One Door Closes…

Do I need to write this post, or can you infer what has happened?

Open the dark door to the light.

Image courtesy of winnond / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Our sixth and final cycle of IUI went smoothly (no injection issues, ultrasound-guided insemination, no tenaculum) but it wasn’t a success. I’m not pregnant… again. Instead, I have the somewhat dubious honour of being crowned officially infertile.

I have very mixed feelings about this. On the one hand, I’m pleased to be moving on to IVF. Depending on which statistics you look at, it at least doubles our chances of becoming parents, and OH and I both have hope that it could actually work. She lost faith in IUI a long time ago, and I’d have been ready to stop after attempt #5, if it weren’t for the fact that one more failed cycle would qualify us for free IVF on the NHS. Even the ‘infertile’ label has come as something of a relief to me, as although you could argue our local NHS has set the barrier too low (are six IUIs really equivalent to a straight couple trying for a year?) it seems to give meaning to the devastating year of miscarriages and BFNs and a cancelled cycle that we’ve just been through.

On the other hand, not being able to have a child semi-naturally feels like a big loss. I’m grieving no longer being that girl who got pregnant first time (well, I still did, but…) I’m grieving a year of unsuccessful procedures and heartache. I’m grieving the loss of an easy and straightforward relationship with God: I cry every time I go to church now, sometimes able to hide it, sometimes not. I cried on Sunday because the hymn we were singing happened to contain the words ‘conceived’ and ‘period’… yes, really. And most of all, I grieve for my babies. Every time I see my youngest niece – who looks like me – she reminds me of what my own son or daughter would have been like. Of what should have happened.

I’m coping mostly by throwing myself into Plan B. I have books on IVF, a big long list of questions for our next appointment on 10 September, and I’ve started a healthier diet, cutting back on processed foods and simple carbs. Sometimes this gives me focus and drive but at other times I just need time and space to fall apart. I think in a way it’s harder for my OH, as there’s little she can do to prepare for IVF and she just feels powerless. I know some of you are lesbian couples who’ve experienced pregnancy loss or infertility – do you have any suggestions or know of any resources for the non-bio potential parent?

How to Make a Baby (Part Two)

It was worse this time.

I don’t think I can write about it all, but they ended up putting a clip on my cervix to straighten it out so they could get the catheter in. It hurt like fuck. Afterwards, the nurse admitted that just looking at the clip (I’ve forgotten its technical name) brings tears to her eyes.

I’m sat here crying now. It’s not really about the pain, I’m willing to endure pain to become pregnant, and I’m sure childbirth will be worse… if I ever get there. It’s the fact that even though I’m apparently fertile and normal (a retroverted uterus is considered normal), everything seems to be going wrong with our TTC journey. It’s the way it’s becoming progressively more difficult to get that catheter in. It’s the fear of needing IVF, which will be even more invasive and where (I believe) embryo survival rates are affected by a difficult transfer. It’s the things I have to go through that most women – even some lesbians – never face. To be honest, it makes me feel as though someone up there is deliberately throwing obstacles in my path – which makes it very difficult to trust God at a time when I most need Him.

I really want a baby, and I’m not giving up. I’m a veteran at pulling myself back together when I’ve fallen apart. But I wonder how long I can go on waiting and hoping for things to get better, when there’s no sign of the light at the end of this tunnel.

Spain and Beyond

Here are a few photos from our holiday in Spain:

I’m glad we went. It was hard getting it together enough to buy holiday clothes and pack, and I sometimes found it difficult being around so many people (OH’s family) while I was grieving, but it was also healing, being in such a beautiful place and with children. It was on the day of the second photo, meandering along the shore with my niece and feeling the waves lapping at my ankles, that I realised I was going to be all right. This is a broken world where I have lost two babies but it is also a beautiful world of sunsets and oceans and other children to love.

I sat and meditated on a sun lounger one night and I acknowledged that I don’t know what lies ahead of me. Maybe I will have a successful treatment and give birth to a healthy baby – I hope so, and at this point the odds are still in my favour. On the other hand, maybe I am medically infertile. Maybe I will have recurrent miscarriages, and maybe the next few years will be filled with grieving and loss. I realised that if that is my path, I will accept it, and I will do my best with what I’m given. For me, nothing other than a child of my own (conceived by me or OH or adopted) can fill my need to be a parent, but I can still use my infertility and bereavement to support others in the same boat, and my mothering instincts to be a fantastic auntie and godmother.

It feels as though I’ve come to a new place of acceptance. In May, when I realised my spotting might be implantation bleeding, I promised God everything I had if this was a viable pregnancy. I vowed I would give all the remaining money we have saved for fertility treatment to charity, even though we might need it for other expenses. And it turned out I was pregnant – but that still wasn’t enough for the tiny life inside me to survive. It will never be enough because I’m not being punished, and if I have the child I so desperately want, it won’t be a reward. It will just be what happens, happening.

Over the past nine months, I’ve read several books aimed at Christians who are infertile or bereaved, and I’ve seen two explanations for why bad things happen. One is the idea that this is all part of God’s plan and although we might not be able to understand why, it’s for the greater good. At first, I found this comforting, but it’s a double-edged sword: it implies that God is choosing to do this to me. Why would God single me out for so much pain, and shut his ears to my increasingly desperate prayers, yet look at the woman next door and immediately give her everything she wants? I can’t help feeling that a God who does that is cruel, and a God who is cruel isn’t God. And yes, you could argue that good things can come from adversity – I don’t think I would be getting on so well with my sister now if I hadn’t had the first miscarriage – but I’ll be honest: I would never, never, never, never have sacrificed my child to repair another relationship. No mother would.

The other explanation is that this world has been broken by sin, and therefore is a cruel and unfair place where tragedies happen to people who don’t deserve them. Miscarriages, therefore, are not necessarily God’s plan, but he can work with them. I came across this idea in What Was Lost by Elise Erikson Barrett, and at first it puzzled me, but I find myself increasingly drawn to it. I don’t know which theory is correct, if either, but I know this is the one that will allow me to maintain a relationship with God. I need God and I need to believe that God can work with adversity and bring good things out of shit circumstances, but I also need not to believe that he wanted me to lose my babies.

This is turning into a very heavy post, so I’ll finish with some good news. We’re starting superovulation on Thursday! Despite what I’ve written above, I have a good feeling about the treatment and I’m hopeful that the extra follicles (if we manage 2-3) will boost my chances of conceiving a baby with the right number of chromosomes.