Saturday 31 December 2016

Fortune Cookie

We went out for dim sum yesterday with my family and in-laws. AJ was moseying about being cute, and one of the staff gave her a fortune cookie (nobody else got one).

It said:
be prepared to modify your plan
Be prepared to modify your plan

I thought that was a very sound piece of advice for parenting, teaching, or life in general. Actually, I think it might as well be my resolution for 2017. The one thing I feel quite certain of is that I will have to modify plans. Remembering that also helps me to not worry so much about things that don't work out the way I envisioned at a particular point in time.

Happy New Year. Thanks for reading.

Friday 23 December 2016


Last week I went with my mom to an ecumenical service called "Blue Christmas." My former colleague and friend attends a United Church, and she let me know about this service for people who were having a hard time getting into "the Christmas spirit" because of loss or hard times. My mom wanted to go, and I went with her, although I'm actually enjoying Christmas so far. But I'm very aware of the different levels of meaning it can have. My mom has talked about how sad it is to be reminded of the different things she did with my dad, such as picking out a tree, that she won't be doing this year. I try to remind her that it doesn't have to be the same, that we can miss the way things were while still appreciating what we have, etc. But obviously I don't have all the answers, and really we are making things up as we go along. It's much easier for me because I have Mr. Turtle and AJ. I have lost my dad but my daily life has not been radically changed the way my mom's has been. I have people to go home too; she goes home to an empty house most of the time. My mom, incidentally, did find a tree: a tiny live potted one. She tells AJ it's "her" tree because it is little.

The Blue Christmas service was quite well done. People were welcomed "wherever you are at" and the programme and atmosphere were designed to be accomodating to people of any religious background or more likely lack thereof. There was a very good band, and music was a constant throughout the evening, much of it non-traditional. A variety of people officiated. One of the female officiators reminded me, unfairly I'm sure, of Melisandre from Game of Thrones, because of her expressions and mannerisms and the way she kept talking about "light and darkness" in a very dramatic way. But overall I appreciated the essence of what was attempted.

There was a part near the middle which drew my thoughts away from Christmas and into the realm of infertility/subfertility. The speaker must have been in her 50s, and she told the story of losing her father to cancer this year. Obviously this hit quite close to home.  She described how she sat in the hospice with her dying father, knitting a baby blanket, because her daughter in law was pregnant with their second child.  She felt she was "knitting the generations together," as she watched one life fading while another was quickening.

It's a poetic image, but it sent me spinning into a different place, reminded of my darker thoughts around subfertiliy/infertility.  They sum up as: I will get older, watch people around me get sick and die, and experience my own body failing, but without the compensation of seeing new life growing. Since AJ was born, this fear has faded a bit: she keeps us enthralled with everything she is learning and doing. But AJ doesn't have siblings, or so far cousins, though she has/will have cousins once removed, none of which live in the same city. Basically, when our extended family gets together, there are a lot of adults from 30s to senior, child. Something about this makes me uneasy. I'm bothered by it even while I selfishly like the fact that my friends and family are not very fertile, by circumstance or choice, because my nose isn't always getting rubbed in our difficulties.

It's all very well to be comforted by the fact that babies are born while old people die, but what if babies aren't being born? What if you want to have those babies, to see the generations knit together, but they remain out of reach? I don't want to diminish the speaker's situation by making comparisons; she had an important story to tell and she told it very well. But it reminded me mostly of my infertility grief.  Cancer took away the extra years my dad could have had with AJ. But subfertility took away any other grandchildren he might have known. And infertility may well take away grandchildren that my mom and other family might have known.

Of course, then we come right back to the un-quantifiable awsomeness of AJ. I would not trade her for any number of hypothetical children or a hypothetical life. Nor would anyone else. But still. Infertility shatters so many assumptions, so many human comforts that we assume everybody has access too, simply through the ability to create a family.

For the final part of the service, people were invited to light a candle in honour of someone. I have mixed feelings about candles, but I chose to participate this time. I know my mom lit hers in memory of my dad. But I lit mine to acknowledge the years of waiting for a child, and for this second child who dominates my waking thoughts, but has yet to manifest. One of the last things my dad said to me was that I should not feel too sad about his illness because "this is the way it should be," meaning old people die and the young carry on. But there are so many things that should be, and aren't. The vision of what "Should be" might get us started on the journey, but it's not where it ends.

Lighting the candle helped a little bit, I think.

Monday 12 December 2016

Beginnings, endings, and messy stuff in the middle

December seems to be a good time to write a retrospective post, doesn't it? These were my goals, this is what I achieved, this is what I'm working on, blah blah. Except as I get older it never feels that tidy. I am always experiencing beginnings, endings, and messy stuff in the middle, at the same time. And with some exceptions, it's often not possible to say with certainty what is an end and what is a beginning.

I am actually excited about Christmas this year. I'm not looking forward to any particular event; I just find myself more happily engrossed in the details than I remember being in quite a long time. For some background, my family didn't celebrate Christmas till I was 15.  For the first decade of my life, however, we did do a winter holiday at our cabin, which included a lot of the typical activities associated with  (a northern climate) Christmas: skiing, sledding, making snow forts, visiting my grandmother and playing with her cats, hot chocolate and cookies and family dinners. Utterly gorgeous, hypnotic memories. I remember skiing around my grandparents' acreage, alone, and hearing the sound of snow falling in utter silence. So really, we did have Christmas; just without the lights and decorations and presents, and honestly I can't say I ever felt deprived, but quite the opposite. Ok, maybe a little deprived that I didn't discover Christmas music till much later.

When I was 15 my mom decided we should try celebrating Christmas. We hadn't gone to the cabin in a long time: those trips ended when we had a fairly serious car accident (it was an eight hour drive in winter conditions). So for some years we had done literally nothing. But this year, 1995, it would be different. And I was all in. I remember I had $20.00 spending money that December, and I managed to buy each person in my family a present with it.  The parrot sculpture I gave my dad now stands beside his urn at my mom's house, and AJ always asks to hold it when she visits.

Some years later, I was out with university friends at a pub and we all got a little tipsy. Somebody said it would be fun to get together and sing Christmas carols. Most of the group probably forgot this comment when they sobered up, but I remembered, and so I organized a night to go caroling around my neighbourhood. Maybe two of us knew how to actually sing (not me). Most were agnostic or athiest. It didn't matter. Strength in numbers. We kept this up for several years, and everyone who participated said it was a highlight of the holiday season for them. Mr. Turtle came once or twice too, when we were first dating.

My first Christmas away from home was in 2005. I was in my mid-twenties. I lived in England from late October to early December. I had some  enjoyable experiences, but the job I found was a spectacular disaster. I quit in late November, but stayed for a few more weeks doing touristy things and planning my next move, which was Christmas in Greece. Although I enjoyed touring museums and cycling everywhere I could get in a day, it was bittersweet to be away from home and living in a lot of uncertainty. I spent some hours buying small gifts to send home to family in a large envelope, at exorbitant postage cost. The worst day was when I had to sell my bike, shortly before I left. My bike was the one thing that had always made me happy and when I left it at the auction house I felt that life was now truly crap. I  remember that I got on the bus and tried to give my fare to the driver, and he told me to put it away. I must have looked very pathetic.

But luck changed, starting with a wonderful welcome in Greece by my aunt (my dad's sister) and her friends. Although I was still at loose ends, I had family again and a rather more friendly introduction to a foreign (but somehow familiar) culture. We went out for dinner on Christmas day, sparkling in new clothes. My aunt bought an enormous and decadent chocolate cake for my (champagne) birthday, which took weeks to work through.  If that sounds like a crazy amount of pampering, it was, but it was also very appreciated after the stuff I had gone through a few weeks earlier. I ended up staying several more months in Greece, working at a couple of jobs, and rebuilding a lot of confidence.

After I came back from living abroad, in my mid twenties, I started playing with a community band. And so of  course, every December  there was a Christmas concert and music to practice. This added more flavour and fun and community. Mr. Turtle and I had a lot of fun with our first Christmas after we were married. We bought a real tree, a great big one, and lots of decorations. I still have a piece of the trunk that we trimmed off. The following year, we started trying to start our family.

While I don't do anything particularly religious to celebrate Christmas, I've always liked the Christian imagery and story of Jesus: a baby as a bringer of hope, redemption, grace. This has never exactly changed, but the absence of our baby brought sadness, and eventually, a certain sourness. I never wanted to dislike Christmas, so I think I kind of stifled my emotions about it. We still enjoyed all the rituals: decorating, visiting family, gift giving, music performance.  But always with the sense that this wasn't how we wanted to celebrate.

