Thursday, December 31, 2009

Adieu 2009

There are only 3 hours left of this 2009. It's been a great year for me in some respects, especially from January to October. After that it went south, but I think averaging it would make the numbers come out in the positives.

A New Year's Eve party invitation I did receive. In fact, I received three. But against popular opinion (read: my honey's wishes), I decided to stay home and be quiet. It sounds so simple and maybe dull or even depressing. But it isn't to me. Staying home and being quiet are both active stances. And for the introvert, they offer many opportunities for renewal. I've got my eye out for some renewal at the moment, so I feel thankful to be offered this opportunity.

It was in January 2009 that my partner and I initiated fertility treatments. Shortly after the new year had been rung in, I made an appointment with my family doctor in order to get referred to the fertility clinic. Shannon, my family doctor, is a woman I respect and like. She is so lovely! I was one of her first patient when she started her practice and when she reviewed my file on the first visit she smiled and said we were the same age and born the same month. She was so excited about making the referral to the fertility clinic and told me she would follow my pregnancy, were I to become pregnant.

We had our first appointment in March, but it wasn't until May that we started with treatments in earnest. There were many tests to get through before attempting to conceive. I already knew what was wrong with our fertility: moi. The diagnosis was conveyed nonetheless: hypothalamic amenorrhea. The treatment team said it was warranted to be cautiously optimistic and so we went forth, cautiously hoping.

The first cycle in June was a flop. The injections did not work as we hoped. I remember the first day I had to give myself an injection. It was June 13. On that day, we attended a lovely wedding in our community. The bride was pregnant and I thought it was a good omen for us. We went over to my friend's house (she's a nurse practitioner) and she helped me get everything set for the first injection. I was shaking with nerves. How the heck was I going to put that needle in my own belly? But I did it, and did it again and it became easier. I used to play this one song by Kathleen Edwards when it was injection time. 'I make the dough, you get the glory'. It's a happy tune that makes me laugh, so it helped me relax.

The treatments then took a different course, in order to help my system become primed for the injections. And then in September, a new treatment cycle started. Despite the priming efforts over 3 months, still my ovaries were unresponsive. This meant there was nothing more they could do for us, aside from assisting us if we found an egg donor.

During one of the treatment cycles, my honey sat outside the ultrasound room and chatted with the husband of a woman also waiting for her turn on the ultrasound table. The husband said that he and his wife had been coming to the fertility clinic for six years. 6 YEARS!! When my honey told me this afterward, we both expressed our incredulity. How could anyone do this for six years! Not that we didn't believe them, it was just that it seemed that someone would get off the roller coaster of fertility treatments way, way before the 6-year mark. But not them. They were still trying. I couldn't imagine us going through this for another six years. I would be 41 by then, and the thought of still being childless at 41 distressed me.

Six years was not the amount of time we spent on the roller coaster of fertility treatments. No. We spent 9 months. And while that's the time it takes to grow a baby, it was instead the time it took us to find out we could not conceive. It may seem like a small grace, but as I reflect on the year, it emerges as one of the blessings of the past year. This process could have gone on for years without conception. Instead, we have the information we need to make choices about how we want to create a family, given that the obvious option is not possible. I feel very grateful for this.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Holiday Haze

We're about to leave for family visits to where I come from, in a different province. Excited? Not quite. The holidays are not my favourite time of year. I can remember when they were, up to the age of 11 maybe, but it was all down hill from there. This is likely not an uncommon experience for people. I'm a little grateful this year that even if we are spending time with my family and that this is difficult, at least there won't be pregnancy announcements there. My family has postmenopausal women, a gay couple, and a cousin who is not partnered. However, there will be questions about when my partner and I are going to start making babies, especially because we are getting married in the spring. I will want to yell very loudly that I would really like to make babies but my body won't do that. STOP ASKING. But I won't yell, and I won't even talk about my nonexistent fertility.

This blog is starting to sound like a litany. Goodness. I'm getting on my nerves here.

Let's talk about something hopeful then. I read on Yaya Stuff (a great blog) that there will be changes to the legistlation in India which will make it easier for babies to be adopted internationally. That made my day. I've pictured for a long time that we could adopt a little one from India, a country that fascinates me. That made me hopeful today.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Eggs

Eggs are the missing link between our desire to become parents and having a biological child. No eggs. Or should I say, sleepy eggs. They are apparently in there, but cannot be stimulated to develop into follicles and be released into the fallopian tubes. No gonadotropins, which means no LH, no FSH, and no eggs being released. Treatment cycles valiantly attempted, gonadotropins injected into my belly, but nothing to wake them up. No dosage worked. Just failure.

I think about how my body is ready in every way to be carry a baby. I'm a healthy, wide-hipped, strong, rosy-cheeked, woman with a fine uterus. Just no eggs.

