How torthúil started

Welcome to torthúil. I started this blog in January 2013 when we received our first diagnosis of infertility.  I went on to document our tests and treatments, and then, thanks to a very lucky break, our pregnancy in 2014. Then I wrote about parenting, and back to trying to conceive as we attempted to have a second child. We became pregnant in the spring of 2017 and welcomed our second daughter in early 2018.  Themes of my blog are understanding choice, chance and the lack of control in our lives; coming to terms with our limitations, whether physical or knowledge-based; reflections on subfertility; understanding human nature and connection; individuality; mindfulness, anxiety, self-awareness, spirituality, transcendence.

Our family was completed in 2018, and thus ended the era of all fertility intentions, tests, and treatments. (Thank you stars). However, torthúil is still here, and I am back when it suits me with updates.

About the word torthúil: it means "fertile" or "fruitful" in Irish Gaelic. From the beginning I hoped this blog would evolve beyond the themes of infertility. In addition, I have always thought of myself as creative, inventive, fruitful and dammit, fertile. It goes against my self-perception to see myself as a barren desert (and even deserts have life: think beautiful cacti!). On some level, I've always rejected the label of infertile, even while attempting to embrace a physical condition that is mostly outside of my control.  My relationship to the word "fertile" continues to evolve as now (in my 40s) I am more into menopause than not. Fertility in the physical sense is no longer a spectre that I am pursuing. Creatively though, there is still a lot of potential in me! My children are beautiful gifts and miracles, but I'm also coming to see my early menopause as a gift. I also write on torthúil explores, where I more deliberately explore intellectual and spiritual territories.

Sometimes people ask me how you pronounce torthúil. I don’t speak Irish, but something like “tar-hool”, according to the internet (there are different dialects; that’s the only one I can remotely describe. Or just call me Turtle. Sometimes I also go by the screen name Síochána Arandomhan, which is another Irish phrase. It means "peace to the world." My real name also means Peace, but in a different language.

