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.

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The Great Divide

July 13, 2010

I’ve got a little distance between the circumstances I’ll describe and my own distress, enough I hope, to have some perspective and not get myself worked up while writing it down.  Here goes.

I have a couple of crafty hobbies, one of which is knitting. Sometimes I wish my crafty hobbies included things like mountain climbing and metal work, because people don’t tend to want to include children in those activities, and I’m assuming that one is probably concentrating too much on the activity at hand to want to talk much about the parenting experience.  But I know that since knitting is a traditionally “female” interest,  it is going to attract many more women than men and most of those women are going to have children and because children are a part of their daily lives they are going to talk about them.

I know that if I choose to enter a group of women who knit, ( or any group of women or parents, for that matter)  it is likely that there will be a fair amount of talk about parenting, children plus the  sharing of  kids photos and toddler knitting patterns etc.   I have several strategies for dealing with this.  Such as limiting the time I spend  at meet ups – I rarely attend a whole day event.  When baby patterns or photos get shown around, I smile and pass these on quickly and return to my knitting.  I politely  move away from conversations that are mainly focused on children or babies.   If all else fails, and I find myself tearing up – I leave.   I hope that those people who know of me and my situation will be sensitive to my feelings. By this I mean that I hope they will understand why I employ such strategies.  I hope that they won’t take it personally if I absent myself from a conversation about parenting or give only a  glance to the  new baby jumper they are knitting.   I might smile and comment on the softness of the yarn, but probably will not comment on how adorable the jumper will look.  I might nod my head as they describe the difficulties of pregnancy, but I will shortly thereafter fetch a cup of tea.  I will be polite, though I know that sometimes I will not give the “normal” enthusiastic response to such items  and conversations  that women tend to expect from each other.  I offer this observation as a background to the following anecdote.

A year or two ago, a small knitting group started up in my area.  Until recently there was no set place or meet-up time, someone would volunteer their house or suggest a meeting point every month or so.  We didn’t know each other particularly well.  The usual questions arose at those first meetings: “What do you do?” “Where do you live?”, “Do you have children?”.  To the last question I answered, as I usually do, “Sadly, no”.  This was met with the usual responses: “Oh, Sorry”, “You can have one of mine” and “Have you tried [insert any number of already tried medical and herbal remedies here]”.  The usual.   After getting acquainted with our various fertile/infertile status, we all got on pretty well.  After about a year those who had volunteered their houses on a weekend were unable to do so anymore and we began to meet in coffee shops.  We chose one that boarded a children’s playground so that those with children could come.   The group shifted in membership and a couple of new people joined and I became reasonably good friends with one of the women.

One of the new members, ( “M”),   had a toddler conceived using IVF.  She was preparing for a second round of  IVF.   We had a couple of chats about the difficulties of infertility.  Within a short time of knowing her she became pregnant with twins.  We congratulated her and, unbeknown to me, my friend  in the group (who is currently a year into TTC herself)  asked her not to talk “too much” about her pregnancy because she thought that it might upset me.   To be fair, M is one of those women who do talk a lot about children and pregnancy and her own experiences in a very negative way, without letting others speak of their own experiences – but I;m not suggesting this has anything to do with the fact that she is a Mother, it’s  more to do with the type of person she is – she needs to be the centre of attention.

Sadly, a month into her pregnancy  she miscarried.  We all met up for an excursion to a yarn store and I told her that I was sorry to hear her news.  We talked for a while about the experience.  I can’t remember what I said, exactly.  I may not have been particularly helpful, but I’m very sure that I wasn’t cruel either.   During the course of the day I became a bit dissociated and teary for a personal reason totally unrelated to infertility.   In my dissociated state I had alluded to my friend’s efforts to conceive, though she had told me she was not ready to tell the group yet.  It was a small slip – a comment about vitamins and I’m not sure anyone else really noticed but I felt ashamed of myself.   I  apologised  to my friend and walked away to collect myself.  I’m sure my eyes were red on my return, but we all trouped off to have lunch together and chatted happily.

