Saturday 21 December 2013

December thoughts

So, this will probably be my last entry of 2013.

I wish everyone the best for the rest of the year and for the new year, bearing in mind that "the holiday season" is a difficult time for many people.

I have been easily irritated by the Christmas schmaltz this year and find myself unable to identify with most of it. But, I remind myself that it's not the cliches that matter, but the caring words and gestures. I hope everyone can find a personally meaningful way to mark the passing of the year. I hope you can acknowledge and honour the experiences and lessons of this past year, whatever they were.

I am deeply grateful to everyone who reads the blog and to those who leave comments, and I'm grateful to all the bloggers I read, for telling your stories with such courage, honesty and even humour.

I'm very grateful for my "rest cycle." I'm SO HAPPY to not have to try to conceive this month. It's perfect timing, I tell ya. Although I was so clueless yesterday evening that I accidentally threw my birth control pills in the recycling bin. At least it wasn't the garbage (which happened to be particularly stinky and slimy that day.) More wine, please.  I'm grateful that we will get to try IVF next month, and I'm trying to live by Ariel's advice to have zero expectations.

This is the shortest day of the year. Now, we are on the upswing - a little more light with every day.

Merry Christmas, and to all a good night.

Sunday 8 December 2013

Keep Calm and crochet tiny Christmas balls

That's the best title I could come up with for events of the past few days.

So, my period decided to show up about 6 days sooner than expected/hoped. I started spotting on day 19. Hoped  against hope that it was just some mid cycle spotting, which I can get occasionally. But no. By today it was definitely full flow.  19 day cycle = depressing. Even though I have known my POF diagnosis for several months, such a short cycle just makes me relive the feelings of defeat and hopelessness over again, at least for a few hours. I feel like the acupuncture sessions have been useless, that my eggs are all gone, menopause is imminent, IVF will fail, and genetic/biological motherhood is just a stupid fantasy I'm indulging in.

Apart from all that, I started worrying about my IVF timeline. Several months ago Mr. Turtle and I planned a trip to Michigan to spend Christmas with his mother and brother and sister-in-law. We were both looking forward to this trip. Mr. Turtle is of course happy to spend time with his mother and brother. I am also happy to see them (I have lovely in-laws) but also because it is an excuse for me to not do much for Christmas at home. Last year we went all out; tree, Christmas lights, full dinner for family. It was fun, but I'm completely uninterested in doing any of that this year. The infertility probably has something to do with it; it's certainly not helping me get in the mood. This is the first year I can recall that the rampant Christmas music, commercialism and chatter is grating on me. A lot.

Anyway, when I sat down with my calendar and started to add up the numbers for IVF, I got worried. This cycle is a "rest cycle" where I take BCP. Easy enough, but 18 days after starting the pill, I have to go in for the baseline ultrasound. And of course, I calculated that the scan would be scheduled during our trip to Michigan. 

In hindsight, I'm not sure why this was so holy upsetting to me, but it was. My mind was going a mile a minute: do we have to cancel IVF? or cancel the trip? I'm so disappointed! Mr. Turtle will be so upset! Nobody understands how disruptive IVF/infertility is to life except me!! I can't bear to have plans put off again. Can I get an ultrasound in the US? Can I drive to Windsor and get an ultrasound at an Ontario clinic? What clinic would take me in if I'm not a patient? What clinic is going to be open on Sunday December 29th (that's when I calculated I would need to have the scan). If we cancel this cycle, then the rescheduled one will interfere with the other planned  family trip in March.! Why did I have to have a wonky cycle now? Why couldn't it be a long wonky cycle instead of a short one? And many variations on said themes.

Now, what actually happened. I told Mr. Turtle over breakfast, with a very long face, that I was worried about the IVF schedule. He is working on the final paper for his graduate course this weekend, and I felt awfully guilty about putting more stress on him, and especially about threatening (I felt) to cut short his time with his family at Christmas.  Mr. Turtle, because he is awesome, quickly dissipated my anxiety. No, he assured me, we are not going to cancel the cycle. We decided that if the scan had to be done during our trip, we would simply reschedule my flight. And that is what we did. The clinic helpfully called me back today to give me the dates. My baseline ultrasound scan is for December 30th. My flight home is rescheduled for December 29th. Yes, we had to pay a few hundred to reschedule it, but that's OK, IVF is a priority. It's all OK.

And there is a silver lining. My brother, who lives in Ontario, will be in Alberta for Christmas for the first time in a few years. Because of our trip to Michigan, I wouldn't have seen him at all this Christmas. Because I am back early, I will get to see him. Only for a day, but it's better than nothing.

So. Deep breath. OK.

I guess the lesson here is to take this IVF stuff one day at a time, talk it over together, and not freak out over the what-ifs. Hopefully I can remember this lesson, because it is all just beginning.

Now, I haven't been a total Scrooge about Christmas. I may not care about the music or traditions or the schmaltz this year, but I do care about the people in my life, and I have enjoyed planning/buying for them. And I am involved in a couple of fun events, which are Christmas-themed but enjoyable for their own sake. Here's a run-down of what has been keeping me happy:

First, my step dance class performed a routine at a farmer's market. The teacher wanted us to wear plaid skirts if at all possible. I don't own one and was unable to find one, so on an evening we had a wild blizzard and there was nowhere to go and nothing to do, I created my own. 

I'm not really into sewing, and don't even own a machine, but I hand-sewed this using a pair of dance shorts, a plaid scarf I found at a discount store, a bit of ribbon, a couple of snaps, and some buttons. It is sewn to the dance shorts on  one edge and then wraps around. Very simple but it got quite a few compliments and I could probably take on a commission or two if I wanted!

The dance routine was lots of fun to perform. Here is an blurry and therefore conveniently anonymous photo of me (in the back) dancing - you can see I am happy in a blurry sort of way.

In addition, tomorrow my band is performing with the other adult community bands and choirs in the annual Christmas concert. This should be fun too, and I will post pictures or video if anybody gets any. I have an enjoyably challenging part on one song playing chimes, bells, and marimba, and on the song Sleigh Ride I get to play the part (on percussion) of the clippety-cloppety horse. Wish me luck.

My Christmas shopping is done. Although I dislike the commercialism associated with Christmas, and positively despise the fear-based marketing that goes with it, I do enjoy finding presents for people. Some of the final presents were donations to charity, which I  make a part of every Christmas.

I also had a pile of credit card reward points that I keep forgetting about, so this morning I got to have fun doing some shopping without spending any money. Bonus.

And one more crafty piece. This was a great nerve-calmer this morning while I was waiting for the clinic to return my call. I had bought these cute animal decorations for my colleagues at the Chapters. But after I got home,  I noticed the squirrel one was missing the nut he was supposed to be holding. Somehow I had bought a damaged piece. I could have gone back and exchanged it, but that felt like more trouble than it was worth. So I decided to make a tiny Christmas ball for the squirrel to hold. Check it out:

Aw, he's so cute! And I feel so much better now.

Tuesday 26 November 2013

IVF #1 is on

Today The Fertility Clinic called and offered to do a cycle with us. Dates are still tentative, depending on when next period comes,  but we are on.

I didn't expect to be offered a cycle before mid-December. I suppose my perception was affected by my  short menstrual cycles (averaging 25 days). I didn't quite realize  how much "wind up" there is to a Flare IVF cycle. With the proposed timeline, embryo transfer (should we be so lucky) will happen the last week of January.

For the moment nothing much happens. They send paperwork, we review, we pay a bunch of money, etc.

Next cycle, birth control pills. Followed by more drugs and monitoring. The week of January 20th is when things get "busy" with monitoring appointments leading up to the egg retrieval.

Still, the timeline is what I had in my mind: I hoped we would be doing IVF in January. So when she gave me the timeline, I said "yes" right away. No need to discuss further; no need to ruminate.  We've done all of that.

If you asked  me last week, or even yesterday, if I was excited about IVF, the answer would be a definite No. That doesn't mean I don't want to do IVF. IVF is within the range of what we consider reasonable to do to have a baby. I have no moral objections to it.  The only valid ethical objection  to IVF in my mind is the issue of what to do with unused embryos, and seeing as I have POF, that is extremely unlikely to be an issue for us. Any  eggs we get, we'll be fertilizing, and any embryos we get, we'll be putting back.

Reason number one for my lack of enthusiasm, if not quite dread: fear that we won't get any/enough eggs or embryos. I know from Dr. Cotter's warnings and the experiences of other POFfers that this is a distinct possibility. We made the decision to go ahead with a fresh IVF cycle anyway, and I'm OK with that decision. But I'm very aware that disappointment, not celebration, may be the result of this cycle.

