infertility, Uncategorized

I’m back and I’m pissed….

I have a medical condition, and I am pissed. I am pissed that the universe randomly selected me to be born with this condition. I am pissed that even of all of the infertility diagnosis out there mine seems to be one of the most rare and least understood, which means there is basically not a damn thing the medical profession can do for me. But what makes me those most angry is that my medical condition – my disease – is something that isn’t recognized by mainstream society. It’s like my kind doesn’t really exists. And if we do, we are probably just too stressed out, or overweight, or something else that is supposed to be within our control that we should just fix it and then “poof” we will get pregnant. Because it can’t possibly be a REAL medical issue. It can’t possibly be something that we should treat with the care and respect (and financial coverage) that is given to the plethora of other medical issues that exist.

The message I received from the beginning of my infertility journey is that my experience, my pain, my condition doesn’t matter. It doesn’t count. Well you know what fertile world? Fuck you!

I realize swearing is considered to be the lazy way out of properly articulating what you really feel, but sorry. Fuck you perfectly encapsulates my feelings on this matter. I am tired of worrying about what to say and how to say it when it comes to infertility. I am tired of spending countless hours deliberating on how to frame up my experience in a way that can even begin to convey to the fertile masses the physical and mental toll of infertility. To describe the loss and trauma in a way that sparks even a shred of empathy and compassion from the other side. To not feel totally alone.

And to my amazement, there have been a few fertile folks that have reached out and given me the support and understanding I crave. I am extremely grateful whenever those wonderful people cross my path. But those people are far and few between. For the most part, I feel the need to put on my battle armour anytime I leave the house because I know the fertile world is not a safe place for someone like me. We live in a world where fertility is assumed, and the mere fact that I am a 30 something woman authorizes those around me to inquire about why I have not yet exercised my right/duty to get a party started in my uterus. That perhaps it is not of their business does not occur to them. Nor does it cross their mind that not everyone’s journey ends with a trip to Baby’s R Us. That infertility exists. That it is a medical condition that cannot simply be fixed by taking a vacation or giving it a go doggy style, and that for those going through it, it will invariably be one of – if not THE most – traumatic thing they ever experience. It is just not part of society’s narrative. The ability to procreate is a given.

So, yeah, I feel the need to swear. And I will continue to do so until infertility is recognized by main stream society as the medical condition that it is. Until I can go to a party and not fear being asked “So, do you have kids?” Until I hear “I am so sorry for all the losses you have suffered” instead of “What’s the big deal? Just adopt.” Until infertiles no longer have to mortgage their financial futures to afford treatment because it is finally covered like other diseases. The swearing will continue.

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I have a Board meeting coming up tonight. The Board consists entirely of women. Most of whom have children. Two of which have been pregnant with TWINS. One of those twin pregnancies occurred in a woman post-40 who just a year earlier had an “accidental” pregnancy. So, 3 kids in 2 years without any intervention post-40.

I love being on this Board, but I HATE that every meeting there is at least some conversation about babies. Last year, I had to go to a planning meeting at the 40+ twin mommy’s house, where her 3 little munchkins were running around the whole time. I was probably the only one that didn’t pick them up or hold them. I smiled politely but was mentally willing everyone else to quit focusing on them. At that time I was trying to hold in pee so that I could go on a stick when I got home to see if I was ovulating. It was an important ovulation test as it was going to signal “go” for our first round of IUI.I really didn’t need all the baby reminders as I sat there crossing my legs.

On top of the little ones being present throughout the entire meeting, there was also another Board member that was expecting. So, of course, during the break in the planning session I had to endure what seemed like an endless conversation about delivery and breastfeeding and diapers and nannies. All the moms in the room giving advice to the one who was about to join the club. I am the only married woman on the Board without kids. So, I sat in silence, searching out the few single women on the Board that don’t yet have kids.

That day really sticks with me. I guess because it felt like fertility was being rubbed in my face and there was no where I could escape to. I was in a professional setting and didn’t have the option to just “leave”. These are also women I have know for years, and a Board I used to enjoy being on. I saw these strong, hard working women as my comrades. Now I just see a fertility circle that I am excluded from. I feel isolated and alone. It doesn’t help that when I did finally mention my infertility at one of the meetings the responses I got were cold and hurtful. They are all siting up on their fertility pedestals, judging me and my bareness.

