Sunday, September 14, 2003

I'm Posting this Now Because...

The postings on this site are my own and don’t necessarily represent IBM’s positions, strategies or opinions.

Note: Originally posted on the EAGLE online community site, behind IBM's firewall on 14 September 2003, at 8:35 pm, and posted here on 22 May 2007:

...I've come to see EAGLE as a global community/family that supports me greatly

I've been so out about my pursuit of motherhood here, and everywhere, that I feel I need to update you, providing more of the history than ever, and leading up to a resolution finally:

In August, 2001, I met with a friend and for the first time, really allowed myself to ask questions about motherhood. I didn't want to talk to my mothers or sisters because I didn't think they could be impartial about it. My friend gave me permission and encouragement to imagine myself as a mother. She listened to my questions and shared her experience of having two teenage sons, the second of whom was about to enter college.

"As much as I will feel lonely with the house being empty finally, I'm so glad to have them, even if just for vacations from now on," she said.

Two weeks later, one of her two sons, died of a heart attack while running with a dormmate during his first week of college. I attended the son's funeral on September 12th, 2001.

She has never been the same, and yet still is glad that she had her son for the 18 years she did.

From then on, I felt more compelled than ever to give birth to a child of my own. My friend was inspirational to me, even as I dreaded ever having to face the same tragedy, God forbid. She remained encouraging and sweet about my budding pursuit.

I remember reading about how parents weathered September 11th better than people without children, as they had to pull themselves together to make their kids feel safe and in the process, they felt purposeful. Oh, how I related to that. I wrote about it in this database, I think, if I remember correctly, about how I wished I had someone young of my own to help soothe at that time.

On my sister Kathy's birthday, November 29, 2001, I began taking a prenatal (folic acid) pill daily.

In December, we met with a doctor on my Aetna list, who was conveniently in New Jersey, and who said very affirmatively, "We'll get you pregnant." I was buoyant as we drove home.

After speaking with an EAGLE member, who was also trying to get pregnant through an anonymous donor, I was inspired to do what she was doing and began writing to the future baby every single night before bed, so I could chronicle for it how anticipatory its parents, Pat and me, were, and how excited we were to be welcoming him or her ultimately into our home.

In February, 2002, after a three-month waiting period of seeing if an ovarian cyst I had would disappear on its own -- it did -- I was inseminated for the first time with a dose from an anonymous donor, who was smart, healthy, and had Pat's features and heritage. Stats like that, they'll give you, without revealing any contact information.

It didn't take. Four times more and a histoselpingogram(sp?) later, I still had not conceived. Then I discovered that the doctor had never done the most basic fertility test on me and I was as traumatized as anyone would imagine, knowing that I had tried five times without ever knowing if I were even fertile.

I complained to Aetna, and then switched from that doctor to one who wasn't on the Aetna list, but who had helped my sister Kathy get pregnant. He took tests and determined that I was perfectly fertile, even in good fertility shape for my age, 37, and he was purely optimistic, like the first doctor had been, only he was with a famous, famous NYC hospital and had helped my sister, so I couldn't believe our good fortune in finally choosing to go there; you get what you pay for, I figured.

As soon as I got home, I became super-depressed, like I had hardly ever been. It was swift, that is, it didn't last long, but it was devastating; a day or so after it had passed, I realized that I was depressed at the prospect that it was finally real. Finally, a baby was in the offing and I was scared of how real it was.

The doctor's approach was to try one more time with the IUI method, and then, if that didn't work, to try up to three cycles on Clomid, a medication that causes depression and all sorts of PMS-type physical side-effects -- a much more extreme version of them. And if that didn't work, I should try IVF, where they put the embryo(s) directly into my womb through medical technology.

The regular IUI was unsuccessful, and so I went on Clomid, which really, really unnerved me because I don't really even like to take aspirin, but I reasoned, I can do this if a baby is the end-result.

I can't take a dramamine without becoming a zomby for two days, so medicine really effects me and the Clomid did as well. God bless Pat and Joseph, who probably bore the brunt of my non-stoicism. One of the months, I opted to go to London on business, rather than get inseminated, and so I had wasted a month on Clomid, and ended up taking it for four months instead of three.

The lab associated with my doctor was closed in July, the third time I wanted to have a Clomid-influenced IUI, so I opted to go to another hospital. It was the 4th of July, 2003 and I was lying in the substitute-doctor's office, but I thought it was a good sign that my friend Leslie's baby was on the wall as part of the collage of holiday cards all of these clinics post to get people excited about their possible future as parents.

