Wednesday, 27 February 2013

A Work in Progress?

So, last night I dreamt I took a home pregnancy test and it was positive. 

You know how sometimes when you wake up in the morning you're not actually conscious of the stuff you dreamt the night before, and then it comes in little flashes of awareness through the day? So there I was sipping my decaf and munching my oatmeal and this image flashed through my brain. And I just kind of though, huh. Totally angst free.

It would be nice if such dreams were predictors of a pre-determined future, rather than just the expression of my deeply held desires which I spew across the interweb at any given chance. But the fact that I can take this expression as just that, or even as a pleasant little thought that puts a smile on my face? Well, I'll take it. As is.


Last night I realised I had run out of my usual conception/prenatal vitamins (which I've been taking for the better part of a year now - can you tell how well they're working?) at a time when it wasn't possible to pop out and buy more. And, instead of my usual oh-my-god-I-could-be-pregnant-and-I'll-miss-a-day-of-vitamins-and-probably-kill-the-chances-of-viability-for-this-maybe-pregnancy inner monologue freakout, I simply took a generic multi-vitamin that had the required amount of folic acid and happened to be lying in the cupboard, then made a note to pick up my usuals on my visit to the pharmacy tomorrow.

Progress in the Letting Go and Living in the Moment department, or encroaching hopelessness? I want something to feel proud of, and so I'm choosing the former.

I don't know if it's because, despite a dearth of clear answers, I kind of know this cycle is a bust, that we're on hold until my procedure next month and so maybe low expectations are my ally right now. But whatever.

 Latest scores: Neurotic brain - 0, Me - 2

Take that, brain! Source.
Edited to add: I forgot to say how grateful I am for all the positive, supportive feedback I received on yesterday's post. Knowing that there is this great group of warm, gutsy women out there who have my back and will take my crazy probably has a lot to do with keeping my neuroticbrain thoughts at bay. This blogging stuff really works!

Tuesday, 26 February 2013

Now We're Getting Somewhere

If you've been following along in the incipient stage of this blog and reading my rants and raves, you'll already know that I attribute all of my misfortunes to the NHS rather than my own dysfunctional lady parts. Well ok, not really. But truth be told, I haven't often felt very cared for, or my medical or emotional concerns very attended to in my recent dealings with them. But today, I am here somewhat sheepishly but delighted to (semi)retract my statements of discontent.

This morning we had to make a visit to our GP office to sign paperwork for the referral to a specialist (other than the one I'll finally see in a few weeks to discuss my polyp). We also had to schedule updated CD3 and CD 21 bloodwork, so that's happening.

The appointment didn't start so well. I have been peeved with this process, with the accumulation of too many months of inaction and too many disinterested medical practitioners, and so I think my default mode has recently been one of snarkiness in these situations. So when we sat down with the nurse practitioner to complete the intake questions, and her first one was 'Do you have any children?', my response in the negative - 'That's why we're here'. (Duh.) - might have been a little too far on the brittle crackly side of dry. H silently implored me from over the unsuspecting nurse's head to behave myself if we want to move forward with what we want to move forward with. (He has this whole crazy philosophy of not pissing people off if you want something from them...I know, right?).

OK, so we went through all the questions, reviewed my paltry history - 3 pregnancies, 0 live births - we scheduled the bloodwork. The nurse practitioner was a bit brusque in her manner, but I'm ok with that as long as we get something done. And then while she was sitting there appraising the situation, things started to shift, almost imperceptibly. She said she wondered why we were actually being referred for infertility rather than recurrent loss, because although there are clearly subfertility issues that are preventing us from moving forward, most of these seem to relate to the viability of our pregnancies and not, well, complete lack of conception. Good god, someone who not only actually took the time to read and think through our entire medical history, but who saw fit to analyse it and prescribe accordingly!*  Bells started going off in my brain. We told her that those were in fact our sentiments exactly, but that in our previous location no specialist support had been offered for RPL, and thus we'd been referred for fertility.

(A little background is probably in order here. On our last and only visit with a fertility specialist last autumn, we were told that our problem was not really one of fertility; that in fact we both looked fine in that department and clearly could conceive, and that our real issue was sustaining a healthy embryo/pregnancy. Then this advice was given: the doctor told us that we should keep trying naturally for 6-8 months and if we conceive in that time we should call right away so that we could be provided extra monitoring and support and that they might be able to get to the bottom of why I keep losing babies. Oh no wait that's my best-case-scenario brain talking! What they actually said was if, after a conception, I end up miscarrying again (reassurance and optimism incarnate, they were), we should 'save the tissue in a pot in the freezer so you can bring it in for testing at your next appointment'. Eight months later. Yep. Also, they said that after those 6-8 months - and remember they had just said conceiving isn't the issue for us - we should consider moving straight on to IVF. Whaa? Huh? Anyway, the overall impression was one of a conveyor belt, one-size-fits-all treatment regime. Not reassuring. And clearly not very compassionate.)  

In contrast, the nurse today said that she wanted to make sure we got the appropriate care, and not send us on a wild goose chase. She said to leave it with her and she'd make the right enquiries about where to start. This is, in a word, huge. At that point, as we were getting up to leave, I could already have hugged her. But as we were tripping over ourselves thanking her - you become so grateful of the simplest human gestures in these moments - she said, almost as an afterthought: 'I've been through IVF myself, so I know how important these things are'. She understands! I love this nurse, brusque manner and all. For this one appointment, the first time anyone has paid us and our concerns and our medical issues enough attention to really get things done, I love her. I would book all my future appointments according to her work schedule if I could.

