Thursday, 29 August 2013

Keepin' it real?

Here we sit, in the waning days of summer, (and perhaps for the first time in the history of ever, this country has produced a season worthy of that moniker, though not without some considerable and pretty laughable fanfare, I can tell you. Listen people of the British Isles: 33˚C is kind of, uh...normal where I come from.) And here I sit, trying to just be in the moment, and soak up every last ray of sun and enjoyment and not think ahead to the scary, uncertain cooler days to come. I really am trying. We're sitting on the terrace every night until well after the sun sets and we need extra layers, taking languid walks along the coast, and - this being that self-indulgent five days at the beginning of my cycle when nothing feels off limits and my self-imposed alcohol sanctions don't resemble Sharia law - enjoying plenty of these and these.

 Last weekend was the final long weekend of the season, and so we took ourselves off to Notting Hill Carnival along with one million other Londoners. We soaked up all the pleasures the event has to offer: a colourful kaleidoscope of sequins and feathers, the best jerk chicken this side of the Caribbean, ginger beer and steel drums and salsa and that distinctive brand of listless/audacious gyrating amid millions of sweaty bodies that can only be described as 'pleasurable' in the context of carnival.

 And it was a sublime, childless couple-y thing to do. We even managed genuine smiles at all the adorable families out with their adorable offspring.  So there are definite moments.

But then, well...there are other moments.

We're in the process of undergoing numerous humiliating and/or invasive procedures gathering all the necessary body data in anticipation of our upcoming IVF. H has undergone yet another sperm analysis, this time (for the first time) in the confines of the clinic itself, so as to insure 'optimal freshness'. (My dear, slightly OCD husband returned insisting he'd developed a rash as a result of sitting 'on that couch'. I saw nothing.) Bright and early next Monday I'll be in for my first ever antral follicle count. Our appointment to review all this stuff is not until the end of Sept; the clinic offered us the 4th, but that was impossible since it's also the day I start my new job, and anyway it seemed scarily close when we booked. I naively thought a few extra weeks might help us process all this. After that, there is a mandatory information session that we're expected to attend, and by the time we get through all the hoops, realistically we're looking at an IVF cycle by late October/early November. A long way off still, but nonetheless, very real and getting moreso all the time. (Suddenly, I feel like we're hurtling, headlong without helmets, along that long and winding road.)

The other day, as the impending signs of my period's arrival were hitting me particularly hard, I told H: 'I don't want to do this anymore. I just want it to be finished'. And it's true.

I don't feel particularly optimistic about IVF. And I know it's already a bad sign that we're both so exhausted before we even hop on that crazy train, where the best of the invasive, mind-bending, hormone-altering procedures and processes are yet to come. This is not how I would have chosen to approach all this you guys. It's not even that I'm afraid of all that stuff, though I know I have reason to be. But the fact is, even if this were to work, there's nothing to say it wouldn't just end in yet another loss. IVF provides absolutely no assurance, (particularly given my dismal track record), of a healthy, viable pregnancy. And I don't know if I have the reserves to face that right now.

I just want it to be finished.

Confession: I really wanted to be one of those people who, on the eve of getting all down and dirty with an RE's office, syringes and catheters, was just all of a sudden like, 'We conceived spontaneously! No need for IVF after all!' I wanted that to be our narrative arc. 

Those people exist, right? It's not just an urban legend.

I don't think this is a case of denial though. On the contrary, I feel like lately, when I can't help but let my mind wander from the here and now to the what's-to-come, I'm all realist. And sometimes I wonder if we shouldn't just conserve our energy, stop fighting, and accept a life made up of sublime, childless couple-y things. Would that be so bad? Would it be enough?

Tuesday, 27 August 2013


Okay, so I have a crazy thing for anthropomorphizing animals and projecting my own skewed-by-loss maternal yearnings onto their behaviours. (This is just one of the many and obscure ways in which my brain has become its own peculiar version of twisted as a result of loss and trying and infertility and loss. What does animal reproduction and parenting have to do with my own experience? How do I manage to take the most random scenarios and find in them a reminder of what my body can't do, or do only badly? How can I feel I understand anything of their animal experiences of death or grieving or maternity? Crazy talk.)

