Picking up the Pieces

I wish I could say I’m still crushing it – alas, I am not. This journey is so full of obstacles that somedays I just want to give up. So far it seems like this is about how it goes.

STEP ONE: Be really sad/mad/worried. Process grief.

STEP TWO: Figure out next steps and begin to move forward.

STEP THREE: Start to get cautiously optimistic that things are going to be okay.

STEP FOUR: Get really excited because it seems like things are finally happening.

STEP FIVE: Be devastated by another obstacle.

REPEAT.

So yeah, super fun. This time the adoption seminar that I was OVER THE MOON excited for never happened. Yesterday, on a whim, I decided to call the agency to double check the time of our seminar (which was supposed to happen today). The confused person on the other end of the line informed me it had been cancelled due to lack of interest. UMMMM EXCUSE ME I WAS SO INTERESTED THAT I PAID OVER A THOUSAND DOLLARS TO BE THERE AND GOT ALL OF MY PAPERWORK DONE AND NO ONE CALLED ME TO TELL ME IT WAS CANCELLED. Turns out a clerical error meant we’d been slotted down for some other seminar in Calgary. Crap. Moreover, there wasn’t going to be another seminar that would work for us and they didn’t have other dates yet for 2018. Double Crap. I was shocked at how much this impacted me. My response was raw. I cried for hours. I was overwhelmed with disappointment, sadness, anger, fear, and frustration. Thank goodness I work with counsellors. Having my hopes dashed again somehow took me back to the first day that Joel and I found out that we were infertile. Also, the systems I now have to navigate make me so angry sometimes. While I 100% understand that mistakes happen, what is just one simple error to the people at this agency is a life-altering blow for me and Joel. It’s like this every step of the way. Every piece of information matter-of-factly passed on by doctors at the fertility clinic, or staff at the adoption agency, is so impactful to the person it’s being delivered to, yet sometimes it feels like we are simply a number, a paycheque, or worse yet, cattle. Nothing against cows.

 

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Who me?

 

In a fortuitous turn of events a different adoption agency I talked to months ago just happened to call me a few hours later because they are planning a seminar soon. Now I’m not one to believe in signs, but if that isn’t the universe telling me something I don’t know what is. I talked to a lovely gentleman for about 20 minutes about the agency and my concerns about being unable to pursue fertility and adoption at the same time (as per their policy). Later he had the director call me to discuss my situation further to figure out if this was actually the right step for us. After talking it over with Joel, we both agreed we didn’t feel comfortable moving forward with the agency that had mixed up our dates. While the mistake isn’t necessarily indicative of how things would be moving forward, starting our journey with shaky confidence probably isn’t a good idea. So we’ve made the switch and are starting over somewhere new. We have seminar dates squeezed into our already very busy month of July. This time though, I’m not filled with excitement and hope. Somehow I can’t shake the feeling of dread and the worries about all that could go wrong. I worry about what this means for our fertility treatment as well. While we may go ahead with a retrieval once it’s doctor approved, we have agreed not to do a transfer while we are going through the adoption process. There are lots of good reasons why they ask this. I understand these reasons and it also breaks my heart to no end. This journey is so much sacrifice and so much letting go of what we want. It’s so much giving up control and trying hard as heck to hang on to hope. It’s so much grief and defeat and getting back up again. It’s exhausting.

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Update/Crushing It.

So, I’m going to provide just a short update today – mostly because this is such a slooooowwwww process so nothing really happens for long periods of time. Joel and I went for our consult at the PCRM and met our doctor. Private clinics are weird. The furniture is all modern and not very comfortable, the walls and offices are sterile with no hint of personality, and they have a cooler with bottles of water for patients (the least they can offer for what we are paying). After waiting an hour past our appointment time we finally met our guy, Dr. Smithson. Essentially, he is going to send us for MORE TESTS. It is truly never-ending. The positive change is that he is also sending Joel for a bunch more assessment and possible treatment. It’s a nice surprise given that fertility is often treated as a “women’s issue” even though male infertility is just as common as female infertility. Of course if you’re really lucky like Joel and I, you get both. Unfortunately, these tests take about three months to process which once again pushes IVF back. Our new timeline will involve meeting again sometime in the fall and determining a game plan that could either involve some course of treatment for Joel if that’s deemed to be something that could help, or going into IVF. Should the doctor suggest the treatment route, that could push our efforts back as much as a year, but there’s a small chance it could allow us to conceive without IVF. Anyway, here’s Joel, happy we finally got into the characterless glass consultation office.

