Cord Tissue Banking

Toby and I banked both Em and Elliot’s cord blood. We are very happy with this decision. I regularly receive letters from the organization we chose about medical breakthroughs and/or trials should one of our kids need the help. Thankfully, we haven’t had any medical issues with either of our boys. But you never know. And so we like having it there just in case.

Well, the new guy arrives soon, so I called to arrange a third bank setup. The tech informed me (yes she is actually medically trained!) that since the birth of Em and Elliot, they came out with another option.

Now, you can store cord tissue as well. In my very limited amount of research, cord tissue stem cells are a lot more like the ones we hear/read about on the news. They can do more with it. And you can use them between siblings (75% chance of a match). Even we could use it should we need it one day (50% chance of a match).

So, Internet, we are trying to decide if it’s worth the added expense. Right now, we pay about 125 a year to store the blood. That would double. That’s fine. But the initial fee is double as well, so we’re looking at a one-time feel of just under 3,000.00.

Money isn’t really an issue. I mean, it is, but we’d pay for this if we knew it would one day help any of us.

I plan on researching this throughout the day, but thought why not ask the Internet as well. Do you know anything about cord tissue banking? Are you doing it? Would you? Any biology nerds out there want to weigh in? Anyone know about what it might be used for down the road? I’d love your thoughts!

Were You Depressed During Pregnancy?

I’ve been hesitant to write about this because writing about it seems unfair, ungrateful and careless. It’s unfair to my unborn son and to all those who are pregnant or trying to get pregnant. It’s careless because certain thoughts don’t belong online. I know this. I am so aware of this. But I’m going against my better judgment here. And I’m going to write.

For the first several weeks of this pregnancy, I spent hours (and I mean hours!) googling phrases like: “depressed during pregnancy”, “morning sickness and depression”, “pregnant all I want to do sleep all day and night”, and “pregnant can’t take care of my kids”. I found a few personal (and therefore reassuring) stories. But not all that many. I found a great deal of articles about postpartum depression, but not all that many about depression during pregnancy. That’s probably because most women don’t discuss it online (or elsewhere) because it’s not kosher to complain about something that’s supposed to be one of the most joyous times of a woman’s life.

I want to chock it up to hormones, because it just doesn’t make sense otherwise. And this next bit is going to come off sounding crass and ignorant to all those dealing with chemical depression. I understand what chemical depression is, but very rarely have I experienced it firsthand. Most of the time, whenever I’m feeling depressed, I can shake it off. There have only been a couple of times in my life where things have become unmanageable—something I couldn’t work through, shake off, or wait out. And each time I knew this to be the case because whenever I searched for joy, I came up empty. I can almost always find joy.

I assume my funk has a great deal to do with being sick all day long, every day, for weeks on end. I assume that it was made worse because I was taking Unisom for nausea, and Unisom is known to cause depression. I assume it’s also because this pregnancy was unplanned and that I’m terrified of having three kids. (What does one do with three of kids when two kids run them into the ground every day?) I’m going to be 40 in a few months. I will spend my 40th birthday fat, sick, bloated and cranky.

I was supposed to run a marathon this year—my first one! And I can’t even run a mile right now. I had to give up my spot. And every Saturday, whenever I glance at the family calendar in the kitchen, the one where I planned my mileage all the way up until November, I feel sad. And I know that’s entirely selfish, but it eats me up. I should be training for a marathon, not becoming fat and immobile. I see runners out on their long-distance, weekend runs and I feel nothing but jealousy and envy toward them. (Much like the jealousy I had toward pregnant bellies not three years ago.) I am sincerely jealous of joggers! What the hell is wrong with me? Who have I become? I’m not proud of this person. I am not even sure I like her.

Guys, I’m sad. And I’m not supposed to be and that’s making me even sadder. And I’m having a great deal of trouble digging for joy. I keep trying! Every day, I get up and I try. And I see glimpses of it here and there. I experience glimpses of joy lighting candles at dusk, or buying flowers at Trader Joe’s. I see it occasionally while reading to my kids, when I’m not winded from getting the words out. I feel a bit of joy knowing Homeland starts again tonight.

But I don’t bake anymore, and I love baking. I keep buying the ingredients to bake amazing things, things I once LOVED to share with people. But now I don’t see the point because eating makes me feel terribly sick. I have a nonstop case of metal mouth, which is exasperated by even the tiniest amount of food in my stomach, sugar and carbs being the worst of all. Eating is a chore I have to do to stay alive. Who wants to bake and eat a slice of pumpkin pie if that slice of pie is going to make them sick? What’s the point?

I keep reading that some women start to feel better at 20 weeks. And I’m hoping that since week 14 didn’t bring me much in the way of relief, week 20 will. And maybe by then I’ll start to see joy again. Maybe I’m just exhausted and sick of being sick. I don’t know. But I want to feel normal, not that I’m sure what normal is anymore. It’s been that long.

After I miscarried and went through months and months of fertility treatments, I spent a great deal of time searching for stories like my own. But I did so silently. And I have regretted that ever since. Because I think if I wrote about it many of you could have made me feel better. At the very least, I think you would have made me feel less alone.

So, I’m going to publish my thoughts today, even though I am truly aware of how selfish and careless it is to do so. I need to know that this is temporary and that one day I will be myself again. I used to have so much energy! I spent a great deal of my time creating things. Now? I get tired thinking about it. I am so lazy. I don’t see the point to doing most things I once enjoyed. And that’s so unlike me.

“I’m blue, like Pantone 292.”