I returned home to find that M had written “Sorry, if I offended anyone today”, on a public forum on which we all communicate.  I sent her a private message and asked if she was referring to me.  I assured her that she hadn’t upset me and that I was upset for personal reasons.  I wrote that I was genuinely sorry to hear the news of her miscarriage and that I hoped she would be Ok.  Her reply indicated that she did not accept my explanation.  She stated that she knew I had a lot of problems, but that everyone had problems and she then went on to list a number of her own.  I replied again,  repeating the statement that I was sorry for her loss and adding that I knew it was important to talk about the miscarriage and that I hadn’t been upset by this.

A couple of months later my friend in the group offered her place for a Sunday meet up. A few people replied in the affirmative.   M said that she couldn’t come because her husband couldn’t babysit but suggested that we rearrange the meeting and come to her place instead so that her little one could run around.   My friend wrote that she’d prefer a child-free meet up if possible and repeated the offer to meet at her house on a regular basis. M replied “count me out, then”.

We met as we had arranged, at my friend’s house.  I came late, as I usually do when I think that I can probably only manage a couple of hours of women talk.  After the meeting my friend told me that before I’d arrived they’d been discussing what M had written online in another group forum.  At that time, I said that I knew M had a problem with me, but that I didn’t have a problem with her. She was just a pretty critical and negative person who I would probably never end up good friends with, but she didn’t affect me that much.  I said that after 8 years I was pretty thick skinned about the infertility thing, which is to say it still hurts like hell, but I’ve accepted that people cannot really understand it unless they’ve been through it, and that  it is ignorance which is at the heart of most hurtful comments.

When I got home I, quite stupidly, checked out the discussion M had started online.  I thought I’d find a few complaints about how difficult it was to deal with someone who was infertile, or about how it wasn’t fair that we didn’t change the meeting to her house.    What I found was exaggeration and lies.   She claimed she’d been told never to speak of her child for fear of upsetting me. As in, never ever mention the word child.  She also claimed that when she’d told us of her miscarriage that I’d smiled at her and said “Now you know how I feel, great, isn’t it?”    When someone questioned her about this, she said that she knew she hadn’t misheard the words or tone because I’d been told off by the group.  None of this is true.  I checked to make sure that nothing I said could have been interpreted this way.  I was reassured that whatever I’d said had been said in a sympathetic tone and that M seemed to have forgotten that we’d continued to talk with her at length about the pain of her miscarriage.   The online discussion continued for 10 pages, during which I was called an “infertile bitch”  and referred to as someone who “hates children”.  M stated that I should “just deal” with the infertility and “get help”.

I know this woman is slightly unhinged, and seems to have projected upon me views and values that I just don’t  have. She has taken my own personal pain as a comment on her somehow.   It’s not her personally that has hurt me so much.  But to be called an “infertile bitch” after 8 years of dealing with other’s pregnancies, children, invasive and rude questions and assumptions.  It’s been almost too much.

So many questions have arisen for me from this episode.

“Why is it that my infertility hurts others so much?”

“Why must there be this great divide between Mother’s and those who are childless?”

“Can’t we accept that both Infertility and parenting may be  difficult and heart wrenching for an individual?”

“Why must this be a competition in pain?”

“Why is the onus usually on the infertile couple to make the parents feel OK?” – for such is my experience.  In other areas of life, if someone has lost something precious, others don’t expect them to cater for the needs of the person who has what they have lost.   I know that’s a tricky one, but that’s the way it feels.

Cold Hand, Cold Womb

March 11, 2010

Enter the human pincushion.  I’m sure many will know what I’m talking about.  If I’m not talking about hormone injections then I’m talking about…acupuncture.  

Yes…we’ve decided to give it “one last hurrah”, as the first acupunturist I rang referred to our treatment program.  I’ve been very fortunate to find a doctor who will bulk bill me for the treatment – I’m not sure we could have done it otherwise as our finances are not particularly healthy.

I had my first appointment today. He was lovely.  Didn’t assure me of any positive outcome but thought it was worth a try.  We talked about all my various ailments and when I mentioned my raynards disease he muttered…
“Ah… cold hands, cold womb”.  It’s a chinese saying apparently.  So we’re going to work on that.   I could add “cold heart”, but we’re working on that too.