 

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Very Excite, Much Wow

So with IVF on hold, we continue to move forward with adoption. Our seminar is in a few short weeks and we are frantically getting together the myriad of legal, medical, financial, and personal documents we will need to file as our next step. I’ll post more on this after the seminar, but I am REALLY excited. Joel and I have a bet on how we will get a baby first and honestly, my money is on adoption (literally). Joel favours IVF. Feel free to get your votes in…what do you think? Will we get a baby through adoption first or IVF? Or do you really want to bet on a longshot and throw your vote in for natural conception? Click the link if you want to weigh in!

https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/2LH5MQF

Well, that’s all the fertility related news I have for you all. I want to add a little bit about life in general right now. Basically, I feel like I am CRUSHING IT. Well not always, but sometimes. There are several people in my life right now who are struggling and it’s making me super aware of the importance of really celebrating and appreciating when life is going well. So here are somethings I am celebrating and appreciating right now.

  1. I got a new job. Not only does it keep my mind off the baby-getting debacle of 2018, I am also getting PAID TO DO WHAT I LOVE YOU GUYS. I have been dreaming of this day forever. My co-workers are lovely, the clients are beautiful people, and I don’t work Fridays. #livingthedream
  2. We live in a heckin’ magical forest ya’ll. My commute takes me through some of the most beautiful Edmonton scenery. Those of you living here might be thinking “Edmonton scenery?” YES. This city is so beautiful when the trees come to life. We are so lucky to live in such a green city, even if it’s only for a few months a year.
  3. My physical and mental health is ON POINT. I’ve been hitting the gym regularly and am feeling strong. As much as I hate to admit it, I think this has also helped me manage my anxiety and feel overall more mentally well. I can also run for longer than I’ve ever been able to before. I still hate it, but I can do it.
  4. My husband is a great feminist. When he’s not taking down the patriarchy at work, he’s making this whole process easier for me by always asserting that whatever we do treatment wise is my choice, given that it’s going to be happening to my body. Now that’s the kind of man who should procreate.

Well, that’s it for now. I hope you all have fantastic long weekend plans. Thanks for reading!

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Heckin’ Magical Forest City

On living for today

CW: Grief and Loss – this post is not specifically about infertility; instead, I reflect on the death of my brother as we approach what would have been his 30th birthday.

 

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Literally the funniest person I’ve ever known

 

This weekend is a big one. My baby brother Kervin would have been 30 – he never got that chance. I can’t help but wonder who he would be if he was here today. I like to imagine that he would have been happy, healthy, and have found his place in the world. This is all I ever wanted for him. In reality, he cared so deeply for the world and others that it pained him greatly and left him feeling lost, but I knew that one day, if he could harness that pain, he would do something amazing and change our society for the better. I always imagined that as we got older our relationship would become closer too. I envisioned the two of us as middle aged adults having family dinners with our children and enjoying a better friendship than ever. While we were close, his anger, confusion, and sadness about the ills of society led me to sometimes keep my distance out of a desire to ease my own discomfort and worry about his struggles. I had problems to deal with too, after all. Ironically, my work now consists of sitting with others in their anger, confusion and sorrow, perhaps in part to atone for my lack of understanding and inability to sit with his hard feelings when I should have.

 

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My work will always be tied to the fact that I couldn’t be what you needed…

However, at the time I believed things would work themselves out, the two of us would be okay, and one day we would both have beautiful lives and a deep relationship. I had so many hopes for his future and our future that, as often happens, I neglected the present. A mistake that many of us make, I foolishly believed that we had time – why wouldn’t we? We were both in our 20’s and had our entire lives ahead of us. Of course no one expects a life to be cut so short, but my brother’s death taught me a valuable lesson about time. All we have is this moment and while I still struggle with living in the future, I am working on being more present for myself and for my loved ones. Infertility is a perfect example of this. It is so easy to get tunnel vision and become fixated on future appointments, treatments, on “when we have a baby,” that today gets neglected. I can see how easy it would be for years of my life to get swept away in trying to conceive, for infertility to be the focal point of my marriage, and for current relationships to suffer for the dream of a future family. This time I refuse to let a dream of a future that may never occur take away from the time that I have now. While a devastating thought, if I never have the children I hope for I don’t want to look back on these years and realize I wasted time where I could have been living fully and loving completely.

 

 

The last birthday I spent with Kervin we fought about bringing children into the world. I was just getting to a point in my life where I was starting to think about having a family. He couldn’t imagine bringing a child into a world there was so much awfulness. I think this is one of the few debates with him I almost (sort of) won, when I told him that given the state of the world it was especially important for people like us to raise open-minded, compassionate, intelligent, creative, non-judgemental, progressive children — if society had any chance of fixing it’s many problems. I wish he was around to help me raise them.

 

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Kervin on his 24th birthday; the last photo I have of him.