Reason number two: My ambivalent feelings about the degree of medication and medical intervention involved in IVF. Again, it's not a moral or ethical thing. I fully intend to take all the drugs and endure all the discomforts. It's just....I am going to be more medicated than I have ever been in my life. I could count the number of times I've taken prescription drugs of any description on the fingers of one hand. I have never had a serious health problem. I've never been on the goddamn birth control  pill. I've always had a pragmatic attitutude to my health and body. If it isn't broken, keep it healthy and don't mess with it. I'm happy with my looks and my overall fitness. (OK, I have some skin issues, but nothing that I lose sleep over.) Not trying to come across as a virtue-crat, but I have never had the slightest interest in substances that alter my body/mind chemistry. Never been the slightest bit tempted to try smoking/illegal drugs. I drink alcohol occasionally (especially during periods, lol), but I could give it up any day and not feel it much of a sacrifice.

Why does all this matter? Well, part of me wants to say "It doesn't matter." And it doesn't really, because I believe the chance of having  a baby is worth some (a lot of?) physical and emotional discomfort. But at the same time I have a perception of myself as someone who is healthy and whole and doesn't need a lot of medical intervention.  Now, any number of things could have (and might still) happen to me to challenge this perception. I could develop a serious disease, or have an accident. I guess, to state the obvious, what has happened to challenge my perceptions is infertility and IVF. I can accept intellectually that I need drugs and other interventions; accepting it emotionally is a  little bit harder. I still have a voice in my head that insists we should be able to just get pregnant. Natter on, little voice.

I've been dealing with these emotions on some level for almost a year, ever since our family doctor told us that we would not conceive unassisted. I've alternated between feeling grateful for the possibility of ART and feeling ambivalent about actually using it. Still, today when IVF became a plan instead of a possibility, a plan with a timeline, I felt a little excited. Maybe it's just that initial feeling of hope that comes from trying anything new and different. But...any step toward a goal gets us somewhere. Even if the goal is far away or changes  along the way, it's still a step forward.

Tuesday 19 November 2013

Time for

A box of chocolates and a bottle of friggin wine.

Okay, to clarify, not the whole bottle of wine and not quite the whole box of chocolates. Actually, I was going to get the small box of chocolates, but then I decided I would get the big box so there were be a few left for Mr. Turtle. (He doesn't drink wine.)

Mmmm. Guylian seashells and a couple of glasses of my mom's homemade red. Pretty damn delicious.

Along with the chocolates I picked up a new BBT thermometer. I have been having some problems with my old one. I am not sure if they are real problems or if I just profoundly resent it for failing to give me any indication of a pregnancy, which of course didn't exist in the first place. Whatever. New thermometer.

Picking up the thermometer required me to go down the "family planning" aisle in the drugstore. So much  for our plans, I muttered resentfully at the universe.  Then I thought some suitably fatalistic thoughts about the futility of planning in the face of chance and time and mortality and our imperfect physical selves. Bullshit like that.

I also pondered the real meaning of "trying naturally."  It sounds like we spend our time rolling naked in a field of daisies while drinking herbal tea. Yeah, if only.

But the combination of wine and chocolate this evening is fantastic. Wine, a big bowl of spaghetti plus a busy work day and  a walk home in -20C, should mean I spend the night in a peaceful stupor of sleep. If I sleep through the night without waking on CD 1 and 2, everything is usually OK.

Still, between now and bedtime I really need to find the motivation to practice my band music. Christmas concert is in 3 weeks, so I'm practicing all Christmas music. I'm afraid that this might be the year I start to hate just a little bit.

Mmmmm. More wine.

Sunday 3 November 2013

A walk on the beach with monsters

Imagine a stretch of coastline. There is a steep bank with various hardy shrubs growing on it. The beach below is rocky and narrow but easy to walk on. It is too cold to swim in the water; the people who have come to the beach - couples, families, solitary people - are wearing their sweaters and jeans. They walk along the beach, talking, laughing, calling out to each other. There is a fairly stiff breeze, but it is not stormy. The sky is overcast.

One of the people stops suddenly to look at something on  the beach. It is the same grey colour as all the rocks on  the beach. She bends over and picks it up. Suddenly, pink tentacles appear. They come from one of the shrubs, but they don't emerge from the shrub: rather the shrub becomes tentacles. They twine around the woman, easily stifling her screams, and absorb her into the ground.

There is panic on the beach. People stare, run, flee. Several more are seized and devoured by the tentacles.

Days or weeks pass. More people have been attacked on the beach. Nobody  understands where the tentacles are coming from or what exactly they are.  The beach is closed to the public, but scientists come to try and figure out what is happening. They don't make much progress; however they do observe something else very unusual about this beach.

There are letters all over the beach. They are just like all the other rocks, but they form uppercase typescript letters.  All letters of the alphabet. They are scattered about among the rocks in no apparent order. Some of the scientists wonder if they form a message or code, but nobody can prove this or say what the message is. Furthermore, it is rather hard to study the letters because the tentacles keep emerging and snatching away the scientists, too.

Except for one scientist.

This scientist moves slower than the others, and is more observant. He notices that the tentacles emerge whenever one of the letters on the beach is touched - either by being picked up or by being stepped on by accident. So he is very very careful to not step on any of the letters, and he absolutely never touches them. He is rather detached from the urgency and the panic of the situation. He is not particularly sad when yet another colleague is seized and devoured.

All the action is happening on one part of the beach, and it hasn't occurred to anyone to explore other parts of the beach. So the scientist leaves his group of colleagues behind and starts to walk along the coastline. He continues to see letters on the ground, but he watches his step carefully and does not step on any of them. Slowly the sound of human voices falls away and the scientist is alone. The only sound is the wind and gentle surf, and even the wind seems to be dying. The sea is empty grey expanse, as is the sky. Sea and sky blur  into each other at the horizon.

As the scientist walks,  there seem to be fewer and fewer letters. The beach  becomes  sandy  with scattered driftwood. The few remaining letters are the exact colour and texture of the beach, so he still has to watch very closely to see them. After a while the scientist begins to feel quite safe. He was not overly scared to start with, but now he feels quite confident that he will not be imminently eaten by the monster. However, he is not satisfied because he still does not understand what the monster is, nor can he explain its behaviour. It is not enough to be safe from it. He must understand. So the next time he sees a letter, he reaches down and picks it up.

Do the tentacles reach out and grab the scientist? He could not really say for sure, because in that moment his perception of the world completely changes. What he knows for certain is that the monster does not mean to eat him, if indeed that is what it really was doing with all the other people. What he knows is that he is now part of the monster. He is not afraid but remains profoundly curious. Perhaps now he will be able to learn about the monster.

The scientist gives the monster a name: the Kraken. But it does not really resemble the Kraken in movies or legends. It exists as part of the land and the sea, and although it has tentacles it is not a squid or any animal. In fact it has no real shape in space at all; it resolves into different forms and shapes depending on what it needs to do.

At some point the scientist becomes aware of something else: not only is he now a monster, but he is also a female monster. His sex has changed. This does not bother him, but he does find it interesting. If he has become a female monster, there must be a reason for that. And it must mean there is a male monster somewhere nearby. As soon as the thought occurs to him, or rather her, she is filled with an intense desire to find the male monster. The sea suddenly seems like a huge and  terribly lonely place without another monster for company.

No doubt her counterpart is thinking something similar, for he soon appears. Or rather, their presences connect and recognize each other, for nothing physical appears in space. Until that is, the scientist starts asking questions. Questions like: how did I come to be here? What are you? What is our purpose?

The other monster explains it. As he explains, he takes on a shape: and it is the shape of a human woman. But not a human woman seen close up, a woman seen at a distance. Far enough that she is recognizable as a woman but her face is a blur. She wears a black sweater and jeans, and her hair is long and dark. She is maybe 35 years old, of medium build. The monster/woman explains that she too, was once a human, until she became a monster in a similar manner as the scientist has just done. The monsters are real, and humans have names for them like Kraken, although those names and descriptions capture only the tiniest part of the monsters' real essence.

There are very few of the monsters in the world, and they live far apart in space and time.  However, they do live in partnership. They are mortal, and eventually one or other of the partners dies. The monsters cannot bear to be alone, so when they lose their partner they seek another one from among the humans. The new monster takes on the opposite sex of the existing monster, regardless of what sex the human happened to be. In this way the woman became a male monster, and the male scientist became a female monster.

It is hard to say how long this dialogue between the monsters went on. Minutes, weeks, months, years. They do not experience time the way humans do. At some point the talk became quite dirty, however, with the female monster asking the male "Can you show me how long is your ----?"

I woke up at that point.

I'm pretty sure the monsters went on to have some monstrous offspring, and it looked like they were going to very happy together in the grey sea by the rocky coast, but I shall never know for sure.

I have no plans to be a regular dream bore, but there can be a peculiar grace in the non-literal.

New cycle, day 9. With the first (hopefully) fertile signs starting to manifest.

Hoping the best for everyone's new week.

Saturday 26 October 2013

Twenty-nine days

I think that's what this cycle will clock out at, since I started spotting light brown today.

There are some optimistic notes to sound here, I think.

Twenty-nine days is better than 17, or 23, or even 25, and certainly better (at least psychologically) than the occasional dreadful cycles that drag on to 40 days.

