Tuesday 30 May 2017

A possible happy ending? (CW)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here we go.

Thursday 25 May 2017

A slightly more hopeful appointment

Mr. Turtle and I went back to The Fertility Clinic yesterday to follow up his latest semen analysis. It was a windy, rainy, stormy day (free car wash).

Dr. Cotter bounded in, seeming rather more cheerful than usual. She engaged in chit chat about the weather, and commented how the hill across the street was covered in goats the previous day. Our city has a program where goats are used in some areas to keep grass cropped. Mr. Turtle talked easily to her, while I watched her mood, wondering if the merry attitude was a set up for more depressing news.

Not quite.

Mr. Turtle's latest semen analysis (a couple of months ago) showed much improved numbers and motility. Not fantastic: but at least approaching the sorts of numbers needed to contemplate further treatments. "You could do IVF with these numbers, or donor egg IVF," Dr. Cotter breezed. (Further IVF would still be affected by my diminished ovarian reserve, of course.). Chances of unassisted conception are still considered unlikely. I asked about IUI. Dr. Cotter said the numbers are still not quite good enough to start IUI now, but to test again next month and if they continue to improve, then we can try it. She commented that I had "stopped ovulating," with reference to my last cycle on Clomid. However, I told her that I'm pretty confident I do ovulate, even without Clomid, because I get positive OPKs and I detect a BBT rise quite often. I would hazard a guess that I ovulate 70% of the time. With the new information, Dr. Cotter was confident enough that she gave me the paperwork for IUI with Clomid. Assuming that Mr. Turtle's sperm continue to be healthy, we have some options. June would be the earliest we start any further treatments.

Dr. Cotter also told me that the company that makes Clomid is taking it off the market in a few months, for unknown reasons. Even the drug reps do not know why. Letrazole will be prescribed instead. She implied that reason is because Letrazole is much more expensive (i.e. the drug company will make more money). So hopefully we can try IUI with Clomid while it is available, and if it doesn't work, maybe we can try Letrazole.

It says something about where we are at in this process that even the possibility of another treatment option seems so encouraging. Perhaps it is just the excitement of a gambler when the stakes are increased. But Mr. Turtle and I have talked about our choices, and we agree that we would like to attempt what we can with our own genetic material, even if the chances are not great. I have a lot of complicated thoughts and feelings about donor egg IVF, and I do not think they will ever be resolved. Basically, I have always wanted DEIVF to be the plan B we never have to use. I don't want to take the option away, because that has a finality that is hard to accept. But I don't actually want to do it, either. At this point, the best option for us is to try whatever else increases our chances, even moderately.

On a somewhat related topic, I recently discovered that the mom I got to know at AJ's daycare (I tell the story in this entry) is also an IFfer. We had been tentatively getting to know each other and having this other piece in common makes me even happier to know her and her son. I've felt lately (for the past couple of years?) that it's hard to find the people, the knowledge, the insights that I really need. What worked for me previously doesn't quite work now.  A lot of things in my life are going great. Still, I feel the chaos of the unknown is close to my little bubble, and I'm not terribly confident I am able to face it and make sense of it, to be honest.

But maybe, just maybe, I'm finding my courage and meaning. It's heartening to contemplate renewal, and to wake up my mind and spirit and find out what's truly out there.

Monday 8 May 2017

#Microblog Mondays: Bigger Picture

Continuing on with the "what would it be like to stop TTC" thoughts. (The bookend to this is "what would it be like to try DE IVF" but that one's big and weird and has to cook for a bit longer....)

When I think about possibly ceasing to actively TTC, one of the more uncomfortable emotional areas is "what would this mean for my career?" Or more broadly, how would I conceptualize the Rest of My Life without TTC diverting a ton of emotional energy, time, and mental space. (Because it does, oh it does.)

