The Rain Will Come
I got caught in the rain last night.
Karli and I pulled into the parking lot near the REI downtown. We were there to exchange the Chacos she and Aleks lovingly bought me last month (see "We Surprised Kristen" for the full Chacos story). The gray skies had been dribbling on us throughout the evening, as if the rain gods above were spitting sunflower seed shells out the sides of their mouths while watching a baseball game and just a few particles happened to land on my freshly blow-dried hair. Little drops here and there. Kind of annoying, but not a big deal. I left my umbrella in the car.
We made our way into REI, found the perfect pair of Chacos, and headed back towards the front of the store. As we approached the customer service desk, we saw our fate through the floor-to-ceiling windows: citywide waterfalls descending from the heavens above. Hunched over couples, arm-in-arm, running for their cars. Drenched dark madness. Shit.
I spotted a large receptacle of recycled boxes just near the entrance, and I asked the kind-hearted REI employee if I could take a piece of cardboard to protect me from the rain. She shot me a sly grin. I was afraid she was going to deny me my homemade umbrella. Instead, she offered me an REI paper bag because its "waxy exterior will definitely be more waterproof than a piece of cardboard." She even offered to cut me one cyclops eye in the middle (what an offer!). I thanked her for the gift, plopped my mask over my head, and headed out the door.
The rain was loud. The rain was wet. There was no time to think. Karli grabbed my hand and started guiding me...no, pulling me...through our parking lot obstacle course. We jumped over puddles ("1...2...3...jump!"), zoomed in front of pedestrians, and raced down the sidewalk until we finally made it to my car, soaking wet.
Our REI rain run reminds me of this fertility journey. No matter how much you prepare...no matter how much you try to control...no matter how awesome your face-bag-with-a-cylcops-eye is...life will surprise you. The rain will come.
With this metaphor in mind, I will now recount this past week's fertility updates:
1) Last Monday, my previous weekend’s worries were confirmed. I found out that my Anti-Mullerian Hormone (AMH) levels had dropped from 0.62 to 0.54, moving even lower in the “low” range. According to my IVF nurse, Erika, this drop was not “clinically significant.” (Just FYI: normal AMH levels fall between 1.5 to 4.0.) As you may remember from a previous post “How I Stay Here, Now,” AMH is a hormone measured to get a sense for a woman’s ovarian reserve, or egg count. The confusing part is that during a recent follicle count, the doctor reported that I had 12 resting follicles. At this point in the story, I could get really technical and describe what a resting follicle count is or how it’s ascertained (i.e., by inserting an “endovaginal ultrasound probe” microphone-looking-thing and taking a look around town), but I’ll avoid that. Instead, I’ll summarize: I have quite a few eggs hanging out in my ovaries, but my AMH levels really suck for my age. Erika, nurse, thinks my low AMH levels are indicative of poor egg health. I’m 32, but I have the eggs of a woman much older. Hubba hubba!
2) Last Tuesday, Cory and I met with a high risk OB-GYN to get yet another opinion about the capabilities of my unicornuate uterus to carry a unicorn baby. The doc was a nice guy, and I’m sure he is really good at what he does too. But he had to pull up the ol’ world wide web and do some on-the-fly research right in front of us! I’m all for admitting when you don’t know an answer, but shouldn’t he have done some basic unicornuate uterus research prior to us entering his office? Well, following his research session, he didn’t tell us anything we didn’t already know:
It’s risky to carry a baby with a unicornuate uterus.
Miscarriage is common. “How about for women who get pregnant via IVF? Is miscarriage still as common?” we asked. “IDK,” said his facial expression.
Pre-term delivery occurs about 20% of the time. “How pre-term is expected?” we asked. “No telling,” he said with a shrug.
Finally, I asked “What would you recommend if your daughter were in my shoes?” His response:
Despite the doctor's uncertainty, Cory and I feel confident to continue forward with IVF in my body. We have an appointment with our reproductive endocrinologist this Thursday to set a more definitive timeframe!
3) Later on last week, I posed this question to the women in one of the unicornuate uterus support groups I’m a part of:
Over 50 women responded! I was thrilled to spend the rest of that evening collecting and analyzing the data. I methodically entered the numbers into a spreadsheet. I made novel connections between the women’s qualitative comments. The project launched me into such a zen state of mind! Who needs yoga when you have Excel spreadsheets? I calculated that the average first pregnancy duration with unicornuate uteruses is...drum roll...36 weeks and 5.6 days! I was thrilled! The doctors I’ve worked with haven’t had any solid answers to the average pregnancy length. 36+5.6 is definitely workable!
4) I have really awesome friends. Just today, I received three messages from my friends supporting me and Cory in this journey. Just to give you an idea of the messages, here are the pictures that were attached with two of them:
5) My friend recommended a podcast to me called “Matt & Doree’s Eggcellent Adventure.” In this podcast, husband and wife duo, Matt and Doree, share stories from their IVF journey. I flew through four episodes this past weekend. So far, I appreciate how honest and real they are about their experience. They also mix in comedic observations and witty banter. I want to write more about this podcast later, but for now, I’ll highlight what they said about the shame and secrecy surrounding infertility. In their first episode, Matt is talking about his low sperm count being the cause for their infertility:
Matt: I’m happy it’s my fault, though, because then you’d probably feel worse about yourself if it were your fault.
Doree: I would probably not be doing this podcast.
Matt: You’d feel guilty. Oh I see how it is.
Doree: Which...which would be...well I think I would have more, not shame exactly, but I feel I like…
Matt: No, you shouldn’t feel any shame.
Doree: No, I know.
Matt: Sometimes bodies aren’t spittin’ out babies!
Doree: But I...one of the things that I like appreciated so much was how open you were about it all.
Matt: Why wouldn’t I be? I do podcasts for a living.
Doree: I don’t know. I feel like people...I feel like people are sensitive about this stuff, and they don’t want to talk about it. And so they...they go into like secret internet forums and talk about it there. But they don’t talk about it in public.
A few seconds later…
Doree: I guess you’d just assume women would be more open about it (infertility), but I don’t know why I assume that because…
Matt: Well you just said why they wouldn’t be.
Doree: Yeah, that’s true. I did just say that.
And a bit later…
Doree: It makes me a little sad that they’re (women) not talking about it (infertility) openly...for some reason, it has taken on this aura of shame, and it shouldn’t.
I'm going to piggy-back off of Doree's last comment. There should be no shame attached to infertility. It is no one's "fault." It just is. It was no one's "fault" that it started to downpour last night in downtown Denver. It just happened. Sometimes there are things in life that just happen.
Maybe we try to assign blame to ourselves or others to make sense of life's drenched dark madness moments. Thunderstorms and infertility. Maybe sometimes there is no meaning. Maybe sometimes there is no reason. Perhaps removing the "fault" feeling can diminish shame's grip. I sure hope so.