When I read that Washington Zoo's panda Mei Xiang gave birth this week to a surprise, stillborn twin to her healthy delivery, it hurt my heart a little. And when I read that she groomed her dead baby for 17 minutes before relinquishing it to keepers for an autopsy, not only did I cry; I felt I got it, a little.

Mei Xiang, who was impregnated via insemination, gave birth to another baby last year that lived for six days. This was her second loss.

Giant pandas are an endangered species, so that's a big deal.

Sometimes - back in the world of human reproduction - knowing all the stories I do and all the things that can go wrong, I wonder how healthy pregnancies ever progress, how babies ever get born and grow into children. It's inexplicable to me. They all seem like endangered species.

Parallels. Source

Thursday, 22 August 2013

Yearning, en Français

This past week, with H rushing to meet a deadline, and my days as a lady of leisure numbered (I start my new job in less than two weeks), I decided to make myself scarce and took a quick trip to France to meet up with an old university roommate of mine.

On the short ferry ride over, innocently minding my own business and dreaming of all the soft cheese and red wine me and my barren womb were about to consume with gusto, I had a chance encounter with a member of the opposite sex that set my heart aflutter. (These types of encounters, I must confess, have become all the more frequent since I have become a married woman.)

With his unmistakable French swagger and a stylish scarf tossed with careless élan, my admirer had that certain je ne sais quoi; I couldn't help but have a wandering eye. You wouldn't blame me if you had seen him: he had long, dark lashes that framed his gorgeous, flirtatious eyes, caramel brown skin that looked oh-so-soft, and I could tell just by looking at him that he must have smelled incredible, intoxicating even. And, as has happened before in such encounters, he awakened in me a deep-seat, primal yearning.

We glanced at each other coyly for the better part of half an hour, playing a shy game of 'who-will-look-away-first', flirting casually, slowly edging closer to one another as our shyness and inhibitions waned.

And when his Maman came to lead him off the boat at disembarkation, after our intimate little game of peek-a-boo, tiny, caramel brown Alain, my adorable new friend, sweetly waved a chubby-handed au revoir and was gone. He melted my heart a little, and renewed my will to continue with all...this...

...le sigh... 


Other than this brief, bittersweet delight, the rest of the best of those three days...

Canalside strolling

Macarons. Just...yum.

Cathedral by day

Cathedral by night; funky light show

More canals, more strolling

Questionable cocoa advertising

Crêpes and crême de marrons and salted caramel glacé, oh my!

Kir à la pêche

Just like in a Monet

I always light a candle for S, and for all lost babies

Saturday, 17 August 2013

The long version

I feel a tiny bit like a dickhead since publishing my last post, which I'm aware probably made me sound both ungrateful and capable of finding a complaint about any (potentially wonderful) scenario that life throws at me. Each of your comments gently reminded me though that, despite my own inability to recognize them as such, recent events have been hopeful. Celebration-worthy even. Thank you for feeling excited for me even as I can't seem to muster the energy to do it myself. Thank you for sticking with this dickhead.

As anyone who has been reading for a while will know, I am prone to emotional and physiological oversharing in this space; the ugly as well as the uplifting. Not only did I envision this space from the outset as a record of sorts, one that might help me process and look back on developments as they happened, but I definitely also think that sometimes just the act of getting it out there can limit the corrosive effects of all the negativity rattling around in my brain as a consequence of this crazy train.

So it's in that spirit, as much as for the, erm...entertainment of the interwebs, that I post the following. It was written right in the midst of the chaotic events of the last week of July, when I was juggling all the future possibilities and feeling especially overwhelmed by it all. And then I kind of lost my will and my voice and climbed into that grey track suit and never finished or posted it. Until now.


It's been one hell of a week, and a lot of stuff has happened since I last found time to update. My head's still spinning, so I apologize in advance for the meandering course I'm sure this post will take. But I still feel I need to write it if for no other reason than to make sense of things myself.