 

I feel like I’ve painted a bleak picture of my brother in this post and for those of you who didn’t know him, this is not at all representative. My wonderful memories of growing up with him are a big part of why I want to have children of my own. Yes, he was an extremely sensitive human who felt the pain of others with an overwhelming intensity. He also had a sense of humour unmatched by anyone I have ever met, an intelligence I found intimidating, a charismatic personality that left me jealous, a gentle energy I only wish I could emulate, and a thoughtfulness fit for a philosopher. The last time I saw him something had changed. He was happier and lighter than he had been in a long time. He told me about how well things were going and I remember being so relieved because all I ever wanted for him was happiness. A few months later he was gone and I was left with a 6 foot something hole in my life that will never really be filled. Were he here today maybe we would have that relationship I dreamed of, or perhaps I would still be neglecting today for hope of a better tomorrow. I can’t go back and make up for what I missed, but maybe one day I can pass on his legacy to my own children. In the meantime, I’m going to work hard to be there for the people who are in my life today.

 

 

Love you bro, I carry you with me always.

Tests, Good Conversations, and ALL THE EMOTIONS

Today felt like a good day to give an update on how things are and aren’t progressing for Joel and I. First of all, two big dates to announce. We have our consult at the fertility clinic on May 7 (yay) and are registered for Adoption Options seminar on June 1 and 2 (double yay)! For now, we plan to pursue adoption and fertility treatment at the same time given that I don’t want to put all of my literal eggs in one figurative basket. Other than that the past weeks have been dominated by tests, good conversations, and ALL THE EMOTIONS. Yes, that needs to be in all-caps.

First of all, tests. Or should I say tests, tests, tests. It seems there is an endless stream of tests that I need to go through leading up to any actual treatment. With the exception of two tests, all of these need to be completed by me (which reminds me, the patriarchy is strong with infertility treatments: possibly to be discussed in a future post, or ask me in person for rant-y fun). On one hand, I am thankful that they are taking the time to know as much as possible before we invest tens of thousands of dollars into trying to make a baby happen. On the other hand, it is wildly inconvenient. While driving to Dynalife to have blood drawn every other day, or trying to book a variety of appointments where things are shoved places I’d rather they not be shoved is manageable on it’s own, the real struggle comes from the fact that most of these tests have to be completed on various days of my cycle. This makes things very difficult (hands up if you have an irregular cycle!).

 

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How I measure time now

To add to the stress of this is the fact that I just got a new job starting May 1st. While this is incredibly exciting in its own right I doubt they are going to take very kindly to me having to miss work regularly because I HAVE to have a test done on a certain day at a certain time with very little notice. The timing of the new job and the infertility treatment process has created a lot of stress for me. I’ve had many days of worry over how I am going to balance work with the treatments. The tests are just the start of this. After much discussion Joel and I decided to proceed with at least one round of IVF, with ICSI (for those of you who don’t know what ICSI is it is where they take a specific sperm and implant it directly into the egg – it’s a nifty science workaround for male factor infertility). When actually undergoing the egg retrieval portion of IVF it is necessary for me to go in for monitoring ultrasounds almost every day for two weeks, plus take a couple of days off for the retrieval itself. I’ve found myself overwhelmed with guilt about the fact that I am going to be doing this to a new employer and also with fear that I will lose the job that I worked hard to get because of this. Even as I type this out I can feel my anxiety rising at the thought. Which brings me to an important decision that I recently made – I give myself permission to put off any tests or treatments that will force me to take time off of work before I feel established enough to share with my employer what I’m going through and ask for the time needed. While it is frustrating to put off something we’ve already been waiting so long for, I know that this will be best for my sanity (and by proxy Joel’s). I also know that being in a good frame of mind will only improve my chances of a successful pregnancy. I am the queen of taking on too much at once and then having a breakdown, but I am going to use these past mistakes to help me approach this process more wisely. Tentatively, we will hold off until August to start IVF (hey guys, a psychic definitely told me I’d be pregnant around August).

 

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Me, currently

While trying to schedule tests and trying to wrap my head around the seemingly insurmountable task of balancing IVF and work has been keeping me mostly busy, I’ve also been filling my time with some great conversations. Some of these have been with women currently going through the process. This has definitely helped keep me sane as I can send them a message randomly throughout the day about how I’m feeling and know they get what I’m going through. I’m looking forward to making more connections at an infertility support group that starts later this month. An excellent support group on Facebook has been my go-to for information. The phenomenal individuals on there are always quick to respond whenever I post a question. I’ve also had the chance to meet with a few lovely ladies who have gone through IVF and adoption and have come out the other side with BEAUTIFUL families. These meetings filled me with so much hope and comfort and I can’t express how much their candid sharing has helped me process. One thing I took away from these women is that they did find joy and fascination in the IVF process and I’m starting to believe that it’s possible. While inconvenient, the whole process is pretty cool and a small part of me is excited for the ride.

 

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Maybe it can be a little fun?

