Sunday, January 24, 2010

Frozen With Fear

Posted by Anonymous.

I am a mother. A blissfully happy mother to an amazing, brilliant, beautiful boy.

But I am also infertile. I was lucky enough to get a diagnosis quickly—after only a year. Premature ovarian failure. My eggs were shot at age 29. At that point I had undergone a laparoscopy and a single IVF cycle with my own eggs. The reproductive endocrinologist recommended donor eggs. He listed the likelihood of success of another IVF cycle with my eggs (5%), and the chance of miscarriage if I did conceive (greater than 50%) and the risk of chromosomal abnormalities if I didn’t miscarry (greater than 50%), and the right decision was clear and, well, easy.

Yes, I grieved the loss of a genetic child. I still do, sometimes. I’m sad that my son will not be able to go to my family’s ancestral home and recognize his nose the in the portraits on the wall. I’m angry that having a baby was such an emotionally difficult, lengthy, and frightfully expensive process for me, when it is free—and often accidental!—for most people. But the very fact of my son eases those pains. Now that he is here, I cannot imagine having had any other baby, and the pain, the anger, of infertility, has faded. Sometimes I think about how miserable I was during my first year of trying to conceive, and how I was consumed with jealousy of pregnant women and new mothers during the two years that followed, years that I had to wait in order to save enough money to try donor egg IVF. Years that one friend after another got—surprise!—pregnant. But now that’s in the past, and I am someone to be envied. I am a mother. I was pregnant. Those experiences are no longer out of my reach.

But the pregnancy! Infertility laid the groundwork of fear before I got pregnant, and my pregnancy built that fear into a monolithic tower. From the beginning, I qualified every statement about my pregnancy with an “if.” IF this pregnancy continues. IF I actually have a baby. IF my baby survives. I didn’t call to schedule a childbirth class until after they were all booked up, because I was so uncertain that I would actually need one. I didn’t plan for the baby the way other women do, because the last thing I wanted was to come home to a house full of baby stuff after losing the pregnancy. I couldn’t believe that he would actually be born, full term (barely) and healthy.

I started bleeding at 5 weeks. From 5 weeks through 15 weeks, I had regular episodes of heavy bleeding. Really heavy bleeding; heavier than any period I’ve ever had. Then, after a few weeks of blessed relief from the bleeding, I started having contractions. Regular ones, 7 minutes apart, that sent me to L&D first at 22 weeks, then again at 24 weeks. “Yes, those are real contractions,” they told me at the hospital. “You should lie down and drink lots of water.” “If they get closer together, 5 minutes apart or less, we’ll think about putting you on terbutaline.” Cervical ultrasounds, fetal fibronectin tests, contraction and fetal heartrate monitors. Intermittent bedrest. The first time I went to L&D, the security guard asked if I was in labor. “I certainly hope not,” I said. Did I really look like I was ready to deliver? I was barely showing!

So for the second half of my pregnancy, I listened to my contractions. Even walking for a few minutes could set them off. Here comes a contraction . . . here’s another one, 6 minutes later . . . and 6 minutes again. Every day. Lie down, drink water, time the contractions. Do I need to go to the hospital? Are these contractions causing cervical change? Am I in labor? What are the chances, at 24 weeks 3 days, that my baby will survive if he is delivered today? That he’ll be disabled? At 26 weeks 6 days?

I spent a lot of time working from home, lying on the couch. I breathed huge sighs of relief as I hit the milestones. 28 weeks. 30 weeks. 32 weeks. 34 weeks. By 36 weeks I was convinced that all the worry was for naught and that I would go overdue. So I was ridiculously surprised by his birth at 37 weeks exactly. It was fine. He was fine. I was (mostly) fine. Normal labor experience, just a few annoying complications for me afterward. All fine.

And he was here. And I was happy. And everything was OK.

And it was, for a while.

Now he’s 15 months old. People are asking when I’m going to have another. I wonder that, too. How could I not want another? The first is so delicious! Sometimes I convince myself that I don’t want another, that my family is complete, that I am happy with things just as they are. But the fact that I get viscerally upset when my husband expresses reservations about having a second tells me otherwise. I do want another baby. I want another baby.

But I don’t want another pregnancy. Well, I kind of want a “do-over,” a normal pregnancy experience, but I don’t think it’s really possible for me to have pregnancy without fear. A couple of months ago I had a moment where I thought the impossible had happened and I was pregnant, naturally. I wasn’t happy. Instead, I had an honest-to-god panic attack. Racing heart, nausea, panting, sweating, shaking, the works. My husband: “wow, you really don’t want to be pregnant right now!” Me: “Duh.”

