Monday, 30 September 2013

Not just an urban legend: finally getting there

So yeah, it appears it's not just an urban legend. Those people who get pregnant on the eve of IVF? Looks like I might be one of them after all (though in our case it's not so much 11th hour before treatment as it is undetermined hour).

This morning - four tense, nauseous, skirting-around-the-issue, anticipatory-yet-slyly-optimistic days after a missed period - there was this:

Obligatory pee stick shot

And suddenly the world feels more brightly coloured and more rife with hazards than it has for a very long time. I'm anxious and ecstatic and, and, and....I just don't know how I'm going to do this.

I think I don't so much need your congratulations at this point, as your strength and hope and calming presence.

Every moment feels like it's crawling along. This is going to be a long wait. Hopefully really long; like, eight months long.

hopeterrorhopeterrorhopeterrorhopeterrorhopeterrorhopeterrorhopeterrorhopeterror

Friday, 27 September 2013

Same road, different bend

It's been one heck of a week; I've been a crappy blogger and a crappier commenter throughout my participation in September's ICLW. I tried to keep up and I did often read, in the flash of an eye; but, one month into my new job as things really heat up with the workload and several new high-needs clients, as well as prepping for and attending what was intended to be our final pre-IVF consult, commenting got the better of me.

Yes, I did say was intended. We walked into that room yesterday with our carefully cultivated, fragile hope, ready to be told the date for our mandatory information evening, sometime in mid-October, and be given instructions on who to call with what in order to announce the start of my cycle (in late October) - the one that would finally be a realistic shot at a baby. Our IVF cycle.

Turns out, there's yet another twist in this long and winding road. In fact, it seems to wind ever onward.

It's not that any of our test results were anything other than stellar; we're still very much 'unexplained' in terms of our inability to conceive a healthy pregnancy. Our test results look great. No, it's my medical history, ancient at that, that's the snag this time.

If you've been reading this blog for a while, you might know that I'm a cancer survivor. Throughout my adolescence I was treated for a rare form of bone cancer, which recurred several times in my lungs until I was given a terminal prognosis, after which I...sort of just kept on living, really. I'm a freak of nature. A medical miracle. It's not something I dwell on a lot these days, simply because it never defined me and doesn't much effect me now. Or so I assumed.

What it does apparently mean is that my adult eggs, even all these years later, may be at a higher-than-normal risk of susceptibility the the tiniest viruses that might be present in normal laboratory conditions. There are likely only two IVF labs in the country, so we were told, that will deal with them. We're going to be referred again. Which may mean another, yet longer wait, but will certainly mean all the pre-IVF tests we've already completed will have to be redone at the new laboratory, since according to our current doctor each likes to have its own baseline. And because the labs are so specialised, there's a good chance that the wait for the procedure will be that much longer.

They've done one last slew of bloodwork yesterday, the results of which should be available in a few weeks. If these prove that my system has in fact recovered from its years of chemotherapy and invasive surgeries, there might still be a chance that we can stay at our current clinic.

Of course this begs the question (the first on our lips, leaving the office), WHY DIDN'T THEY THINK OF THIS BEFORE? Have they not actually read my charts? My cancer history is not a secret, and should be common knowledge among my care providers.

But what's done is done, the time for those questions to have any relevance is past. Yes, the road winds ever on. And so we wait. And wonder.  

Will we ever reach the end? When will it be our turn?

Sunday, 22 September 2013

Welcome ICLWers, Welcome Autumn!

Hello fellow ICLWers, and welcome. I'm looking forward to reading lots of new blogs in the coming days, during a week which we hope will be the final step in this particular part of the journey that's bringing us that much closer to our baby: we have our last pre-IVF consult in four short days, and then expect my next-cycle-but-one (in late October) to be It.

For all that came before - because I am a tenacious resistor to the tyranny of the ttc timeline (it was exhausting enough to live through, never mind summarizing for an interwebs full of new blogging friends) - you can just peruse backwards. Or for a brief synopsis, you can read my last ICLW introduction here. As I prepare emotionally as much as physically for what lies ahead, I'm attempting to develop new reserves of hope. I guess that's my big project at the moment. I'd be really interested to know what gives all of you hope too; I'd love it if you feel like answering the question at the end of my last post




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In the meantime, I'm taking a while to celebrate the arrival of autumn. Yeah, today marks the autumnal equinox and thereby the start of my absolute favorite season. Rather appropriately, we managed to have what will likely be our last BBQ of the year last night, with corn on the cob bursting with juiciness and too much butter eaten in such a way that necessitated a good hosing down afterwards - just like it's meant to be! And now on to the good stuff: while my husband would give anything to stay the whole year in a sarong and flipflops, I myself am a crunching-through-the-fallen-leaves, hot-cocoa-loving, cosy-nights-in-with-a-good-book-cherishing kinda girl.

