Animal me

Yesterday morning, DH left at 5:45 a.m. In the doorway of the hotel room, I was crying, we were whispering our I-love-yous, feeling very serious and sad because he cannot be with me for the embryo transfer. He was turning to leave, suitcase in hand, looking at me over his shoulder as he walked, when he accidentally ran straight into a wall with his face.

We burst out laughing. It was the tension breaker we needed. Sometimes when you don’t ask for things you still get what you need.

But I do hope that sometimes when you do ask for things, you get what you want. Like, for example, a healthy little baby. I am sitting here waiting for RBA to call me with instructions for my Day 5 transfer, which is going to happen tomorrow. Today could be my last day as a non-pregnant person for a while. Or not. But I am feeling optimistic.

I’ve been thinking a lot about this horrific psychology experiment performed on dogs during which they are shocked repeatedly when they try to escape from their enclosure. After a while, they give up. They whine and behave with helplessness. Or they become stoic and numb, doing the one thing they can do in the face of relentless pain—reacting as little as possible.  When they are finally given an escape route from their enclosure, the dogs do not even get up and inspect it, do not even try to escape, because they have been conditioned by the shocks to expect the worst, to believe that there is no escape for them, ever.

It is hard to go from being that dog to being a different dog altogether. So I’m two dogs right now: I’m a repeatedly shocked dog who does not trust her escape route from the pen, and I’m a relieved, relaxed, excited dog who finally gets to go outside. And various dogs in between.

One sign that I am moving on: this morning I was thinking about cancer, about how I have dearly loved and clung to one study which shows that, because the drive to reproduce is so primal, women struggling with infertility undergo stress equivalent to those who are struggling with cancer. The study is so validating. Not only that, it can be used to educate people, because people are generally a hell of a  lot more familiar with cancer than they are with infertility. But this morning I had the thought: my treatments might be over for quite some time, and I might just get to go on and live and long and happy and family-filled life. And I felt a distance open up between the cancer-comparison and me.

At the same time I am now, more than ever, acutely aware of the importance of reproduction to our species, aware that by doing donor egg IVF, I am acting out of an ancient, instinctual space that cannot be squelched by any force, internal or external. DH and I have been watching nature documentaries almost every night for a couple of weeks now, and I am struck again and again by the great lengths to which animals and insects and plants will go to successfully reproduce, and to reproduce as much as they can. For the vast majority of life on this planet, the quest for reproduction is the main event, and pretty much nothing else matters—everything done is carried out in service to reproduction.

I have a vivid memory from one of the documentaries: a mama octopus finding the perfect lair in which to lay her eggs. She braids them together, and they look like strings and clusters of pearls, hanging all around her. She cleans them, waves air over them to stimulate circulation, and she does not eat anything herself. For six months, she stands guard over about sixty thousand fertilized eggs, while starving. When they are ready to be independent baby octopi, she blows them out of the lair and into the open water with her last, dying breaths. Of the 60,000, perhaps two will survive.

Imaginary people in my mind judge me for having spent 30 grand, traveled to Georgia, taken all of these medications and hormones, and paid someone to undergo the hefty injections and hardships of IVF, all so I can have a baby grow inside me, be birthed from me, and whom I will love and raise. These are imaginary people in the future who look down their noses at me and think I have chosen to do something quite “desperate” and “unnatural.” (I really need to stop reading ignorant commentary out there on the interwebs.) Whose automatic and uneducated thought is: Why would you go to such great lengths when there are so many children in “dire need” of parents (those ignorant people like to use the phrase “dire need” a lot). Of course, if you have researched adoption or fostering at all, you know as well as I do that the process is far from easy, is often more expensive than 30 grand, can be uncertain, precarious, and drawn-out for years. Not always, but often enough. It is a lot for woman to go through who has already undergone so much—and it did not feel right for me to ask myself to possibly go through it. More than that, however, is the absolutely certainty that I don’t want to wait any longer to become a mom—waiting does not feel right to me. And perhaps most importantly of all, I want to bond with my baby from early embryo days inside me, through birth, and early infancy—that feels right to me. I could give up pregnancy, but the thought of perhaps having to also give up early infancy, maybe even up to age 1 – 3, felt wrong. I followed the drive toward donor egg, which is something I have actually been pretty open to since early days of this experience. Maybe at the very beginning I had thoughts like, Oh no, not that! But they eased to openness relatively quickly. I recall that during my new patient consultation at CCRM, the very first thing I blurted was: ‘I just want you to know that I’m open to donor egg, too.” Dr. Surrey looked at me quizzically, eyebrows raised, as I had just travelled thousands of miles to do IVF with my own eggs, and it seemed I was already moving on.

