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Time passes

August 8, 2012

The first 6 months have already been and gone.  They were easier than expected. Or rather easier than everyone told me they would be, or rather, pretty much as I expected and therefore not as hard as all my friends seemed to report.  I think this may be in part because I have looked after a fair few children  in my life, and in part because I know that my little boy is my miracle, and one that won’t be coming around again.  This has made the exhaustion and frustrations and incompetences pale in comparison to the  joy and wonder.

Lest I seem too glowing, I should report that not all is perfect…my old body is cracking up and I notice the difference between myself and the younger mums.  I have just visited the doctor to get a referral for cortisone injections in my wrists and my back is packing it in!    I am in physical pain for sure, but it’s worth it !

My little man is teaching me to look at life anew. I am learning that I am not so important in the world and yet I am everything to him. I am learning to slow down and find little joys and little moments in which to share  discoveries.  I have learned that a tissue is quite as fascinating as the ocean , at least when you are 6 months old.    I am so glad that I did not miss out on this!

Just one of many beautiful moments

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Status update

February 3, 2012

So much time has passed and I had many things I wanted to write about:  The private vs public option, the attitude towards cesarean’s, the fears that have evolved over so much waiting time etc. etc.  But all that will have to wait.   It will have to wait because our little one didn’t.

He was born 5 weeks premature.  We spent two weeks in hospital after the birth, having been transferred to another city and hospital with a NICU (neo natal intensive care unit) . We watched while he struggled to breathe, was ventilated, progressed to cpap and then finally learned to breathe and regulate his temperature by himself.    It was an intensely worrying experience but strangely, after all the medical intervention required to get him here, it seemed quite reasonable that he would need more medical help on arrival.

We’ve had him home for 3 weeks now and are getting to know one another.  He is gorgeous and I am happy and exhausted.  The experience is pretty much living up to expectations – which is to say that having looked after my much younger sister when she was born and having spent some time working in long day care centres, there was a lot that felt familiar.  The one thing that I wasn’t prepared for was the worry.  I shall now call this “The Worry”.    It is with me all the time – he’s so beautiful and I can hardly believe that he is alive and well.  I’m not sure if  it’s the experience in NICU or with  the infertility, but I  keep waiting for something to go wrong.  But he is a mighty little boy, who has his own place in the world now.  I am so grateful that it’s with me.

Everyone loves a happy ending

October 2, 2011

I have had a draft of a post about the choice between public and private care  half finished for a few weeks now.  But another issue is on my mind.  That of the “Happy Ending”.

Throughout our 9 years of Infertility prior to pregnancy, there were very few people who would allow us to talk about our situation.  By “allow” , I mean that if we ever began to talk about our infertility in conversation, (when asked how we were doing or when we were going to have kids for example), we were very quickly shut down – usually through jokes or reflections on how lucky we were not to have kids, or directions to appreciate what we had.  I realise that this is because the topic of infertility makes people very uncomfortable.  It was really too difficult for anyone but my sister to handle.  May I say again, “Thank God for my sister!”

Now that we are pregnant the situation has changed.  We have inadvertently joined a club and those who were unwilling to hear of our struggles previously are now ready to listen to the story of how long it took us to have a baby.  Even though the baby isn’t even here yet.  Our story now gives them hope that things really do turn out alright in the end.  Not just things to do with procreation mind you, but things to do with any of life’s struggles.

This really irritates me.  I don’t want to be a poster girl for happy endings.  Yes, this has turned out well, so far.  (Turns out that I probably have placenta previa, so we’ll see).  But this outcome has  not been without sacrifice and loss, some of which are not healed by having a baby.  I would also wish for people to have some understanding that even if we hadn’t fallen pregnant, our lives would still have carried on.  We had, and still have, other worthy pursuits.    We also have a great marriage.  Which is a great blessing for a baby, I think.  But it’s also a great blessing for us.

Finally, the about face attitude change reminds me of that old cautionary chinese tale about good fortune.  Not that I’m comparing a baby to a horse here – just that good and bad come to us all in our lives, and sometimes we can only see which is which in the fullness of time.  This infertility journey has changed my life and my marriage.  For good or  ill, who can really say.   At this stage of my life I think,  perhaps, a little of both.

If I’m truthful, and I do try to be truthful.  I think I just wish that people had listened to our story when I needed them to.  When the outcome was not assured.  When I needed to feel welcome even though I did not have children.  I’ve spent so long on the outer rim of community that I don’t know how to behave now that I’ve been welcomed in. I don’t feel as though I belong.

