Tuesday, October 23, 2007

What's in a number?

I am not my body. My body is not exactly up to factory standards, but I can't return it or put in for replacement of defective parts, so I deal. I live for the numbers, though. In the ancient times when I could wrangle my body to my will, make the defective parts run to an ok approximation of the industry standard, the numbers were my weight, length of my cycles, my LH spike for ovulation purposes, mid-luteal progesterone as a benchmark for those early pregnancy readings, and hCG and its doubling, or not, for the pregnancies. There were also thyroid readings as necessary. Pregnancies brought their own numbers-- weeks, heart rates, crown-rump, nuchal fold, probabilities, glucose tests, blood pressure, protein in urine. This year brought measurements of heart rate and blood pressure sans pregnancy, too many stuck LH readings, and now the cyst size. Numbers, numbers everywhere. I am a geek.

But at no time did these numbers measure my worth. I am not my body.

Waiting for JD's numbers this weekend was somewhat different because I worried about how he would take it if the results were not good. Before we had Monkey, two different tests showed borderline low numbers. We talked about this when this test was first ordered. Whatever the test says it won't matter, I said. It means nothing. It's just to tell us what we need to do. This feeling did not change for me as the test, and then the results day approached. Good, I thought, at least I am not a hypocrite. He is not his body either.

To be completely, thoroughly honest, I was thinking that given the history, some of the numbers will be on the low side. I even thought that if they are, we might get the diagnosis of male factor added, and that it might actually help speed up our stupid insurance coverage.

There are other things, too. The cultural stereotype of manliness=virility is alive and well, and is reinforced in this case by two cultures. We also conceived A on the first try. Variance, she is a bitch, in poker and in life, and it can mess with your head but good in both settings. I had that going this summer, when I sooooo hoped to get pregnant that first month we were allowed to try. I think I got over it the day I realized PCOS was kicking my butt, and ovulation was no longer forthcoming. I couldn't really tell where JD was on these things.

Yesterday afternoon we got the results. They are worse than we thought. In fact, the one parameter I thought was least likely to be affected, based on the three previously recorded conceptions, was in fact affected. We have low motility. Very low. Very very low. The numbers are bad, and they don't matter. We have low motility. Yes, we. Because JD isn't his body either. It's just what we have to deal with.

17 comments:

Catherine said...

It's funny that I held my breath while reading this...all the way to the very end. I know people say, "it's not you, it's your body." I know my husband has said it to me. But somewhere deep in my brain, I still can't separate the two all the time. I think it's very healthy that the two of you seem to have jumped that hurdle together. I'm sorry you have yet another hurdle to jump over. But I think you can do it. I don't know why...I just think you can.

Beruriah said...

You amaze me. Of course we all know this factually, but I can't say I've been able to fully integrate it in my self-image. I'm an amazing hypocrite in that way since of course everyone else's body is free of blame.

I'm sorry about JD's numbers. But I'm glad you're now armed with some more knowledge.

slouching mom said...

This is an important post, a thought-provoking one -- a manifesto of sorts.

You are of course so much more than those numbers. As is he. But that is not to say that we all can't wish those numbers were different.

BTW, my unwelcome visitor, my fibroid? 6cm. If we're talking numbers. ;)

niobe said...

Very interesting. The mind-body problem with a slightly different twist.


Sorry about the numbers that you did get, though.

Carole said...

I'm so sorry about the way that the numbers came back. We are so much more than our bodies though...and sometimes it's easy for me to lose sight of that.
~Carole

Aurelia said...

He is more than his body and so are you. Luckily science has some treatments for this, and maybe there are some even better treatment options out there. You never know.

So yes, the news is bad, but it's not hopeless, so I'm going to keep my fingers crossed that science can overrule our bruised self-images.

Julia said...

Thank you, all.

I think, though, that you are all giving me way too much credit. I think this is a defense mechanism. I think if I was to accept my body's failings as my own, I might just crumble under the weight. So instead I choose to accept responsibility for my decisions, with a caveat that they were made in light of all the information I had or should've had. I won't let myself off the hook for willful ignorance. Which is probably why I spend so much time doing research-- I need to know that when I make a decision, it is made with the best information I could possibly have.

Lori said...