I just want to feel normal again.

Machetes.

I’m a worrier by nature. The female members of my family are Olympic gold medalists when it comes to worrying. There has always been a part of my brain hardwired for worry. I have always been a worrier. All my life, a worrier.

But during my luteal phase, I hit the rock bottom of worry. I binge on worry until I’m stumbling around, trying to figure out what is a legit concern, and what is amped up on hormones (or lack thereof). Although, I’m not sure I’d call it rock bottom, because “rock” suggests there’s nowhere else to sink. It’s more like Quicksand Bottom. (I’m just coming up with that now—forgive my sloppy brainstorm.) I hit Quicksand Bottom. I may feel pretty awful, and it may seem as though I can’t sink any lower, but I find ways in which to do so. And the more I fight against it, the more it sucks me in. Worry turns into paranoia, paranoia spawns delusions. Before I know it, I’m immersed.

(Man, this metaphor is lame.)

It doesn’t help that I know it’s coming every month. I can see it speeding toward me. But no matter what I do, I can’t stop myself. No amount of reasoning or preparation helps.

Quicksand.

I’m guessing, based on years worth of detailed note taking, that my body just doesn’t bode well and is highly sensitive to the extreme shift in hormones.

Here’s the skinny: many women fight a difficult battle every month when it comes to coping with the seemingly schizophrenic nature of our menstrual cycle. Our body gives us a healthy dose of “the happy hormone” (estrogen) and then, right as we ovulate, drops that shit right down to nothing letting progesterone take over. And if progesterone levels are high, you are more likely to be depressed and anxious. My progesterone levels are usually off the charts. So when I hit, I hit it at the speed of light and from great heights because, on the flip side, I have high estrogen levels as well.

Thud.

At the beginning of the month, when the estrogen is flowing, I’m a goddamn treat to be around. I will sing to you, make you cookies. I’ll give you back rubs, make awesome jokes. I will hug you and kiss you and tell you how awesome you are. I will remark about how amazing it feels to be alive. I will plan on living forever because, hell, who wouldn’t want to? Being alive is just the best thing ever! I feel awesome. No, I am awesome. I am Tom Cruise on Oprah happy. To put it simply: when my estrogen is high I am the fucking shit. I am untouchable. Nothing can bring me down, and if you’re a part of my life, I will make it my job to try and make sure nothing brings you down either.

Sweet, sweet estrogen.

But then my body just takes it away. Just like that. It doesn’t simply poke a tiny hole in the balloon so I come down slowly from my estrogen high. It doesn’t pull the plug from the drain and let it all just naturally fall away from the basin. No. It blows the balloon to smithereens and drops the bottom out of the bathtub.

Progesterone takes over. And I’m a mess.

Many women have it hard. On top of dealing with the “nurture” part of who we are and who we’re becoming—our histories, the things we’ve been through, those we share our lives with, whatever hardships we’ve endured just by existing—we’re also dealing with chemistry, chemistry that is comically unfair if you ask me.

Anyway, the last few days, I have been in the trenches. The rise of progesterone, along with my natural ability at inventing scenarios based on very little actual evidence thanks to the art of worrying, has had me in a terrible state. I’m not myself. I’m reacting poorly online. I’m skittish around those I talk to every day (although, I’ve come a long way with the people I share my days with simply by being more honest about my situation). The past week, I have been a big ol’ ugly mess.

If you follow me on Twitter or Facebook, you may have witnessed bits and pieces of this over time. But instead of getting the unedited, desultory version I’m about to share with you, you’re getting the 140 characters or less version. And frankly, I’m not sure which is worse. You be the judge.

Here are a few sample conversations I’ve had with myself. (I’ve simplified the end-of-world scenarios to some degree. But it almost always boils down to death, darkness, torture and outlaws with machetes. Man, reading that back sounds ridiculous. Haha!):

Your husband eats too much greek yogurt and that yogurt is an environmental nightmare so you need to tell Toby that he can’t eat greek yogurt anymore. He has to eat less damaging yogurt or, OR! you can make him greek yogurt from scratch! You don’t have much in the way of time, but you can do this. You have to do this. Until they figure out what to do with all that byproduct, you will make him greek yogurt so you don’t help destroy the world and end up living in darkness surrounded by people with machetes. It might be beneficial to know how to make yogurt when everything begins to end anyway.

……………………………………..

You know it’s bad when you’re obsessing over losing followers on twitter. But I do this when I’m in that bad place.

Someone unfollowed you on twitter, someone you’ve been friends with for a while. They used to like you. They hate you now, Michele. They hate you because you’re a selfish asshole who can’t stop tweeting and you should have shut up more often. No one cares about what you have to say. And how could you have gotten that tweet about rape jokes so wrong? What’s wrong with you, Michele? Pay attention! You’re a dick. You would unfollow yourself if you could. You should just quit twitter because one day it will be overrun by people with machetes and we’re all going to die anyway because of the measles outbreak in Williamsburg and because of that new virus you forgot the name of. Oh, don’t forget to send that virus information to Toby.

……………………………………..

This next scenario continued for days. And I brought several people into it with me both in real life and online.

The neighbors smoke weed. But this? This is a new smell. It’s chemical. You need to google this. HOLY SHIT. They’re cooking meth! You have babies and animals! Your neighbors are cooking meth! This is not good. You should call the cops. No, call Toby. You need to tell Toby. He knows all about drugs. But he’s in California. You need to ask twitter. Twitter will tell you what you should do about your meth-cooking neighbors. Yes. Twitter and Toby. Is this what it’s going to be like at the end of everything? Drug dealers with summer teeth cooking meth, buying machetes and eating their young? God I hope my kids don’t see that. I’ll have to tell them not to have children.