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.

Someone should award me a Golden Globe

October 10, 2009

Did I ever tell you I trained as an actor?   Well, I did.  Many years ago.  I never thought that my greatest performance would be in the living room managing my infertility status whilst singing “Happy Birthday” to my niece at her 1st birthday party.

That’s where I was at yesterday.  The first half of the afternoon was fine, although significantly, during that time the children were playing outside and their parents, (my SIL and brother), were mostly absent as well.  My brother was at the BBQ and I’m not quite sure where my SIL was…maybe watching the kids?  Anyway, point being, during the first hour and a half the DH and I were in the lounge room chatting with my sister and her fiance about their recent overseas trip and we were doing fine.  

At some stage the BBQ was ready and we all sat down to eat.  There was some chatter about kids but we managed to divert the conversation to other topics at regular intervals to give us a breather.  I remained calm and mostly consiously aware of what I was saying and I stuck to the plan of being quiet when things were getting a bit too intense.  In the past this has worked.

I should point out here that I don’t mean to imply that I’m usually an extrovert.  I’m not.  But sometimes, in situations where children and mothers dominate, I become ungrounded and start to respond enthusiastically, (and falsely) to conversations about babies and bringing up kids.  It’s as if I’m trying to over compensate for my deficit or reassure people that I’m really doing “O.K”.   Unfortunately this can lead to extended conversations that revolve around raising kids, and when I say extended I mean conversations that last for well over and hour or two.   During such conversations I am often wounded, but don’t feel the pain until much later when I realise that I should have excused myself politely after the 15 minute mark and gone to talk to someone else about the latest weather report.   Unfotunately such conversations are really hard to get away from when the group is small and you are all confined to one area, though really that’s no excuse.  I could always take a short walk or a long bathroom break.  No one would miss me.

So at lunch I began to “space out”.  I lost my bearings.  The kids were now with us and my Nephew, (who really is gorgeously cute), began to play with DH and I.  He was really taken with DH this time and even snuggled into him a bit.

Picture this.  We are seated on the couch and on one  side my Nephew is snuggling up to DH. On the other side my brother is holding the baby girl who’s gurgling and chuckling as he jogs her up and down on her knee while he, (my brother), grins at me, waits for my reaction and jogs her up and down again.  The scene is unbearably cute.

And so it goes on…and on.  I really couldn’t tell you the details of the next hour or so as I wasn’t really present.  Somehow I had disapeared inside myself and in my place was a relentlessly cheerful Aunt.

The cheerful Aunt was knocked out later when the sugary butterfly birthday cake was presented.  My brother’s young family clustered around the cake and it’s single lit candle while my sister took photos.  At one point my brother looked admiringly at his children and wife posing for the “1st birthday photo” and cooed “Oh, look at the little family”.  My heart stopped. It skipped a beat.  I have previously thought of that phrase as “just” an expression, but it really happens!  I felt my body lurch.   I’m sure no one noticed as I probably still had the ” cheerful aunt” smile plastered to my face, but inside I cracked and cried.

We had about an hour to go after that, during which time DH and I stuffed down our tears with pink frosted birthday cake.  We talked about kids movies and animation and my brother expressed amazement at us not having seen  “Kung Fu Panda”.   I was compelled to exclaim,  “We don’t have kids”.  The statement was a bit irrelevant and definitely halted the conversation  in an akward manner, but by that time I was just trying to find some ground to stand on. Some way of orientating myself.  Someplace to exist.  I claimed our infertility and gained some measure of safety.  We left soon after, thanking the hosts for a lovely day,  but not before being herded outside to watch the kids race their tricycles and applaud accordingly.

Now….I want that Golden Globe.

Oh where, oh where have my boundaries gone?

