Saturday 26 April 2014

Finding Meaning Questions - take 2 (set #3)

For the explanation and thought process behind the questions, see here.

Installment 1: Creating Awareness

Installment 2: Practicing Acceptance.

Installment 3: Be Curious

Step 3: Be Curious

1.    When you reflect on your fertility journey what is one thing that you learned about yourself or your life that you wouldn’t have otherwise learned?

Hmmm. I don't know if I've really learned anything new, but it's reinforced that you really can't take anything for granted. Everything that one person considers "normal" is something that another person spends years or a lifetime trying to achieve.
I feel the same way still about how you can't take anything for granted. I think overall this is a very powerful lesson. And it's one way to start looking for, and finding connection and compassion amid the difficulty and sometimes despair. Of course, the other side of that, which maybe isn't so positive, is that it can become difficult to believe it is ever possible to be normal, or to have a normal outcome.

I used to avoid looking too long at families with babies or young children, because I didn't want the reminder of what I didn't (maybe couldn't) have. Now I find myself looking at them and saying to myself: "Look, this shit actually WORKS a lot of the time. The human population is 9 billion (?) because a lot of people get pregnant and have live babies that grow up to be other humans. There just might be a chance I can manage to do it too, especially now that it's already started....right?"

At some point that line of argument may become fully convincing to me, or it may not, but I keep making it, seeing as I don't know what else to do.

2.     What is one thing you are grateful for? This question can be difficult at first but take your time. For example, I am grateful for my husband and the unconditional love and support he continues to give me. 

Oh gosh, I'm grateful for so many things. For a loving husband who can share the good things of life with me, and the tough ones. That we have been responsible with our money and can cope with the cost of ART. That technology exists that can potentially help us. For good health.

I continue to be grateful for all these things, and it really relates back to point number 1: everything I could take for granted is something that could well be absent from my life, and its loss deeply felt. I also think that gratitude is about living in the present: acknowledging this moment and day for all its gifts, and consciously putting aside the resentment that yesterday might not not have been everything I wished for, and the fear that tomorrow might not be everything I wish it to be. (But please please please let tomorrow - all the tomorrows - include a healthy, developing Ember.)

I'm also very grateful for this blog and the people who read and leave notes of support. I have never received anything but kindness and I'm very grateful for that, especially since the internet has its nasty side as well as its compassionate side. It still boggles my mind how anybody could be deliberately mean to an infertility blogger, but human nature is boundless in its diversity and perversions I guess.  So, thank you to everyone for the kind notes, for finding common ground with the very-literal navel gazing, and if there's someone out there who really wanted to be nasty and somehow restrained themselves, um, thanks for that also, and I wish you support and a safe haven too.

3.      If you were to look back and discover a “gem” that came from your fertility journey, what would that be?

I don't know about gems, but it's been eye-opening to discovering all the stories and support online.

Yes, encore. All the stories online have done so much to help me navigate this journey and keep my faith in humanity.

Of course, the biggest gem is Ember him/herself. Whatever treasure hunt through the valley of the shadow got me to this gem, I couldn't ever regret a moment of it. There are no words for the gift of something so precious.

Installment 1: Creating Awareness

Installment 2: Practicing Acceptance.

Installment 3: Be Curious

Thursday 17 April 2014

Finding Meaning Questions - Take 2 (next set)

See here for background explanation of the questions

Installment 1: Creating Awareness

Installment 2: Practicing Acceptance.

Installment 3: Be Curious

Step 2: Practicing Acceptance

1.  Do you believe that everything you have experienced in your life so far has influenced who you are today?

Yes. I have always looked for and found meaning in my life.

Definitely. And I'm at peace with it because I find everything I've experienced interesting. Some experiences I certainly did not enjoy, but I can't think of anything I found utterly pointless or meaningless.

2.   Have you experienced moments of hindsight that helped you find meaning to a situation from your past?

Hindsight is the key term though.  What I've found is that answers rarely come when I want them - even when I desperately want them. So often I have to make decisions and pick a direction without all the answers. Sometimes, when I lucky, answers come weeks or months or years later. Usually when the situation is well in the past and there is no more urgency.  I think a big reason I've been able to live my life with relative calm in the past few years (yes, I'm an anxiety-tripper, but I am overall doing better now than in earlier life) is that I've accepted that it's OK to not have answers and to not always understand why things are the way they are. The key part is to keep on living despite not knowing or understanding - to live in the present and appreciate it for its own unique opportunities.