……………………………………..

Your son uses too much paper and goes through too much clothing and we’re completely destroying the world because of it. You need to be more diligent and teach him why he can’t do that. He needs to be aware of all the landfills and trash and garbage. You need to tell him all of this so his kids won’t be completely fucked and live in a world surrounded by darkness and fire and people with machetes.

……………………………………..

We can’t buy anymore plastic toys from China because it’s killing everyone and everything slowly. And soon we’ll be surrounded by mountains made up entirely of horrible plastic toys. And maybe those mountains will help shade us from the hot sun and all the life-altering weather we have heading our way thanks to global warming and the fact that so many people don’t think it’s happening. That This American Life really scared you, didn’t it, Michele? It should! YOU MUST ACT NOW before you’re forced to take your family and hide inside caves bored out of mountains of plastic toys that will protect us from the people with machetes. But you can make yogurt from scratch if you can find the cows which will likely all be dead, killed at the hands of people with machetes and summer teeth.

And I’m only embellishing a little bit for the sake of brevity. I have tangential thoughts like this. And they continue for hours, sometimes even days.

So, if you’re (still!) reading this, and you’ve witnessed some of my trite and irrational, internal battles trickle out onto the Internet: I am sorry. I am sorry you had to see it. I am sorry that I am like this sometimes. I am trying so hard to get a hold of my own head when the bottom falls out.

P.S. I am OK. I promise. This was meant to be a bit funny, making light of something I’ve come to know and live with every month. My life, it’s overall very good.

Down the Hills and Round the Bends

My kids have a lot of Thomas stuff. And over the years, people have commented about it. I always just shrug it off. At best, they’ll think my kids are lucky. At worst, they’ll assume my kids are spoiled brats with far too many Thomas trains.

But there’s a story behind why we have so much Thomas stuff and it runs pretty deep. If I were to tell them how we ended up with so much Thomas stuff, they might end up feeling uncomfortable and I don’t like making our houseguests uncomfortable. So I shrug it off. Their worst assumption is better than the discomfort they may feel knowing the truth.

Back when I was going through fertility treatments, I used to bring Emory to the doctor with me. He was about a year-and-a-half when I started going (March, 2009). He was two-and-a-half when I stopped (June, 2010). I don’t think he remembers any of it. At the time, all he knew was that we very regularly visited a doctor. I packed a bag full of toys and snacks and we’d sit together in a big waiting room. He kept me company. Most days our visits were fairly uneventful. I’d have some lab-work done, maybe a sonogram or two.

On Friday, May 30, 2010 we packed an entire Thomas bookbag full of Thomas trains and headed to the doctor for an IUI. For IUIs, Em almost always came along because Toby had to be there as well. That day, Em wanted to take all of his trains and since he had a Thomas backpack specifically made to hold Thomas trains (equipped with a compartment to display favorites and everything) he had room for a LOT. Nearly every train, as well as a few tracks, came with us that day.

Toby’s part never took all that long. He was off to work in no time. My part took longer. Not only did I have to undergo the actual procedure, but I had to wait for the sample to be prepared as well. That usually took between 15 and 30 minutes. The sample was given to me in a tiny vial, the contents of which were usually pink.

Before our first ever IUI, I had no idea where to store the vial.

“What do I do with it?” I asked the tech. “Do I just stick it in my purse?”

“Many women put it in their bra, right here.” She told me, pointing to the center button on her lab-coat. “Keep it near your heart. Maybe it’ll help your chances.”

I sent TobyJoe a text message: I HAVE YOUR SPERM IN BETWEEN MY BOOBS.

To which he replied: THEY’RE DOING IT WRONG! NO WONDER WE CAN’T GET PREGNANT!

So, hold up. I know what some of you are thinking: this sounds horribly unromantic and unnatural. And it is weird. I’ll give you that. But at the time, it was just the way things were. The process became my job. We needed to go through this in order to have a second child. And believe me, I have had every last thought you might be having as you read this, even the terribly judgmental ones. It’s OK. I get it.

I won’t sugarcoat the truth. Ultimately, and it’s become clear to me now, I was being selfish. It’s that simple. I just really wanted another baby. Therefore, I went ahead and carried a vial of pink sperm around in my bra for 30 minutes and made jokes about it. I brought my kid to the doctor with me since we didn’t have childcare. I packed backpacks full of toys and snacks and we camped out so I could hopefully, one day become pregnant. I did all of these things and overlooked all the weirdness involved because I didn’t know what else to do. I couldn’t let it go. I wanted so badly for my son to have a sibling.

I was unlucky to have to experience it, but lucky I was able to.

So, yeah, about those trains. After you pick up your sample, you wait a bit longer for the doctor to perform the actual IUI. So Em and I made ourselves comfortable in another, larger waiting room. I usually stared out the window (the office had a pretty decent view of the East River) while Em played with his choo-choos. Many times, there were other kids present, families in the exact same situation we were. So Em often had a playmate. Overall, our visits were pretty OK.

When they called my name, we packed everything up and headed into a room that looks exactly like any other gynecological exam room.

The procedure itself only takes about 30 seconds. But after it’s done, you have to lie there for a bit as it doesn’t bode well to get up and start walking around right away. And then sometimes they’ll want you to have some blood drawn, so we were shuffled off to the lab.