Since I thought that these feelings were related to infertility and childlessness, I expected them to change a lot when AJ arrived. And they did, I guess, but not as much as I thought they would. It's not until this year, now that AJ is big enough to get into the Christmas ornaments, and talk about Santa Claus, and point out the beautiful lights and music, that I'm opening up to a sense of awesomeness. I didn't grow up with Santa Claus and always thought he was sort of weird, but now I love reading The Night Before Christmas to her every night. "So much good stuff," she raves, spreading shiny balls all over the floor. And life is good. There are low notes. It's the first Christmas without my dad, though he didn't really participate in it last year. It is the anniversary of a lot of very sad and awful times. I don't want to wish any of that away, but I'm getting a lot more joy out of the small moments, whether it's sharing a dance with AJ, baking goodies to give away, or making my best effort at wrapping a present. I'm not holding back; I'm not wishing that I was in a different life.

Well, not all the time. Of course there's some wishing. Want a TTC update? Oooooookay. We have been doing Clomid cycles. Clomid, what a fucking tease. The past three cycles have followed the same pattern. The first two weeks are textbook. I have strong fertile signs, and a positive OPK around day 12 or 13. Ovulation seems to have been pushed back a few days, as it would usually happen around day 10 or 11, or even earlier (if at all). I have a blood test for progesterone levels on day 21, or about 7 days past ovulation. The first cycle it was 11.3. They consider anything above 10 to be evidence of ovulation, so just over it. The next two cycles I had much higher levels: 18.9 and 22.1. But regardless, the same thing happened each time. I have a peak temperature around day 21 or 22, then it plummets, and The Period arrives day 24 or 25. It feels like my body is saying, well that didn't work, screw this cycle and start over.  Now it's true that on Clomid my cycles are much more predictable: no really short or long ones and random bleeding in the middle. And they were short, before, too. It just bothers me that the first half seems so good and the second half so crap.

I tried to get a hold of Dr. Cotter to discuss it with her, but of course, she is away this week, so no hope of a phone call, and my appointment is not until January 19th. It would have been even later probably but there was a cancellation. I should have booked my follow up appointments back in September, but I didn't, so here we are. Too late to do anything differently for the fourth (and final) Clomid cycle. Not that I'm overly optimistic that Dr. Cotter would change anything or that it would make much difference if she did. There are so many possible reasons that this hasn't worked, and a 10 day luteal phase is merely one of them. Is there actually any rational way of coping with odds as low as ours?

I think part of me has already started to grieve this unrealized second child, even while I haven't given up hope.  I flashback to memories of pregnancy or infancy. The line from Leonard Cohen comes to mind: I feel so close to everything that we lost / We'll never have to lose it again. That's nostalgia for you. And yes, it is rather ridiculous that I am feeling nostalgic about pregnancy, considering what a nervous wreck I was through a lot of it. Pregnant Me would have traded places with Current Me in a heartbeat. A breathing, independent and healthy child? Yes yes yes oh please please anything for that. Please take anything I have but just give me that.  Current me has the luxury of looking back with rose coloured glasses, but the reality is I have what I wanted so terribly.

And looking at AJ, I can't help wondering if maybe we aren't meant to have another child, because she is so perfect. If she had even one major flaw, well, one could make a case with the universe, you know? but I look at her and think: how we could possibly get it so right again? On the other hand, one feels like such a terribly fragile number. There are a lot of hopes and dreams riding on this little girl. It feels like they should be spread around a bit more.

Of course, I know all of this is just me trying to rationalize and justify things that are mostly out of my control. What is in our control is what we do next, and I have no clear sense of what that should be.

But for now, I'm enjoying the moment, really I am.  Some more Leonard Cohen lyrics come to mind:

The birds they sang
At the break of day
"Start again," I heard them say
Don't dwell
On what has passed away
Or what is yet to come....

You can add up the parts
You won't have the sum
You can strike up the march
There is no drum
Every heart, every heart to love will come
But like a refugee.....


Friday 25 November 2016

AJ is two

Two years since we met our little girl.

We celebrated AJ's birthday at the end of October. She had a couple of celebrations, which was fun because she had a few days to get used to the idea of it being her birthday. One of my friends who has lived abroad for several years was here for her yearly visit, and she organized a girls night out at a sushi place. It was my regular night with my mom, so I didn't know if I could go (my mom had been having a hard week) but my friends invited my mom to come along too, because they are awesome that way. AJ has been for sushi before with Mr. Turtle and I, but she really got into it this time. She sat beside my friend from abroad, who she was totally comfortable with, and tried everything that was put in front of her. She didn't like the seaweed wrapping but ate everything else out of the rolls.  This particular chain of restaurants also makes a big deal out of birthdays: the staff come around with drums and shakers and tambourines and sing and play noisy music. So we asked them to do that for AJ. She was rather non-plussed and kept looking around at the adults to see if we were OK with it, but she wasn't scared and even cracked a smile a couple of times.

AJ's actual birthday fell on a Saturday, so we put together a little celebration for her. My party planning skills have not noticeably improved since last year. I sent an email out the Wednesday before to some family and friends, saying "We're having a party! Let me know you can make it! Super informal, because it's in three days and I don't think these things through in advance! Also sorry if this is the first you've heard from me in weeks or months...." or words to that effect. Luckily most people accepted the invitation: apparently this was the most cheerful thing going on for a lot of people in late October.

At two years old AJ has more interests and preferences, so it was fun to take those into account. She loves balloons (big fan of the Laura Numeroff book "If You Give a Pig a Party") so we got her a bouquet of those. She's also been into dinosaurs for quite a few months. We bought her a dinosaur costume for Halloween. She refused to wear it for several days, until I finally put it on her big teddy bear to demonstrate what it was for. After that she started to consider the idea, and finally on her birthday she consented to put it on and she wore it all day. For food we had cheese and crackers, fruit, peanut butter sandwiches, all of which are AJ's favourites, and for dinner a big pot of spaghetti. We topped that off with a Dairy Queen ice cream cake. AJ received some new toys, such as blocks (two different sets), a purse and a backpack (she's quite obsessed with purses), some contributions to her education fund, and of course some new clothes.

This is the most brilliant toy I've seen in a long time. It kept her occupied for about half an hour when she first opened it. It's a "saxo-flute". It has 16 pieces including a horn part and a mouthpiece (which is like a whistle). You can put the pieces together in multiple ways, to make a horn of different lengths, and then put the mouthpiece and horn on either end and play it. It will make different pitches depending what size and shape it is (it also has finger holes). It's at once a puzzle and a musical instrument.

Another hit was a book with an Elmo puppet in the middle. They have an Elmo toy at daycare which is how AJ knows about him (she doesn't watch TV). As soon as she saw the book she wanted to "dance with Elmo". "Ring of Fire" by Johnny Cash was the music that happened to be playing at the moment. AJ did this amazing dance to the song. When Johnny sang "I go down, down, down" she would squat and wiggle her behind and then when "the flames went higher" she would stand up and wave her hands.

AJ's party clearly made an impression since she still talks about it some weeks on and sings Happy Birthday to herself every now and then. It's fun to see these social rituals take on more meaning.