Two positive OPKs this cycle, on CDs 16/17, about 10 hours apart.

Assuming (with a unavoidable modicum of POFfer skepticism) that I ovulated Day 17 or thereabouts, that's a 12 day luteal phase.

I can make my first phone call to The Period Hotline (yes, it really is called that, that's not one of my joke names) at The Fertility Clinic, reporting in for IVF. Which I will do if I get light flow by 3pm; if not, and it's only spotting today, I'll  hold off till I have full flow. I can't do an IVF cycle yet, on account of needing to take the DHEA/CoQ10 for several more weeks, but every period and phone call brings us closer to that possibility.  Any kind of forward motion brings a faint whiff of optimism.

Now for the movement in a minor key - 

Not pregnant. Not that I thought I was,  but hope (some version of it) springs eternal.

I had an appointment with Dr. Q. yesterday. She was optimistic, pleased with the cycle length, asked me if I'd tested for pregnancy. I said "No." She asked "Why not?" to which I could only mutter, with profound eloquence "I don't like testing." "You are afraid of being disappointed," she elaborated, helpfully. Yeah, something like that. She continued to be enthusiastic for me, beaming at my needle-forested belly and saying: "Let's hope there's a baby in there!" I was unable to share her eagerness, though I couldn't give any reason for it, other than beengoingthroughthiscrapfortwoyearsandnothingtoshowforit, and because I have a sense of when my body has, yes, not conceived, yet again. Or possibly not even ovulated, despite the positive OPKs.

Mainly, in this case, because I had almost no rise in temperature.

The chart makes it look not too bad, because  there was a small rise relative to my lowest BBT (36.07C). But other than the spike on CD 14, my temperature never went above 36.28.  Usually in my luteal phase it will rise to 36.60C or higher.

So I had no real hope, although something always springs to life, whatever is hardy enough to exist in the vacuum of air that forms before the wrecking ball strikes. I still have some of that, but mainly I've adopted a Stoic philosophy toward all this. On the good days.

I fully intend to have, if not a good day, then at least a purposeful one. There's laundry and yard cleaning to do, after all.

Friday 18 October 2013

Creepy Crow

I was walking to work today, and I saw a crow standing on the sidewalk ahead of  me. This was not unexpected, so I didn't pay much attention to it until I was almost beside it, and the crow hadn't flown away. My first thought was: the crow must be injured, because injured birds can't fly away. But not only was this crow not flying, it wasn't moving at all. It was perfectly still. Puzzled, I took a closer look. It looked like a real crow in every way, except that when I looked closely at one foot, there was a small piece of metal showing.

There was a fake crow on the sidewalk.

On either side of the street, the houses were decorated with almost extravagant Halloween decor: ghosts, zombies, giant neon spiders, witches, pumpkins. Nothing was as creepy as that fake crow standing in the middle of the sidewalk.  It made my stomach turn over a little (although it tends to do that in the morning, anyway.)

I eventually walked away, unsettled, unable to not wonder: what is up with that? Did the crow fall from somewhere? but then, how likely that it would land on its feet?  Was it some sort of decoy? Yah, for what? And why put it where people walk? Was this someone's idea of a joke? If so, how do you even come up with that? Wouldn't it be hilarious to put a very realistic fake bird on the sidewalk and watch people freak out?   Um, OK?

Now for the fertility-related content of this entry, which has nothing at all to do with the fake crow, at least not yet. (But I <3 a great metaphor, so just watch me figure out how to relate it all together by the end.)

I am (just possibly?) in the middle of a long-ish cycle. At least I think it's going to go longer. My last 3 cycles have been between 18 and 24 days, with ovulation, or attempted ovulation around CD 9-11. I spotted for much longer at the beginning of this cycle, so I had a  hunch that it would be different. Longer AF for me usually means a longer cycle. 

I've started charting BBT again and Dr. Q bugged me to use OPKs, so I started doing that too, starting at CD 10. Now,  I hardly ever get a positive OPK. I have a couple of theories for that: 1) crappy ovaries! 2) I pee so often that the LH surge isn't concentrated enough to detect. OPK instructions say don't pee for 4 hours before using the OPK, which is ridiculous because if I held it that long I would go septic or something.

So, this cycle I had negatives from day 10 until day 15. Day 16 was last Saturday, and a fairly awesome day so I forgot about the OPK till almost midnight. When I finally remembered I decided to go ahead and use it, what the hell. Positive! Well, wow. I took another the following day, at about noon. Still  positive. Mr. Turtle and I got together, fun times were had by all and I wondered if I should be a little bit happy and hopeful. Perhaps the appointments with Dr. Q were having some effect on my ovulation? Or I was having a lucky month? 

Well, I don't know about that. I proceeded to get bummed out when BBT refused to rise between Monday and Wednesday. It fell and rose slightly and fell again, never rising to what I consider normal for my luteal phase. I possibly had fertile signs again between Monday and Wednesday. I had run out of OPKs so I did not use any more of those. Of course I still had the OPK instruction booklet which informed me that certain things could have caused a false positive such as pregnancy (no) or menopause (fuck!).  I decided to think positively: maybe I was still in my fertile window after all. Mr. Turtle and I got together again for more good times. If nothing else, I needed to be held and loved and be given some reason for hope. Waited for BBT to rise. Still only a tiny rise.

In between all this wondering and half-hoping and having half-hope crushed (why does it still hurt when it's only half-hope?) I woke up and went to work and attended to my responsibilities, albeit with a depleted will to live. My fertile and/or infertile signs are as hard to understand as a fake crow standing in the middle of the sidewalk. (told you I could do it.)

Things got slightly better today. I went for my weekly appointment with Dr. Q. She was more optimistic about my chart than I was, saying the positive OPK on CD 16/17 was a good sign, and that another patient of hers with early ovulation issues had gotten pregnant the month that she ovulated on CD 17. My low BBT still makes me dubious if I ovulated at all, but the Ovacue readings have risen a little in the past couple of days so who knows, maybe it will go up yet.

Other than that, I'm glad that it's Friday, that I can go to sleep anytime I want to, that it's the weekend tomorrow, that I did some therapy shopping this afternoon on a budget, and that the fake crow was nowhere in sight when I walked home today. Maybe it flew away when I wasn't looking.

Wednesday 2 October 2013

And the good ship ART sets sail

....sets sail that is, for the dubiously happy land of "Anything is better than zero." As in, "Your chances of getting pregnant with IVF are 10%. But 10% is not zero."

But that's OK. Really.

In summary:
4th meeting with Dr. Cotter at The Fertility Clinic. Tests results were reviewed.

I am not a carrier of Fragile X. All genetic and pre-IVF screening tests came back Negative. Negative means Good when we're talking about tests for diseases  and wonky chromosomes.

I am very relieved that I am not a Fragile X carrier. I teach special ed, so I know what Fragile X looks like. It's not something I would knowingly pass on to a child.

Swiped the Visa for $300 and we are now on the IVF waitlist.

Couldn't fill my DHEA prescription because (of course) the clinic pharmacy closed before the end of our appointment. (Since DHEA has to be imported from the US or something, we can only fill the prescription at the clinic pharmacy.) But at least they let me drop it off and I should be able to pick it up early in the morning in a day  or two.

So, we are looking at 3 months on DHEA, and Flare IVF in January or thereabouts. And this is good. Because the plan is in motion. Flare IVF may not work. But we made the decision to try and we are moving forward on the path we chose. That's good enough for now.

The Archipelago (blogroll) has been lighting up with pregnancy announcements lately. And it really, truly makes me happy. Partly because it gives me hope, yes. But more because I feel happy for those ladies who have gotten good news on their long, long road.

But for those of you who are NOT pregnant, I am definitely not either and we are still in this together!

Sometimes I hate the journey of IF and wish it was over, or had never started. Other times I'm OK. Like walking at dusk watching the sun set and moon rise in an autumn sky, being at peace with what the day has brought.


Sunday 29 September 2013

Liebster Award - enjoy the rambling

Anne over at The Second Bedroom nominated me for a Liebster Award, so I'm passing along the love.

Not much other news, except that this coming Wednesday I find out if I am or am not a carrier of the Fragile X gene. Oh I'm so excited, I just can't hide it. (heavy sarcasm).  I just hope, oh how I hope, that after this appointment we will finally be able to say "YES we are doing Flare IVF" or "YES we are doing donor egg IVF" and I can start mentally and emotionally adjusting to whichever path it is. But mainly I'm trying to stay very neutral to the whole business. I know I'll have a strong reaction one way or another when I hear the news but I'm trying not to "live" either possibility too much before it happens. Mostly I am succeeding and I must say at least this month has gone by fast.

Now, let the randomness begin!

Random facts. Um.

