Thursday, 25 May 2017

A slightly more hopeful appointment

Mr. Turtle and I went back to The Fertility Clinic yesterday to follow up his latest semen analysis. It was a windy, rainy, stormy day (free car wash).

Dr. Cotter bounded in, seeming rather more cheerful than usual. She engaged in chit chat about the weather, and commented how the hill across the street was covered in goats the previous day. Our city has a program where goats are used in some areas to keep grass cropped. Mr. Turtle talked easily to her, while I watched her mood, wondering if the merry attitude was a set up for more depressing news.

Not quite.

Mr. Turtle's latest semen analysis (a couple of months ago) showed much improved numbers and motility. Not fantastic: but at least approaching the sorts of numbers needed to contemplate further treatments. "You could do IVF with these numbers, or donor egg IVF," Dr. Cotter breezed. (Further IVF would still be affected by my diminished ovarian reserve, of course.). Chances of unassisted conception are still considered unlikely. I asked about IUI. Dr. Cotter said the numbers are still not quite good enough to start IUI now, but to test again next month and if they continue to improve, then we can try it. She commented that I had "stopped ovulating," with reference to my last cycle on Clomid. However, I told her that I'm pretty confident I do ovulate, even without Clomid, because I get positive OPKs and I detect a BBT rise quite often. I would hazard a guess that I ovulate 70% of the time. With the new information, Dr. Cotter was confident enough that she gave me the paperwork for IUI with Clomid. Assuming that Mr. Turtle's sperm continue to be healthy, we have some options. June would be the earliest we start any further treatments.

Dr. Cotter also told me that the company that makes Clomid is taking it off the market in a few months, for unknown reasons. Even the drug reps do not know why. Letrazole will be prescribed instead. She implied that reason is because Letrazole is much more expensive (i.e. the drug company will make more money). So hopefully we can try IUI with Clomid while it is available, and if it doesn't work, maybe we can try Letrazole.

It says something about where we are at in this process that even the possibility of another treatment option seems so encouraging. Perhaps it is just the excitement of a gambler when the stakes are increased. But Mr. Turtle and I have talked about our choices, and we agree that we would like to attempt what we can with our own genetic material, even if the chances are not great. I have a lot of complicated thoughts and feelings about donor egg IVF, and I do not think they will ever be resolved. Basically, I have always wanted DEIVF to be the plan B we never have to use. I don't want to take the option away, because that has a finality that is hard to accept. But I don't actually want to do it, either. At this point, the best option for us is to try whatever else increases our chances, even moderately.


On a somewhat related topic, I recently discovered that the mom I got to know at AJ's daycare (I tell the story in this entry) is also an IFfer. We had been tentatively getting to know each other and having this other piece in common makes me even happier to know her and her son. I've felt lately (for the past couple of years?) that it's hard to find the people, the knowledge, the insights that I really need. What worked for me previously doesn't quite work now.  A lot of things in my life are going great. Still, I feel the chaos of the unknown is close to my little bubble, and I'm not terribly confident I am able to face it and make sense of it, to be honest.


But maybe, just maybe, I'm finding my courage and meaning. It's heartening to contemplate renewal, and to wake up my mind and spirit and find out what's truly out there.

Monday, 8 May 2017

#Microblog Mondays: Bigger Picture

Continuing on with the "what would it be like to stop TTC" thoughts. (The bookend to this is "what would it be like to try DE IVF" but that one's big and weird and has to cook for a bit longer....)


When I think about possibly ceasing to actively TTC, one of the more uncomfortable emotional areas is "what would this mean for my career?" Or more broadly, how would I conceptualize the Rest of My Life without TTC diverting a ton of emotional energy, time, and mental space. (Because it does, oh it does.)


