Monday, 14 August 2017

#Microblog Mondays: Calm

Not so micro, but I'm writing it on a  Monday.... (Content: pregnancy, emotions, partially clothed photographs)

We returned from a 10 day family vacation on the west coast a few days ago. I had committed to having a healthy emotional state for this long-awaited trip, and hoped to be in a healthy physical state too (that being a tad less in my control). I managed both, for the most part. My in-laws from the USA flew in for a week, and we also had a few days on our own. Mr. Turtle and I call this our first "real" vacation in 4 years, because 4 years ago he started his Master's, and he finished it at the end of July. Although we've done plenty of fun stuff in the past 4 years, Mr. Turtle always had assignments hanging over his head, or the beginning of a new course to think about, and this time he did not have to worry about any of that (although he persisted on worrying about passing his final course, despite achieving a perfect GPA and several scholarships over the course of the degree....such is life.)

Our goals for the trip were to get away to a fun destination, but one that could be reached in a short flight. Considering AJ's age, I thought she would enjoying exploring the seashore, and I wanted to share this exciting experience with her. We have many interests, but we thought a nature focus would be best, and save trips with emphasis on culture and history for a later date. I hope the state of the world does not preclude these trips in the future: I seriously wonder if AJ will have the same freedom to travel (mostly worry-free) as I enjoyed. I do hope so, though I have doubts.

We divided our time between relaxing at the rental house, exploring parks including old-growth forest and beaches, enjoying a couple of local playgrounds and the waterfront, and a restaurant or two. My food aversions are not too bad this pregnancy, although I tolerate WASP food the best (and Greek). No fancy sauces or seasonings please. Of course, our destination is the origin of this eponymous treat, which was enjoyed by everyone.



Fun things we enjoyed with AJ and the in-laws, in no particular order:

  • playing hide and seek (AJ loves to look for people but hasn't quite mastered hiding and staying quiet until found)
  • playing catch with a beach ball
  • exploring the roots of huge trees
  • making sandcastles, picking up shells and splashing in tidepools. AJ's first comment about the beach was "Sandbox....Sandbox....!" A very big and interesting one it was, too. She did not want to go in the "big water," i.e. ocean but loved the sand and small pools.
  • Playgrounds, of course. There were a few excellent ones in the area. Any excursion requires locating a playground ASAP.
  • Small "hikes" in provincial parks (like meandering walks....not backpacking up trails...lol)
  • An extended amount of time for AJ to bond with her out of town grandparents. This was so good for all of them. 

We took a couple of day trips off our "big island" to some little ones. One was Gabriola Island, where Mr. Turtle and I had vacationed 4 years ago. I particularly wanted to return to this island. We had a great time back them, but that trip was also right in the middle of escalating infertility angst. My wonderful memories of swimming, kayaking, playing with cats, and exploring beaches are mixed in with anxiety about a very long cycle (I think I even took a pregnancy test at one point), several troubling medical diagnoses and one unknown genetic test hanging over our heads, and wondering if we would ever have a child. I still enjoyed it a lot, but I had an urge to go back with AJ, and little Sprite on board, and see the place from a different life perspective. So we did. And we just loved our day there.

One of our favourite spots - then and now - was a beach that we reached by a short hike.

Photo from 4 years ago....no scenery photos  this time!

As soon as we reached the beach, I walked into the ocean. If my last thought on this earth is of swimming in the ocean, I think I would die happy. There is nothing like the feeling of floating in cool water surrounded by sky and mountains and trees and silence. Also, since my recent months have been dominated by fatigue and nausea and trying to mentally escape my body, it was marvelous and freeing to be in my body and enjoying its sensations and movement.

Afterwards I went for a walk along the nearly deserted beach to dry off. Mr. Turtle joined me and we had a lovely talk. At one point he asked me "How are you feeling?"

I chose to give a not so obvious answer; I've been thinking about it ever since.

The answer was: Calm. But a specific kind of calm. Jordan Peterson talks about the both the fear and the appeal of the unknown (chaos). One one hand we wish to avoid the unknown because it means leaving the safety of the familiar. As humans we really, really like safety, because it allows us to create a predictable present and future. On the other hand, the unknown/chaos contains treasure to be discovered, and the possibility of a new, better kind of order. While the present order might be comfortable, it can also be stifling (or corrupt and decadent).

I know many kinds of calm (I am lucky that way, I suppose). I have experienced the stifling calm, when I was physically comfortable and life was predictable but I wanted so badly to escape, to confront whatever chaos was outside my bubble and find out what I was truly made of. I felt this way a lot in my teens and early 20s. I had a fairly sheltered life, which had its advantages but also made me deeply uneasy.

Then there is the calm that happens shortly before I know that everything is going to change. This is an amazing feeling that is hard to describe, but marvelous to experience. It's like a simultaneous acceptance of both the ordered present and imminence of unknown chaos. I found my mind going back to another vacation, more that 10 years ago, on the Greek island of Kefalonia. Kefalonia is a place of beauty, wonder and mystery; I could (and have) written plenty about my experiences there (not on this blog). I was in a very different life space then: 26, single, traveling (somewhat) alone in a (somewhat) foreign country and culture. I had no certainty about what I'd be doing in a few months for work or where I'd be living or if I would have a relationship.

As I explored the tiny village where I was staying, and swam in the sea (of course) I had the profound conviction that my life was going to change, very soon. And the thought left me deeply happy, and calm, although I did not know what that change would look like. I had a fantasy in my mind at the time, involving a musician I had a crush on and was going to travel to see in a few weeks. The fantasy didn't come true, but my life did change in the the next few years. The mystical side of me believes Kefalonia whispered secrets to me; it is a magical place where I could "see" the future (not literally see in a vision, but see through my intuition). The rationalist in me observes that I was so determined that my life was going to change that I would have made it change no matter what. I think both are true.

When I sat on the beach on Gabriola, I felt the same kind of calm. The present moment was perfect: Mr. Turtle, AJ, my happy in-laws sharing this time with us, a beautiful beach, the sound of water in my ears. I also knew it as temporary. Perhaps it was the expanse of the ocean whispering to me. And I loved the thought of change too: that I would evolve, that expectations and presumed certainties would crumble, but that in that change there is potential, and a new order.

And some pictures. I guess this is my first "belly photo," taken at the same beach. I like it a lot.


