Friday, October 29, 2010

words of the past

I was watching an old black and white movie tonight, The Earrings of Madame de.  In the movie, Madame de sells her earrings (given as a gift by her husband), because she was in financial trouble.  The husband buys them again and gives them to the mistress, Lola, who leaves for Constantinople.  Upon saying goodbye, the man tells Lola that she looks exquisite, and she replies that "a woman has a right to look exquisite when saying goodbye, maybe forever, to the man that she loves".

Oooohhh!  Do people still speak like that?  Isn't it beautifully put?  Wasn't the language of yore (is that a word in English?) so much more poetic, so much more expressive?  It makes me bat my eyelashes, just listening to the exchange of polite conversation that takes place in that train cabin between the two lovers.  Not an ounce of comparison with the "<3 u, u r gr8" of today's blackberry era.

Language is beautiful, vivid and rich, and even though I am an emigrant that only started to speak English fluently at the age of 18 (I was in ESL at the age of 17), I can still appreciate some of the depth of this language, and I can still play with words.  I know that we will never speak like the actors in this movie, that form of expression is gone, probably never to return, but we must try not to limit ourselves to the 1200 words that form the basic core vocabulary, or else our children (ahem, I meant, you know, the other people's children) will have lost out on a significant source of pleasure and richness in daily life, the ability to creatively speak and write.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

The garbage can test

I was lurking again in the cosmetics aisle of Shopper's Drug Mart and discovered a lip crayon in an irresistible shade of red, made by Shiseido.  It looked so glamorous!  I absolutely had to have it, so I bought it in the name of research (I am now busy with posting cosmetics reviews on Make-up alley, an activity which I classify under web volunteer work).  I walked out of the store, very smug and enchanted with my new lip crayon (for those who don't know Shiseido's lip crayons, they are these huge soft crayons that are actually used as smooth lipsticks, not lip liners.  I will refrain from posting a review of them here).

Outside the store, I opened the packaging box and threw it away in the large garbage bin, only to realize that I did not actually throw away the box but the crayon!  the box was still in my hand, and the crayon was somewhere in the large heap of thrash.  Hoping that it would be somewhere near the top, I started sorting out through McDonald's burger wrappers, empty Coke containers, and so on until I got to the very bottom of the garbage bin, where my tiny lip crayon was resting in a puddle of something unidentifiable, but nevertheless disgusting and cold.  By now, the shop's assistant and a whole bunch of people were looking at me suspiciously, probably wondering if I was looking to sell plastic bottles and cans in order to finance my crack cocaine habit.

I did wash the lip crayon and my hands about a hundred times, so I am pretty sure that all traces of Ebola are gone.  However, I can't help but notice that the glamour is also gone out of the product, and hence laugh to myself at how much money we (I?) spend daily on purchasing an image.  We definitely enjoy a product in large part due to the mental well-being that it creates, the feeling of being pampered and cared for.  A crayon is a crayon, but clever slick packaging and advertising will make a crayon look like a slice of elegance.

Henceforth (is that a real word?), I shall be using the GARBAGE CAN TEST before purchasing my next item designed to pamper the imagination:  if after visualising the candidate item at the bottom of the garbage can I still want it, then the item is really needed and I will buy it.  If, on the other hand, I feel like the value of the object has somehow diminished by being dragged through remnants of ketchup, then obviously I was attaching glamour points when calculating the need for the item, and hence should probably save my money for the liposuction that is sure to come if I keep eating chocolate at midnight while posting on my blog.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Reckless exercise

I started exercising again.  Yesterday I was feeling great and decided that it would help the cellulite cream immensely if I actually exercised a bit and toned the aspic on the treatment areas.  Recall that I am in the process of experimenting on Clarins High Definition Body Lift, once the entire 200ml are gone I will post clear pictures of me naked for the public to appreciate the results (hahaha, not really, this is not that kind of blog).  (MrH will have a coronary while reading this, and I will be busy resuscitating him for the next while).

Anyway, I started cautiously since I did not want the incisional pain that just disappeared 3 days ago (after my TAC surgery I mean) to come back.  I mostly did some curtsy lunges and some forward lunges with weights that I would place on the floor and pick up again with each rep.  I did about 20 of each, and today I feel as if a big white bear mauled my bottom.  I think I am taking today off in order to take a nice long soak in the tub.

It has become pretty common for me to start being overly preoccupied with my body's appearance before an IVF.  Last time I had a 3 month IVF break, the same thing happened.  I spent a fair bit on ebay building a chic wardrobe (and subsequently worked double the amount for 2 months to pay it off), and exercised/dieted to slim down.  Being Romanian, I have an obsession with weight.  I am not naturally slim, and neither is anyone else in my family.  We all look fit but have to paddle like the proverbial duck to maintain the appearance, since we can simply look at a piece of chocolate and despite losing 1 oz of saliva, gain 2 oz of fat.  (On the plus side, if there ever is a famine, we will likely be able to maintain body fat on 200 cal per day).

When I was 12 my mother took me to an exercise class that featured Jane Fonda workouts.  It was fabulous.  Both my mom and I went religiously 3 times a week for about 3-4 years.  From there on, I branched out into playing tennis and doing other fun stuff, but I have maintained the exercise habit for the rest of my life up to now.  If I don't exercise at least 2-3 times a week, even simple stretching, I start to feel stiff and almost itchy to move.  Since doing IVF, I have long periods of 2-3 weeks when I am not allowed to exercise.  If I get pregnant, then I doubt that I will be allowed to even go for a walk around the block, since everyone will worry that if I sneeze too hard the embryos will come out through my nose, hence the bedrest that will start at 12-14 weeks, and the obligate inactivity prior to that.

Which is why I am now going to enjoy this month before the next embryo transfer by exercising daily and testing out various cosmetic products (that I also don't allow myself prior to IVF, just in case).  Even though there will likely not be any pictures, I will keep you posted as to the results.

Monday, October 25, 2010

High definition body lift

I had a wonderful weekend in the city, and am now returning home. I have spent some time on Friday shopping for cosmetics since Shoppers Drug Mart had a special deal. One of the things that I have researched and decided to try was a cellulite cream by Clarins, called something like "High definition body lift," not because I particularly care about having cellulite (I have other bodily obsessions instead, such as the never ending quest for that oh-so-elusive flat stomach), but because I felt like being frivolous.  And frivolous I was.  I have applied the cream to my buttocks that night, and felt very refined and well cared for in the context of my tingling lightly scented underside, until I fell asleep.  What a luxury!

I woke up in the morning and my first thought was to check and see if the cellulite cream had worked.  I jumped out of bed, and inspected the "treatment area" in the mirror.  I could swear that I had no cellulite in the morning light.  I don't know if I had any to begin with, but if I did, then the cream seems to be working miracles.  My husband and my mother are poking fun at me, with my cellulite cream experiment, but I am trying to convince them that it is a good investment of 65$ for preventative purposes.

Later on the same day I went to see "Tales from the Golden Age", a movie about Romania during the 1980's, when I used to live there.  (If you have time, click on the blog stories, they are pretty much universal for everybody who lived there during Ceausescu's time).  I came out of the movie terribly disoriented, as if my life so far since that time had been a dream, and the reality was back there, back in time.  It took me a good few minutes to remember that I am in Canada now, that this is a different life.  Strangely, the thought that helped me connect the most with the present moment was the realization that before bedtime I would be applying the "High definition body lift" again, a luxury that was inconceivable during those times.  

If in 1980-1990 someone were to tell me that I would end up here today, I would not have believed it any more than being told that I would live on Mars and wear a spacesuit.  Romania was very closed to the outside, and we had no idea what the world "out there" was like.  To most Romanians at that time, the idea that communism would one day collapse and give way to a different ideology was too strange to fathom.  In fact, Romania today is vastly different, almost unrecognizable, from Romania in this movie.  I felt like telling everyone around me (cultured Vancouverites who came to watch this movie so well received at the Vancouver International Film Festival), that the place on the screen was real, that it was not a fairy tale, that I used to live there, and that through some unexplained magical events I ended up here, watching the movie with them.