What's noticeable/notable at 2:

  • More role-playing and role awareness. AJ has been imitating us for several months, but she's now sharing verbally what she thinks people in different roles do.  We were at the zoo the other day and two meerkats were hugging. AJ pointed to them and said "Mommy and Daddy." She also identifies toys and pictures as mommy or daddy or both. We must be fairly decent people who clean the house every now and then, because AJ loves to hug, kiss, share (at least sometimes) and wipe tables.
  • AJ can now share her observations and thoughts about the world in quite a bit of detail. Almost every day after daycare, for example, she tells me she wants to eat chocolate and "dance to beautiful music." She's got the important stuff figured out already. I love that she knows the word "beautiful" and uses it to describe the world. 
  • Speaking of music, she is very responsive to it. She plays all her toy instruments regularly, and often asks to play the piano or my Native hand drums. She has a turtle toy that plays some classical tunes, and she likes to drum along to them. She sings songs, increasingly coherently, such as Twinkle Twinkle, Five Little Monkeys, Itsy Bitsy Spider, Row Row, and probably some others I don't recognize. She dances all the time now. She also runs, climbs, and tries to jump, which I think she will master before long.
  • Considerate and generous. Oh, she has her moments of upset when one of her random whims can't be indulged, but if I offer her some snacks, for example, she will offer one to everybody in the room, sometimes before taking one herself. On the other hand, she will take anything we are eating without hesitation. It's a reminder of the biological prerogative: her survival is more important than ours.
  • AJ counts up to 10 quite confidently, and often tries to go higher, thought she's not consistent. She can say some of her ABCs (she still gets lost in the middle). She knows certain words start with a certain letter.  Certainly she's not reading (I don't think), but she has memorized many of her books and corrects me if I happen to read a word wrong.
  • Still sleeping well. Yay! Naps, especially on weekends, can be a battle, but they still usually happen.
  • Potty: After a long stall, where she REFUSED to go near it, she is finally willing to sit on it. We turned off the music in her potty which I think was scaring her. Also my mom made her a cushion so that the seat isn't cold. These two things plus a lot of reassurance have made a difference. We also moved the potty to the bathroom. I don't know why I didn't do this in the first place since AJ likes the bathroom. But I'm hopeful again that we will make progress here. We're still not following any sort of plan, just lots of encouragement.
  • Activities: parent and tot dance class once a week. It took AJ a while to warm up to this,  but the past few weeks she is participating a lot more and asking to be held and carried less. We go to the playground sometimes although not as often now that the weather is colder and days are shorter. We go to the zoo fairly regularly. AJ spends at lot of time with her grandparents.
  • At daycare we see more interaction with other children and she tells us about things she does with them: "Malcolm and Alice played with dinosaurs," for example. She also told me one of the boys hugged and kissed her. I asked if she liked that or if she hugged back, but didn't get a clear answer.
  • First time going trick-or-treating for Halloween! She was really excited to go and learned how to say "trick or treat" although she did not say it when the doors opened (too much pressure). She loved seeing all the decorations. 
I'm thinking about what to do with this blog since AJ is getting older and wiser. I don't think I'll share any more photos of her on it. If you will really miss seeing AJ's pictures, you can add me on Facebook. Email me at torthuil(at) and we can figure it out (I have very tight security settings). My Facebook is way less honest and interesting than this blog, but I rarely post memes or political and controversial stuff, so there's that. I mainly post about motherhood and kittens (figuratively and literally). I generally avoid posting any sort of opinions or commentary unless 1) it's in my words and 2) I have greater than average knowledge or expertise in the subject area. 

I might take the photos of AJ off the older entries, or I may just archive those entries so they are no longer visible. I'm not sure yet. I like that the blog is public: I journaled for years and at some point it just didn't work for me anymore, because it started to feel too self-referential.  I felt like I was repeating myself endlessly and accomplishing nothing. Putting my experiences on the internet in public is a risk, but it feels more authentic too. However, that comfort with risk doesn't extend to AJ. The plan has been to take torthúil offline when AJ is either a) literate or b) starts school. I assumed that gave me about 3 more years of blogging but I'm not sure; she's pretty smart. Of course I know "offline" doesn't mean inaccessible, but I'm hoping I'm never famous or infamous enough that people will dredge the depths of the internet for information on me.

Wishing everyone the best as 2016 comes to a close and the year end festivities begin. More blogs soon about other aspects of life, with all its conflicts and complications.

Saturday 29 October 2016

Perfect Time

Later today we celebrate AJ's second birthday. It will be awesome.

The past few hours though, I've been remembering the hours before 4:32am on October 29th: labour.

I listened to a lot of Moya Brennan. She helped me to be level and calm (as much as is possible). To be honest I can't recall a particular song I heard. But it was a very long labour, and I went through most of my playlist. "Perfect Time" was certainly one of the songs I listened to.  And I've been listening to it and thinking about the message lately, and how it really is still so appropriate for my life and all its questions and challenges.

Wishing you sweet dreams, and many dreams come true.

Wednesday 26 October 2016

TMI in one convenient post

(updated at bottom)

Back when I started this blog, I thought I'd be writing a lot about fertility treatments. It seemed logical; we'd been told we would not conceive without IVF and had been referred to The Fertility Clinic. I spent a lot of time reading about (mainly) IVF and considering how I felt about medical intervention. As it turned out, I barely wrote anything about fertility treatments.  The feelings I had to learn to process were entirely different.

This is not a bad thing, but it does feel a bit odd to be writing about fertility treatments now. Despite my five year journey with sub-fertility this feels new (and uncomfortable).

My first cycle with Clomid has ended. It didn't result in a pregnancy, but other than that, there was some good, some bad (as per usual).

The good:
I had signs of successful ovulation, and they all happened around the same time:

  • Abundant CM days 10 through 12 (mainly watery, but I'd read that Clomid dries up CM and that didn't happen in this case)
  • Positive OPK on day 12
  • Temperature rise 1-2 days after positive OPK (not sure when it started as I had poor sleep the first day after OPK. But definitely rose in the days after)
  • Blood test on day 21 showed progesterone at 11.3, which nurse said indicated ovulation (anything over 10 is considered sufficient)
The bad:
  • I had a sonohysterogram on day 12. This was not related directly to the Clomid cycles (they are not monitored with ultrasounds) but to check on the fibroid which a previous ultrasound had shown possibly intruding into uterine cavity. I had to call in to schedule this test on day 2 (the same day I start the Clomid). I'd assumed they would put it earlier in my cycle and was not too happy when they put it on day 12, as that's close to when I typically ovulate (in so far as I'm typical). I had already started the Clomid, but this meant we couldn't "start trying" till the test was done. I decided to go ahead with test anyway, since I don't know for sure when I'll ovulate (but as it turned out I was right, or close).
  • The procedure began with an internal ultrasound performed by a technician (my 3rd this year....sigh) She then went upstairs to get one of the fertility doctors, "Dr. Irish" (not my regular doctor; they take turns doing this procedure). He did the sonohysterogram in the cheerful nonchalant manner doctors (especially male ones) tend to adopt when they are up one's privates. The sonohysterogram went OK. I was mainly concerned about getting some results. Getting an appointment with Dr. Cotter takes six to eight weeks, which is a giant pain when we are waiting on results. It bugs me that people do tests on my body, especially invasive ones like this one, and then I can't know the results for weeks and weeks (and I know they have them). So I was quite anxious to hear at least something about these scans.
  • Dr. Irish, cheerful as ever, assured me that the sonohysterogram results looked good: the fibroid is a non-issue. "You have a pretty big cyst on one ovary, but the uterine cavity looks great." And breezed off.
Wait what? In hindsight there's all kinds of questions I would have liked to ask:
  • What do you mean, cyst? I had had my positive OPK that day: did he see a lead follicle ready to ovulate? or another kind of cyst? How do you tell the difference?! (both normal follicles and abnormal ones are called cysts....because that's not confusing at all.)
  • Could Clomid have caused the cyst?
  • Will the cyst interfere with my cycle and/or ovulation?
  • Will the cyst affect the next Clomid cycle?
But I didn't have the presence of mind (or the background knowledge of cysts) to think of these questions especially when lying on the table half naked. For some reason being in this position affects my ability for analytical thought and self-advocacy. Maybe I haven't had enough practice. Dammit! Two minutes after Dr. Irish and the nurse made their exit, I was frantically googling ovarian cysts on my phone.
  • Oh, one more bad.  Despite the positive progesterone result, my cycle ended on day least four days sooner than it should have if I was right about ovulation (pretty sure I am).
I finally decided that before I take Clomid again (that should be right now, or yesterday), I want to ask about that cyst and if it's a good idea to start it again. I'm not monitored for cysts, but they are a side effect of Clomid and I happen to know I did have one (although not what kind it was). Everything I've read about Clomid, or for that matter any fertility treatment, and everything I've heard anecdotally says you do not start a treatment, you DO NOT PASS GO, if there's a cyst. So I'm not comfortable making the decision to start Clomid again without a doctor's opinion. The nurse I talked to could not give me advice, but she said she would leave a note for Dr. Cotter and ask for her advice. So I hope I hear back from them; I could really use the reassurance.  This feels like sort of a test of The Fertility Clinic to see how helpful they really are, too. Sigh. As I noted before, I really don't feel good at this stuff. I admire all the IFfers who have learned to advocate and make decisions about these kind of things.

Well other than that. AJ turns two this week. So I will write something more cheerful next time.