And this is where we left the trains.

It wasn’t until after we got home, did I realize they were gone. I ran out to the car—nothing. I texted Toby, letting him know so on his way home from work he could maybe pick up a few. He managed to find an L Train and a 6 Train at the drugstore. (Thank you, MTA!)

I called the office the following morning and a woman informed me that they did indeed have the bag and that they would put it aside for me. I told her that if my son was OK with it, we might not be back for a bit. I was scheduled to have a followup appointment two weeks later to check HCG levels (pregnancy stuff) so I figured that if we could wait until then, we would. She told me not to worry, they would be there.

We didn’t rush back right away. And I regret that. I was so wrapped up in myself at the time, I didn’t do the right thing for my kid. I didn’t drive back the very next morning to get his trains.

Thirteen days later, we headed back to my doctor’s office where he would confirm what I already knew; I wasn’t pregnant. Again. I was already feeling pretty down for obvious reasons. I’d failed for the umpteenth time at this seemingly basic thing. But when the woman behind the front desk told me the bag was gone, I fucking lost it. Right there in the middle of the waiting room, I went off the rails sobbing.

Now, I’d seen several women break down before in that waiting room. My breakdown wasn’t anything special. I was just another sad woman crying in the fertility clinic. The trail of tears leading to and from that place is Nile long and Amazon wide.

The woman behind the counter just stared back in bewildered horror, apologizing for her mistake as she was the one who told me they’d be there waiting for us.

I looked down at Em. He had been excited since we’d be getting his trains back. I talked about it all morning. He just looked up at me and said, “Choo-choos, mama?”

Tears poured down my face and onto the floor below. I was unraveling.

I was crying because I couldn’t get pregnant; I was crying because I’d lost a baby 11 months earlier and I still hadn’t properly mourned it; I was crying because my doctor’s office was going to close for 3 months that summer and everything would be placed on hold; I was crying because I completely fucked up and lost my son’s favorite backpack full of his favorite toys; I was crying because I wanted to punch whomever took the trains; I was crying because I didn’t have the energy to argue with the woman who broke her promise; I was crying because this was all my fault; I was crying because I failed at everything.

Everything.

I explained to Em the best I could why we weren’t getting his trains back. I explained that I would make it up to him somehow and that I was so, so very sorry. I was sorry for far more than just the trains. But he didn’t know that.

Well, we never got those trains back. The backpack is gone too. And I have often wondered about the person who took them, if they felt badly about what they’d done. It occurred to me that it had to be someone working there—at a fertility clinic!—where they worked with hormonally charged women, often heartbroken and/or desperate. I realized they must have been pretty ballsy.

I wonder if they have any idea how much pain they caused that day. Would they have even cared?

Later that morning, I called my mother and told her what had happened. She knew what I’d been going through. My mom was pretty crushed by the whole ordeal as well, and immediately went out to buy Em some Thomas stuff. At some point, she told the story to my aunt, whose job includes visiting dozens of garage sales every week. She hit the jackpot somewhere in New Jersey. That aunt told some of my other relatives, and before we knew it, we were being inundated with Thomas stuff. Em ended up with at three times the number of trains we’d lost that day.

I saw the inside of that waiting room once more after that. It was for an IVF class, exactly two days after I broke down at the front desk. And I didn’t know it at the time, but I would become pregnant with Elliot (naturally!) 8 days later. Who, incidentally, is the biggest Thomas fan I know.

The Lost Years: Living With Infertility.

I didn’t write about my infertility while it was happening and I wish I had because I know many of you could have helped me. Over the years, I’ve tried to go back and write about it, but that’s been difficult for me. Writing about it after the fact feels a bit disingenuous since I’m no longer immersed in it. While I was going through it, I was a totally different person. I’m not trying to be dramatic here. I was simply different. I’m not entirely sure what that person would have written and I’ve often wondered if I’ll do a decent job.

Toby and I refer to that time as “The Lost Years” because our life together became about one thing, and everything else was put on hold. Our attempt at having another child became our main focus. Well, it became my main focus; I merely brought him into it with me. And I have long since realized that had I married a less understanding man, a less caring person, I’d probably be divorced right now. Infertility puts a massive strain on even the best relationship.

So today, for the umpth time, I’m going to try and write a little about The Lost Years. And maybe if I start, I will find it in me to continue. Because there are so many stories, some of which are even humorous. I sat in that doctor’s office every day for two weeks during every month for a year. I watched countless stories unfold before me. Sometimes they were horribly sad. But on a few occasions I found myself texting Toby Joe and laughing about something I’d witnessed. And many times I’d text him as a way of keeping notes, because I regularly thought, “One day, when you feel better, you need to share this because, bad or good, it’s important stuff.”

I think, if nothing else, it will help me to write it down. And I hope that one day it might help someone else as well.

And so! If you’re reading this, and any of what I’m about to write sounds familiar, please know you’re not alone.

My Recollect

I remember the endless testing, the Clomid, the injections, the daily blood draws, the sonograms; I remember the catheters, the weird headaches, the expense of time and funds, the pregnancy tests, the HCG shots in my ass (administered by a nurse in a line of cubicles filled with other nurses administering shots into other asses).

I remember feeling guilty we had the money to go through it at all, and then feeling pissed off I had to.

I peed on hundreds of sticks, some of which would be a clear negative so I’d throw it out. Then, 30 minutes later, I’d return to the bathroom, dig it out of the trash (even though instructions EXPLICITLY say not to!) and imagine seeing a faint line. And on a few occasions, I would see a faint line—an evaporation line! Oh how I hated those lines.

