Wednesday, August 27, 2008
Artificial Insemination. Something that's always sounded so foreign to me; foreign as in "out of this world - alien". If you had asked me when I was younger whether it would become a crucial part of my world for well over a year, I would never, ever have believed it.
When we signed up with the clinic to begin our quest for our second child, we felt that we knew the score. We decided based on my age, and our lack of success conceiving the traditional way (we're way too radical, don't you know?) ... we would bypass the drug and timed intercourse step and go straight to AI, or IUI (Intrauterine Insemination), a more commonly used term nowadays.
Or why don't we just call it the turkey baster method? Why leave anything to chance, when a tube will do?
So we were back on the Clomid and monitoring train again. We had the boy in daycare fulltime so that was at least covered. Either I or the man would drop our boy off early and I would head to the clinic for blood work before getting back to the office by 8:30 AM. No one at work would be the wiser.
Especially if I wore sleeves all the time. Oh, the poking. And lucky me, my phlebotomist could never get blood on the first prick. NEVER. We would have to switch arms so often, I would forget which arm she did each day (as we tried to alternate). And it would KILL me; as if the whole process wasn't bad enough, I would be guaranteed to have a major bruise on either or both arms as a result. (I don't get it, she was a nice enough lady, but this was her job, and from other discussions in the waiting room, I wasn't the only one who dreaded seeing her every morning...).
The transvaginal ultrasounds, they weren't everyday. They had everything timed so that I should only have to come in for an U/S once per cycle, based on the levels of hormones in my bloodwork. I would keep my fingers crossed that there would be multiple follicles, and that they would be progressing well. If the follicles were large enough, then we could time the HCG shot, and schedule the IUI. And I would make up some excuse for coming in late to work if IUI day happened during the week.
To say this was stressful was such an understatement. I felt very alone in the process - I couldn't help but feel it. I would go for the monitoring on my own; I would wait in the waiting room for my u/s... be given the instructions for the HCG shot. It wasn't that Ian wasn't involved or was detaching himself from the process; there was only so much he could do. Of course the one thing he had to do on demand likely wasn't so much fun either.
The very first IUI I had done was a disaster. I went on my own for purely logistical reasons. The one thing that Ian and I had discussed was that I ask that the sample being used was the right one. I said to Ian that I was sure that they had the procedure in place to make sure of that, but he was adamant that I at least doublecheck.
As I lay there waiting for the doctor to come into the room (and I wasn't sure who it was going to be; there was a roster of doctors who rotated based on availability), I just proceeded to get more nervous as the minutes went by. When the doctor came in, he introduced himself, told me what to expect, what to do, and asked if I had any questions. So I asked.
And I got a big lecture on how these things are quality controlled, it was impossible for the wrong sample, this wasn't a 2-bit operation, the clinic had years of experience, yada, yada, yada... and here, take a look, is that your name?
GAWD!!! I was speechless, felt that I had been told right off. All I could do was lie back, let the procedure happen. And know that the chances of this particular one being successful were likely next to none.
It wasn't until later that I felt enraged. I felt it was within my rights to ask. But I just kept it in. After all, at this point, I really felt that I needed the clinic a lot more than they needed me. Just sitting in the waiting room, and waiting with other desperate people, that was evidence enough.
Funnily enough, after my first IUI, the clinic got an audit as they were being certified. I never got that particular doctor again (thank God) but before each of the next procedures took place, I had to look at the sample, read the name, and sign off that I had checked it. I guess it wasn't such a stupid question after all.
But no matter, another 4 attempts at IUI, scheduled in and around the nightmare of SARS, 2003 was not the productive year we had hoped it would be. At my fourth procedure, I asked the nurse how often people usually go with the IUI step before moving on. She said on average, about six times. So we made an appointment to speak with our doctor again.
After our fifth failed attempt, in the late fall of 2003, we decided to stop with the IUIs. I was going nuts with all the failures; I was driving the man nuts; and although I'm sure our little boy wasn't feeling any ill effects as a result of my obsession, I didn't want it to get to the point where he WOULD start feeling them.
We had a major decision to make.
A big hit of 2003 - I still prefer the original Talk Talk version, but Gwennie, she didn't do too bad a job of it.
It seems each doctor has differing nuances in their fertility protocol. And I suppose they must do their due diligence. That's what makes it rather frustrating to the average patient. You really feel most times as if you have absolutely no control.