Some of my favorite reasons to celebrate the departure of those long summer days and embrace the season of mists and mellow fruitfulness:

1) Knitwear. Or more specifically, woolly socks, for which I have something of a fetish. A friend once said: I firmly believe it's impossible to make a decent fashion statement in the summer. And while that may be a hardline approach, I can see where she was going with it. All the stuff I love to bring out and wear again happens in autumn, like a warm hug. And uppermost on that list is socks. I have two new additions to my almost too big for the closet collection this year.

First, a pair sent me by the lovely Lentil when we both participated in a sock swap early in the year. We were a sock-match-made-in-heaven, both super tardy with our parcel deliveries, which I think are just now coming into their own. A sock swap? It gave me warm fuzzies people. Second, a pair picked up in a neat little atelier we visited during our trip to beautiful Tallinn this past summer. Both make me immeasurably happy.



 2) Guy Fawkes Night. England's answer to Hallowe'en, complete with mulled wine, torch-lit processions, burning effigies, flaming barrel races and a whole host of other pyromaniac fun to be had. For a homesick Canadian missing as I do the autumnal delights of Jack O'Lanterns, apple bobbing, trick-or-treaters  and that flourescent, gross-tasting-yet-somehow-irresistible candy corn every October 31st? Well, Bonfire Night is a cultural experience not to be missed. And let's just leave aside the slightly strange monarchist undertones for now. So. Much. Fun.


3) Homemade pumkin spice lattes. Or anything pumkin, really. Need I say more?

4) Paul Klee. Not strictly autumnal I guess, despite the apropos colour palate of one of my all-time favorite artists. However, this exhibition will be a seasonal treat, and I can't wait.


Mostly though....


5) IVF. At least for us. Finally. Autumn marks one cycle closer to our Oct/Nov IVF cycle, the one we hope might actually carry our baby to our waiting home and hearts. 

Oh please, Gods of the Autumn Equinox, hear my calls! (Maybe I should just adorn myself with creeper vines and all things cornucopia and dance naked under the moonlight?) 

Let's hope my affinity for autumn will bring us some luck, that there'll be some added reason to love this season in the coming weeks.


So -  if you haven't answered the question in my last post - what's your favorite season? And what do you love about autumn?

Friday, 20 September 2013

Making room for hope

Or talking myself up. Whichever.

I feel like maybe I gave people the wrong impression with my last post, as though I've given up on ever getting pregnant and am no longer invested in the process at all. Or like maybe I can only find energy now for complaining about all the things I've given up in the course of trying to get that damned elusive baby. (WHERE ARE YOU BABY?!) I'm the first to admit that this whole process has exhausted me; we've been at it for a while now. And yes, distancing my emotions from the expectation of a baby specific outcome is these days generally a safer bet - or at least easier (I think?) - than dealing with more stuff like this should it prove not to have a purpose under our roof. That thought's too painful.

But the truth is, of course, I care a lot. I've invested practically all of myself, and without an ounce of regret I might add: whatever the outcome, I know it'll all be worth it in the end. I really want this. And so, I'm trying to remind myself that it's also ok to want it that badly. To hope. That this one simple yet intense human act doesn't make me naive or foolish.

I'm trying to un-learn fear and re-learn hope.

I'm trying to make my mantra: if so much crazy bad stuff can happen to us, why not crazy good stuff too?



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A lot of women, and bloggers in particular, can recount dreams they have of one day getting a positive pregnancy test or holding their child in their arms. They can relate these dreams, whether waking or asleep, in great detail and with a multicoloured vibrancy. I'm a bit envious of those women really. And also, it sometimes makes me feel like I'm doing a bad job at being an infertile in search of a baby of my own. Maybe I don't want it enough? Maybe my inability to connect with that part of myself is what's preventing me from becoming pregnant? I try to think back to before the time when pregnancy became some esoteric experience filled with fear and danger and which only happened to other people, before trying for a baby became this pot-holed road of disappointment and loneliness and hurt, to when these possibilities were an exciting time. You know, just to try to remember if it was different back then; did I have vivid dreams, specific plans I envisioned for us then? The thing is, I can't remember exactly. But I think it's there; buried deep, but there.

H reports that he has had several dreams in recent days in which we're carrying or playing with our baby. He says they are brief but vivid. It makes me feel good that he can carry the hope torch for a while. (And believe me, this is something of a novelty, since there was a time in recent memory when he was incapable of putting so much of his heart on that particular line.) I'm so grateful to have him there when my hope is flagging, to say with the great conviction that I often can't seem to find, that yes, one way or the other we will have our baby; be sure of it.