The High Definition Body Lift may not have diminished my cellulite, but holding it in my hand is tangible proof that life can take one to unbelievable places, and offer unthinkable experiences.  Life is full of miracles, twists and turns that cannot be predicted.  No matter how much we try to prepare and seriously imagine the future spread out until the day we die, there is a good chance that the magic carpet will take us to a very different place indeed, a place that we cannot even conceive of now.  This is not a fairy  tale.  This really did happen.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

On the pain of a failed IVF

I went to the clinic today, and had my mock transfer, which went very well.  I also acquired a whole suitcase of medications, including injections for the frozen cycle, which is a new thing for me.  We normally used a nasal spray to put me into fake menopause prior to giving me the estrogen to prime the uterine lining, but this time there is a worldwide shortage of the spray, so I will have to jab a daily needle into my uncooked side for 24 days in a row.  My doctor, the perpetual optimist, gave me a 63% chance of success, and a 25% of twins, but then again who believes him, after so many other failed cycles with similar preceding hopeful statistics.

Which takes me to today's post, on the pain of a failed IVF.  I am writing this not only for myself, but for all women out there undergoing IVF who have had unsuccessful cycles at some point in their lives.  I felt the need to share with the world this important piece of information:  FAILED IVF CYCLES HURT.  A LOT.  There are events in life such as miscarriage or stillbirth, which are universally perceived as painful events, and that generate societal support and empathy.  Unfortunately, a failed IVF is not seen as the tragic event that it is by anybody other than the couple to which it has happened.  Sometimes even other women who went through IVF but had the luck of getting pregnant at some point cannot understand the desperation of facing repeated failed in vitro cycles. 

Most couples going through IVF have no chance in hell of getting pregnant without assisted reproduction.  Since IVF has an air of finality to it (as in, beyond that, there is nothing standing between you and the abyss), one does not come easily to the decision to start this kind of treatment.  It is expensive (our last cycle cost 13000 canadian dollars, plus the unpaid time off work for both of us) and it is hard on the body (did I mention the weight gain which I am still struggling to take off with repeated juice fasts and dieting?) and on the mind (we won't even go there).  The cycles only happen about two to four times a year at best, if one goes through the drug cocktails easily and if one is financially solid enough to afford it. 

Given the investment and the hope that accompanies each cycle, a failed IVF is a massive letdown.  It is not like a normal month in which a woman tries to conceive and gets a period.  That is painful too, I know, I have been there.  But at least once the disappointment is past, one can move on to the next month's hope right away.  With IVF, a woman has to wait before trying again.  There is also a limit to how many times she can try, depending on finances and emotional strength, and of course on medical factors.  Each failed IVF takes one closer to that limit, and closer to the above-mentioned abyss.

Which is why I would like to extend a big hug to all of you out there with failed IVF cycles.  Do not give up if it is not time to give up yet.  Don't worry if you think that nobody gets your saddness.  You are not crazy, you should be very sad, very distressed, and a little desperate.  These are appropriate feelings.  And if you feel like nobody out there understands why you won't get out from underneath the covers for one whole week, please read this post again.  I get it.  I have been there.  Eventually I got out of bed and went on living, and guess what, I am going back for more!  You might too.  Or you might decide to do something else instead.  Regardless, realize that living through a failed IVF is a sad, sad thing, and that it is ok to grieve, even if your mom, sister, friend, dog or even husband does not get it. 

Thursday, October 21, 2010

The year in which I did not learn to be more patient

I am off to the big city to see my IVF clinic, they need to do a mock transfer in preparation for the next frozen embryo cycle at the end of November.  Since I have had the band placed around the cervix, they need to know that the cervix is still going to be friendly to the intrauterine catheter and not bite its head off when it is inserted with the future babyH generation embryos.

IVF number I-lost-track is coming, coming, coming!  I am so excited that I am jumping on my bed.  Waiting has never been my strong suit, and I have spent this whole year waiting to get pregnant again after losing Adrian on January 2.  I will remember 2010 as The Year I Waited To Get Pregnant And Counted Every Day Until The Next IVF.  Or perhaps I could call it The Year Of The Three Pregnancies.  Or The Year Of The Five IVF's.

Anything other than the year in which I have learned to be more patient.  Because I am not.  If I believed that all this is happening to me for a reason (which I don't, but let's just pretend for a second that I am entertaining the idea of purpose in this whole messy apparent randomness), then the major reason would be something along the lines of inoculation against impatience.

Is it working?  Most definitely not.  MrsH is young and restless, and she wants what she wants now.  The universe will have to find a different didactic method and stop hitting me over the head with the same old book.

Monday, October 18, 2010

marriage and the price of secrecy

I have been watching the series Mad Men over the past two weeks.  I am now at the end of season 1, and I have already painted my nails in pink to match those of all the ladies in the 1960's.  I wish I were confident enough to do the red lipstick as well, with a dark eyeliner, it looks so romantic!

The one aspect of the series that I cannot understand is the marriage between the main character, Don Draper, and his wife Betty.  They do not communicate.  At all.  Ever.  She smiles and looks sweet when I would react by screaming, and he simply hides everything about himself, his past life, his work, and of course anything to do with his current love affairs which he is having on the sly, one after another.

How can two people be married and live in the same house yet be so far away from each other?  What is the point of being married if you have to hide from your spouse?  I do not think that spouses need to share everything either, but a marriage is a delicate balance between being yourself and being the other half, between sharing and privacy.  These people are so heavily bent towards being private, that they have become strangers to each other.  What a sad, sad case.

Secrecy has a way of feeding on itself.  Once it starts, it tends to escalate, because in order to keep one thing locked, other related things might also have to be tucked away, lest they may trigger cause for suspicion.  To keep a secret, one must always be on guard.  This leads to rigidity and self-censorship, which are always palpable in close proximity.  But for love to grow, two people need to be soft, pliable, and open.  They cannot be rigid, closed and fearful.

Don Draper, who has a series of affairs, thinks on some level that he is enriching his life by going with the flow and falling for women who look like they understand him better than his wife does.  Perhaps he is trying to understand himself through their eyes.  However, the sad part is that he is missing out on the most enriching experience of his life:  his own marriage.  When a marriage goes well and both parties accept each other as they are, without trying to change or improve, simply with love for all there is, it leads to self acceptance and self understanding.

From my own point of view, both MrH and I are somewhat odd people, with odd life choices.  I have felt different from the mainstream for my whole life, and hence self conscious and self critical.  Through his unwavering acceptance of me, however, I started to accept myself more and to feel like I belong here, despite being different.  In time, I started being convinced of the fact that even though my life choices are different and seemingly odd, they are no worse than anyone else's.  We all have our own path to walk, and we have to walk it with courage, exactly in the direction that we feel we must go.  This can be incredibly hard, especially if this path seems so far away from what we initially thought it would be, or should be.  Marriage (or an equivalent relationship) is one of the few things in life that can make the job easier.  All that is required is a loving partner and the ability to share.  Why deny such a wonderful gift?

I guess I'll have to purchase season 2 in order to continue analyzing Don Draper.  I can see a 1960's hairdo in my future...

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Mother on the inside

Over the past two weeks, I have read Alexa's book Half Baked.  In it, she describes how during the course of a twin pregnancy, she has lost one baby at about the same time that I lost Adrian, and the second baby survived to 25 weeks and had a long NICU course, but is now doing very well at the age of two.  She candidly explains how she literally had no time to think of Ames (the stillborn son) when she had to care for Simone (the surviving daughter).  There is very little space in the book dedicated to Ames or feelings about him once Simone was born.

Having a child in NICU probably takes up 150% of the available resources in terms of time, attention and emotions, and in Alexa's case it is understandable that she had no resources left for thinking about Ames and his brief life.  I felt sad however reading this paragraph:

"I thought of  Ames very little in the next months.  In truth, almost never.  People assumed I mourned in private, but I did not, and when others mentioned him when Simone was in the hospital, I grew impatient.  Couldn't they see I had a live baby to worry about? (...) Ames hardly seemed real-I wasn't sure I even considered him my son, at least not the way Simone was my daughter."