So now we're awaiting a referral that might actually bring us towards some of the answers we need, and more important, a game plan for the future. I don't kid myself; this is still the NHS and that means a big waiting game for now, but to at least be heading in the right direction feels like a watershed. I'll nag about what's happening with the referral when I go for my CD21 bloodwork on Thursday and then, hope that we're on the road. After all this waiting! After so many months of feeling like we're stuck in a pinball machine, being randomly zinged from pillar to post! This could mean more coordinated care with, for example, the specialist I'll see for my polyp removal/investigation, as they're all located in the same women's hospital and often work together. If we do ultimately need to go down the IVF route - realistically, we may still be looking at this later in the year, considering how ancient we are - again, all the care would be coordinated. And the best thing is, with this arrangement, if we were lucky enough to get pregnant on our own, according to my new favourite person, there would be early and extra monitoring available. (First trimester care generally suuucks here, in my experience). Seriously, this is crucial for my emotional health, if not my physical.

After so long kinda spinning our wheels, I'm a little bit hopeful and so heartened by such a simple exchange. This feels like progress. This feels like a beginning...of something.

Fingers crossed. Source.

* Is it just me, or is it often the less acknowledged, more poorly paid professional who steps up on these occassions?

Friday, 22 February 2013

Pomegranates and Tandoor Naan

Because there's nothing like a cervical exam, or report thereof, to work up an appetite. And because, to paraphrase the charming Sarah at Fallopian Groove, it's my blog and I'll cook if I want to. Beside, Blogger Stats have spoken and (gasp!) it seems you are all more interested in my fish tacos than my cervix anyway can never go wrong with a recipe. Even on a blog about the awfulness that is infertility and miscarriage. I'm nothing if not well-rounded.

So, last night I attended a work function where people brought an over-abundance of food, and I ended up leaving with an armload of freshly baked but untouched Lebanese bread like these ones:

Amazing when fresh from the oven like these were

If you're lucky enough to have an awesome Middle Eastern grocery of delights nearby as we do, then you may even be able to find something similar. Pita bread or ready-made Indian naan bread to serve with this salad would also work nicely though. I'm hesitant to even call this a recipe, because really you just chuck everything into a bowl and stir. But if it inspires a little weekend creativity, then so much the better.

Pomegranates are at the very last of their growing season now, and I plan to make the most of what's left. I'm addicted to pomegranates. I guess most people in the west think of them as a beautiful if slightly odd super fruit, but when I lived in the Middle East I was introduced to them in a whole plethora of previously unexpected places; rice pilau, chicken stew, salsa for BBQ'd meat, sauce for stuffed vine leaves. The mouthwatering list goes on... One of my loveliest memories is of warm nights in the bazaar - that uniquely  smokey quality to the air from all the open grills, the brightly lit stalls - when, after long days hiding from the blazing sun people would spill out onto the streets. Especially during Ramadan, these late evenings always had a festive air about them, and the refreshment of choice was often freshly squeezed pomegranate juice (which is consumed there with a healthy sprinkling of salt to counter the sweet/sour). So these weighty, voluptuous, fairytale fruits hold equally weighty and wonderful connotations for me.

I had a pomegranate lying around last night, so dinner became the tandoor-baked bread, some hummous, and this pomegranate salad.

Pomegranate Salad
  • Seeds of one large pomegranate
  • 1 green bell pepper, finely chopped
  • 1 red bell pepper, finely chopped
  • Large handful of parsley, chopped
  • Large handful of mint, chopped
  • 1/4 cup toasted walnuts, chopped
  • Three green onions, thinly sliced (finely chopped red onion would work equally well)
  • 1 chilli, finely chopped (seeds removed if you don't like too spicy)
  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 tbsp pomegranate molasses
  • Juice of half a lemon
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Sumac or dried lime powder also make wonderful seasonings in this dish, if you can get your hands on them
Like I said, just toss it all into a bowl and stir. We had ours with the bread and hummous, but this goes equally well as a salsa with roast or grilled meats, and is awesome with dry fried halloumi or feta.

Now I'm off to drink my vile-tasting-but-hopefully-helpful Chinese medicinal tea. Well, I guess you have to have some bitter along with the sweet, don't you? Have a lovely weekend people!

The finished product

Thursday, 21 February 2013

Welcome, ICLWers!

Thanks for stopping by! I am new to blogging, if not the land of infertility and loss, and this is my first ICLW. I'm hoping to reach out to fellow travellers on this journey and maybe make some new blogging friends, so do pull up a seat, the kettle's on.

Although I know it's kinda orthodoxy in these parts, you won't find a ttc timeline here, mostly because - as with every other aspect of my life - our journey towards a family has been anything but linear and anyway, I already spend too much time in real life being hyper-vigilant about my often disobedient body.

We lost our beautiful son, a first and easily achieved pregnancy, in 2010 at 17 weeks gestation, and have since experienced the frustration and sadness of subfertility and recurrent loss. We've also been rather itinerant during that time (from Europe to North America and back, with shorter stops in the Middle East and Asia), which has its ups and downs but has ultimately brought us many amazing adventures. We hope for 2013 to bring us some clearer sense of direction, while I use this space to record my thoughts on this process and keep them in order.