I would hold sticks under sunlight, in front of TV light, beneath candlelight—any light that MIGHT show me a positive.

I took them apart, believing that maybe the window wasn’t clear enough, that the clear plastic might not actually be clear?

There were the times I would get my period and STILL come up with reasons as to why I could still be pregnant. Implantation bleeding! (On day 28?) I had to hold onto hope somehow even if it meant entering some type of fantasy land.

Hope!

Hope was my most necessary friend and my worst goddamn enemy.

(Perhaps you’ve met her? She gets around.)

I remember changing my diet based on something I’d read, then doing the exact opposite based on something else I’d read. I remember eating a LOT of pineapple and flax.

And, oh my goodness, the records I kept! You should see my iCal from 2009 and 2010. It looks like the work of an insane person. I thought about posting a screenshot, but I went all out. If you haven’t witnessed the diary of woman furiously charting her cycles, all the while going through fertility treatments, you will not like what you see. Let’s put it this way: on top of the concise (driven by desperation) information involved, there are many, many creative ways a woman can describe cervical mucus. (Too much? My apologies but be thankful I didn’t post an image of my iCal.)

I used to pass pregnant women on the street and feel anger toward them, complete strangers. I’d see women pregnant with their third child and sometimes, on a bad day, curse them for overpopulating the world. How dare they have THREE! Yet, I’d have had three if I could. But when you’re having trouble getting pregnant, you don’t think rationally all the time.

I held onto so much sorrow and that turned into anger pretty quickly. Maybe it was a survival mechanism. I don’t know. But if I let the sorrow consume me, like it did directly after the miscarriage, I don’t think I would have made it out alive. (Not to sound dramatic again, but that sorrow is inexplicable.)

The constant googling in the middle of the night, searching new terms, finding new ways to blame myself for failing at the ONE basic thing I was SUPPOSED to be able to do as a woman. The thing I ironically worked so hard trying to avoid in my 20s. I locked myself away and went temporarily mad.

After the miscarriage, in a fit of despair, I broke down in front of my primary care physician who immediately gave me the name of a shrink as well as some medication to help me feel a little better, just until I got back up again. I took the meds for a while, which made matters worse because I started to blame them for my inability to get pregnant. I went off the meds immediately.

I spent months hating myself, loathing myself for failing. I hated myself even more when I dealt with my emotions in such a childish manner. Each time I had a less than positive thought about another friend getting pregnant, I would add it to the pile of self-loathing.

I pushed away an entire group of friends because of my infertility. My inner turmoil took over completely. My inability to talk to people candidly about what I was going through was new to me as, up until that point, I’d been very open.

Who was I becoming? Why was I so full of anger? Was I a horrible person on top of being broken?

Thing is, had I just told them the truth, had I simply said, “You know something? I am REALLY fucked up right now. I am sad and sometimes very angry. Please try and understand and help me. It’s really not about you at all.” maybe we’d still be friends. Instead, I avoided them like my dog does when she gets beat up at the dog park. But the only person beating me up was me.

Not that any of that matters now. I torched the living shit out of that bridge.

If you can relate to any of this, you’re not alone. You may feel alone, but I sat in that waiting room for countless hours, watching hundreds of couples come and go through those fancy elevator doors. There are so many of us, too many of us. So why are we often too ashamed to admit we’re having trouble getting pregnant? Why don’t we talk about it more often?

Unexplained Secondary Infertility

I have some regrets. Both Toby and I do. Since we already had one healthy baby, we have since wondered if we spent too much time trying for number two at the expense of our first child. Was I too selfish? I can’t get that time back with him. And we have some sorrow linked to that. It wasn’t just OUR life I put on hold. And that thought gives me chills sometimes.

Thing is, I only wanted to have another child for Em. I wanted him to have a sibling. So I’m hoping one day when they’re older and thankful for having one another, I can forgive myself.

There’s another level to all of this, one I still feel uncomfortable writing about. With secondary infertility, you don’t often know where you fit in. Your inability to get pregnant and/or successfully carry a baby to term is very real, it’s painful and horrible and tragic and awful. But! We DO have one child already. So we often feel unfair discussing it at all as there are others with none. So, many of us keep even quieter. That silence is why secondary infertility is often misrepresented. They don’t actually know how many couples suffer from it as many feel bad discussing it at all.

Looking Back

The clarity I have now because of what I went through during that time is pretty great. I am different. I have changed in many ways. Some good, some bad. But I do like myself a great deal more now than I did before. And I know so much about the female reproductive cycle! I could go on and on about hormones and sometimes I do when talking to girlfriends (and someone should probably just tell me to shut up at that point). I’m no longer afraid of needles! So, there’s that as well.

But more importantly, I am not nearly as cynical as I used to be. I try and forgive easily, and I realize that many people are suffering one way or another, fighting a difficult and personal battle. I try and remember that everyone deserves the benefit of the doubt (and maybe an unsolicited hug or two).

Lastly (for today!), I want to reassure you that when you’re in it, there is no such thing as a “wrong” thought. You are not a horrible person for having even the ugliest thought imaginable. You are a human being, one going through something very difficult. You are a woman. You are not broken. You are not alone. Find your people. Ask questions. Know you’re not alone—and that you’ll be OK.

Don’t be silent. Because the loneliness you experience from infertility can be all-consuming. Please speak up. I really wish I had sooner.