Glamour shot!
Tree home
AJ drawing a rainbow in the sand

Happy summer to all.....I hope it brings a kind of calm to you that you can enjoy!


Thursday, 27 July 2017

Forward

(Content: second pregnancy, ultrasound - including photo, at bottom - plans)

For me, the first trimester feels rather like being on a runaway train (or at least, a train I do not control) heading toward a track switch. A hand is on the track switch, ready to send the train in one direction or another, but I don't know which, and I don't know what is down that track.

I suppose all of life is actually like this, but being the (flawed, mortal) carrier of another life I always feel it more.


Sprite's 12-week ultrasound, including nuchal translucency scan and other screenings, felt very much like an upcoming track switch. Of course I knew what I hoped to see, what everyone else hoped to see, and indeed, was expecting to see: with more confidence than I felt, it often seemed.

I thought about and read about all sorts of possibilities in the days leading up to it. I can't say I had any coherent thoughts about them. I just had to look....at different possibilities.

But we got the best possible results last week. Remembering that AJ was rather unco-operative at her scan last time around, and wouldn't move for the technician, I ate a couple of candies shortly before the scan. Maybe it worked, because the first thing the technician said was "there is the baby moving around" (phew) and then told me to go pee, because despite never drinking as much as recommended I still managed to have too full a bladder.

Sprite was very wiggly throughout the whole scan, which was lovely and fun to see. There was no trouble getting all the measurements, and they lined up with what they should be. "Everything that should be there, and nothing that shouldn't," as Mr. Turtle put it. He/she is slightly longer than expected for gestational age - a tall baby? Heart rate is identical to AJ's (Ember's) at the same age: 150. I may amuse myself by trying to read (contradictory) things into that information: but mainly I'm happy - VERY happy - that Sprite is developing normally as far as we can see and my odds for chromosomal conditions are revised to 1 in the thousands, with no further screening recommended. I'll take those odds. My due date was revised to January 31st. I am rather unreasonably annoyed by that; I preferred February 1st. It's just a day though.

 Afterwards, relieved and ravenous, Mr. Turtle and I went out for lunch and had a nice visit. I had decided that if all looked good at this scan, I was going to make a mental and emotional effort to Move On: and follow that up with actual actions, in so far as I am able.

First step: "allow" myself to be happy.

And then:

Start wearing maternity clothes. I actually washed them all the day before the ultrasound, but I didn't put them in my drawers: I left them in the laundry basket tucked away in a corner. I'm at a weird stage where regular size pants aren't comfortable, and tend to fall down, but maternity clothes don't quite fit right either (at least in the first part of the day). But the maternity clothes are still better overall, and unlike last time when I tried to stay in regular clothes with bella bands, and conceal what was going on, I'm all about comfort now.

Referral to ob/gyn. I have the same ones as last time, which I'm happy about, and see them in the fall for the first time. I stay with my regular doctor till then. Again, I'm pretty matter of fact about it. It feels good to take this step.

Contacted our doula from AJ's birth and made plans for her to attend the upcoming birth. I haven't discussed the "birth plan" in detail but assuming it will be the same as AJ's: hospital birth, as few interventions as possible but retaining all options, and Mr. Turtle and doula in attendance. I am really happy that I can have all the same pieces in place as for AJ's birth. I know I can't predict what will happen, but it is comforting to have familiar elements. I'm especially happy that we can have the same doula. Last year she moved out of the city with a new boyfriend, though she still returned for some births. However, the boyfriend is now a fiance and they are moving back to the city this fall. Another way in which "timing" has worked out just fine, despite having, like, no control over timing.

Get my hair cut and highlighted for the first time in 4 months. I have been growing it longer, and then when I got pregnant and was sick all the time I didn't want to go to the hairstylist. But I have been feeling neglected. I had a new stylist this time, and I gave her my perspective that haircuts are temporary, I don't take myself too seriously, and I trust her to suggest what might look good. So I got a slight trim, not losing a lot of length but much weight, and some highlights that we tinted strawberry. The pinkish colour will fade in a few weeks but it's fun for now and I'm liking how it works with my skin.

Manicure and pedicure, which I still haven't done.

Embracing better daily energy and health. I still turn into a pumpkin around dinner time, but I can keep going quite well in the middle of the day for several hours, and I am even skipping my noon nausea pill. (I still carry it with me, in case things go south).

Processing that this will most likely be my last pregnancy and child. I'm 95% sure it will be, assuming it ends in a live baby. If not, I might find the courage to try one more time, though I  don't like to think of that. At all.  I will be 38 in December and after 6 years of focusing significant time and effort on getting pregnant, I really think I'm done. Of course I have all these brain patterns specifically dedicated to TTC, and who knows what I will do with them all.

I have to admit, that the thought "this is the last time I'm pregnant" has so far brought a feeling of relief. I want this pregnancy to work, because I want and love my unborn child. But also partly because I really don't want to do this again. The nausea was worse, the fatigue was worse; I'm older and busier with responsibilities. The screen didn't suggest chromosomal differences, but of course that's not a guarantee: I always have in the back of my mind I COULD have a special needs child (anybody can). I have faith that I'd face that reality with love and resolve, but I'm not anxious to take on further risks as we age.

Still. I know my nausea and overall physical weakness is affecting my emotions at the moment, as as those symptoms (hopefully) lesson, I'll probably have more complicated feelings about this likely being the last time. I hope to embrace those feelings with the awe and gratitude that we are in the position to make this decision while getting what we wanted. It's a VERY different decision than the one we would face if the gamble did not pay off. And we were one little track switch away from that reality.

But hey. In CS Lewis's Screw Tape Letters, the senior devil gives the junior devil this wise advice about humans: Do whatever you can to prevent your human charge from living in the present. It is better if he lives in the past, but better yet if he lives in the future. Because when they live in the present, humans are the closest they can get to heaven, if they only knew it.

So, begone devils. Here is my present, my ever changing growing present. I give you: Sprite.



Friday, 14 July 2017

Life is easier, with some exceptions

I'm cautiously optimistic I'm on an upswing. I'm getting some pleasure out of mundane things; that's how I can tell.

The nausea seems better overall. I'm scared to write that because several times it seemed better and came back in various shades of awful. I'm still actually quite terrified of it, and reluctant to voluntarily reduce my medication dosage. But I do feel better overall: I have a good appetite most of the time, and my "yucky" times are more predictable: they mostly happen in the evening now.