Four years ago I wrote a blog entry about how weird it felt to consider work goals when the future held uncertainty about how our family would look, what it might take to get there and how this would affect us. "Next year will not be a good time to...."  In the intervening years, what I wrote about there has remained basically true. Obviously, some things have changed, but what hasn't changed is that I don't feel inclined to commit to anything very ambitious at work while we are actively trying to grow our family. I have a goal for my class every year; I get involved in some different extra curricular activities, but I haven't seriously considered a major change like teaching a different program, getting my masters, changing jobs, etc. (I did change jobs two years ago but that was not by choice. It's not the same.)  But as the years have gone by I admit that has become less of a conscious decision, and more something I've accepted. Partly that's because I don't like angst any more than the average person (maybe less) so if the status quo is OK, fine and good. But part of it has maybe become avoidance. Because when I think about not trying to conceive any longer, and the fact that that means I could reassess my career, I feel....rather nervous.


Contemplating life with one child, same result. I have sort of an expectation that if we have a second child, I would not continue working full time. In other words, it would be a major career interruption. I don't know if that's true or not, but I'm aware of my limits and I recognize that full time teaching with two young children just might not be doable. And in theory at least I'm OK with that sacrifice. So why put a lot of energy into developing a career I might take a break from anyway? But on the other hand, working and parenting one child is so far not too overwhelming, which maybe means....I could do more? Should I do more? Should I actually think about what I want?


Hmmmmm. Here I go, actually trying to think about things.


Microblog Mondays

Monday, 1 May 2017

Microblog Mondays: Subterranean messages

I discovered Dr. Jordan Peterson this weekend. I started watching his lecture on Maps of Meaning: Story and Meta Story and was riveted. As in, "I can't believe I am suddenly understanding how my brain works!" I do somewhat understand how my brain works, in general and in particular, but this lecture took it to a new level, for me.


From the blurb:


"In this lecture, I discuss how the basic or archetypal categories we use to frame the world are represented in image, where they existed long before their nature could be articulated. These categories include the individual (hero/adversary), culture (wise king/tyrant), and nature (destruction/creation). The heroic individual (the knower) is typically masculine, as is culture (the known), while the unknown is feminine. These categories can be conceptualized, as well, as explorer, explored territory, and unexplored territory. The most abstract category is the dragon of chaos, the monster who guards what is most valuable. It is from this most primordial of categories that the other three emerge. Our existence as prey and predator is reflected in the ambivalent representation of the absolute unknown."







Yes, it's two hours long. I should add that watching video of people talk is not one of my favourite things to do. I have never been into Ted Talks or similar things because I simply do not enjoy sitting through a video listening. I can read several times faster than anyone can or should talk, and hence I process the same message / information in a fraction of the time by reading as by listening. I see no reason why I shouldn't read or why people shouldn't bother to write an article if something is important to communicate.  For me to take even two minutes to watch a video, it has to be something really special or entertaining. Dr. Jordan Peterson is. And I absolutely will find 2 hours to hear this full lecture, although not all at once (I'm about an hour in at present).


One of the most relevant messages from the first hour is how our brains learn to ignore the vast majority of stimuli: Dr. Peterson says 99%. (And I thought it was just me! Ha!) Our sense of safety and sanity is mostly based on the belief that the 99% of stimuli are unimportant to survival. A crisis or trauma is an unexpected event that challenges that belief. It is like a monster (imagine the shark from Jaws) emerging from the depths of the unknown and disrupting/shattering our comfortable world. Suddenly, we start to wonder if we were wrong to ignore all the 99%. We start trying to pay attention to everything, to figure out the important thing that we missed, and that puts a lot of stress on the mind and body. Depending on the circumstances, and how the person frames their experience and reality, the experience can be mildly disturbing to completely life shattering. If it goes on for a prolonged time, brain structure may be permanently altered.


Do you think this sounded familiar? Heck yeah!


It feels relevant to my emotional sinkholes. To my infertility and pregnancy trauma. To the current conflicted feelings around further fertility treatments. I was in the middle of a post on that, and on my frames and beliefs, but it will probably wait until I've watched the entire lecture and my thoughts may change after watching it (or I may understand them better).


I think the lecture is speaking to me on a deep level already, because I've had some weird and arresting messages come up in my dreams. I won't be a dream bore here, also I'm trying to keep my posts short, but maybe I'll write about it in a follow up later this week.