This is also a space where I honour my grief, celebrate my  love for my son, confide my fledgling hopes to the ether, and occasionally rant about the world's injustices. Oh yeah, there's cooking too.

You're stopping by as we approach an intersection; we're eager to know what the future holds both in terms of the possibility of assisted reproduction, and for life in general. At the moment, some ultimately minor but currently frustrating medical stuff has us spinning our wheels without getting many answers, but we've decided to go maverick anyway and throw our sperm hats in the ring this month. In fact, I'm probably ovulating as we speak, so...Er...if you'll excuse me, you can talk amongst yourselves.


Wednesday, 20 February 2013

Well, I'm glad I asked then!

In all the recent excitement about presents and awards and wondrous surprises, both random and rather more expected, I have completely overlooked the report on my last doctor's appointment. (Because the internet provides me nothing if not the folly that other peoples' thoughts besides my own spin around the state of my cervix). But well, really, that's also because there's not much to tell. Nonetheless, read and rage with me a moment, won't you?

So I made it to my GP's office (because in this land of NHS referrals you don't get the opportunity to speak directly to a specialist and just ask the straightforward question pertaining to the procedure you're due to have in a mere five - ok, three now - weeks) to discuss the relationship of the surprise discovery during my recent cervical exam to this current cycle.

We're at a new(ish) practice, and you get seen by whoever's on that day, and our conversation with that day's whoever (because honestly, I had trouble believing that her medical qualifications were earned anyplace but the DeVry Institute of Technology*) can be summarized as follows:

Any number of questions I had...

Could this polyp, and not, as I had been told, my miscarriage last August, account for my wonky cycles the last several months?

Do they often materialize that quickly? (Remembering my HSG and uncountable pelvic exams in the last six months)

Will this jeapordize our ttc attempts for the coming cycle?

If we were to become pregnant, could it put the pregnancy at risk?

...were met with a stock answer:

'Again, I really don't know. That's something you'll have to ask the specialist'. In a mere five three weeks. After this cycle has come and gone. Seriously, I've never heard such a continous string of 'I don't knows'.

So yeah, that happened. Thanks for comin' out folks.

The good news is that the results from the original smear test came back normal, meaning there is almost certainly nothing of concern with regards the polyp itself. That was really scary, so...Phew. I'm still hoping ('cause hope springs eternal) to get some insight into how this may be implicated in (and potentially even resolve) our struggles to conceive over the last months. But - as I've been reminded again and again by my caregivers (let's use the term loosely) - that will have to wait.

So I'm hoping, in the coming days and weeks** for more little surprises, or at least shiny things, to keep me busy.

Feel like I'm hitting one. Source.

* If you actually earned any of your degrees there, and are reading this...Well, sorry.

**Because there's also that other, more familiar kind of waiting just around the corner.

Tuesday, 19 February 2013

A special gift

Today I received a wonderful gift in the mail. The beautiful, generous heart that is Angie at still life with circles has painted a mizuko jizo as part of a meditation she is doing in remembrance of lost babies, and I am touched and honoured that she included S.

Angie writes:

Jizos are bodhisattvas primarily associated with the dead, and particularly are protectors of women and children. A bodhisattva is a person who attains enlightenment (released from the fetters of the cycle of birth and rebirth), but chooses to be born again to help others achieve enlightenment. Mizuko is technically translated as "water child", because certain Japanese Buddhists believe that "existence flows into being slowly, like liquid". Mizuko is the name used for miscarried, aborted, and stillborn babies. Mizuko jizos are unique to Japanese Buddhism.

I developed a fascination with the mizuko jizo after losing S. (You can read a thoughtful and touching article on the topic here, written by Peggy Orenstein after she had suffered her second miscarriage while working in Japan). I now have a little collection scattered throughout our home; in flower pots, on the kitchen window sill, by the door to greet me when I return from work. They are little talismans that bring me peace and connect me to the watery, floating, ethereal in-between world I imagine S occupying when I think of this tradition.

I now have one more to add. Such a treasured gift, for me and for my little water baby. Thank you Angie. Your compassion and talent have brought gifts to many through so much grief.

A mizuko jizo for S

Saturday, 16 February 2013

As evidence that my life does not centre exclusively on my reproductive organs: Liebster

Two of my lovely new blogging friends, Amanda at Poppies and Ice Cream and Daryl at Something Out of Nothing recently nominated me for a Liebster blog award. Thank you ladies, you're too sweet! The idea is to circulate and increase the readership of smaller blogs; so I answer the questions put to me by Daryl and Amanda, and then come up with questions of my own to forward to bloggers of my choosing. So, since it's the weekend and I'm a bit too pleasantly brain dead to offer up anything either witty or deep, I hope some random, mundane little facts about yours truly will entertain for the evening.