In the past few days I was able to go on a day trip with AJ and Mr. Turtle to the mountains and take a short hike, which was awesome. AJ loved seeing all the flowers on the trail: she rushed from one to the other squealing: "More flowers! More! And more! Yellow flowers! Red flowers! White flowers! Squeeee, A BUG!" This is a parenting fantasy come true. I always wanted my child's formative experiences to be with nature. We spend so much time in the created world of humans, and  the technological side of it is especially penetrative. But before AJ is too immersed in the created world, I want her to understand what it is created from and about. A flower is not just a picture or a symbol or a cartoon, it is a flower. She will have many mediated experiences of flowers, but nothing should replace her experience with a flower.  Seeing her on this hike made me feel like I am succeeding here. I'm happy.

I also found the energy to do some daytime activities. We spent an afternoon with my mom at a local park and outdoor swimming pool. We had a picnic. We splashed for hours. Life was good. I had lunch with a (very pregnant) friend I haven't seen in a while.  I should be around 11 weeks now. My ultrasound (including nuchal translucency and other screening) is next Friday. No bleeding (but I check the toilet tissue every damn time; I always see blood in my mind.) I'm hoping this next ultrasound shows everything is just fine, and I'm hoping that it is a before/after milestone: Before, caution, hopefulness in check, fatigue, illness, disconnection; After: Feeling better, reassurance, more engagement with the world, more active planning for a baby. And family vacation. At the same time I know hope is just hope.  I know our lives could take other twists and turns. But I hope.

In the meantime I'm starting to act a bit more alive, and to take enjoyment out of small things, and it's kind of satisfying to deal with small annoying things vs. terrifying things that derail my life. Today's accomplishment so far: using up the balance (minus a few cents) on a pre-loaded credit card I've had for....two and a half years? and which is about to expire. This was not as easy as you might think and in conclusion I am not a fan of either preloaded cards or online shopping. I must be old. This card was electronic use only. So I had to think of stuff I could buy most easily online, which isn't as easy for me as it might be for some people. Then it took me a while to figure out I had to register the card online for it to work at all. OK. The first few purchases (movies) were easy. But then when the balance got lower I couldn't just buy whatever I wanted. First I forgot the balance on the card, and went online to check it. Apparently I can't answer my own security questions correctly (is the answer to "what model is your phone" "iPhone5" or "iPhone" or "IPHONE 5" or......). Account locked, customer service called.

Once I dealt with that I went searching for items on Amazon that were within a certain price range. I can never think of what I need or want when my goal is specifically to SPEND MONEY. I found a  CD that cost less than the balance. Good. Then I was down to just over 6 dollars, which is when it really got challenging. I filtered my search for items that were around two dollars. That should have made things easy, but nope. I don't know if it's just an Amazon.ca (Canadian) thing, but there are all sorts of items listed for a couple of dollars and cents, but when you go to order them, about ten dollars of postage is added on. Seriously, WTF? Who would buy pencils for $1.50 and then pay ten dollars postage? Why even show me that crap?

Anyway, I finally ordered two sheets of stickers for AJ and reduced my balance to a few cents, which I don't care about. This is probably how the company makes money: if everyone leaves a few cents on their cards, they get to pocket it. Whatever. PSA: don't buy people preloaded cards. Give them money or a cheque FFS. Plus you don't pay tax on cash or a cheque.

Other pregnancy stuff:

-I have pregnancy bloat that sort of looks like a bump. It's kind of amusing. I haven't brought out any maternity clothes (waiting on that ultrasound) but I put away a lot of clothes because I have no interest in wearing them. The less is touching my body, the happier I am, so I'm living in sundresses and linen smocks. I finally did take out my maternity bras because I could no longer pretend my regular bras fit. I'm not quite filling up the G cups but they fit much better than the other ones.  It all suggests I'm probably still pregnant so not complaining.

-Crazy vivid dreams. I think I had this during the pregnancy with AJ too. Sometimes they are disturbing, sometimes amusing, somethings just plain weird.

-Peeing. A lot.

-Fatigue and ickiness, but not as bad as it was

-Unkempt hair, because I want to be feeling better when I get it cut and maybe highlighted.

-No food aversions really, other than avocado. I just randomly like and hate things. I'm temperamental and kind of ridiculous.

-Absent minded. If I don't literally say out loud "I'm now doing X. I have now done X" half the time I can't remember 5 minutes later if I did it.

Carrying on. One day at a time, one small pleasure and errand at a time.

Monday, 3 July 2017

Microblog Monday: Exhausted

I had some interesting topics in mind I was going to write about, but can't muster the energy or enthusiasm for them today. Which is often the story of my life. So I'll save the interesting stuff for later, and just write about how zapped I am today. At least I'll have a blog entry to show for it.

I have good days. I was at a historical theme park most of the day Saturday with family and friends (I  have a real life mom friend now, wow) celebrating Canada's 150th anniversary. I did really well. And then yesterday and today I could do almost nothing. Putting a load of laundry in or picking up AJ's toys was a major effort. For every chore I contemplated doing, I contemplated just giving up and going to bed. Going to bed won at least half the time.

I am sure part of this is physical but part of it is psychological too. It's hard to get excited about life when I am focused on merely existing (eat, sleep, not get sick). And then there's also the underlying pregnancy anxiety. It's not overwhelming at the moment, but it's there.  I'm not always scared but constantly managing it (and the tiredness and nausea) leaves me.....flat. I'm not really into anything.

We also found out today that my sister in law (Mr. Turtle's brother's wife) is pregnant. She is due exactly a week after I am supposed to be. Hahahahahaha. I mean, this is good news. My BIL and SIL are lovely. Everybody wants them to have kids. I want them to have kids. They were married 4 years ago (3 years after us). I worried at first they would have kids before us, which I did resent, but they waited (voluntarily, as far as I can tell, and I have a good nose for these things). Even with all the fertility issues, we still had the first grandchild. And hey I'm pregnant again, against the odds, and currently no reason to believe it won't end well.  I have to admit the situation is kind of cute. It's something for Mr. Turtle and his brother to bond over, and I'm sure they will. Still. Part of me wants a belly buddy and part of me shrinks from the idea. I felt the same way when I was pregnant the first time and so coincidentally were many other bloggers I followed. You hope everything goes well for everyone but there's also that feeling of dread for what it will be like if one of the pregnancies ends sadly while the rest go smoothly.

