Your average IVF cycle starts with a month of hormone suppression, typically by way of hormonal birth control. Well. Actually, it’s not quite a month, it’s more like two and a half weeks, and you only know if you’re properly suppressed after a suppression check around the two and a half week mark.
Today was my suppression check. I’ve been on oral birth control for about three weeks, maybe a little less, and it’s made me into a beast. I don’t mean that in a positive way; I mean I’ve been as volatile and sensitive as I was when I was a delicate teenager, known for days of emotional pique that left my family sighing and saying, “She’ll grow out of it.”
(side note: Heathers is a very wonderful movie)
Which is mostly true. I’m far less volatile, by and large, than I was when I was going through puberty. Except when I’m on hormonal birth control.
Even then, I don’t quite reach the same heights I did when I was thirteen and sobbing because I don’t know why except nobody understood me except you, Michael W. Smith, and the toy horses that I couldn’t tell my boyfriend I still played with. I did at one point, when I was on clomid, the cycle before I got pregnant with Sam. Kat was visiting us from California, in preparation to move out and live with us, and on day two of clomid, I had a Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde moment, in which I completely lost my fool mind sobbing because Kat and Kyle were bonding over their shared love of Pokemon, something that I do not and never will understand.
(this is me when Pokemon is the topic of conversation)
I felt left out, and my poor, hormone-addled brain turned this mild feeling of “well, it sucks that I can’t relate to that” into a disaster. They were now best friends because Pokemon, and I was no longer a friend, and I would die miserable and alone while they played Pokemon as best friends forever. I told them to leave me behind and go get lunch while I buried myself under blankets and sobbed.
Obviously, none of my fears came true, but man, was I a wreck over them. And thankfully, Kyle and Kat are super understanding and brought me back my favorite meal from Chili’s and then we all three went on a trip to Salem for no reason other than that it was there and had neat stores.
Hormonal birth control is sort of a gentler version of that. I’ve yet to have that level of meltdown while on hormonal birth control (come close, but usually over my work in a call center because that’s just… it’s a terrible place to work, y’all. Also, if you’re the type of person to take out your frustration with a situation on a call center worker, I don’t like you), but I’ve noticed that I become more prickly and more apt to overreact to things.
In some cases, I figure it’s just that my tolerance for bullshit goes way down; and it’s already pretty low. Traffic on the Mass Pike goes from minor annoyance to, “Are you kidding me?! You’re doing 40 MPH in the passing lane, and there’s nobody in front of you and your car appears to be in good working order?! WHAT ARE YOU DOING.” Telemarketers go from “what you’re doing is probably illegal, and I’m just not going to answer the phone because I don’t recognize that number” to “I will find you where you live and personally force you to walk barefoot on wet food.” I avoid all discussion of politics and religion; if you ever find me recusing myself from such discussions, it’s less that I don’t care and more that I like you and don’t want to lose my temper either at you or where you can see.
In other cases, I overreact to perfectly reasonable situations. About a week ago, for example, Kat asked when I got home from work if we could run out to the store. This is a perfectly reasonable request, but my hors were moning, and I managed to turn it into a Thing. It was a very fraught grocery store trip, not much helped by Sam’s quintessential three-year-old behavior or the traffic I’d endured to get there; the primary good that came out of the whole thing is that I now text Kat on my way home every day to see if she needs a store run, or even for me to pick up some food for her.
My biggest fear with these hormone issues is that I’ll end up scaring or hurting Sam–not physically, but with angry words and, worse, angry tone of voice. Growing up, I always had a tremendous fear of my dad’s yelling. He didn’t yell terribly often, but when he did, we knew that shit had hit the fan, and it was not good times. I don’t want Sam to ever fear me or my voice for any reason. I want him to respect me. I want him to know that when I tell him to do something, it’s for his own good. But I don’t want him to fear me.
Sunday, we went up to Target as a family. Sam had been in a State all day–he’s going through a growth spurt, and he’s three, which combine to form a Perfect Storm of rage. We never quite know what will set him off–will it be that he’s wearing the wrong shoes? Will it be that he doesn’t want to be buckled in his car seat? Will it be that there are caterpillar remains on the car? Who knows? And when he’s in a State, anything can set him off, even more than usual.
So he was in a State on Sunday. He was hungry, so Kyle took him to the Pizza Hut in Target to have something to eat while Kat and I did a quick shopping run. I met up with Kyle and Sam as the run ended, Sam cheerfully clutching a bottle of fruit punch and Kyle less cheerfully carrying a bag of popcorn. “Can he stay with you?” Kyle asked. “I need to grab a few things.”
Sam latched onto my cart, cheerfully munching popcorn as we slowly walked down the aisles featuring arts and crafts and party supplies. I tread carefully, knowing that any misstep could cause a meltdown, and meltdowns aren’t my favorite thing, especially in my emotionally volatile and hormonal state. We almost made it, too. Kyle grabbed whatever it was he needed, and we found a line. As we were waiting, Sam let go of the cart and started poring over the candy, finally deciding that he wanted a Kit Kat for dessert.
Understand: candy is a treat. It’s a sometimes food. Sometimes, he gets candy as a dessert if he finishes his entire dinner. Sometimes he doesn’t. But he wasn’t hearing that on Saturday, and when I took the Kit Kat bar away and placed it back on the shelf, meltdown mode activated. He dropped to the floor, as if he suddenly weighed a thousand pounds, and sobbed. “But I doooooo!” he protested, trying to grab the Kit Kat again (“but I dooooo” here means “but I do want the candy bar”). “I don’t care,” I told him and looked at Kyle, who’d gotten that world weary look on his features.
