Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Alphabet Soup

I’ve said before that I don’t visit forums very often. I find them largely counterproductive. Some seem OK, and filled with women who genuinely want to assist others. And if you are in need of support, and can find those forums, then maybe they can help. But a lot of them seem filled with women who want to vent or spread alarmist viewpoints about medication, doctors, etc. I don’t need that drama. I also tend to be rather independent about things. I didn’t use bereavement groups, I’m not a big fan of writers groups, and thus I’m not into fertility support groups either. OK, OK, so I’m an antisocial loner who just doesn’t like groups! So sue me!

Anyway, every so often, I do get curious, and I visit a forum just to see what people are talking about, or to find a possible answer for something that I can’t seem to find anywhere else. Of course, you have to take these answers with a bit of a grain of salt, as most of the responses tend to be anecdotal and not based on medical expertise. But sometimes you do learn a thing or two. Here’s the real issue though - trying to read the posts of these women is like trying to read Arabic. Actually, it’s harder – I can read some Arabic!

The reason for the headache-inducing confusion? Fertility forums are the land of the acronym. I swear, it’s as if full words are forbidden. Now some of the acronyms are fairly easy to decipher (ie: 2WW = 2 week wait – the time roughly between ovulation and the pregnancy test). But others just leave you scratching your head. So, here’s a list of some of the more entertaining acronyms I’ve come across. See how many you can figure out. Answers below.

Frostie (not an acronym, but cute!)

So, how did you do? If you got even half of them, I’d be impressed. So, here are the answers. Thanks to RESOLVE for the definitions:

AF                    Aunt Flow (period)
BB                   BooBies (clearly not my cup size!)
BD                   Baby Dance (sex)
BFN                 Big Fat Negative (on pregnancy test)
BFP                 Big Fat Positive (on pregnancy test)
CB                   Cycle Buddy (women going through IVF cycles at same time)
DH                   Dear Husband
DW                  Dear Wife
DI                    Donor Husband (don’t quite get that one)
FF                    Fertility Friend (ie-support groups)
Frostie            Frozen Embryo
FTTA               Fertile Thoughts To All
POAS               Pee On A Stick

For me, right now, the most important of all the acronyms is 2WW. I am in the midst of my 2WW, and drawing ever closer to the pregnancy test on Friday 5/31. Of course, the real test will be if it’s positive Friday, how positive is it, and does it then go up on Sunday 6/1? Because I had the false hope of a pregnancy the last time, and we all know how that worked out. I’m trying not to obsess – trying not to attempt to figure out what every little cramp or odd feeling might mean. Being at Friends Lake helps in one way because it’s relaxing and peaceful here – a good place to pass a stressful time. However, that has its drawbacks because all this rest and relaxation can end up leaving the mind a little too free to overthink things.

So I’m trying to battle that by obsessing over other things, both of which can turn out to be quite good – the sale of my apartment and the prospective job that I am up for. As with everything else, the apartment sale is proving to have some ups and downs. It’s only been listed for two weeks, and we already got an offer. It was a low offer, though ($30K below asking), and I didn’t know quite how to proceed, especially when I learned that two other apartments in my co-op just got into bidding wars and sold for over asking. So we countered by dropping only $5K. The buyers withdrew. Their agent said it had nothing to do with the price, but that they decided they needed more space in case they start a family soon. On the one hand, I’m relieved because then I still have a chance at getting a higher offer – and maybe even getting into a bidding war of our own. On the other hand, the obsessive part of me is afraid I’ll never get another offer. Yes, I know that’s unlikely, especially in a strong market but I think anyone who has read this far into the blog knows that I’m not happy if I’m not obsessing about something.

Oh, if only I could satisfy myself with obsessing over one or two things, though! No, I have to go for the trifecta (a habit with me that I’ll discuss another time). I mentioned a job interview in my last post. It was actually for the type of job I’ve really sought for most of the last 15 years. Why the opportunity is presenting itself now, I’ll never know. It’s for a full-time lecturer position at a school in NYC (sorry, couldn’t resist that acronym!). It’s the perfect job for me – a full-time college teaching job that is based on your teaching credentials and not a research/academic publishing background. The classroom has always been the priority for me and, although I find research interesting, my writing interests have always been of the creative variety. That, and the lack of a PhD, makes me ineligible for most college teaching jobs. But not this one.