Anyway. SIL is across the continent so it's not like this will in my face all the time, though it will be an important part of our lives.  It's just rather ironic and it makes me both more aware of the shadows while pushing them away with whatever energy I have.

The other thing I have to figure out is the best way to tell new mom friend I'm pregnant. She is older, needed fertility treatments to conceive her son, and had a loss last year at 19 weeks. I have to disclose at some point but I really want to do it in a way that is sensitive. We either text each other or see each other in person. I'm leaning towards texting but I'm traditional and cringe at disclosing something like that via text. I dunno. Maybe I'll try to think of an excuse to get her email. Email seems more dignified somehow.

Maybe I'll figure it all out this week. Or maybe I'll just sleep a lot.

Microblog Mondays

Thursday, 29 June 2017

That's how it goes, and everybody knows

(Pregnancy talked about, rather abstractly)


I remember my first encounter with a school grapevine. I was 23, doing my first practicum at a junior high school. I mentioned  to ONE person that I'd taken harp lessons. The next day, two or three people separately asked me about my harp playing.


I made a mental note: "Oh, so that's how things get done around here..."


I'm not hugely opposed to gossip (if it mainly means spreading true information, not rumours or malicious statements). For one thing, as an introvert, I somewhat rely on people being more assertive than me in getting to know others. It's not a bad thing when people push at barriers to make sure people are cared for. In a school, it is important that teachers and all staff talk to each other about what they know about people because that's how wrap-around supports are built for students. And this particular junior high was a caring environment where I had good experiences and many students did too (of course there were also problems and mistakes made).


But still. Whenever some government agency or whatever is in the news for not sharing information properly between its departments, I think that the staff should come hang out in a school 'cause we would show them how it's done.


So, anyway, I think anybody that cares to know at my school knows I'm pregnant. I didn't really mean for that to happen. I'm not big on announcing things and I don't particularly want attention. I would have probably kept things mum till September if I could. But I went from being mostly normal to incapacitated with sickness in 24 hours. I told a couple of administrators and the people I work closely with that I was in the early weeks of pregnancy, because lying about it felt wrong and illogical. Most forms of GI upset get better quickly; it doesn't usually hang around for weeks and weeks and leave you incapable of working. I also didn't want people to worry that I was seriously ill with something awful. Plus they would start to speculate....so being straightforward was the only good option in my view.


I never told anyone "keep this a secret" because that seemed weird too. What am I trying to keep a secret? People would still notice things were not normal. And then asking people be dishonest with others on my behalf is also weird. Still, any time I talked about being pregnant I added that it was "early" and "fingers crossed" and what I thought were obvious hints that this was not an "announcement" but a disclosure of necessity. My conclusion: People either don't understand the difference, or they do understand but they don't think it's significant.


Rather like the junior high of my practicum days, within a week of telling...at most five people?...all sorts with no direct connection to the situation were were congratulating me. Okay.


The two ladies I work most closely with say they didn't tell anyone. And I believe them because the obvious people that could have known first didn't know. Or said they didn't. But many less obvious did. I dunno how it all went down. People could have guessed too. Shrug.


What it amounts to is this: If everyone knows that I'm pregnant, they will also know if something goes wrong with the pregnancy. And I'm OK with that. I think. I can't say for sure of course. But I'm at a point in my life where I do not feel the need to pretend that everything always works out and human reproduction always goes smoothly.  The truth is, if you live long enough, some bad stuff is going to happen to you. Hopefully lots of good stuff too, but nobody lives a perfect life. I hope I get the happy ending of course.


There are many positives to honesty, and thank goodness I work in an environment where I'm reasonably certain I will be supported and won't be discriminated against. Unfortunately that is probably not true for every work place.  My principal almost immediately started planning for next year and strategizing how she could support me. This is new. At my last school nothing was done until I'd formally submitted paperwork for my leave. Here, plans are already in place and another teacher is (informally?) attached to my class with the intention of taking over next year (rap wood). Part of me is of course going "is this getting a bit ahead of things?" especially since I haven't even had the 12 week scan. I'd seen a heartbeat when all these wheels started to turn but nothing else. The other part of me is impressed: I can see how advance planning benefits the school and students and I can't help wondering if it has something to do with having a female principal. She exhorted me to please let her know how I was feeling later in the summer because it would help with planning. Okay then.


Everything looks fine with the pregnancy so far: I'm still tired and nauseous, with pretty good days and worse days. This is my last week of school thank God. I have no particular ambitions for the summer except to mosey along depending on how I feel. AJ will still be in full time care allowing me time to rest if that's what I need, but hopefully I can do some fun things with her too. Next U/S is July 21st which is when they do the screening tests such as nuchal translucency. So one day at a time remains a decent mantra.

Saturday, 24 June 2017

Sprite

Content warning: pregnancy, yucky symptoms, ultrasound (no pictures)

I meant to update sooner, but my days don't necessarily go the way I expect.

June 20th I went for my "official" early ultrasound, the one at 7-8 weeks. I had become anxious in the days leading up to it. I thought everything was probably fine, but doubt creeps in. Plus the day before I felt less ill than usual, so I wondered if the nausea was going away and what that might mean....yeah, that turned out to be a premature conclusion.

The ultrasound was a good experience. I was greeted by a young woman who introduced herself as a student, which made my heart sink a little. I worried about being in a vulnerable position with a less skilled person, and in addition if there was a problem with my pregnancy, I worried about the experience traumatizing her....I just don't want to have that role in anyone's life. But as it turned out she was only observing, and the actual procedure was done by an experienced technician. As the older tech put the goop on my belly, she said she would do all the measurements and then show me the screen. I didn't say anything but "Okay," but she clearly sensed tension, because a few seconds later, she added: "I see the heartbeat. The baby is alive. You can relax now. You can breathe."  Phew. I appreciated the compassion.

The student followed along on the screen. "Oooooh, that's so cute," she said. With the suspense over, I enjoyed her enthusiasm. The last early pregnancy scan she had seen was 6 weeks along, so she was impressed with how much more there is to see two weeks later. Since my last scan had also been done around 6 weeks, those comments were also reassuring.