3.    To what extent can you make peace with your past?
I am at peace with my past.

At present the past seems pretty abstract to be honest. There's not a lot in it that feels relevant to me right now. I think in a time of flux and change it becomes harder to analyze the past, because I am changing, and my interpretation of the past  is also changing

4.    To what extent can you accept your fertility journey?

 So far, I can accept it most of the time. But I also haven't gone through that much, relatively speaking. I can accept that this is  my reality, that I won't have children without following a  certain path, which is not the path I would have chosen if I had my 'druthers.

I think the hardest thing to accept about my "fertility journey" (whatever the heck that means) is how random it is. We don't know what "worked" and what didn't "work." We tried a lot of things - charting/timed intercourse, Traditional Chinese medicine, DHEA and CoQ10 supplements, lymphatic massage (Mr. Turtle) and of course IVF. There's no proof that any of them had an impact on my getting pregnant (except for the fact that in January we obviously did have sex at the right time lol).  On the other hand, any one or more of them might have contributed.

When I started this blog in January 2013 I thought that "acceptance" meant accepting that we needed ART to conceive. I thought it meant accepting sub-fertility. Accepting what the experts told us. And it did, but then I had my "lightning strike." So acceptance is a both simpler and more complicated now - it means accepting that the unexpected happens sometimes, I suppose.  And accepting my new reality and embracing it - which as anyone can tell, has not come easily, BUT I think I am making progress.

I still think fearful thoughts, and sometimes write them. But in the past few weeks I've been hearing another voice answering the fearful thoughts, reminding me that there is another reality out there, a place and time of promise. It is getting easier to talk about next month, next summer, to schedule appointments and believe that when they roll around, things will be fine.

Installment 1: Creating Awareness

Installment 2: Practicing Acceptance.

Installment 3: Be Curious

Tuesday 15 April 2014

Finding Meaning Questions - take 2

A bit over a year ago, when we had received the male factor infertility diagnosis, but not yet the female factor one, before the intake meeting at the Fertility Clinic, before a lot of stuff, I did a little "interview" with myself. I'd found some questions about infertility on an article, and I decided to answer them, with the intention of coming back to them with some "experience" and seeing how/if my perspective changed.

I've been thinking for a while it was time to revisit them, but it's been really hard to generate abstract thought since January. Insights about our experiences pass through my mind, but they are mostly drowned out by ever-present questions about my vaginal discharge, the twinges in my abdomen and Ember's current state of health/being. Also, I find that when I am living through something I have never lived through before, achieving mental distance from it is not easy. But analyzing and synthesizing is something I do, and I've been feeling lately that as I evolve into some kind of new, hopefully not utterly dysfunctional identity, it's something I have to try to do again.

And, well, I think I've experienced enough new things to revisit these questions. I've italicized the original replies, and write the new ones underneath. I'll split these posts up a bit, I think, otherwise it will get way too long.

Installment 1: Creating Awareness

Installment 2: Practicing Acceptance.

Installment 3: Be Curious

Step 1: Creating Awareness 

1.                  What is your biggest fear regarding your fertility?

Here they are in approximate order of scariness to me (most scary on top, less scary down below)
I ranked some as less scary mostly because I am less worried about them happening, relatively speaking. In other words, I am less scared because I consider that outcome less likely.

a) that the fertility issues are more  complicated than we currently know; that a bunch of additional issues (with me or Mr. Turtle) will emerge as we do more testing.

b) Treatments will fail

c) high risk pregnancy - either higher order multiples or just complicated. Maybe leading to baby loss.

d) that IF will affect our relationship negatively

e) that we won't be able to have a genetically related child

f) that other people in our extended family will have children easily in the next  few years, and IF will affect our feelings/relationship with that family if we can't conceive a child.

g) that the struggle to have a child will leave us so depleted we will have a hard time being parents to that child when he/she does come

Hmm, before I started to list them, I didn't think I had that many fears.

Looking at the list of fears, what strikes me is that many of our fears were accurate. IF more complicated than originally assumed? Yup. Treatments fail? Yup. We won't be able to have a genetically related child? Well, we did conceive a genetically related child - but we also faced the possibility (which we saw as fact at the time) that we couldn't. High risk/complicated pregnancy: well, my pregnancy is not considered high risk at present, and maybe it never was, but we went through a period of time when it seemed to be, and so emotionally, I have faced that fear.