I wanted my new ob/gyn to give me a "go straight to fertility clinic" card, given my previous history. But of course she couldn't until she felt she had checked everything out. Again. More delays. Things may have changed a bit since actually having a pregnancy and giving birth. You couldn't fault her for not being thorough.
Blood tests. Man tests. More temperature monitoring and charting. And then the lovely experience called the HSG. Again.
Remember the last time? This occasion I decided to go it alone, and left my boy with my parents. No need for the hubs to come with me, after all, he'd already seen the picture a few years ago and my tubes looked as hot now as they did back then.
It was a different hospital this time, though. With shiny, brand-spanking new equipment. Boy, this was going to be fun.
Except it wasn't. I now know what if must feel like for my car to get an oil change. The platform I was on was raised, the dye injected. It all felt very mechanical. I've never felt the same at a Jiffy Lube since.
The dye didn't permeate on the one side as quickly as it should have, so they gave me another hit... which just proceeded to go nowhere except translate into physical pain. Oy. If they weren't blocked before, they certainly felt it this time.
Turns out one of the tubes was possibly blocked. Or maybe not. There was a little bubble that could have been a fibroid. The good news was that at least one was clear. And one is all you need. Well, we would have to see about that. Sore, but at least that question partially answered, we moved on.
Next up: the post-coital test. Fun WOW. Now this one we hadn't had before. And I am very glad of that, because there is no need in this world to have it more than once. Current research even questions the value of this test nowadays. For those of you who haven't experienced this firsthand, it goes something like this:
Doctor: Okay, everything looks pretty normal on the individual front. Let's see if there are issues with you guys as a team.
Me: (in my head: HUH???) Excuse me?
Doctor: On this day of your next cycle, I need you to have intercourse with your husband first thing in the morning and come to the office within a couple of hours. We'll take a swab and test it.
I guess they wanted to make sure that I didn't have a "hostile environment" for the hub's little guys. Which I thought was strange to do, seeing as we did have one child already. Could we all of a sudden have become allergic to one another?
Needless to say, it felt like I was being hauled to the principal's office after doing something terribly naughty. And being given a Pap for punishment. "Naughty" also wasn't the operative word, as said "deed" was not the fireworks-inspiring experience of a lifetime either. Wonder why?
But turns out these results were fine.
So after another several months of this "pre-infertility check to confirm that yes, indeedy, we were still inexplicably infertile" she FINALLY sent us to a fertility clinic. A clinic that was a pain and a half to get to traffic-wise. How in Hades was I going to get there every day? How was the little guy's daycare going to fit into all this? Who would drive when? How was I going to keep it all on the hush hush at work....All the negatives swirled around in my head.
As luck with have it, though, they were overrun with patients at this clinic and asked if we wouldn't mind going to their other location. And lo and behold, something positive. This alternate program was so much easier to access. We were back on track. Well, sort of, anyway.
It was 2002, over a year of TTC #2 and I was thirty-GULP-seven.
Tick tock, tick tock...
It was decided.
When the boy was about 14 months old we embarked on the "second baby journey". As you’ve probably guessed, it was not to be an easy one.
After an unsuccessful several months of trying haphazardly on our own (no medical intervention) for baby #2 (haphazardly, because everything is a little less organized when you’ve got a busy toddler), I sat down with my doctor and asked her to provide me a referral to an ob/gyn.
The clock wasn’t turning back and I knew we didn’t have much time to waste. (I didn’t go back to my previous specialist, because he was downtown and we had by this time moved to the burbs). (And yes, I'm the queen of brackets.)
Me: “I was so hoping it would be easier for us this time around.”
Doctor: “Why would you think that?”
Me: “Aren’t your chances of conceiving a little better after you’ve already had a baby?”
Doctor: “Well, no. And given your history, it doesn’t surprise me. Why do you want another anyway? Honestly, it was such a hard road for you for your first baby.”
(sidenote: My doctor, who’s my age and has two boys around 12 and 14, is also my parents’ doctor, attended my wedding, and is somewhat of a friend of the family. So she knows EVERYTHING. And she likes to tell it like it is).
This was a really loaded question. Why does anyone want children; more than one child? How many is enough? How many aren't too many? Why did she want her second? Why did I feel I had to answer it anyway? Why didn't I have a smart comeback?
Me: “Well, Ian would be happy with what we have. And I can’t say that I’m unhappy, as the boy brings so much to our lives. But I think it would be nice for L to have a sibling. Someone for companionship, to share life’s load, you know, especially when we’re old and decrepit and need to be cared for. I don’t want it to be all on his shoulders.”