  1. My hair is dark brown on top and blonde underneath. Coloured that is, not naturally. It gets quite a few comments as it's not exactly a common style. Oh, and I found my first grey hair at age 22. At age 29 I started colouring my whole head.
  2. In university I wrote a 35 page poem as my final honours project. It was life-changing and soul-opening and probably the closest I've come (emotionally) to having a "baby."
  3. I'm a teacher and I really like to develop my own educational materials. I enjoy the creative challenge and I can spend hours developing pieces of my lessons. The most recent was a picture story for a girl who can get mad and hit people if they sit in a chair she wants. I hope the story will help her to not get suspended from school next time.
  4. I don't enjoy learning foreign languages (I blame French grammar classes) but I like rare or dead languages. Like Old English and Irish/Scots Gaelic (hence the blog title).  My alias for the blog/email is  Síochána Arandomhan which is an Irish phrase meaning "peace to the world." My real life name also means peace but in a different language. I think I like rare/dead languages because the people who study them are geeky and awesome.
  5. I have lived in the same city for most of my life. But I lived in Europe for a year (3 months in England, 8 months in Greece). 
  6. I met my husband on
  7. I was home schooled for 9 years. (But I also spent the same amount of time in school/university cumulatively.)
  8. I loved cats as a child but never had one, and even though my husband likes them too we don't have one. This baffles everybody that knows us.
  9. I can't imagine living in a climate without four seasons. I never get tired of watching the change in seasons and every year it feels like just as exciting as it did when I was a very young child.
  10. Part of the reason I will never be part of an organized religion, and will never ever force religious belief or ritual on a child (although I will teach a child about religion), is because my family was part of a religious cult for some years when I was very young.  One way I reacted to this from a young age was to be fiercely independent minded and sceptical.
  11. One of my favourite ways to meditate is to walk outside. I can walk for hours. I also cycle and cross country ski, but walking feels the most accessible of any outdoor activity. My husband and I walk in all weather, at all times of the year, and we have the best conversations when we do.
Answering Anne's questions:

1. What do you turn to for comfort?

My husband, first of all. And vice versa. I can talk to him about anything and I know he will always offer a hug and kiss, too. :-) I also turn to music for comfort. I will listen to different things depending on my mood, but I really love the songs of Moya Brennan. Here are a few favourites: Tara (video), No One Talks (song only), Perfect Time (video),  Merry Go Round (song only) No Easy Way (song only), I Believe (Deep Within) (song only), Moya's version of St. Francis' Prayer, Peacemaker, is my favourite version. :-) If you are up to watching it, Moya's lullaby for her baby daughter, Oro, is a beauty. Yeah, I pretty much love everything she does.

2. Do you have any habits/mannerisms other people consider odd but you couldn't do without?

I'm a fidgeter. It's probably inherited as my dad is a fidgeter and so are my two brothers. I'm often jiggling small glass beads between my fingers. If I don't have beads I will sometimes pick at my cuticles, which is yucky.

3. What is your favorite thing to cook? Or, for non-cooks, to order in?

Soup. There's something wonderful about making a big pot of delicious soup.

4. It's your day off. No commitments yet. Shockingly, ALL your laundry is clean. What do you wear?

Depends on my mood. I love clothes, so I have many different styles and looks I can put together. For a typical weekend I like either smart-casual (nice sweater, leggings and boots for example) or Western/safari inspired casual (plaid blouse and jeans and leather shoes, for example). 

5. You can have one word or phrase stricken from the minds of humanity--they just forget it existed and you NEVER have to hear it again. What is it?

There's all kinds of trendy educational terms that make me vomit a little in my mouth. Facilitate learning. Empowerment. I don't necessarily disagree with the concepts; I just hate the words.

Other than that, all euphemisms. Bad words were created because bad things happen in the world. Bad things won't go away because we talk around them.

6. You're a billionaire, hooray! What charity do you make your pet cause?

Arts and arts education organizations.

7. Do you wear socks to bed?

Used to, like pre-marriage. Now I have a hubby to warm up my feet in bed.

8. I've got a gift card for you! You can't spend it on bills. Only frivolous things. Where do you go?

My stepmother in law's ladies fashion  store. Absolutely beautiful little boutique and she can look at a woman and suggest the most amazing outfits that you wouldn't have thought of. The NAOT store. Ballet/Theatre/Orchestra/folk club tickets. Although I don't consider the arts exactly frivolous. I would find money to go to the symphony even if I was dirt poor.

9. What one thing that you do on a regular basis do you wish you never had to do again?

Clean out the frig. I hate doing this especially when I have to throw out food that went bad because I didn't meal plan properly and therefore didn't use it. I always feel guilty about throwing away food so it tends to sit in the frig and become an science experiment.

10. If you were an expert in one area, and people came from miles away just to ask your thoughts, what area would that be?

I'm a good organizer. People would ask me for advice on how to make their lives and living spaces more efficient. :-)

I am nominating these bloggers (nooooo pressure, just an invitation!)

No good eggs

A Half Baked Life

Stupid Stork

Gypsy Mama's Journey

MoJo Working

WhenWhyHow baby

It Only Takes One

the infertile chemist

the Noona Musings

Jenny and Jerry

My questions. Several of which I've borrowed from other people (um, thanks Anne and Kasey!):

1. What is your all time favourite book/movie and why?

2.  If you could design the place you live, in  every detail, what would it look like?

3. If you could redo your career path what would you do different, or are you happy with what you do now?

4. What is one place you  want to visit before you die?

5. What is your favourite place that you've traveled so far?

6. What one thing that you do on a regular basis do you wish that you never had to do again?!

7. What gives you goosebumps?

8. If you were granted one hour alone in a room with anyone alive, dead, or imaginary, who would it be and how would you spend the time?

9. What are you trying to get better at?

10. What superpower would you want and how would you use it?

11. How did you get into blogging? Was there a blogger or bloggers that inspired you to speak up?

Well. That was a lot of randomness. Next update will be after the Wednesday appointment.

Saturday 21 September 2013

Blurb Update; or, Why Words Matter

Mr. Turtle partly inspired this post. He is completing an assignment for his graduate counselling psychology course that requires him to take a word that is used in the profession and come up with synonyms that have different connotations and analyze how the meaning is changed in context.

Example: The word "repression" has a certain connotation. A recovering alcoholic passing by a liquor store may cross the street to avoid it. She is "repressing" her desire to go in. But instead of using this word, one could say she is exercising "discipline" or "restraint." Those words imply she is exercising choice rather than hiding from a desire.

Of course, those words don't mean exactly the same thing as repress.  The idea, from a counselling point of view, is to help someone redefine their experience.

I am not a counsellor (for which I am thankful, and thankful that there are people like Mr. Turtle who can do that job) but I have a life long fascination with words. I studied English Literature for my first degree, so I have fed the craving.

I decided to update my blog blurb today.  This is the "About Me" section off the to the right. It's been eight months, and several referrals and tests since the blog's debut, so I thought it was time to update About Me.  Excuse the navel-gazing, but some of the changes to words are significant to me, so I'm going to indulge my inner English major and explain them.

"Call me the Turtle." This stays the same. It's a nod to the first line of Moby Dick. One of those fantastic, understated openings like the "So" at the beginning of Seamus Heaney's Beowulf.

This blog is primarily about our journey to transcend infertility.
Changed from: "It is an unexpected journey to overcome infertility factors."

I try very hard to keep sports/war metaphors out of my blog. As in: "I'm going to beat this thing" or "We have a new weapon to fight infertility." I simply cannot use sports/war metaphors when talking about health issues. This is not to criticize others who use them.  Everybody expresses themselves and copes with challenges in their own way, and if it helps someone to say it like that, they can say it like that. But, I simply  can't conceive of having a battle with my own body or organs. Who gets to be the winner in that scenario?

"Overcome" is a softer word than "beat," but it still implies a win/lose scenario, which I find limiting.  "Transcend" means "to rise above or go beyond; overpass; exceed." You don't have to beat or destroy or obliterate something to transcend it.  What you do is become greater than it.

Mr. Turtle and I are in our early 30s. Neither of us has ever had children but we would like to.

Changed from "...journey to start our family" (or something like that; I've already forgotten.)

Yes, Mr. Turtle and I would really like to have children. Are we partly defined by our desire for a family, and by extension, our infertility? Yes. We are part of a group affectionately known online as IFFers. It may not be exactly right to say I am "proud" to be part of this group, but I am certainly not ashamed of it. I am  humbled and inspired by the courage, tenacity, resourcefulness, and generosity of IFFers. We hope one day to also be part of another group called "parents."

But at the same time Mr. Turtle and I are not solely defined by whether or not we have children. Neither, I would argue, is any other individual or couple. By the way, this great post by Infertile Myrtle deserves a read: Infertile Does Not Equal Incomplete. It can be hard to find that kind of equanimity when dealing with yet another BFN or failed treatment, and I do not always feel it. But I nevertheless think her words are worth dwelling on.

[...various diagnostic details...]
Stays pretty much the same

"In case you are wondering, "torthúil" is an Irish word meaning "fertile." I try very hard not to be defined by the diagnoses given to my female bits."