Honestly, when I read this last sentence, I closed the book and decided that I had had enough.  I was angry!  It triggered the ubiquitous anger that mothers of stillborn babies feel when their child is not acknowledged as a "real baby" by others.  (The "others" will usually be composed of people who have never had this kind of loss).  I asked MrH to read this paragraph, and we discussed it.  I appreciated Alexa's candour, and without walking in her shoes, I decided that I could not judge her.  She wrote what she felt.  And that is the whole point of blogging and of writing a book, to express the undistilled emotion, without fear of offending anyone and without having to censor oneself.  Alexa, as a good writer, has expressed her feelings as they were, but has not denied that had Simone not existed, she would have felt the same depth of pain that I have felt:

"If Ames had been a singleton, when his small form was rolled away to the morgue, my insides would have howled with a feral emptiness.  If Ames had been a singleton, my heavy, leaking breasts would have been a hideous physical mockery.  But instead, I had Simone to think of, and it was time to pump".

I am sure that having a live baby is worlds away from having a stillborn son.  One requires constant care and attention, hard physical work, and unslept nights.  The other one requires emotional work, soul searching, courage to integrate oneself back into life, and daring to hope again.  The former leaves very little time to live.  The latter leaves very little will to live.  They are absolutely different...but does that make the stillborn babies LESS in any way, does that diminish them and their existence?  Does that make them less our children?  If Adrian is not my son the way that Simone was Alexa's daughter, does that mean that I am not Adrian's mother?

Hardly.  I am his mother because he grew in my body, because I loved him viscerally, because even in giving birth to him and knowing that he would die, the only thing I could think about is that he have no pain, that he not suffer.  I was and still am his mother to the depth of my bones.  I do not need others to acknowledge that, and I did not get too upset on Mother's day when only my husband and a coworker remembered that I had a son.  My own parents and all my friends forgot.  (MrH was so sweet, he got me a lovely orchid which I am currently struggling to keep alive, as I have been known to kill orchids before).

Despite knowing this, it was still odd to read on Faces of Loss my name and then the words "mom to Adrian".  The internet is the first place where I have been publicly acknowledged as a mother.  My first instinct was to think that it must be a mistake, other people don't think of me as a mother, they must have gotten me confused with someone else.  I have gotten so used to being excluded from the motherhood club, that I learned to confine myself to the nebulous position of woman-who-has-had-a-baby-but-he-was-stillborn-so-she-is-not-a-real-mother.

In the end, people are limited by their own life experiences and their own capacity for empathy.  To ask that others understand where we, babylost moms, come from, would be too much.  To ask to be acknowledged as mothers, alas, also seems too much for most.   But being a mother on the outside, to the world, is just an image.  Being a mother on the inside is reality.  My reality.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Pregnancy Loss Awareness Day

I am lighting a candle in honour of Adrian and of all the stillborn and miscarried children, as today is Pregnancy Loss Awareness Day, and traditionally a candle is lit at 7 pm and burned for one hour.  In this way, everywhere around the world someone is burning a candle for the little ones lost.  Here is a picture of mine:
Tonight we broke the fast.
MrH and I went out to a nice restaurant, and had moroccan chickpeas with flat bread, and a delicious chocolate torte (hm, I don't think that was very vegan).  Am feeling quite good.  Lost a total of 3 lb during this fast.  I will probably repeat it one more time before the next IVF, in about three weeks.  I already know better than to ask if there are any takers interested in doing it with me...

Thursday, October 14, 2010

living for two

I have had an upsetting conversation at work today, with someone who was dissatisfied by an earlier interaction that we had during the week.  She told me her part of the story and did not leave me much room to tell mine.  Going home today, I spent some time writing a letter of reply.  I was going to let the whole thing pass, but decided that I actually care about having my side heard, and properly and thoughtfully expressed, which was better done on paper than in person.

I then curled up with a book and with Adrian's urn, which I felt a strong need to nestle near my chest tonight.  I wondered why, why now, as I don't usually do that.  I felt peaceful doing it, not like the usual urge of desperation that prompts me to reach for the little metal urn.  (It is a pretty, tiny urn, with metallic green flowers and birds engraved on it, and it sits on my night table).  Then I started to slowly get a grasp as to why I felt like hugging Adrian, or what is left of him.

When I lost him, when he died, I promised myself and him that I would live our life for both of us, as best as I could.  I promised him that I would do a good job of living out his days, that had been somehow passed on to me.  I felt that it was the one last thing I could do for him, one last thing that would take a lifetime to achieve, but a real gift to the little man that never was to be, that never got to live, other than through my eyes, my mind, my soul.

And I realized that tonight, through taking the time and having the courage to write this letter, I was holding true to my promise, I was living out the best life that I could.  For Adrian, and for me.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

surviving THE SMILE

I have had a day from outer space.  First of all, it started with my phone ringing 15 minutes before my usual wake up time, with a request to come to work urgently.  Which I did, skipping breakfast (i.e. the morning juice).  I then had to run around all day like a chicken without a head, skipping lunch as well, and having only a 125 ml orange juice and a cup of tea with some soy milk, which I have decided to include in this fast after all, but only in small quantities.  By 3 pm I was tired, and running low on glucose. I decided that half a cup of coffee with half a cup of water will do the trick and ended up with sweats and shakes only 15 minutes later, as the caffeine was quickly absorbed by my empty stomach and went straight to my brain.  Brrr, I thought I was going to faint in the middle of an arrhythmia.  Finally, I made it home in one piece, and had my half a litre of freshly squeezed juice, plus one honeydew melon.  Suffice it to say, I feel good!

Anyway, onto the post:

As an infertile, I frequently get to be the confidante and hand holder of many other women who perceive themselves as infertile.  In other words, when women first try to conceive, they expect that things will happen quickly and start to panic if it takes sometimes longer, such as, you know, more than one month.  Oftentimes, when a young healthy woman has been trying to conceive for several months, she starts to worry that there might be a problem, even though everything is still happening within the normal timeframe for conception.  She starts to feel defective, and her self esteem goes down.  She is also worrying about what kind of help might be available, what do infertility investigations consist of, etc.  Mostly though, she needs a shoulder to cry on, someone to confide her fears in.  That someone should ideally understand what she is going through.

Enter me, the town's obstetrical disaster, as I like to call myself lovingly.  I hold hands, reassure, and try hard hard hard to boost the self confidence which is slipping down the valley of despair.  I teach them my coping skills. I let them know that, whatever happens, they are still worth it, that they are not defective, and that their value as human beings has not changed.  I don't usually succeed in convincing them as such, but I do believe that sharing their worries with someone who clearly has it so much worse is quite therapeutic, since I seem to be surviving a rather tough karmic blow and I am still standing.

Usually though, because they are not really infertile, maybe just slightly subfertile, all of these women eventually conceive, almost always sail through their pregnancies, and deliver healthy babies.  Worries aside, as soon as they are secure in their pregnancy, they gradually or suddenly withdraw from me, almost embarrassed about their previous weakness and doubt.  There is also the possibility that, as the town's obstetrical disaster, I might be seen as able to cast bad luck onto other's pregnancies, or maybe just able to remind others (by my sheer existence) of the many horrendous things that can happen unexpectedly during a pregnancy (such as, you know, miscarriage, dead baby, incompetent cevix, failed cerclage, dead baby, retained placenta, life-threatening hemorrhage, dead baby, etc).

I understand.  I understand the need to stay away and focus on being positive.  I understand the need to feel protected from such sad reminders of our human frailty, especially at a time when hormones are high and emotions even higher.  I do not take anybody's withdrawal as personal.  And, as a long-term infertile, I understand my place in the reproductive hierarchy of this world, namely being the last one on the list to get pregnant (if ever), and the most likely one to lose a pregnancy.  I have made peace with this fact and am familiar with the daily heaviness in my chest and the occasional lump in my throat.  I don't question anymore that this is my place in life, I don't fight it, I feel it and I accept it, and I move on to feeling other things as well.  I have learned how to manage my pain.