The reason I am writing about this now is because I have another one of those meeting coming up today. We are having our meeting at one of the “moms” houses. So, her kid will inevitably be running around. I am getting a ride to the meeting with a woman who has 3 kids, and just returned from mat leave. I wonder what the main topic of conversation will be??? (sigh). The woman who was pregnant at the previous planning session now has a baby, and will be bringing it to the meeting. Oh, and to top it all off, one of the woman will be arriving with her big pregnant TWIN belly. It will just be one big fertility flaunt fest!!! How am I going to keep it together? To make matters worse, I am the one running the meeting. I am dreading this evening and can’t wait for it to be over. Like so many other times, I will have to put on my game face and then go home and cry in secrecy.
The fact that I am being put in the same situation almost a year later also gives me an opportunity to reflect. Things are changing in the lives of all these other women while my life is standing still. The only change for me is falling deeper and deeper down the rabbit hole of infertility treatment. I am left to continue wondering whether the next treatment will be “the one”. Will it finally grant me admission to the fertility circle???

 

The Fertility Circle

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Return from radio silence with a schizoprenic post

I haven’t written a post in a long time. Some of you may wonder whether that means that yet another one has “bit” the (baby) dust. That I actually got pregnant and didn’t need the blog anymore. Rest assured, there has been no action in this uterus. Just the unrelenting monthly period. The one I keep willing not to come. Every month. But still it comes. Not quite like clockwork, but close.

I don’t really know how to explain why I haven’t written in such a long time. In a way I think it is because I have felt better, yet also because I have felt worse. Some days I don’t want to write about my infertility because I don’t want to risk bringing down a decent day. Some days I don’t write because I can’t; the pain is just too unbearable to even think about trying to string words into a sensical sentence. The last time I had a real urge to write was after watching the series finale of HIMYM. Boy, I had a lot of things to say about THAT. It worked me up so much but I didn’t want to give the episode more power by spending time writing a post about it. So, all I will say about HIMYM is that it was painful to watch. I would rather have jabbed myself in the eyeball with a rusty old knife. At one point my husband even said “I just want this to be over”. So many pregnancies (wanted and unwanted) and an underlying message of “all the important moments in life have to do with kids”. The series had been going downhill for awhile, but we had followed it all along and wanted to see it through to the end.

I guess one could draw an imperfect analogy between our loyalty to HIMYM and our infertility journey. It started off fun and exciting, but then things started to change. After awhile it wasn`t fun anymore, but once you are on the rollercoaster it is hard to get off. So now, 2.5 years we are trying to see our infertility journey through to the end. At least the part of the journey that includes trying for biological kids. I always maintained that I would never do IVF, but here we are, about to undertake that journey. All my concerns about the risks surrounding IVF have been pushed to the side.  The girl that uses vinegar and water as a cleaning agent because she wants to avoid unnecessary chemicals is now going to start injecting herself with a cocktail of hormones. Desperate people will do desperate things.

So, now I am doing the countdown until I get my period. Then, if all goes according to plan, we will be undergoing IVF this July. I am scared out of my mind, but also kind of excited. I just want to get started with this stage of our journey. As anyone who has dealt with infertility knows, the waiting is often the hardest part.

Thanks for reading!

 

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Rant!

I was at Tim Horton’s a few days ago. I know, could I be more Canadian? My husband and I were waiting in line to get a bagel. A woman walked right in front of me so that she could see what donuts they had. She then went over to her husband to tell him what kind she wanted. The first thing I noticed about her was that she had a rather rude demeanor. Just the way she invaded my personal space and  spoke to her husband. She just didn’t seem like someone I would want to spend anytime with. And then I saw it. The belly. She was definitely pregnant. With her second child, as her husband was holding a toddler in his arms.

Okay, fine. Whatever. I have come to accept that I cannot go ANYWHERE without seeing a pregnant woman, or an adorable newborn. That is the reality of life. Depending on where I am on the infertility roller coaster, sometimes I just blink hard and move on. Sometimes I feel a pain in my chest that lingers for a few moments. Sometimes I can’t hold it in and I start to cry (always silently).

On that particular day I took the middle ground – a heavy heart but no tears. I thought about how that doughnut request was probably an example of a pregnancy craving. Her husband probably realized it too and looked upon her lovingly as he knew this was all part of the pregnancy package. That wonderful hormonal woman was going to deliver their baby. I thought about how badly I wanted to share that woman’s cravings: bring on the deep fried pickles dipped in peanut butter! But I didn’t have any weird food cravings. The one thing I was craving could not be ordered at Tim Horton’s drive thru, or satisfied with a late night run to the grocery store.

So far there is nothing exceptional about this story. We have all been there. But then I walked outside to our car and saw that little family again. The father was putting the toddler into her car seat in their nice SUV. What I saw next floored me. The pregnant mother was standing outside the SUV –  having a CIGARETTE!!! I did a double take. Maybe I was mistaken and she wasn’t really pregnant. Maybe she just had an odd belly fat distribution. Nope! There was no way that was not a pregnant belly. I was shocked and disgusted. This woman was carrying the miracle of life within her and didn’t care enough to stop smoking????