Doctor: “So essentially, you want another kid to take care of you. That’s nice.”
Me: “Yeah, that’s pretty much it. So give me the referral”. (Sarcasm dripping...)
I like to tell it like it is too. (edited to add; snark... a reason, but certainly NOT the prevailing one!)
And so my obsession began. I thought I was so prepared, almost felt like a pro. But actually was still so naive, and had no idea what was in store for us. Who knew it would be more frustrating and even more heartbreaking at times than our first four years at this game?
Let's see, it was 2001 ...
So when do you know that you’re ready to have baby number 2?
Or if you want to have baby number 2?
Because it was entirely conceivable that it would be impossible for us to conceive again. We hit the jackpot once; maybe we were meant to be a family of three. Our boy was our wonder; a beautiful, loving little character, who had us enthralled from the moment he was born. Shouldn't we have been so happy to be so blessed?
Is it when you realize that your biological clock is ticking on over drive?
Is it when you see this ...
And he shares this with you...
And he cracks you up with this...
that you realize that your baby is growing up quickly in front of your very eyes…
so quickly that you want to get that "baby feeling" back?
I took a deep breath and wondered if we could indeed do it again. Only now it was a couple years later, I was a couple years older. And perhaps not so much wiser.
I love rollercoasters, I really do, but this was flippin’ ridiculous.
Oh boy, here we go again ...
After no luck with ancestral potions nor the first step in pharmacotherapy, and a couple months of conflicting schedules, we decided that we would move to the next stage. This being Clomid therapy, bloodwork, monitoring, ultrasounds and when the time was right, a booster injection of HCG just to crank up the torpedoes and release those eggs with a vengeance. And THEN see if those stars would align.
Monitoring again; oh how I was hating those daily visits to the labs. And even being more depressed when I sometimes saw mothers in there with a child accompanying them. Why couldn't they be happy with that child, at least they had that. I wanted just one baby; I didn't get it (although several years later I would certainly "get" it. If anything I was even more determined/ psychotically driven to have baby #2. That'll be another chapter).
School was a lot of hard work, but the learning and collaboration with my fellow students was invigorating and at least a productive distraction from the lack of success on the fertility front.
With things slowing down a bit in the summer, we decided to try a cycle with the extra HCG boost. Which of course entailed another trip back to the clinic after the usual bloodwork, ultrasounds; and then we had to do our business after 24 hours, the ETA of the grand eggs (yes plural, remember I was on Clomid).
August 1999, the month of our 6th wedding anniversary. Unfortunately, I had to attend an important conference in Montreal on our anniversary weekend. It also happened to land on a very important couple of days in our cycle. So it was a given that the spouse would accompany me. He was also travelling and would meet me the Friday evening.
I was lucky to have the excuse to "go home and pack" - in other words, stop by my doctor's to get the HCG shot just before my flight. Hopped on the plane, attended a dinner meeting with my boss and some other colleagues. It came up in conversation that it was my anniversary weekend.
My boss felt badly that I was working on my anniversary. Being a more-than decent fellow, he insisted that I take Ian out for a nice dinner on the company, and even suggested a restaurant.
So that evening, I decided that we would celebrate, really celebrate our anniversary. It was a gorgeous evening, we were in Montreal, a very romantic city, and we deserved to have some fun. We went to Bice, had a couple of cocktails and a lovely bottle of wine, (which I actually drank), let loose and just enjoyed ourselves. As a couple. For the first time in the last four years of TTC, we pretty much put all of that out of our minds and just focused on being a couple again. It was really magical.
Two weeks later, I went in for a blood test, not expecting much. Ian was away again at a sales meeting. I called the clinic for the results, and instead of a soft-spoken "So sorry, my dear" at the other end, I was told it was a "Weak positive".
What?!!! I almost flipped. I was too scared to be too excited. They asked me to come back for another test. And the second result: POSITIVELY POSITIVE.
I was pregnant. Almost too much to bear. When I told Ian over the phone that night, he just hollered, didn't even bother containing himself.
So the trips to Paris in the fall? I had to cancel. Paris would still be there.
I had to meet someone very important in the spring, a meeting that we could just not afford to jeopardize:
(Here's the happy dance for the day )
Grandchildren are a huge deal in most cultures, and Chinese is no exception. And I suppose the lack of any at the time, even if it wasn't by choice, was a cause of great concern for my parents.
