Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Alice wouldn't be very impressed with my pill

For anyone out there who's reading with a certain trepidation, afraid that any new post on this blog will be full of woe or schmalz, or yet another reiteration of "I am having such a hard time, please help me," I am pleased to announce that this is not one of those posts. Nosiree: Not. One. Of. Those.

You see, I am starting to feel better. Instead of clinging weakly to the edges of things like off-brand plastic wrap, I'm starting to feel more robust. Saran-like, if you will. (Can one cling weakly? I think that may be an oxymoron.)

It's only been a few weeks, but I do believe that I have my little off-white pills of synthetic thyroidy goodness to thank. I was skeptical that they would do much for my state of mind--it's hard to picture feeling better when you're marginally depressed--but, while I am not yet alive with the sound of music and I'm certainly not in the mood to dance a jig with Dick Van Dyke and some animated penguins, there is more of the Julie Andrews about me than the Sylvia Plath. My head is firmly out of the oven.

It's not that I'm feeling all cheerful, it's more that I'm feeling awake. Like everything is a little clearer; most of the melancholy fuzz is gone. Maybe the big difference is that I feel a sense of perspective returning: everything is not urgent and essential and overwhelming. Some things can wait; some things can even wait forever.

I'm not getting any more sleep, eating better or reducing the stress in my life. The only thing that has changed is the color of my pill.

. . .

My thoughts turn rather often to the chicken-or-egg mobius knot of how my thyroid and infertility are related, and what that bodes for future IVF attempts. Is my pituitary just shot all to hell; have my LH and FSH gone berserk, along with my TSH, just like the hippos in Olivia's favorite board book? Did the pregnancy really whack out my thyroid, or is it impending menopause? Perhaps an infection, adding insult to long-ago injury? Nobody seems to know, and my doctor doesn't seem terribly interested. Thoughts, research articles and websites eagerly solicited. Because, holy shit, we're planning to see the RE in January. January. January.
Can you hear the giant *gulp* where you are?

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Olivia: Social Lubricant

When you're shy and a bit awkward, you master a number of tactics for the avoidance of everyday interactions. Don't want to talk to the middle-aged businessman sitting next to you on the plane? Bury your pointy nose in a book. Uncomfortable when a saleswoman asks if you need anything? Mumble, "Just looking, thanks," and keep your head down. Stand around awkwardly at business events? Find a corner and hope someone you know decides to join you.

These tactics--so effective for so many years--are completely unworkable now, for the simple fact that we're walking around with a bright-eyed baby. We are, much to my astonishment, always visible. It's like we've been dipped in chartreuse day-glo ink and made to walk around under a perpetual spotlight.

I knew Olivia would be a bit of an attraction for friends and family, but I was unprepaed for the onslaught of attention from distant acquaintances and absolute strangers. I had a taste of this when visibly pregnant, with the inquiries about due dates and morning sickness, but now? It doesn't stop. And I'm discovering something that surprises me mightily: I love it.

I love having something to talk about with people I would ordinarily clam up around. I love being able to fall back on a bottomless well of topics like night wakings, eating, personality, growth, clothes, caregivers, carseats and teething. I never run out of things to say, never find myself staring, doe-like, into the headlights of social paralysis.

I don't know how long this will last--Olivia is at her most approachable right now, I think, as she is too young to fear, or greatly annoy, strangers. She just smiles, reaches out a grubby hand and, as of a couple of days ago, waves to them, stiff-wristed, like a slow-motion QEII.

Co-workers come by to see her pictures; the CEO shared the details of his four-year experiment in co-sleeping. My boss, generally gruff, said we should buy a pack-and-play for the office, since she was clearly such a hit. When giving a much-dreaded company presentation a few days ago, my screensaver--not unpredictably, a picture of Olivia--popped up, and a collective Aww went up from the audience, cutting through my public-speaking terror better than any Dale Carnegie course could have done.

It seems like there is a general goodwill toward babies and, by extension, their parents. Perhaps it's a sense of parental kinship: those with children can picture what we're going through, the challenges and delights. Perhaps it's just that babies are universally aww-producing in their cuteness, engendering a desire to protect and entertain them. Whatever it is, I find it surprising, and surprisingly moving.