Dr. Cotter called me back. Of course I was in the middle of teaching and when I see the phone number, I say "sorry: got to take this call" and sweep out of the room to have a conversation about my ovaries. Luckily I have educational assistants who can step in during awkward moments. Well I have to laugh at it because what else can I do.

The information I received as I understood: Dr. Cotter reviewed the ultrasound/sonohysterogram results and gave her opinion that the "cyst" was the maturing follicle (why Dr. Irish didn't just say "follicle" I don't know....). She even told me the sizes that they saw; one was 18mm I think. She said that was not big enough to qualify as a problem cyst. So basically, my body was doing what it was supposed to do, and the Clomid was working as expected. I brought up the short luteal phase: thank you to those people who have told me to ask about that. She said "do you know when you ovulated?" I said yes, pretty sure, because I had a positive OPK and charted temperature. Her explanation was that sometimes in people with low AMH, the follicles "don't behave as they are supposed to," and reminded me that while I'm still relatively young, I have poorly functioning ovaries. I asked about progesterone supplementation, as I'd heard that's sometimes used in similar cases. Dr. Cotter said "yes we sometimes do that," but that it doesn't necessarily make any difference. She said that since this was the first Clomid cycle, she would like to see how I respond to another one first.

Fair enough. It was a good (if perforce quick) conversation and helps me to worry less. (I really need to bring down my stress level about all aspects of life.) Also I can go ahead with Clomid this cycle: will be starting day 3 instead of 2 but she said that was fine.

Thanks to commenters for the emotional support and suggestions of what to ask about! I'm glad I did get a response and it's shown me I have to keep advocating for myself.

Monday 17 October 2016

#Microblog Mondays: Crown

This morning, one of my students gave me a crown he had made me.

Best. Way. To. Start. Monday. Ever!

You better believe I wore it all day.

Monday 3 October 2016

#Microblog Mondays: Five

Five am seems to be when my internal clock has decided I'm going to wake up: weekdays, weekends, days with commitments and schedules, days without commitments and schedules. Six am is when I have to wake up on workdays, and at least an hour later on weekends, so I'm losing between one and two hours of sleep every night, and it sucks.  But I'll try to take five minutes and write a microblog, at least.

I've had numbers on my mind the past couple of days. I'm starting a new cycle, which means entering and changing data in various places: phone reminders, Ovacue, the unpublished blogs I write about my physical minutiae, scheduling appointments and entering them into my calendar, counting OPKs to see how many more I need (I need a lot), and this time around, setting up a chart again. I haven't done one of those in a long time; I have just been keeping running notes. I hadn't logged in to the charting website in a long time and there were a whole bunch of charts from 2012 and onwards. I deleted them.

Maybe that's what reminded me that we've been trying for a child since fall of 2011, or five years. I started the blog in 2013, which doesn't seem that long ago.  And AJ was conceived a year after the blog started, which again isn't that long.  It's almost two years since she was born, not that long.  But five years somehow sounds like a long, long time.

In those five years we've had one pregnancy and birth. Amazing and miraculous and blessed, that event, and I wouldn't trade AJ or whatever unusual circumstances led to her existence for anything. On the other hand, it's not so hard to imagine what could have been in five years. Two children easily, maybe three. And five years is a lot of cycles, charting, hope, disappointment.

It also raises the question: When is it time to stop? Not yet, not this month, nor probably the next. But five years. Five years.

Me, five years ago. This place no longer exists as pictured, it was destroyed in a 2013 flood.

Monday 12 September 2016


Last week we returned to The Fertility Clinic and met with Dr. Cotter again, to review my tests and talk about next steps.

What's new in my skin:

 I started bleeding after 30 days on my last cycle. I had one positive OPK and fertile mucous, albeit not on the same days, which was sort of confusing. I suspect I might have had a second LH surge, but missed it. Still, there seemed to be some good stuff going on, and 30 days is a decent length, so I considered it a normal-ish cycle.

Dr. Cotter was on her typical form. I can add a few more zingers to my collection of quotes. As Mr. Turtle observed, "She starts every meeting with an insult so later it's hard to argue with anything she proposes." True enough. Nobody can accuse Dr. Cotter of looking at reproductive systems through rose-coloured glasses.

She started with "You're not better." No, after a year and a half of "trying", I know I'm not better. We went over the results of the tests. My CD2 bloodwork (Estradiol, FSH, LH, TSH, prolactin) was totally wrong. "You were not on CD 2 when you did that blood test." In hindsight, I guess not. I had indeed been bleeding for 2 days when I did the blood test, but then I started bleeding again after only 2 weeks. So that was not a cycle. Dr. Cotter said that my estrogen levels during that "CD 2" test put me at about mid-cycle, possibly ovulating. WTF? We couldn't explain it so shrugged and moved on.

Dr. Cotter then launched into an explanation of AMH (anti-mullerin hormone) that seemed to go on for an uncomfortably long time. A fertile woman has an AMH of between 15 and 25. Well, that was not going to be my number. Under 7, it's very hard to get pregnant. "And yours is 0.9." Which sounds slightly better than zero, but admittedly not much better.

Next were the results of the pelvic ultrasound which I did on day 3 of the next cycle (the one that was 30 days and maybe actually a cycle). I had 2 antral follicles on one ovary and 1 on the other. I don't even know anymore what the normal number is supposed to be; something in the double digits; again, that's not me. As we know.

Dr. Cotter said she saw no need to repeat the blood tests as the other tests told the story well enough. In addition, the ultrasound showed a fibroid of 3.3 cm that might be beginning to intrude into the uterine cavity, but it was not too clear. She recommended a sonohysterogram to take a better look at it.

As for fertility "if you are going to be trying anyway, we might as well do what we can to help." So the plan is to do low dose Clomid on days 2-6. Dr. Cotter said they have seen results with low stimulation on wonky ovaries.  "It tends to work best when the last cohort of follicles is being recruited." (Oh, that's a good one.) After taking the Clomid, I will have blood drawn on Day 21 to check for progesterone levels, to see if ovulation happened. If not, they will look at adjusting the dose. I have my prescription for four cycles. And the requisition for the sonohysterogram.

I'm happy with this plan; it seems reasonable enough. But I have a problem. To get the show on the road, I kinda sorta need to know when CD 1 is. Apparently, that's not so easy. Case in point, I am bleeding again on day 11 of this cycle. Is it the fibroid? Unbalanced hormones? The low dose aspirin I was taking? (Cutting that out). Is this my period? Or was the bleeding one and a half weeks ago my period? Or neither?! Cue WTF moments. I might need more guidance what to do in this situation, as it really isn't clear to me.

One good thing though. I have new menstrual products. My frequent periods/EBBs mean I spend a lot of time wearing pads and panty liners (tampons I gave up some years ago; while I don't always have a lot of pain and discomfort, they seemed to increase it when I did).  I had been getting a lot of chafing and discomfort from them. In addition to my reproductive issues, I have this cyst in the clitoral area that flares up every now and then (I had a bad abscess last year that require surgery.) So a few weeks ago I started looking into alternatives for period stuff, and finally decided to try cloth pads / liners and now some underwear that is designed to absorb flow. These options are WAY more comfortable. I feel so free knowing I don't have to buy that crap from the store anymore.

So there you go. The joys of further intervention, the limits of physical self. It's tiring and frustrating. But I still feel I have to trying whatever might make a difference, because if not, I'll wonder about it. Humans have a strong gambling instinct, and in this respect at least, I'm no different.

Wednesday 7 September 2016

AJ at 22 months

Well, I promised an AJ update and I will try to do it in my increasingly precious free time. May not be the best writing ever but I do like having AJ's milestones recorded to look back on. Plus I feel strongly that the blog needs these entries to balance the trying to conceive stuff, both past and present.  As I've said before, AJ owns the process of growing up.  I loved and marveled at her when she was teeny tiny. Now that she's a toddler, I can't imagine her without her new talents and quirks. It's like AJ's personality is a comet approaching earth. When she was a baby, it was a far away twinkling star, but every day now it appears bigger, brighter and more sparkly.

How I'd  describe AJ at 22 months: easy-going, fun, cautious but attentive in unfamiliar situations, talkative, humourous, responsive, silly, generous, loving, considerate, teachable.