Frustrated with the lack of progress on the “Western” medicine front, I let my mother convince me to see a Chinese doctor, a specialist in Chinese herbs and medicine. A friend of a friend’s daughter was in her late 30s, not having any luck for years, but after she saw this doctor and got the special soup, presto, she got pregnant.
I was skeptical. I suppose it came from so many years of schooling in science, and then working in the drug industry. What ingredients were in all these concoctions? Hey, where were the double-blind, controlled clinical studies performed to show that that EXACT dose of dried frog testicle mixed with bat wing could actually increase our chances of having a baby? My mom only got me there because a) this doctor actually also had a medical degree from the US. So a doctor trained on both sides of the ocean. Bonus. And b) infertility can lead to desperate measures.
I brought both my parents with me, my Mom to translate in case needed, and my father, because he comes part and parcel with my mother, ever since their retirement. And Mom is the one with the special Chinese pot that she would use to cook up whatever soup needed to be prepared. What is it about Chinese Moms and their soups? Dark, murky, stenchy soups? I was just happy that it wouldn’t be stinking up my place.
Turns out that according to the doctor (at least at the time), Chinese medicines are actually more effective if the fertility issues lie with the male. He felt that I should continue on the standard protocol prescribed by my “Western” doctor, as from what I told him the tests showed that we were both “normal”. Nevertheless, he prescribed a mixture of various herbs in a paper bag, and gave written instructions to my mother as to how to boil it up. It was just a general health soup that both Ian and I could drink. Increase the general health, increase the chances of conceiving. While we were there, Mom also bought some stuff for her and my Dad. I swear I saw desiccated beetle legs sticking out from their purchase.
Leaving the herbal shop, we walked back into the Chinese mall toward the elevator. My mother was happy that I had finally gone to this doctor with her. She began chatting with me about her own struggles trying to have the elusive son for my Dad. There are almost 12 years between me and my younger brother, but my mom hadn’t to this point shared any of her experiences with me. Yet.
The elevator door opened and the three of us got in. A tiny elevator. And I was squished between the folks.
Mom: ” Your father wanted a son so badly, you would not believe …”
Mom: ” … the things that we did … the things that we tried and tried ...”
Dad cleared his throat. Shuffled his feet a bit, looking down.
Mom: “I did headstands, if you want a boy you ...blah blah positions …”
Me: “Uh, okay MOM STOP -- I get it!!”
Oh, the things we’ll do for a baby.
(Originally posted June 16/08)
*disclaimer: I know of people who have been successfully treated with Chinese medicine, acupuncture etc. This is not intended to be an endorsement nor a criticism of this option for infertility treatment. Just my own story, folks. And unfortunately, no, it wasn't a miracle soup for us.
(Images from martialartsgear.com and stock.xchng)
"Wipe that smile off your ****ing face, I say to you;
Wipe that smile off your face"
-Fallout Boy w/ Timbaland
So much for PG rated. That's just the type of year it was that followed. Further lows.
I am a nut about roller coasters, but you expect to CLIMB at some point. The year following our first visit with the specialist, in review:
1/ Step by Step ( and sorry, for NKOTB fans, I never was and never will be a fan, so a musical reference will NOT be included here. But the title seemed appropriate)
Everything on the BBT chart looked normal; the man’s specs were normal. No reason on the surface why it should be taking so long. Still, it wasn't happening. So onward to to Step 2; the HSG. Maybe the tubes are blocked. Oh what fun …
2/ Day of the HSG: When I made the appointment I ensured that my husband would be there with me. Because if there was going to be another man to witness the first pictures of my lovely innards, then my husband better be there too.
The day of the procedure, I was quite nervous. It was to be performed at the hospital, supposedly a painless procedure. I got into my hospital gown with my whoo-hoo a-showin’ with every move I made. Walked into the operating room with the hubby, and in came my doctor… with a pimply-faced med student. My doctor asked if it would be all right if his student “observed”. I was taken aback, but, hey, all in the name of science.
In went the probe; I won’t go into specifics, but honestly, although it wasn’t exactly painful, having a fair volume of dye injected where it doesn't normally go doesn’t classify as a picnic in my opinion. It was quite fascinating to see my textbook reproductive system in all its blue glory on the screen. But fortunately/ unfortunately, all was clear. Beautiful set of tubes I’ve got.
No signs of obstructions, fibroids, nothing you could put your finger on.