Lastly, ALL THE EMOTIONS. Yeah, that’s basically self-explanatory. However, I’ve been trying to cope with them the best I can – mostly through trying to gain whatever control I can. One way I have been doing this is through trying whatever exists that might boost our fertility. This includes taking a handful of vitamins each day, smearing smelly yam cream on my body morning and night (Joel’s not a fan), fertility acupuncture, which has actually been amazing, and my personal favourite, testicle cooling underwear. Yep, that’s a thing.

 

 

I’ve also found some great resources that help normalize the craziness of infertility. My personal favourites have been the CBC web series: How to Buy a Baby, the podcast: Matt and Doree’s Eggcellent Adventure, and the blog: Adventures in Adoption. I’d recommend anyone struggling with IVF or adoption, or anyone who wants to learn about infertility,  check them out, especially the web series, which is HILARIOUS and moving.

Well, this ended up being a long one, so if you made it this far CONGRATULATIONS and thanks for reading!

Infertile? That can’t be right.

On August 6, 2016 I married an amazing man. Together we dreamed of starting a family as many newly married couples do. What followed was two frustrating years of on and off trying to conceive. It’s been fun, don’t get me wrong, but eventually we started wondering why we weren’t conceiving – especially when others around us were with seemingly no trouble. At first we were brimming with excitement. Every month I was sure I was pregnant and that this would be it – and every month I was disappointed that we hadn’t yet managed to make it happen. My thoughts were spent constantly counting ahead 9 months, trying to plan my life, career, and travel around “how pregnant I would be.” I was ready (as ready as anyone can be) for motherhood. I was temping, timing, peeing on OPK’s, peeing on pregnancy tests, taking pre-natal vitamins, avoiding alcohol, limiting caffeine, thinking twice about sushi, stalking forums for any tips on getting pregnant I could find…you get the idea. I had a feeling that something wasn’t right, but everyone kept telling us “it’s fine, you’re young,” and “it’s normal for it to take so long.” My personal favourite is “a friend of a friend of mine tried for X number of years and then as soon as they stopped trying they got pregnant!” Uh, thanks, that solves everything. Finally the doctor agreed to send us for testing.

 

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Happily ever after LOL JK

 

On March 2, 2018 we sat down in our doctor’s office waiting for some answers. I perused the poster on the wall showing the pregnancy rates of women on different birth control methods – turns out even women on birth control are getting pregnant easier than me. Anyway, I had to change doctors recently and my new gal is fresh out of med-school. She entered the room seeming frazzled and with a bit of a tremble in her hands. I wonder how many times she’d had to deliver bad news before. I’ll take solace in the fact that it sucked for all three of us. Long story short, we left the office with the news that we were…drum roll please….infertile. Well not totally I guess, but for a host of reasons the chances that we would ever conceive a child naturally are less than nil. WHAT!?

 

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All that wasted money on birth control!

 

So now we find ourselves here – left with limited options, all of which involve long waiting lists and large bills. My knowledge of things like sperm donors, IUI, and IVF has grown immensely in the past week and I’m left pondering how much I really want my body poked, prodded, and shot full of hormones. While we’ve been referred to the fertility clinic, unfortunately our referral just happened to line up with the closing down of major fertility services in our city, so now we are facing a LONNNNGGGGG wait to even have a consult with the only remaining fertility clinic. In the meantime we are starting the process for adoption, which I’ve been told is about a 5 year process on average (assuming we are ever actually chosen). We’ve already filled out their incredibly personal questionnaire (the first intrusive step of many) and paid the $1200 fee required to simply take the necessary seminar before you can begin your application. From now on our journey towards creating a family follows someone else’s timeline and there is little we can do but process the grief that comes with this knowledge. Turns out there’s a lot of grief that comes with this knowledge.

 

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One of my fave cartoonists Mari Andrews 

 

Not surprisingly, the creeping feeling of the unfairness of it all is hanging around – the distress at the thought of how easy it is for some, while I am now left to pay tens of thousands of dollars, go through invasive procedures, and be under intense scrutiny as a potential parent, with no actual guarantee that any of it will lead to a baby in my arms.  That being said, I appreciate that this experience has opened me up to a whole new world of knowing (of which before I was blissfully unaware) as most adversity tends to do. For many infertility is a topic still shrouded in silence, but now I am aware of this massive, beautiful, supportive community of people dealing with the pain of it all. I am a part of it and am honoured to witness their courage and honesty as they share their struggles and their hopes.

I’m also spending this time buckling up for the rollercoaster ahead of us. Needless to say, we are embarking on a difficult path, but I am happy to have my partner beside me. I’ll admit, my husband hasn’t face a lot of hardship in his life and a small part of me feared how he would cope when things got hard in our marriage; however, the authenticity with which he has handled this news has shown me beyond a shadow of a doubt the kind of man I married. We are a team and I know this now more than ever. It’s not going to be easy but I wouldn’t want to be infertile with anyone else. Won’t you come along for the ride?

 

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Infertility: another mountain for us to climb.