AJ talks in sentences about 80% of the time, though they may be missing connecting words. She asks for what she wants; she tells us what she doesn't want. She comments on people, toys, weather, food, books, clothes, animals, cars, the stars in the sky....well anything that she can see and comment on, really. AJ remembers things about people and talks about them when they are not there. Uncle M. plays guitar and piano. A black cat lives on Baba's street. Uncle N. shipped a machine out of Baba's house in a big box (see the first few paragraphs of this entry for what that was about). Grandma read her The Foot Book by Dr. Seuss and now she wants it.

AJ has been exploring the idea that certain things belong to certain people for a while: "Mommy's shoes, Daddy's shirts, AJ's jacket, Gidi's ladder " (which we borrowed a few months ago and haven't returned). Recently she's become interested in the idea of presents: she will point out that Grandma gave her this jacket, Nana gave her this book. She also says "thank you" and "you're welcome" all the time (not always in context).

Wearing mommy's shoes

AJ is (once again) enjoying daycare and looks forward to seeing her "friends and teachers." She talks about "fun at baby school" and is most interested in the "bikes" (which are still too big for her), the balls, the blocks, and the other children, of course. She and her peers know each other's names and how to say hello and goodbye to each other (soooo sweet) and they play side by side, with maybe the beginnings of some interaction. AJ knows boy and girl, and talks a lot about boys. Boys at the playground, boys dancing, boys riding bikes. I feel obligated to mention that girls do all these things too, although I'm pretty sure she knows that.

AJ knows and is responsive to her extended family. She knows the first names of mommy, daddy, and all 5 living grandparents (I'm OK if my dad is simply "Grandpa" to her). We didn't try to teach her our names; it didn't even occur to me, to be honest. But she figured it out, and it was adorable, so we encouraged her to learn more. Sometimes she will tell us her second name and last name upon request.


Current items of fascination are kitty cats (still), dinosaurs, penguins, balloons, ice cream, blankets, , counting, the playground. We spent a lot of time at the playground this summer. In early spring AJ was still just sitting and playing with gravel. Then she learned to climb up on the toddler slide and went down on her own. A few days later, she was climbing up to the full size slide and going down. She requests to swing and lately has been climbing a sort of ladder (with paranoid parent supervision).

I'm climbing!
AJ has collections of small toys (we let her play, supervised, with smaller objects because she doesn't mouth things anymore, except sometimes her kitties).  She likes to put small items in baskets/bags. She also likes to throw things in the garbage (I had to stop letting her go through my wallet for this reason). She is trying to learn to dress herself, though it's still tricky. AJ likes bracelets, watches and necklaces that she can take on and off herself, and she like to adorn herself and say she's "pretty." She remembers where things go and will put them back when she's done playing a lot of the time, sometimes with a prompt but often without. Daycare staff are always impressed by this.

AJ reads all books; she is very interested in new books as well as old favourites. Current favourites are "If you give a Pig a Party" ("Balloon Book") and "If I ran the Zoo" ("Zoo book") and "Do you love me mama" ("bunny book").

AJ can sing a few lines from familiar songs. Current favourite song is "The Wheels on the Bus" with made up lyrics. She likes to play with her toy instruments and the piano (not a toy). I got a lovely series of photos of her playing piano the other week. I especially like these photos because they capture her being engrossed in an activity. There's no way to pose her for pictures like these: it's a matter of being in the moment with her.

As mentioned above, she loves to count things. On occasion she's counted up to ten and even eleven correctly. Mostly though, we hear some variation of "One, two, five, seeeeeeeven!" Still surprises me a little. I hardly ever read those milestone things but I didn't expect her to have number awareness before age two.

AJ also associates some words with their beginning letter. For example, she knows both "hammer" and "hockey" start with H. (how do I know....because if we are reading the book where H is for hockey, she will sometimes say "hammer" when I say "'H' is for....." It took me a while to figure this out. I was puzzled why she wasn't saying "H is for Hockey" because she memorizes her books quite quickly. Finally I realized that she was saying "hammer" which is in a different book. Same with "zebra" "zamboni" "zoom". She'll use them interchangeably when prompted "Z is for...."

AJ recognizes at least 3 dozen kinds of animals. I bought Mr. Turtle a National Geographic photography book for Father's day and she can name almost every single one, although she needs to work on the different kinds of birds. We have a running gag where she points to the albatross and says "duck." Me: "Albatross." AJ: "Duck." "Albatross." "Duck." "Albatross." "Duck." Finally AJ will say "Duck goes quack quack" at which point she wins the argument because, one that's true, and two, I don't know what an albatross says.

Neologisms I love: "Sunny dark" is evening. "Peepee towel" is toilet paper.

Fine and Gross motor:
As noted in previous entries, AJ is slightly slower on her gross motor development than some peers. Not to say she's delayed, but in this area I'm not |(yet) the parent that brags "My child can already....!" (Unlike in social/fine motor/language development, where I absolutely get to be that parent.) And you know, I think we totally lucked out in that her social and language development outpaced her motor development, because when she finally did get mobile and er, highly interactive with her environment, she could also communicate with and relate to people at what feels like a pretty advanced level. I know this can change at any time, but right now at least she's mostly calm, easy-going, and teachable. She knows how to communicate her needs, she has a lot of love and trust for the people around her, and so there's not a huge gap between her desires and abilities, and therefore (I think) not a lot of tantrums and anger and frustration.

What she can do now: "Running" - kind of. More like a fast trot, done with glee. She tries to jump, which means she springs upward and then falls dramatically to the floor. Too funny. She carries and kicks a ball but doesn't respond to a prompt to throw or kick it to someone.  Climbs on furniture and off of it. Climbs and descends stairs holding on with one hand (person or railing). Learning to climb a ladder. Goes down a full size slide on her own (I got tired of telling her it was too high). Does ballet "attitude", partial headstand, and downward dog.  Rises up and down on her toes.  Makes a "bridge" between a table and couch (head on one, feet on the other, body suspended in plank). Bops to music and twirls around.

Fine motor: Scribbles, puts down stickers, stretches elastic bands between her fingers, is very close to undoing a screw top lid, does up buckles, undoes and does up zippers, feeds herself with spoon and fork, drinks from an open cup.

These days, AJ mostly puts herself to sleep in the crib...eventually. Like 45 minutes to an hour after her "bedtime." She tries very hard now to put off her naptime and bedtime, although once she is asleep she sleeps through the night. I'm hoping this evens out a bit now that she is back in daycare full time and we will have a more regular wake up schedule (so goddamn early...sigh). She still will fall asleep in my arms sometimes but it's a rare treat now. She is still sleeping in her crib, with the setting at lowest. The day is coming when we will convert to toddler bed.

AJ eats most foods - whatever we are eating - unless they are hard to chew, like steak. She doesn't like leafy vegetables yet. AJ tried sushi this summer (cooked rolls and tempura: we don't eat the raw fish because Mr. Turtle is immuno-compromised.) AJ tried everything but only really liked the edamame beans. She still will eat anything mixed with mashed potatoes: most common is "fishtatoes" which is salmon or steelhead trout mixed with potatoes. I consider it a personal victory to have a toddler who eats salmon! There is a stupid commercial for some toddler supplement which has this as the selling line "Toddlers are often missing important nutrients because they don't eat foods like salmon....blah blah blah buy this supplement." This commercial always bugged me because, I thought, why on earth shouldn't toddlers eat salmon? This was before I had a toddler, mind you. Anyway, we introduced fish by the time AJ was one and what do you know, she eats it, albeit mixed with potatoes. No supplements needed!

Corn on the cob was a favourite this summer

AJ drinks from a straw cup and open cup, as noted above. She drinks milk, water, and apple/prune juice at home and when we are out at a restaurant she will usually ask for chocolate milk or apple juice.

We are potty training - kind of. Meaning I try to remember to put her on the potty after meals and before bed, and I'll ask the daycare to start doing the same. AJ likes to look at small books while sitting on the toilet, so I keep a stash for her (picture). She pees quite often in the potty, and poops occasionally. She's giving more and more cues that she knows when she wants to go, and she asks to have her diaper changed. I'm not very goal oriented with it, though. I'm just hoping she'll gradually get more and more used it, I think.