One last thing, and forgive me for the language: If someone should ask you why you’re going through all this trouble when there are SO MANY unwanted children in the world, and that you should just adopt instead; OR, if someone suggests that since you can’t get pregnant “naturally” there’s probably a reason for that, tell them Michele said, “Fuck Off.” (Sorry for the language, dad. But I held that one in too many times before now.)

What I Learned From Rolling Paper.

A little over a month ago, a Friday, I was sitting on the couch with Toby when I told him to turn the TV down. “It’s too loud. It’s going to wake up the kids.”

“It’s at 13, Michele.”

Thirteen?!” I asked, shocked. “Are you kidding me?”

“Nope.”

Earlier that day, I’d been to the ear doctor. I don’t like visiting the ear doctor. It’s the only medical professional who consistently gives me bad news. My ears have been a problem since I was a baby.

We went over my history. I have a long one. We did the usual song and dance. I tell him what I’ve had done. He looks into my ears and comments about how damaged they are. There was so much wax in the left ear, he couldn’t even see my eardrum. So he suggested he clean it out with water. I said NO WAY. He tried to suction it out. That didn’t work. That made my ear feel funny, which he took to mean that the previous operation had worked and the hole had indeed sealed shut. He convinced me to clean it out with warm water.

I haven’t ever willingly let water into either one of my ears. Ever. Every time I’ve accidentally gotten water into one of my ears, I’ve ended up in pain and with bloody pus coming out of the sides of my head. So, no. No water. But I let him. And it felt AWESOME, like being touched for the first time after spending decades on a deserted island talking to nothing but a soccer ball.

After he cleaned out the left side of my head, I went in and failed my hearing test. I’m used to that. But this time I failed terribly so.

“You need a hearing aid.” He told me. “Soon.”

“Really?” I wasn’t convinced.

“Yes. It’s time.”

I’ve been saying no to hearing aids for over a decade.

Here’s the thing about hearing loss: it happens over time. You adjust. You read lips. You turn the TV up so loud your neighbors bang on shared walls. It’s a slow deterioration. You adjust so well, you don’t know how bad it really is. I know I am hard of hearing, but I can hear, even if it’s just a little bit. It’s easy to pretend it’s not that bad.

But now I know how bad it is. I’m terribly hard of hearing. And all it took was a piece of rolling paper to make me realize just how much so.

Let me explain.

After we went over my test results, he suggested a temporary fix for the right ear, the one still with the hole. There’s a technique they use for people who have accidents where their eardrum is suddenly punctured, they go from hearing to not hearing in an instant. Their hearing is still there, and will return once the eardrum heals, but they need a temporary fix, basically a band-aid. (Whereas the hole in my eardrum won’t heal because it’s surrounded by scar tissue.)

“I’m going to put a tiny piece of cigarette paper over the hole.”

“Like, actual rolling paper?”

“Yes.”

Some might find this odd, raise an eyebrow or two. But I’ve been hearing about strange aural procedures all my life. This? This was just another possible cockamamy procedure in the long list of procedures. The difference this time was there was no general anesthesia involved, it only took a few minutes, and it couldn’t cause any more hearing loss. So what if it’s temporary and the moment the paper slips away from the hole, I would lose any hearing I’d gained? Why not hear for a few weeks or months?

Now, this next part is crazy still to me. But I could hear! INSTANTLY. I mean I could actually hear! Like a normal person! I could hear the fan above my head, the hum of medical equipment. I could hear his staff breathing. I could hear the traffic outside. I think I even heard outer space, which is weird since I don’t think sound travels in outer space. But it did for me!

HI SATURN!

What’s more? I was totally and completely freaked out.

I am not sure when I stopped being able to hear like a normal person. Maybe I never could? But, this little piece of cigarette paper put my hearing loss into great perspective. For the first time ever, I realized just how much I couldn’t hear. And if this is what it was like to feel normal, I am very hard of hearing.

Once I hit the Midtown street, I became even more freaked out. I had NO IDEA how loud New York City was! My thought: Why aren’t even more New Yorkers going crazy from this?

I called my mom. “I finally understand cats!”

“You’ll get used to it.” She reassured me.

Thirteen, y’all. Which is, incidentally, my favorite number. The TV volume was at thirteen.

Normally it’s at 25.

Thirteen.

I stood at the kitchen sink, my back to the TV. House Hunters International was on.

“I can hear what they’re saying. The TV is on 13 and I can hear them.” I began repeating what I was hearing to Toby Joe. “I can hear them! And I’m not looking at them! You have no idea how insane this is.”

“How do you normally hear people?” He asked.

“I usually hear a bit and fill in the blanks, like a puzzle. And I do a lot of guessing.”

“My god.” He whispered. “You must be exhausted at the end the day.”

I’ve since lost that temporary hearing boost. And it was great while it lasted. I could hear things I never knew were there. And I’d be lying if I said I hadn’t wept that night.

(Man! I’m wordy! If you’re still reading this: I’m sorry!)

Anyway, I’m finally getting a hearing aid. After thoroughly making fun of the Widex naming convention, I chose the Widex Clear Passion. I am only getting one, because I’m not ready to give up on my right ear. Knowing all it takes is one tiny piece of rolling paper to fix the hearing in my right ear, means there is still hope.

And, yeah. I do hope I’m less exhausted, not that I was aware of how much work I’ve been putting into just getting by. But I reckon I might be able to put that brain power toward more important things—like talking to Saturn.

And I hope I’m able to hear better, and that I don’t totally freak out and dart into oncoming traffic. Because, I learned something recently: THIS CITY IS LOUD!