We could migrate south, briefly, and purchase donor eggs. It's illegal in Canada to purchase donor eggs and as such, donors are usually altruistic donors.

I contemplate this option, setting aside the fact that we have just enough money to live on right now, and lots of debt, and wonder if my heart can take it. Do I have any courage left? I must have, I must still have some courage left in me.

Will I put all those eggs in one basket? The financial risk, the emotional risk and the investment of time and energy required to go ahead with egg donation are terrific. I know that we need to decide fairly soon what next steps we will take, but I have not been able to focus on very much since October 1. I've knit most of a hat. I've read some books. I've gone to work.

Is it eggs that we need to seek or is it a child to adopt? No answer has surfaced yet, but I will share in my process to arrive at one.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

wishing things were different than they are

I think the owl post was my apex of hope and joy. This post is going back to doom and gloom. My apologies for the hope-filled out there.

This was another weekend of confronting my infertility. It seems to be the case with many of my weekends and I don't believe the Universe is after me and wants me to suffer more or anything like that. God does not hate me. Infertility and loss is simply what's relevant inside me at the moment and so it gets reflected in what I see on the outside. Neutral stimuli become loaded, get ascribed a specific meaning because of my loss. I live in my loss these days. And kinds of wishing I wasn't will not get me out of this uncomfortable place.

My honey and I were having supper on Saturday night, rushing to get to a choral concert for which he had gotten us tickets. That's when it dawned on me. This was the Pleasantville* Youth singers giving the concert. Pleasantville YOUTH singers. Children. Parents. LOTS of parents. And us, a childless couple. At dinner, I thought about how this woman in our community had chastised us for showing up at the Waldorf School Winter Fair a few years ago. She said in an almost snide voice "What are you doing here?". I joked with my honey that she would be at the choral concert and ask us again what we were doing there. He didn't find it funny, but instead noted that I was holding a grudge. Yes, I most certainly am holding a grudge against this woman, and again, no amount of wishing I wasn't seems to help that.

So we went to the concert, with the lovely children, the multitude of proud parents, and our awkward selves tucked away in a back pew. What are we doing here, I wondered?

Today, I went out Christmas shopping with friends, one of which I had not seen in a long time. She put it out that it had been a rough year because of fertility problems. My stomach turned. Not her too, I thought. Why does she have to go through that pain? It was difficult to gauge what I should share or not. In a way I wanted to connect with her, since infertility is so dreadfully isolating. But then I thought about how she is still going through treatments and the last thing she would want to hear is that another woman's treatments have failed. Unequivocally failed. Who wants to hear that? Certainly not someone in her shoes.

And sharing it with her would have meant to say it. Out loud. Once more. To reify it, yet again.

I did tell her and I regret it, even though I wish I didn't.

My honey and I were lying in bed silently after returning home from lovely and excruciating experience at the children's choral concert. There wasn't much to say on my end, I was just hoping sleep would come fast. But he is wiser than me sometimes and wanted us to talk. He said he is not grieving from the failure of our infertility treatments, that he had never felt he needed to have his biological children but instead always thought he would adopt. I mustered a few words on the many levels at which this affects me. I will never look at a child and say he or she looks like me or like my dad or my mom. I will never be pregnant. Infertility isolates me from other women.

He said he was about to tell me that those things did not mean I was broken. But he thought better. Instead, he said he loved me with my brokenness. And I don't believe I wished that part to be different.


*The name has been changed to protect the anonymity of the people mentioned in my blog, including me

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Owls


I was browsing around the internet, looking for an appropriate image to decorate this barren(!)-looking blog and came across this beautiful image. I couldn't stop looking at it. It is SO beautiful. I followed its trail, in this strange and navigable cyberspace and came to the source. An artist named Cathy Nichols made it. See her stunning work at http://cathynichols.blogspot.com/ or find her on Etsy at http://www.etsy.com/shop/cathynichols

The experience I have when I look at this picture reminds me of the intensive yoga workshops I used to do with Hart Lazer. We'd spend 20 solid hours squeezed into a little weekend intensively back bending or twisting. The experience of contorting the body to such states of susceptibility sometimes caused significant emotional releases to occur. All for the purpose of letting go of what was trapped in our bodies, held there by habitual pattern holds. The workshops were often called 'yoga as a tool for self-transformation', which given my professional calling (clinical psychologist) was intriguing enough to keep me interested (not to mention how in yoga class I was finally breathing fully and countering the effects of my lifelong anxious chest breathing). And so those mysterious transformative effects started to happen. And then something occurred to me.

In Psychology in general and in therapy in particular, words are everything. This is also true for the modality in which I experience life most easily. I knew I wanted to be a shrink when I was 11 years old. I started writing a journal a year before that. The words have always been the tool. The expression of sorrow, joy, confusion most often came in words for me. Therapy is a word-based world. And I've spent lots of time on or next to the proverbial couch.