Here are the highlights of our story so far:
  • We are Turtle and Mr. Turtle, both born around 1980 (I was born in the 70s, but baaaarely). We were in our early 30s when we started trying to have children.
  • She: special education teacher; He: registered psychologist (Mr. Turtle successfully pursued his Masters degree and certification while we were trying to start our family (starting 2013, final exam passed summer of 2021). Yay Mr. Turtle! 
  • Together since 2008, Married since 2010. We live in Canada, just a little east of the Rocky Mountains.
  • Started trying for a baby: Fall of 2011. Turtle's then-doctor says: You're in excellent health, try for a year and come back if there's no pregnancy. I start using the Ovacue fertility monitor in December of 2011. Early in the process, it was a useful tool in understanding my cycles. We continue timed intercourse until the summer of 2012, but despite hopeful thinking there is no pregnancy
  • Summer 2012: Turtle switches to Mr. Turtle's doctor, Dr. Gnomish, who diagnoses primary infertility.
  • January 2013: Mr. Turtle's semen analysis shows normal or better numbers and volume, but very low motility and poor morphology. We thought this was likely related to a genital lymphedema, which caused the sperm to not develop properly. The lymphedema in turn could be caused by disruptions to the lymph system as a side effect of Mr. Turtle's Crohn's Disease. Another possibility is that a medication he took for the Crohn's in the past had some lasting damage. We really don't know. Dr. Gnomish tells us that natural conception ain't gonna happen, gives us a referral to The Fertility Clinic
  • Turtle starts torthúil blog for the purpose of rambling online about all of this.
  • May 9th 2013: first appointment at The Fertility Clinic. Meet "Dr. Cotter." Discuss IVF. Several more tests requisitioned, including HSG, bloodwork, and ultrasound for Turtle, and 2nd semen analysis for Mr. Turtle
  • June 24th: 2nd meeting with Dr. Cotter. 2nd semen analysis confirms low motility/morphology for Mr. Turtle. Turtle has scary FSH/estrogen numbers, and only 4 follicles showing on the ultrasound, all of which points to diminished ovarian reserve/premature ovarian failure. (I continue to be confused as to what is the correct term to use in my case. Dr. Cotter has called it premature ovarian failure in writing, but in hindsight that diagnosis could be questioned.)
  • August 2013: Turtle begins acupuncture with Dr. Q. Goals: lengthen cycles, delay ovulation, improve uterine lining, strengthen kidneys (I pee a lot, ladies)
  • August 9th 2013: Meet again with Dr. Cotter. Turtle's thyroid is normal. Not a genetic mosaic. Discuss possibilities for moving forward. Wait (and wait, and wait) on results of Fragile X genetic test.
  • October 3rd, 2013-December 2013: Finally!!! Genetic test results are in. All clear. Begin DHEA and CO Q10. Continue with TCM treatments, limited herbal treatments and "trying naturally"
  • December 2013-January 2014:  IVF #1, Flare Protocol. Cycle cancelled January 15th due to no response. Two tiny follicles on left ovary, uterine lining 2.5mm. Dr. Cotter tells us in follow-up meeting that we are out of options for fresh IVF.
  • Around CD 27, however, I have fertile signs. Although it seems far fetched, I wonder if this means my cycle has restarted after going off of Suprefact.  We try the natural way (using pre-seed).
  • Make the decision to move on to Donor Egg IVF / embryo adoption. But various things lead me to procrastinate actually registering. Including the fact that my period isn't coming. Continue with folic acid and low dose aspirin (no DHEA/COQ10 after stopping fertility drugs)
  • February 17th, 34 days after IVF cancelled, I finally work up the nerve to test for pregnancy. BFP!! Somehow, I had a natural conception in the weeks after our cancelled cycle. Cue disbelief, terror, amazement and hope against hope. Time travel to the 1 year anniversary of this day. Ah, if only I could have done that in reality!
  • February 21: First see bleeding: red blood twice on the weekend, and brown spotting in the following days. Beta tests (4) and two early ultrasounds follow.
  • February 28th: Betas are still rising. Second ultrasound shows growth of the gestational sac, yolk sac and a subchorionic hemorrhage.
  • March 6th: Ultrasound shows 6 week, 6 day embryo with a heartbeat of 139bpm. Love!
  • April 10th: First Trimester Screening Ultrasound shows a normally-developing 12 week, 2 day fetus. "Ember" has legs, arms, elbows, little hands, a stomach, a bladder and a brain. Screening comes back negative (very low risk) for chromosomal conditions. The future looks brighter than it has in a long time.
  • May 26th: Detailed Anatomy Scan (19 weeks). Ember is very active, wiggling all over the place. She is ID'd as a girl. All her external and internal parts are accounted for, and are oh-so-very cute. We are soooo happy.
  • June 2014 - halfway. Breathe, breathe, smile. :-)
  • July 31st: Follow up ultrasound (28 weeks) to check on fibroid that was seen "adjacent to cervix." Fibroid is about 6cm, close to cervix, but according to U/S doctor, is not blocking birth canal. Ember's growth is on schedule; she weighs 2.3 lbs, and gets 8/8 on her "biophysical profile" (whatever that is). 
  • September 9th: Next follow-up ultrasound (34 weeks) also shows that fibroid is not a problem. Ember is 4+ pounds, looks "great," heart rate of 140. She practices breathing. And is utterly adorable. Despite ourselves, we are actually starting to prepare for a baby: painting her room, slowly buying some products.
  • Labour begins October 27th. Experience prodormal labour for 40 hours. Admitted to hospital when water breaks and contractions become more intense. October 29th, 4:32 am, baby AJ Turtle is born vaginally with assistance of forceps. She is here!
  • If you've read our story thus far, you might appreciate my thoughts on being an infertility urban legend ;-)
  • November 2014: AJ turns one month
  • My thoughts on blogging after having a baby
  • January 2015: AJ turns 3 months. We're out of the "fourth trimester!"
  • March 2015: AJ turns 4 months. Read about a typical day in our lives.
  • March 29: AJ turns 5 months. Also, new mom style and sanity savers!
  • April 2015: AJ turns 6 months. So much fun!
  • May 2015: Where does the time go?? Seven months.
  • June 2015: Eight months. Every week, AJ is learning something new! Our lives are very focused on the present and future, but that doesn't mean that I've forgotten how we got here. Finding some old photos on my phone leads to deja vu.
  • July 2015: Month 9. AJ seems more grown up every day. Read about a day in the life.
  • August 2015. AJ is 10 months. Hellooooo double digits. I'm back at work. AJ starts daycare. I'm trying to make sense of it all.
  • September 2015. AJ is 11 months. Life feels more than a little overwhelming, but there is still so much reason for gratitude, thinking of the difference a year makes.