Rate My Stitches! (Warning! Pictures.)

On Wednesday morning I cut myself doing the dishes. A glass exploded in my hand. I screamed a few obscenities (good thing Em was in school and Elliot doesn’t yet know much English) and then yelled for Toby. I have no clue what I would have done had he not been there. On most days, he’d have been at the office already. But that morning our routine unfolded a bit differently. (Thank goodness.)

You know how when you cut yourself, you know immediately whether or not you’re going to need stitches? There’s no question as to whether you can wrap some duct-tape around it and continue working. Well, I knew before that shard finished its slice I was going to need stitches. All the blood was just punctuation.

So Toby took out a baby bib (oh, yes!) and we wrapped it around my bleeding hand using an ACE bandage. (Note to self: buy boo-boo supplies pronto.) I called a car service and headed to the ER.

A visit to one of New York City’s ERs leaves a person with many stories. There are the usual characters: those begging for pain medication while putting on one of the worst performances of their life; those looking for some attention because they don’t get any elsewhere; the crackhead; and the homeless guy pickling himself in years and years worth of booze. You don’t see the people who are actually in need of immediate emergency medical attention because they’re off getting said emergency medical attention. You see the rest of us, myself included, bloodied baby bibs and all.

But that’s not what this post is about. This post is about my stitches.

On Thursday I was picking up Em from school and I ran into a friend. She happens to be awesome and she has a cool job. She does the art direction for the blood and guts in movies. She’s kind of like Dexter but for movies. And, like Dexter, she’s really, really good at what she does.

“What happened to your hand? Pastry knife wound? Making roach wedding cakes?” She asked.

“I cut myself doing the dishes. Nothing cool, unfortunately. Just the boring old dishes.”

“Can I see it?” She asked, possibly looking for inspiration for her next project.

“Sure.” I pulled down the bandage.

“Oh, wow!” She sucked air in through her clenched teeth. For a second I thought I made the blood and guts artist feel squeamish. “Wow!” She said with amazement. “That looks like work done by a really bad makeup artist! But it’s the real deal. Who sewed you up? Where on earth did you go?”

I laughed. “It was a 10-year-old med student with no sense of humor. Terrible, right? I thought so too. Good thing I’m not a hand model.”

“Good thing it’s not on your face! Although, that have been great for Halloween. It actually looks like you did this for Halloween. It doesn’t look real at all. Terrible work.”

“I know. I was kind of surprised he’d only given me 4 stitches. It seemed to warrant more than that.”

“Definitely.”

Then she went on to say that I needed to go somewhere else, that the scar was going to be awful and that I may even get an infection since pieces of the wound were still open.

So, my wounded warriors. Do you think he did a shoddy job as well? Have you ever had stitches? What are your thoughts on my latest boo-boo?

Taken right after I got the stitches.

Taken today.

Sorry if I’ve officially grossed you out with all my skin issues lately. Happy Halloween!

The Seven Year Itch

(This might be the most boring post I’ve ever written. But I wanted to put it out there on the off chance another person is suffering as well.)

I was 30 and living in San Francisco when I first wrote about it. I wrote about the razor rash on my legs. At the time I thought it was from not ever changing my razors due to my neurosis about sharps in landfills. That wasn’t the case.

I moved back East and it persisted, sometimes it got worse, sometimes better. But it never fully went away. I wrote about it again.

I’ve been to at least a dozen doctors over the years. I’ve seen gynecologists, fertility specialists, primary care physicians, allergists, dermatologists, endocrinologists. I even asked a psychologist about it. The best I got was a prescription strength steroidal cream from a dermatologist. That helped, but it still didn’t go away.

Not one doctor had an answer for me. No one even seemed to care. I became more miserable and they wrote my misery off as razor rash or dry skin.

I decided I’d probably live this way forever.

But then last six months things have become much, much worse. The rash and hives have spread. They’ve moved onto my thighs and hips. And have finally reached my stomach and arms. Living a comfortable life was becoming increasingly more difficult. I’d wake up at night with blood on my shins from scratching. In the evening the rash was always worse. The removal of a pair of socks or pants seemed to trigger it. Taking off my bra made my chest itch. I stopped wearing shorts or skirts.

There was no relief. I tried every over-the-counter cream I could find. I gave up soap. I used certain detergents, none at all. I stopped taking hot showers, would go a few days without one. I stopped shaving. Started using natural ingredients only. Nothing got rid of the itch. I began to think maybe I was making it all up, that it was all in my head; maybe this was the first step into complete madness.

Desperate, I asked Twitter for new dermatologist recommendations because the woman I’d been going to for years wasn’t helping. On top of that she has a two-month waiting period. It didn’t even seem as if she listened to me anymore.

Missy came to my rescue. She suggested I see her dermatologist. This doctor had answered a lingering skin question for her. I got an appointment for the following week. This time I’d go in and beg for help. I wouldn’t leave without some sort of answer, even if it was just a plan.

On Monday, a 7-year long question MAY have been answered. After running a test on my back, the dermatologist diagnosed me with Dermatographic Urticaria, or chronic urticaria. She said there’s no way of knowing how or why I developed it. Usually there’s an event that jumpstarts it. A person might be bitten by a lot of mosquitoes all at once, triggering an intense histamine response. That response is remembered and the body begins creating its own hives. It could have started from stress. No one knows.

Here’s the bitch: the more I scratch, the more my body releases histamine creating a terrible cycle. The more hives, the more scratching; the more histamine, the more itching. Repeat until I’m covered in hives.