“Should I take him to the car?” I asked.
“NOOOOOOOO!” howled Sam from the floor.
“Yes,” said Kyle, rapidly trying to get our merchandise on the conveyor belt.
I’ve not become an expert in many things over the last three years, but one thing I’m adept at is sweeping up a reluctant child in one arm and carrying him out to the car. Sam’s body is a great deal bigger than it was three years ago, but I’m still able to football carry him across the parking lot without dropping him or anything else I’m holding, even when he’s kicking and screaming.
And I do mean that literally. He stopped kicking once I shifted him to my hip–I think that might be some instinct like when you pick up a kitten by the scruff of their neck and they just go limp–but he screamed as mightily as before, especially when I told him that I was going to put him in his car seat.
“I DON’T WANNA BE BUCKLED!” he screamed in my ear, which started ringing like I’d survived a movie explosion and Chris Pine was trying to tell me he loved me.
(I love this movie and had a dream about him last night)
Sam continued to scream once we got to the car; I put him in his seat, and he began to writhe and twist like Luke Skywalker being attacked by the Emperor, with comparable screaming to accompany. “I DON’T WANNA BE BUCKLED!” he continued to yell, sobbing at the same time. I gently but firmly guided his arms through the straps on his car seat, and he kept pulling them out and hitting me. It was hot and humid. I didn’t once consider hitting him, but I wished that I could consider it, if that makes sense.
Instead I yelled, and I don’t remember what I said. Nothing nasty. I didn’t call him a little shit (he was very much acting like one) or berate him or insult him. I think I told him to sit down. The problem I felt wasn’t in the words I used, but in the tone, the same tone my father used to use when he yelled at me as a child, the one that terrified me.
It didn’t affect Sam at all, of course. He’s the kind of kid where, if we did spank him, he’d probably say something like “is that the best you can do?” The only thing that really works on him is a logical and immediate consequence for his actions–you hit Mommy, you go to your room to calm down. You throw a toy, the toy gets taken away. You refuse to clean up your mess (which happens so rarely lately–it’s a miracle how well telling your three-year-old that it’s a race works in getting him to clean up after himself), the toys get put away for a while. Yelling, especially when he’s already screaming and sobbing with a tantrum, is about as effective as spitting in the ocean.
(this is the first image that comes up for “spitting in the ocean” and I’m not sorry)
I’m not worried about him, but I did scare myself, not from my words but from the tone. Kat, who was in the car towards the end of this (and was eventually instrumental in calming Sam down–she’s amazing at that, gets him distracted by pointing out things like hey, look, a ladybug, and then he sniffles and quiets and then asks questions about ladybugs), said she’d never heard me that angry before.
And it’s been a really long time since I’ve expressed anger that way. I think the last time was long before I even met Kyle, during a hot and exhausting wait for a bus at Disney World, when my sister and I were screaming in each other’s faces for no good reason (well. It was hot and exhausting). It used to happen more often. It was normal where I grew up. Yelling was how you took out your frustration and anger. We all yelled at each other at some point. We all had screaming fights that left our throats sore and our heads pounding and were ultimately completely pointless.
My home now isn’t like that. We never yell; we holler across the house, “Hey, do you want any of this pork?” or “Could you grab me some toilet paper?” or occasionally “I’m leaving now, whether we’re ready or not!” Anger isn’t a rare thing, but we handle it differently, depending on who’s angry at each other. Kat and I snipe at each other, more sarcastic than anything, but then cool down and talk things through. Kyle and I don’t even snipe at each other; we both just take deep breaths, express our frustration, work through it, and move on.
So yelling like that was… I didn’t like it. I don’t like it. I wasn’t ever afraid that I’d hurt Sam or lose control, but I didn’t like the tone that came out of me, something that scared me when I was younger and something I didn’t want to scare Sam.
I feel like I’m probably overreacting to it. Kyle pointed out later that night that Sam loves me, that we got home from Target and Sam immediately cuddled up on my lap with his head on my shoulder as if nothing had happened. Sam didn’t even flinch in the moment; his tantrum continued uninterrupted, as if I wasn’t even there trying to do anything about it. I really did scare myself more than I scared him, which isn’t good, but it’s better than if I’d actually scared him.
I don’t know. I do know several things, however.
First, I’m relieved to be off birth control. That shit is a menace. I’d have requested that they switch me to a different hormonal birth control (NuvaRing and Ortho Evra tend to be my favorites), but it didn’t seem worth it for two and a half weeks. I know I’m not as beastly when I’m just on stims, for some reason; they just mostly make me tired and bloated.
Second, I’m glad to be on antidepressants, because they really do help with mood regulation. Sometimes, when I feel really tired or really bummed out about something, I wonder if they’re even working… but then I remember how many years and countless nights I couldn’t fall asleep because of anxiety about any number of things; I remember the panic attacks that I had after Sam was born, and before, and how they’ve stopped almost completely; I remember how I couldn’t feel anything except that everything was meaningless. I’m pretty sure that, without them, I’d be even worse on any hormone medication than I already am.
And third, if this is the worst I ever am to my kid, I’m a damn good mom.
Hormone injections start Thursday, first monitoring is Monday. Until then…