All this is not to deny that I am grateful and delighted by the possibility of this child and the prospect of my own unique happy ending to this infertility story.

Joy and Guilt

July 25, 2011

I had my 12 week Nuchal Translucency ultrasound last week and felt joy about this pregnancy for the first time.  Turns out anxiety dampens feelings of joy.   Major discovery.   We had fantastic numbers and the counsellor said that they were very happy with the result and would not recommend an amniocentesis  for us.    I cannot express how relieved I was.  I had almost cried when the sonographer was scanning the back of the baby’s neck, thinking that the space that she was measuring seemed so large and knowing that this was not a good sign.  I mentioned to my husband that it looked much bigger than the picture on the brochure that we’d been given.  Somehow my husband’s brain managed to work out that the picture on the brochure was about 3cm X 3cm and the picture we were looking at was the size of a TV screen so that there was every chance the space being measured might look bigger on “our” picture.  But my brain couldn’t managed that complex a deduction and so I lay there for the rest of the scan with tears building as I watched the tiny arms and legs moving around, wondering how on earth I was going to make the decision to risk the pregnancy or to think about termination if something was wrong.

As our cousellor said after I disclosed how worried I’d been,  “Well, now you can go away and process the good news together”.

And that’s what we’ve been doing.  We’ve now told my family that I am pregnant and I’ve been hit with a wave of guilt over my past reactions to my brother and SIL’s pregnancies.  They were so lovely when I told them about the pregnancy and so supportive of the decision to use donor eggs, (which I hadn’t necessarily expected as they are very religious people and I thought they might have some ethical issues).  But they said that they knew we would have spent a long time thinking about it and working through any issues and that there would be no judgement from them.   Bless them.  I cannot express how relived I am….and how guilty.  I actually cried on the phone when I was informed of their last pregnancy.

Guilt and joy.

The long and the short of it.

June 1, 2011

The short: I’m pregnant. I’m spotting. I’m anxious.

The long: Well, obviously a lot has happened since my last post. My Sister started jabbing herself in the stomach for me while I had the easy route and swallowed some pills. She was a darling throughout the whole process. She admitted to being a little scared the first time she gave herself an injection but soon was sticking the needle into her stomach like a trooper. It all happened so fast. I felt quite disconnected from what was going on for most of the process prior to the Egg Collection. I was concerned about my Sister, but found it hard to be excited about the prospect of a pregnancy. That changed on Egg Collection Day.

I was extremely lucky to have been able to be in the room when they siphoned off her eggs. I met my sister at the hospital, sat with her as she froze in an over-sized hospital gown and fluffy dressing gown. I walked beside her down the grey hospital corridors on the way to the theatre and squeezed her shoulder as they drove the catheter into her fragile arm, administering the sedative. I watched with her as the image of her ovaries and follicles appeared on the overhead screen, followed by the thin instrument that sucked the follicles dry. I listened as they called out the number of eggs retrieved. It was a deeply personal experience. My Sister looked so tiny and so brave. She was and is so unbelievably generous. This experience helped me connect to the eggs that were given so freely to me.

And so the waiting began. From 10 eggs retrieved, 8 were fertilized, 6 made it to day 3 and 1 made it to day 5. Blastocyst day. Egg Transfer Day. There were none left to freeze.

The Egg Transfer was a breeze. The doctor and I discussed my Sister’s thesis topic throughout the proceedure. I believe the saying is…”as you do.”

Then we waited again. During the first week after the transfer I was hopeful. I allowed myself moments of excitement. Seconds of joy. Shortly before the two week blood test though, all hope evaporated and I was absolutely sure that it had not worked. I was convinced that my body had rejected this tiny group of cells. I prepared my DH for a negative result. I had no symptoms, other than exhaustion which I figured was probably emotional. None-the-less I was keen to get same day results and so I drove an hour and 15mins to the clinic so I could be assured that I did not spend a night in agony.

After the blood test, I had just finished driving along the 90km zone when the nurse called with the result. (Yes, I had pulled over as soon as the mobile rang – I have miraculously managed to retain some common sense throughout this ordeal). The nurse sounded happy. I began to cry when she announced the result. She said “Congratulations”. I never thought to hear that word applied to my situation. We chatted for a short while and she said that she’d let me go so I could make some phone calls. There were only two to make. One to my husband and one to my sister. We have not told anyone else. No, not even my Mum.