But I must say, it would be much easier to live my life if these women, previously my friends or close acquaintances, would stop gloating quite so self satisfied and happy when they announce (to me at least)  their pregnancies.  Or look at me with pity and wish me luck.  I know that it is my job alone to work through my pain and my own inferiority complexes, but really, must the motherly happy self-satisfied fertile smile be shone upon my face quite so freely?  I have decided today that I must work out a strategy to survive THE SMILE, the beaming radiant glow that other more worthy women who have achieved motherhood will periodically flash at me throughout the rest of my life, as a reminder of what I have missed out on.  Perhaps the most effective way is to imagine them with the front upper incisor missing.  That will put a dent in the aura and give me some space to breathe.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

juice fast

The first day of the juice fast is closing in, and I have done well, with no straying whatsoever.  I am quite hungry and a little cranky and impatient.  Many people have asked me why I do this, and it is hard to explain, but I think it is foremost a way for me to take care of myself and my man.  We try very hard to eat healthy, and over the years we have refined our diet to the point at which we are now, vegan for about five months, with no intake of flour or sugar either.  We are not very strict, and we do eat animal products if invited over for dinner, like yesterday.  However afterwards we try to go back to our old ways of eating, and sometimes after straying it feels hard to do.  A juice fast for 3 days really reinforces our motivation and our committment, not to mention it loads us with vitamins from all those fruits and vegetables freshly juiced. 

I like to use this time to pamper myself, and to sleep lots.  I usually relax with a book rather than exercising.  I become more meditative.  And I try to observe what comes up for me mentally, because fasting will usually bring out impatience or dissappointments or past hurts, probably by dropping the serotonin level, thus uncovering certain weak spots that need attention, which might otherwise be buried during the rest of the time.  I will likely not engage in long posts during this time, but I would like to hear from other people about any fasting experiences, if there are any, or of any sort of self care rituals that come to mind. 

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Two steps forward, one step back

I am having a great weekend with my beloved parents, and trying hard not to gain any more weight, since between my fat layer and the not-so-shrinking hematoma, I am running out of clothing options.  Remember that Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday of next week Mr.H and I are doing a juice fast, and anyone else who wants to do it with us is welcome.  All that is needed is a juicer (borrow one for 3 days if you don't have one), a lot of carrots, celery, cucumber, red beets, parsnips, zucchini, spinach, cauliflower and cabbage.  For a treat, in the evenings, we usually have melon cubes instead of juicing it, this is just our tradition, although strictly not really allowed as part of a liquid fast. We also forego coffee, non herbal tea and soy or almond milk (we are mostly vegan, so we don't have regular milk in the house anyway).

During this lovely sunny afternoon of reading on the grass, I have started thinking about linear versus non linear ways of progressing along a given path.  I then, of course, thought about my own path, and started musing.  I know that I said I would not be posting during this rest weekend, but I felt like putting my thoughts on paper, in no particular order, so here they are:

In a slow, lengthy labour, the baby's head is being pushed forward by the uterine contractions and the maternal effort, and from the outside, one can see it descending a minuscule little with each contraction.  However, once the contraction stops, it slips back up, not to be seen again until the next contraction.  To the untrained eye, looking from the outside, it might seem that any ground that is gained by the baby and mom during a contraction is completely lost immediately afterwards, as if the fetal head is simply rocking back and forth, without advancing at all.

In reality though, through this "two steps forward, one step back" method, there is usually progress made, little by little.  (Not always, of course, that's why we still need C-sections).  This is not unlike my own reproductive life so far.  I became pregnant with the first IVF, only to completely lose the baby and to feel as if I had gained nothing and I was still back to square one.  In reality, thanks to Adrian's existence, I did learned that I could get pregnant, and that I had an incompetent cervix, for which I got the TAC surgery.  I then continued to transfer one frozen embryo at a time, and got only briefly pregnant, learning in the end that I should try to transfer two, at least of the frozen ones, if I ever want to get pregnant before menopause hits.

All of these steps forward that are then followed by defeats seem to bring me back to square one.  Is this feeling born out of frustration accurate though?  Haven't I learned a lot about my body along the way, about what it can and cannot do?  Aside from incompetent cervix issues, and specific IVF issues such as doses of medications that create a good response versus an unsatisfactory one, I have also learned that this TAC surgery, somewhat similar to a C-section, is really not hard at all, and that I could probably sail through a couple of C-sections without much complaining and with only a handful of regular tylenol tablets.  To think that when I have started the route towards pregnancy, my biggest fear was that of a C-section!  ha! what was I thinking?  (actually another equally big fear was that of pooping in public, but that particular fear went out the window when I had antibiotic induced diarrhea while in Trendelenburg for a whole two days, one of which was New Year's Eve at midnight.  No, I kid you not, this is how MrH and I spent our New Year's 2010, me expelling my gut contents against gravity, him cleaning me up.  Talk about a shitty holiday!)

Some women's journey through pregnancy is a linear casual walk, without twists and turns.  Mine has been very much a dance, covering the entire dance floor in forward-and-back patterns.  From the middle of the floor, I cannot see whether we are advancing towards the exit or simply spinning in place.  From the outside however, and by comparison with other natural processes that seamingly linger but in reality progress, I can only hope that at some point we will see the finish line... preferably before I collapse off my high heels.

Friday, October 8, 2010

I am not fat, I have a hematoma

I have been on my feet this whole week, and naturally started developing a bit of a hematoma around the incision, as all the blood pools around there aided by gravity.   Over the past day though, it seems to me that it has gotten worse.  I am trying hard to ignore it, but it is bulging in such a way that I don't fit into any of my normal pants, and only the fat pants can zip over it without making me flinch in pain every time I breathe.

That is not the main problem though.  The main problem is that this morning, when I stepped on the scale (I step on the scale obsessively every morning after I pee), I weighed four pounds more than my usual weight.  I have gained some weight during the last IVF, and I really need to lose it, especially that I am heading towards another IVF soon.  But FOUR pounds is an awful lot!  I know that it might not be a lot for others, but ever since I had Adrian I am really unable to lose weight like I used to.  I went on a juice fast twice for 3 days each, and lost 3 lb.  MrH, on the exact same diet, lost 14 lb.  He looked cachectic.  Hence I know that there are 6 days of celery and cucumber juice in my near future.

Distraught, I went to MrH and asked him how much did he think the hematoma weighed.  He gauged it at about 2-3 lb.  That strangely made me feel better.  I have a 2 lb hematoma and I am happy!  MrH told me that I am quite crazy, in a lovely way, and I assured him I did not need a psychiatric assessment, just a hematoma measurement.

In any case, I am planning a 3 day juice fast sometime next week, probably starting on Tuesday would be ideal, since the Thanksgiving weekend is up now (in Canada) and I will need a bit of shrinking after all the expanding I am going to do over the next 3 days.  If anyone else in cyberspace is interested in doing the juice fast with me, let me know in the comments box, and we'll keep each other company.  There are no rules about what we juice, just as long as it is mostly vegetables, because fruits in excess will not lead to the much-desired shrinking.

Happy Thanksgiving to all that celebrate it this weekend, and I will be back posting on Tuesday when I will be cranky and hungry.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Hope, everlasting

I got a notice today that a parcel has arrived for me at the post office.  I had been meaning to go pick it up at lunch, which would have been a great idea if I actually had a lunch break.  I have been so busy at work that the "no lunch for me" diet has been the norm this whole week.  Finally, after work, hungry (ravenous), MrH and I went to the local food store/post office building to pick up the parcel and buy some mushrooms and cornmeal for dinner (if anybody wants to know how to combine the two ingredients, ask me, we had a fabulous dinner of sauteed mushrooms and polenta).  While waiting in line to pay for the items, I took a look at the square airmail package, and read the label.  It said "clothing," and I remembered that I had ordered some stuff on ebay just after my last IVF, when I had gotten the positive pregnancy test.  I started sweating thinking that it might be maternity clothing, yet more maternity clothing that I keep thinking I will use but never get to.

I showed MrH and told him my suspicions, and he asked me why I chose to ignore our previous experience,  why I did not learn to take any positive pregnancy tests with a grain of salt (heck, with a salt shaker).  I tried to think about that tonight, and I honestly don't know.  I don't know why I continue to name the blastocysts that get transferred, why I calculate my due date the moment I get a positive pregnancy test (ok, let's be honest, I calculate it even before that, in fact every time I do a transfer I know when my due date would be if I got pregnant), and why I start a new journal with each cycle, telling the potential baby about every day of his/her embryonic life, just in case...

