Monday, May 28, 2012

Fast forward 8 yrs later...

So what happened then? Do you ever notice how in the movies the love stories tend to end once the couple finally realizes their love for each other? They seldom tell the tales after the wedding and before children. I always noticed in my parents photo albums how there were only a select few photos from after the wedding and before they had my brother and I.

I'm sad to say that for eight years there are not that many photos of Vinnie and I building our life together. Things started off wonderfully, and we tried to start a family right away. Why? Because I knew I wanted to be a mother and because somehow deep down I knew we would have problems and it would take a while. How did I know that? I don't know. But I just knew things with my body weren't right even though my doctor, who had been my OB/GYN since I was 14 years old, tried to reassure me that everything was fine.

It's not to say that Vinnie and I have not built many happy memories together in these past eight years. We have. But only those who have been sucked into the black hole that is infertility understand what it is like. Most people are happy having BBQ's and fun with friends and enjoy their life without children, knowing they'll have everything they want someday. But when you are ready for children, all that changes. You have all the free time in the world to go to parties and engage in hobbies and enjoy yourself, but it is empty somehow because it is not how you want to be filling your time. And you can't exactly enjoy all that free time very easily when you spend it scrimping and saving every dime because the infertility black hole sucks your money away from you as fast as you can earn it. In some ways I feel like I lost eight years of my life.

So I became a workaholic instead after my first miscarriage to fill the time. The miscarraige devastated me so much, as did each one after that.  I don't care to recount the details, other than it seems like it is so callous how everyone expects you to move on and get over it so quickly like it never happened.  So I endured them silently, as I did the post-partum depression that accompanies it. Did you know that you can still get post partum depression without a live birth? It actually puts you at higher risk if you are childless.  I even hate the word itself. Mis-carry. It sounds like you did something wrong doesn't it?

Every passing month of failure it became harder to keep up a facade of happiness and endure the pain. I became darker and more cynical with each passing year, and hope faded to almost nothing. Parts of me shut down one by one. I think most people blamed me for my negative outlook. For not having faith, perhaps? Human beings find it much more convenient to blame the victim in most circumstances I find, because it helps them to feel more immune somehow to the pain that others suffer. They have to believe there is a reason for everything. I don't, but I think God helps us find reasons in the darkness. So God did not cause me to miscarry or cause 12 young people to get crushed by logs cause he needed another angel or their work on earth was somehow done. God has plenty, and they were not done, I assure you. And while it has made me stronger, I've endured enough in this life already I do not need to be any stronger thank you very much. I was rather certain if one more person told me to "just relax and it will happen" I was going to punch them in the face and lose my career due to the unfortunate ensuing assault charges. Don't even get me started on why you should never say that to someone suffering from infertilty.

But Vinnie stuck by me even in the worst moments when all hope seemed lost. And he still loved me even when I felt like a shadow of the woman he fell in love with.

 I like a recent quote by Joe Biden, who from the loss of his wife and one of his three children to a car accident is someone who truly understands loss and pain.
"For the first time in my life, I understood how someone could consciously decide to commit suicide. Not because they were deranged, not because they were nuts, but because they had been to the top of the mountain and they just knew in their heart they'd never get there again."
I spent years on suicide hotlines, and have for a long time understood the path from crisis to suicide and helped many people in their darkest hours.  But it wasn't until I suffered infertility that I developed a deeper understanding of what it does to you when you lose hope.

Finally being pregnant in many ways is like being on top of the mountain Biden speaks of. I liken it to getting ripped out of heaven, and everything thereafter loses it's flavor because you finally know what it's like to be truly happy. It is easy to judge me for losing hope, but for the eight years that passed nothing but roadblocks presented themselves, and most were financial. Infertility is exorbitantly expensive. To attempt IVF with my condition and repeat miscarraiges is like buying a new car with only a 10% chance it will run at all. My husband lost his job and struggled to find work for two years. My insurance covers nothing related to infertility and my employer pulled their adoption assistance program in budget cuts. And the adoption tax reimbursment is slated to end on Dec 31st, 2012.

It turns out I had Poly Cystic Ovarian Syndrome. PCOS is by no means a death knell to ever having a baby carried to term. Many women with PCOS do. But not me. Women like Posh Beckham and many I've met on infertility forums seem to have success. But they also seem to have a lot more money to throw at treatements with low odds. For me, I could get pregnant but even with the proper precautions for my condition I still miscarried. IVF gets you pregnant. For preventing miscarraige all you can do is take a progesterone pill and cross your fingers.

Jillian Michaels from Biggest Loser decided not to go through the roller coaster she'd seen others with PCOS suffer through and "just adopt." This week after a several year wait and struggle she finally got her baby, now toddler actually, home. This happened the same week as her partner was able to give birth to an infant with the help of a sperm donor. I am so happy for her, though admittedly slightly jealous that she is amongt the small 20% of PCOS sufferers (along with Posh Beckham) who manage to not be obese. PCOS gives you the world's worst metabolism, but being wealthy and paid to be a fitness expert seems to help matters I guess.