So obviously, I can see the benefits of this kind of dreaming, the optimism it can encourage, and the calm that comes with that. And scary as it is, I'm trying to make room for it. I've spent a lot of time meditating recently on the art of letting go. But the spiritual corollary of that, I suppose, is to hold on to the stuff that really matters. To borrow an analogy (granola-y hippy alert!) from yoga practice: when you do mindful breathing in lotus pose, the exhale releases stress and worry, while the inhale invites positive energy inward.

But you know - just as with those complimentary yoga movements that can only occur in tandem - I'm pretty sure that making room for that hopefulness was only possible because I managed to face the worst case scenarios, to confront my fears. I feel like there is so much more to be gained from embracing the what ifs (even the scary ones) than pushing them away, or struggling against them. And I needed to know, for myself, that our life is going to be wonderful dammit, regardless if we become the Horrible Resolution many infertile woman fear most. I think it will. I won't fall apart. I know we'll keep laughing. Of course if the IVF doesn't work out, I'll be devastated. But truthfully? I don't think there is anything anymore, (short of losing H) that could destroy me the way losing S did.

So here I am, gathering the hope around me. In this strange space of anticipation and yet cautious not to expect too much, I'm doing the simple little things that I can. Filling my body with nourishing stuff (oh ok, and ice cream) has been a good place to start. I'm surprised I don't perpetually smell of avocados, is all I'm sayin'... Today on my way to work, when I saw an adorable mom pushing her adorable child through the park in its adorable stroller, I didn't think: gggrrrr <while-grinding-teeth>... Instead, I allowed myself to think: that could be me next year. Earlier this week, instead of recoiling in horror at the very thought, I allowed myself to sit for an entire hour and look at baby-related posts at Craftgawker, sighing contentedly all the while. In short only actually, not so much: I'm trying to visualise myself into a reality where I might one day have a swelling belly. See a little heart beating on an ultrasound. Deliver a baby. See echos of myself and H (and maybe even S) in an expressive little face, a little face that is ours, to keep. Buy these baby booties:


So cute it hurts. No really, it hurts a little. Source


(...............this all is scary even to type, people............)

I should say here, that very fortuitously, two bloggers have recently encouraged me with their own ways of expressing hope for the future: Jessah at Dreaming of Dimples and Catherine at Twinkle of Light have both shared posts in the last weeks that have touched and inspired me. I love and admire their ideas for connecting to their maternal longings. Thank you ladies; it's stuff like this that gives me the strength to keep going some days.

 
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For the longest time, there was always this: each month while hope was strong, I would get maniacally excited as I misinterpreted lots of twinges and food cravings and basically projected and over-interpreted all my deepest desires onto one single unlikely outcome; and each month, I would later feel humiliated, tricked, foolish. (Like I said, scary.)

But (for anyone else whose thought processes lean towards the self-critical) you know what? It's not foolish. It's resilient. And damned if that isn't a really good - sometimes life saving - quality to possess.

It's like I've always said: hope is a bitch. Turns out though, she can also be a good person to hang out with.  I guess instead of only hanging out with the too-cool-for-school kids, I'm trying to keep better company these days.


Bloggy friends, I am curious to know: are you able to envision your future selves pregnant, or with your living children? Are your dreams vague or vivid? Am I the only one who struggles with thinking and visualising in tangible ways the future I hope to have with my family? How to overcome this mental block?

Thursday, 12 September 2013

Realizing, again

This week while out shopping, one of my favorite Flaming Lips songs, Do You Realize? came over the radio. It's a song that's always held meaning for me, and which brought particular comfort after S died; there is a beautiful and powerful truth in the starkness of the lyrics. A call to live life to the fullest, to fully inhabit every moment you have.  A wonder at the beauty of it all.

Do you realize 
That you have the most beautiful face?
Do you realize 
We're floating in space?
Do you realize 
That happiness makes you cry?
Do you realize 
That everyone you know someday will die?

And instead of saying all of your goodbyes 
Let them know you realize that life goes fast
It's hard to make the good things last
You realize the sun doesn't go down
It's just an illusion caused by the world spinning round

But on this most recent listening, those last two lines somehow caught me in a new way, a way I had never considered before.

the sun doesn't go down/it's just an illusion caused by the world spinning round.