There are some days I look like a leper.

She prescribed me a super strong allergy medication, which will turn me into a zombie. I have two kids. One is a baby. Turning into a zombie, unable to stay awake, is not an option for me.

When I got home that evening, I had the biggest outbreak I’ve had in a while. I scratched myself raw. My mother was visiting and asked me to stop and I couldn’t. We covered my legs in ice and I took a Benadryl. It helped. About 30 minutes after the itching stopped, I had a piece of dark chocolate. My legs broke out immediately. I took a picture.

That’s when I realized that I’d had chocolate right before the initial outbreak. Could this be a food thing too? And, if so, could I find a cure without using medication?

So I researched. I discovered there’s low histamine diet where one avoids foods containing high amounts of histamine. You can’t avoid the chemical entirely, but avoiding foods containing higher amounts can help. Here’s the list.

The surprising thing is, several of the items on that list have given me allergic reactions in the past—more common allergic reactions. (At age 26 I went into anaphylactic shock after eating shitty shellfish. I have had an epi pen ever since.) Cinnamon is on that list, as is red wine, cheese, chocolate and bleached flours. Most processed foods trigger high histamine responses. And preservatives are the devil. All of those items, except for cheese, have given me problems in the past. (During my allergy screening, cinnamon and lobster were my two highest offenders.) What’s more fascinating to me is that the longer shellfish and seafood has been sitting around, the worse the histamine response. This explains why fresh seafood and shellfish doesn’t give me any problems. Weird, right?

I am entering day three of this diet and my itch is gone. I have no new bumps (the old ones are still healing) and there haven’t been any hives at all. Not one.

So, I’m going to follow this diet for at least a month to see if it does indeed help. I need to go for at least that long to make sure this isn’t still a hormonal issue, which is what I thought was the case in the past. One thing is for sure, this has gotten much worse the older I get and seems to progress with every pregnancy.

This diet hasn’t been easy! I don’t eat red meat and I enjoy seafood a great deal. So the list of what I can eat has become really, really small. Even soy products are a no-no for now. And I eat a great deal of soy. And giving up chocolate might be impossible, but at least I can cut back on everything and sneak some treats in from time to time. That is, if this works. If not, I’m back to square one.

House of Sickness

Forgive me for the lack of posts; it’s been a crazy couple of weeks. First, Elliot got sick. (It had nothing to do with a vaccine; he hasn’t yet received one.) He just came down with Em’s cold, as did I. But having a sick newborn sucks. There’s nothing you can do for them and they have no idea that things get better. I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again: I have no idea how parents with chronically and/or terminally ill babies continue on. But that’s depressing, so enough about that.

Anyway, Elliot had a fever and many of you know if a baby under 8 weeks of age has a fever above 100.4, you’re supposed to take them straight to the ER to rule out something more serious like bacterial meningitis. But we held out and I’m super glad that we did. Basically, the on-call pediatrician explained to me that if we take him in, it’s a huge workup, one that includes a spinal tap. She said that as a doctor, she has to tell me to take him to the ER. She went on to say that as a mother of three, she would wait and see if he started to act strange. Like, if he stops eating, becomes lethargic. She said stop taking his temperature every 20 minutes and just wait. She said try and get him to sleep to see if that would lower his temperature. So, that’s what we did.

An hour later his temperature was lower and we were in the clear.

Anyway, he’s fine. He’s sick with a cold, but he’s fine. It’s lingering too, which sucks because he’s relatively miserable and congested. And I’ve tried saline and suction and it works some, but not for long and not enough. And hearing a newborn cough? Terrible sound, just awful. It’s been a long couple of weeks. I’ll leave it at that.

So, I haven’t been able to update too much lately. When I do find spare moments, I’m off to make lollipops.

I have so much to report, so many updates. I hope to find time at some point. It’s amazing how much more work having two children is, especially since Emory is out of school this week. I was warned that two would be more work, but holy shit! Yeah, everyone was right. I’m not complaining, but this might explain why I don’t have a great deal of time to update the blog or post pictures. It doesn’t help Elliot is still very much attached to me! Although, things have gotten better. I figured out how to use the Ergo AND the Maya! He’s also getting more and more used to being away from my body. So, that’s good.

For example, right now he’s in his crib next to the oven. It’s not on, but the oven fan is! And that’s on full blast. Kid loves white noise. The dryer puts him into a coma.

I should be able to write more in the upcoming days and weeks. I hope to, at least.

Happy Passover and Easter! Spring Break or whatever!

Pentacel Vaccine

Elliot had a well visit last week where I learned that in the last couple of years they’ve combined the DTaP, HIB, and Polio (IPV) vaccinations and created a vaccine called Pentacel. Basically, they’ve combined five vaccinations together, which is great! Now, babies need three shots instead of nine.

I am very pro-vaccination. This isn’t about deciding if I’m going to vaccinate Elliot. The question is whether or not I’ll give him HIB, IPV and DTaP separately as I had with Emory. And, yes, it does seem a bit excessive now that there’s this combination. I mean, why wouldn’t someone opt for three shots instead of 9?

All that said, to all you fine folks who have children less than 2 years of age: did your little ones receive the Pentacel vaccine? Did the injection site ache? Any fevers to report? Did you even know they changed things? Did you just go with it? (Which is what friends of mine have said.)

Again: I am NOT not going to give him his vaccinations. I’m about as pro-vaccine as they come. But I do want to know a bit more about this relatively new combined vaccination, so please share whatever stories you may have.