Microblog Mondays

Wednesday, 26 April 2017

One child family thoughts

To follow up my entry on "Sinkholes," and maybe blog oftener, I'm going to try to write a bunch of short(er) posts about various things on my mind, many of which will be fertility related (but not necessarily all). It's hard sometimes to break my thoughts into smaller topics, because one thought leads to another to another in my mind. But I'll try!


Today....Thinking more about a one child family.


What would it be like to stop the trying to conceive business? In my entry called "Release," I talked about an experience where I felt happy to be a one child family. That was a lovely afternoon. I was profoundly content that day! It also wasn't the whole picture.


It is still upsetting to have a seemingly normal 27 day cycle where we do everything right and don't get pregnant. It sucks to gamble and lose. It hurts to see pregnant bellies and new infant siblings at AJ's daycare and dance class and know that we are (seemingly!) one lucky cycle away from that being our reality, but still, oh, so far. The other day at Easter dinner my mom and stepmother in law started talking about why they decided to have more than one child. Tender confidences about not wanting the eldest to "grow up alone." Or acting on a partially understood maternal instinct. Or seeing the child's father grow in confidence and reaching an understanding that it would be OK to have more. All so sweet in hindsight. So sweet to have a bloody choice about it, at all. (I didn't say anything.)


I almost always refuse to let myself visualize AJ as an older sibling, or to picture how we might arrange our lives around two, because it feels too painful to dwell on a possibility that stays on the outside of reality. People cope with infertility in different ways; avoidance is one of mine. I squirm when other people "go there," no matter how innocently. That's protected emotional space. Back away!


On the other hand, I have become aware of a few things that could help me be at peace as a one child family. I'm not sentimental about babies. Maybe infertility has given me a cold dead heart, but I have no particular attraction to other people's babies. I'm jealous that they have the choice to have a baby, not of the actual baby so much.  I loved AJ as a baby, but I don't miss her as a baby. I love the person she is and is becoming. It is awesome to be a mother to a toddler and to contemplate all the possibilities that await. We have a family vacation to the ocean planned for the summer! Squee! And the thousands of dollars we could spend on treatments: How about taking a bigger AJ to Europe and Greece next year instead? That won't happen if I'm pregnant or parenting a young baby, but it likely can happen if I'm not.


The bottom line is, it is still painful to contemplate not trying any longer, or trying with such a reduced level of hope and intention that it amounts to not trying. (I'm not sure where that boundary is, for me.) Along with the pain I also have some awareness of the benefits of one child, even if that is not truly our choice.  Day to day, I find I can't only focus on the painful part or the peaceful part. I have to try to accept them both at once. It's weird. But this is our current reality, and my family means enough to me that I must have the courage to embrace all the feelings at once.

Monday, 17 April 2017

#Microblog Monday: Emotional sinkholes

Have you watched the documentaries on sinkholes? Terrifying, aren't they?


I feel like I've had emotional sinkholes lately.

I'm going about my day, doing things I ordinarily do, and it suddenly feels like....a piece of my identity, my self, isn't there. I feel vaguely like a liar, when I try to talk about myself to someone, because I don't know if what I'm saying is true. And my words feel dangerous, like they might tear open unexpectedly savage wounds in myself or others. Although I'm not trying to fool anyone. I'm not trying to hurt anyone.

I'm hoping this is some combination of ending a cycle (yes it still bothers me, especially the ones that are more "normal," but don't result in pregnancy), waking up at 3:30am, and maybe not blogging often enough.

I've felt this way before, at times of transition and flux. Somehow though, I thought I was done feeling that way. You know, married, established career, mother, financially stable. I thought those feelings belonged to my 20s or earlier when I didn't have any of those things and life was much less predictable.

I guess it's less predictable than I thought, and I'm less stable. It's not a pleasant feeling. But at least I know myself a little better, and I know that I've been here before.