I saw the heartbeat again, and the blob of two weeks ago was replaced with a sort of double blob: the head and everything else. The yolk sac and umbilical cord were visible, and the forming placenta. The embryo measured 7 weeks 6 days,  which puts me at 8+3 as of this writing, and I now have a fetus.

There was no need for an internal scan, and the whole procedure went promptly. I updated family and colleagues with a few texts. I then indulged myself by eating a hot dog and doing some shopping (the radiology clinic being located in a mall).

So the good news is my pregnancy is progressing normally, as a far as I can tell. My name for the little one inside is "Sprite." I go for my first prenatal appointment early next week and I presume the next ultrasound will be scheduled for 11-12 weeks.

The rest of my life is less normal. I continue to have a lot of nausea and fatigue. The severe vomiting hasn't come back, but I'm sick enough that most regular activities are not possible. I was off work for a full week and then went in a few mornings the past week, but I have not been able to make it through a full day. I have good days and bad days, and it's impossible to know which it's going to be, so the smart thing was to book a sub for the full day or afternoon and not be scrambling. I'm very lucky that I have a regular sub who knows my students well and really appreciated the work.

In addition to the nausea, literally everything I eat or drink leaves a nasty taste in my mouth. I am going to start carrying mouthwash or minty gum everywhere. I also have a heightened sense of disgust in general, probably because of the nausea. When I feel crappy, anything touching my skin and anything I can see disgusts me, so I go through episodes of wanting to throw out all my clothes and half our stuff. Not a good time to go shopping or to introduce me to new exciting ideas, ha. Open mindedness at an all time low.

Timing was not a consideration with this pregnancy, as we had no idea when or if we would actually get pregnant. It was roll the dice and hope for the best. If I could have had the luxury of timing it, I wouldn't have timed my second month for June when I have so much work to do. On the other hand, I am relieved, now, that I didn't get pregnant when AJ was younger. The fatigue and nausea means that Mr. Turtle is doing most parenting tasks, most days. Even with the full dose of Diclectin, there are a lot of hours/days when all I can do is lie in bed trying not to throw up. Grandparents have also stepped in many times, especially when Mr. Turtle had to study. I feel bad about not being an active parent. But it would have been much worse if AJ was younger and more dependent. Feeling like this with a small needy baby would be fresh hell.

The queasiness/inactivity also affect my mood. My outlook tends to be tied to my energy level, so when my energy level drops my mood usually does too. It's frustrating and depressing to not be able to do the normal things I do for business or pleasure. You don't realize how much of your well being is tied to familiar routines till they're gone. I've coped with it by adjusting my expectations because that's all I can do. I tell myself that all my year end work will get done somehow, the important stuff anyway. I don't actually know at the beginning of the day how or if it's going to get done, but when I feel slightly better, I do what I can, and I let the extra stuff go.

It all makes me wonder about the design of humans. If I was a wild animal, I would have been dead for a month probably. Some predator would have eaten me and AJ while I was puking under a tree. Or we would have starved. Human females and babies are terribly impractical and helpless compared to our mammal counterparts. It actually really sucks! Thank God for Mr. Turtle and everyone around me who is so supportive and helpful. I really appreciate my relationships and my place in a civilized society.

Anyway, not to be negative; that's just where my mind goes when I'm constantly sick.  On the good side, I've heard a lot of podcasts and watched the Hobbit trilogy in entirety. That helped for a while. The only problem is now I associate them with being sick so....you guessed it, they disgust me. I don't know if I should do things I enjoy for the next month or stick to things I don't particularly like.

Yeah, you know. The miracle of life. It's wonderful. One day at a time.

Wednesday, 7 June 2017

A rough few days, but everything looks good

Content warning: pregnancy, symptoms, ultrasound (no photos)

Monday morning I used my second Clearblue digital with weeks indicator. The one I took a week before had shown 2-3 weeks pregnant. Sure enough, this test showed 3+ weeks pregnant.

I didn't have much time to feel happy about that before I started to feel nauseous. A little, then a lot. I ended up staying home and throwing up all morning. In the afternoon and evening, I was up and down. I felt well enough to do a few things, but anytime I tried to eat I would throw up again.

Still, I seemed better overall so I thought I was managing it. Boy, was I wrong. I woke up at 2am Tuesday and dry heaved for 7 hours. It. Was. Horrible. I have sore pecs today from being on my hands and knees retching. Since I obviously wasn't coping well Tuesday morning, Mr. Turtle drove me to Urgent Care. They gave me fluids and Zofran by IV. The doctor felt obligated to tell me that one unpublished, unduplicated study had shown Zofran possibly linked to heart defects.  But the drug has been widely used for years, including on all 3 of her pregnancies, and no other evidence of harm was indicated. I opted for the Zofran. I may wake up at 3am one night and hate myself for this, but the way I was feeling, I thought I needed the big guns. Also, it was a one time use. The doctor gave me a half-dose to play it safe.

The Zofran and IV fluids did help, and within a couple of hours I was feeling more like myself. I am deeply, wildly grateful for modern medicine and easy access at times like this. Although my condition was not immediately dangerous to me or my pregnancy, I cannot imagine living with that kind of nausea, never mind functioning in a normal way. And, I'm back on Diclectin, which does work very well for me. Again, ideally I'd like to not use any drugs, but everybody has a limit, and vomiting every 5 minutes for 7 hours is mine. I'm still home today, but well rested and starting to eat normally again.

Because of the severity of the nausea, the Urgent Care doctor sent me for an ultrasound, to rule out molar pregnancy or multiples. I had the feeling things were fine, but it was a little nerve wracking since it brought to mind the series of inconclusive early ultrasounds I had when pregnant with AJ.  I went in today and was lucky to have a very nice, very skilled tech. She saw one sac, ruling out molar (huge sigh of relief). Nothing else showed up externally, so we did internal. She took quite a long time looking at things, so I nervously amused myself by checking out her facial expressions every few minutes. She looked relaxed, focused and intrigued, so I chose not to ask questions.

Eventually, she turned the screen toward me.  One the screen she showed me a sac, a tiny fetal pole inside, and - wonders! - a little flicker of a heartbeat. The image was very clear and I could see everything she pointed out. She said it was challenging to measure the heartbeat but she recorded it twice at 120bpm. There was definitely only one embryo, no twins. This is a relief since if I was going to have twins, I'm pretty sure they would be identical. I cannot imagine myself ovulating two good eggs. And identical twins are more likely to have complications. So this was good news, all around. She dated the embryo at 5 weeks, 6 days which sounds exactly right.