  • October 2015. AJ turns one year. Party time! There is a note of sadness in this celebration, and in all that follow it, because my dad is seriously ill with esophageal cancer.
  • November 2015: A day in the life of a one year old and her working parents.
  • December 2015: AJ is 14 months. She spends Christmas with my in-laws.
  • January 2016: Our family suffers a sad loss when my dad passes away.
  • February 2016: Transitions: Celebrating breastfeeding and marking its end.  Also, we want another child. But just what are we willing to do?
  • March 2016: First family vacation with just the three of us. AJ is seventeen months.
  • May 2016: We've been playing the lottery hoping for a second miracle pregnancy. Like most people, we haven't won the lottery. The next appointment with the fertility clinic is scheduled.  Also, AJ is 19 months and pure joy.
  • June 2016: In her 20th month AJ had her first serious injury (fractured tibia) and a few other tragic things happened, just to remind us we are not raising her in a perfect world. On the other hand our little girl learned to dance. 
  • July 2016: Return to The Fertility Clinic, consult#1. Decide on strategy to maximize chances of natural pregnancy for 6 months at least, and return to possibility of DE IVF if unsuccessful. Game on, people, game on. I'm proof that humans have a strong gambling instinct.
  • August 2016. AJ is 22 months old. Do we need to talk about how adorable she is? Of course we do.
  • September 2016. We follow up at The Fertility Clinic. Tests confirm that I have very low ovarian reserve, and my wonky cycles make it hard to know when cycle day 1 is. But we have a plan: low dose Clomid to try to help me ovulate. 
  • October 2016: AJ is two years old
  • December 2016: Christmas is complicated.
  • October 2016-January 2017: Four clomid cycles, three with ovulation, one without. No pregnancy on any of them. 
  • January 2017: Results from Mr. Turtle's fall semen analysis show lower than previous numbers.  Recognizing that numbers fluctuate and Mr. Turtle's overall health complicates matters, two more tests requisitioned before further decisions made.  In the meantime, trying unassisted, celebrating the positive.
  • I discover Dr. Jordan Peterson and though I don’t realize it at the time, I’ve joined the many fellow humans trying to navigate the meaning crisis. 
  • May 2017. Spring is here! Mr. Turtle's sperm counts and motility are much improved, so IUI is a definite maybe (assuming we continue to see more healthy sperm). This is reason for optimism.
  • May 28th, CD 29 of an unassisted cycle: Positive pregnancy test! Whoa! An early peek shows things progressing well.
  • July 21st: 12 week scan shows everything progressing normally. So I try to behave like a normal human being, too. Still often feel tired and sick, so not really back to normal, but happy.
  • August: Family vacation and enjoying the calm
  • October: Ultrasound shows a healthy baby girl. AJ turns 3; I turn into a party host
  • November: Despite being told over and over again how hopelessly infertile we are, we've managed to get pregnant twice. My thoughts and observations about that
  • January 2018: An ultrasound shows Sprite is a breech baby, so we start looking into our options for that. It makes for a rather crazy couple of weeks.
  • January 31st: 4:30 in the morning, under a lunar eclipse, Sprite is born. What an amazing day! The story of how we met Dani, our second miracle.
  • I had another baby.....time to deal with some leftover baggage. At least to start dealing with it.
  • The "outside count" begins! Two weeks, one month, six weeks. Time measured in baby snuggles is both precious and fleeting.
  • March 2018: Dani is two months
  • April 2018: A day in the life of a family of four
  • Thinking about my 5 year blogoversary. The sum up of our experiences at the fertility clinic and using an old gift card from a tumultuous time.
  • May 2018: Dani is 3 months
  • June 2018: Then in the blink of an eye, 4 months
  • Continued 5 year blogoversary reflections: Unresolved thoughts on being resolved
  • July 2018: 5 month old hungry baby!
  • Dani's half year birthday. 6 months!
  • August 2018: Dani turns 7 months and we enjoy this time with another mini vacation
  • September 2018: 8 months. She wants to moooooooove!
  • October 2018The biggest girl is turning 4. Oh my.  I remember this. And this, which still aches. But gratitude touches everything.
  • November 2018. Dani is 9 months, unstoppable. Our family through AJ's eyes, and pen.
  • December 2018: Wrapping up the year of Dani's birth with her 11-month birthday. The future is bright.
  • Early spring 2019: Dani turns one. Life is evolving. Not blogging much anymore, but we'll see.
  • Dani turns 15 months. Approaching end of leave, and transitions as AJ prepares for kindergarten (!!!!)
  • Getting a picture of what autumn will be like. Short Answer: Lots of new
  • Danika at 18 months 
  •  Life in the second half of 2019: August/Septemer: "I can do this!" October/November: "I SERIOUSLY DON'T KNOW IF I CAN DO THIS. Did I make a big mistake?" I'm either going to come through this a stronger wiser person or with a deeper more profound knowledge of all the ways I can go to pieces. Wait did I just create a false dichotomy there?
  • Meanwhile, AJ turns 5. I do some math and realize we have been a family with kids longer than we have been a family without kids. Um, why do I still have an infertility blog? Habit I guess, like a lot of other things.
  • AJ receives a medal at school on the six year anniversary of the day I thought I was losing my pregnancy. Why do we live in one reality and not another one? Who knows? 
  •  Around the time I start to think I might actually have a handle on life and work, Coronapocalypse happens. A record of how we coped in April, in May, over the summer and fall.
  • My final reflections on 2020.
  •  Early in 2021 I rethought a few things about my online life. I wrote about it here on torthúil explores which is where I consider ideas and intuitions that are shaping my life. This blog, torthúil journey, is more like a diary of the stuff of our lives.
  • Reflections in 2021: FamilyschoolThanksgiving
  • March 2022: We learn about Ukrainian culture and life at war, mostly post-Covid. Malanka 2022
  • Family life, as well as my exploration of intellectual and spiritual questions, has changed and shaped many of my beliefs. Revisiting an older post.
  • Answering the question  “What have I learned from the pandemic.”
  • September 2022: We donate the majority of our remaining baby and toddler gear, closing the circle that we started when preparing for “Ember’s” birth eight years ago.
  • This blog is ten years old. I continue to not just tell my story but consider how I am creating it, how I am giving it body.


  1. I like your comment about not wanting to take on the label of infertile. Every time I use that word I get a sinking feeling. !

    1. I know. I feel like labels become part of identity and since I check my blog daily and it is a big part of my life, I'm careful what words I use.