Ironically, in Ontario anyway, if both fallopian tubes are totally blocked it would have been a cause for celebration. This is the only condition whereby the government will pay for IVF. That's a whole other issue.
3/ So what the hey? Well, we had another couple of cyles monitored, and look, lo and behold, it appears that even though my periods were like clockwork, I may not have been actually ovulating. My BBT charts would be normal some months; but not others. Not too sure.
Monitoring itself, now that was not a piece of cake either. Have I mentioned in one of my random weird facts about me ... I HATE having blood drawn? Great. The first time I ever had it done in my life I was about 14, my mom had to bring a litre of milk for me to drink after. I almost passed out. Now I was facing a life of very frequent, daily blood draws at various points in my cycle every month.
I would drive to the downtown clinic at 7 AM on the way to work, have my blood drawn. Then as we got further into the treatment, I had to go to another lab for transvaginal ultrasounds to monitor the development of the follicles. Before heading to the lab for the blood draw. And then up north of the city for work. For several days in a row. The schedule was exhausting. But we were lucky at least, we lived in a major city centre. There were women coming in from all over.
4/ The next step... Clomid. Perhaps that would help trigger ovulation. But there was a risk of multiple births with this treatment. Something to think about. We sat on it for a couple of months; further delay, yes, but we had to be sure that we would be ready for multiples. We both have histories of twins/ triplets in the family.
Taking a deep breath, by the winter of 1998, we decided to try the drug therapy.
5/ Well, you know how it sort of helps to conceive a baby if both partners are in town at the same time? In 1998 hubby took a job in sales, which required him to work some evenings, sometimes weekends for certain events and out-of-town meetings. You guessed it, they usually happened at the most opportune time during the cycle.
I was doing a little travel on my own. This was the dilemma. We were reluctant to say anything to people at work (it's only smart, unfortunately). So it was impossible to really come up with excuses to miss very important meetings. Therefore I didn't.
We were still doing our darnedest, with work, school, schedules and then adding Clomid therapy on top of that to increase our chances. For five excruciating months. Results?
Less than zero.
We were hoping that we could party like it was 1999 , because that's exactly what it was. Into year four of infertility.
Statistics seen on a recent Good Morning Canada broadcast:
- 600 000 couples in Ontario are suffering from infertility
- 90 million couples worldwide are experiencing infertility
About this time 10 years ago...
Sitting in the fertility doctor’s office, it hit me.
We are infertile. For a lack of any better way to think about it ... it sucked big time.
I had been focused on the school thing for the previous few months; getting the first term of the program under my belt was a good thing. Not bad timing at all, providing me with a distraction from this bigger worry.
Ian came with me to the doc’s. The lone man among a room full of women. It was rather obvious why we were there. The doctor was an ob/gyn, a specialist in endometriosis but he also dabbled in fertility treatments. Endometriosis is often a cause of infertility.
The doctor was punctual. We were called into his office, and he greeted us with a wide grin; a quiet man, with an ear-to-ear smile. And I’m not the only one who’s noticed this. He was voted “Smiliest Fertility Doctor” in this publication not too many years ago. The fact that they even had this as a category boggles my mind (talk about being bang on; it was actually a pretty quirky list of the "best of the city" and I could laugh about it).
He took a look at my records while we sat in front of him. He asked us a few questions, noted our ages and lifestyle. Then he announced that he had full confidence that we would get pregnant. This was even before getting into any real “testing” of us. He just knew … and looking at the wall of fame behind us (babies, babies everywhere) … we were encouraged.
So here was the plan. We’d do some investigation of our status quo; check my cycles, BBT etc, bloodwork on both of us. Check the man’s Spencer stats (you really should trademark the name, Xbox).
Next steps after that, if still not preggars:
1/ Hysterosalpingogram (HSG). Can help clear any tubes while they’re looking for potential blockage, don’t you know.
2/ Then consider drug therapy (Clomid).
3/ If drugs alone don’t work, add cycle monitoring consisting of blood work and ultrasounds of the transvaginal variety (gulp). And more drugs.
4/ If no success there, then we move into the Assisted Reproduction Technology arena. IUI’s, IVF, ICSI, GIFT … enough acronyms for you? But this last step, don’t even think about as we probably wouldn’t have to go there (yet...)
First things first. Take this graph, go home, be diligent with your temperature, and fill it out the form. Do your thing. Come back after the cycle and then we’ll talk.
He told us we should be pregnant in a matter of months. It was nice to hear that from someone, especially a professional.
