Wednesday, April 29, 2015

caught between

Turning the big 3-0 means I have some room for reflection this week...

A year ago today, I went into what was supposed to be a minor, diagnostic, laparoscopic surgery to figure out exactly what was happening with this whole "wanna have a baby, can't have a baby" situation that had been transpiring for about a year at that point. Having had no previous medical issues of a serious nature, my doctor was incredibly confident that we might find, at worst, some scar tissue from my ectopic pregnancy that had occurred about five months prior, that she could dissolve/break up. Of course, it would have been irresponsible to not discuss the true worst case scenario - discovering that one or both of my tubes were blocked or in some way nonfunctional. Based on other diagnostic tests I had undergone, the odds of this were slim to none, but if that happened, my doctor needed my permission to permanently tie off my tubes while she had access. She would only take such grave action if the tube(s) could never be functional, so of course, we green lighted that.

I woke up in the recovery room to my doctor at my side. She had forewarned me that I would not remember anything she said to me at this point, but I have never forgotten a word of it. Somehow, the worst case had occurred. Both of my tubes were "blocked" (due to hydrosalpinx) - there was no way a little egg was ever going to successfully get into either of them and find its proper way. The fact that I had had the ectopic pregnancy was somewhat of a miracle in and of itself (hence Snowflake's renaming as "Ice Crystal") - I would never had had a successful pregnancy via IUI, no matter how many we tried. As such, she permanently clamped both tubes - a tubal ligation. Still somewhat out of it, tears began streaming down my cheeks. My doctor brought tissue over to me and began wiping my tears. I cringed and sobbed harder thinking of the wifey having to hear this news alone, outside in the waiting room.

Having a tubal ligation wouldn't change the fact that we would never be (or have been) able to conceive a baby through the "normal" or natural process (for us, that being an IUI). It would, however, make it possible to have better odds if we chose to go the IVF route - hydrosalpinx decreases the likelihood of IVF success by up to 50%, but permanently clamping off those tubes removed that risk so the fluid in those tubes could not disrupt an attempt at pregnancy.

As I have said before, I never thought money would play a role in my decision to have children. It's something that no one should be able to put a price on. However, we had already spent thousands of dollars for each of the five failed IUI attempts, and we were looking at an additional $30,000+ price tag (or 10,000 bottles of three buck chuck) if we went forward with IVF. As I said a year ago, how does one make that decision? No one should ever have to put a price tag on being a parent.

twin onesies
It's a year later. I'm two days away from my thirtieth birthday, and as I write this I have two little miracles of science (aka lovely little parasites) kicking each other, my ribs, bladder, and stomach. I am incredibly grateful - I am exhausted, I've been having contractions since mid-February (and with a torn round ligament, they are already excruciatingly painful), and my stomach has been evicted and I have no appetite... it feels like the first trimester nausea all over again (but add in terrible acid reflux). I wouldn't trade any of this, for anything. I'm on my way to 34 weeks with twin girls and I am grateful for every single pain that comes my way - it reassures me that I really am pregnant. As I said a year ago, after a 29th birthday gift of an unexpected tubal ligation, my 30th birthday is bound to be a huge improvement, no matter what happens.
hands down, my favorite ecard while on our
infertility journey

This journey seemed incredibly unfair most, if not all, of the time. For about two years the simple sight of a pregnant woman made me cringe as bitterness welled up in my throat (and sometimes still does). But, oddly enough, I'm even grateful for that. The empathy and understanding I have been able to internalize as a result, is (no exaggeration), priceless. Understanding the perspective of others has always been a priority for me (hello day job!), and this experience has opened my eyes to not only how ignorant one can be about the specific pain and grief of infertility and miscarriage, but for any and all human experiences that I may or may not fully understand. It has made me curious. It has instilled in me a deep understanding that no two experiences are the same, and one should never assume as much. It has shown me the amazing capacity humanity has for kindness when we look outside ourselves. We can be a selfish people, but most, given the opportunity, will amaze you with their capacity to support and love.