I feel melodramatic even saying this, but my therapist says I have pregnancy PTSD. Have you ever heard of such a thing? Even though everything turned out fine. The very fact of my fear has traumatized me. And that is why I still find pregnancy announcements upsetting. Even from my very good friends. Those reactions made me feel guilty enough when I was waiting to become a mother, but now it’s even worse. How can I begrudge people the experiences that I’ve already had? How come I can’t just be happy for my friends? Why do I react physically to pregnancy announcements, shaking and feeling sick? Why do they leave me feeling unsettled for days afterward? I am just so sick of pregnancy being such a thing for me. I want to just not care anymore. Been there, done that.

Adoption isn’t an option for me for a number of reasons. So that leaves another pregnancy, if I really want another child. I can even face the idea of another donor egg IVF cycle. I’m not thrilled about it; not looking forward to finding a donor, to making all those appointments, to injecting myself in the ass every day for 10 weeks if I’m lucky enough to get pregnant again. But I can do it. I’m not even—may the gods forgive me—that worried about getting pregnant. I think I probably can get pregnant again, with enough perseverance.

But what I can’t face, can’t even really think about without starting to panic, is actually being pregnant. The day-to-day worry about whether I will lose the pregnancy, whether my water will break early, whether I will go into preterm labor. It lasts a long time, pregnancy. Or at least one hopes it will. It stretched out before me like an eternity, even when I felt like I must have already completed 24 months of gestation. And I don’t know if I can face that eternity again.

But I want another baby.

So here I am. Lucky. Unlucky. And frozen with fear.


mmichele said...

I know this is where we are supposed to give good advice and offer wisdom.

I have two sons and while I did not struggle with infertility, I did struggle mightily with pregnancy. Like you I wanted more kids but not more pregnancies.

Even harder when you have to plan and prepare for fertilization the way that you do.

Anyway, just wanted to send some love your way. I do hope you find a way to overcome your fear of pregnancy because it does seem that you really do want another child.

lis said...

your story made me cry.

i want a do-over too.

Anonymous said...

I too have crappy eggs, although my diagnosis is Diminished Ovarian Reserve, not POF. I understand the fear. I lost my second child to a miscarriage and I am not 14 weeks pregnant again. I spend the first 10 weeks that I knew about the baby scared out of mind, and I too played the IF game. But every pregnancy is different. The fear can go away. *hugs*

baby2mom Egg Donation and Surrogacy Programme said...

Your story is so real and the story of alot of woman conceiving with donor eggs. The process is difficult and emotional and filled with fear, but what empowers woman to proceed is that the egg donor program is also filled with hope and the chance for baby.

Best of luck with your second attempt and well done for overcoming your fear.

Anonymous said...

Stop panicking and adopt a baby. There are women throwing babies away. go to project cuddle and tell them you want an unwanted baby. For God's sake give yourself to someone who has no one. Stop killing yourself for IVF

Ernesta said...

Thanks for sharing your story - I know someone who will find comfort in your words -- will pass this along. Regarding overcoming your fear, isn't your therapist helping in that regard? If not, find another one, maybe even a midwife.

Anonymous said...

I've never suffered from fertility troubles, but, I, too, had a pregnancy that had me frozen in fear every single day. Hitting weekly milestones helped me breathe a little easier, but oh the fear. I understand where you're coming from and your logic. Every pregnancy is different - but convincing yourself to go threw with it is the hardest part. I wish you luck.

Stacy said...

I have been through 3 IVFs, 1 success, many, many failed IUIs, and "natural" cycles with clomid or letrozole over 5 years. It was horrible. But, here we are jumping in again to try for baby #2 and like you I am scared of the "what if's". I believe that PTSD is very real for women who have gone through years of infertility and/or traumatic pregnancies and/or traumatic births. I hope you can work your way through the fear and have an easy and enjoyable pregnancy. You just have to decide if the emotional pain is worth the final result. I know it's so hard. You already know you can survive it, you already did, but is it worth it a second time? I wish I had the anwser for you.

Best of luck to you and whatever you decide. I hope you find peace in what you decide.

As for Anon above, just ignore. You've been through the wringer so you know the trolls love to say really stupid stuff especailly when it comes to IVF and infertility.

Hang in there.

Rachael said...

I'm so sorry. I struggled with infertility, but nothing like what you have. It took 2 year to conceive our first son and he was our 4th IUI. It seemed really hard at the time, but I know it could have been SO much harder.