We left there feeling great. Oddly excited. A new start. Some renewed hope.
(here comes the happy music ...)
(I know that I’m really drawing this out but it just seemed a bit trite to condense the first years of our infertility struggles into but a couple of posts. I’ll pick up speed, after all, as you know, there are two stories in this saga. Oh, and just because I NEED to spit another 13 things out, they are way down below…)
There would still be a few months before we got to see the fertility specialist. So we plodded along as usual, hoping, but not really expecting much. And trying to stay sane in the meantime.
Things were going all right for me at work. I had an interesting boss (read: one that most people could not stand; I gave her the benefit of the doubt as I think a lot of the problem was purely cultural, but really, she could be a supreme bee-atch). She happened to like me. And she liked that I knew what I was doing and could make her look good (read: do her job and get paid thousands less). The work itself was challenging enough, but let’s face it, ambition has got to rear its head when you’re in this situation.
I had wanted to study business for a while; primarily because I hadn’t taken one single business course throughout high school or university. It was always maths and sciences, and I really wanted to prove to myself that I could do something related to marketing and business. Of course even back then, an MBA wasn’t worth its weight as much as it used to be say, even 10 years earlier. But it certainly couldn’t hurt career-wise.
My boss also had an MBA and to her credit, was big on women improving their skills and education. It was fairly easy to get her on board to recommend that the company pay for my program. She also provided what I can only guess was a glowing letter of recommendation to the school.
I studied for my GMAT for several weeks straight before sitting for the exam, which was tough after not having been in school in 10 years. And I wrote a “masterpiece” of an application to the university. I got accepted into the program which would take about 3 years to complete while working full-time.
I remember having a chat with a friend who was now located in the US, catching up about “stuff”, telling her I was thinking about doing the MBA, and also about my struggles with infertility. She suggested I really think hard, because she’d had friends do the school & work thing and they basically disappeared from the face of the earth for a couple of years. And then she told me that she was expecting her second child.
So really, in order to take away the stress of trying for baby and not being successful, I embarked on a totally stress-free activity called “business-school-on-evenings-and-weekends-while-working-full-time-not-going-to-have-a-life-and-man-I-still-wanna-get-pregnant” mission.
Did I mention that I’m a freakin’ nutcase?
Or at least Clumsy.
(and how amazing is it that this hot guy is actually a dad of 2 now, with another on the way with his beautiful wife. And they give back too. Brangelina, eat your heart out.)
Thirteen things I learned while getting my MBA...
1/ Beer before, during and after an assignment isn’t necessarily a bad thing.
2/ “Greek” and “Texan” can go together and provide a cheap meal including a beer, honkin’ huge pork chops and Jello as dessert. Our hang out before class on those long haul Friday evenings after work.
3/ It’s a good thing to let the ball and chain loose a little. Hubs loved his free weekends.
4/ Even adults can be slacker students. I guess high school attitude doesn’t always die.
5/ Statistics were still impossible. Thank goodness for the engineer in the group.
6/ Homework and exams still suck. Especially in conjunction with “real” work assignments.
7/ I never want to create another survey. Ever again.
8/ It’s a bit depressing when your profs are around the same age as you.
9/ Laptops are one of the greatest inventions ever made.
10/ Coffee is the new Coke.
11/ Girls night out meant getting together with two gal pals and cranking out a 1000 page report and analysis of the drug industry … over wine and cheese of course.
12/ You can make lifelong friends with people that you spend most every weekend with for three intense years. It’s been almost 7 years since we graduated, and we still try to see get together 2 -3 times a year.
13/ Don't put your life on hold for something that seems unattainable...
(further details, of course, will follow ... I know, I am very, very mean)
(a continuation of this story, that started over 10 years ago. Didn't think my memory housed this much information.
And the stats here are just numbers I picked up through the years, so I have not annotated my references. I told two friends when they turned 30 to start working on getting pregnant right away based on my experiences. Both got pregnant in their first month of trying and were totally unprepared. So what do I know?)
Annoyed, is what I was. Annoyed with the media, the science, the technology. For years I was under the impression (as was likely a whole generation) that we could really have it all. The education - yup; the job and career – yup again; the marriage/ stable relationship – three for three; and then the baby carriage – still waiting… All in that order. Advances in reproductive technology had allowed women to think that babies were so easily attainable. Coverage of all these remarkable older celebrity women able to give birth well into their late 30s and 40s. Miracle babies to women in their 50's. What a false sense of confidence this gave us.