The fears that did not come to pass are d, f, and g. Well, I don't know about g yet, I guess. What I am happy about is that we have maintained our relationship with each other and with the people around us. That piece is still strong. I suppose my experiences with IF may have set me apart emotionally from some friends/family - honestly I haven't thought much about it - but it's also brought me closer to other people.  I'm inclined to go with Buffy Ste. Marie on this one: "When it comes to all I've lost / I don't ever count the cost / Because what I've got for free."

Oddly, knowing that the fears actually came to pass takes all the teeth out of them. I don't have to worry about any of that anymore, and it's quite freeing.

2.                  What part of your fertility experience feels most out of your control?

Not knowing the timeline or what will happen when.  Wondering if I can cope with the physical/emotional fallout of ART. Wondering how this will all fit (or not fit) into the rest of my life (professional and personal).

What feels most out of my control now is, well, my body. This is a new and unsettling condition for me because I have always felt very connected with my body and very positive about it. Even infertility didn't deeply shake that confidence. Maybe I couldn't make a baby, but I could walk and dance and run and feel strong. But not knowing from any given moment if my body is creating life, or has aborted in its attempt to do so, has been an utterly terrifying experience. Infertility was painful, but the stress was never omnipresent like in pregnancy. I might be sad when I got my period after yet another failed cycle, but I knew what a period was and what to expect. Once it started, I didn't think much about it. My first trimester of pregnancy, on the other hand, was week after week of "WTF is going on now?"

I think I need to look for ways to reconnect positively with my body, maybe some meditation or something.

3.                  Do you blame yourself or others for your fertility challenges?

No, I don't.  I know Mr. Turtle has and is doing everything he can to be in the best of health. He didn't choose his condition. I accept that both intellectually and emotionally.

While this hasn't changed, the first trimester challenges did leave me often feeling very angry and resentful toward myself. It was a passing feeling for the most part, but I did really wish that I could just feel trust and confidence, and when I couldn't it didn't seem fair. I still feel very vulnerable this way.

4.                  If you were to guess why this is happening to you, what is your best guess?

I don't think there's any cosmic reason why this is happening to me (us). The only reason I can think of is that bodies aren't perfect.  Sometimes things don't work the way they are supposed to.

I still feel this way, but the experience is a lot more "real" now. It's not so easy to say "Sometimes things don't work the way they are supposed to" when you know the cost of them not working.

Installment 1: Creating Awareness

Installment 2: Practicing Acceptance.

Installment 3: Be Curious

Thursday 10 April 2014


We went for our First Trimester Routine Scan today. The purpose of this scan is to ascertain that the fetus is alive (that was the important part) and screen for risk of chromosomal conditions such as Trisomy 21 (Down's) and Trisomy 13 and 18 (that was sort of important). Mr. Turtle was with me.

I don't like suspense (had enough of that these past 3 months!!) and I really don't do cute, so here it is, straight up. Like good whiskey.


He/she has a heart rate of 150. And legs, arms, elbows, tiny hands and fingers, a stomach, a bladder and brain. Mr. Turtle's favourite part was when the doctor got a top view of the head and we could see the 2 hemispheres inside.

Ember hung out in a head-down position for the whole scan, despite the doctor trying to get him/her to move into a different position to make it easier to scan. But he/she did move arms and legs around quite a bit, "waving" and showing those tiny hands and fingers.  That was my favourite part. And they were able to get all the measurements in the end.

He/she measures 12 weeks, 2 days today (dating revised from previous ultrasound which had put me at 11 weeks, 6 days today.) I'm into the second trimester - YES!! I woke up this morning in the first trimester and had lunch in the second trimester. OK, I know that makes no logical sense but you know what I mean. Based on this scan, Ember's due date has been revised from October 24th to October 21st.

Other than confirming that the fetus is alive (which was most important to us) the FTS also screens for indicators of chromosomal conditions and any birth defects visible at this stage. The screening consists of analysis of maternal blood sample for B-Hcg and PAPP - A, as well as the ultrasound of the fetus. The screen results were negative, which means that the risk of chromosomal conditions such as trisomy 21 (Down's syndrome) and trisomy 18 and 13 are very small. No further testing for these conditions was recommended. That is good news for sure, but the best news is that we have a developing baby.