I'm sorry that you weren't able to experience a "normal" pregnancy, and that it's so frightening. I don't think that PTSD is limited to war veterans or crime victims. Our experiences in life are our own, and trauma happens in different way sofr different people.

Like Stacy, I wish I had some kind of answer for you. But instead I'll just say that I hope that it turns out okay for you, and that you get that second baby you want, and that it's a happier pregnancy.

(BIG hugs)

Anonymous said...

The good news about PTSD (and other anxiety disorders, whether your reaction would meet an "official" criterion for PTSD or not) is that they are treatable. More treatable than most other emotional or mental difficulties. Ask your therapist about this!

Kate said...

Find a local resolve chapter -

Secondary infertility is not rare, and many women who struggled the first time around feel the way you do. I'm sure you could find help and support there.

Good luck.

Anonymous said...

as anon i was not trying to be a "troll" i am saying just this, why go through the pain the suffering the financial mess. There are babies to adopt that is all. I did not meant to be "stupid" i didnt say ivf was bad but it seemed like it was quite difficult the first time why go through that again? adoption is not a horrible way to go.

Anonymous said...

Yeah, what anon said. Why is adoption not an option for you? Technically, you "adopted" the egg that is now your child. What's the reason for not considering adopting a child? It is a sad fact that there are babies needing a good parent and it sounds like you are a wonderful mom!

And, for whatever its worth, I've been thru infertility and ended up with my beautiful, miraculous daughter through adoption. So, I'm a bit biased..............

Good luck in whatever you decide.

Jill said...

I have Pregnancy PTSD and it is real. I did not have fertility issues, but had preclampsia and delivered at 26 weeks 2 days. 1lb 8oz of him, a left side grade 4 brain bleed and 16 weeks in the NICU and he is 2 now. He has some issues and it has not been easy. I blamed myself for the Pre E and my husband almost lost me and the baby. I desperately want to have another one in hopes for a "normal" pregnancy, but I am ever so scared. My husband is fine with just our son, but part of me wants a "do over". Hang in there!

Anonymous said...

OP here with a long follow up to a long post. Thank you all so much for your kind wishes and words of support. It’s so helpful to know that I am not the only one who has felt this way. I am indeed working on this issue with my excellent therapist. She seems certain that I will overcome it. I, clearly, have my doubts about that and have been really struggling lately. Part of the issue is that although I can’t help feeling this way, I don’t feel entitled to feel this way, since everything turned out fine (a fact for which I give thanks Every. Single. Day.). I want to return the support to those of you who have struggled with infertility, with pregnancy, and to Jill, with a premature baby. If you’ve had your baby, by whatever means, you have my sincere congratulations. If you’re still hoping, my best wishes for you. I know how you feel.

About why I don’t adopt: I originally wrote up a very long list of our reasons for choosing DE IVF over adoption. But that is not the issue I am dealing with right now. Of course we considered adoption when I got my POF diagnosis, but we decided that DE IVF was the right path for us. Even though I am now struggling with fear of pregnancy, that evaluation has not changed. In sum, the process of DE IVF is simply more comfortable, more likely to succeed, and less expensive for us than that of adoption. It is a well-researched, well considered decision, and one of which I am certain. But I only claim it is the right decision for my husband and me in our particular situation—I am not claiming that DE IVF is better than adoption or that everyone faced with this choice should choose IVF. Rather, I feel grateful that there are so many wonderful avenues to family building available, including adoption, IVF, donor egg, donor sperm, and surrogacy, so that we can each make the choice that best fits our circumstances. (And one of my best friends has recently made the decision to forgo medical treatment for infertility in favor of pursuing adoption, which she is doing with great vigor, power to her!) I could not love my son more, and I know I would feel the same however he came to me.

So I will continue to work with my therapist and hope that one day, sooner rather than later, I will feel comfortable going forward with another cycle. My husband, incidentally, has changed his tune since I originally wrote this post, would like to have a second, and declares he is ready to cycle whenever I am. Which is wonderful and makes me very happy. Now it’s up to me.

Sarah, Goon Squad Sarah said...

Yes. Pregnancy PSTD is real and really hard.

Don't feel bad.

Anonymous said...

Adpoption does not have to be that expense. I know....I've adopted two international children. There are so many orphaned children out there and to be honest....I don't understand the incredible angst and self-absorption people have year-after-year re: all the pregnancy issues. Yep, I personally had quite the issues and quite the number of miscarriages and stress and .....all of it. the end ,the fact is that we wanted children and we wanted a family AND AND there are so many orphaned children on this planet that desperately need a family. I say stop being so self-absorbed with yourself and if you really want children, go find a child that really needs a family.