A couple of days ago I had a second blood test and my hormone levels were rising adequately enough. I had some slight spotting and my progesterone levels were only just above what they like to see, so we’ve increased the dosage for good measure. I’m adjusting my mind to incorporate the idea that I’m pregnant. I have found it difficult to accept the delight and positivity in the responses from the nurses. These are very early days and I still feel as though things could go wrong. I have decided not to beat myself up about this though. I think, after 9 years of failed attempts, I can forgive myself a small amount of anxiety.

There is still a long way to go and today the spotting has increased a bit. It increased after I’d done some exercise. I had been exercising aerobically almost every day prior to the egg transfer and the doctor said that I could continue. But I think I might bring it down a level, or maybe even have a rest until the next blood test. This is too precious to make a mistake with. And if it doesn’t work out, I don’t want to have any doubts about how hard I tried to care for this little embryo and its development.

Brandings

May 13, 2011

Do you remember that game we played in primary school where a number of people stand inside a circle formed by other people, whose job it is to throw balls at the people in the middle?  If you are one of the people standing in the middle it is in your best interests to try and dodge those balls which fly at you from all angles and leave tender bruises where they hit.   At our school we called it “brandings”.  At the IVF clinic they call it “counselling for donor recipients”.

We have survived several rounds of counselling. The counsellor herself was very nice.  The questions she was obliged to ask  required that we imagine far into the future of  unborn child. We had to propose strategies for dealing with emotional issues that may, or may not, arise at each stage of our child’s development.  We had to talk about the imaginary conversations we might have with our child, and with the donor, and with our friends and family.  We created a whole new universe in her office – one in which our child suffered no hardship from being conceived in an unorthodox way.  A universe where we knew exactly what to say to our child of, naturally, superior intelligence and calm disposition.   One where none of our friends or family were affected by our decision and one where we, as parents, were 100% positive that donor eggs were the right choice for us.    I can tell you it was a stupendously joyful place in which to exist for all of 40mins, after which we were plunged back down into the reality of childlessness as the cousellor fullfilled her duties by disclosing the very low success rate of donor egg cycles.  About 20%.  Still, that is nowhere near as low as the success rate we were given when we used our own egg. i.e. 1%.

So we have a green light and golden ticket and we are prepared to use it.

The Final Fling

January 29, 2011

Well, we’ve decided to fling the last of our hopes and finances at one cycle of donor egg ICSI. We are at the beginning stage.  This Tuesday I drive my Sister, (our potential donor), to our doctor for the initial appointment, followed by an appointment with the nurses and another with the counsellor.  Three arduous appointments in the same day, arranged as such because my sister lives in a different city.   She is not their “ideal” candidate because she has not had children of her own.  I, too, am hesitant about agreeing to this for that reason – along with many others.

This is our last chance for a child.  I feel as though there is an expectation from the clinic that I should be enthusiastic and hopeful about this.  In reality I am sad.  I do not hold out much hope for the “approval” of my sister as a donor and, after our own wildly unsuccessful cycles, I do not hold our much hope for a successful outcome should the procedure go ahead.

What  I am enormously grateful for is the love that flows so generously from my Sister.  Love  that she has demonstrated every step of the way.

I am also so grateful, tired but grateful, that we are finally at the end.  Whatever the outcome, after this, we move on.  On and outward. Out into the world.

Fruit and Vegetables collide

December 7, 2009

Christmas is a tough time, isn’t it! So many messages telling us that it’s “all about family”.  My DH and I discussed this the other day and came up with the idea that we’ll have to find something else that it’s “all about”.  I know there is the religious aspect, and that is relevant for us in our own personal way.  But the other message – the one about family – is all over that too! 

Recently we were  invited to carols by candlelight and for a second I thought of accepting the invite.  Luckily I caught myself just in the nick of time, because I just know I wouldn’t be feeling remotely happy,  or religious,  sitting in the midst of a sea of families with young kids burning their tiny fingers on cup rimmed candles.   I am glad I made the decision not to go.  It’s one of the first times I’ve said “No” to family stuff at Christmas.   One of the first times I’ve accepted the fact that this part of the holiday is not for me.  I am different from those families. 

Having said that, I am struggling through this season.  DH is too.  He let me know that he is really depressed about the situation at the moment.  I fear we are becoming bitter, but we are both aware of this tendancy and trying not to let it become too powerful a force in our lives.  Having said that, neither of us has had the slightest inclination to put up the tree this year.  That’s for kids, right?

I was out buying fruit and veg today, trying to avoid the little elves wandering around and selecting my “pink lady” apples from the shelves, when another woman about my age commented, as she lifted a rosy apple up to inspect it, “It’s a bit of guesswork, isn’t it?”