In a nutshell, it is hard to understand why I choose to believe.  This hope that transcends any logic, where is it coming from?  Why am I such a helpless sucker for even the faintest glimmer of promise?  Perhaps I live in a child's mind, believing in happy endings, in a fair outcome that avenges the hero's trials.  Perhaps I just need to believe in order to stay alive.  Perhaps I am so very naive as to consider that God might decide that I have had enough and give me the baby I so desperately want.

Feel free to crawl on the floor laughing.  I would if my incision didn't hurt.  I am one insane, hopeful woman.  Oh, in the end, I opened the package.  It was a slim top from BCBG.  Maybe I did have some sense during my last ebay shopping spree after all.

Beware: baby on the shoulder

I recently had an experience that I found a bit baffling:  a colleague holding a baby on the shoulder (like I said, we work with babies a lot) and patting him on the back.  The baby was nuzzling into my colleague's ear, and frankly, he looked very very cute.  The coworker looked at me, showed me the baby and said something like "isn't this the best part of the day?"

Ahem.  Sure it is.  Especially if it does not, you know, remind you of your stillborn son who should have been a bit older than this baby by now.  Of what you do not have.  Of what everyone else seemingly has or has had (including my colleague).  OF WHAT YOU'VE LOST.  Of mind numbing pain.

Yes, I appreciate babies, probably more than your average infertile.  I had no choice, it was either learn to live with them, or change careers.  I got exposure, more exposure than I can count, and I got it very early after my loss.  For anyone out there who cannot avoid pregnant women or babies, or who works with them, I promise that it will only hurt the first hundred times or so.  After a while, that part of the brain that registers pain numbs out.  After an even longer while, you will start to enjoy aspects of your work again.  But by all means, do not expect that you will ever look at a cute nuzzling baby and feel nothing but bliss.

I also wondered what my colleague was thinking.  Most likely, nothing.  And it never fails to amaze me how people just forget.  I wish sometimes that we would have a common memory, a very large memory that we can all share.  Until then, I think we have to rely on subtle cues, such as kicking each other in the shin when we've tweaked a sore spot.  That should teach my colleagues to stop terrorizing me with nuzzling babies.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

In case you didn't know, the infertiles are overpopulating the Earth

First order of bussiness:  MrH, if you are reading this post, I have to let you know that we have completely run out of candy, hence it's time for you to go grocery shopping.

Now, on with the rambling.
I just read Julie's post at and laughed so hard I hurt like hell.  She can really say it so well!  I then took the time to not only read the New York Times article

but also what people had to comment at the end.  It was downright scary.  I did not think that in today's society, normal people who can read and type are still thinking Middle Ages' worthy thoughts.  I also wonder if any of these people ever took the time to think about what they are saying. I mean please, to accuse the infertiles of being responsible for overpopulation is such a contradiction of concepts that it makes my mind spin blank.  We are usually lucky if we can have one child out of the whole affair.  Maybe two if we are enormously blessed.  That is hardly enough to replace the two people that will eventually die, namely the parents.

And I didn't know that people still refer to babies conceived via IVF as "test-tube babies."  (I would agree with calling them "test-my-resilience babies".  It makes me wonder if, when my hypothetical children will be in school, this might be a topic of discrimination or harassment.  My guess is, however, that as time goes on, and infertility rises (as it is currently doing), people will start to become more aware of the fact that having reproductive difficulties is painful, and they might develop some compassion.  They might be able to empathize with the fact that, just as they wanted and loved their children, women like me want and love their children before they are even conceived.  One can only hope...

In case anyone out there thinks that we ignore our embryos and leave them to rot in the freezer, that is not the case.  Embryos in an infertile woman's mind are little potential babies, and we love them to bits.  The best part of IVF is getting the daily phone reports from the embryologist, who tells you how your little embryos are doing, how many cells they have, how they are dividing and progressing.  I cried when my first frozen embryo did not survive the thaw.  I felt sad.  I felt very sad for every embryo that did not implant.  I felt it like a little death.  I have the picture of my last blastocyst, the one that ended up in a chemical pregnancy, in my photo album.  I...named it.  Yep, slightly insane.  I even talked to the blastocyst, and read about what stage of development it was going through every day.  And so did my husband.

I cannot see a couple that went through the trials of IVF taking lightly the decision of what to do with leftover embryos.  This is usually an agonizing decision, one that I know I will spend countless hours trying to make if I ever get there.  There is no question in my mind that we, infertile and reproductively challenged people, respect life in its early stages, that we protect it fiercely as it is developing, that we revere it after birth.

Ultimately, IVF is simply a form of treatment for infertility, the same way that penicillin is a form of treatment for infections.  Saying that infertile people like me should remain childless as it is nature's way of selecting the fittest genes would be akin to denying people antibiotics to allow the strongest immune system bearer to propagate their genetic material.  IVF is here to stay.  It will become increasingly less feared, more accepted, more recognized as legitimate medical treatment for a DISEASE called INFERTILITY (nope, it's not a life style choice).  And when it does, hopefully the insanely expensive treatments will be made more accessible to the patients the way tubal ligations are made available free of cost (and by the way, permanent sterilization is a choice, but here where I live it is paid for by taxpayers money, while as infertility treatments are not).  Go figure.

Lastly, I can only admire from the bottom of my heart the tenacity with which Robert Edwards and Patrick Steptoe kept on going through 40 unsuccessful attempts before they got to a baby.  Couples kept coming to them and going through the treatments, knowing that no one before them got pregnant.  Can you imagine being couple number 39, and knowing that everyone before you left without the desired pregnancy, and yet still agreeing to go through IVF?  These people were resilient and determined to the core!  It only goes to show how deep the desire for a baby can run.

Sadly, I am afraid all of these details were wasted on many of the commenters for the New York Times article.  It is such a pity!  if only they paid attention, they could have learned something about their fellow humans, they could have been inspired.  Instead, they simply chose to waste electronic ink.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Envying Abel- ramblings on jealousy

First, I want to say that I am happy that Robert Edwards won the Nobel Prize in Medicine for pioneering IVF.  He has changed my world in ways I cannot begin to describe.  Congratulations to him, and a big thank you!

The work day went fine, I find that if I stand a lot the incision starts to hurt (duh, I just had surgery seven days ago), but otherwise no complaints.  I started writing this post in the morning, and took one picture of Max (Senegal parrot, I think he is a male, I think he thinks I am his wife) as he quietly waddled across the floor, snuck up on me and started biting my toes for not paying attention to him.

Now, onto the rambling.

Envy is such an awesome force.  I mean, think about it, are there any other feelings that take over one's mind to such an extent as to make a person kill their brother?  Envy, or jealousy, is an amazing power, and as such, it needs to be acknowledged with respect.

I don't have a sister, but I often wonder what I would feel if I did, and if she were to get pregnant and have a baby.  Probably, along the same lines of what I always feel, namely a whole bunch of conflicting emotions.  I would be happy to have a new baby in the family, to at least make sure that my parents get to be grandparents once and that somehow our DNA gets to go on (because hey, what will the world of the future be like without our DNA, I tremble in fear...). And, of course, I would be relieved to know that she is happy.  It's enough to have one tragic case in the family, if there is more than one then we're starting to rely on distributive attention, and we all know that's not as good... for cultivating my narcissistic traits.

And yeah, I would be so jealous I could die.  I was, at one point, jealous of my own mother for having given birth to me, if that makes any sense to anybody.  I have reached amazing depths in my capacity for jealousy. I  think the highlight of the ride was when my friend's cat had kittens.  I went to visit her and the cute little kitties suckling at their mom's many nipples, and I have to say I was bloody jealous of the cat! (if any fertiles are reading this blog, no, I was not jealous of the many nipples, try again).  I have even been jealous during long drives out in the country, when I saw cows with calves, and mares with foals (thank you MrH for knowing so many words in English, I would have never come up with the correct term for "baby horse").  I have been so fucked up it's not even funny.  In fact, I still am, but I have in part made peace with myself.  My subconscious and I have drawn out an agreement which states that I can be as fucked up as I want, as long as the evidence stays burried. 

I suspect that even if I had three healthy children at some future point, I would still be very jealous of the people who had no reproductive challenges.  (MrH, if you are reading this, please stop hyperventilating, we are sticking with the original plan of one or two).  Hence, jealousy is here to stay, my constant companion until the day I die.  I suspect, however, that it will slowly fade, and that once this stage of my life is over I will find plenty of other things to be jealous of...again.