Now, I am not a smoker nor have I ever been one. I  understand that it would be very difficult to quit. But c’mon. You have a life growing inside you. And this is your second child, which means this is probably the second opportunity you have to quit smoking. You are also clearly middle class with a support structure. This was not a 14 year old girl who accidentally got pregnant and doesn’t have the maturity or resources to make some lifestyle changes! This was a middle-class woman in her late 20s/early 30s who has a family that she presumably chose to have.

So, we drove off and I started to cry. What I really wanted to do was go yell at that woman for her ungrateful and reckless behavior. I know my anger towards most pregnant women is unfair. They aren’t doing anything wrong. But the smoking belly was. With every puff she seemed to be mocking me saying “you are exhausting all of your mental, physical and financial resources to try and get what I have yet I couldn’t care less about what is growing inside me.” And there was nothing I could do about it. So, I ate my bagel and planned out this blog post.

 

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27

I was lying in bed last night (unable to sleep as per usual) and started contemplating the number of times we have been through this. TWENTY-SEVEN. We have done this 27 times. I have monitored my cycle for the time of ovulation 27 times. Many of those times included holding my pee for hours before testing to check for my LH surge (which happened on average 3 times a month). I have done the 2WW 27 times, which includes being hypersensitive to any real or perceived change in body or mood lest it be a sign of pregnancy. You become OBSESSED and google is your enabler. I have dreaded getting my period and willed it not to come 27 times. And 27 times I have watched it come, announcing its arrival on a square of toilet paper. The devastation, frustration, anger, sadness, and hopelessness have crashed down upon me (and my husband) 27 times.

It makes me wonder, how many times is enough? 27 sounds like f*$% load. Yet, it is a small number compared to some couples journeys. Some people try for a decade. That makes their number 120. I can’t even imagine that or my head might explode! I guess, in the end, we are all different. Our tolerance levels are unique to our constitutions and situations. Some only stop because they don’t have the financial means to continue. For some, it is the reality of age. For others, physical and mental exhaustion cause them to raise the white flag.

I don’t know when our battle will end. Some days I don’t know how much more of this I can take. We haven’t even tried IVF yet, and I know that is the hardest test of all. I read other women’s stories about going through IVF and I am flabbergasted by their strength and perseverance.

Sometimes I wonder whether my desire to have a baby is strong enough for me to continue this fight. Will I even recognize myself once we hit time number 37? Some days I barely recognize myself as it is. Then I think of the alternative of not trying – childlessness. That fear of being childless galvanizes me to continue.

So, I guess – for me at least – the answer to the question “how many times is enough” is the number of times it takes to for me to accept that I will never have biological children. I’m definitely not there yet, and I have no idea when that day will come. Hopefully sometime before we hit number 120.

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The Waiting Room

This is another post inspired by my most recent trip to the fertility clinic. I imagine that no matter where in the world you are, your fertility waiting room is similar to mine. If not, I’d be interested to hear your story.

So there my husband and I sit. We have selected two chairs that are the appropriate distance away from the other couples (or singles) in the room. Heaven forbid we would sit close enough to them that we could easily make eye contact or smile at each other. Never mind the idea of actually talking (gasp!).

The infertility waiting room is a quiet place. The silence is unnerving. We are all there for the same reason and are facing similar challenges. Shouldn’t that bond us together? Fellow soldiers in the infertility battle? You’d think so, but no. So, my husband and I elect to keep to ourselves, taking a cue from the other people in the room. Whispering quietly so that no one else can hear our infertility conversations.

Being the type that is constantly observing other peoples’ behaviour, I can’t help but scan the room in an effort to surmise the stories of my fellow infertiles. I see one couple filling out their personal information on a clip board, looking somewhat excited. Ahh, this must be their first appointment. I can’t quite decide whether I feel happy or sad for them. I feel happy for them because they haven’t yet been through the wringer, but also sad because they have the wringer yet to face. I remember that place. They have no idea what they are in for.

Some couples look young, some older. I often wonder whether the older couples have been on the infertility road for a long time or if they started trying later in life. I also notice quite a few women there on their own. I often guess that they are there for an ultrasound or some other test, but that it is not the big day of insemination/implantation. Usually the men folk (or female partner if you are talking about a lesbian couple) show up for those big events. I also notice the men who whisk pass to the back room. I can only guess that they are there to provide a “deposit”. I imagine they feel somewhat embarrassed, and I feel bad for them.

