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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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Let’s start at the very begininng…

I am writing this blog semi-anonymously. I still haven`t come to terms with sharing my infertility story with the whole world. However, I do want to provide a cursory overview of our infertility struggle.

My husband and I got married in the fall of 2009. Everything was going according to plan. We both had finished university, had jobs we liked, a cat we loved, and we got to travel together on a fairly regular basis. Life was good. Near the end of 2011 we decided we were ready to expand our family so I went off birth control and we started the obligatory waiting period for that stuff to get out of my system.

We started trying to conceive in January 2012. I was the type that started using ovulation tests right from the first month. I wanted to make sure we were doing everything we could to make a baby and make it fast!! I had heard from a couple of friends that it took them 8 months to conceive. A whole 8 months – wow! I could not imagine having to wait that long so I wanted to do everything in my power to make it happen. I soon realized I could not will myself to become pregnant. I also realized that we would have been lucky to get pregnant after 8 short months!

I remember the first month we tried to conceive. We were so excited. We knew the odds were that it would not happen the first month, but we were young and naive and could not wait to expand our family (not that we didn’t love our cat!). Looking back now, I get teary eyed thinking about that time. We had no concept of the journey that was in store for us. We were filled with hope. Our life was going according to plan and it was just a matter of time before we were shopping for a crib!

I wish that I could have bottled up and stored those feelings for when I really needed them. The young exuberance. The feeling of being almost invincible. Those feelings have definitely since faded. I feel like I have aged 5 years in a 2 year span. Infertility has sapped me (and my husband) of that youthful love of life. The feeling of endless possibilities. The feeling that if we just tried hard enough, nothing would be out of our reach. Now all I see are dead ends and roadblocks.

But I digress… After close to a year of trying to conceive, we were referred to a fertility specialist. That took about 6 months but felt like 6 years. I remember being extremely nervous waiting in the little room for the specialist to come in for our first appointment. We had so many questions. We were excited and scared at the same time. We were happy to finally be meeting someone who could give us answers (or so we thought) but at the same time angry and a bit in shock that it had to come to this. If I am truly honest with myself, I think the whole time we were waiting to get in to see the specialist I was betting on us getting pregnant before we even needed to go down that road. No medical intervention for us. Boy was I wrong!

After the specialist confirmed that I actually get a period (check) and that we actually know how to have sex (check) he handed us a crap load of forms for blood work, ultrasounds, and seamen analysis. Just like that, we were officially fertility patients. Yay?? It took a couple of months to get all the tests done because certain things needed to be done on certain days, which life sometimes got in the way of. Eventually, the day came for us to meet with Dr. Baby again and have the big reveal!! I still don`t really know whether I was hoping he would find something so that there would be something to fix (because at that time I thought it was all fixable) or if I wanted him not to find anything, because then I could avoid actually being branded as infertile. It would just mean that we were taking a bit longer than average to conceive; it would happen soon enough. I think at first I leaned towards the latter option because I still had real hope that we could conceive on our own – it was just a matter of waiting it out. Well, there would be a lot more waiting in our future.

During our second fertility appointment the Dr. confirmed that all our tests came back normal. He ordered me to undergo an HCG test as a final check, but otherwise there was nothing to do but wait. Well, that showed nothing either. The good Dr. took out his big “unexplained infertility” stamp and branded us both on our foreheads. Well, at least that is what it felt like. I did not find any comfort in our diagnosis. To me, it just meant that there was nothing that could be done to fix us. It was a bit of a shock to learn through attending a local infertility support group and doing online research that having unexplained infertility is not uncommon. There is a large group of us floating around out there that will never get any answers as to why we can`t just have a romantic night with a bottle of wine and then have a baby pop-out 9 months later. It blew my mind. I had always thought that you go to a Dr., get some tests done, said Dr. tells you what is wrong, and then proceeds to treat you accordingly. Right? RIGHT? Wrong!

So what is the next step for a couple with unexplained infertility? Well, I have always been very adverse to putting anything unnatural in my body. I am a vegetarian, I see a naturopath, I avoid taking tylenol unless I absolutely have to. So, the idea of taking drugs to “treat” my infertility – especially when they aren’t targeted at any actual problem – was a hard thing for me to accept. For example, why would I take clomid to induce ovulation when I am already ovulating? How does that improve my chances? All the Dr. could tell me was: “We don’t know why it works, we just know that it does.”Well, that is comforting logic you can’t argue with!

So, given my drug aversion we opted to try IUI alone for a few months before jumping on the clomid bandwagon. That did not work so now – two years after we bought our first tickets for what we thought was the baby train – we are trying IUI with clomid. We are currently on our second round. I am not hoping for much, but we have to keep jumping through the hoops just in case!

Now you are all caught up on our infertility journey! I look forward to writing my next post 🙂

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A post 2 years in the making…

I have never “blogged” before, even though I have thought about doing it for years. I am starting now because I need to give my infertility a voice. I am tired of worrying that my employer will find out and treat me different. I am tired of worrying that friends and family will read this and judge me. I am tired of suffering in silence.

I often rant to my husband  about how wrong it is that infertility is the disease that dare not be named. I also rant about how even once it is named it is astounding the kinds of reactions you get from people. There is a profound misunderstanding that permeates. It is like once you announce your infertility to the happily fertile masses you can see the invisible chasm grow between you and them. They don’t know how to deal with you. They don’t know what to say. It is something that they have never had to even contemplate so how can they possibly relate?

So, I guess my agenda in starting this blog is really two-fold: a) to give my pain a voice, and b) to attempt to give insight to the fertile masses that might help them connect with the people in their lives that finally gain the courage to say the words “I/we suffer from infertility.”

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