Fertility rates do plummet after the age of 35; that magic number. But what was little known then, or at least not really highlighted to the uninformed, was that your chances of getting pregnant start falling once you hit your late 20s. In fact, the most “ripe” age for getting pregnant is likely 16 – after that it’s all downhill. There’s a reason for all those teen pregnancies.
Speaking of which, how bitter was I becoming about not being able to get pregnant? All these stupid, stupid (remember, very bitter, often not-too-nice me) young girls getting knocked up at the drop of a hat not only once, but time and again despite all the available contraceptive options, while despite all our finely timed efforts, we were getting absolutely nowhere? Had we really waited too long?
To make matters worse, several of our friends, those who were settling down a little later, even marrying after we did, were getting pregnant. It only got better -- we lived in one of the most family friendly parts of town. Babies were here, there, everywhere; baby boutiques were popping up and strollers were starting to block the sidewalks of our neighbourhood. Even when I tried not to think about it, it was always staring me in the face.
The husband, well, he was never really that caught up in it. He’s the glass half-full guy, a real optimist, and figured that we would become parents, eventually. He’s the one who usually told me to relax, and we all know how effective THAT can be … perhaps at putting your marriage in peril. Obviously without him in the process nothing would have happened, so he really was a great support. We were in this together, whenever I would let him be a part of it. I shut him out a lot as my way of dealing with the frustration. His lack of angst to the same extent of my despair, signalled to me his lack of commitment, which could not have been further from the truth. I needed him more than I would admit. To say infertility can take a toll on your relationship is putting it mildly.
I remember a few months after my physical, at a friend’s New Year’s Eve party, I noticed that a couple of the girls were not drinking. I guessed correctly that they were pregnant. And so after over a year of little or no alcohol, I promptly got myself shit-faced drunk and suffered the consequences by throwing up for only the second time in my life. Vomiting for all the wrong reasons.
I could only hope for a better 1998.
Another music post from another band I "discovered" in 1997 - and I'm crossing my fingers that we'll be able see them this August. Because they are too good. Enjoy.
U.F.C. is on tonight
Make 'em swim faster
Let's continue with what we started...
We had talked about having children, although not so much while we were dating. There was some reluctance from my bridegroom to discuss anything related to commitment until we were past a certain stage in our relationship. More precisely once we were wed and I had him shackled to the ball and chain. At one point, he wasn’t even sure he wanted children (which I knew was just a cop out, as he’s always been so good with kids). But the point of this isn’t to bash the man. Discussions did take place about having a child, and just before I turned 31, we decided that we would go for it.
We threw caution to the wind, and I chucked those pills that I had been taking with the utmost compliance for so many years. I had always been regular with my periods, so I figured that it would only take a couple of months, at the most. During that initial time though, we weren’t so much as trying for, but “not really doing anything to prevent”. Despite our wish to have a family we were quite nervous - after all, parenthood is a huge deal.
I had a very good idea as to when I would be ovulating, knew the proper timing to get jiggy with it. Remember, I was like clockwork. So although we were trepidatious, we still were doing all the right things. For some reason, we thought that would be enough.
The first six months, well, nothing happened, and we weren’t all that concerned. But after the seventh and then eighth, I started wondering. And really dreading a particular time of the month more than I ever had before. Still, we continued on our path, but with a bit more intent. I started taking my temperature (BBT), mapping out my cycles. Began to do some more reading, research about preparing the body, best foods to make the body baby-ready; the man was forbidden to cycle overly much, all that fun stuff. I had stopped drinking (alcohol) since day one (which to people who really know me, and any regular reader of my blog, shows seriousness of the greatest magnitude!). Even cut back on the caffeine somewhat.
Still, by the time I turned 32 – nada, nothing, zilch.
At my annual physical, my doctor asked me how marriage was going, and whether we had any thoughts about kids. I told her how long we had been trying and that I was starting to get a bit concerned. While she herself didn’t think that it had been overly long, given my age, the one year mark was a standard timepoint when couples should start inquiring. So she gave me a referral to an infertility specialist just in case - because the earliest I could see him was months away.
And that’s when the angst really started.
We attended a celebration yesterday. A celebration which, to be honest, brought me back to a chapter of my life that I had for the last three years not really wanted to flip through again. A lot of very bitter memories were in those pages. However, that particular book did have a very happy ending.