Coming back from a conference in Phoenix on Friday, the elderly woman on the hotel shuttle played peek-a-boo with Olivia and told us all about her daughter's youngest; the businessman in our aisle talked to us for a solid half hour about the best way to prevent earaches. The restaurant hostess, in her broken English, recounted stories of her son growing up with extended family in a small house in Florence, and how American babies should have a whole community looking after them to make up for the missing grandmothers and aunts and uncles and cousins. And that's what it feels like: that there is this whole community looking out for her, even if transiently, and from somthing of a distance. Like the bald, tattoed biker at our Southwest gate who picked up an unnoticed plastic brad near her hand. "You don't really want to eat that, even if you think you do," he said, while giving us a wink. Or the teenaged boy who saw me coming and held open the door while I pushed the stroller through. Or the wealthy woman who found Olivia's stuffed kangaroo and ran, high heels clacking, to catch us before we disappeared into an elevator. It is a beautiful feeling to be included in this baby halo, and to project our appreciation back.

Aside from a variety of allergies, my doughy legs and Jeff's sense of direction, the thing we fear Olivia will inherit from us is our shyness. But maybe this new baby-induced outgoing-ness will help us to set a better example for her. She deserves our best efforts, and has even opened the door for us. We owe it to her to keep on going, even when we can no longer ride her coattails.

Monday, November 06, 2006

I'll take "Thyroid" for $200

Answer: It has a "normal" range of .5 to 2.5 but likes to careen like a drunken ping-pong ball between .2 and 10.

Question: What is my TSH level, Alex?

Yeah. So, um, that PPD stuff I was talking about. I guess "getting medicated" will start, not with Zoloft, but with an increase of my levothyroxine. As my non-reproductive endocrinologist put it, with such articulate finesse, "Your thyroid has gone pfffft."

I will now be taking a "full replacement" dosage as, apparently, I am no longer making any on my own. TSH is now 9.9; four months ago, on the same dosage, it was 2.4. Pffft, indeed.

Now I just have to hope that it does some good.

. . .

After filling my new prescription, I went to the grocery store next door to pick up a few things. As I was checking out, the cashier handed me one small bag and said, with great earnestness, "Careful of your precious eggs."

Yes, in case you're wondering, I did reply, "You think those eggs are precious..." before remembering my audience.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006


I've had a difficult time expressing myself lately, blog-wise. There are the universal constraints of every new-ish mother--time and energy--and there are the self-imposed constraints of an infertile who got lucky. The latter is probably more formidable to me than the former; everything I have to write about is either full of gooey sentiment or self-centered, woe-is-me whinging. Either way, I sound like a bit of an ingrate. But that's all I've got.

I am still, at nearly seven months, not doing too well. The sadness is no longer pervasive, but I am far from feeling like myself. An on-line friend put it perfectly:

"Even when I have a good's almost more like I'm an observer, noting that this is a good moment rather than actually enjoying it."

I watch these perfect moments--her smiles and wriggly, full-body excitement when I come home at night; the serenity of her face as she naps, naked after a bath, in a warm room with a towel draped around her--and say to myself, "This is it. This is what I longed for." But it doesn't feel like it's happening to me. Sometimes the joy overtakes me and I can feel an unplanned smile lighten the corners of my eyes; more often than not, though, I have to remember to react the way I should.

I love her with a rabid ferocity that I didn't know I had. Nothing else in life matters to me very much, even though I continue to worry about every last detail of every other thing--work, house, family issues, health and, neglected though it has been, my relationship with Jeff. It's as though my capacity for worry and stress--already high--have expanded like a slow-filling water balloon, but there has been no corresponding increase in my elsasticity, in my ability to deal with it or to take pleasure in whatever I do achieve, and no pinhole leak to relieve the pressure.

Jeff has asked me, ever so gently, to consider getting medicated. (My sadness troubles him: he had a wife who never cried before getting the very thing she spent three years dreaming of.) But I keep balking--afraid, in part, of whatever propensity for drug abuse I may have inherited. Much to my own surprise, I also do not want to give up breastfeeding until I have to: it is the only time in the day that I get her to myself, and it's something she enjoys so much. There are also the implications any drugs would have on our plan to proceed with another cycle in a few months' time: it's not like I can postpone for long, in hopes of getting my head back together. I'm 37 and have shitty eggs. It may, of course, be too late already, but postponing sounds like giving up to me, and I can't face that yet.

I don't want to give the wrong impression here. I am getting by. I don't spend my time locked in a windowless room of remorse. Most days, I don't have time to think about how I should be feeling. Olivia is flourishing and I feel a stab of obsessive adoration every time I think of her. She means more to me than my own peace of mind right now, and I feel a little self-indulgent even worrying about whether I'm happy.

There is no decision on the horizon; I haven't even laid out a Plan A, Plan B and Plan C. To be honest, I don't really have the energy to choose a course now. But that balloon is getting pretty full.