Changed from: "I'm starting this blog by thinking positively."

Well, obviously the blog has been around for a while, as has the IF diagnoses. I've had some time to consider just how positive I really am. On one hand, our situation looks bleak. Double infertility diagnosis is never good, and DOR/POF is truly craptastic as put perfectly by another POFfer. Natural conception with POF is a 5% chance with every cycle (according to the Wikipedia expert.) Add non-swimming sperm into that, and we have a chance of, I dunno, probably zero? On top of that, DOR/POF also significantly reduces the chances of IVF success.  On the other hand, we haven't entirely given up hope that improvements in health and reproductive health might increase our odds. And conception through ART is still a possibility too.  My intuition, which I believe is based on something more than delusion, tells me there is hope yet.

What I have also discovered, however, is exactly what the new sentence says: I don't want to be defined by the diagnoses given my female bits. True, for a period of time after learning about the DOR/POF, I felt fairly devastated. I felt like I was riding an old rusty jalopy on a rough dirt road through the desert, while all the while different parts were breaking down and falling off in a tragi-comic progression.  The car would never, ever reach its destination. It would break down somewhere between Phoenix and Waterton and I would perish in the dust. But then I realized I was fundamentally uncomfortable with this self-concept (except certain nights when awake at 3am). I do not feel broken. I do not feel hopeless. I do not feel at the mercy of my imperfect reproductive system. Or rather, I simply refuse to feel this way. It isn't who I am.

So, why do words matter? Because I check this blog at least once a day, when I'm around my computer. Because I see my own words, and others see them too. They matter. I want them to carry the message that is generative and meaningful, not limiting.

Are there words or phrases that you feel define your blog or your journey? or words and phrases that you can't stand to use?

Wednesday 18 September 2013

Bringing back crazy

Actually, the title is not quite accurate. I'm well into the luteal phase of a (self) monitored cycle, and I have a pretty good idea of when I ovulated (or attempted to ovulate). But I'm not quite ready to  bring back crazy: that is, counting cycle days from believed day of ovulation, followed by recalculating day of ovulation based on new interpretation of the (scanty) evidence,symptom spotting while assuring myself I am not symptom spotting but nevertheless doing it, followed by the times when I convince myself that it is entirely believable and possible that I am pregnant, because, well, I don't know, maybe all the people who (still) say "It will happen - don't worry" are actually right. They totally could be right. It will just happen. Crazy.

No, I haven't brought back crazy. Yet. Probably will do that this weekend.

In the meantime, life is pretty good. Work is busy (of course) but so far going fine. (I teach high school special education.) I had a lot of anxious people in my former group of students. We did good work together over 3 years and they grew a lot as people, but they definitely brought a nervous buzz to the classroom that so far does not seem to be present with my new group. I like it. Of course, it's early days. There's still plenty of time for epic drama.

Artsy activities started this week. Monday was my first stepdancing class of the fall. For your entertainment, here's a clip from a year and half ago of my class dancing at a festival. (I am second from right, in bright blue top)

Also today I went to my first band rehearsal with Mr. Turtle. I am doing a higher level band this year than previously. I have played euphonium with this group before, but I switched to a lower level last year to learn more percussion. This year I thought I might play percussion and maybe a little euphonium in the more advanced group (Grade 3.5 to 4.5).  It's definitely a push for me, but the band rehearses very close to our house and Mr. Turtle and I can be in the same group.  I no longer want to commute across the city (which I have to do by bus and train and walking because we are a 1 car household.) So, we'll see.

Tonight we sight read (meaning: director gave us 6 pieces of music we may have never seen before) and we did our best to play them. I admit I was fairly terrified. The director knows me; in fact he was the one who first taught me music as an adult, 7 years ago. The group are all nice people. But it's still intimidating to perform a skill in  front of a room of adults with very little preparation. And I realized (again) that it is impossible to hide when you are playing percussion instruments. This is to some degree true of all instruments, but at least in other sections of the band, there are usually people playing the same instrument, and you can blend your sound together and hope they cover up your mistakes. Doesn't work that way in percussion.  Right or not, ready or not, you're loud and you stand out.  It is quite impossible to indulge in introspection, self-doubt or shyness when you are playing snare drum or crash cymbals. It just can't be done.

That's part of the reason I like percussion: it forces me to take risks which means that I am motivated to work on my parts and become a better musician.

So what is the point of this post? Yes, we are (for lack of any other plan at the moment) cycling naturally and therefore bringing back crazy every month. (In my life, cycling and crazy go together. I'm not even going to try to be rational or realistic. Screw that. Who cares if I'm rational or not? The outcome will be what it is regardless of whether my thoughts were sensible or fantastic.) The thing is, I still have good things going on in my life. I want to continue to develop as a professional and a person this year, and not let the IF (totally) get in the way of that. Although I decided (with no regrets) to stay in my current job mainly because of the IF diagnosis and  uncertainty about the future, I want to do more professional development and challenge myself this year, hopefully adding a few points to my CV (which I've barely looked at since 2008). I don't have a baby yet but I am going to be what I've always wanted to be: a person that contributes and that matters.  And I'm going to grin like a fiend and ask everyone who has any to tell me all about their kids and grandkids and nephews and nieces and fetuses in all stages of gestation, because the best defense is a good freakin' offense.

Anyone else starting off the fall by bringing back crazy, or other plans?

**Update: a few days after writing this I found Infertile Myrtle's meditation "Infertile does not equal Incomplete." She writes more directly on the themes I was rambling my way toward. Great Post!

Saturday 7 September 2013

Silent things (saying it)

So, this past week was interesting. Not in an exciting way, as in I had a bunch of adventures or anything. Just interesting to live through.

I started a couple of blog entries in  the past couple weeks, and didn't end up posting either, because I couldn't decide if they really communicated  what I needed to say.

Try to summarize, Turtle.

1) We were kind of "trying" this past cycle. Maybe. I actually spent quite a few days wondering "are we actually  trying?" That sounds so inane. How can I not know if we are or aren't trying to get pregnant? But in the past few months, as opposed to say, a couple of years ago, the whole idea of "trying" has become fraught with savage emotions, and it really isn't surprising that I/we have avoided thinking about it or discussing it.  We haven't been "trying" in  the sense of timed intercourse since January (the male factor diagnosis). Even though I said at the time to Mr. Turtle that we could keep trying because "you  never know," I realized soon after that my actual feelings were completely the opposite. I almost welcomed the MFI diagnosis because I wanted a break from TTC and the overwhelming sense of futility it was giving me.

But then I started seeing Dr.Q. Our goals are to lengthen my cycle and improve uterine lining.  I had appointments timed to cycle days. She gave me advice about what to eat, my mental state, when to start OPKs, when to have sex. It was reasonable advice.  I was feeling good: some of the treatments were to improve libido, and maybe it worked. So what the heck, we went for it, without really specifying if we were or weren't trying. We had a pretty good run until Mr. Turtle came down with a bad cold.

Ovulation signs were open to interpretation, so I wasn't really sure where in my cycle I was. Between the chance that I ovulated too early, and Mr. Turtle's cold, not to mention lazy sperm, well, chances of a natural pregnancy were never good. But no matter how rational I think I am, my mind always finds a  way (with the thinnest possible justification) to conjure up belief that pregnancy could be possible. I'm actually a bit bewildered to find that cozy little cocoon of denial always there, waiting for me.

2) The Period arrived on Tuesday. It wasn't a surprise. It came at the end of my first day back with the students. I don't think I even registered that much disappointment. I shrugged off the denial cocoon and focused on  the rest of my life.  I was happy about my day at school and looking forward to resting well and having more good days at school with the new students.  I went to bed calm, at a decent hour.

And then I woke up at about 3:00am.

I don't know what it is about 3:00am, but no matter how happy or at peace I think I am, it's NEVER the peaceful happy thoughts that come to mind. Nope. Infertility, futility, death, illness, imaginary fires, stalkers, offences given or received, omissions, delusions: that is the stuff of  3am thoughts. Philip Larkin pretty much nailed the 3am mind in Aubade.  Even though my spiritual canon contains more thoughts and poets than dear old Phil, there are times - those sleepless nights - when he might as well be the only poet in the universe.

Slowly light strengthens, and the room takes shape. 
It stands plain as a wardrobe, what we know, 
Have always known, know that we can't escape, 
Yet can't accept. One side will have to go. 
Meanwhile telephones crouch, getting ready to ring 
In locked-up offices, and all the uncaring 
Intricate rented world begins to rouse. 
The sky is white as clay, with no sun. 
Work has to be done. 
Postmen like doctors go from house to house.

A few days ago, I told another good friend via email about the infertility. To try to give her a picture of how it felt, I wrote: "It feels like we are perpetually grieving someone who never existed. It's a real mindfuck sometimes."