Wednesday, 5 April 2017

Release

Last week I had a few days "staycation." (It's taken me a while to finish this entry). It was spring break for the public school board, but we were not able to go on a holiday anywhere because Mr. Turtle was completing his final practicum hours (Master's degree in counselling psychology). It's a first world problem for sure, but I was disappointed to not be able to go on vacation anywhere. Last year we went on a family trip and it was wonderful (despite Mr. Turtle writing papers). It made me sad to think we could not do something similar this year. Actually, I was almost dreading the coming week off work, worrying that I would be bored and would sit around by myself thinking gloomy thoughts. Usually I might look forward to reading books, but lately I have struggled to find books I am interested in and to keep my attention on them once I start them (an unusual problem for me, but a different topic.)

Well, my fears did not come to pass and the week was quite enjoyable. I went to the zoo with AJ and my mom; I had a wonderful visit with a friend who has an irregular schedule; and I had a couple of days to myself with AJ in daycare to get a haircut, go shopping and even work in the yard. (So productive!) A old friend from overseas sent me a long letter and I spent many hours thinking about it and what to write back. By the time Friday came around I was ready for a low key day and I did not find my own company oppressive at all. And to wrap it up, on the weekend Mr. Turtle took a few hours off schoolwork and we went on a date night.

Apart from the fun stuff something I appreciated about this week was practicing release. I have thought about what word to use and I like "release" better  than "taking a break" or "not trying" or "just relaxing" (ugh!). We are in between tests and treatments (if there even will be more treatments) so I have been taking my supplements and charting BBT/CM/Ovacue and timing our dates with fate based on that. It's been going "well" in the sense that my cycles have been fairly predictable, but at the beginning of this cycle I wanted to do less. I decided to stop the supplements other than the prenatal and one CO Q10 pill. Mainly I was tired of trying to remember to take pills 3X a day and feeling guilty if I forgot. This way I take them once a day whenever I remember and then I forget about it. I took my BBT once at the beginning of the cycle, but then I got sick, and started waking up at a different time, and it was just easier to not bother. Same with the Ovacue readings: once I missed the first ones, it was easy to stop caring.

I paid attention to CM because I can't help noticing it, so it's not extra work. And I took OPKs, but only 4, not the whole box. We did our thing when it seemed right, but because I'm not temping I did not confirm ovulation.  It feels good to care less (certainly I do still care!) and it's good to know that I am able to let go of the incessant monitoring, and life goes on.

I also had some thoughts about family size and what it means. We went to a world-famous paleontology museum on the weekend as a family. After seeing a few exhibits, AJ started to get fussy and over-stimulated and asked to do the "puzzles." So we backtracked to a lobby in between galleries with soft chairs and coffee tables (brilliant). The coffee tables were inlaid with puzzles and other hands on activities (also brilliant). Mr. Turtle and I sat on the couch while AJ amused herself with the puzzles. I had a chance to observe other families going through. Usually, it makes me sad to think that AJ might not ever have a sibling, but as I watched families trundle past with two or more kids in tow, I had rather different thoughts. I saw clunky strollers (some doubles and/or with several "levels" weirdly balanced on top of each other) being maneuvered perilously through doorways, sometimes with one hand. Mothers (and some fathers too, in fairness) chasing one child, trying to pacify the other, feeding the next one, juggling crap, putting out fires. And there were Mr. Turtle and I, canoodling peacefully on the couch while our toddler played happily and quietly by herself.


Wow, I thought to myself, we have it so much easier. And I felt especially grateful for no stroller. Strollers were never my favourite part of infancy and I'm so glad we can easily leave it behind for a trip like this. There's even a chance that I can go to a museum and enjoy an exhibit, maybe learn something about the Mesazoic and Cretaceous periods. It's not guaranteed by any means, but it's within the realm of possibility. It didn't look like any of the mothers with two or more children, especially close to AJ's age, were likely to remember a single thing about the musuem when they were done.


I would still rather things were different. I would still choose to be one of those families wrangling two children through the musuem and wondering when this is supposed to start being fun.  Many times, I still want that mythical second child so badly I can feel it like a physical ache. But, I also made a small mental note that there are advantages to our current situation. I have considered this side of the matter berfore: I have forced myself to contemplate life with one child because that was always a likely possibility. But what was different this time is that the thought of one child gave me a distinct tickle of happiness.


We carry on. But somehow, I feel freer. Released. There is another colour in my emotional spectrum, even if it isn't one I see every day.