PS.  Fertile people, forgive me for poking fun at you, I do like you a lot:  look, despite the fact that you have no clue what I am talking about half the time, you are still reading my blog.  Thank you!

PPS.  Infertile people, if you understand what I am talking about here, then please tell me about your jealousy experience in one line or two:  what is the deepest depth that you have sunk to?

PPPS.  If neither fertiles nor infertiles understand my post, please somebody let me know, I am certain that there must be medication available for my ailment.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Deeply incompetent yet so very strong

I am going back to work tomorrow, because I am a workaholic, and cannot sit still for more than 5 minutes.  I figure that if I can crawl to the bathroom, I should be able to sit and do my job.  I might regret my decision, but we'll see.  

The incision looks great, every time I look at it I feel so happy, because I remember that I have a bionic cervix!  Yay!  (insert little victory dance). If I were to get pregnant, I have an 85-90% chance of holding a pregnancy to term, as opposed to my previously dismal 25% chance.  This gives me a lot of hope, and in a strange way, I feel much more confident in my everyday life, almost like I suddenly became more competent overnight.  And I don't just mean about reproduction.  I mean, I started blogging, didn't I?  why now, after years of considering it?  It's not like I have more to say than usual.  It's just that I have more confidence in myself. Aside note -- I even went so far as to record a little clip of myself playing piano and to post it on youtube.  (For those of you who have not heard me play the piano, that translates into A LOT of confidence). 

This makes me wonder, how deeply do the roots of the cervical incompetence/infertility run in my psyche? I mean, how can a bionic cervix make me more able to speak in cyberpublic?  It is something I have only started thinking about this week, so it might not make much sense when I put it into words for the first time, but I do think it is important to acknowledge it.  Infertility and incompetent cervix both made me feel like LESS of a person, less worthy, less confident.  Less overall.  It is something fertile people cannot understand.   It is something I cannot really understand, but on a very small scale I am starting to feel it.   

Sometimes men, after their vasectomy, will talk about feeling a similar sense of diminishment.  And a vasectomy is a voluntary process, on the conscious level.   This goes to show that our reproductive ability seems to be deeply linked with our feelings of worthiness as human beings, or as members of society.  What's worse is that a big part of this self-demotion happens on a subconscious level, so many people are not even aware of it.  It might be interesting to know if infertile women or men are more likely to be involved in abusive marriages, or if they are less assertive at work.  Or perhaps even the opposite, more assertive in an effort to cover up the underlying insecurity that comes from having reproductive problems (I was going to write "reproductively defective", but that would be the Voice talking in mean terminology, and I will not allow Her to write on my blog).  

On the other hand, infertile women know that they are strong.  Stronger than the average stuff.  We are not afraid of needles, procedures, pain.  We know the art of swallowing hard and plastering a smile on, since we do it every day.  We can hold off on crying until we get off the phone.  While most people get to live through crushing disappointment every once in a while, we get to live through one every month.  Infertility molds a woman out of steel.  I can honestly say that had I conceived Adrian easily and had I never had the infertility battle to get through first, I would not have done as well as I did after his stillbirth.  I had already dealt, in part, with the feeling of dying one thousand deaths inside.  I had already come to terms with the fact that my body was not reproductively inclined.  I already knew that despite feeling desperately depressed, one day I would be able to crawl out of bed again and start living.  Somehow for me, unexplained infertility turned into strong-like-a-rock-ness, and incompetent cervix turned into...well, a bionic one.  

On the importance of underwear

This post speaks to my European roots.  It has to do with clothing, not so much with the fashion behind clothing, but rather with the spirit behind our daily action of "putting something on".  And, of course, like everything else in my life, it has to do with infertility and loss.  If it seems like I am not concentrating properly, it is because I have three birds pecking at my computer.  This one here is Gracie, a very neurotic albino cockatiel.  She has an anxiety disorder.  It took her one year to come close to my computer, so I don't have the heart to chase her away.  

Underwear is special in that most of the time, it is not seen by the large public, the way boots or hats are. A nice thong will be hidden from view for anyone other than yourself and your significant other.  A lot like our souls, I like to think.  Only those very intimate with us can really get to see them, touch them, appreciate them.  Not to mention that, for most people, there will be many, many days when there is no one else out there to notice either thoughts or lingerie.  

In the infertile woman's soul, there are a lot of negative voices that speak volumes about the sense of being feminine, of being sexy, of belonging to the female half of the race.  I know for myself, when I was not getting pregnant and the whole village was, including my friend's cat, I heard the Voice (you remember the Voice) telling me that I perhaps should reconsider my gender identity, since duh, real women get pregnant and have babies.  Even real female cats do.  When I lost Adrian, I got another strong background chanting session from the Voice, who let me know that look, it is absolutely confirmed and without a doubt that I WAS NOT A REAL WOMAN!  

Poor MrH had to fight the Voice if he wanted to have his cute feminine wife back, because I had strong urges to wear ugly pants with granny underwear that did not match my bra.  I even bought granny underwear from Wall Mart, because I felt a strong need to match the briefs with the critical paragraphs in my head.  I don't need to tell anyone here what this kind of attitude does to one's sex life.  

After years of failing month after month at doing what the cat had no trouble doing in one night of feline passion, I have decided that I wanted the old me back, the feminine, elegant me.  I went back to my previous sexy lingerie and made myself wear it whether I felt like it or not.   I refused to leave the house if my bottoms and my bra did not match.  I insisted on wearing skirts and boots, a much more feminine look than the good old pants and loafers.  I accessorized.  I ironed.  I religiously put make up on even if I was planning on spending a whole Sunday in bed.  And every single day, I did my hair.  

Does this work?  It worked for me, and I suspect it would work for anybody.  How can a simple piece of fabric change the way we feel about ourselves?  It is there, at all times, as a reminder that no matter what the Voice might say at that particular time, there is one part, however small, that still believes that we are feminine, that we are worth taking the effort to give ourselves the best.  

For anyone who has had a recent negative test result, a failed IVF, a miscarriage, or who is struggling with the critical Voice comparing her to the cat, the cow or the pregnant sister in law, please take my advice, at least for a few days:  Wake up before noon.  Take a shower.  Do your hair.  Put mascara on.  Cover your dark circles with some concealer.  Spritz on some perfume if you wear it.  And by all means, wear the best, sexiest, most comfortable, most divine pair of underwear.  

It takes a village...

It takes a whole village to create a baby from where I sit.

In the good ol' fashion world of Fertileland, two people do the deed, then the doctor looks after the pregnancy and delivers the baby, usually with a nurse involved, and thats about it.  Not so much when it comes to yours truly.

First, we need a whole fertility clinic to get us pregnant.  Before that, however, let's not forget the monthly IUI's which involve my obs-gyn, the ultrasound techs, and the lab techs.  Oh, I forgot the pharmacist, sorry man, I didn't do it on purpose.  Then, once we get to the IVF clinic, we can easily lose track:  the fertility specialist who is my main doctor, the other four fertility specialists who take turns rummaging my insides with the dildocam (whoever doesn't know what the dildocam is, you have lost on a lot of fun in life), the associated assorted nurses, clerks and financial advisors (yep, IVF costs alottamullah), counsellors and embryologists (the embryo nannies).

Then, assuming that I do get pregnant, I need my regular obs-gyn, my usual GP (for the mental illness that usually ensues, and I might actually even need a psychiatrist once my regular GP figures that he is in over his head), a whole crew of maternal-fetal medicine experts with their dildocams, the nurses at my local hospital, the nurses in Vancouver at the high risk centre, the neonatologists and the NICU nurses (maybe I can skip the actual NICU altogether, but probably not the neonatology sermon since I am at high risk of preterm delivery).  Oh, I forgot all the good people who have to bring me water, food and a bedpan when I am on bedrest (aka MrH).

The point being, we are all interconnected.  Some discover this later in life, when old age and ailments bring about dependence.  Some, like myself, discover that without a village you can't even begin a life, let alone live one.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

On the art of waiting

Some people decide that they want to have a baby, and then they do, right away it seems.  There is very little waiting involved, as far as one can see from the outside.  A pregnancy, from this point of view, is actually very short lived.  I could have had another whole pregnancy, from last menstrual period to term delivery in the time that has passed since I have lost Adrian.  That is, if it had been in the cards for me to get pregnant the traditional way.