As I lay awake at 3am, I realized: I haven't actually grieved yet. I've thought about grieving. I've read about others' grief. I've circled it. I've described it. Which means I've distanced myself from it. Well, suddenly I had no distance. Suddenly there were tears, and a terrible solitude closing in around me. I wanted to reach out to Mr. Turtle, but I no longer even believed that a human touch could comfort me. Touch just reminded  me of how fragile and barren I was and how life itself could be snatched away any moment. So I huddled in on my own chilly body and wept silently.  I don't know exactly how my thoughts went. I just knew that I was Not OK. That I had been OK when I went to bed, and now I wasn't.

2) I wasn't OK in the morning either, obviously because I hadn't slept much, and because the coldness and sorrow was still there. I didn't say much about it to Mr. Turtle. He knew I was off but I couldn't put my thoughts into words. I went to work. I was quite grateful for work this week. Despite the fact I had to get up early and accomplish things and interact with people, which was painful sometimes, I realized how lucky I am to have a job that is interesting, demanding, and meaningful. As much as I wanted to be hiding in a small burrow of misery, that would have made everything worse. Working at a job that didn't require my mental or emotional energy would also have made it worse. I was in the best possible place.

3) I phoned the fertility clinic again about my Fragile X test. This is the test result that will probably decide the ART path we take: Flare IVF or donor egg IVF.  But until we have it, we can't do anything. To back up a bit: we were referred to the fertility clinic back in January. Intake meeting was in May. Since then it's been tests, tests, tests. One follow up in June, One follow up in August. But we're not on the IVF waiting list. I'm not on DHEA yet (although I would have started taking it if I'd known how freaking long I would be in limbo waiting for the test result. Well, fertility clinic phoned back. Now, at our last appointment (August) Mr. Turtle and I are both thought we heard Dr. Cotter say that 1) they would tell me the test result over the phone 2) if the test result was negative, that we could register in the IVF program without meeting with her again.  Well, last week the nurse said that yes, they had the test results but she was not allowed to say them over the phone, and that we had to book a  follow up appointment. Which is not until October 2nd. I didn't argue because what was the point and anyway I was late for a meeting. But seriously. If we had understood the process we could have booked a followup in August for this month and know the test results now, but instead we are waiting weeks and weeks for the follow up appointment again.

Just curious: do others wait this long for follow up at other clinics? is it different in the States? somehow I've got the impression that other people get treatment faster.

Somebody out there knows whether or not I have a gene that if passed on will cause severe mental retardation in my children. That person is not me, and I can't find out for another 3 weeks. This kind of pisses me off. So I'm trying not to think much about it.

I'm telling myself that it really doesn't matter because at this point, we wouldn't be able to do an IVF cycle before Christmas, anyway. I am sure they would not start me on a cycle in  December because that is the one month of the year when the clinic is closed for a week.  And although in December I turn 34, really, what is the point of imposing deadlines on things.

4) Seamus Heaney died last Friday. Poets don't get much fame or respect nowadays, but he was an exception.  I have read his work and looked up to him as a role model for years. What better way to celebrate a life well lived than by reading his work. So I pulled some books and started to read. Came across this quote.

"What is the source of our first suffering? It lies in the fact that we hesitated to speak. It begins in the moment when we accumulated silent things within us."  Gaston Bachelard, quoted by Seamus Heaney

Oh, the silent things that break our hearts.

I realized that probably the worst thing I did this past week was refuse to talk to Mr. Turtle when he switched off the TV and asked me what was bothering me. I don't know why. I think I was afraid of crying (again) and looking foolish. Foolish? Well, how do you explain logically how you can be OK one day, and suddenly not OK another? I didn't understand it myself.

Well, we finally talked about it. Mr. Turtle and I have a game where we ask each other: "So what great truth did you learn about life this week?" over Saturday breakfast. No right or wrong answers, but we have to come up with something.

This was mine: that sometimes I'm not OK.  Sometimes the biggest thing going on in my life is heartbreak. It's real. I can't pretend it away. Well I can, but not forever.

It's raining this weekend. I love it. I lay on the couch and read books, blissfully aware that I can fall asleep anytime I wanted. We walked by the side of the lake in the rain, watching the mist, talking about Seamus Heaney and life and death.

I'm doing better.

Friday 6 September 2013

Silent things

"What is the source of our first suffering? It lies in the fact that we hesitated to speak. It begins in the moment when we accumulated silent things within us."
Gaston Bachelard, quoted by Seamus Heaney

I don't have time to write more right now, though I'll try to come back to this on the weekend. I just had to share that quote because I happened to read it this morning and it startled me like a rocket going off.

Thursday 22 August 2013

Compassion and Courage

As I get ready to return to my teaching job, and all its myriad rewards and challenges, the very last thing that I want to think about is "school shooters." Words cannot describe the horror that strikes my very being at the thought of a murderer in a school, taking lives and shattering precious trust and safety. I never ever want to meet such a person. I don't want anyone, loved one or acquaintance or stranger, anywhere in the universe, to ever meet such a person. I don't want anyone to be such a person. I want to build a world where nobody would ever consider walking into a school with a shotgun.  Even though we practice lockdown drills yearly, even though I've watched policemen at my school doing a drill (complete with "victims") where they take down a gunman, I shudder to even picture an actual gunman at my school, or any school. I'm pretty sure that if I ever experienced such an event, supposing I survived it, it would be the end of me as a teacher.

But when a Facebook friend brought this story to my attention, I just had to share it.

Meet Antoinette Tuff, the woman who prevented a mass school shooting yesterday.
(The video interview is well worth watching and listening to.)

Another article that shares some quotes in print from Antoinette

What blows my mind is that Antoinette Tuff showed such compassion and empathy and love to the gunman. To someone whom she knew could kill her and/or all number of other people any second. It would have been so much easier, so natural, to react with panic or anger. But the qualities that Ms. Tuff showed instead gave her a power that no gun, body armour or security system could give her.

If I have children I want them to live in a world where there are never any school shootings. I want that fear to never even enter their heads. Hell, I want that for all children, whether or not they are mine.

Sadly that isn't the world we live in. So second best, I would like my children to know that there are people like Antoinette in the world, and to know that it is truly a better place because of people like her. I would like them to try to find in themselves the courage and compassion that she shows, although I still hope they will never need to use it in the kind of situation she experienced.  I would say that I want them to know that Antoinette is a true hero, but she says herself that she is not: "I give it all to God." And that doesn't surprise me, and I respect that.

Antoinette says in her interview that she is going back to work tomorrow. People, there is hope for the world.

Monday 12 August 2013

Happy Pincussion

The latest in fertility news (dum, dum, dum.....) This time, an update from the Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM)  side.

I saw Dr. Q for a Cycle Day 2 appointment. It wasn't planned that way, but AF decided to show up after 19 days this cycle.  I wasn't exactly surprised that I had a short cycle although I was hoping my suspicions were wrong.  After my first appointment with Dr. Q, Day 10, I used my fertility monitor and it gave me a very high number, which implied that I had already ovulated, or more likely attempted to ovulate, probably around Day 7 (the Ovacue and how it works).

Anyway, AF had rather convenient timing since we were able to plan for the rest of the cycle at this appointment. I had a treatment today, and have 3 more scheduled for this cycle: Day 6, Day 9, and Day 11.  I am getting quite used to being full of needles  and am able to relax, although I still have a fear that she will leave one in my hair. I have to shake my head out thoroughly after every appointment.

Mr. Turtle hoped to talk to Dr. Q this appointment, but she was busy and he had to run to another appointment, so she just missed him.

Obviously 19 days is far too short a cycle. On the other hand, this period arrived with practically no pain or cramps at all, and there are fewer clots, which Dr. Q considers a good thing. It is a good thing even if all it means is I am less miserable! Big clots are usually accompanied by nasty cramps and discomfort.  The colour also turned bright red faster. Other apparently good news is that I have been less cold lately.

Dr. Q said to eat an egg daily (already doing that, cause I like eggs) and to eat chicken soup a couple times a week. It is supposed to be especially good during a period.

I mentioned Dr. Cotter's stance on herbal remedies to Dr. Q. Dr. Q's response was that nothing should be taken during an IVF cycle, but since I am nowhere near having an IVF cycle scheduled, they would not do any harm. Plus all these remedies have been used for 100s of years, etc. I was curious what she would give me so I didn't object. Here's what she gave me: (cost: $22.00)

This one is 8 pills/ 2X a day for days 1-5. Interesting name, "999". 9 is my lucky number.

Lots of interesting ingredients, including, erm, poo.

Next is Day 5-14, 1 bag 2X a day.

No poo, but 2 kinds of branches.  Well, I can't remember the last time I found a medication funny, so this should be good  for stress, anyway.

I should add that since every patient is unique  in TCM, just because Dr. Q gave me this stuff doesn't mean that every other infertile would be given it.

It so happens that my MIL, also a TCM practitioner, is visiting so I ran the herbs by her and asked if there was anything I should be concerned about. She said no, they were typical herbs to reinforce basic health.  So I thought it wouldn't hurt to take them for a cycle when I'm highly unlikely to be pregnant anyway and see if there is any effect on my menstrual cycle.  