Wednesday, 22 March 2017

Ten ways I'm rocking motherhood

A week (or two?) ago Mine to Command wrote a post called "10 Ways I'm Rocking Motherhood." She challenged anyone reading to post their own ten. I was intrigued, partly because 10 seems like a lot, and I thought I would have to get creative. It took me several days to write this post, partly because it is a bit of a challenge and partly due to time constraints. But here goes!

I will pass on the challenge by inviting any other parents reading to write about 10 ways you are rocking motherhood. If you don't have children, 10 ways you are rocking at life, or work, or relationships, or.....whatever.

1. My daughter thinks everything I do is AWESOME. (And everything her father does too.)
I know this phase won't last forever, but for the moment, it is quite flattering. AJ imitates our daily activities and expressions. Cleaning the house is much more entertaining because she is so excited to do chores: she wiped down every surface in the living room the other day while I was vacuuming. She role plays going shopping and taking care of her kitties and babies. She thinks the silly songs and games I make up in the moment are the best thing ever. I made shadows on the wall once with my feet and called them "fishes", and she wants to "see the fishes" every night. She thinks I can make a shadow puppet for literally anything. When she was a bit younger I made her giggle hysterically just by opening and closing my eyes. Clearly, I'm fantastic.

2. I am surviving "death by a thousand details"
I do not brag about how busy I am because frankly I avoid being busy as much as possible. I like to have time to think, read, write, and spin my observations and experiences into meaning and myth. There are actually very few things that are important enough to me that I'd willingly give up my down time. But, inevitably, I do get busy. Life is about details these days, whether it's work or family life. There are dozens of tiny tasks required just to survive each day, hell, just to start each day. They must be done in a certain order at a certain time by certain people, who are, obviously, people and not always up to the task. So there are times when I don't love the daily grind.  On the other hand, I am managing, even if not always gracefully. I practice mindfulness. If I'm rushing out the door, feeling nauseous because that is how my body tells me I'm stressed, but the birds are singing beautifully, I stop and comment on it. (Usually I talk to AJ, whether she's there or not.) I talk about the sunset as I rush through the grocery store parking lot. I thank the drivers who let me into traffic after work. I praise the radio DJs for playing a song I like. I'm not perfect at this but these moments are part of what make up my day, and they matter.

3. Lots of time with grandparents
My dad only had one year with AJ, but I am grateful that he saw a lot of her in that time and was an important part of her life (she recognizes him in photos now, although I do not know if she will have any long term memories). We continue to do a lot of things with AJ's living grandparents. She sees my mom at least 3 times a week, sometimes more. She sees my FIL and his wife at least every two weeks, sometimes every week. My MIL lives on the other end of the continent, unfortunately, but we do the best we can, talking on FaceTime every week, for example. We are also planning to vacation together in the summer. It helps that I won the social/genetic/whatever lottery with my parents and in-laws. They are lovely people to experience life with.

4. I'm calm. And I'm enjoying life.
I've been a fairly anxious person all my life. I've learned to cope with it: I recognized quite young that unless I wanted to live a very limited existence, I would have to spend a lot of time outside my comfort zone. So I've gotten used to that. Nevertheless, I spent a good many years with a generalized fear that I wasn't good enough, was perpetually about to fail, owed everyone a pound of flesh, etc. Pregnancy was one of my most difficult experiences in that respect. Because I got pregnant against the odds, I assumed that every possible bad outcome was also likely to happen to me, even if it was statistically unlikely. However, through some kind of grace, and likely because I am surrounded by supportive people, I have not brought this anxiety into parenthood. Sure, I worry about things and I have painful lurid fantasies of disaster at times. But I don't worry perpetually if I'm being a good or a perfect mother. I trust my instincts and observations. If I make a mistake, I note it and do things differently the next time without a lot of guilt. I'm living a miracle, truthfully.

