Friday, May 2, 2014

we can only go up from here

(alternatively titled: worst. birthday present. ever.)

I've never had a lot of "bad" birthday presents. Growing up, birthdays were incredibly special and although I didn't get a bunch of presents usually, whatever I did get, meant a lot.

There was my preschool birthday, potentially one of the most documented experiences I have of my childhood pre-digital photography (that's not actually saying much, the Bovens weren't really into taking pictures after 1990, or so). I only recognize one or two of the kids in the photographs, but I remember getting a my little pony that smelled like honest-to-god magic (and the fact that one of the boys I recognized may have gone onto be my "first kiss" on a soccer field the following year). There were several years where my Uncle came and got me and took me to Toys 'R' Us and let me pick out any one (very reasonably priced) toy I wanted - my Easy Bake Oven that still lives in my parent's basement was a treasure from one of those trips. There was the year I was obsessed with Winnie the Pooh, and my birthday included getting a real bed (obviously the Bovens rocked waterbeds up until 1995 - and beyond) and fittings for it to match the bear of the hour. Or, even just how my grandma would pick me up for the day (skipping school) and take me to get lunch and pick out a chocolate from the Fanny May candy shop.

Birthdays have always been awesome, even adult ones - like when your BFF shows up in your classroom with a sugar-free cake in-hand (because you still aren't consuming processed sugar) and has a incredible surprise evening planned with the rest of your friends, or when that same BFF has your partner blindfold you and transport you around town for an entire evening of champagne and ridiculous food at swanky-too-classy-for-everyone-places.

Plenty of really, really happy moments.

Then there is the year I turned 11. The year I thought my mom was planning me a huge surprise party, but was in fact making secretive plans to move her best friend (whom I called aunt) out of her then-husband's (whom I called uncle) house on the day of my birthday. So, you can see how I naturally thought all of the closed door and secret conversations with her daycare clients and our family members were about me, and an absolutely amazing birthday surprise party to match the one my brother had the year before for his 13th was on the horizon. Clearly, it turned out to be quite a bit of a let down (to say the least, for all parties involved). However, this story finally gets to live the rest of it's life in the shadows, thanks to the bangin' gift I got this year. (Yes, my mom felt terrible that I had misread the signs - likely still does to this day - and I am certain I still had a wonderful birthday, even if I don't remember it thanks to the not-surprise-party debacle of 1996).

The road to having a family has been a tough one, to say the least. It's been a physically and emotionally draining year. Too many stressful, hopeful, crushing, painful, sad, and uncomfortable moments to count. The love from so many of our friends and family has been unreal and unmatched. If I had it my way, I'd have stayed shut in my house for the last several months. Being a hermit is in my bones, especially when I know I am in no shape to be around others. However, we are lucky enough to have such incredible friends that that has been impossible. Even when I have spent the day sobbing (uncontrollably, which, turns out, is one of the foremost causes of headaches in my life these days - not alcohol) thanks to another round of disappointing efforts, there's someone who insists on coming over or hanging out, even if only for a minute, an hour, for a drink, or for dinner.  The outpouring of love and support from one of my recent blog entries alone was unbelievable, and at the risk of sounding incredibly cheesy (it's not a risk, I'm certain it's cheesy), quite literally warmed my heart, made me genuinely smile for the first time in weeks, and reminded me of just how many awesome people the wifey and I have in our lives (both presently, and in the past).

In April we tried again, and as always, put every bit of optimism and hope we had into praying for a positive. My body failed us again, however, and we knew the next step, if we wanted to continue, had to be laparoscopic surgery to figure out and better diagnose what exactly is at the root of the infertility. The surgery had to be scheduled for the 29th of April, which meant I was going to ring in the big 2-9 in recovery. Given the previous tests I had been through, our doctor was almost 100% confident the surgery would be entirely diagnostic and exploratory. Given my ectopic pregnancy and miscarriage in December, she assumed there would be scar tissue for her to break up while she was in there, but that was it. She explained that there was a very small chance that she could get in there and discover something else (such as damaged or defective tubes that would need to be permanently blocked off), but that it was highly, highly unlikely, given the results of my previous hysterosalpingograms (HSGs). We were prepared to have a better idea of what was going on, be able to tailor my current treatment for what she found, if anything, and continue on with IUIs.

I woke up from surgery and soon after my doctor was at my side. With my sometimes eidetic (but always annoying) memory, it's not surprising that I remember every second of her visit that I wasn't supposed to be able to recall at all. I'm thankful for that, as it meant the wifey didn't have to share the devastating news with me. My doctor shared that the ends of both of my tubes (the "feathery" parts that look like little tentacles, if you are recalling 5th grade sex-ed right now) were damaged, something known as fimbrial phimosis. She went on to say that the fact that I had gotten pregnant at all was somewhat incredible, and that if I ever got pregnant again it would only be ectopic. Given the life-threatening danger of ectopics, and the impossibility of my tubes ever leading me to a uterine pregnancy, she permanently blocked off both of my fallopian tubes using small metal clamps that will forever call my belly home. I woke up to find out that I was, barring $30,000+ (and the odds being ever in my favor), permanently sterile. The doctor wiped my tears as a lay there in a drug induced haze, unable to do anything but let the tears fall. Happy effing Birthday.

My doctor had taken the wifey into a little room just before coming back to see me to share the unexpected news. The wifey said she'd spent the hour before they let her come back and see me just crying and trying to figure out how she would tell me. As soon as she came back she could tell that even though my eyes were almost lifeless thanks to a recent onslaught of heavy duty pain meds, she knew that I didn't need a reminder. They didn't let her stay long, I was still in the initial recovery room, so we just cried for a minute or two together. What do you say when something that was supposed to have been the impossible, the less than 1% chance, is now the reality?

I stayed on a pretty solid vicodin regimen for the first 36 hours and didn't have to process much. Yesterday, on my birthday (still on plenty of vicodin and in plenty of pain, but out of the 24-hour "no major life decision window" that suddenly made much more sense to have been on my pre-op instructions), we spent most of the day trying to figure out how to even make a decision like this. How do two educator-salaried people try and make the decision to take a $30,000+ chance at having a child through IVF? It's the scariest, most difficult decision I will ever have to make. You can't put a price on having a family, obviouslyHowever, being able to be financially secure and support that family, should we be so lucky to be successful, is just as critical. And IVF certainly isn't guaranteed, either. So, we are very far from coming to a decision, needless to say. Four days out of surgery I haven't made a lot of progress in terms of physical or emotional pain, so it's going to take some time.

What's the silver lining here? If there is one, it's that we can only go up from here. I haven't been dreading my thirtieth birthday, but I haven't exactly been chomping at the bit for it to show up with bells on. Thanks to the worst birthday present I could possibly have imagined for my 29th, it will now be pretty much impossible for turning 30 to be be disappointing, depressing, or anything less than average. So, in the spirit of being optimistic, cheers to that.

29th birthday and get-well
awesomeness did make it's way to
my bedside (aka coffee table)

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