My love for my wife has grown exponentially, which I didn't even think was possible. My appreciation for kind, thoughtful, curious, and empathetic people is now front and center when it comes to who I choose to surround myself with. "Good people" show up in unexpected places (as do the opposite, in all fairness). While I do have a nasty taste in my mouth for selfish people that isn't going away anytime soon, even those who I might label as such I seek to make sense of their selfishness and have compassion for how they have to live their lives (as both a cause and a result of that selfishness), which I wouldn't wish upon anyone.

Clearly, the wifey and I are ecstatic as we await the arrival of two girls. However, my emotions have continued to be a mixed bag as I feel caught between the world of deeply understanding the loss and grief that goes with infertility and miscarriage and the joy of carrying these two little ones and becoming parents. I feel a ton of guilt. I feel caught between two realities - the reality of infertility and the intense emotions that go with that, and the reality that I am currently getting to experience what many on the other side see as out of reach - the birth of not just one, but two daughters. Out of respect and thoughtfulness for those struggling, I have refused to shout about my pregnancy from the rooftops (i.e. facebook, large gatherings, at work, etc.). We are privately joyful, celebrating with friends and family. We aren't trying to keep a secret, we're simply attempting to not be responsible for causing any pangs of grief and sadness, as couples experiencing infertility are so often subjected to without even the slightest thought or care.

dreamsI remember not being able to get married and being incredibly jealous of those I worked with, those on facebook, and even friends who were able to get engaged and get married without a second thought. To most people, marriage is, and always has been, a natural part of the course of life. To me,  and my now wife, it was not something we were allowed to experience. When we were finally granted the right to marry (or rather, first it was the right to be civil unioned...), I wanted everything I had seen as "due to me" based on the experiences of all my straight friends, acquaintances, and colleagues (excitement, parties,  showers, "likes," etc.).

Infertility created many of the same feelings in me. However, unlike being granted the right to marry, which in one swoop affected millions of people (still working on it in several states!), finally getting pregnant did not suddenly mean that the millions of other women facing the disease of infertility were also suddenly granted the same joys as me. The many people who had reached out to me as the result of my blogging and sharing their own infertility or miscarriage stories were still struggling (along with many, many others, around every corner). I've struggled to be publicly joyful as a result, and I'm good with that. Being pregnant is a privilege that millions of women would give, quite literally, anything for. I have cherished it, and feel incredibly lucky, no matter how costly or drawn out the journey was for us.

No, of course it's not "fair" that some people conceive in a few months of trying and others pay hundreds of thousands of dollars at the hope of a child. But what I have learned about myself, my wife, and the friends and family we are surrounded by, through this process, is something that those who never struggle (or don't seek to understand and support those who do) are not privileged to know, and I am a better wife, daughter, sister, friend, and colleague as a result - and, very shortly, will also be a better mom.

People have asked me if I am done blogging, or why I haven't been - which I appreciate... blogging is therapy for me and knowing that others enjoy reading what I write and find it meaningful is a crazy-awesome compliment. I'm eager to post more and share this crazy journey of carrying twins, giving birth to twins, raising twins, and two-mom parenting. However, to do so, I need to figure out how to make sense of my conflicting emotions of intense joy, gratefulness, and guilt. How do you go from being so deeply steeped in the grief and loss of infertility to being full of joy and excitement, while still seeking to minimize intensifying the feelings of grief and loss others are still experiencing? Its rhetorical. I don't have a clear answer, and I don't think there is one (although advice is certainly welcome). It is what holds me back, but is also what fuels me and makes me feel like it is even more important that I do write.

Hopefully looking back and reflecting will give me some space to look to the present and ahead - as I can only imagine the hilarity that is about to ensue in this household as we welcome two little munchkins onto the team. In the now-famous words of my wifey - how bad can two be?! If their behavior in my belly is any sign of what is to come, we are in for quite the ride.