Just as we have to really fiercely live the beautiful and fleeting moments of happiness so intense it can reduce us to tears of bewildered joy, equally the dark moments when we think all sun and all goodness have gone from our lives are momentary too. And yes, there will be moments when that dark seems so deep and impenetrable as to be unending; when in fact, it's just an illusion, a trick of spinning planetary bodies. This too shall pass.

It was a welcome reminder.



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Last month I attended a conference that is one of the largest gatherings of its kind for people in my erstwhile profession. While there, I had the lovely opportunity to catch up with some former colleagues and in one such conversation, received an invitation to do some teaching in Botswana in early 2014. It was an intriguing offer, affirmation of my standing in a profession I no longer inhabit, and more than a little enticing. This was not the first such instance: in a similar encounter last year, I was asked to join full-time a project in China which I had been working on as a consultant for several years.

In a former life, these would have been the kinds of projects - and the kinds of adventures - that I would have jumped at, and I must confess that I was a little wistful in giving my answer that, at least for the time being, these undertakings wouldn't be in the cards for me. The reality is, such work and the travel it necessitates are hugely incompatible with ttc and particularly with infertility treatments. I would be required to take anti-malarials regularly, expose myself to questionable water sources, travel to post-conflict areas where infrastructure is minimal, if not non-existent. Over time, I have become mistrustful enough of my body's reproductive capacities and ability to deal with routine 'risks' like a glass of red wine thoughtlessly sipped during a two week wait, or accidental inhalation of mould or cat litter; throwing those extra (and very real) risks into the mix was not an option.

This whole babymaking rollercoaster has almost been enough to entirely erase from memory the knowledge of how stupid? adventurous my former self was, and what very different rollercoasters I once rode. 

But when I left it behind, I suppose there was always some notion that we'd see where life took us, that I might possibly return to the work in some time, even with children. In reality, my marriage is no impediment to such work because my flexible, travel-loving husband is ready and willing to join me in such far-flung locales, and we envisaged a future in which we could introduce our child to the wonders of the world so loved by two travel-addicted parents. We both view travel as an exciting and vital form of education, and exposure to otherness, learning to negotiate differences of materiality and culture are more than just passionately held ideals for us. The cultures in which we have lived tend to place a high value on children, who are at the centre of community life, and we imagined our child benefitting from that atmosphere too. Learning to pump water from a well, to speak other languages; tasting and seeing and hearing new things; meeting other children and playing with the kind of freedom that is all but impossible in many western countries today. We (naively, foolishly) built an entire future for our little family - complete with sights and sounds and many an adventure - before understanding what sacrifices would have to be made, what challenges we would face, in getting the very part of the equation we thought would be the simplest: the babies. (And it was this approach to life that also made us drawn very early on to the possibility of international adoption; not instead of, but alongside biological children. It's something we'd still like to pursue, at a later date.) 

Fast forward three years - through all the failures and pain and loss and false starts, not to mention the drastic change in living conditions and career paths - and here we are, about to begin IVF. We are oh-so-fortunate to be looked after at a clinic where we can expect two fully funded rounds of IVF, (including as many FETs as would be feasible after retrieval of my crappy eggs). We're so grateful for this chance, and also aware that This. Is. It: The Final Frontier. We'll either manage a healthy pregnancy or we won't. There really isn't any in-between, is there? A year from now, our life could and probably will look so very different than it does now, but we won't know for some time exactly which different we're getting. In any case, we both know we don't want to be doing this for much longer, whatever the outcome. It's hard to draw a line in the sand when it involves something you've worked so hard for, committed so much of yourself to, dreamed of with such intensity; so although we haven't set a hard and fast deadline for ourselves, we both know we're nearing the end of this particular journey. I need a fresh start, to devote my energies to something else for a change. I need the chance to be excited about things that might just work. I owe that to myself and I owe it to my marriage.

So why am I mentioning this in the context of my erratic career trajectory? I guess it's nice, and somehow reassuring, to be reminded of all that's waiting out there for me, for us, when we finally have cause to call it a day, baby or no baby. I'm reaching a place where all the possible what ifs hold not so much fear, but possibility. We have many an adventure still to undertake, whatever our family ends up looking like.

As dark as things may seem right now, there is movement, even if it's imperceptible in this particular moment. Things are happening. And there is so much waiting out there for us. H is close to completing his thesis, and then we won't need to be here anymore. We might finally make the move 'back home', to Canada, or to Austria. Maybe we'll move to that little alpine farm and raise goats, as we've daydreamed about. Maybe we'll find ourselves in more far-flung, less prosaic surroundings altogether. Maybe I'll return to the work for which I once held so much passion, or take up that offer in Botswana. Maybe we'll buy an old jalopy and spend three months driving through the Balkans, like we've always talked about. (Of course, all of these things would be stellar experiences with a tiny, curious and open-minded companion to occupy our time; this would be the best case scenario.) Who knows? The thing is, I think I'm getting to a place where all those possibilities, and even the unknown-ness of it all, can - one day soon - hold as much excitement as trepidation. And even though the world keeps spinning round, and will doubtless continue to throw us for a loop here and there, right now that's an okay place to be.