It kind of started late last week, while I was still trying to renegotiate the interview time and felt a bit like my prospective employers were leaving me to do all the flexing. (This was not the best way to start a working relationship; it did not exactly endear me to said employers, but a job's a job, right?) There was a lot of to-ing and fro-ing in emails, me calling the fertility clinic to see how late in the day our appointment could be pushed, checking and re-checking to see how feasible a certain train journey would be against a proposed schedule... It was stressful guys, and with H's contract due to expire in September, and no clear plans on what we'd do next, it felt like a lot was riding on this. On me.

I kind of lost it a bit then and there, broke down and cried about how random and unfair it all was, got in one of the first of what turned out to be a whole series of fights with H for 'not being supportive enough', after which we had slightly resentful, let's-just-do-this sex what a turn on! because, well, we were still just maybe in the 48hr window indicated by my positive OPK and didn't want to screw up a chance because of total emotional exhaustion petty squabbling. (And then thought to ourselves, 'I can't wait for IVF to come along and divorce this whole process entirely from baby-making so that maybe one day we'll have sex again because we just want to', and then felt awful for thinking that.)

And then I got my shit together and got on a train and gave an awesome interview on Monday. Within an hour of leaving the office, I got a call with an offer of the job, which I accepted. I called H to share the good news, and then I went for dinner with my mom. All perfectly lovely and anti-climactic and low key (and I managed to live happily for a whole 24hrs blissfully unaware that this had finally occurred). But I think H was disappointed with the detached way in which I greeted the news.

Now I should probably state for the record here, in my defence, that this has been a protective mechanism (one I'm far from happy with) that has only recently become fully manifest; my increasing callousness toward and detachment from a world full of wonderful things and good news stories. Like the thick skin that develops on your hands and feet over time, through exposure after exposure to painful elements, stinging barbs, intense heat, it's come layer by layer, and only now do I realize how much I have to cut away to get back to the tender heart of my being.

For the last three years, we've had more bad luck than good. It's sometimes hard not to feel like when S died, not just our hope, but all possibility for the future left with him. It's been a constant and continuous uphill climb, and I'm exhausted. In that time, we've lost two more pregnancies and had the rug pulled out from under us more times than I care to itemize. On several occasions, when we thought finally we have some good coming our way! it all turned out to be a big, cruel, cosmic joke. Not just the babies dying (though obviously that's the big one, the one that's left the deepest scars). On other occasions our hopes and plans for a stable home, a good job offer, were ultimately yanked away from us, once because of a stupid immigration technicality and once because H's Crohn's disease unexpectedly landed him in hospital for five scary weeks during which we thought he'd need to have his bowel resected (which in itself was pretty daunting). I don't know if this is because we somehow unwittingly manage to make really bad life choices or the gods have chosen us for target practice because of now unknown transgressions in a past life, or if we just have had a string of really. bad. luck.

But in short (though not really, given the length of this post): I don't trust good stuff anymore. I don't trust that I'm anything more than the butt end of that cruel cosmic joke.  Hence my hesitation with embracing the good, even when it comes, try as I might. Oh, I'm quite ok with celebrating the little moments; you could even say I have a talent for that (which I am aware is an important life skill to cultivate, and helps to explain my resilience). But the big stuff? The stuff that's supposed to lift you up and, before you even realize it, change the direction of your lifecourse? Profound yet commonplace stuff like bringing new life into the world? Nu uh. Truthfully, I think I've stopped being able to believe in those big, life altering events. I don't believe in epiphanies. I think maybe it's all just a slow shuffle, and some days you manage to bring it and make everything feel shiny and promising, while some days all you really can do is shuffle your feet. So this was all stuff I was contemplating, darting through my brain as I made my return journey to the excited arms of my dear husband.