In the infertile world, things don't quite work like that. Time simply seems to expand. First, after every miscarriage, one needs to wait for three months (or two natural cycles) to pass before any further attempts.  At least that is what my clinic requires.  Then, because I have an incompetent cervix, I can only have one embryo transferred at a a time, in order to avoid the added risk of twins.  That means that it usually takes a long time for any one cycle to be successful, as the chances of any embryo taking are about 20% when by its lonesome.  

The two weeks between the embryo transfer and the pregnancy test are awfully long.  I sometimes count the hours, not the days.  Then, if I do get pregnant, the waiting for the beta HCG hormone to increase (it has to double every two days) to make sure it is not a chemical pregnancy is also long, but at least the hoping begins, and therefore it's not as bad.  The waiting for the first ultrasound, that shows a heartbeat, usually done at 6-7 weeks gestation, is pretty unpleasant as well, but again filled with anticipation and good expectations (unless you've ever had an empty gestational sac before, in which case you will most definitely expect the worst again).  Then, for someone with incompetent cervix, there is the worry that you will miscarry after 16 weeks or even earlier, when the dreaded cervical weakness starts to show.  The period of time to fetal viability is as long as a lifetime (24-25 weeks), and I expect that after 28 weeks, when a fetus has a good chance to survive and thrive, one probably can relax a little.  

In the fertile world, many people who don't know how many weeks along they are in their pregnancy.  That is the kind of pregnancy that goes smoothly and almost imperceptibly, where time flies in the absolute faith that things will go well.  Alas, not the kind that my reproductively challenged sisters and I can ever hope for.  When you count the minutes, the hours, the days and the weeks, you realize that time goes awfully slowly.  And when you are in between treatments, like I am now, time STOPS dead in its tracks.  Two months until November are as long as a whole year would have been before I started trying to reproduce. 

This is an illustration of reproductive relativity theory, which states that time flows in inverse relation with how far one is from having a live baby.  However, why does this happen?

I think it comes from our inability to embrace the little things that make up daily life.  When one's focus is on a very desired outcome, a goal, then anything else fades away unnoticed.  This brings on a sense of emptiness (since our life is only filled by those things that we pay attention to), and emptiness equals boredom.  Boredom is what really makes time stand still.

If infertility can be considered a teacher, then the most important lesson to learn is that life happens now, every day, that I am alive even when I am not pregnant.  That I deserve to live even when I have not achieved my goal.  That in times like this, when I feel as empty as a black hole, noticing the red leaves on the patio and the taste of the chai tea in my cup are the little details that make up the fabric of my life.  This, in a nutshell, is what I call the art of waiting.  

Other people's bellies, other people's babies.

I was toying with the idea of quitting the blog.  I have the feeling that nobody is reading it other than my husband, who has to spellcheck it.  On the other hand, even if nobody is reading it, I still feel like writing.  Therefore I will continue rambling by myself in the forest.  I might just convert it to a private diary if I am the only one around here.

Anyway, this is another post that was intended for other women struggling with infertility, miscarriage, stillbirth or infant loss.  How do we deal with other people's bellies and babies.  This post was inspired by the privilege and simultaneous hardship of holding a baby on my lap and rocking her to sleep tonight.  This happens to me on a daily basis (minus the rocking to sleep) since it is part of my job.  I work in large part with pregnant women and babies.  How do I do it?  sometimes I don't know myself, but I will try to put it into words.

I think what has helped me the most was exposure.  When I first went back to work 1-2 weeks after losing Adrian, I expected to have a hard time.  I took a moment to acknowledge my feelings when it was hard.  I cried a little in my office.  I phoned my husband for support sometimes.  I congratulated myself for getting through it one step at a time.  I allowed myself to feel proud of doing an incredibly difficult thing.  I told myself that if I cannot handle it, I will give up my job if need be, and become a shepherdess (ok, not quite).

And of course it was hard.  The first couple of pregnant bellies at 18-22 weeks gestation were like a punch it the gut.  Touching them, I could imagine the babies inside, alive and well, and thought of how mine wasn't.  I felt inferior in a primal way to every pregnant woman that had made it further than I had.  For the longest time, when people's ultrasound reports would come in, my eyes would dart straight to the cervical length and I felt awe and amazement at the huge accomplishment of maintaining a 4 cm cervix at 20 weeks.  I mean c'mon, it is something, isn't it, especially when my cervical length is 2 cm at the best of times (i.e. when nonpregnant).  These women were amazing goddesses.  I was a hobbit.

Then, slowly, I got bored of putting myself down and started thinking.  First of all, who is this person in my head criticizing me all the time? Why is she here to begin with?  And why am I letting her?  Is it because she sounds familiar?  Do I have the power to ignore her painful monologue?  Can I sometimes prove her wrong?

This voice in my head which was so old and familiar that I had never even begun to question had now a distinct identity.  I thought of her as the-critical-me (also known as my father - just kidding, dad).  I started saying hello whenever the voice would appear.  (Note to any psychiatrist friends that might be reading my blog, I am not talking about an ACTUAL voice, you know...).  In time, I have learned to work alongside this voice, to accept its monologue and even to smile at it.  Yes, it can be done!

And then, something wonderful happened:  I started enjoying babies and bellies again.  A baby's smile and sweet smell is something I did not want to deny myself.  Pregnant women's excitement and optimistic happiness, even not ever to be mine again (I plan to be a complete basket case with worry and anxiety during my next pregnancy, if it ever happens) can be enjoyed in moderate portions.  And the feeling of helping babies get on this side of the world safely gives my life purpose and meaning.

Yes, sometime it is hard.  It still is.  However, it gets infinitely easier if we learn to say hi and bye to that critical voice.  Then, all that is left is pain, and pain is manageable.  Feeling like a hobbit, on the other hand, is not a way to live.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Grief in my closet

So, what would go better with my new Fluevog shoes than a bit of grief hidden in the closet, right?

Yesterday I had an old friend read the blog and tell me that definitely it was not a likable experience to plough through the pile of darkness that I gathered in this corner.  At the same time, I was reading Kalialani's blog at The Butterfly Room, and I got a similar feeling from her post:  people are uncomfortable with grief.  That is, unless they have gone through a similar experience, because in that case, I guess they will be searching the Internet looking for some other poor soul like themselves, trying not to feel so alone.  That is mostly why I am writing this blog, to create a sense of community for others like me.  I am also writing it to generate a sense that, despite life handing someone one lemon after the other, it is possible to still stand and go on.

Anyway, onto the dissertation about taking the grief out of the closet.

In Romania, when someone dies, there is a very loud, very public display of grief.  In fact, there are hired women (or used to be, don't know anymore) called "bocitoare" (literally the "crying women") who even chant grief songs, and make as much noise as possible expressing emotion on behalf of the bereaved.  When I was young, I was downright scared of these women!  Yes, grief is uncomfortable, no doubt about that.  In fact, many times I have had to hide it from people because the sense of discomfort it creates in the listener is so palpable that it takes away the fun out of a sunny day.  But...there is a catch!

The grief is going to be there, no matter what else we talk about:  shoes, food, relationships.  A large portion of the pie known as my brain will be processing grief.  And my pie wants to connect with your pie.  If my pie is busy hiding grief, no matter how much we talk about shoes, your pie will have the feeling that my pie is gone somewhere else, and you will sense the lack of connection.  Hence, a different form of discomfort will ensue, and perhaps you might think that you are boring me.  When, in fact, we are just talking in parallel.

There is no simple answer to this one.  If a person really cannot listen to another person's grief, there is usually a good reason for that.  I find it has to do with the fact that the said person has not worked through some personal loss that should have been grieved but hasn't.  Their pile of grief has been pushed deep in the recesses of their mind, because if allowed to come out, it is so big, so scary, so apparently impossible to deal with, that it threatens to crush them outright and pulverize their mind to walnut powder.  Sometimes it is not even a real event that is so scary, but an imagined one, along the lines of  "if this happened to me, I would never survive.  Best not to think about it."

The good news is:  this will likely not happen to you.
The bad news is:  some other crap, however, will.

