went into the book section, looking for some of my favorites; The Very Hungry Caterpillar, Green Eggs and Ham, but I’m always looking for new books.

That’s when I found Wish. I vaguely remembered someone on Instagram mentioning the book. I opened it and started to read…and started to cry in the Target. In the children’s book aisle.

The plot:

As an elephant couple embark on a life together, thoughts of children are far away-at first. But as the desire for a child grows, so do unexpected challenges. And it’s only after thwarted plans and bitter disappointment that their deepest wish miraculously comes true.

So, there I am, reading this sweet book, and tears running down my face. That decided it: I. Wasn’t. Ready. Cute onesies, bibs and blankets are one thing, but an amazing children’s book about how Mommy and Daddy had to suffer and fight to have you: Waterworks.

I knew If I couldn’t read that book and keep it together in a Target, the chances of me making it through a shower were slim.

I went home, wrapped the gifts, and told my husband I wasn’t going.

“What do you want me to say?”

I didn’t have to think long because I did have an out. I had a meeting, then a little fellowship afterwards. They didn’t know that I could leave or skip it all together if I wanted. Perfect! “I have chapter meeting, and it’s an important one. I won’t be done in time to ride down with you.” (They live about a two hour away since our move)

Hubby went, and by all reports and pictures posted to Facebook, the shower was great.

As for me, I did what I wanted that day, and I felt not one drop of guilt. I’d rather have people slightly disappointed that I wasn’t there, than for me to be uncomfortable, on edge, wrestling my emotions, and recycling one of my canned responses to when we’ll have kids or why I ‘m not pregnant.

At some point, you have to choose you. Sometimes that looks like selfishness, being disengaged, or a party pooper to others.

But if they only knew the real story…….

If you’re interested in purchasing Wish by Matthew Cordell, for you or a friend, you can do so here.

8 Things You Need to Know about your IVF Protocol that No One Told You

Hi Maybes!

I’ve been a little quiet because…..I just finished my first protocol for egg retrieval. We’re going to freeze and transfer in a few months once we get this thin lining resolved.

Updates on my cycle soon to come.

Having just finished the whole processes of stimulation and retrieval, I feel like there are things no one told me,practical things, that I never knew, so I’m going to share a few things I think might be useful to know before your start.

Step. Your. Sock. Game. UP
Seriously. You will be in the stirrups more in these 10-12 days then you probably have been in all of your adult life. Give yourself a boost of confidence. Give your doctor and staff something fun to look at. Keep them guessing. Wear fun socks. Trust me on this.

Drink A Lot of Water

Why? Because you will have blood drawn every time you go in. Every. Time. You’ll feel like a pin cushion. If you’re like me (and hopefully you’re not), and have small and hard to find veins, drinking lots of water will help you a lot. Even if you’re a standard blood draw, being well hydrated makes your veins plumper and easier to find. It will make this part of the appointment go a little bit smoother.

My arm on day one of monitoring…

One of my arms on the last day of monitoring.

Give yourself an extra 5 minutes your first dose day

When taking your injections , its important that you dose at the same time every day, or as close as possible. On your first day, or your first day adding a new medication, give yourself an extra five minutes, especially if its something like Menopur, that has to be mixed by you.

It can be a little cumbersome sorting out all of your needles and viles, mixing, and measuring. Add in at least a one minute pep talk to yourself the very first day to hype yourself up to stab yourself with a needle.

On that note….

PM dosing

The needles for the injections are not that bad

They really are thin, tiny needles. Unless you have a real fear of needles, you’ll be a pro at jabbing yourself after about three doses. Except for the trigger shot. THAT needle is longer, and a little wider, but it goes in your butt, not your tummy, and is intramuscular, going into muscle, so it needs a little more length and needs to be a little wider. Its all relative, because none of these needles in more than a few millimeters across.

For this process, a little tummy fat is a good thing!

Many of the stimulation meds are given subcutaneously, meaning under the skin. Usually you have to pinch an area of skin/fat on your abdomen. If you have a lil extra there, it will be a good for these purposes for this.

You can’t be Shy (because you may have to do your shots in a public space)

If you follow me on Instagram, you saw me post about my first public dosing. Long story short: I had the bathroom all to myself, them someone came in. With her nosey self, she lingered around, taking forever to wash her hands and re-applying her lip stick oh so meticulously, to see what I would be doing since by that point I had my supplies laid out. After a while I just said “F it! She gon’ learn today ” and proceeded with my shots.

I had 2 more times I had to dose in public restrooms. Fortunately, there was room and shelf (or shelf like) space in the stall where I was able to have more privacy. Except for the lady at the road stop that was telling me her whole life story from the other stall….

Bloat. All of the bloating. And Gas

I’m telling you because I love you. After a few days of stimulation meds, you will be a little bloated, OK, a lot bloated. And gassy. You’ll feel the pressure and heaviness of those enlarged ovaries (which is great!), but it makes you feel very bloated and full. Your injection areas will be a little swollen as well. Its uncomfortable, but manageable.

Your mind will be a little foggy. You will have emotions and moods

This is commonly said, but I wanted to clarify. For me, it wasn’t the violent, quick, up and down mood swings, it was little things. I cried about something every day the first five days. Things that would usually just annoy me, made me really pissed off. Things that wouldn’t bother me at all made me upset. It’s like PMS turned up a little. There were times in the middle of an emotional moment, I said to myself “why am I crying?” or “What is wrong with me?” I was very on edge.