And my strange, ambiguous emotional state was not helped by what turned out to be a horrific journey. For the last forty minutes on the train, me and the entire train car I was riding in were witness to a vitriolic and aggressive domestic altercation courtesy of a couple who were hepped up on who knows what kind of (probably illegal) mood altering substances and didn't care who knew it. Horrific verbal abuse and expletives were hurled from both sides. In. A. Crowded. Train. What was much, much worse, they had two sweet, small boys with them; the younger was about three, and clearly found a defense mechanism in zoning it all out and focussing as hard as his little self could muster on a pull toy he was vrooming up and down the carriage, finding far too early in life his own necessary means of reaching oblivion as his parents clearly had with drugs or alcohol. But the older one, about five I'd say, was clearly totally cognizant of exactly what was going on, and tried to play (what seemed to me, as a feeling of nausea crept in with the realization), his probably customary role of peace-maker, interjecting plaintively, again and again: Please Daddy. To which one or the other parent invariably replied: Shut the f*%$ up! No one intervened, not even the train staff, because I think they were afraid of the parents. (After stepping off the train at my designated stop, I managed to alert some transport police who then boarded the train to investigate).

Frankly, it was harrowing. It was enough that it triggered one of those (admittedly selfish) 'Really? These people can have kids??' reactions and reminded me of the random unfairness of it all. But to be forced to witness the neglect, verbal and emotional abuse of small children like that, their humiliation at the hands of their own parents, was heartbreaking. I mean chest-constricting, painful-to-breath, kind of heartbreak. It effected me profoundly.

So when I stepped off the train to be greeted by my dear husband, whose arms, as it turned out, were not ready to receive me because of the gargantuan bouquet of exotic flowers he carried to bestow on me...Well, I wasn't really all there. I was overwhelmed and exhausted. And really, as I'm learning just now, my inability to receive and acknowledge good news is clearly becoming something of a problem I need to work harder at. I stiffened as I saw the joy on his face, and knew I wouldn't be able to convincingly play along. And yes, (naturally!) I then picked a fight with him. I am a terrible person, I know. Tuesday was not one of my prouder moments.

But the exact source of all this became clarified for me as we prepared for yesterday morning's appointment at the clinic. We were both edgy and hadn't, thanks to my in-progress meltdown, had the time to compose the careful list of what ifs? and what's next? with which we are typically armed for discussion during a doctor's visit. We fully expected, in light of clinical encounters both more and less recent, to have to cajole a bit, to plead our case, stand our ground against lethargic and disinterested medical professionals who would keep telling us that, thanks to our three 'successful' conceptions, we 'just needed to give it more time'.Truly, we were ready for a fight.

So when we entered the exam room and, within minutes of reviewing our fruitless attempts over the last several months, the consultant asked straighforwardly, How do you feel about moving forward with IVF?...

Well, we were flabbergasted. We were totally unprepared. We were clumsy and sputtering and far-too-grateful in our responses. But the long and short of it is this: we'll have some more detailed investigations done in prepartion for our final intake appointment, we'll attend a mandatory information session run by the IVF Unit at the hospital, and after that, my next cycle will be It. In sum, the appointment was great. Helpful, hopeful, informative. Everything we could have wished for.

And yet, I can't quite bring myself to feel happy or excited about this right now either. I know, I's what we've been impatiently waiting months to be told. The best I can explain it is with what I said to H as we walked home from the clinic in a daze, disbelieving of the good fortune that might finally be coming our way:

You come up against a door that you realize, when you try to open it and walk through, has been locked and bolted. But you really, really want to get through that door, there's something you need on the other side, that your sanity and future happiness depend on. So you fling yourself feebly against it and you kick and you bang your fists, growing weak and tired and developing quite a few bruises and scratches in the process. And all of a sudden, just when you're tired and on the verge of giving up altogether, without any warning, the door gives without struggle, and instead of walking through cool, calm and collected, you fall flat on your face, right there on the threshold, with the extertion of its refusal that in the end, never came. You're momentarily shocked and bewildered, sitting there on the threshold.

That's how I felt this morning as we walked home. I want to, but I can't seem to bring myself to believe in good news anymore. Not yet. Actually, we were both so dazed that, despite having piles of work waiting for us at home and office as we now have to troubleshoot quite a big move in the coming weeks, we stopped for a cider at one of the sidewalk cafes that were teeming with life in the midst of an uncharacteristically hot, sunny summer. We sipped our drinks and squinted against the bright, warming, soothing sunlight which has become so unaccustomed to our ghostly white, pasty selves. And held hands, and just kind of stared into space.