And when it does, you will have to face grief of monumental proportions.  It's ok.  It will not crush you.  You will live.  You might even become more patient, more compassionate.  Yes, you will carry the grief load with you for the rest of your life, and it will become part of your pie crust.  And when you need to talk about it, I will listen.  Because I know that when grief has been aired out enough (enough varying from minutes to eons), there will be room in our conversation about shoes, and food, and relationships.  So allow us to cry and post pictures of our dead babies on facebook if we feel like it.  Learn to tolerate our grief.  It is not all that defines us.  Underneath it there is a person with many more layers, but you will never get to uncover them unless you become comfortable with my vulnerability=your vulnerability equation.

I am not fat, I have an ileus

I don't know why I need to post this piece of information, but just so you know...
After abdominal surgery, the gut usually goes through a temper tantrum, known as surgical ileus.  Sometimes more, sometimes less, but always a bit sullen.  The gut is king in our body.  It has its own moods, known as the intrinsic nervous system.  Sometimes he king's moods match the rest of the kingdom, sometimes they are complete, out of the blue, randomness.

If something shocks His Majesty, like an operation, or an illness, then you can count on a few days of cold shoulder treatment.  In other words, the usual peristaltic waves that propel contents down the slide just stop, or if they do occur, they are not coordinated properly, so all the gas and...well, bowel contents, kind of stagnate.   This is why we need to eat jello for a while after a surgery.  (Speaking of which, jello always reminds me of my surgical rotation, when I used to eat unlimited quantities of it, as it was the only thing available in the hospital fridge).  We generally prefer to let jello stagnate, rather than duck au confit or boeuf bourguignon.  Those animals are meant to move lest they rot.

So, I am happy to report that I am not fat, I am just negotiating armistice with the gut, and slowly recovering from my relative state of...ileus.  Sometime in the near future I will be back to the flat stomach  that I never had.

Friday, October 1, 2010

I don't deserve...

I was just watching Bloodletting and miraculous cures on HBO.  It is a show about doctors, written by a Canadian ER physician, Vincent Lam.  One of the characters, Ming, is having fertility troubles, because of Rh incompatibility with her husband (she gets pregnant, miscarries, is Rh negative, and gets sensitized).  She tells a story about being abused by her uncle at the age of 13, and, thinking that she has invited the abuse, she ends it with "I don't deserve to have a baby."

Whoa! is that the most novel thing I have heard today.

At some stage in the infertility game, a woman will conclude that she is not meant to be a mother because of past sins, past deeds, past mistakes.  She will convince herself that she has brought THIS on to herself (THIS being any number of things, infertility, stillbirth, miscarriage, a child with disabilities, a neonatal death).  It usually happens fairly early in the game, being, as it is, such a natural conclusion.  It happened, therefore it must be something I did (or didn't do).

Sometimes, if the idea is slow to come to us all by itself, it will be propelled by the voices of well meaning friends and family.  Watch out, it usually comes as advice, wrapped in layers of concern and caring.  For instance, when I lost Adrian, I was told by several people that I should not have exercised during my pregnancy.  I had started exercising at 12 weeks (prior to 12 weeks, the IVF clinic does not condone activity other than yoga and walking), with my physician's blessing.  I was, as far as anyone can tell, a previously fit woman with a low risk pregnancy, and I wanted to continue doing what I had been doing for the past 15 years of my life three times a week.  My exercise routine kept me sane and kept the terrible nausea at bay.  I lost my mucus plug after a day in which I had exercised.  Of course, the phrase that I have heard the most in the first couple of weeks after it happened was:  you shouldn't have exercised.  Other pregnant women don't exercise.  This happened because you exercised.  Next time, don't exercise.  (Next time I will be on bedrest, so that is a moot point).  Nevertheless, even knowing that it was not my fault, I still hung on to the guilt for so long, that I have yet to set foot in the gym again.  I prefer to exercise in the privacy of my house, lest someone observe and offer more helpful advice.  And I am not even pregnant!

But why does it have to be our fault?  What have we got to lose by letting go of this assumption?  Why do others jump so fast to the conclusion that we have brought disaster and loss onto ourselves?

I think it comes from the childish belief that the world is fair, that we get what we deserve.  Unfortunately, my friends, that stopped being true just about when Adam and Eve got expelled from Paradise (yep, they supposedly did deserve it, but what did we do wrong?).

What the heck, I might as well break the news now:


Yes, that is the truth.  Now that it's out, let's go for coffee.

PS.  If this post hits home, remember that you deserve to have a child just by virtue of being here, of being human.  You don't have to do anything special to become worthy of being a parent.  You already did.  You were born.

advice-have you tried...

In a well meaning attempt to help, people come up with the most funny suggestions.  In three years of infertility, I have heard a lot of them.  Some upsetting, such as "maybe you should pray more"(how do you know I don't pray a lot, mom?).  Some intriguing, such as "perhaps you should go to Siberia, there is a monastery there, everybody who went got pregnant" (thanks dad!  I wonder about those monks, what miracles they perform ;).  Some cute, such as having to wear a moonstone bracelet which needs to be rinsed in cold water and kept under a full moon at night to activate the crystals (hope they're not radioactive, that's all I say).  But the top prize goes to the very interesting suggestion that I should get DEWORMED, since worms might cause miscarriages by sucking the lifeforce out of me.  Scary indeed.  I haven't gotten around to deworming myself yet, but it is definitely on my to do list for 2029.

The thing is, dear friends, there is an endless array of theories out there.  Anybody who gets high can come up with a theory which might accidentally make its way into Chatelaine or Formula As (that's a Romanian magazine full of how to advice, mostly the odd kind).  That does not mean that we must try everything.

 I have tried a large amount of complementary treatments, as you can read in my first post, and nothing worked.  It is time to hand myself in to fate.  If a theory is exceptionally good, AND it gets published in the Fertility and Sterility, I will try it.  Until then, if you want to say you care about me and want to help me but don't know how, just say it.  It will make more sense to both of us.  Because I know that behind the helpful theories, that is exactly what you mean.  And I love it!

guilty pleasures

I am firmly decided not to make this blog a grim place.  Despite the dead baby talk and all, there is also fun stuff that happens in my life.  For example, this morning I woke up without the flesh eating disease!  How much fun is that?  It did leave some bruised marks where it spread, but it is unequivocally gone.  This means that
a.  I will live
b.  I get to keep the mesh (the mersilene band wrapped around the outside of my cervix).
YES to both!

Yesterday I had to visit my ob-gyn to show him the damage, right in the middle of his lunch break. You see, I had a burning question to ask... the night before, I had some very fancy dreams, which lead to a fabulous orgasm.  I woke up feeling absolutely certain that I had, in the middle of my love affair with  my own brain, displaced the mesh.  Somehow managing to keep a straight face, he assured me that the mesh was sutured safely in place and that as long as I'm not actually having intercourse, I can have as many orgasms as I can handle.  (Just in case other people with TAC's have the same question and are too embarrassed to ask.  Not me, apparently, when they were passing around modesty, I wasn't there). Anyway, I went home happy and gave the man a great rating at (it is a site for rating your doctor).  He deserves it for putting up with me and my questions for three years.

bit of trivia

I stole this pie graph from Tertia's blog.  Tertia is awesome.  She did not come up with the pie, but she did annotate the last pie portion with the famous F word which she says with such lovely gusto.  Tertia from So close ( and Julie from are the first two bloggers that I started following when I realized I am reproductively challenged.  Before I discovered them, I used to feel very defective, and very alone.  (For those who don't know, I live in a little town that has one of the highest birth rates per capita in the country.  Everybody is pregnant, has been pregnant, or will be pregnant very soon.  I wish I could find out what they are drinking...)

I found Julie in the middle of my intrauterine insemination whirlwind, and I read her entire blog in three days.  I was laughing and crying alternatively, sometimes at the same time, just like in the pie graph.  She managed to make her ectopic/miscarriage/oligohydramnios/placenta previa/preeclampsia/HELLP journey seem funny and touching at the same time.  I remember thinking, how can someone go through so much and still go back for more?  That was then...

We draw inspiration from strong people around us, even from strong people in the computer.  It is a gift I have received, and now I am passing it on.