This reminds me a bit of that game we used to play at summer camp, where you had to go around a circle and tell two things about yourself that were true, and one that was a lie, at which point everyone else had to guess which was which. I promise that what you get here is the (partial) truth and nothing but the truth. However, since I'm a newbie at this, I may blatantly disregard the rules ad hoc this process a little. I'm cherry picking on the questions. Here goes...
Amanda's Questions

Which is your favorite book? (As an aside, I have such a hard time with all these ‘favorite’ questions, because it’s just too damned hard to choose, so I’m going to be cheating on all these…) It’s impossible for me to choose just one, and I go through phases, like in high school I was a bit preoccupied with the works of Simone de Beauvoir.  After my first loss, the novel The Red Tent meant a great deal to me. Some of my favourite authors these days are Haruki Murakami, David Mitchell, A.A. Milne, Michele Foucault, Arundhati Roy, C.S. Lewis and Jeffrey Eugenides.

What is your favorite place in the World? I have a special place in my heart for the Austrian Alps, as that’s where my love story with H blossomed and where we’ve spent many an idyllic hiking holiday since. The Raja Ampat Islands are one of the most breathtaking places I’ve ever seen. And I'd go back to India again and again.

Do you have a job / are you happy with it? I have a job now that's kind of freelance and temporary. It's not what I was trained to do, but truth be told, my work stopped meaning quite so much to me since having and losing my son. I love the volunteer work that I currently do, which is with homeless people and refugees/asylum seekers.

Can you maybe share a recipe? I already have, here. Also, we tried this last week (I am mildly obsessed with Yotam Ottolenghi) and it was amazing. Sounds a bit odd at first, but just go try it people. You’re welcome.

And your favorite cartoon as a child?, It’s not a cartoon, but I’ve already mentioned my deep affection for Fraggle Rock. Also, for those Canadians reading, I was an ardent Mr. Dressup fan as a preschooler and beyond. For non-Canadians, this was a Canadian Broadcasting Corp show hosted by a guy who (surprise) wore lots of costumes and dealt in boosting self esteem and arts and craftiness. Pure, heartwarming gold. As far as cartoons, it would have to be Barbapapas. In an effort to dote on my inner child and cling to the last vestiges of my youth, I still have quite a bit of memorabilia from that show, in the form of toothbrush holders, handbags, socks...

What about your favorite movie? I love the films of Wes Anderson, Wong Kar-wai and Michele Gondry. And nearly anything starring Seth Rogan or Will Ferrell.

What is your most vivid childhood memory? My earliest memory is of a little fuzzy blue rabbit given to me as a gift by some relatives visiting from Scotland, which I remember holding onto proudly and tightly while being wheeled around in my stroller. I think I was about 18 months. I have no idea what ever happened to that little guy.

Daryl's Questions 

Where do you fall in your family’s birth order (first, middle, youngest, only child), and do you fit the “profile” for that position? I am the second of five and the first daughter. In some ways, I’m as stereotypically responsible and domesticated as you’d expect from that family role, but in other ways my adult life has been an opportunity to change direction from that. I’m seen as the crazy adventurous one in my branch of the family tree.
If someone were to make a movie about your life, who would be cast in the starring role? I’d love for it to be Isabella Rossellini, (because I think she’s quirky and intellectual and glamorous in exactly the kinds of ways I aspire to be), but if I weren’t responsible for casting it’d probably be Tina Fey.
Who has more fun: blondes, redheads, or brunettes? See answer to question 2.

Tell me about your first crush. You can read about my newest crush (kinda), here. But as far as firsts go, during a family holiday to Montreal to visit family friends, I married my best friend Christopher in a beautiful ceremony in his treehouse. We were five, and a stuffed monkey officiated.

What’s the first thing people notice about you? I’ve been told it’s that I’m instantly outgoing and very smiley, but that might be polite code for loud and overbearing. I tend to think my most striking physical feature is what people have affectionately called my 'Jewish nose' (yeah, someone I didn't know too well actually said that to me), of which I have to say am particularly proud.

If you could live 1000 years, would you? Nope. I already feel enough like a grumpy old lady some days, pining for how things were ‘back in the day’. I’m lucky to have a gene pool which seems to favour long life though, so I’m hoping to get a good 90 odd out of my normal-length life!

What’s the strangest thing you’ve ever eaten? Just before starting university, I spent a summer working on a development project in the Solomon Islands, where local families would often cook us mealworm grubs. Not as bad as it sounds, and a great source of protein!
If you could change one thing about your partner, what would it be? I don’t want to make you all gag but there is honestly not a thing. We’ve been through such profound changes together, that we’ve grown into perfectly matched puzzle pieces, quirks and all. We love each others' imperfections.


And my questions are (no, I don't have 11. I told you I wasn't a rule follower)…

1. Did you have an imaginary friend growing up?

2. If you had to pick: Museum/Gallery, or Great Outdoors?

3. City or countryside?
4. Is there a particular artist whose work really speaks to you? 

5. What place have you travelled that you wanted to return to again and again?

6. If you could invite anyone, living or dead, who would be on the guest list for your dream dinner party?

7. What made you decide to start blogging?

8. Hallowe'en/fancy dress costume of choice? 
9. And I'm totally stealing Amanda's idea, because I want more recipes for my collection. So pretty please, share one if you can?

I'm nominating (feel free to follow along or ignore as the mood takes you)::
Gradual Changes at Just Another Infertility Blog
Tag! You're it ladies. 