5. I'm a working parent and I'm doing a decent job in all my of roles.
Last year was a challenging year. I can admit that in hindsight, now that things are calmer. I went back to work as the mom of a (barely) toddler. I started a new job. My dad became very ill and died, and my mom became a widow. It was my tenth year teaching, but with all the role changes, I felt more like a beginning teacher than a veteran. Sure, I had experience and skills, but it was surprisingly difficult both to remember and apply my knowledge and to learn my new job. I felt like I had to adapt to a mild disability. This year I feel like I have regained most of my ability to to observe, learn, adapt, relate and innovate. I come up with ideas and I get excited by them.  I follow through. There are challenges, but I'm doing less swimming just to stay afloat. It helps that AJ appears to be enjoying her childcare centre and thriving there. In a way, I think my independence allows me to better appreciate her growing independence.

6. Mostly I'm kind and supportive to my husband, and he thinks I'm funny.
Mr. Turtle is also negotiating multiple responsibilities and roles. More than me, actually. He works, and is a part time student, and of course a dad too. It's a lot. He has gotten much more skilled at managing his time and life over the past four years. I don't always like that his attention is so divided but I'm also happy to see him pursuing his goals and doing a fantastic job. We still have a lot to talk about (not only AJ) and we make each other laugh. There are things we sometimes neglect (like chores) but not each other. I like to think we are a good example for AJ.

7. We spend a lot of time having fun.
We have pretty simple family amusements: playing at home, spending time with family or sometimes friends, going to the playground, bikeriding, swimming, going to the zoo. But when we have time away from basic survival requirements, we spend a lot of it having fun. I also do fun things for myself: reading (though less than usual; I'm re-defining my priorities and interests in books), a weekly stepdance class, occasional blogging. When Mr. Turtle is finished his degree (soon!) we should have more time and energy to come up with family activities. I can't eliminate uncertainty or trouble from my life or anyone else's. But it's entirely possible to make fun a priority, and it's good for all of us.

8. We limit screen time.
The online world is important to our family. Hello, this blog! Also Mr. Turtle's online courses. And I use social media, maybe more than I should, to learn about what people are thinking and get a sense of the zeitgeist in the world. Lately I'm thinking that perhaps my attention has become too scattered: I would be better off deciding on an area about which I would like to learn more and seriously applying myself, rather than browsing through whatever media happens to be shared around my circles. There are things I personally could do better, but so far AJ at least is thriving without devices. She is intrigued by them, make no mistake. About the only thing we have let her watch so far are cartoon nursery rhymes on our phones. And we have to be Really Clear that there's a limit on it: one song or two, and then No Crying! otherwise she fusses when we say it's time to put the phone away. But it's a good reminder of how addictive screens can be and that we need limits. AJ has not watched a TV show or a movie in entirety. We have an iPad but only use it to talk to Grandma and sometimes to look up recipes when we are cooking. I would like AJ to get a sense of herself as storyteller/creator before introducing her to TV shows or movies. (I didn't have a TV till I was 11.)  I love to watch her involved in imaginary play and see no need to interfere with what she is doing naturally.


9. Mr. Turtle and I are a team.
Since we've become parents, I have more and more appreciated the team aspect of our relationship. The only parenting task that I did and Mr. Turtle never did was breastfeeding. Well, that and fixing AJ's hair. He is baffled by her hair. But that is funny precisely because there is no other parenting task Mr. Turtle does not do. We have a routine where we share jobs: Mr. Turtle does baths, I do bedtime. One of us might play with AJ while the other does a chore. I do laundry; Mr. Turtle shovels snow and cuts grass (depending on the season). I vacuum; he cleans the bathroom. We are about even when it comes to shopping and cooking. But we can each take over and/or help the other out when needed. Who does what evolves over time, but the main point is we share and it makes daily life much more enjoyable.

10. My daily routines, my thoughts, my times of work and rest and my transitory moments, are full of love and grace.
There is no way to control everything in our lives or every outcome, but when the big and small tasks and sacrifices are done with love, it feels like our home is a safe and beautiful place. And this sense of love and security is the one thing I most want to pass on to AJ, because it is about the only thing that a person can keep with them at all times and that is very difficult (I hope impossible) to take away. My parents gave me my sense of inner worth and safety and I know from experience how precious a gift this is.