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.