Wednesday, 13 February 2013

Romantic Sabotage

No, I'm not talking about the infertility-inflicted kind, that robs us of opportunities for spontaneous romance and the sheer pleasures of couplehood; what with all its timed intercourse, gotta-think-ahead, mandated procedures and hormones, vaginal wand wielding, and of course the ubiquitous cultural tyranny of its two-is-not-enough thinking. I'm not talking about that kind of romantic sabotage. That we all know too well.

I'm talking about my husband, the devious saboteur hopeless romantic.

He's known since the first days of our fledgling romance that I'm not really a heart-shaped-box-of-chocolates kind of girl, but he can't resist the opportunity for a surprise celebration. (Who can blame him, really? I do adore his penchant for prosecco in the afternoon, just because). The first Valentine's Day we spent together he tricked me into agreeing that we'd do absolutely nothing to mark the day. I happily took this to heart (excuse the unfortunate pun), and did nothing. He took it as an opportunity to sneak out and buy chocolate (not just any chocolate, this stuff. Oh my god, their salted caramel chocolates...) and place it on my pillow in the morning. Chocolate for breakfast! It's below the belt. And despite my best attempts, (ok then, I didn't try that hard), he's been engaging in variations of the above ever since.

It's not that I don't love a little romance; I enjoy being brought flowers as much as the next girl. I just don't like romance by directive.

I do however have a weakness for chocolate, so this year, if he insists, who am I to protest? He wins. Wanton disregard for cervical position and cycle day Jungle time (*blush*) will almost certainly follow.

Plus, after my wobble yesterday, I'm trying to look on the bright side of just us two, with no little person to share stuff like this with. Because if I have to cry tears, let their salty taste be matched -bettered - by decadent salted caramel chocolates. Let me bask in the warmth - as gooey and cloying as it may sound - of my love for the man who made me want to make babies in the first place.

Blog friends, will you mark Valentine's Day with your other half? Ignore it? How have your experiences of infertility or loss altered the romance in your relationships?

Tuesday, 12 February 2013

It's these moments

Does anyone else remember and love Fraggle Rock? It stands out for me as amongst the warm-fuzziest of memories from the brightly-coloured, warmly-lit kaleidoscope that was childhood as the kid of happy hippy parents who were themselves products of the idealistic 60s. I have a certain reverence for all things Muppet, and Fraggle Rock ranks high, with its ethos of 'friendship, being true to yourself, and learning to love those who are incredibly different'. Ah, a more innocent time, for the world and I both.

Anyway, today when leaving work I happened to glance at a low brick wall near the bus shelter and this caught my eye:

It's stuff like this that makes my day.

Holy mother, it was this amazing, skillfully rendered, Banksy-esque graffitied portrait of a Doozer! Is this not one of the coolest things on which you've ever laid eyes? (If you're not an avid Muppets fan - and let's face it, there may be few who possess the ardour I do - then don't answer). Pretty much right away, I wanted to find the person who did this and give them a great big hug. Honestly, for me it's random and quirky encounters like this that make my heart sing and the world seem brighter. It was a very unexpected, happy little moment that gave me the urge to run home and watch my whole Fraggle Rock backlog in one sitting.

And then it hit me, out of the blue, sidelong, like it always does.....It is these moments, the fun, magical little stuff that, seen through a child's eyes, is all the more so.....And oh, it's these moments that I want more than anything to share with a living child. My child.

Because man, would our kid be awesome and happy and cute. And man, would we be fun and cool and fabulous parents. We'd throw on the Fraggle tunes and shake be-diapered booty. Sigh.

Monday, 11 February 2013

Snakes and Ladders

First off, Happy Year of the Snake! Yesterday was Chinese New Year and so, a second chance for a new start if, like me, you're into that sort of thing. At the moment, we're all about fresh starts, whether that just means putting one foot in front of the other, or more momentous intentions...


And where are we at the moment? Well, if the two week wait is a kind of torturous dormancy, in which we bestow on ourselves lots of tlc as we patiently, hopefully await the much coveted blossoming of new life, I always see the time from the beginning of my cycle to ovulation as a time of active building up. It's a boot camp for my lady parts, minus the cursing and insults. (No, scratch that. There is definitely cursing and insults). This time around, I am armed with my usual red raspberry leaf tea, evening primrose oil and array of vitamin supplements. Also, my Chinese medicine doctor (the new one, not the horrible acupuncturist), has prescribed a herbal concoction to augment my acupuncture, moxibustion and other treatments. The herbs, which you brew like tea, actually look rather pretty, like a sort of woodsy pot pourri. See?

Once brewed though - which is actually quite a lengthy process - they smell and taste pretty foul, I have to admit (though I'm growing accustomed). I don't even know what's in the stuff; looks like goji berries and tree ears and something similar to galangal root. I'm told this should decrease the damp and heat in my system (which is why my qi is out of balance), and unleash my reproductive potential. Or something like that. I have infinitely more confidence in this doctor than I do in many a medical professional.

The point is that, once again, I'm paying my mind and body attention and trying to keep it healthy in the build up to the Big O.

And we're building up in other ways too, or at least trying to lay some foundations for building work to come. You see, January through March marks the 'high season' of job application rounds for academic posts, as university departments undertake a long process of filling teaching and research positions for autumn. Unlike in other professions, it can take a span of four to five months from when you apply to when you learn if you've got a job or not. H and I both come from academic backgrounds, though I am something of a lapsed academic really. (How my own career path, its jolts and starts and barriers, relate to this tangled mess of infertility warrants a whole other post).