So, on one hand it hasn't been the greatest of weeks, but at least we got some reassurance that things are progressing well so far. I'm still crossing my fingers for a smoother run the rest of the month.

Tuesday, 30 May 2017

A possible happy ending? (CW)

(Content warning: If you are not in a good place to read about possible - not guaranteed - reproductive success, then feel no obligation to continue reading. You know I won't judge.)


So. The blossoming of spring this May has brought a small, cosmic surprise.

I started an average unassisted cycle on April 30th. Fertile signs appeared between days 9-11, with positive OPKs on days 10 through 12. Gamblers that we are, we placed our bets on days 7, 9, and 11. My BBT rose and fell between days 9 and 11 then started a slow rise. I stopped temping on day 17, as I find it makes me anxious and interferes with my sleep. After 6 years of this business, I figure I would know the outcome of the cycle eventually, without the daily data logging. (I may eventually put up a page with more details about the cycle.)

By day 27 (a Friday), I thought I was late enough that I could justify buying a pregnancy test. I can't even remember the last time I bought one, before last week. I told myself that if I didn't need it this time around, I would maybe use it when we did IUI. Saturday went by and I didn't use it. Sunday, day 29, I woke up at 5 and decided to take my temperature. My BBT was 36.77C. Highest temperature after ovulation is usually around 36.65C, and it never stays that high so close to the end of cycle. I took a deep breath and decided to test.


The test went almost immediately positive. I gasped, cried a bit, and mumbled a few incoherent things. I said "Thank you God." I had to thank someone. Before testing I thought I might let Mr. Turtle sleep in and tell him the results later, but that was so not happening in that moment.

I remember Mr. Turtle asking "Are you surprised?" I said "Yes!" "Why?" he asked. "We've been trying."

"Well yes....for a very long time!"

What does "a long time" mean at such a moment? I don't know. Time seems to stop, and bend, and speed up, all at once.

I tested again Monday with Clearblue digital, the fancy one. It showed 2-3 weeks pregnant, which sounds just right.

We haven't told anyone. (Except my doctor, and the blog community, now). I told Mr. Turtle I would rather we didn't change any plans with The Fertility Clinic just yet, because it makes me feel sort of better to have a plan B.

It doesn't feel quite real yet, that I am pregnant. I had a very vivid dream about my dad, right before waking up on Sunday, and in a way that felt more real than the positive pregnancy test.  At the same time, the unchanged details and routines of my daily life also have an aura of unreality.  It's like I got a ticket into another life, which looks the same as the life I was leading before the weekend, but it isn't.

So far, at least, I am calmer than the last time around. I don't feel completely blindsided by fate and out of control. I'm able to be more self-aware and mindful. It helps that I haven't had any disturbing symptoms. No bleeding (fingers crossed so many ways that that doesn't happen again.) I had very faint spotting on day 24 which was probably implantation bleeding, but it completely stopped after a day.

The anxiety is not overwhelming, not yet. I think I understand it better, too. I have both an exaggerated sense of responsibility and an exaggerated sense of (potential) victimhood. You would think they would cancel each other out, but no, they feed off each other in some perverse way. Basically, I have a belief that in order to have a live healthy child, I must 1) do everything absolutely right and 2) nothing bad or even slightly bad should ever happen to me. The anxiety comes from knowing that's impossible: I am going to make a mistake at some point (eat a turkey sandwich, or dip a cucumber in a  spread that's been out longer than half an hour) and something "bad" will happen to me (a weird cramp, a flu bug, some differently coloured discharge....hopefully nothing worse.). So I can become terribly anxious waiting for this mistake and waiting for the bad luck.  The best thing is to be open with people and accept support and try to recognize the crazy thoughts when they happen, before they take over my head.

I had my first doctor appointment today. I will do regular bloodwork to check for antibodies etc (no betas). They did another urine test to confirm, which looked "strongly positive." It wasn't anything \I didn't already know but still it was nice to hear the words "strong" and "positive." Thankfully, my doctor did schedule an early ultrasound for me, at 7 weeks (June 20). It's not TOO far away so I hope and pray that nothing unexpected or nasty happens in the meantime. Strong and positive, right?

Here we go.

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.

Monday, 27 February 2017

#Microblog Mondays: Alternate milestones

Everybody knows about the traditional milestones: birth, starting school, graduation, birthdays, engagement, wedding, first job, having children, retirement, death...(did I miss any?)

But what about alternate milestones: moments when you know everything has changed, but there's no official recognition? I have many of these in my life.

I was pondering an alternate milestone the other day: the first time you break one of a set of dishes. Mr Turtle and I did not need many basics when we were first married, so we decided to register at a handicraft store for a line of pottery I'd admired for years, but couldn't justify buying as a single person. It found pride of place in our new credenza in our new house and we used some pieces everyday while keeping most for special occasions.

One piece we use everyday is the sugar bowl. One day about six years after our wedding Mr Turtle dropped the lid and a biggish chip broke off. A few months later, on Christmas Eve in fact, I knocked the pepper shaker off a crowded counter and it shattered.

The pepper shaker will need to be replaced. But we still use the sugar bowl, and the other day when I was looking at it, it occurred to me the chip looks like AJ's bite mark.



One of the the cute things about when she started solid food was seeing her little crescent shaped bite mark on food.

I've become rather fond of the little chip and I don't think I want to replace the sugar bowl anymore. I don't want to break or damage more dishes, but at the same time it makes me think about what has happened since we were married, how things have changed, and how grateful I am for many of the changes, even though things (lots of things, not just our dishes) are not new and perfect anymore and never will be again. It's ok to be marked by time and change, and to be reminded of it.



More Microblog Mondays

Tuesday, 21 February 2017

Small victories

6:30am on a weekday, after a long weekend, seems like a good time to celebrate the small things that give me the courage to Carry On (to greatness, or just till the evening, whatever it's going to be).