A couple of months ago we received a card in the mail inviting us to a 25th anniversary party. We were curious, and interested in hearing a living pioneer speak. There was a promise of games and activities for the kids and a buffet lunch. And to top it off, the party was taking place in a banquet hall about 5 minutes from our home. So why not? We rsvp’d our intentions to attend the Silver Anniversary Celebration of IVF Canada.
We arrived at the event and were quite impressed with the setup. We registered and got our name tags; we were asked whether we would be willing to talk to media as they were to be in attendance at some point. I agreed that I would I’m quite open with anyone who asks or even doesn’t ask and am now putting it out there on the internet.
Inside they had fun hoops and minigolf for the children. They had a band of clown musicians (well, they were a little creepy) playing Dixieland tunes, and popcorn and drinks as well as a huge jumping tent rounding out the carnival atmosphere. Balloons and other clowns were plentiful, and people were milling around with their children. The girlie had a couple of balloon animals made for her; the boy some balloon swords. We found a seat with another couple with cute 10 month old twins, a beautiful boy and girl.
As we sat down with our drinks, sitting near the stage where a slideshow of baby photos was being shown, we made conversation with the couple about their children, and their experiences. I kept my peripheral vision on the screen in case I would see little G - I had sent the clinic a birth announcement with our thanks. I wondered aloud whether the first children born from IVF in Canada would be in attendance; they would be around 25 years old now. And my boy asked us what IVF was. I was hesitant as to how to answer that… Ian just replied that it was when a baby was conceived in a test tube or Petri dish. I doubt that the boy understood any of that, but it seemed to satisfy him as he continued to munch on his popcorn.
I looked around the room to see if there were any familiar faces. But to be honest, I may have subconsciously erased many of them from my mind. It is really a blur now. I did however, recognize all of the doctors. I'm not so much of a hussy that I don't recognize the faces of all the men who have peered directly at my nether regions, for one reason or another. I actually remembered which doctor performed which consult, which ultrasound, which procedure. I don't think those memories will really ever escape me.
They opened up the line for the buffet lunch and I got right in there (given the number of people, I thought I'd better lest we be waiting an hour later with two very hungry children). The food was standard filler (burgers, fries, chicken fingers etc...) but it gave us something to do while waiting for something to happen. And finally one of the doctors took to the podium to say a few words.
And they didn't really amount to much. He touched on the number of years that IVF Canada and the Life program have been in existence. That they don't really keep records of how many births they have had from their program, but estimated about 4000 in the last 25 years. He then introduced Dr. Robert Edwards, whose work led to the birth of the first test tube baby Louise Brown, in 1978. Dr. Edwards, who got up to say that he was happy to be here to celebrate this milestone, but that he was really here to visit his brother (remember, this fellow is quite OLD now).
It was a bit anti-climactic. We decided to leave after the speeches, not wanting to wait another hour for a large group picture to be taken. The first boys born from the program did show up and were cutting the massive cake that was to be served.
Our curiosity satisfied, we took the kids out to enjoy the rest of the beautiful Sunday afternoon. It was too lovely a day to stay inside any longer.
But I'm glad we did it. To see so many families together in one room, those who had success stories, children ranging from babies to young adults. People not so different from us. The lucky ones.
My blog has been focused on my shiny, happy family. It likely appears sickeningly sweet sometimes. And perhaps it is so for a reason; it is an ode to my family, my children, my life with my family. But it is ultimately a blog for me.
I've been following another blogger and his journey with his wife through infertility. It is not an easy journey, and Xbox is capturing it all with humour and wit, but there are some very sad, frustrating moments. Through his words, I have thought about sharing my own story. I did not have this space when we were struggling, and I wish I had. I've decided to write a bit about our own roller coaster ride, a little at a time. I'm not sure how far I'll go with this, but it is important.
If my words can help even one person with their infertility struggles, and give them hope, then that will just be icing on the cake.
And as has been my tradition to use music in my Monday posts, here is one of my favourite songs that happened to come out the year that we started our very unexpected journey on the infertility train...yeah, it started that long ago...
As the initial posts have blossomed into more than a few, and linking them back to each other led to a very disjointed story, I've put them all together here (with some editing) to provide some continuity to the story.
All in one spot. The pain, the sorrow, the frustration ... but the wondrous miracles that resulted, the fabulous L and G.
They were worth the fight, so very worth it.
(PS I don't know how to copy the commentary over, unfortunately, but they are captured in the original posting over at my other place. Just have to link back.)