I assumed she was referring to the fact that the fruit has been in cold storage and it’s difficult to know if it’s good quality.  I replied with something to that effect.

She looked at me strangely and smiled.  “It’s hard to know if they will eat it or not, if they’ll reject it…the kids…I won’t know until I get home.”

Ah yes, the kids.  How could I have forgotten them.  Why did they not factor into my apple purchasing?  I look like a woman who is of an age where she could have children waiting at home for the weekly shop to come in.   I ended our conversation by smiling and agreeing that  “Yes, you could never tell if the kids would like, or indeed eat, what you’d bought”.

It’s a little thing, I know.  I know I could have corrected the other woman’s assumption.  But it seemed harder to do so in that moment.  I chose to let her think I had children, that I was a mother like her out doing the weekly shop – albiet one that didn’t seem to care if her children liked apples or not.  Only I knew that we were apples and oranges…or really apples and a quater cut pumpkin with it’s seeds hanging out.

Thoughts while watching Californication

October 10, 2008

So the other night DH and I were watching David Duchovny in Californication  – we enjoy it’s outrageousness.  Anyway – we were watching the scene where Hank has had a vasectomy and is in what appears to be mortal agony.  At exactly the same time we turned to one another and said “At least you (I) won’t have to deal with that”….Yep…we’re on to the “let’s think about the positives” track,  Shame that it all seems so cynical sometimes.

Angry Night

September 9, 2008

I feel like letting a stream of curses run from my mouth – but I’ll try something else.  I’ll try writing here. Life just seems a bit unfair  at the moment, and then I think again and realise that I have had my part to play in putting us in this position.

In my 20’s I trained as an actor at one of the best training schools in OZ.  I was pretty good at the acting thing.  What I wasn’t good at was controlling anxiety attacks.  So, I stopped acting and on the advice of a well meaning Dr. did a Grad Dip in education and started teaching.  I hated it!  Hate is not a strong enough word!  And it certainly didn’t cure my anxiety attacks.  You think auditioning is a tough gig – what about standing up everyday in front of a hostile teenage audience! 

I moved from a state school to a Rudolf Steiner school and things improved markedly, though I still couldn’t imagine spending the rest of my life teaching. And I still got those anxiety attacks ( and yes, I got some help with those).  So I went back to Uni for the 3rd time to get a Grad Dip in Communications, with the thought of getting a job behind the scenes in media.  But during the course I got married. We needed extra money and so I took on a boarding school job which allowed us to live on site in a 1 bedroom flat overlooking the school quadrangle, and in this way we were able to save for a house.

Now, I am very grateful for that job, but it’s not one that is really compatible with being married or getting pregnant – if you get my drift.  And neither myself nor my husband wanted to live in a school for the rest of our lives – so it was time to move on.

We though I’d be pregnant within a reasonable amount of time – doesn’t everybody? – so I didn’t worry too much about working.  I just did some odd admin jobs here and there, thinking there was not much point in trying to get a permanent position as I’d be pregnant soon…surely…any month now.

But alas  – miscarriage.

So, onward we travelled spending more money on Doctors and eventually on IVF. With me only doing odd jobs, thinking I’d get pregnant, thinking that I should remain in the least stressed out position I could so I didn’t have another miscarriage and so that my body could conceive.

Can you guess where I am now?  Really stressed! Tonight we talked about getting a loan for the debt we have incurred while we have been doing the IVF/baby making thing.  Tonight we talked about me going back to work.  That’s more than fair.

But here’s the bit I’m angry about – I’ve not focussed on my career because I was going to be a Mum, I was always going to go back to work but I knew it would take extra effort on my part to get to the “being a mum” stage.  So I put thoughts about work and career on hold.

And now…I am nearly 40.  I haven’t worked full time in a permanent position for 5 years.  My last “real” job was looking after other people’s kids.  I really, really don’t want to go back to looking after other peoples kids – especially now.  So what do I do?  Where the hell do I look for work?  Will anyone employ a 40 year old woman with 3 degrees  in media/arts  but hardly any experience?  And who am I angry at?  Me, of course.  How did I not see this coming!

Oh..and people are still saying, “Why don’t you try….(insert any number of costly remedies)?” 

“With what money,  people?”, I holler.

Meanwhile back at the baby factory – my SIL will be having her third baby in about a weekand a half, and receiving the third $5000 baby bonus to go with it.

And if you think there’s somehting behind the anger here, you’d be right.  I’m terrified.