On fertility: I had an ovulatory cycle, with no medication. I am as sure of this as I can be without lab testing: I had a sustained BBT rise, and positive OPKs around the time of the rise (but only for 2 days). After two anovulatory cycles, that feels like a victory (albeit one I had no control over). So, does the small victory mean there is hope of a bigger victory? This time, probably not. It looks like the BBT is dropping. But in the long game, just maybe. Also I'm happy that I avoided obsessive googling of symptoms and possibilities. I started reading message boards at one point, and then I thought: "I just don't relate to this stuff." And I actually stopped and didn't start again. Thinking about what it would take to stay in the long game, I think the best approach is to carry on TTC with emotional detachment and indifference. Is that possible? Probably not, but I can at least not feed the crazy. Much.

On family: Yesterday we took AJ to a local playground that she enjoys a lot. In the summer I used to take her almost every day. But it's been several months since we went (winter, cold, snow). It so happened that one of AJ's daycare buddies, "K", was also at the playground. They smiled big smiles at each other and waved. Interaction is still rather tentative, but you could tell they were happy to see each other. K's mom, I'll call her "Ana", and I engaged in some small talk, which felt increasingly comfortable. We started talking about communication. Ana shared that she had noticed how verbal AJ is. She then told a story of something she witnessed at the daycare.

There is a little boy in AJ's room, "J", who hits people. He has even hit me a couple of times when I was there to pick up AJ. From what I've observed, he doesn't do so with any emotion, but it's like he's picked up a habit of doing this to people, for whatever reason. I've seen him approach several of the children and swat or kick them. I saw him kick a child in the face who was lying on the floor crying, once. It always seems to be other boys although that might be because there happens to be more boys than girls. The daycare staff, from what I've seen, are prompt at intervening and giving the message that this is not how we treat our friends, we are not happy with our friends, we are sad, etc.

Ana shared her impression that J particularly picks on her son, who also happens to be smaller in physique. She told me that she had also seen AJ "stand up for" K. Apparently after one incident AJ had walked up to J and told him that "This is not how we treat our friends" (basically using the words the staff use). I was quite touched by that. I try not to read too much into situations, because we are talking about toddlers here, who are only starting to develop their social skills. But still, you hope as a parent that whatever age children are, they are getting the right messages. There are always going to be some negative and some positive influences. It meant a lot to hear that AJ is learning the positive. I know she has empathy, because I have seen her approach a crying child and try to comfort him, and she will pretend play sometimes with her toys where she is consoling them. She is also a cautious child, not one to take a lot of risks. But, even cautious people hope that when it is called for, they can face a challenge. So it meant a lot to me to hear that she stood up for K, both in terms of her development and how the situation is being handled at her daycare, as children learn by imitating.

We left the park with smiles for everybody and an invitation to K's birthday party next week. Wins all around.


Monday, 6 February 2017

#Microblog Mondays: The Ants Go Marching (and so does time)

Last night I was snuggling with AJ before putting her in her crib. She wanted to sit next to me in the recliner (not in my lap) and was asking for songs. She asked to hear "The Ants Go Marching".  This was a first: it's always been "The Wheels on the Bus" or "Old Macdonald Had a Farm," before.


I started singing, stumbled a bit remembering the tune, and then remembered that "The Ants Go Marching" was a song I sang to her all the time as a newborn.


I enjoy a good flashback. But those days already seem so unreal. Bittersweet.








Microblog Mondays

Wednesday, 25 January 2017

Reality is a bitch

But who can retrieve hope out of a 10 foot deep pit toilet? Who, you ask?

Me, that's who.

January is almost over. I'm fairly sure I'll survive the rest of it. I have almost finished the things I absolutely have to finish. I am still standing; I have most of my wits; and I feel strong: albeit a little smeared by the shit of circumstance.


Ah, let me back up a bit.

We had our follow up appointment with Dr. Cotter. I always have a sinking feeling anticipating these appointments, and it didn't help that I had to drive across the city in winter weather. I felt crazier trying to figure out the parking machine at the clinic than I ever felt while taking any fertility drugs. I narrowly restrained myself from cursing a blue streak at it and the bystanders behind me for the insult of existing and making demands on my stressed mind.


That was my mood going in, but I was quite prepared thanks to the detailed charts and notes I kept during my Clomid cycles, and the fact that I blogged about the matter and received some helpful comments.


Dr. Cotter chose, uncharacteristically, to open with a positive: "You ovulated several times!" (with reference to the first three Clomid cycles). She followed this with "We received some new information from the latest semen analysis." I allowed myself to briefly fantasize that this new information was good, even though I knew it wasn't.


Mr. Turtle's last SA (September 2016) showed a drop in numbers from 17 million (2013) to 1 million. That moves him from the "moderate" male factor infertility category to "severe."

Dr. Cotter was quick to add that "men's sperm counts go up and down like the temperature in [Western prairie-steppe city that has huge temperature fluctuations due to the Chinook phenomenon]. "Men can go from zero to millions in a few days," she elaborated, and said that this was true for men of all ages, including men in their 20s.

"With those sort of numbers," she continued, we would usually go to IVF, but we know you didn't produce any eggs on [very high dose of follicle stimulating hormone]. And you were three years younger then, so....[pause]."

"It does seem unlikely that we'd get a better result now," I mutter at Dr. Cotter and the indifferent universe.

"So the question is...." [pause to lean forward and make intense eye contact] "How aggressive do you want to go?"

There is another pause while some part of me registers that the last time I heard about aggressive treatment, it had to do with my dad's esophageal cancer. Also that at the moment I feel not very aggressive at all, but maybe this is one of those times that you fake it till you make it.

"Would you consider donor egg? Would you consider donor sperm?"

I stare at Mr. Turtle. "It's not off the table. But we haven't talked about it lately." Mr. Turtle adds, "Yes, we'd definitely have to have more conversations about that." He then steered the conversation back to his SA and recurrent lymphedema as a possible reason for it.  Mr. Turtle has Crohn's disease and is immuno-compromised because of the drugs he takes to manage it. Anytime he is fighting an infection, he gets a lot of swelling in the genital area which increases body heat, probably killing sperm or causing them to not develop properly.  We talked about how at the time we conceived AJ, Mr. Turtle had been doing lymphatic massage for drainage. He didn't think that at the time it made any difference, but maybe it had? Also his perception was that he was in worse health overall at that time than at present - but still managed to conceive a child, which is interesting. Dr. Cotter looked up his medical records on her computer, corroborating what he was saying with what his other doctors had observed.

