Saturday, January 30, 2010

The surge

So, my ovaries are screwing with me in a totally brand-new way this month. I realize I haven't been posting much on the whole greedy-infertile-resource-drainer-trying-for-third-child thing lately but I haven't had anything even remotely worth saying. I have dutifully and rather nostalgically peed on sticks, had sex at appropriate times and then peed on more expensive sticks, my period arriving with remarkable precision every 27 days. And then, this month, I peed on sticks (or, more accurately, dunked strips in pee), had sex at appropriate times, immediately dunked more strips in pee to see if we needed to continue said sex at appropariate times, only to have what has so far been a week-long LH surge. And not just any surge, but a darker-than-the-control-line, 30,000-troop surge.

I thought perhaps these newfangled inexpensive strip things were simply too sensitive (despite being unambiguously negative till day 13), so I bought some overpriced, traditional name-brand sticks for comparison: yup, still surging, and getting surgier with each passing hour. Even water-clear mid-day urine after a pint of Chinese green tea is still screaming, Surge! at me. (I picture the LH as an irate drill sergeant, kicking the prone ribs of a skinny, exhausted recruit who was ordered to drop and give twenty but whose arms started trembling around four.)

We have had sex six times in a week. And while this might sound like a nice, intimate thing to some of you who still have a libido, for me--for us--it is difficult. (Note to future self: step away from the artisanal salumi, next time you know you're going to need to Close Your Eyes and Think of England.)

I started googling the causes of multiple positive OPK readings and naturally depressed the shit out of myself, as one always does. The most reasonable answer is, no surprise, perimenopause; PCOS is also a very remote possibility, though I have none of the traditional symptoms. Were I a few months younger, premature ovarian failure would have been the clear winner, but apparently it's not premature once you turn forty--just failure.

I'm not quite sure what to do right now, and also what to do next. I've never had an anovulatory cycle before, as far as I know, and I don't know if this is one or if we should keep on keeping on, in hopes that an un-fried egg might yet ease on down the tube.

Beyond this cycle, I guess I should be thinking about getting Day 3 labs and facing whatever chilly reality awaits. (At 35, it took max stims and no suppression to get four decent embryos; who am I to imagine I'd be naturally fertile at forty? The hubris boggles even my own mind.) But I can't quite bring myself to do it. I can't even bring myself to try one of those over-the-counter FSH tests. Maybe once the pain of the trying and failing gets to be really bad, it might actually come as a relief to have the hard numbers extinguish our little morsels of hope. I'm not there yet--four negative natural cycles isn't exactly a soul-crushing slog--but I know I will be ready to stop at some point this year, ready to throw my arms around my two big kids and call myself incredibly lucky. Unlike before, the desire for another is not a white-hot need. I will definitely be OK, I know that, and I'm beyond grateful for that knowledge. Right now, however, I do still want, so we'll probably keep to our let-no-chance-escape-us battle plan and embrace the surge until it's clearly time to retreat, in victory or, more likely, defeat.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Olivia's question

Since my mother's death in October 2008, Olivia has, every few weeks, asked why she died and what happened to her. She didn't know my mother, having only met her twice, but it bothered her, this idea that I used to have a mother but didn't anymore. I've always answered her with a gentle circle-of-life spiel and she is usually content with that, but the other night as I tucked her in and wished her sweet dreams, she said, as though continuing some ongoing conversation, "But Mommy, when are you going to die?"

There just didn't seem to be any good answer to that. I was speechless for a moment, then mumbled something about hoping to live for a very long time. And then I realized what she was asking: When would she not have a mother anymore?

"I will probably be with you until you're a grown-up woman, maybe even older than me, when you have a home and a life that's all your own," I said. And Olivia hugged me and told me she wanted me to stay with her, wanted me to be her mother forever. She held my hands and wouldn't let go.

It was one of the most painful moments I've had as a mother--contemplating death with my baby, my sweet little girl; imagining, in a flash, how hard it will be to leave her--but also one of the most beautiful: I have never felt so important to another person.

Such responsibility, but, my god, such reward.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010


What words are there to describe this? Hell? Annihilation? I cannot process the facts, the scope. I am struck dumb by this misery. I can't watch but I can't stop. The people, impoverished and homeless and hurt, loved ones dead. Can't stop picturing the children. There were already so many orphans in this third-world country on our wealthy doorstep; today, there are so many more. And they may be the lucky ones. Please, what can we do? The donations we've made feel profoundly inadequate.

Wednesday, January 06, 2010


I have never made a real New Year's resolution except once, when I was nineteen and vowed that I wouldn't spend another year being battered and humiliated by my mentally unstable monster of a boyfriend. It took me a few months--four months, three days, eight hours and thirty-two minutes, to be precise--before I managed to make a break for it, but the break was successful and I thought to myself, This is the most important resolution I am ever likely to make, so let me just stop while I'm ahead.

Sure, each year around the holidays I give myself a little pep talk about whole grains and cutting back on buttery cheese, about daily yoga and me-time and having more patience with the kids. Not a heartfelt resolution; more of an exercise in hopeful thinking. But this year, today, I am making a new resolution. I am resolved to come to terms with my biggest problem and seek some help.

So, here it is: I am depressed. Mildly depressed, but depressed nonetheless. I feel aimless but anxious, unenthusiastic and detached. I find myself smiling too late in conversation because I have to consciously remind myself to do it. I have become quick to take offense and even quicker to argue, especially with Jeff. But even the arguments peter out like a leaky balloon when I just sigh and leave the room, unwilling to expend the energy to work through it.

I have been telling myself for about two years that I am not depressed, that I am sleep deprived and hormonal and overworked and getting older and over-caffeinated and stressed out but I’m OK, I’m fine, or at least I will be fine once I get a break, get some sleep. And you know what? It was a little bit true. After two weeks away from work, several long naps and a week at home with lots of easy-going relatives on hand to play with the kids, I felt a tickle of happiness and motivation that was bright and clean and lasted a fair while—less intense but much longer than those short but searingly joyful moments that pepper every day I get with the kids (those moments when Olivia leaps into my arms, her face awash in pleasure, or when Josh looks into my eyes and tells me in his sweet, raspy voice that he loves me). Feeling a mild enthusiasm sustained over whole hours reminded me that that’s how I used to feel, if not all of the time, at least most of it. I had enough energy and ambition to look forward to challenges. Now, I mostly avoid them. Whether it’s situational or physiological or psychological, it’s here and it’s real.

I am loath to admit this, but the last time I felt really good, solidly happy for a whole day, was the day Josh was born. And this has led me to wonder if my desire for another baby might be influenced by how content, and how present, I felt while pregnant. But maybe that’s a whole post on its own.

I don’t yet know quite what to do about it, where to go next, but I am, finally, resolved to do something. Even if all I get is a better understanding of why I feel this way, give it some structure, that might be enough for now. I don’t want medication (trying to get pregnant, fear of dependence on pharmaceuticals), and it seems unlikely that it would be of much use for me anyway. But my resolution for 2010 is this: If there are basic medical issues triggering this—thyroid, iron, vitamin D, whatever—I will make the time to dog my doctors and get to the bottom of them. If the recommendation is therapy, I will make the time to go. If the prescription is more sleep and more exercise, I will make the time for those. And if I fail in this, I hope someone out there will remind me of this promise and shame me into action. Because I think this one may actually be the most important resolution I’ve ever made.