The fogginess, I imagine is similar to what pregnant women call “pregnancy brain”. I just didn’t feel like myself. I forgot a lot. I felt like I was operating out of body a lot of the time. It was just a general lethargy and sluggishness I fought through pretty much every day once things really go going. Some of it may not have been the meds, but also the overwhelmingness and newness of starting my first IVF cycle, and all that it meant. Just know that you will be in a strange head space, rather its med induced or not.

*Bonus Don’t call new people you meet by the name brand of one of your meds

This seriously happened to me, but I didn’t say it to his face. A group of my friends and I had just met some new people, and later I was trying to remember one guy’s name. It had a “V” and an “L” in it somewhere. I said this with all seriousness:

Me: What was his name? Vivelle? Oh wait, that’s my estrogen patch.

So a Woman Thinketh, So is She

 

It is Mother’s Day. Again. Last year for Mother’s Day, I unplugged, and I was able to lift my spirits and cross off a major bucket list item by going to see Prince in concert. Alone. It was one of best days EVER!

This year, Prince has passed away, I am still sad about it, and I skipped going with my Husband to brunch with my Mother In Love (Law) because I just wasn’t in the mood. She doesn’t yet know about our struggle, and I just didn’t feel like pretending I was in a good place. I sent my card with my husband.

Instead, I’m home with the cat, listening to Prince, and blogging, which is perfect.

Of course, this week, I’ve been thinking about and dreading Mother’s Day, like many of us Maybe Mamas do. The past month or so, a lot of things have happened on the road to possible motherhood. In April, I had a final hysteroscopy to check out my uterine cavity, to see if the balloon used in the November procedure helped in minimizing/preventing scar tissue. A few days before I went in, my husband and I had a conversation where I questioned if I even wanted to have kids at all. I went on about how our time would not be our own, how all the moms I know (with kids under 5) are so boring now. They’ve completely lost their sense of self. All the money we’d now have to spend on the child’s needs, how uncomfortable and unpleasant pregnancy seems….
But in the next breath, I answered my own question: “But I guess, if I didn’t want to have a baby, I wouldn’t spend all this time and money making sure I could”

“True”, hubby responded.

Let's be real for a second, this ish does not look fun.
Let’s be real for a second, this ish does not look fun.

So I really started thinking: What do we tell ourselves to make this all hurt less? I’ve come to realize my main coping mechanism has been a denial of sorts. I’ve tried to convinced myself that I don’t really want to be a mom. I see all the negatives in parenting: The screaming toddler in Target, the sleeplessness, the projectile vomiting, constant worry if you’re doing right by your child.  Never having a life. These things are real, and a part of motherhood, but that’s not all that it is.

I truly have come to terms with the fact that I may never be a biological mother, or a mother at all. I think that is part of the infertility journey. Keep hope alive, but acknowledge all possible outcomes. What I have done over time is beyond that.

I’ve tried to shield myself from disappointment and hurt by trying to convince myself it doesn’t matter. Motherhood is not something I really want.

Its like Cinderella when when she realized she wasn’t going to the ball, despite doing everything her step mother said she had to do. She did her best (for all of 5 seconds) to convince herself that that Ball was going to suck, and she wasn’t missing anything.

"Oh, well, what's a royal ball? After all, I suppose it would be frightfully dull, and boring, and completely... completely wonderful."
“Oh, well, what’s a royal ball? After all, I suppose it would be frightfully dull, and boring, and completely… completely wonderful.” ~Cindy

But the reality is, I do want to be a mother, and its painful to think that I may never be. Some days, its too much to think about, so I don’t. The best I can do is try to convince myself that like the Royal Ball, Motherhood sucks. Except, much like Cinderella, I’m not doing such a great job of fooling myself.

 

I chose the title of this post based form Proverbs 23:7, which most people interrupt as a verse cautioning us to be mindful of our thoughts, as they become who we are. Reading the whole verse, and the verses before and after, and other translations, that’s not what is meant at all.

The verse is referring to a person who says one thing out of their mouth, but doesn’t mean it. They invite you to come over, eat and enjoy, but inside, they’re hoping you don’t. The full scripture:

Do not eat the bread of a miser,[a]
Nor desire his delicacies;
For as he thinks in his heart, so is he.
“Eat and drink!” he says to you,
But his heart is not with you.

Now, I’m no “miser”, but I am being insincere with my words when I say I don’t really want to have a baby. I say I’d much rather just O and I be the “cool auntie and uncle”, that way we have our time, money (and my body) to ourselves. The ultimate proof that its all bs is not the myomectomy, or the three procedures I’ve undergone to remove scarring (and recently endometriosis), and the months of hormones I took to try to restore my uterine lining. Its not the research I’ve done on adoption. Its the consult we had this past week with a fertility doctor, and the tests we’re about to take, and the IVF journey we are about to start. Someone who doesn’t want it would not bother with any of this.

So on this Mother’s Day, I give myself the gift of acceptance, and permission to feel and experience all of the emotions that come with this journey. Some days are hopeful. Some days are depressing, and that’s OK.

Its OK to want something that seems just out of reach, and its OK to feel the creep of that green-eyed monster when it seems everyone else but me is enjoying that which is illusive: Motherhood.

I want to give this gift to you too. My sisters in this battle. Give yourself permission to feel how you feel, today and everyday.

 What have you been telling yourself?