Dr. Q's next advice was about trying to reduce stress and anxiety. She said that wanting or insisting on control is a major source of stress.  I didn't think I was projecting my control freak personality from the treatment bed, but I guess.....Or maybe Dr. Q has a more than a passing familiarity with fertility patients and their demons and figured she might as well mention it. She recommended meditation and prayer as a way of letting go. Organized religion is not a part of my life and it is extremely unlikely it ever will be (that's a whole other story).  I can't say I understand much about prayer or meditation either.  But I do have activities I do to relax and/or redirect my thoughts, which I feel are as effective or more so for the kind of person I am.

Still, I think I grasp the gist of what she was saying, which was to enter into a state of mind where I can be calm and accepting of what is going on with my fertility. I am not going to get pregnant at a certain time because I want to be. I am not guaranteed to get pregnant because I take something or do something or "fix" my problem in some way. I think I've actually gone some way toward accepting that already because nobody knows any way to fix my problem anyway. The best way forward from here that I can see is to do a series of things to try to improve my reproductive health, coupled with the best that modern science can  come up with.  I am not stressing about why we are not conceiving a baby because, well, it has been explained  to me in detail why we cannot do that. I do get a little sad or grumpy sometimes, though. Some days I'm more patient and accepting than other days. But that is why we work on things.

The only thing about stress and TCM treatment that seems a little incongruous for me is that in order for this to effective I have to monitor a lot of things. Cervical mucus, period flow and colour, when I go pee, etc. etc. I am OK with that, but monitoring is one thing that tends to increase my stress. My stress level usually goes down when I ignore what my body is doing as much as possible, but then I don't have anything useful to tell to doctors. So it will be an interesting challenge to be detail-oriented without obsessing over how things might be going "wrong."

Anyway, I'm pretty optimistic about lowering stress, but the fact remains that my stress is lower with a plan, even if the plan might change. And on that topic, no word yet from The Fertility Clinic on the Fragile X test. I left a probably pointless and annoying message asking if they were still going to call me back when they have the result. Because I felt like it.  They were nice enough to phone back on Tuesday and let me know that they still do not have the results but they should have them soon. I also had a message on my phone of someone singing in an operatic voice about pirates. That is not related but it is just absurd enough to share.

Thursday 8 August 2013

Charting a Course

Today we had our 3rd meeting with Dr. Cotter at The Fertility Clinic. I think it went well.  Slowly the pieces seem to be coming together, at least in the version of the puzzle that exists in this moment in time.

We received most of the latest test results for me.
Thyroid: Normal. They detected some antibodies which mean that at some point I had a mild case of thyroiditis, but nothing looks amiss now.
Genetic tests: I am not a mosaic.  Hurrah. Didn't even know what that was until today.
We are still waiting to hear if I am a Fragile  X carrier. This is the piece of the puzzle that we need to have before setting a direction.

Prior to the meeting, Mr. Turtle and I went over the information we have so far and mapped out a plan, and wrote down questions.  Since meetings at The Fertility Clinic take weeks to schedule, and go by so quickly, I wanted to make sure that we had a  clear sense of what we wanted to communicate and what we wanted to learn. Even more importantly, as a couple we need to be working together and understand what we are getting into. This was something I committed to when we got the first diagnosis, and luckily Mr. Turtle believes in communication  and cooperation, too. One of the first blogs I ever read was CGD's Adventures in Infertility Land.  Sadly, in addition to their unsuccessful quest to have a baby, CGD and her husband also ended up divorced. Although CGD's blog is no longer available, she did share her experience on Episode 18 of Bitter Infertiles, and I think everyone who is pursuing fertility treatments should listen to it. In fact, if you haven't, go ahead and do so right now.

We also both read Chapter 3, "Planning Your Itinerary" in  Melissa Ford's book Navigating the Land of IF (another resource I highly recommend). In the chapter Mel (She of the Stirrup Queens) goes over eight factors influencing decisions about infertility:

  • Cost
  • Certainty of reaching parenthood
  • Sureness of leaving infertility
  • Possibility of a genetic link
  • Possibility of a biological link
  • Amount of control over prenatal health
  • Average speed of resolving infertility
  • importance of maternal age
Mel suggests each partner independently rank these factors and then compare notes. That is what we did. We had the same top two:
  • Certainty of reaching parenthood
  • Amount of control over prenatal health
We were slightly different for number 3; Mr. Turtle put down Possibility of a Genetic Link, and I put down Importance of  Maternal Age. But when you think about it those show similar priorities because if I am to  be genetically related, my age does matter because of the POF.

So, this is what we put together. 

Plan A
Fresh IVF cycle, our own gametes. (Assuming I do not carry Fragile X.)
We  would like to try to have a genetically related biological child.  We realize that due to the DOR/POF particularly, the odds are slanted against us. I am not going to produce  a lot of eggs and there is a chance I won't produce any. IVF is a game of diminishing returns in the best of cases, and we are not the best of cases. (If there even is such a thing as "the best case" when talking about infertiles.) However, that doesn't mean I won't produce eggs and we won't get an embryo and hopefully a pregnancy and baby. Neither of us is happy to walk away without at least trying. Fresh IVF is a gamble, and we will be sad if it doesn't work, but we can't draw a line under this option without at least giving it a try.

I will go on DHEA and Co-Enzyme Q10 for 3 months before starting the cycle. It will be Flare Protocol.  SO LONG FAREWELL to my un-medicated existence untouched by doctors with prescription pads. It was nice while it lasted. One thing's for sure, there's no cosmic reward for living your life "naturally." (What, me bitter? OK, maybe just a little.)

Reassess Plan A either: A) after one unsuccessful cycle  or B) after diagnosis of Fragile X

Plan B
IVF cycle with donor eggs
Should my own gametes be formally declared a hopeless case, then we will look at donor eggs. In Canada it is illegal to buy or sell gametes, so no paying an egg donor for her services. Doctors are also not allowed to treat anyone who is not Canadian, so no bringing a donor from another country. That means we can either A) find our own volunteer Canadian donor ("Sister, can you spare some eggs?") or B) use a donor in the USA or vitrified oocyctes from an American egg bank  ("you can buy and sell anything in the States," sez Dr. Cotter). Not sure which route we would end up taking here, but I would think the USA donor/egg bank is more likely. Plan B needs more research and is still a bit surreal, admittedly.

Because I was curious about it, I asked about how an IUI cycle with donor sperm would compare to a donor egg IVF cycle. Dr. Cotter clearly recommended donor egg IVF over IUI with donor sperm, which  she gave no more than a 5-10% chance of success, due to my dodgy ovulation. "You're at the end of your reproductive life, so it's hard to tell what your ovaries are going to do." Not one to mince words, eh.

We also asked about embryo adoption, and Dr. Cotter said, yes, there is a  list. You need to have done one cycle of IVF before being eligible for the waitlist.

Reassess Plan B when: Not sure; we'd make that decision when we get to Plan B.

Plan C
We didn't discuss this yet, but Plan C comes into place whenever we are done with unsuccessful fertility treatments, which for me, would be in 2, max 3 years. I could change my mind, of course, but I'm pretty sure I don't have it in me to do treatment after treatment, year after year. One way or another, infertility will be resolved.

We also asked Dr. Cotter for her views on naturopathy. I have started acupuncture treatments, as I previously described, and Mr. Turtle has  been seeing a lymphatic drainage specialist.  It is taking a lot of trial and error for him to find a way of reducing the edema of the scrotum, but he is optimistic about the most recent technique. Of course, we don't know if reducing the swelling will improve sperm quality, but it seems like a logical assumption and worth pursuing.  And if it only helps Mr. Turtle be more comfortable and less self-conscious, it will have been worth it.  Mr. Turtle also plans to talk to Dr. Q to see if she can suggest anything else for him.

Dr. Cotter said there is no evidence of acupuncture making any difference in achieving pregnancy, though there is some ongoing research into that. She did say that it helps fertility patients "live through what we do to them." So, acupuncture is OK.  Lifestyle or dietary modifications are also OK, "as long as it is not excessive." I asked her about herbal remedies in general (nothing specific has been proposed to me) and she was adamantly against the whole idea. She said that there is more money spent on natural remedies in the USA than on prescription drugs, and that there is no regulation or accountability in the industry. So basically, when you take a supplement, you have no idea what you are taking or what effect it will  have on you or on a fetus. She said (with some heat) that that is a completely unfair thing to do to a baby ("the effect on you will be short lived, but the child will live with it for 80 years.")

Final thoughts?
I actually left this meeting feeling fairly confident and calm. Mr. Turtle also thought it went well. The tone was overall more optimistic than the last meeting. We felt less like deer in the headlights.  Mr. Turtle observed that Dr. Cotter was using language like "when we get you pregnant" as opposed to before when she was being extremely cautious. I was very focused on  getting my questions answered and I felt that I did.