For the past three years, our lives and locations have been determined in large part by the job offers that have come our way. Eighteen months there, ten months here, another twelve months someplace else. The response I invariably get to this is 'Oooh, how exciting!'. I realize it does sound very exciting, and I won't lie - there are moments when I feel so blessed to have had the adventures that have come with this lifestyle. From soaking up the sun and the scent of lemon trees in Portugal, to the cosmopolitan chaos that is Istanbul, to the refined pleasures of London's amazing art galleries and parks, to the profound intellectual stretching of teaching university students in China. We really have seen and done a lot. Also, we've both been lucky to have work, and we know it; the situation for academic employment is universally crappy these days.

But this has also had a huge impact on our efforts at family building, and I think in no small way shaped my grief experience. I mentioned that we have big hopes for 2013, and not just in the baby making department. If we want to sprout some shoots to fill a nursery, then we really do need to put down some roots too. After many years of globe trekking, both alone and then together, it's really what we want.

The problem is getting from here (an exciting international life oriented around work) to there (the happy, 'boring', settled life we both need). H's contract here finishes at the end of the summer. Mine isn't enough to keep us here, and anyway, we hope to relocate someplace more familiar. But there are so many variables to consider in this whole messed up process: job markets, and language skills, immigration rules and provision for fertility treatments...Canada? Austria? Another third country? And that's not even considering the fact that H has his PhD to finish, which will greatly increase his employability, but for which he usually has little time because he needs to a) work or b) seek work. I already hold the qualifications I need to work, but then I'm the one who has to make the greater time commitment, as it were, when it comes to making a baby; which we'd love to hope would be soon. It would be less than ideal if H found himself out of work at precisely the time I was due an extended (unpaid in some countries), maternity leave. Not that I don't realize I'm getting way ahead of myself with that one...

All this is like looking into a crystal ball. Suffice it to say, it's a headache being inside my brain these days.

There's the needing-money-to-live part, yes. But it's more than that. It's emotional (we want to nest, dammit!) and it's logistical. We may never decide to avail ourselves of ART, I don't know yet. We have yet to have it recommended by any doctors we've seen, because technically we're in a grey area; we are able to conceive. (My body just doesn't seem to know what to do with those conceptions once they occur). But the point is, we'd like the option when or if it comes to that (and let's face it folks, staring down 38 in a mere month, the time is now if it's ever). But to even consider that we need more stability.


H stated an intention last month that although the number 13 is widely held as unlucky, it'll be oh so lucky for us. Apparently, the Year of the Snake is less than auspicious in the Chinese zodiac; certainly nothing like as favoured as the Dragon we've just ushered out. H says we'll buck all the trends. We've always sort of swum against the flow, it's true.

So while we're busy with job applications and baby making efforts and staying healthy and planning ahead, I just have to hope that this structure we're trying to build from the ground up starts to take some shape, to give us some indication of how things will look as we progress through the rest of the year.

Because although I don't even know where that will be yet, I'm feeling the tug towards home.

Friday, 8 February 2013

Smitten, or Speaking our Truths

After a day so busy that the disappointment of another month down didn't have much time to seep into my consciousness besides the intial tears, I'm back to myself and looking forward once again. (There's always that little come-down, the shock, even though you were expecting it, to the system, isn't there?). This weekend, I'll be doing just as you ladies have suggested, with a little gentle self-care, some of this (my current addiction), a visit with these old friends, and yes, there will be red wine.


But let's speak about other frivolities for a moment. I think I have a new celebrity crush. Strictly speaking, I'm not one to get all hot under the collar over far off, celluloid imagery on-screen. I have eyes only for my tall and photogenic husband, a man who so thoroughly defies the 'type' of all my previous romantic entanglements that this is sure proof of just how destined we were for each other. No, I'm the sort of girl who's often been known to make the first move; I deal more in reality than dwelling on fantasy. I don't do crushes.

Nonetheless, I have recently developed an affection for Hugh Jackman that might be described as such. It's not his piercing gaze or his well defined torso that have attracted my attention though. I'm not even sure how many of his movies I've seen. Sure, (apropos my nerdery) I thought the X Men movies were fun, and from what I recall he made an ok Wolverine.

But in a toss up over what to watch when we went to the movies last weekend, I persuaded H of the merits of Les Mis over Lincoln. And I'll be cheering him for an Oscar next month. Frivolous, right?

Really, Jackman gained my admiration when I caught, quite by accident, an interview he did for the promotion of the movie, in which he talks about he and his wife's experiences with infertility, IVF and recurrent miscarriage. (They apparently eventually adopted). He rightly points out the silence that surrounds the topic of miscarriage and how important speaking out is to the grieving process. I continue to think it's all too rare for high profile figures - and society at large - to openly discuss infertility and pregnancy loss, and rarer still for men to do so. It's often wrongly seen as a 'women's thing', and therefore the very real grief that fathers experience can be brushed under the rug as they try to be 'the strong ones' in the equation.

I know many people criticize public figures for 'using' their personal battles as publicity stunts. (See last year's US presidential elections, in which comments directed towards both the Romneys and the Santorums in relation to sharing their own experiences of babyloss were often vitriolic, and I think revealed as much about the discomfort and low tolerance society at large has for discussions of this nature as it did either candidate's profile). So although I'm not one for celluloid fantasy, and I'm certainly no supporter of the Republican party, I am for any opportunity to normalise the experience of those in the ALI community, and to raise the level of discourse around what shouldn't be a taboo topic.