I applied for this position in February, after my IVF failed. At that point it looked like it would be at least August before we could find an egg donation match, and so I knew I had to start looking at finding a full-time position for the Fall. But, I didn’t hear anything for months, so I just wrote it off. Then DEB USA became a viable option and “project baby” moved forward again. So, right in the middle of my donor egg cycle, I end up getting called for an interview (which, as stated in the last entry, took place on embryo transfer day). And, I just heard back that they want me to come in for a second interview with the Provost, which will be Thursday, the day before the pregnancy test. Now, it’s still not an offer, but this is the closest I’ve come to this type of job in my whole career. And it raises so many conflicts – what if I do get pregnant and they offer me the job? I want to stay home with my kids, but I also need to establish my long-term career and earning potential – for their sake and my own, especially as a single mom. If I get the job and move to Westchester, what will this mean in terms of commute? Then there are the ethics of pursuing a job and a pregnancy at the same time, but I've done some research into that, and the Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA), which protects me in the case of both things coming true at the same time. These are two things that I really want, and I know the job would be good for me, and I would serve the school well. I just hope that, if I do get pregnant, they understand that I was not trying to mislead anyone.

So yeah – with everything else I have to worry about, worrying about whether or not I am pregnant ends up not being first and foremost in my head every minute of the day. Which is good, I suppose, but then I worry what impact all of this worry could have on my potentially growing embryos down there. So, add that worry to the other worries. So now I’m going to create my own acronym: TMW = Too Much Worry.

I think I’ll go eat some ice cream now.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Speaking to the Stars

Apologies for the long gap between entries. I started writing this entry over a month ago, and it never seemed to go anywhere, so I kept rejecting it because nothing quite fit. Of course, in the time since starting this entry, things have changed, but the basic premise behind it hasn’t so I thought I’d just try to rework it.

A lot has happened over the last few weeks. I went away for a while, including to Grove, OK for Keith’s TBF Bass Fishing Nationals. I’m happy to report that Keith finished as the top co-angler in the Eastern Division, and qualified for the BFL All-American in Alabama in June – the not so great part is that I agreed to go to the All-American as well. In Alabama. In June. I might as well start practicing my hair braiding techniques, because the humidity is going to kill me (note to self – don’t forget inhaler either!). I then took a cruise and visited the family in Tampa.

While I was away, the eggs were delivered to RMA from DEBUSA (gotta love the acronyms). I also got a call from the finance people at RMA, wondering about payment of some internal lab fees (and by some, I mean several thousand dollars worth). I had to pay for my out-of-network deductible before they’ll cover anything from RMA. In the end the financial person at RMA worked with me to get the cost down to about $1800, but still… It’s a good thing I’ve made the decision to sell; otherwise the decision might be made for me soon! Sigh… I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. This is an investment that requires a huge buy-in, and is perhaps the only investment that, if successful, continues to cost you money for decades, if not the rest of your life! Thank goodness the intangible returns are so worth it.

Since getting back, I’ve been dealing with the end of school (Done now! Yay!), and getting started with the new cycle – which, of course, just could not be drama-free. In the midst of it, the uterine fibroid made another appearance, and we had to decide if we were going ahead with the cycle or not. Since it was inconclusive if the fibroid really was in the uterine cavity (and if it is, it’s not where the embryo would likely implant), we decided to go ahead with it. If anything goes wrong, we will revisit the fibroid and see if it needs to be shaved down before going to the next cycle.

So, Monday, as part of a very eventful day that included getting stuck on the subway on the way to a job interview (yes, a job interview – odd timing, I know!), I had the embryo transfer at RMA. The fertilization results from the donor eggs were disappointing (only 3 of 5 eggs survived the thaw and only 2 embryos resulted), but the 2 embryos we got were good quality, so we went ahead and transferred both. It was a Day 3 transfer, rather than a Day 5, in part because they were in good shape (and we were going to use both, so we didn’t need to see who got stronger by Day 5), and in part because of the requirements of the DEB USA contract (if we don’t transfer at Day 3, and the embryos don’t make it to Day 5, the cycle is considered complete). And then the big wait – as of now, 8 more days to the pregnancy test!

Anyway, all of this, and my cruise, brought up thoughts of a habit of mine. It’s not one that I made a conscious decision to do, but it is one that I revert to whenever I need guidance or a sense that I have the kind of support that I had when my parents were alive. Wherever I am – my balcony in the City  (yes, I can see stars from my balcony!), a cruise ship in the middle of the ocean, or the dock at Friends Lake, I like to look up at the stars and have a conversation with God, and these days, with Mom and Dad. When looking at the stars, I’ve always felt a sense of wonder at the vastness of the universe, and I’ve always felt closer to God. Since losing Mom and Dad, I sense their presence in the stars.

I’ve had several of those conversations this week, as I try to figure out what the right decisions to make are as I move forward. Babies, jobs, houses – there’s a lot going on, and I need guidance to choose wisely. I know that I have to make the choices myself, but talking about it, with an openness that I just don’t quite have with anyone in my life, helps me figure things out.