Leslie's baby did not turn out to be a good sign. I turned 38 on July 13th, hopeful that I might be pregnant then, but I wasn't, for the third time on Clomid.

Meanwhile, a colleague of mine, who's older than I got pregnant and told me not to give up; "It'll happen."

The next IVF cycle, my regular doctor told me, was not till October.

Could I afford to wait till then, I asked?

A three month break would be OK, he said, although anything beyond that was probably pushing it.

I enjoyed the break. I told Pat that I needed to stop writing to the future baby and I did.

By Labor Day, at the beginning of September, I knew it was time to start gearing up again. I called the doctor and the person that pre-certifies me with my insurance and the IVF nurse, and then kept putting off calling them back when they returned my calls.

I spoke with a colleague, who told me from her own experience,"The animal urge to have a child passes. It did for me....Any time I am compulsive about something, as I became about getting pregnant, I know I have to look at it."

Both comments resonated with me. With nine heartbreaks over a year and a half, the urge was pretty much gone, and I did feel the last few times as though I were just marching along without being at all reflective.

How could I stop, though? Certainly, I needed to try the heroic measure of IVF, even though women my age have only typically a 40% chance of becoming pregnant through IVF, and even though I was alienated by what the process would require: an incredible series of tests and shots and monitorings and scientific tricks, and even though my sisters both had miscarried their first pregancies, one after the third month.

This weekend, thinking about a business trip made me stop and get serious finally. I realized that I didn't want to miss an upcoming trip to Paris in order to do the IVF. I realized that this would be only the first of untold trips and meetings I'd have to miss because of my child. I was sobered. I was ashamed, and finally, considering a number of other factors, I was resolved to stop trying to conceive, to give up my life-long expectation and two-year active dream of bearing a child.

Finally, I acknowledged that all along, I refused to consider adoption as a viable option; if I didn't give birth to him or her, I had no desire to raise him or her. It really was all about my genes going out into the world, rather than a burning need to mother just any child.

Did I really ever want to do the part that came between my giving birth and his or her being sweet to me in my old age? I always figured, I'll gain the will to become selfless in the way that parents need to be; it'll develop in me once the child's here.

Only one colleague from EAGLE, a mother herself, and otherwise, only Pat ever said to me that they worried that as active as I am with my work, I might not enjoy having to make sacrifices in my career for the child. Again, I dismissed the worry, figuring, I'll rise to the occasion.

My mother said, "Won't you always wonder if you could have had a child, if you had just tried the IVF?"

"Yes, but I'm prepared to live with that because the expense to my heart if it doesn't work again, or if I miscarried or if the child had a disability is too great. I don't know how I'd survive that."

My mother, my sisters, friends I told over the weekend, all understood my sadness and my resolve ultimately.

Tonight, I feel like I'm ready to finally grieve the loss of the nine unsuccessful attempts, since each of those times, I told myself not to despair and to keep hoping. Now, I ought to give myself permission to collapse and grieve fully, but there's no time. Monday's an all-day, off-site meeting in Armonk and Tuesday night is a panel that means a lot to me and I have to stay highly-functional for both.

Will it be that my life will be about staying functional for others who need me, even if not one single child? That's not so awful.

I need to keep applying all of the loving way I am to my relationships and my work. I've done that for 38 years, so why should I change now, just because I'm suffering a giant loss?

It's my losses that make me as loving and sensitive as I am, including the loss of my:

Father of blessed memory
Expectation of living heterosexually, once I was 21 and could no longer deny my total attractions to women
Friend Robert to AIDS
Sense of fundamental safety, since September 11th
Dream of giving birth
Continual loss through acknowledgment of the Jewish and GLBT and other lives lost in the Holocaust and other genocides....

All of these losses bring gains; I:

Became less aloof and more accessible
Found the world's most lovely person to be my partner
Gained an appreciation for my friends who remained and for others' losses of loved ones from AIDS
Now arrive at airports with plenty of time to spare, rather than running to the plane like I always used to do, and more seriously,
Gained a further appreciation of the survivors' basic and graceful humanity, including my own
Am not yet sure what I'm gaining from not giving birth, but I trust I will gain something from it -- perhaps another reminder of my humanity and an added ability to relate better to people who suffer tragedies
Pride in the resilience of people to persevere against the odds.

Accordingly, I remain hopeful that God has other plans for me and that good things will continue to happen in the world and for me, but I am sad, too, and need to let myself be sad, even as I continue to help others and myself.