I'm still having trouble dealing


And there, good readerfolk, it ended. That last sentence hanging in the balance just like my befuddled brain, mid-completion, bereft of an ending.

So, fast-forward three odd weeks and I think I'm beginning to process it all. Inevitably, forward we go. I think at heart, at least for now, I'm still not super optimistic about IVF. Right now, I don't feel like I'll ever join that magic, select club who get their healthy pregnancy or happy adoption story and the take home baby that comes with it. I have doubts that IVF will be the magic bullet for us. Maybe (hopefully?) some of that will change as we progress through actual treatments and it becomes more real. Or maybe I still just need more time to process.

I'm still having trouble dealing... 

But yeah, it's getting better. The door has been opened, and though we haven't walked through yet - we're still peering around, trying to get our bearings from the threshold - it's only a matter of time.

Wednesday, 14 August 2013

In sum: good news and grey track suits

So, after leaving you all hanging with the mother of all scheduling dilemmas (and I just know you've been on tenterhooks waiting for news on both fronts), followed by my long radio silence, it would probably be easy for you to assume everything went disastrously belly up, nothing worked out, and that's why I've been so quiet and sad.

Not so. The short version (and fair warning - I'll get to a longer version at some point): the scheduling conflict got resolved. I went for the interview and got the job. And we're approved and headed for IVF.

Holy shit.

And also, what gives Sadie? Right? But the crux of the problem is, I can't seem to bring myself to care much about any of it.

Needless to say, there are big -- no, huge things in the works. This accounts in part for my absence - things have just been crazy busy in the midst of yet another move, and as I plan for this new role - but does not entirely account for the feelings of apathy I just can't seem to shake lately. I'm still untangling that one, so I guess you could say there's also a lot going on in Sadie Land emotionally and cognitively too. 

I'm struggling to pull myself up yet again from a very low place. The calendar's slow progression into August is partly responsible. August is the month in which we lost two pregnancies, and was the never achieved due date for the third. Not a great month in the annals of my sad reproductive history. 

It's not only the sadness though; that's always a little bit there, and honestly can be a huge source of motivation in my more ass-kicking, energetic moments. Instead, recently I feel like my ability to believe has become ever more compromised. I've been having trouble caring too. Metaphorically, I'm walking around in an over-sized grey track suit, like this, sort of meeting everything in my path with a meh attitude. It's not fun.

I know it doesn't make sense, at the precise moment when many of the things for which I have been lamenting seem to have fallen into place. I'll come back to that; for now all I can say is, it can get really exhausting to always look on the bright side, to stay positive, to find the stuff worth celebrating. I know it's there, but maybe I just needed some time to stop trying so hard. To crash and burn and then rebuild in order to find renewed energy. I dunno.

I am trying though, to rebuild, to tear off that track suit and climb back up again. I want to get back to blogging, because that's been such a source of catharsis and self-insight for me in the past. (Well, for a while there even that was making me feel worse - the happy news would make me feel lonely, and the bad news just made me feel sad, and so I'd go silent.) So I'm reaching up and out again.

I think I'm on my way back. Watch this space.

Bright colours and all, sometimes it's just hard. Source.

Monday, 5 August 2013

I'm still here

I'm just checking in quickly to let you all know that yes, I'm still alive. (I'm kind of amazed that this space, which has been dead and boring for so many days now, still receives so many daily hits. I'm kind of touched that so many of you have reached out with your emails to see how I'm doing and what I'm up to.)

While I've not been around much in here lately, a lot has been going on out there. But also, in a way, not really very much at all. I do have updates (Surprise! I'm totally not pregnant!), and I hope I'll be back to blogging soon. Although I haven't been commenting either, you are all regularly in my thoughts, and I hope I'll soon shrug off my confused funk, (re)find my voice and return to being a contributing member of community life. Thanks for hanging out in the meantime.

Apropos of nothing in particular*, I leave you with this image, simply because it made me smile last week.


* Except that maybe the torrential rain, the unstoppable water currents, and the smallness of this adorable beast in the midst of it all is somehow familiar. Perhaps.  Just a little bit.  But mostly, how the heck can a frog be so cute? Muse on that.