Oh yeah, and I can tell you that the movie really wasn't bad either. Mr. Jackman looks very dashing in those frock coats.

Colour me smitten. Source.

Thursday, 7 February 2013

And yet again

Yesterday's stark single line, at thirteen days past ovulation, was enough to seal the deal for another month. I poked and prodded around my abdomen, to instigate the cramps I wasn't feeling yet, to dissuade my recklessly and stupidly hopeful heart that no, it wasn't a false negative. She hadn't got the memo at all, and it seems my physiology was late to the monthly meeting that my rational brain had called.

Sometimes it seems like my heart and my head and my body are not working in concert, aren't even speaking to one another. (Maybe there's as much tension in there as there is out here?) Sometimes that makes me more angry than anything.

I shed quiet tears as H was extra nice all afternoon, making me teas and propping pillows oh-so-delicately.

I have a big day of work lined up today, to keep me running. It's a small mercy.

I just want to start bleeding already.

Tonight it'll be a large glass of red wine, detox be damned. I fear that soon it'll call for something stronger, monthly method and post-waiting come-down both.

Even my heart isn't that naive anymore. Source.

Tuesday, 5 February 2013

Are you listening NHS? No, I thought not.

I should probably preface this post with the statement that I am, as a proud and grateful Canadian, 200% in favour of totally free, totally accessible universal healthcare. And, with roots as deep in this country as in my country of birth, and having spent many formative and happy years of my adult life here, I can also say that I'm something of an anglophile. Actually, it's for that reason that I feel the need to post an angry missive. (I did warn about my rants on perceived social injustice).

I'm so angry for all of us - in this community in particular - that in a country like the UK, with £1000,000s worth of technology at our disposal and a huge knowledge based economy full of specialists and highly trained individuals, that poor attitudes continue and bad practices can so negatively effect the quality of care. I'm speaking particularly of obstetrical, gynecological and prenatal care here.

When I read reports like that in last weekend's Sunday Times - indicating that many NHS staff don't trust their own facilities - and which, more importantly, told the story of a woman who was informed by hospital staff of the high likelihood that her baby had died in utero, but then that she'd have to come back on the following Monday to confirm it because the ultrasound department only operates weekdays, (I'm not making this up)....Well, what can I say? It makes my heart break, my blood boil and yet it's all too familiar.

When I first realized something was up while carrying S, I called the Early Pregnancy Unit (which is meant to exist precisely for such moments) at my then local hospital, to be told that, at under 18 weeks, 'there would be little we could do, so try and enjoy your evening (!!!) and if the problem persists call us back tomorrow'. Again, not making this up; a prenatal care nurse actually said that to me. It was my first pregnancy, so I didn't quite realize at the time how appalling that truly was (though I've kicked myself so many times since for the fact that I didn't. Oh, the guilt). As true as it might be (though in some cases not), that a pregnancy at just under 18 weeks is far from save-able, do they not understand the notion of person-centred care? Do they not appreciate that we are not merely carriers of life they sometimes hardly seem bothered to acknowledge, but also whole people with concerns and fears and hopes of our own, and that we deserve care and empathy for all of that too?

The hospital in question in the article, in a neighbourhood of south London very near to where I once lived, offered a formal apology after the case was included and published in the wider research report.

And the NHS wonders why the UK has one of the highest stillbirth rates in all of Europe? Pretty scary. Of course the sad truth is that many losses (including, probably, my own), are not preventable, even with the interventions of modern medicine. Some causes (particularly the 'unexplained' variety) of infertility are not easily treatable. But that doesn't mean that when we place ourselves, our hopes and dreams and fears in the hands of those we trust to care for us, that they cannot display a minimum of compassion, even when their hands are tied so far as intervening goes. Sadness and disappointment in such cases are inevitable, but they can be minimized if treated with kindness. Successful medical treatments almost invariably contain an element of psychological and pastoral care as well as biomedical. I'm not just speaking from the experience of a patient; in my profession I know this also to be true.

It makes me so angry on behalf of all those lovely, loving, resilient and brave women and men I know here in the UK, struggling to conceive and then often struggling through scary, difficult pregnancies to bring home healthy babies they desperately want to care for. They deserve so much better. This country deserves so much better.


In tangentially related news, I received my appointment letter from the GYN clinic with a date of 14 March for my necessary colposcopy. Yeah, they were quite literal about the 'emergency' six week wait, almost to the day. I'll speak to my GP tomorrow about how that might affect our attempts for trying this coming cycle.

The letter itself arrived a mere three days after my initial exam. So I guess they're pretty efficient with correspondence, if not treatment.

Shaking my angry fist. Source.

