Thursday, May 29, 2008

Bury My Heart

After I read the book "Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee", I felt pretty depressed. After I visited the Holocaust Museum in Washington, D.C., I was bummed out for two days. But this is personal. This is one of the hardest losses I've ever had to deal with. It's been four weeks, and I'm still crying everyday. It's the first time I've ever taken anti-depressants. The anti-depressants allow me to function, so I don't wallow in depression, but they do not numb the pain. I still have my feelings, and I still have my sadness. Sometimes I just feel like I want to bury my broken heart.

I can't tell you how many times I've listened to Tracy Chapman's song "Remember the Tinman" over the last couple of weeks. I've been really resonating with the whole theme of losing your heart. Yesterday, I paused to reflect on these two lines at the end of the song that caught my attention:

"And remember the Tin Man
found he had what he thought he lacked.
Remember the Tin Man,
Go find your heart and take it back!"

A part of me looks at having a baby as fulfilling a part of my life that is empty. I feel deficient for not having children. Maybe the part of me that feels empty will still feel empty even after I have a child? Or maybe what I am seeking in having a child I have already? I know it's my ego telling me that I'm deficient and that I must have a child to make my life whole, but intellectual knowing and feeling like crap are two different things.

The repetitive negative thoughts get in the way of my grieving process. When the thoughts keep rolling over and over like the hamster on the wheel, I have to consciously stop them, take a deep breath, feel my heart, and that is when the tears come, again and again.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Feelin' the Love

My experience with the 17th Karmapa

The 17th Karmapa is making his first visit to the United States at the young age of 22. I was pretty excited about this historic event, but I forgot to buy tickets as I was in the midst of all my pregnancy drama. The 17th Karmapa is on par with the Dalai Lama. I figure he rates more than the Dalai Lama since he's got three and a half more life times under his belt, but the Dalai Lama is more of an international spiritual rockstar than the Karmapa. Both are heads of their respective Tibetian Buddhism lineages, of which there are four.

One day, I got a letter in the mail saying that all the tickets were sold out, but that since I'm a member of my local Shambhala Center, which happens to be part of the Kagyu lineage, the lineage that the Karmapa is the head of, they had a ticket for me. I went to get tickets with another space cadet friend of mine who had done the same thing as me.

We were at the last event of the day for the Karmapa, an address to all the local Buddhist communities who had helped bring the 17th Karmapa to the US for the first time. A few other Buddhist rockstars were in the house, like Pema Chodron (who could forget her book "When Things Fall Apart"?) and Dzogchen Ponlop Rinpoche. But it was the camaraderie of two of my closest friends who were there that mattered to me the most, one who I planned on sitting next to, and the other who unexpectedly ended up in the row behind me. These are friends who I have shared my story with and cried with.

The Karmapa's words were not what struck me the most. He had these piercing eyes. The audience reacted to his stare with laughter, because it looked kind of funny, but those eyes were clearly the gaze of someone with a lot of wisdom. When you have had 16 lifetimes, I guess you've been around the block a few times and learn a few things.

What touched me the most was the Karmapa's heart. He said that the love of his last incarnation, the 16th Karmapa, for America was what drove him to want to come to America. He said that because of his love for us, he persevered over his difficulties in coming to the United States. He said that he loved us, 2000 of his best friends? That was a pretty vulnerable thing to say to a bunch of people he never met before half way around the world from his home in a different language and different culture. I walked out of there feeling contented and peaceful, but I couldn't really say why. It was something about the Karmapa. It was his presence.

The next morning, I had a dream in which the Karmapa appeared to me. I haven't had a dream this clear in a long time that I have remembered. There is something about this person that is truly genuine. Something very selfless and compassionate about someone who has come back after 16 lifetimes of suffering to help his fellow human beings. And here he was coming to me. It made me pause and think about what is really important. It made me question my motivations for wanting to have children. I felt touched by grace.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

IVF is Not for Sissies

If I were going to get pregnant with my husband, I had no other choice but to do IVF. I knew this before I married Magic, but I was very naive about IVF. I thought, oh yeah, we'll just do IVF to get pregnant. No one "just" does IVF. Once the reality of IVF got closer, I learned I would have to do things to my body that I did not want to do and was against my personal philosophy. I began to wonder if I had made a mistake in marrying Magic. The instinctual drive to want to have babies can make you think and do desperate things.

Initially, I was terrified of all the shots. First, there is the uncertainty of what the hormones will do to you. You have heard they make you "crazy", but you don't know exactly what that means. You wonder what long-term effects they will have on you. And the idea of sticking sharp objects into your stomach brings up images of "hari kari".