By the way, PCOS is not just an "infertility disorder." It gives you a very high risk of diabetes and heart disease, and at one point before my lap band surgery I was diabetic. I've been pre-diabetic since my early 20's.  It also causes you to be chronically fatigued, have male pattern hair growth, wicked mood swings, and irregular periods among other things. It just plain sucks. It sucks even more to go through puberty not knowing you have it and blaming yourself for the symptoms and getting teased mercilessly by your peers. And it REALLY sucks when your doctor could have diagnosed you at any point since you were 14, but doesn't bother to because he thinks it is "just an infertility disorder" and diagnoses you at 26 while in the middle of an internal exam at your insistence that something has to be wrong, then tells you to "look it up on the internet" and leaves the room! I switched doctors after that. If I sound bitter, I am.

"Why didn't you just adopt?"

I have really grown to hate this question.

People don't realize the cost of adoption and surrogacy in America is exorbitantly expensive, and that infertility is a disease better suited to the wealthy. As sad as it is, the cost of adopting one infant child in America would be far more expensive than having twins via surrogacy in India. Adoption of a newborn involves extensive wait times, expense, and risks as well as heavy competition “selling” yourselves to potential birth mothers who can easily change their mind very late in the game. I have witnessed the nightmare of a friend whose birth mother changed her mind at the last minute, and I know that I am not strong enough endure like she has.  If you are not a young male/female couple in excellent health with a Christian belief system, it can be far more difficult if not impossible. It is for these reasons so many turn to international adoption, which is fraught with many of the same problems but involves a little less risk and less expense. However, it is still more expensive than surrogacy from what I've experienced, especially when you are cut off from any reimbursement programs. I have a hard time not seeing all that bureaucracy and financial demands that you have to wade through for years as people profiting off of the pain of infertile couples and orphaned children.

While we do plan on adopting later, know that adoption involves a very long, invasive, and often costly process with few guarantees. Low cost adoption that we will be doing involves not only long waiting times, but also older children, medical and developmental disabilities, but also a high risk of losing the child to the birth parents/family even months after you have raised them and become attached to them as your own. We hope to someday add to our family through fostering and/or adoption, but that is a very difficult journey that we will be ready for at a later time. We want to feel ready for an older child, as well as a child that may need expensive medical treatments or developmental support. But the plain fact is that I am not strong enough to have a child become mine and lose it and be back to childless again. I'm. Just. Not.

As a final note, people who have had the luxury of fertility and biological children can sometimes be quick to judge others as selfish if they do not immediately accept alternative choices. However they seldom educate themselves about the complexities and expense presented to those who have not been as fortunate as they have been. Those who do judge take for granted how hard it is to give up and grieve for the losses associated with not having biological children nurtured from birth. So don’t judge until you’ve walked a mile in someone else’s shoes. Or in this case traveled a few thousand miles and walked for nine months in someone else’s sandals.

So at around 7 1/2 years of marraige I am finally at the end of my rope. I'm angry and bitter and cynical and hopeless. I'm also finishing the police academy while working full time, a feat of tremendous accomplishment. I figured if my dreams of a family couldn't come true, I could at least make a career dream  come true and be able to do the reserve or perhaps full time police work. It's the only other dream I've ever had for myself beyond marrying a great guy and having kids and a modest home. But as the final months of the academy approached, I was sent into a tailspin when I got a call from my incredible father-in-law.

Most people joke about and resent their in-laws. Mine are awesome. Mine love me unconditionally and treat me wonderfully, and I'm incredibly lucky to have them. That being said, my father-in-law has a way of pushing to get what he wants. In Indian culture it is simply haggling. For him it is more than that. He is a man that doesn't give up. He never gave up, even when I was ready to. Thank God for him.

In 2008 he had heard about the Oprah show with Dr. Patel featuring surrogacy in India. I felt a burst of hope when he called to tell us about it. I had previously considered surrogacy because I'd had an offer from my best friend, who is the most amazing woman I know. But sadly due to necessary legal costs and lack of insurability without exorbitant fees we were once again unable to afford it in the USA. Thanks again U.S. healthcare system, the source of all my debt.  So with my heart in my throat, he emailed Dr. Patel our request to do the surrogacy program. We were rejected. She didn't have all that many surrogates at the time and was helping couples with  more profound infertility issues. Like no uterus and such, I assume. She also said she did not think she could get good eggs from someone with PCOS. She turned out to be right about that years later, but I digress. 

I was once again devastated. But remember how I said that my father-in-law never gives up? He emailed her secretly without telling us. Then we he was stricken with prostate cancer he saw his opportunity to email her again with an extra plea for sympathy given his illness. This time she agreed. Dr. Patel's clinic had grown in its capability over the 4 years since our rejection and had more available surrogates.
In shock and with tears we agreed to try it. I had hope again, and I felt alive again. This had to work. On little to no sleep after hours of cramming I took the police exam and made the top score in my class, finished my last day at my job after demoting myself to finally focus on my family, then got on a plane to India by myself. My husband would come later after I had weeks of IVF injections in Anand, Gujarat. I passed out from exhaustion on the plane from London....and when I woke up I was in India again after almost nine years.

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