So in the nature documentary about humans, yes, I am going to great lengths to reproduce in the way that feels instinctually right, just like all the other animals out there. I am migrating to the West coast to a lair in Denver, and when that doesn’t work out, I am migrating South to Georgia. I am employing a third party, a younger woman I have never met, but who has the eggs that I need. In a complicated process that involves impressive equipment and substances of human invention, I am endeavoring to become pregnant with eggs of hers that my husband has fertilized, at a remove. This is human evolution. This is the female of the species figuring out a way to get out of a coupling (ex-husband) that was not to her advantage and find the perfect mate (current husband), and still manage to have a family in the way that feels right to her. At least that’s one way to look at it!

It’s a sunny day and all I plan on doing is writing, making art, swimming (if I get the go-ahead that it’s okay to swim in super-chlorinated water the day before transfer…not so sure I’m comfortable…), doing yoga, and walking to the Pet Mart to visit the dogs.

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12 Comments

  1. lisa

     /  September 3, 2013

    I was judged for buying my dog at a pet shop and not adopting so, yes, there is judgement out there, but every persons’ life is so different. Why judge? Besides, I just wanted a puppy so badly, and he just wanted a home, so if he could speak he might say, “thanks for not waiting and choosing me mom.” And one day, your child may thank you for choosing them, for not waiting, thereby giving them a life and for being their mother. Choice is a beautiful thing and should be a part of every persons’ survival stargey, otherwise we are all just caged and fearful dogs, unable to venture beyond what we already know. Word of caution, “don’t let any dogs out” at PetMart unless you want to bring one home. That is what happened to me. Lol
    Best wishes for tomorrow.

    Reply
    • (: I actually never made it to the pet store—there were supposed be rescue dogs there on that day, but I ended up going to the botanical gardens instead. Thank you for your wise, wise comment. Well said! And heartfelt.

      Reply
  2. I love the connection to the study with the dogs. It does have this ability to beat you down, numb you, change you fundamentally. But here your are waltzing boldly out of your enclosure! I am sending all my earth-mama juju your way tomorrow! Away you go!

    Reply
  3. This post is excellent. I love the angle of looking at ART as part of our biological drive to have children and doing whatever we can to make that happen because that’s our animal nature. These are some wise words, so thank you. Also, I hope your husband’s face is okay :).

    Reply
    • Aw thanks so much. One thing I’ve gotten out of this experience—a little bit of wisdom, hard hard-won. Yes, it’s so important, especially for people who don’t seem to understand the angst of infertility, that we are animals driven by instinct (on top of being humans driven by cultural norms). So many forces we’re struggling with/against when going through this. And as for DH’s face, it is cute as ever.(:

      Reply
  4. I am a fan of your blog. People do judge, and me being a minority I know A LOT of people in wonder why am I going through all of this? I like you am a patient at RBA and just received access to the egg bank. We have paid so much money to get pregnant that if I really add it all of we could have bought another house and gotten out of debt completely. I think it is one of those things that you have to trust that you are doing the right thing for YOU. I am a mom and I guess I could be happy with one child but what can I say I always wanted more than one child so here I am. We don’t have 30K but we are going to pay the 16K and really hope for the best :). Keep blogging you are doing good.

    Reply
    • Wonderful comment, thanks so much for chiming in. It’s so difficult to think about the debt, the down payments, the this and the that we could be well on our way with if we hadn’t had to spend this money. I of course also totally relate to wanting more than one child—the dream is the dream, it doesn’t change through circumstance (at least not for you and me). I’m hoping all goes great for you at RBA. Keep me posted!

      Reply
  5. My totally awesome therapist was talking about this study with the dogs when I saw him this morning. He said the lesson of it is that you have to keep trying because you just never know [when the asshole running the experiment is going to turn off the electricity so you can get out]. I thought of myself and why I was so hopeless/terrified going into yesterday’s call. And then I thought of you and how you must feel going into your transfer. It’s time to leave the enclosure, girlfriend :)

    Reply
  6. Woah! Total synchronicity indeed! Thank you hugely for the kind words…I’m going to go read your post now…

    Reply
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