I remember a friend of mine casually saying, "oh, the shots aren't the hard part". I didn't understand at the time how she could be so cavalier. At my first injection training, I looked at the size needle I had to stab in my abdomen and nearly had a coronary. The nurse offered to do my first shot for me, and I kinda felt like a sissy 'cuz it wasn't so bad. I had a hard time with the shots emotionally my first IVF cycle because it felt like I was hurting myself. My second IVF cycle, I had a different attitude that doing these shots meant success, and then they were much easier. Plus, I had learned that the emotional fallout of a cycle not working was much more painful than the shots. Although they are not fun (unless you are a masochist), the shots truly are not the hard part of IVF.

One of the worst parts of IVF is all the difficult decisions you have to make. No one trains you to make these life and death decisions. You have to make fun decisions about which procedures you will have done, if you will do genetic testing or not, and how many embryos to put back. I think the last decision is the hardest. Then, there is the decision of what to do with the embryos if you have any left over.

Most average Joe or Joanne would never think about going to Las Vegas, plunking down $20K of their life savings or borrowed money, and gambling it all away on one game of craps. But that is essentially what you are doing when you embark on IVF. It's a crap shoot, and you never know what you are going to end up with or what is going to happen. There are no guarantees.

You try to play the statistics game. "Oh, I'll put back more embryos than what I want because it's a small percentage of having multiples". Or, "I'll deal with multiples if that is what happens, but I seriously doubt it will happen to me". The fear of not getting pregnant is usually greater than the fear of having multiples because the statistics are more weighted towards not getting pregnant. The thing is about statistics is that when it happens to you, it's 100%.

If you do end up getting pregnant with two, three, or four, then there are a lot of other agonizing decisions you have to make. Selective reduction is an option, but once you become attached to those little embryos, the decision to reduce one of them is agonizing, even if it's the best thing for you and your family. The other option is to go through with the pregnancy and risk endangering your health or your babies health. With IVF, you can have too much of a good thing.

For me, I had to make peace with the fact that I was going to have to endure a lot of medical procedures to do IVF. I first had to have surgery, which was it's own ordeal in and of itself. Should I have surgery? Which type of surgery should I do? What are the risks of each type of surgery? Who should I choose as my surgeon? These were all the questions I had to grapple with, besides the fear that I did not want to have surgery in the first place! As many doctors as I saw were as many opinions that I got, muddying the waters even more. The longer I took to make my decision meant my fertility was slipping away with every day I put it off.

The hardest part of IVF is the emotional part. Women don't blog to discuss just their medical procedures. They do it for the emotional support. The support of gathering additional information to help them make an informed choice, the support of helping them through one of the most stressful times of their life, the support of knowing they are not alone, the support of dealing with failures, and the support of dealing with success. The difficult emotions don't end when you get pregnant. For women that deal with infertility, we forget that pregnancy, birth, and raising a child all have their own emotional challenges. I think we get so focused on the getting pregnant part, which - by the way - should be the easy part, that we forget about how we are going to have to deal with the rest of having a baby! But I digress...

I wanted to say that I now have complete respect for those women who choose NOT to do IVF. I thought I was being a sissy for not wanting to do IVF, but after having gone through it twice, I wonder if it was such a good idea. It's a brave choice to say, "no thank you, IVF is not for me". Modern medicine can bring us miracles, but it can also bring us nightmares.

That is why I like the post from Melissa's blog "One Smart Mama" titled "Regifting Words". It's about what to say when you decide not to do IVF to have children, and people try to be "helpful" by telling you that you can "just do" IVF or some other such medical procedure. She also briefly touches on the related "just adopt" line, but that's a whole 'nother topic for another post.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Shell Shocked

It's been less than a month. Why do I feel this way? I realized that I'm shell shocked. I keep waiting for things to get better. I keep waiting for the pain to go away. It comes and goes in different waves of different emotions. Sadness, guilt, anger, doubt...I keep going back to "why did this happen to me?". The Wizards tell me it's too soon to think about anything else but grieving.

We were told by our clinic that what had happened to us was 0.4% of their last 750 cycles. How do you plan for 0.4%?

I can't help but think about trying again, but I also am too terrified to go there, too traumatized to even think about it. I know I need to sink into the sadness, to allow the grieving. But sometimes, it feels like too much. It wasn't supposed to be this way. How much more can I let my heart break?