Her recommendation after this discussion was to repeat the sperm analysis twice more, to see if there are any changes or if the low numbers seen in September continue. In between the analyses, Mr. Turtle can try what he can to reduce the lymphedema. He also has follow up with other doctors to get more opinions. So that's all good.

After we talked about that, I felt like I should bring the conversation back to my issues, although for a change, I was (sort of) the receiver of good news. I asked:

Assuming Mr. Turtle's sperm counts improve, would Dr. Cotter suggest trying Clomid again or look at something different?
Dr. Cotter reiterated that she feels Clomid is the logical treatment, because I did ovulate on it, it has been used for a many decades, and because "we know that Clomid at low doses works for women at the end of their reproductive lives." She seems quite positive on this point. She also implied that considering the one anovulatory cycle, she might increase the dose. She also talked about Femara/Letrazole as a possibility, but noted that it works in "a very different way" and she could not judge if it would be better than Clomid or not.

I asked if there was an advantage to going off Clomid for a while before trying it again, and she said yes, you need to take a break every four cycles. If we do try Clomid again, I will want to ask more questions, such as the short luteal phase on the ovulatory cycles and in what circumstances she would consider additional things such as a trigger shot/progesterone supplementation. But that conversation can wait till we know more about what's going on with the sperm and if improvement is possible.

I asked if there were any risks to taking DHEA over an extended period of time, and she said not that we know of, and agreed to give me a prescription for it for another few months. It shouldn't do any harm and it might do some good.

And then because I felt I should, I asked what were the options for donor egg should we choose to go that route.

Most of the donor egg information I already knewfrom asking the same questions three years ago. Two options:  fresh cycle with an (unpaid) egg donor, 38 or younger. Since we don't want to recruit a donor this isn't likely an option for us. Option 2, we can buy frozen eggs in batches of 6 from a US egg bank. The cost is $10 000 plus $1000 shipping cost, plus the cost of the IVF cycle. The donor eggs would need ICSI and assisted hatching as the freezing process makes the eggshells tough. (She actually said eggshells).  As Dr. Cotter was talking, I couldn't help thinking of all the things that could go wrong during this process.  Another wrinkle: Dr. Cotter said the egg banks might refuse to sell eggs to a couple with a low sperm count, because they would worry about it affecting their pregnancy rates and that's how they market themselves.

And what about donor sperm? Dr. Cotter had floated the idea of donor sperm with Clomid and/or an IUI as an option.

Dr. Cotter told us that "donor sperm is expensive" although the numbers she gave were in the hundreds of dollars, not thousands which is less expensive than eggs, at least. She then went off on a tangent about how sperm costs more or less depending on the race of the donor: Caucasian sperm is the cheapest, and Black/Hispanic sperm goes up in price with Asian sperm being the most expensive. Asians have low sperm counts and sperm donation is not a cultural norm. "There is literally one Asian donor in Canada and he is in high demand."  I don't know why she thought all these details were necessary since we are obviously white and not likely to seek out a different race donor but what do I know. She told us how sperm and eggs are flown all over the world and that is normal. At the end of this informative disclosure all I could manage was "It's an interesting world you work in."  "Oh yes, very interesting,"Dr. Cotter said breezily, as though she had quite enjoyed discussing professional business with us. Maybe this is her way of testing if people are really serious about "aggressive" treatment.

It's an interesting word, aggressive. A google search of "aggressive treatment" brings up this definition : "Aggressive care describes a particular approach to a life-threatening illness or condition. A patient receiving aggressive care will receive the benefit of every medication, technology, tool and trick that doctors can devise to treat his or her illness."  "Aggressive" usually (to me) has a negative meaning, such as a person who wants to pick a fight and threatens with words or actions.

But in the context of illness, aggression sounds kind of positive: Imagine soldiers of medicine fearlessly fighting the enemy disease! If you are aggressive, you must really be doing something. No more talk, all action! It seems cowardly to say, well shucks, maybe I don't feel like being aggressive. It rather reminds me of times in my life (mostly as a child) when well-meaning people kept telling me to be more assertive, maybe even more aggressive, with the stated or unstated implication being, if I didn't, the aggressive people were going to win or get all the good stuff. By the time I was in my 20s, I felt I had proven that I could have a good life without being aggressive, i.e. something I wasn't.  But the notion they planted still lingers in my thoughts: if I'm not aggressive, I'm not really serious about what I want, and I won't get it.


The thing is, at least with regards to infertility, I see aggression as illogical. Aggression implies an opponent. But who or what is my opponent here? My own body. So aggression means two things: I'm fighting my own body, or, I'm asking doctors to fight my body (while I passively watch? how is that a thing?). Neither possibility makes a whole lot of sense to me. Maybe the key piece here is self-image: I see myself/body as fundamentally good and beautiful. My body is not so much my property (I didn't ask for it and I don't get to keep it) as a sacred trust. To harm it or hate it feels deeply wrong and always has. In so far as "aggression" means harm or hatred, I can't go there. At all.


But you might say, it's just a word. Why not focus on the treatment options, not the words.  Well, because I think words actually do mean something. Words tell us truths about how we and others think, if we listen attentively. The words we use are not coincidental or accidental. They have histories. The histories tell the story of real things and real people. Real bodies. When Dr. Cotter calls DE/sperm IVF "aggressive treatment," she's telling a real story with real world consequences.


And whether I have another child or not, all my life I'll be telling my story. More than that, I'll be telling my child(ren) their story. What kind of a story do I want to tell?


That's where my thoughts are at. Not whether I can conceive naturally or whether DE IVF or some other treatment will "work." Those are valid questions, but I won't be able to answer them until I try, and when I get the answer, it may well be too late to do something differently, and thus the answer itself will be useless. So truthfully, none of those questions or their hypothetical answers will actually determine our course. The one that will is, What kind of a story do I...do we....want to tell?


So back to retrieving hope.


I'm actually feeling quite good. January is almost done. The days are getting longer. My daughter is beautiful and my husband walks with me on this path. We don't have to go back to The Fertility Clinic for another four months (after the second SA) and I'm quite happy about that. We can cycle unassisted. Or not. But we probably will.  We can talk about DE IVF and the other options Dr. Cotter floated. Talk is good.


Basically, I'm not being aggressive. And I feel just fine about that.