But of course we still don't have the piece about the Fragile X. I expected to  have all the info today but I guess the labs are not especially speedy and it just doesn't all come together perfectly. I would really like to commit to a plan, whatever it is. Because of the DOR/POF, I'm being told to waste no time, but on the other hand it always feels like we're waiting for something, and we can't just make a decision about what we are going to actually do.  I don't mind a few months of hormone supplements, acupuncture, and pondering the meaning of  life as long as I know we are heading somewhere.

It's funny how our goals have adjusted as a  result of IF. When we first started TTC, the goal was simple: A baby!  Achievable within about a year, with luck.

Then we learned about the MFI,  and the goal was: Do an IVF/ICSI cycle. Hopefully get pregnant, but no promises, eh.

Then we learned about the DOR/POF, and the goal is, make enough eggs! Maybe. But no promises.

Notice how "baby" seems to be getting farther and farther away. In fact I think I don't even connect this whole process to a baby a lot of the time.  I can just conceive of getting pregnant.  But baby seems to exist now in some alternate universe that's made of very different matter than what I trip over every day.

But at least, we can almost see a path forward. Ask and learn and decide and one step ahead of the other. Don't get too attached to one course though, you don't know when the wind will change or if the kraken  will eat your boat. But still. Maybe a path.

Wednesday 7 August 2013

On the way, a rainbow

As we were driving home on the Trans Canada on Monday, we were gifted with the unusual sight of a rainbow spanning the mountains:

I wanted to share this bit of unexpected beauty. A couple more views:

Shortly after noticing the rainbow, we noticed the large queue of vehicles parked on the side of the highway, as people stopped to take pictures. Usually when you see cars parked by the side of this fast-moving highway, you look for a  bear on the side of the  road. In this case however, the rainbow was the object of attraction. We joined the crowd, got the photos, and then managed continue on our way without causing any accidents, as I hope all the other sky-watchers also did. (But I could see the headline in my mind already: "Multi-car pile-up on the Trans Canada attributed to Rainbow!")

Of course the rainbow has a lot of cultural meanings, most of which have something to do with bridging heaven and earth, or gods communicating with humans. (Iris, from Greek mythology, is my personal favourite.)  I considered calling this post something heavily suggestive like "After the Storm" (there was a wicked storm prior to the rainbow's appearance) but then I realized that I have no desire to throw up rainbow-y platitudes.

But I feel very happy to have seen the rainbow. It is an unexpectedly sublime surprise, experienced while driving home on a busy highway at around 6pm. Even though the drive through Banff National Park and Bow Valley Provincial Park is stunningly beautiful on any occasion, let's face it: when you are driving on a highway at dinner time on the last day of a holiday weekend, heading home, the highway is a means to an end. You keep your foot on the gas pedal, focus on the traffic, feel tired or even grouchy, and don't usually make that much of the experience. Then suddenly there is a rainbow.  Suddenly random commuters shared the experience of observing something utterly perfect. We didn't just pass through; we held a moment in time.

I loved every second of it.

Friday 2 August 2013

First acupuncture appointment

I have about a dozen things I need to do before leaving town with Mr. Turtle this evening to drive to my parents' cabin. We can't leave any earlier than 5pm, and we need to drive at least 5 hours. And I will be driving a lot since Mr. Turtle has to work today and I don't. But then I open up the blog, and time seems to slow right down and I get this powerful urge to read and write blogs, so I will.  I don't think it's a bad thing.

I went for my first appointment with Dr. Q yesterday. (I can't think of a clever nickname for her at the moment.)  Dr.Q has a degree from China in Western Medicine and Traditional Chinese Medicine.  Her website says she is  "specialized in treating conditions related to women’s health, fertility, pain syndromes, digestive disorders and mental health."  Sounds like a good choice, yes? Dr. Q was  recommended to me by a colleague. My colleague has fibromyalgia and uses massage, and occasionally acupuncture, as part of her health management.

As an aside, here's a little snapshot into how I typically manage my health care. Back in November, I developed a chronic pain in my right shoulder and arm. I had had a stiff neck for some weeks, which was probably related, but I chose to view it as inconsequential and assumed it would go away. ("Wow-I-slept-with-my-head-the-wrong-way-again??") Then one day in class, I leaned casually over a student's desk, and ow ow ow - my back was suddenly throbbing with pain. I straightened up, made a face and complained a bit. But assumed it would go away. Well, it didn't. Sometimes it would get better, but overall it got worse. The pain would vary in location: sometimes in the middle of my back, or in my shoulder, or in my right arm or wrist. Any sort of movement (or lack of movement) could bring incapacitating pain, but fine motor movement was especially  bad. I had to give up using the mouse with my right hand and I haven't since. (I am a  lefty so it was not a difficult switch).  Anyway, this went on for about 4 months. I did finally go to a walk in clinic, and saw my doctor as well. Solutions included everything from a  prescription for physiotherapy that I didn't use, exercises to relax the muscles (which seemed to help eventually), an ergonomic assessment at work (which helped a lot), a prescription for an anti-anxiety drug (WTF?). And my colleague gave me Dr. Q's contact info. I thanked her and resolved to check out Dr. Q's website in January. By the time I actually phoned, it was July. Right.

I'm not proactive about seeking health care. Maybe I just don't like doctors that much. I don't enter into trusting relationships easily.

My experience with Dr. Q did get me thinking a little bit about how the appointment with her was quite different from my other limited experiences with  health care  professionals. Before the appointment I filled out a detailed questionnaire which we went through point by point. We must have talked for half an hour. Dr. Q asked many additional  questions and scribbled notes on the form as we went. She noticed my picked-off cuticles and told me if I didn't stop doing that, my nails would thicken. (Thanks, I'll make another attempt to kick the habit.) She took my pulse (no comment.) Looked at my tongue and told me (accurately) about my poo. Mainly we focused on fertility, though I had not mentioned it specifically before making the appointment.

The conclusions:

  • My cycles are too short (yup)
  • I am likely not ovulating in some cycles even though I am getting a period (I am inclined to agree)
  • When I do ovulate, I am probably not producing a quality egg because it is happening too early (makes sense)
  • My period flow is light and therefore my uterine lining is probably too thin (ultrasound showed it was OK, but who knows)
  • One ovary may be working fine, the other may not be (interestingly, ultrasound showed follicles (4) on only one ovary)
  • Many women with wonky ovaries have acne issues (Testify!)
  • My Kidneys and Spleen are weak (note that the terms for body parts mean something different in TCM than they do in Western medicine)
  • In conclusion,  I definitely have some problems. Although they do not seem to be very very bad.
Dr. Q said she would work with me to lengthen my cycles  to 27-28 days, and thicken the uterine lining. It is important to see her on certain days of the cycle. Since I didn't time this appointment with my cycle (wasn't possible) she seemed a bit concerned about being able to work successfully with this cycle. Me too but I appreciate that she was really thinking about it and seemed to care.  We then did a treatment. I had a forest of needles in me: head, face, belly (lots!) legs and feet and hands. It was very relaxing although I was hoping she had counted them all so she didn't forget any in there, especially the ones in my hair. Dr. Q  warned me I would feel tired afterwards and boy did I ever. I felt like the Earth's gravity must have substantially increased during my appointment.

I have another appointment for CD 15 and we'll see where it goes. She will also discuss some herbs with me at that time. Should be good timing because we go back to The Fertility Clinic next Thursday to go over the latest test results and discuss (I hope) a direction.

What do I think? I felt like the assessment was a lot more thorough than what I'm used to getting from Western doctors. I started with a new doctor about this time last summer (Dr. Gnomish, who is also Mr. Turtle's doctor). On our first appointment, Dr. Gnomish asked if I had any health conditions, was on any prescription drugs, or if I smoked. The answer being no to all of the above, we were pretty much done. Dr. Gnomish was impressed. "Most people have a string of health conditions and a list of prescriptions as long as my arm." A few weeks later I came in for a physical. Did all the usual stuff, was assured none of my moles looked cancerous, and was sent on my way. Now I'm not saying Dr. Gnomish did anything wrong.  But my experience with him, and doctors in general is this: If I am not sick and I don't need drugs, well, they have no further business with me.  I always seem to be in and out the door in record time.

Again, I'm not trying to blame anybody, but it does seem to me that this attitude is not conducive to understanding fertility. In hindsight, although we've only been TTC for two years, I've always known in the back of my mind that there might be something "off." The acne. The irregular cycles. The fact that I had regular spells of unexplained nausea as a teenager, which I suspect were related to hormones. (It is not so severe anymore, but I still get mild nausea one or two times in second half of my cycle.)  But the symptoms never made me sick, in the incapacitating sense.

So I suppose the main difference I felt in Dr. Q's office was that she was willing to take time with me, to listen and ask questions, to question my assumptions, and to make time for treatment, rather than sending me out the door with a prescription and the unspoken conclusion that seriously, I am a pretty boring patient.

How all of this will fit together with The Fertility Clinic I am not sure yet, but I'm glad I'm giving it a try.