One of the best places to read, after all

Body awareness:
She knows all her body parts, including "vulva" (which she cheerfully points out when the diaper is off, and you better acknowledge it because if you don't, she'll say it over and over  and over again till you do....hahahaha it was funny to see Mr. Turtle learn that one by experience. I let her play with my Lammily doll and she likes to open up the blouse and air out the boobies. She also points out mommy's boobies frequently (I'm not very modest). Once she pointed to my chest and said "Mommy's boobies" and then looked down her shirt saying "AJ's boobies?" Oh the hilarity. I hope she can retain some of this easy-going pleasure in her body as she grows up and encounters the gamut of female (and male) insecurities. But seriously, I often find myself looking at my baby girl thinking: how can some people grow up to be total jerks when this human is so, so, lovely, from her toenails to her soul?

And I'll end on that note.

Mommy is cavorting with the rainbows; AJ just wants to grab the phone.
An image to look back on when I'm writing about some depressing crap.

What's new this fall:

Mom and toddler dance class starting next week! I'm so excited, especially seeing her get interested in music, movement and dance. I have registered us at a dance studio that offers classes from toddler to adult and has a dance company, so AJ gets to be part of not just a class but a whole culture. Who knows, maybe she will continue there?

Second birthday!? Bloody hell. Do we need to have a party? Birthday parties terrify me.

Halloween! We are definitely making her a costume and going out this time. I didn't celebrate Halloween as a child so it will be my first time, too.

TTC update next. Not pregnant, we'll get that out of the way right off.

Back to work with the students this week. Yay! Blog may be attended to even more sporadically, or possibly more regularly as I need it for a sanity outlet.

Monday 22 August 2016

Microblog Mondays: Tangible and Intangible Accomplishments

Summer is winding down! As a teacher who is paid for 12 months of the year and can afford to not work extra in the summer (this is by no means true of all teachers) I have an extra helping of unstructured time. So, what did I do with it?! Some of it I spent doing not much (or fun activities: I'll write about some of those in an AJ-centred entry) but I feel like I must hold myself accountable as well. A lot of projects get put off during the rest of the year, when we are both working full time and being parents to AJ. Two months sounds like a great opportunity to get caught up, to feel like I'm "on top of life" again.

On this theme, I started the summer with a To-Do list prominently on the fridge, and even posted it on Facebook, too.

A few weeks later, not doing too badly I think:

Some of the jobs are/were mainly Mr. Turtle's, I should point out. I can put together IKEA furniture but it always is a bit wonky when I do, so I leave that to him. He's also doing the anchoring and baby proofing. We took the first step toward consolidating our bank accounts together, but Mr. Turtle has to do the last steps. We are actually both still working on the office clean up, but I was so excited that we even got started that I wiped it off the list early.  What else: I'm not sure I can take all the bottles to the depot on my own, so I'm procrastinating that till we both can go, and neither of us want to. Running the oven cleaning cycle only involves pushing a few buttons, but it makes the house smelly and I'm afraid of fire and won't do it when I'm alone. Plus we have to wait for cool weather. Photo organizing is just as intimidating today as it was June 30, so I have done nothing there. We have done a pretty good job on the yard. We never got around to "landscaping," but at least it's not totally overgrown. Visitors nod thoughtfully and say it has potential, which is what it's had for the last six years.

And then of course there are other  things that weren't on the list that I did. The freezer is getting well stocked up with frozen lunches, including a giant pot of butternut squash and ginger soup cooking on the stove today. I have new eyeglasses! I went, or am going to, two work-related professional conferences, which feels great and is getting me excited about the new school year. We spent a lot of time with family. Not so much with friends; I have to address my social apathy/avoidance at some point.

These are some of the "tangible accomplishments" alluded to in the title. They are the things I believe I should be doing with my time.  They are the most visible to other people (sometimes even to me). They aren't always the things I feel I need to do. I call this other category "intangible accomplishments."

My intangible accomplishments this summer:

All the entries on this blog. I guess a blog entry is sort of tangible, in that it's visible and people read it. But it doesn't make an obvious difference in the progression of everyday life. Still, I'm driven to write in a way I'm not driven to do a lot of other things that appear superficially more important or urgent.  I want the documentation of that feeling or experience to exist. I want validation that goes beyond the ephemeral pleasure of having a clean house for 10 minutes or clean laundry for 5.

Following/reading other blogs. I enjoy following people's stories, and sometimes, philosophical musings driven by their experiences. So much of this drama is invisible in everyday interactions and relationships because people hide it beneath their facade. But it's so interesting.  (You would have to know and closely interact with me for at least a year to see a glimmer of what I share on torthúil. This is probably true of many other bloggers as well). 

Reading books. No novels. I don't have any interest in fiction lately.  I don't want to escape; I want to go down deep. Although I can't say exactly where I'm going with my summer (soon to be fall) reading. I'm exploring a sense of powerful uneasiness; I'm trying to figure out what it's about and where, if anywhere, it lines up with the some of the political battles currently being fought. I've read (or am currently re-reading) three very interesting books this summer.  Ayaan Hirsi Ali's Infidel. JD Vance's Hillbilly Elegy, and finally Sebastien Haffner's Defying Hitler. The one thing that draws me to each of these writers is that they all have a strong sense of self, and they struggled (successfully, more or less) with a dysfunctional culture. I'd like to write more about these books, but I don't know what shape yet that writing will take. I'm still note-taking, comparing, contrasting, turning over ideas at 1am. Sometimes I get the laundry folded too. I don't know how I'll work in the infertility angle. But I'm creative that way. :-)

Oh, yes, speaking of fertility. If ever there was work that was grueling and intangible. Trying to conceive has been a major focus this summer. After my previous discouraging non-cycle, the current one is at least a little more promising. I had a positive OPK. And fertile mucus! Not at the same time though, that would make too much sense. About 6 days apart. It's possible that I had a second LH surge, of course, but I ran out of OPKs before I could test for it. Anyway. Two week waits are so much fun, because I have no idea how long they are actually going to be, although I can make some guesses. I'm afraid I can't call hours of Googling symptoms and bodily functions any kind of accomplishment at all. But I'll call maintaining some form of mental and emotional balance through this "is or isn't it possible to conceive again" time an intangible accomplishment.

In summary, what I've learned this summer is that I need to work on both the tangibles and the intangibles, and that they both take effort, though with tangible accomplishments the result of the effort is a lot more visible. And sometimes the biggest effort is to get started at all.

Next entry will be AJ-focused. Promise.

Wednesday 3 August 2016

Things I can do and things that I can't

Yesterday evening I spent some time in my family's workshop with my brother N. My dad put together the workshop, but it would not be entirely accurate to call it "his" as it was always a family space, shared by him and my brothers (I didn't have an interest in it). N., who lives in an eastern province, is visiting for a couple of weeks and also making plans to ship the milling machine out to his shop. Shipping it involves building a crate around it. I helped N. start the base of the crate by sliding wedges of wood under the (100 lb? 200lb?) machine while he tipped it carefully. Despite feeling like we were making one of those workplace accident videos, things went well.

In between nerve-wracking lessons in the physics of large heavy objects, I found it surprisingly comfortable to be in the shop. It's not a place I spent a lot of time in, but I think it tells a story about my family if you look closely. Tools cover almost every space on the wall, and over the lathe, somebody carefully traced the outline of each tool and then painted its silhouette, so that each would always go back to its correct place. Who did this? Possibly my mom, who would have felt proud that she was supporting her husband and children. Or quite possibly my oldest brother A., who shares her sense of detail and precision and would have take pleasure in creating an efficient system (he now works in IT for a pipeline company). Scraps of wood were tucked away in corners. To me they look like rubbish that should have been thrown out, but when N. wanted pieces of wood to place under the base of the machine he was able to find exactly what he wanted amid the scraps. If I looked very closely I could see remnants of family projects (a puppet stage that we built when I was eight years old).

Standing in the shop I felt both my dad's presence and his absence. The absence obviously, because I felt he should be there taking an interest in what N. was doing. The fact he wasn't felt almost like a betrayal. Also apart from obvious ones like screwdriver, hammer, crowbar I have no idea what most of the items in the room are for. I even have some difficulty appreciating a milling machine (is it really so complex just to drill holes in stuff? Uhhhh....yep.) All the knowledge that my dad brought to that space to make it meaningful and useful is gone. Except it isn't. N. knows what the tools are for, and intuitively where to find them, although he hasn't lived in my parents' house for almost 20 years. It was interesting to hear him having a sort of dialogue with the place as he worked: "Did Dad have a socket set....I can't imagine him not having a socket set....he even gave me one.....ah yes there it is!"