I understand this is all defensive to some extent- but it is a good, healthy defense mechanism. Because, in the end, it is true. You have been given the bodies you have, and they are not indicative of your character, your worth, or your goodness.

I am sorry though that you now have one more thing to address, and to figure out what to do. It does seem that there is so much that can be done in this area too, but still... it really stinks.

thrice said...

I was you. We got pregnant with Ace right away and then we were struck with secondary infertility. We had low motility and low count, very, very bad. The good news is that this, as you thought, is a go straight to IVF pass. I didn't know this and was conned into a lot of injectible/noninjectible IUIs. You'll need ICSI with IVF to overcome it, but it is easily overcome.

charmedgirl said...

i guess i'm going to be the rebel here, but....

we suffered about 4 years of infertility before getting lucky with IVF/ICSI. we both had sub-fertility and together, it just wasn't working.

i totally understand the threat of being crushed by the failure of it; i was so crazy with getting that double line on the pee stick that even hugely pregnant with triplets i would still pee on sticks just to watch the two lines come up.....

anyway, for me, i believe i am very much my body. although it may not do what i want it to do sometimes, it's not my enemy and i don't "fight" it...i just don't understand it. i find that my beliefs about my body are much like others' beliefs in god (i'm an atheist). things are happening for reasons i don't understand, but must gently accept. i can be diligent in my actions to try to achieve what we want, but unless it is done with love (for our bodies) and the acceptance of that which we don't understand, the threat to our psyche is great.

that sounds all philosophical and kinda obnoxious, but it's a belief i painstakingly aquired during that four year infertility run. to me, it's very practical. it helped me (the whole, unfragmented me) feel spiritual during a very medical/technical conception.

i hope, i really truly hope, you don't have long to wait.
xo

PS- i just previewed my comment and thought, IF ONLY i could apply this line of reasoning to my current situation... UGH

meg said...

Maybe I should write this: "I am not my body" and put it on the mirror, so I look at it every single day. I wish I could believe this about myself, but you know what I blame my body for and it's so much, that I don't know if I'll ever be able to separate the two.

But, I think the fact that you can separate the two is a very, very good thing. Though I truly believe that you will be able to figure all this out, I'm sorry that this is something else you have to deal with.

Julia said...

Charmed, I think we are stuck in semantics here. I am certainly not treating my body as an enemy, and have written before about being nice to it. I also understand rather a big chunk of what and how is happening, being a biologist and all. What I refuse to accept, however, is any notion of my physical condition or any failings of my body as reflections on my character. What I refuse is the feeling of guilt or responsibility for things I have no control over. When I could manage my PCOS with diet, I did that. When it became necessary to add medication, I did that too. Now it seems that fertility services are necessary, and we are going to do that. But I won't feel that I am a bad or worthless person because I needed or need any of these things. Biology is not destiny, and while I will thoughtfully and carefully, and even gently manage my body, I won't feel that anything I am going through is "deserved" or otherwise reflects my failings as a human being.
Infertility is a biological condition. People don't tend to feel worthless or guilty because they have allergies or asthma or diabetes. It shouldn't be any different for various causes of infertility.

Bon said...

what an amazing post, Julia...the acceptance that we are not our numbers, no matter what heartache our numbers cause, is a perspective many of us really, really find hard to internalize. or not blame, when it's our partner affected rather than us. and yet without that acceptance, we hurt ourselves and our bodies and our partners all the more..

so i think you're wise.

i am sorry about the low motility.

Tracy said...

I'm so sorry you're going through this.

For the first 3 years of TTC, we were told it was MFI. Poor morphology. No chance in hell, or at least a very, very, very small one we'd ever conceive without IVF/ICSI.

So we try 2 cycles of IVF/ICSI and lo and behold, my egg quality sucks.

We are not our bodies. And now my husband is assuring me of that...I wish you both the best.

charmedgirl said...

julia- you are absolutely right (about semantics), and i totally agree. i guess i'll take your lead and not feel worthless that my brain isn't what it used to be right now...

Julia said...

Thanks again, everyone, for all of your support!

And Charmed, I am glad. Please give yourself a break-- it's been so little time for you, everything is still so raw and fresh.

wannabe mom said...

it's hard for me to not feel like a failure when i'm doing (i think) everything i think is right. i'm glad you wrote this. warm hugs to you.