Sunday, 8 September 2013

Love everyone even if they are weird, and other bits of Blogger wisdom

It's been quite a week and on this beautiful Sunday morning, with the house still quiet, I'm stealing a few minutes for blogging and to catch my breath before it all starts again.

I've been back and forth and back again to our clinic for yet more data collection; not only the stupidly, insensitively administered bloodwork, but also my first antral follicle count. Result (on day five): 16 follicles - 11 on the left and 5 on the lazy, underachieving right. I was told that this was 'great' <quote> for a woman my age, which is always a reassuring phrase to have appended to any health assessment. No matter; my own data collection - the nerd/control freak in me is incapable of processing any of this information without triangulating findings via an independently conducted literature review - found this count to be acceptable. ('Acceptable' versus 'great for a woman my age': you be the judge. Which of these do I cling to?) So until the next instalment we're all good.

I also started my new job this week, and am remembering both how great it feels to be a highly functioning, contributing member of society and how little time that leaves for fun stuff like obsessing about the state of my uterus, control freakery in the form of infertility-related literature reviews, and general blogging shenanigans. All these new experiences have me more than a little reflective, and aching to release the narcissist in me record it all for the interwebs.

Alas, on my single day of relaxation this week affords, I'm off for a day of hiking on what is sure to be one of the last truly beautiful days of the dying summer. But because I don't like to report-and-run, and also because I've somehow just discovered the bizarrely fascinating world of Blogger stats and the list of keyword searches that led you good readerfolk to my tiny corner of the blogosphere, I leave you with an annotated selection of some of my favorites:

1) how to be optimistic about infertility
 I'm flattered and amazed that anyone would think to attach this notion to my frequently nasty ramblings. But I'm working on it.

2) infertility+fuming
Yes, frequently. This seems more apt.

3) spring in ovaries
As in, 'spring in my step'? This one has a nice ring to it: 'with the wind at my back and a spring in my ovaries, I set off the face the world'.

4) love everyone even if they are weird
Indeed. Improbable and delightful as a search term leading to my humble blog, with a little adaptation this one offers a kind of zen wisdom for a multitude of scenarios faced by the ranting infertile. Self love: love everyone...even if they are barren and bitter. Stranger love: love everyone...even if they are pregnant. (You're allowed to laugh too.) Familial love: love everyone...even if they're full of ignorant-but-think-they're-helpful suggestions on how to conquer infertility.
I am oddly proud to have my blog associated with this one.

And finally, my personal favorite...

5) everything is going to be alright
Oh yes, I'd certainly like to think so. One way or another, it will. I have to believe that.


Weird but beautiful.

Monday, 2 September 2013

No, thanks, I think I'll wait for mine

From the lab tech taking my blood this morning at the clinic --

Her: Do you have any children?

Me: Nope. That's kinda why we're here.

Her (very brightly): It'll happen for you eventually! Or if not, I've always got a good-for-nothing eight year old at home you can take off my hands!

Me (disbelievingly, weakly): Ha...ha?

I mean...Who thinks this is a remotely ok thing to say to someone undergoing fertility treatments?

(In fairness to my clinic, we are normally very impressed with their high level of sensitivity and training when it comes to the medical realities we are dealing with, so I can only assume this woman was a temp or something; I've never seen her before today).

Here's my rule of thumb: Anyone who finds themselves in this shitty Club of IF has the right to make light of their (our) situation with as much irreverence, shock value and cursing as they see fit. Anyone who has no clue what this is like, kindly keep your humour -- and your children -- to yourselves.

Too harsh?


Take foot. Insert in mouth. Source























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In other bloodwork news, they have re-tested me for a clotting disorder. When my OB/GYN first tested for this in March the results came back borderline, and he said that he was satisfied this was not likely an issue for us beyond the possible need for baby aspirin should we manage a pregnancy in future. But in all the data collection run-up to our IVF, when they tested again recently in the fertility clinic, they said the results were 'inconclusive'. We'll be able to discuss these latest results (from today's test) at our appointment on the 25th. Is it wrong of me to say I almost wish they'd find something? At least that way we'd have some answers, and a fairly straightforward means of managing any pregnancy so that it doesn't end in such a dire/devastating/baby-less way in future.

We should be so lucky.