I felt my dad's presence there because even though I never worked with the tools and machines, I know exactly why they are there. My parents were always transparent about their values and it is something I deeply appreciate. I might agree or not agree with aspects of how they raised their children, but I know why they did what they did.  The world outside our house might be random, ridiculous and even cruel, but within there was purpose and intention, always. The shop existed to encourage their children's interests and build skills. My parents believed (as do I) that children need to learn skills and develop interests in order to make good choices for themselves with regards to leisure, education, careers, relationships. Although they were very frugal about luxuries, they spared no effort or expense to make that happen to the best of their ability. I should add that even though I'm talking here about something that didn't really include me (by my own choice!), there were many other family pursuits that did.

All this has got a dialogue going in my mind about things I can do and things that I can't. As you know, I'm trying to figure out which category "have another baby" fits into. There is an answer to that question, but I don't know what it is yet. I hope that having another baby is a "thing I can do," but, well, I have to consider that it's a "can't," as well. Right now I'm pondering the "can't" possibility. This cycle I went for bloodwork on day 2. I don't have the results yet, but I'm as sure as I can be that I have had an anovulatory cycle. Since I was doing the bloodwork I decided to get "scientific" on my end too. I bought 20 OPKs and tested from day 5 to day 15, twice a day in the middle of cycle (or what I thought was the middle). I never got a positive. I also didn't have fertile signs like slippery/stretchy mucous, which I do usually have. And I started bleeding after only 15 days.

It sucks that my bloodwork was done on this cycle. I wish I had it drawn on what I consider a "good" cycle (more than 24 days, fertile signs).  I already know that the crappy cycles are crappy; what I really need to know is if the ones I consider good are actually good. But of course there's no way to know which kind I'm going to have on cycle day 2. Anyway, in light of recent events, I may have to re-name The Period as The EBB (estrogen breakthrough bleeding). The EBB is not a real period; rather the lining sheds because in the absence of progesterone produced by the corpus luteum, estrogen alone can't sustain it.

Funny, eh? When I started sharing this TTC business online, the drama on the message boards was about whether or not you'd get your period. AF here again? Soooooo disappointing! Well. Now I'm wondering if I'm even going to get my period. How nice it would be to be sure that I'm actually having a real period.

It all gets me thinking of how we can so easily take for granted what we can do. I know, and have known for some time, that absolutely everything I can do without a thought is something that another person in the world struggles to do every day. It's a sobering thought. But that's not all: everything, absolutely everything, from cuddling my daughter to driving to work to typing on this computer to kissing my husband to eating food to breathing: every single thing that I can do today, I will not be able to do one day. I will lose every last one.  Every last learned skill. Everything my body does to keep my alive. I may lose them slowly, or I may lose them all at once. But I will lose them. I do not have a choice.

Kind of a depressing thought? It is....but it's also liberating, in a way. If I'm going to lose it all in the end, maybe instead of clinging to those things that are on their way out, I make the most of those I get to have, for now. I know my dad had many regrets when he died, mainly for every(thing)(one) he still could have done and seen and held close if he had more time. But he did not have any regrets of what he passed on to us.

Anyway. This doesn't mean that we intend to stop trying for a child. I still have a few months to take the DHEA / COQ10 and see if it helps. There might be a good egg or two. If not, we are still in a position to use donor egg, as far as I know. But it's useful to put the whole process in a little bit of context.

Monday 18 July 2016

#Microblog Mondays: Long conversations

Mr. Turtle and I had our sixth wedding anniversary yesterday. It was pretty low key. We came close to forgetting about it: mainly because we had been on vacation the week before and had somewhat lost track of days, and then the day before we had a very long, late road trip to return home. But, right at midnight, I saw "July 17" on my phone and went: Oh yeah! So the next morning we started our celebrations by going out for Dutch pancakes as a family. Later, we took AJ to my FIL's for the evening and then went for dinner together at the historical park where we got married.

A lot of our daily activity consists of chores, errands, meal prep, playing with AJ, chasing AJ around the house, cuddling and caring for AJ, talking about AJ....well, you get the idea. When the  aforementioned VIP is finally asleep, we often slump in front of computers or phones for a little bit of solitude. Other times we'll drink tea, eat dessert and watch something silly on TV, which is nice, but I tend to fall asleep after about half an hour.

When the two of us are alone together it's good to be reminded that we can still find lots to talk about and see our questions and answers and quandaries reflected in each other.  Our two shared meals started a discussion that ranged over changing family roles to current events in the news and back to family roles and values.  If I was to summarize, I'd say we both agree that the best way to make a difference in the world is to have a strong relationship together and raise our child with love, consistency, and transparency. But, there was a lot of ground covered to reach that conclusion, if you want to call it a conclusion!

One of the themes that came up was what are the most important things we pass on to children. I think we were talking about poverty and class divisions. My question to Mr. Turtle was: other than material things, what of value do parents give their children?  If you don't have a lot of money or material wealth (or even if you do), what can you give your children that will actually make a difference in their lives?

One answer was the awareness that every person's inner life is interesting and valuable. When I think back on my life, I have always found my thoughts, feelings, and perceptions valid and interesting. I may or may not be enjoying what is going on in my life at the time, but I can always process it, reflect on it, and use it for a creative purpose. The creative act might be a piece of art, an essay for school, a job search, a discussion, or no more than a journal entry or a mad dance in the dark to my favourite song of the time, but it is my voice in the world, and nothing is ever more important. Perhaps this is part of the reason I have kept all my writing and all my school projects from high school on.  I don't look at them and ooh and aah in admiration for myself (hahahahahaha) but I know they are there and that they are part of my individuality. Did my parents teach me this? Yes, I think in part. My mom always encouraged me to take great care of my work: she collected it, helped me create little books, asked me when I was writing the next poem/story/whatever.  That taught me it had value.

Mr. Turtle and I also discussed movie adaptations from books, and how they are different. For me at least, a large part of why movie adaptations are less satisfying than books is because inner conflicts and voices don't transfer well to the screen. A good writer can explore his or her characters' thoughts and value conflicts for pages and pages, and it's riveting reading. But that's hard to do on screen, so inner conflicts are externalized to conflicts between characters. I always find that disappointing, or rather missing the point. Some people like to act out all their conflicts with/on other people, I guess, but for those of us who tend to carry them around and reflect on them, that can seem like too much drama already.  It also implies that the relationships/conflicts we have with other people or with "society" or "environment" are more important than our inner lives, and I don't agree. Obviously those external influences and relationships are important, but everything we do starts with some thought or impulse we have. And our thoughts and impulses come from our inner life and how we process the world. It is important to listen to that and understand what is happening, especially if there is any conflict or distress (and there usually is!).

This is, of course, a big reason I enjoy the blog world: Blogs can make the inside voices audible (so to speak). 

Friday 8 July 2016

Discussing eggs, crocheted and otherwise

We went back to the The Fertility Clinic today for the first time since January of 2014. Last time we were there was for a couple of emotional meetings, one with Dr. Cotter, one with the counsellor, discussing our cancelled IVF. About a month later I made a phone call to the The Fertility Clinic, saying I was - surprise! - pregnant and asking if they could be of further assistance. They said no: since they didn't actually get me pregnant, I was under the care of my family doctor. And that was that.

I wasn't looking forward to going back to the clinic. We don't have very happy associations with the place. On the other hand, when I think about possible ways to grow our family, the clinic still might be able to offer some options. A meeting is the place to start, and putting it off wasn't accomplishing anything. So, today was the day. Mr. Turtle offered some optimism as we approached the familiar waiting room: "Last time we were here we were wondering if we would ever have a baby." And now we do, was the rejoinder neither of us needed to say aloud. He's right, of course. The emotions are a lot different this time around. The first time we went to The Fertility Clinic, I saw (or wanted to see) the doctors as scientific wizards who would do for us what our bodies couldn't. Some of that feeling remains, perhaps, but I have more appreciation now of the randomness of life and how our human knowledge and awareness always falls short, no matter how expert.

I was also anxious about seeing Dr. Cotter again, mainly because of her blunt way with words and because I was worried she might push us to do donor egg IVF right away. Intellectually I know this is ridiculous because it's our family and my body and nobody can make me, or us, do things we don't want to do. If I dig deeper though I think my true fear was that I would be treated like a case number, not an individual.  While I understand that the clinic is a business and they offer services for money, I also feel some vulnerability because I am approaching the people there for direction and counsel on a very sensitive matter. I want to know that they are acknowledging and responding to the uniqueness of our situation, not just pushing us toward whatever process they think is most likely to make a baby.