When I came to yoga, I found out that there was somewhere to go after the words stopped. I think I knew about it before I began yoga but it might have been more nebulous in my mind. I had felt transcendence in the wilderness, in the silence of the muted winter forest. But with this practice, I was presented with the opportunity of going somewhere where words lost their ascendancy. This is also what happens when art moves me, which is the case here.

And this brings me to the owls and my encounter with them. The words escape me. I think the owls reflect my hope in a way I cannot write about. My reckless, courageous hope for a little owl.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

tears

I still can't say it without crying. Here, let me try: "The fertility treatments have failed". Yep, misty in the old eye region. I had to say it to an old friend on the phone last night, and I choked on the words. I'm finding myself unable to share this terrible news without experiencing the grief afresh. It feels like the words coming out of my mouth make this more real, I suspect much like when people have to tell others that their loved one has died. Not that I'm comparing types of grief here.

I suspect this will become easier, or perhaps, less relevant over time. That I will be able to tell people (or even write it on my blog) without the tragic reification of the facts. People are ready to hear our plans for adoption and I think that's very appropriate for them to be asking. I think I'm just in a stupor about it, a bit hopeless and not back from the underworld yet. Maybe again it's akin to being asked when you're going to start dating after your spouse has died. Our loved ones want us to move forward and I want this as well.

Except that rushing through grief is not all that useful. I treat people who've tried that. Grief is even more painful it seems when you have to unpack it from behind all that you've put over it to block it's presence. So it seems I will be required to continue with my tears, so long as I think going through this is a better idea than going around it.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

the saturday preggers

I suspects it's truly delightful for expectant mothers to announce to their friends and acquaintances that they are pregnant. I've imagined this myself many times; how great it would feel to let those precious words out, how excited everyone would be, how much I would feel the baby wanted by us and by our community. I've watched many pregnant mamas make their announcement and it really does seem like a great moment. Because it is great. The whole thing. It really is great.

Yet, diametrically opposed to this warm and wonderful sharing of great news is the pain felt by infertile women during the pregnancy announcement at a dinner party. Both women attend dinner parties. Both sit there side by side in the same room: the soon-to-be mother and the 'unsuccessful' woman. Both delight and despair are on the menu. The absolute perfect joy of life growing inside one woman and the loud echo of the absence of such life in the other. Everyone has come to dinner. God knows what else is in the room: heartaches, jealousy, boredom, worries, grocery lists and unfinished work projects. But most of it is under the surface, kept under the lock of people's private thoughts or saved for people's blog postings.

Last Saturday, we were out with friends who at the very end of dinner decided to announce their pregnancy (yes, because that's how modern couples say it. They say "we're pregnant"). Tonight it was at a potluck that a couple announced their pregnancy, although that one was far along enough not to require an announcement. The week that our fertility treatments came to a crash, there were four baby announcements and two pregnancy announcements in my circle. The cosmic giggle, I thought.

And yet, as I walked home tonight on my own, I thought about one of my teachers who says that our suffering isn't personal. It feels like that when in the crushing grips of sorrow, but it really isn't. Everyone suffers in one way or another. It's not personal or isn't coming at you because you did something wrong. One is not being punished. I haven't done anything to cause this to happen. My body just can't produce eggs and I can't make a baby. And others can.

Friday, November 20, 2009

my little girl

I stepped out of the house the other day and when I looked at my new (used) car, my heart filled with pride. Yep, for a car. And I'm a chick, so it's not too much in my genes. I just felt happy that she was there waiting for me, all shiny and red. Full of diesel fuel. My little Neko, all ready to drive.

On October 1, 2009, when I was driving a much less desirable vehicle, our fertility treatments came to a screeching halt. A full stop really. Not a pit stop, but the stop at the end of the road. Ended right there. Mid-cycle, needle marks still fresh in my belly. My body wasn't responding, despite many different strategies to wake up the ovaries. They won't produce eggs. And that was that. 6 days later, a woman with her child in the backseat crashed into the rear of my less desirable vehicle (woman was fine, child was fine, I was fine. Something to be thankful for). The insurance deemed the less desirable vehicle irreparable (they wrote it off) and that's how I came to acquire Neko. No babies, but a car. Is that my consolation prize, I wonder?

There was a single song I wanted to hear all the time when the fertility treatments crashed, like wanting something so badly because it takes away pain in a minuscule increment. 'This tornado loves you' by Neko Case. I listened to it all the time in the rental car the insurance provided for me while deciding what to do with my banged up, now much less desirable vehicle. It made me think about how even when your heart has been ripped to shreds in grief, there is still love in the Universe for you. For me.

When I went to pick up Neko Scarlett (that's her full name) in late October, we finalized the deal and the salesman gave me the keys. I asked as an afterthought what kind of red she was. He said Tornado Red. This tornado really does love me, I thought.