Monday, 4 February 2013

Spicy blackened fish tacos

No, I wasn't just teasing when I said I'd post that recipe.
Diet has been a big part of my renewed baby making efforts. In addition to the fact that with cooking I'm doing something I love and find relaxing, it makes me feel like my body is getting the goddess temple treatment it deserves, and as though I'm actually taking some steps, however minuscule, to control this whole process. At the very least, I'm getting the healthiest I possibly can! For me healing has always been about mind, body and spirit, and food is an important part of that.
Yesterday's warm temperatures, sunny skies, and sea salty air put me in the mood for these fish tacos for dinner. I've always loved seafood, but while we were living in Portugal last year we really had the chance to incorporate beautiful and fresh fish into much of our diet, and it's a habit I've tried to continue in these less southerly climes. We're fortunate to have a great fish monger nearby, who stocks freshly caught, locally sourced and sustainably fished seafood.
This recipe, in addition to being pretty addictive, contains a whole bunch of fertility and general health boosting foods, like avocado, oily fish (if you use the salmon), full fat dairy and tons of veg. No, it's not like we haven't already tried pretty much everything to help us get pregnant, so that a few helpings of salmon and avocado will make any difference. But it certainly can't hurt, and believe me, it sure as hell is more pleasant than progesterone shots! 
So as promised, one of my all time favorites.... Enjoy.


Spicy Blackened Fish Tacos (adapted from

  • 2 portions of salmon (firm white fish also works)
  • 1 tbsp cajun seasoning (or a combination of smoked paprika, fennel seed, onion powder, cumin, and cayenne pepper) 
  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/4 cup flour
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 large whole wheat flour tortillas
  • avocado, cilantro, green onions, and radishes for topping
  • lemon or lime wedges, optional
  • Charred Corn Salsa (recipe below)
  • Cilantro Aioli (recipe below)
1. Heat oil in heavy-bottomed skillet (cast iron works best) over medium high heat until smoking.
2. Meanwhile, mix cajun seasoning, garlic powder, salt and pepper with the flour in a shallow bowl. Dredge salmon in flour mixture and transfer to hot skillet. Cook until very brown, then flip. Continue cooking till flesh is just opaque. Set aside.
3. Wipe oil from skillet, and throw in tortillas to warm. Arrange the fish, flaked into chunks, Charred Corn Salsa, and desired toppings on one half of a warmed tortilla and drizzle with aioli. Fold in half to serve.

Charred Corn Salsa

  • 1 cup corn kernels
  • 2 roma tomatoes, diced
  • 1/4 cup red onion, diced
  • 1 jalapeno pepper, minced
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • salt, to taste
  • 1. Preheat broiler and put oven rack in highest position. Toss corn, tomatoes, onion and jalapeno with olive oil. Salt to taste.
    2. Transfer corn mixture to a shallow baking pan. Broil until tomatoes are soft and corn is charred, 5-8 minutes.











Cilantro Aioli

  • 1/4 cup mayonnaise
  • 2 tbsp plain yogurt
  • 1 tbsp lime juice (I've also used orange juice with nice results)
  • 2 tbsp cilantro, minced
1. Stir together all ingredients in a small bowl. Adjust lemon juice and add salt to taste.

The end result. Totally yum!

TTSH while TTC

Trying to stay hopeful. Is there a short form for this in the acronym-ridden world of infertility? Because there should be; it's a constant struggle. TTSH. I usually start off well enough, with self assurances that we've given it our all, fledgling hopes that our number could, just maybe, get called this time. And then as the time crawls on I waver and I doubt and (try to) prepare myself for the disappointment I'm sure is to come, until my flip-flopping all over the place is enough to convince me that these mood swings are a decisive harbinger of Day One's imminent arrival.

The last few days have been a mixed bag. Friday I managed to spend a lovely evening with H and all but banish any two week wait thinking from my mind. Saturday was a disaster from start to finish though, not helped by random circumstances of proportions so annoying I really reached she-devil state.

I got up early and peed on a stick, which of course was crazy because I couldn't have been more than 10 days past ovulation. I think (well, I know) I do this as a means to just get the inevitable heart fall out of the way as quickly as possible, which is incredibly stupid given the fact that a negative so early just leaves room for thoughts along the lines of exactly that; it's too early to confirm. Anyway, naturally that stark single line put me in a foul mood, and so naturally I picked a fight with poor H. It's ok, he's endlessly understanding and we patched it up quickly.

I then logged into my online banking account to take care of some bills, only to be greeted with this image in their advertisement for mortgage banking:

It's so ideal! Source.

Seriously, Bank? I just wanna pay my f#&king rent! I get it, this is the image for which we are all supposed to strive; first-time buyers' mortgage, life insurance, laughy, loving, baby-on-the-way, billboard-worthy marriage. Puke. We really are surrounded.

This all culminated in the malfunction, on Saturday evening and through the night, of our building's fire alarm, so that at regular intervals from 9pm onwards the whole building was disturbed by ear-piercing wails which then woke us with great regularity through the wee hours (I still have the ringing ears to prove it, though they are toiling away to rectify the problem as I type). So yeah, I was lovely come yesterday morning.

Luckily, some yoga and a long Sunday hike through the uncharacteristically sunny countryside, through meadows and along a beautiful stretch of windswept beach, followed by time in the kitchen preparing one of my absolute favourite dinners, helped unwind me, such that the crap mood instigated by the negative pee stick is a distant memory and I'm back to my unrealistic levels of hopefulness. Full circle! Trying - in the face of what's clearly a pretty substantial level of mental instability, really - to stay hopeful.

I'm in such a good mood now that I'm probably even going to share the recipe for said dinner.

Some friendly picnic-ers we met while walking