The next regular scan is at 18-20 weeks and looks at anatomy in more detail.

Now what? Oh my.

Well, I really want to embrace this pregnancy, and our future, with optimism. That has been so hard to do the past few months. There were happy moments - the 7 week scan, for example, that showed an embryo and heartbeat - but any time I had spotting, or some weird if probably harmless symptom, I would hear the little voice in my head say "It was all too good to be true anyway."  It is in many ways easier to listen to that little voice than to accept the lightning strike that left behind this little spark of life. 

But I want faith instead of fear, hope instead of terror. Seeing Ember today and sharing those moments with Mr. Turtle was a gift, now I have to make the best use of it.

Here's the narrative version of today, now that I've gotten the important part out of the way.

Last night: didn't sleep much at all. Rationally and objectively, I thought we would most likely see a normally-developing Ember today. But, well, if there's room for doubt it fills up all the available space, at least for a pessimist like me. When I got up I had a nice juicy wave of nausea, and my boobs hurt like they were on fire for a few minutes, just to reassure me that wild stuff is still goin' on. We drove to the Maternal Fetal Medicine clinic, where we had never been before. It was very tastefully decorated with comfy chairs, which I found a way to resent Who cares about the decor if this is going to be the worst day of my life. I filled out a small amount of paperwork, and declined a CD of photos from the ultrasound. I couldn't accept the idea of asking for photos when the U/S might show my baby dead. Then I had nothing much to do but hold in pee and studiously ignore all the pregnant people in the room. Nope, still not identifying.

When it was finally our turn, I followed a terribly young tech (or would she be resident??) into the room. She said she was a student but that everything would be observed by the supervising doctor. I whimpered "I really have to peeeeeee" hoping as usual that I would be told to empty my bladder a bit. No such luck, she said cheerfully "That's great!" and invited me to lie on the table. I lay down resigned and thinking this had better be worth it.

I had imagined this U/S going in a variety of ways. Ember would be alive and insane joy would sweep over me. I would melt down in cathartic tears. In reality the first few minutes were very quiet. The tech would say things like "There's the baby" and "The head is pointing down" while I thought but is it alive or dead? I kept waiting for her to find the heartbeat or say something about the heart but she took her time about it, although she did mention the "bloodflow" (through the umbilical cord?) once. Meanwhile I was afraid to ask because I was thinking: She's new at this job - what if this is the first time she's ever had to tell someone their baby is dead? I know, my cheerful thoughts make the world a better place every day.  

Meanwhile she was having a bit of challenge with Ember's head-down position. There were none of the typical fetal-side shots for the first few minutes. Mostly amorphous blobs, which I didn't find very reassuring. But at one point a tiny hand with curled fingers waved across the screen. That gave me a little jolt. Fingers are consistent with Ember's gestational age, at least. And then finally, she showed me the heartbeat and counted it. I relaxed a little bit then, and started making some comments on what we were seeing. Various body parts came into view - legs with leg bones, little arms with elbows, a head with what looked vaguely like a face. One shadow was the baby's stomach, another was its bladder. I was finally allowed to pee in hopes that Ember would turn over allowing for the important shot of the nuchal fold. No such luck though, the little one continued to do a headstand.

Finally the supervising doctor came in. She apologized for all the poking and probing, and for asking me to pee over and over again (but seriously, I was fine with that). She took over the camera, and although Ember wouldn't budge for her either, she was able to get a side shot to measure the nuchal fold. Which, for the record is 1.3mm.  We also got the typical side view of the baby.  By poking the camera rather deep in my pelvis, she also got a top view of the head and baby's brain - we could clearly see the two hemispheres. Ember continued to flail arms and legs a bit, and moved the head a little, I think - but was way too comfy reposing on his/her head to do more.

The atmosphere in the room was quite upbeat by the end. We left the U/S room for a private meeting room, and few minutes later a nurse came in with our report. I am so glad that they gave us the results the same day, and provided a printed report. The nurse seemed rather detached - which Mr. Turtle thought was because she had a glass eye, and was trying to avoid eye contact, and which I thought was because our results were normal and boring and she didn't need to have much emotional engagement. I personally am thrilled to be normal and boring.

Mr. Turtle and I went to lunch - I had salad and half a burger - and then he returned to work, and I returned home to ponder how sometimes what we hope for really does happen.