This last visit I caught sight of a new breed in the infertility waiting room. A svelte, stylish couple came off the elevator carrying their to-go coffee cups. They had a different vibe to them than all the other people that came walking into the room. They stood taller, prouder, and more confident. It seemed as if they owned the room. And then I noticed it – the bouquet of flowers the man carried. It had a balloon in it that said “thank you”. So that is what successful fertility treatment looks like.

My mind raced as I watched them walk in to the reception area and back out again after they had dropped off their token of appreciation. What did they think the effect of their presence was on the rest of us? Did they think us infertilies didn’t notice that they were different from all the rest of us? Did they think that those that did notice would be inspired? Disheartened? And did the other infertiles in fact notice what the couple came in for? If so, how did it make them feel?

I wasn’t quite sure how I felt seeing them. I think the dominant emotion was jealousy. They just seemed so smug and happy. They probably thought that their presence would provide comfort for us infertiles, but it didn’t do that for me.

I would have loved to lean over and ask the woman next to me if she saw that couple’s “thank you” balloon and have a chat about it. But of course, I didn’t.

I am curious what others think about the silence in the waiting room. Is it a good thing or a bad thing? It’s not like people normally go around sharing their stories in Doctors waiting rooms (e.g. “Hello complete stranger, let me tell you about the rash I have on my big toe”). But somehow it seems like it should be different with infertility. As blogger and author Pamela Mahoney Tsigdinos puts it, we are the “silent sorority” (http://blog.silentsorority.com/). Shouldn’t we be able to talk to each other and share stories? Wouldn’t it help with the feelings of isolation?

I remember waiting to go in for my HSG test (in a more general waiting area separate from the infertility section) and having a conversation with another woman there, also waiting for an HSG. She ended up telling me her whole infertility story. She gave me some good advice too! I left that conversation feeling more knowledgeable and less alone. Isn’t that a good thing?

So, maybe next time we are waiting for my name to be called, I will lean over and start a conversation with a fellow infertile. I will just be prepared for the possibility that they will find me to be terribly inappropriate and recoil in disgust. But hey, maybe they’ll be happy to chat with someone else who is fighting their battle and it will make their load feel a little bit lighter. At least that day.

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To hope or not to hope?

I am guessing that all fertility clinics are different. Some are better than others. So far, I don’t have any real complaints about ours. They seem competent. The thing that gets me are the comments that are made. They come from everyone: the Drs, nurses, and “sperm handlers” (not sure what to call the people who flip and twirl the sperm).

Right after our first IUI was done I asked the Dr. a question about the next time we come for an IUI. His response “Oh, there won’t be a next time. This will work.” Great. Thanks Doc. Nothing like creating unreasonably high expectations for a procedure that has less than a 10% chance of working!!!

The most recent example happened this morning. We were in for our 5th IUI and the “sperm handler” came in and said something along the lines of: “It’s a busy day today. Everyone must be ovulating. You should take a look at your neighbours in the waiting room because you will be seeing each other again in the delivery room 9 months from now”. Yes, because that is how it works. I am no mathematician, but I am pretty sure that 10 couples doing a procedure that ranges around a 10% success rate (depending of course, on whether they are on clomid or some other drug) does not = 10 couples getting pregnant. I think the sperm handler should recheck her math before spouting off such gibberish!

Now, I know they are all well-meaning. They are trying to give us hope. It’s all about staying positive, right? What they don’t understand is that hope can be a dangerous word in the fertility world. There are a lot of great infertility books out there that talk about the role of hope and how it is what keeps us going each month. If we didn’t have hope we wouldn’t be going through all of this. The problem that fertility patients face (IMHO) is trying to manage that hope. Not letting it take a hold too deeply so that if/when the next period comes we are a little less devastated. In my mind, it is a defense mechanism. As wonderful as hope is, it needs a leash, otherwise you will end up chasing it off a cliff.

So, when MEDICAL PROFESSIONALS say things that amount to a guarantee that “this time will work” it creates totally unrealistic expectations. Even if intellectually you know what your odds truly are, it is hard not to internalize those comments. Instead of thinking “this might work” you are left thinking “this will work”. Hope is running away and you are left frantically chasing after it.

From attending fertility support group meetings I know that everyone views and deals with hope differently. One woman stated that she lets herself get lost in the hope because she knows she will be devastated regardless. So why not enjoy the 2 week wait full of hope? I’d be interested to hear other peoples thoughts on this topic. Does reigning in hope during the 2 week wait help cushion the blow or is the blow going to be just as hard regardless of how much hope you hold on to?

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