Having said all that, I am happy with how the meeting went, probably because it went exactly the way I wanted and expected it to. Dr. Cotter was fully in character. She summed up my past fertility assessment with "You were young and in good health, but your ovaries were acting like those of a 45 year old woman." On our failed cycle: "even the strongest drugs could do nothing for you." But then she added: "It's good to know that spontaneous pregnancy can still happen, and there are obviously some young eggs left in there."

(Here I will interject that the term "spontaneous pregnancy" always sounds to me like a person has reproduced asexually, something like the Virgin Birth but without the religious context. Now wouldn't that create an interesting set of problems. "Unassisted conception" is the term I use on the blog.)

After going over some basic details of my past pregnancy, I mentioned that while donor egg IVF is on the table, we would like to look at possibilities for increasing our chances with unassisted conception first. Since I took DHEA and COQ10 supplements before AJ's conception, I thought we could try that again. Dr. Cotter agreed. (DHEA requires a prescription in Canada.). She said to give the DHEA about six months to be effective, which fits with the timeline I had in mind.

I also mentioned one of my theories, which is that the suppressant used for Flare IVF might have actually helped my cycle by stopping my body from ovulating too early. My ovaries seem to want to jump the starting gun which leads to early ovulation, short cycles and probably poor quality eggs. Stopping that process might have allowed an egg to mature properly. Dr. Cotter did not comment on this specifically, but mentioned that the DHEA should help to regulate my cycles.  She also said we could possibly try "something" before moving to donor egg IVF. We did not discuss what that something might be, but I was glad to hear that she is at least considering other treatments that might work for us. While I don't expect her (or us) to commit to anything right now, it's part of being heard and considered as an individual. In the meantime there are tests to do (of course!).

-Day 2 blood work (Estradiol, FSH, LH, TSH, prolactin: some of those abbreviations I will have to look up, since my short term memory has expelled them). In addition, they will look at antimullerian hormone, which according to Dr. Cotter is the next big thing in fertility testing and in a couple of years will replace FSH testing and antral follicle counts.

-Pelvic ultrasound, with antral follicle count. I opted to forgo the uterine x-ray for now as it can interfere with a pregnancy, but if we do decide to do donor egg I will have to go for that one.

And that is that, for now. I left with a lot of pills in a pink bag (they had purple bags in 2014) and a feeling of calm and validation. Mr. Turtle was pleased (relieved?) that Dr. Cotter mostly agreed with my assessment of our situation. (I knew what I wanted and had made that clear. Ha. Not like I've obsessed over this for the past year or anything.)

On to crocheted eggs. AJ has the IKEA play kitchen, which I think is the most adorable thing ever. We haven't bought her any of the accessories; I have an open invitation out to grandparents to buy/make those.  I haven't felt very creative lately, but in the past few weeks inspiration is coming in a variety of areas. One of these was to make a crocheted toy egg. (I made one egg with two parts: the shell and egg yolk/white. The egg yolk/white fits inside the shell.)

The egg inside its shell

Egg cracks open (there's a slit in the shell)

The egg is ready to fry!

A note on crocheted eggs: Since this post has been getting a bit of attention, including Mel's 603rd Friday Blog roundup (thank you Mel!) I will mention for any crocheters that I did write down the instructions for the egg. I will have to search around the house to round up the various sticky notes that I scrawled it on, but in theory I can share the pattern with anyone who is interested. Leave me a comment or email torthuil(at) if interested.

Saturday 2 July 2016

Row Row Row, July 2016 edition

After many nights of improvisation, I have a variation of AJ's favourite song "Row Row Row Your Boat" that I quite like. (A photo of the inspiration follows at the bottom.)

Row row row your boat
Gently down the stream
Merrily merrily merrily merrily
Life is but a dream

Row row row your boat
Out into the bay
Merrily merrily merrily merrily
Dreaming all the way

Row row row your boat
On the ocean waves
Merrily merrily merrily merrily
Love our hearts will save

Row row row your boat
Through the afternoon
Merrily merrily merrily merrily
Till the rising moon

Row row row your boat
O'er the darkening deep
Merrily merrily merrily merrily
Nights of peaceful sleep

Row row row your boat
Toward the evening star
Merrily merrily merrily merrily
Love will take us far

Row row row your boat
Gently through the night
Merrily merrily merrily merrily
All your dreams take flight

Row row row your boat
Beneath the Milky Way
Merrily merrily merrily merrily
Shooting stars at play

Row row row your boat
Toward the rising sun
Merrily merrily merrily merrily
Days of love and fun

Row row row your boat
On the sea so blue
Merrily merrily merrily merrily
You're my dream come true.

Monday 27 June 2016

#Microblog Mondays: Slings and arrows

AJ is 20 months old, nearer to two years old than one year old. I feel that if there has been a theme to this month, it's that we can't entirely protect her from the dangerous and unpleasant parts of the world. Hence the Hamlet quote: the "slings and arrows of outrageous fortune", the "sea of troubles" which we all must face.

First of all, about 2 days after she started walking extensively without support, AJ fell on my mom's steps. I was not even an arm's length away. I was not distracted. But I didn't quite catch her and while she didn't fall far at all, she fell very awkwardly on one leg. A few hours later we found out she had a fracture on her tibia. So, a few short days after she got excited about "walkie, walkie!" poor AJ had a cast on her leg and wasn't walking anywhere.

But mentally and physically healthy humans, especially little ones, are resilient and adaptive. Having a cast and a bad "bump" was occasionally distressing to AJ, especially the first few days. Before long however, she was crawling, scooching and erm, standing and walking on her cast.

And remember how I said I couldn't wait for her to dance? Well, she started dancing with the cast on. (it sounds likes she's saying "mucous" in the video but she means "music")

She continues learning at an amazing rate. We definitely have to be mindful of what we say and do around her, as she is taking it all in. On the morning of Sunday June 12th I was relaxing in bed, looking a friend's Facebook page. A post caught my attention and I Googled the story to learn more.  I found the story I was looking for, alright, and then I saw a news headline that dozens of people had been shot dead and injured in an Orlando nightclub. Mr. Turtle was up with AJ. I staggered out of bed and greeted AJ and him with "There has been another terrorist attack in the U.S. At least 20 people dead." AJ promptly began repeating, "Dead, dead!" Oh, no. It's official: I have to think about how to talk to her about terrorism, murder, violence. It's one of those things I accepted in theory, but it's a helluva lot different to look into her sweet face and think about how to say it.

Time goes on, the cast comes off. AJ didn't miss a beat: she showed no hesitation to walk or dance or even climb stairs after she had full use of both legs. I am being a bit more vigilant, especially when she starts climbing. But then yesterday I was walking close beside her outside, ready to snatch her away from danger, and she tripped on my foot and fell.  Sigh.

Another first today. The daycare called and told me that another child had bitten AJ. Not to break the skin, but there were tooth marks visible. They said she was briefly upset, but soon consoled. I am not overly concerned about the incident itself, but it's the first time I know of that another child has been mean to AJ. Well, I don't know if toddlers can really be mean on purpose, but she might perceive it that way.  It makes me wonder: how much will she worry about mean people in the world? Everybody does to some degree, but I hope it's not a crippling fear for her.

And finally, the Shakespeare quote has another somber resonance for me this week. It is of course part of Hamlet's famous soliloquy where he contemplates ending his life:

To be, or not to be? That is the question—
Whether ’tis nobler in the mind to suffer
The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune,
Or to take arms against a sea of troubles,
And, by opposing, end them? To die, to sleep—
No more—and by a sleep to say we end
The heartache and the thousand natural shocks
That flesh is heir to—

This weekend we received news that one of the graduating class at my school committed suicide. He had reportedly struggled with a variety of academic and life issues, but was not described as isolated: he had friends, he had plans, he had "many connections." "This is the last person I would have expected to harm himself," the principal said. Somewhere along the way however, he decided he could not accept what life had dealt him.

I didn't know this student personally, so the shocks reach me through the impact on other people's lives, and you cannot predict what where a fault will crack open. My colleague's eyes welled with tears as she stumblingly told me of her now adult daughter's suicide attempt and how this latest tragedy brought it back to her. It's a reminder that there is so much under the surface of people's lives. No wonder that we often think people behave in a unreasonable and irrational way when there is so much that can't be seen. It makes me even more grateful for the blog world and the outlet it provides me, and others.