It has been a good day. I am so grateful to experience all of this, and for the love and compassion and support that we've gotten from so many people. I really do think I can embrace my new optimism.

And here is Ember's first portrait.

Monday 7 April 2014

A found quote

I am borrowing this from my SIL, who posted it on FB for her own reasons, but it really resonated with me. K, if you ever comes across this by accident I hope you don't mind me borrowing your words (and you are an amazing brave woman, BTW).

"A lot of times, it can be easier to have faith for the future. We believe “one day” we’ll get a good break. “One day” we’ll feel better. “One day” the problem will turn around. If we’re not careful, we’re always putting our faith off, believing that in the future something good is going to happen.
But, true faith is always in the present."

 Wishing everybody courage and faith for the present, whatever challenges you are facing.

Saturday 5 April 2014

The sun is out again

And the past couple of days I woke to the sound of chickadees. The mating song of the chickadee (It is the male who sings "chick-a-dee-dee-dee" as well as the sexy whistle "Heeeeey lay-dee!) always makes me think of spring. It makes my heart jump with an optimism that feels as old as time, because ever since I can remember spring has made me feel like the world is new again and full of surprises to be discovered. I might be three years old again, seeing the tips of tulips poke through the earth in my mother's garden. I believe I will feel this way even as a very old woman, if I am lucky enough to be a very old woman one day.  If it happens that I die in the spring time as an old old hag (wearing purple of course), I will still feel young and new inside.

Eleven weeks one day for Ember. Less than a week till my next ultrasound, April 10th. Every day is a surreal leap of faith that moves me a bit closer to that scan. The April U/S is the Nuchal Translucency Scan, where they assess for genetic conditions such as Down's Syndrome. I have also had blood drawn which they will analyze, and we should know the results of those tests by the date of scan. But honestly, I just want to see a live baby next Thursday. Since I work with teens who have developmental disabilities, I am aware of the realities of raising a child with a disability, and I hope Ember does not have to live with a disability. But as the date of the scan gets closer I find no room in my heart to make conditions. Just please please please be alive and growing.

The less objective evidence suggests that Ember is indeed growing. I managed to work all of this week, and even had some quite good days, but I'm still doing a lot of sleeping, any chance I get.  The nausea comes and goes, but has been manageable, although my prescription runs out today, so we'll see. I had a close call while teaching last week. If I remember to drink and snack regularly, I'm OK, but I got quite involved a lesson with the students one morning and forgot to do either. We were talking about the digestive system, and farts, and they were really into the topic and so was I. So I didn't have a moment to myself from 10:30 till noon. The students had just left the room heading to the cafeteria, and I suddenly felt like I was going to throw up. Just throw up, out of the blue. I managed to keep things down, but it was close.  I was glad I didn't puke in front of the kids; that would have been a far more interactive lesson than anyone wanted.

Yesterday my co-teacher also commented that "your profile has changed." For a moment I was like What? My Facebook profile? the shape of my nose? then she explained that my bust had changed and my mid-section was bulging a bit too. That's the first time someone has commented on it. Of course, she is in the know and has been for quite a few weeks, but it's somehow reassuring to hear someone else's feedback. I've wondered about changes myself but then I think it might just be bloating or the bra I'm wearing, and wishful thinking. I'm pretty sure in the past few days, however, that I can feel a bulge in my belly, and it's a different shape from gas or belly fat.

I have a ton of vaginal discharge. This symptom is really not fun because anytime I feel wetness down there, I think blood. Then I do a couple of quick shoulder checks, dart to a strategic location and stick my hand down my pants to check. You all are lucky you don't have to shake hands with me (seriously, I do wash afterwards...but just as well I don't have to meet new people every day...cause some days there is a lot of checking) But since the episode a week and half ago there has not been blood, just yellowish discharge that is sometimes mixed with light brown.  The light brown has been pretty much a constant for a month at least so I'm not freaking out over it too much.

So. Reasons for hope. And I have to hang onto them because I'm the only one who can. I'm hoping that after next Thursday, or maybe Monday because that's when I meet with my doctor, I can enter a new phase in this pregnancy.  I would like to reflect on the journey so far and move on, and focus on something besides what is that wet feeling in my crotch and oh God what now. I hope. I have so much baggage that I need to unpack and like our suitcases from San Diego it is all sitting in a pile because I just can't be bothered.

Meanwhile, day by day. Here's 11 to 12 weeks.