Standing on the edge of a knife

“I want to know it’s possible…”

I remember watching her cry nine months ago when we sat at Panera. Her eyes filled with tears and she told me, “My sister is pregnant.”

There was silence. Then hugs and quiet “Oh honey’s”. She was my best friend. She’d been married over two years. And she wanted desperately to be a mom.

Her sister had been married less than six months. And both couples lived together. I was the only person who knew just how hard this was going to be for my friend. She would have to watch as her little sister got all the first-grandbaby love and adoration. She would watch the pregnancy. She would watch the baby. And it would quietly kill her a little inside. But she would be so happy for her sister, and she would be supportive and helpful and caring as she always had been. There wasn’t an angry bone in her body, but this… This hurt.

Flash forward to Toby, sweet, cute, five-weeks-early Toby. The tiny baby with a LOT of hair. He is alive and good and my friend’s very first nephew. She’s helped buy cribs and set up the nursery, clean the apartment that the two couples share, field phone calls from extended family and post facebook pictures on behalf of her exhausted sister. All for the baby that wasn’t hers.

And then… A week after Toby came home… My friend’s test turned positive.

Finally. After trying for years and seeing multiple doctors and being told that hormone imbalances will keep her from having easy pregnancies and all the scary thoughts and fears… Finally. She and I feel very similarly about two very different things:

I want to know that there is a possibility of me having someone to spend my life with.

She wants to know there’s a possibility of her having a baby.

So when that stick gave her a happy little plus sign, she naturally panicked. Doctors were called. Appointments were made. Everything was going to be checked and taken care of. She knew her family history with pregnancy was rough. She wanted all her bases covered.

And then she bled.

And oh… How that crashed things. Headlong. Into a wall. Because she had to be strong and caring and helpful. She was helping her sister with a complicated premie baby after all. But she was so scared. Doctors were called. Hormones were prescribed.

And now she waits. Because either the baby isn’t as far along as they thought and there are complications… Or the baby isn’t as far along as it should be, and there are scarier complications. No one knows she’s pregnant. She hasn’t had the happy grandbaby love. Her husband and I are taking shifts to make sure she is resting and not panicking. Because everything she’s ever wanted is standing on the edge of a knife, and if it falls she will have to watch her sister with a newborn, while she lives in the same apartment…

Knowing her, she will be happy for her sister and continue taking care of Toby and she will take hundreds of pictures and still field phone calls. But inside it will continue killing her just a little more each day to help with the baby that isn’t hers.

And as her best friend, It will kill me a little just to watch.

–LS

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Scary, Dark, Tunnel of the Unknown

As soon as we started trying, I began to tell everyone. I knew it was risky, but I just couldn’t contain myself. I was so excited for this new journey and I never was one to hide my emotions. I have always worn my heart on my sleeve.

Months and months went by…I did everything right. I gave my body time to regulate after being on birth control (for basically all of my reproductive life); I tracked my ovulation using a kit. We even started using “fertility friendly” lube. But after just one month of trying and nothing…I had a bad feeling that something was not exactly right.

You see, I always did everything right when it came to my reproductive health; it’s in my blood. My mother is a nurse midwife and she knew about the minute I started having sex. She prescribed me my first birth control, how ever unethical that may have been. I took it on time, every single day since I was 16 years old. I got my yearly pap smears, I used protection and I got tested regularly. Because I liked sex and I wasn’t ashamed of it, but I was always acutely aware of the consequences it could bear. So, I was smart about it. It’s so funny; you spend your whole fucking life protecting yourself against it, then, when you decide the time is right, you expect it to be easy. But it doesn’t always work out that way.

I am now on month 6 of trying, which may not seem like all that much to some people. But, like I said, after the first month, I knew something wasn’t right. “At my age” (like my mother so delicately put it), “after 6 months of trying, you should go get checked out.” So like the reproductively responsible woman I am, at exactly 6 months, I went in the see MY midwife (not my mother, just in case you were worried). She did an exam…everything normal. She did blood tests…everything normal. She did a pelvic ultrasound…uh oh! “The endometrial echo complex demonstrates multiple tiny cystic structures, the largest one measures 6 x 3 x 3 mm, of uncertain etiology”. What the fuck does that mean?

At this point, we aren’t quite sure, but to me it feels like a death sentence (I am also not a melodramatic at all, just ask my husband). When I called to talk to my midwife about the results and what the next steps are, I had to leave a message. The midwife’s nursing assistant called back the next day and said “the midwife would really like you to come in and talk with her directly about your results”. Fuck me!

I have an appointment in a week. I am scared. Now, I don’t want to talk about it with anyone. It’s no longer an exciting new journey of trying to conceive our first child. It’s a scary, dark, tunnel of the unknown and I am not sure I want to see what is on the other side.

–Kate B.

Science Friday: Good news everyone!

Stress and tension do not stop fertility treatment from working, study finds

Women undergoing IVF or other assisted reproduction therapy can be reassured that emotional distress caused by their infertility or other life events will not prevent the treatment from working, according to new research.

Infertility affects up to 15% of the childbearing population and over half of these individuals will seek medical advice in the hope of becoming a parent.

Many infertile women believe that emotional distress (for example stress and tension) is a factor in not getting pregnant naturally or lack of success with fertility treatment. This view is largely based on anecdotal evidence and fertility myths such as ‘don’t think about it and you’ll get pregnant’.

However, doctors are skeptical that stress affects fertility due to the lack of evidence on this issue.

The authors, led by Professor Jacky Boivin from the Cardiff Fertility Studies Research Group, investigated links between the success of fertility treatment and stress by undertaking a large scale review (meta-analysis) of related research.

Fourteen studies with 3,583 infertile women undergoing a cycle of fertility treatment were included in the review. The women were assessed before fertility treatment for anxiety and stress. The authors then compared data for women who achieved pregnancy and those who did not.

The results show that emotional distress was not associated with whether or not a woman became pregnant.

Professor Boivin therefore argues that “these findings should reassure women that emotional distress caused by fertility problems or other life events co-occurring with treatment will not compromise their chance of becoming pregnant.”

Editor’s note: Just to clarify, the Science Friday article from two weeks ago outlined how stress can adversely affect a person’s “natural” fertility. This article outlines how that stress does not lessen the effectiveness of IVF or other assisted reproduction therapy. So yes! Good news!

Good news everyone!
Journal Reference:
  1. J. Boivin, E. Griffiths, C. A. Venetis. Emotional distress in infertile women and failure of assisted reproductive technologies: meta-analysis of prospective psychosocial studies. BMJ, 2011; 342 (feb23 1): d223 DOI: 10.1136/bmj.d223
  2. BMJ-British Medical Journal. (2011, February 28). Stress and tension do not stop fertility treatment from working, study finds. ScienceDaily. Retrieved January 29, 2015 from http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/02/110224201901.htm