But the original inspiration for this post goes back to the cruise a little over a month ago. Every night, I would take a walk around the Promenade deck, and I would occasionally stop at the back of the ship and have a bit of a conversation with the stars. One particular night, the conversation became quite in-depth and emotional. In typical fashion, one thought led to another, and the feelings of missing Mom and Dad flared up to more than their usual daily levels. I poured my heart out about everything that has been going on, the struggle to get pregnant, wishing they were here to see it and to meet their eventual grandchild – everything. It was not something I planned, but obviously something I needed. And, instead of feeling badly at the end (even though many tears were involved), I felt healed and refreshed.

Of course, it was all silently done, as I was in a public place. No one knew what was going on as they walked past me. I certainly didn’t allow anyone to see the tears. And that got me thinking about something else, something I have thought about many times before. It’s the idea that we really never know what’s going on with another person. We don’t know the pain behind a smile. Or the truth behind someone leaning on a railing and looking at the stars. I’ve always tried to be aware of that fact in dealing with people. I try (not always successfully) not to judge when I don’t know all the facts. I try to treat people with kindness, and maybe doing so helps them feel a little better about what is going on in their lives.

I’ve experienced both sides of that – usually the negative (people making assumptions about me). But sometimes, there’s a positive moment, like the day after we found out that Mom’s cancer had returned. I didn’t know how to get through the day with a smile on my face (because I had no intention of telling anyone). Then, as I was walking into school, I saw one of my students, Alycia (definitely one of my favorites). She had a bright smile on her face and wished me good morning. I returned her greeting and suddenly realized that I felt so much better, and I knew that I could get through the day. I don’t think she ever realized what a simple cheerful greeting accomplished. And that’s the thing. None of us really knows what just smiling at someone or saying “good morning “can do for a person.

By the same token, none of us knows what an attitude or insensitivity can do. There are two personal examples that I can think of that illustrate this. First, years ago, I had a college student (an adult student) who had not been fulfilling the class requirements. I addressed it with her, and her excuse for not doing the work was that she didn’t understand it. That’s never a valid excuse with me, because students have every opportunity, either in person or online, to ask for help if they don’t understand something. I told her that, and she responded, “Well, you don’t know what it’s like. You’ve had everything handed to you.” Trying to maintain my cool, I told her, “You know nothing about me, or what I may have gone through in my life.” And I ended the conversation. But that’s pretty typical. A lot of people, especially people who don’t like to take personal responsibility for their actions (or inaction), paint themselves as victims, and no one else knows how hard they have it because everyone else’s life is so perfect.  I have to patience for victims, and I subscribe to the philosophy that “Envy is Ignorance”.

Another incident was a very minor one in the grand scheme of things. I was in London, having been there just a week or so. Cali and Brooke hadn’t arrived, and I was dealing with feelings of loss that were still quite fresh only six months after Mom had died – especially since London was a place we had shared and both loved. I entered a bakery and waited to place my order. Normally, I’m pretty good at wearing the noncommittal mask. I smile at sales clerks and act like all is right with the world. But, like I said, I was feeling low, and raw. When it came to be my turn, the kid behind the counter said, “Oh, come one, smile! Nothing can be that bad!” I told him that I just wanted to place my order and he said, “Not until you give me a smile!” I then told him that if he didn’t take my order I was leaving. He said nothing more and took my order, but he looked clearly put out.

And that’s the thing. While I know he meant nothing negative by it, he made a gross assumption. Sometimes things can be that bad. Sometimes a person is simply not capable of smiling in a particular moment. And trying to impose one’s own judgment of how people should carry themselves is ignorant and potentially damaging. For me, I just stayed pissed at the guy for a while. Then I got over it. Someone else may take it more to heart, and it could make whatever they are struggling with that much worse. Oh, and it does work the opposite way, too, when people expect certain expressions of sorrow that they themselves would show, or they don’t believe that you are as affected by a tragedy as they are. these are the flingers, as I call them – the ones who throw themselves over a coffin at a funeral, screaming ,”Why, God, Why?!” They hold their expression of grief as a badge of honor, as if it is proof that they are the most sorrowful out of everyone (yes, I have come to the realization that grief is a competition for some people).

Anyway, flingers are a topic for another time. They are simply representative of the complex issues of emotion, and people’s inability to recognize, or at least respect, differing emotional reactions in others. When I finished speaking to the stars from the back of the ship, I dried my tears and kept walking, past the smokers, and the shuffleboard players. I’m confident that none of them were the least bit aware that I had just been pouring my heart and soul out to the constellations. The mask was back, and the emotion could wait until my next conversation with the stars.

So what’s the point of all this? I guess maybe it’s my plea to people to be more aware of each other, and to know that myriad emotions can be battling each other behind the smile, or the frown of the people we come in contact with. Rather than make assumptions and pass judgments, just smile at the person – a genuine smile, one that reaches your eyes – and let them make the choice to engage or not. You may never know the impact that you had on that person (like Alycia had for me), but you could change their day in the most positive way with just that little smile. And, the next time they speak to the stars, they may thank God that you were there for them.