Four years ago I wrote a blog entry about how weird it felt to consider work goals when the future held uncertainty about how our family would look, what it might take to get there and how this would affect us. "Next year will not be a good time to...."  In the intervening years, what I wrote about there has remained basically true. Obviously, some things have changed, but what hasn't changed is that I don't feel inclined to commit to anything very ambitious at work while we are actively trying to grow our family. I have a goal for my class every year; I get involved in some different extra curricular activities, but I haven't seriously considered a major change like teaching a different program, getting my masters, changing jobs, etc. (I did change jobs two years ago but that was not by choice. It's not the same.)  But as the years have gone by I admit that has become less of a conscious decision, and more something I've accepted. Partly that's because I don't like angst any more than the average person (maybe less) so if the status quo is OK, fine and good. But part of it has maybe become avoidance. Because when I think about not trying to conceive any longer, and the fact that that means I could reassess my career, I feel....rather nervous.

Contemplating life with one child, same result. I have sort of an expectation that if we have a second child, I would not continue working full time. In other words, it would be a major career interruption. I don't know if that's true or not, but I'm aware of my limits and I recognize that full time teaching with two young children just might not be doable. And in theory at least I'm OK with that sacrifice. So why put a lot of energy into developing a career I might take a break from anyway? But on the other hand, working and parenting one child is so far not too overwhelming, which maybe means....I could do more? Should I do more? Should I actually think about what I want?

Hmmmmm. Here I go, actually trying to think about things.

Microblog Mondays

Monday 1 May 2017

Microblog Mondays: Subterranean messages

I discovered Dr. Jordan Peterson this weekend. I started watching his lecture on Maps of Meaning: Story and Meta Story and was riveted. As in, "I can't believe I am suddenly understanding how my brain works!" I do somewhat understand how my brain works, in general and in particular, but this lecture took it to a new level, for me.

From the blurb:

"In this lecture, I discuss how the basic or archetypal categories we use to frame the world are represented in image, where they existed long before their nature could be articulated. These categories include the individual (hero/adversary), culture (wise king/tyrant), and nature (destruction/creation). The heroic individual (the knower) is typically masculine, as is culture (the known), while the unknown is feminine. These categories can be conceptualized, as well, as explorer, explored territory, and unexplored territory. The most abstract category is the dragon of chaos, the monster who guards what is most valuable. It is from this most primordial of categories that the other three emerge. Our existence as prey and predator is reflected in the ambivalent representation of the absolute unknown."

Yes, it's two hours long. I should add that watching video of people talk is not one of my favourite things to do. I have never been into Ted Talks or similar things because I simply do not enjoy sitting through a video listening. I can read several times faster than anyone can or should talk, and hence I process the same message / information in a fraction of the time by reading as by listening. I see no reason why I shouldn't read or why people shouldn't bother to write an article if something is important to communicate.  For me to take even two minutes to watch a video, it has to be something really special or entertaining. Dr. Jordan Peterson is. And I absolutely will find 2 hours to hear this full lecture, although not all at once (I'm about an hour in at present).

One of the most relevant messages from the first hour is how our brains learn to ignore the vast majority of stimuli: Dr. Peterson says 99%. (And I thought it was just me! Ha!) Our sense of safety and sanity is mostly based on the belief that the 99% of stimuli are unimportant to survival. A crisis or trauma is an unexpected event that challenges that belief. It is like a monster (imagine the shark from Jaws) emerging from the depths of the unknown and disrupting/shattering our comfortable world. Suddenly, we start to wonder if we were wrong to ignore all the 99%. We start trying to pay attention to everything, to figure out the important thing that we missed, and that puts a lot of stress on the mind and body. Depending on the circumstances, and how the person frames their experience and reality, the experience can be mildly disturbing to completely life shattering. If it goes on for a prolonged time, brain structure may be permanently altered.

Do you think this sounded familiar? Heck yeah!

It feels relevant to my emotional sinkholes. To my infertility and pregnancy trauma. To the current conflicted feelings around further fertility treatments. I was in the middle of a post on that, and on my frames and beliefs, but it will probably wait until I've watched the entire lecture and my thoughts may change after watching it (or I may understand them better).

I think the lecture is speaking to me on a deep level already, because I've had some weird and arresting messages come up in my dreams. I won't be a dream bore here, also I'm trying to keep my posts short, but maybe I'll write about it in a follow up later this week.

Microblog Mondays