October 3, 2009

 You know how as an infertile woman there is practically no one to talk to about what you’re going through?  Very few people want to know the details, or even the abstractions,  of the experience.  There is lots of “chin up” advice  floating around, and proclamations about how lucky you are because you get to sleep in.  At least, (apart from my gorgeous sister) that’s how I’ve experienced other people’s reactions with regard to infertitlity.   As such, my boundaries around this topic have firmed up considerably over the years.  I am very careful about whom I speak to about the emotional and physical journey of infertility.

I was therefore stunned when I found myself opening up to a lady at my local tea shop yesterday.  To contextualise this properly I should mention that I make tea cosy’s for the shop to sell.  They have been most kind and do not even take a commission on them.  I also buy fine tea from them on a regualar basis,  (because it is one of my favourite indulgences) and we have had a couple of friendly chats over the past six months.    So; we are friendly but not intimate aquaintances.

All it took was what I took to be a genuinely sympathetic look when I mentioned that we “sadly” didn’t have kids,  for me to regale her with the trials of IVF.   It helped that she mentioned that her SIL  had IVF and she seemed to know what she was talking about with regard to ovary stimulation and the steadily diminshing number of viable eggs that occurs after that first folicle number you are given.     But still…this is not like me.  I shocked myself and now feel terribly embarrassed. 

 It was just such a relief to be able to tell someone and for them to respond sympathetically.

splitting

August 17, 2009

Last weekend we celebrated my mother’s birthday with an afternoon tea at my brother’s house.  Unfortunately my sister and fiance couldn’t come so it was just mum, dad, my brother,  his wife and their children.    All afternoon the conversation was peppered with talk about how hard it is to be a parent, the joys of being a parent and grandparent and annecdotes about what the kids have done lately. 

DH and I tried to contribute to the conversation but when those are the primary topics we are really left out in the cold.  I particularly resent being given mini- lectures by my well meaning brother about what life is like when you’ve got kids.  

The really difficult part is that I feel drawn to my nephews and niece.  They are delightful children who just want to play.  I enjoy racing around the garden with them and discovering flowers and bugs and wondering why things work the way they do.    

That is to say, part of me enjoys being with them.  A whole other part is screaming in pain that I will never have my own children to experience this with.  That I can only ever be a small memory in these children’s lives.   I hope I will be a good memory for them.

Meanwhile I know that my Mum, Dad, Brother and SIL look on and are glad that I’m handling this all so well now.  Well, I can hardly interrupt every conversation to say…”Yes, life’s  also tough when you can’t have children”…”Yes, well the only reason we get to sleep in is because there’s no child to wake us up”…”No, we really don’t have more money because we don’t have children – we’re still paying back our loan for the IVF that didin’t work”…  etc. etc. 

They don’t understand that every family visit ends in tears for us.  I return home split in two. Not because anybody has done anything wrong.  It’s just the way it is.    For other people our drama is over.  We did IVF last year.  It didn’t work and now we are getting on with life.  For us the pain continues – True, we did IVF last year.  Last year we had hope.   This year part of us mourns and part of us tries to enjoy those children who are in the peripheral part of our lives.  The two parts do not intermingle well.  We are split in two.

Happy Birthday to me…

July 13, 2009

Well,  about a month ago I turned 40. Amidst the congratulations from friends there were many comments such as “It’s only a number”.  Not so.  You can probably guess who these comments came from.  Yes, that’s right – they came from those with young children.    As someone who is infertile the number 40 is pretty meaningful to me.  We had expected to have children (plural)  by 40.  I had expected to stop trying to conceive by 40.  I had expected to be moving on.  None of these things have happened and the fear  of being childless has increased.  I wonder if I will be able to move on once menopause hits?  I imagine then that I might then be able to say, “No, nup, never…it’s not going to happen”.  Until then….I’m on the other side of 40.

A couple of posts ago I received a comment which was really a link to a blog site.  It seemed to be very anti – IVF and was quite poorly written in terms of grammer, so I don’t think the author’s arguments were expressed very well.  I can honestly say I felt a little attacked when I investigated the site.  But I have decided to leave the link in as there are some points I believe are valid, such as considering the notion of Identity.    Plus…I want to make a point. It is the assumption that I, or “We”, as  IVF participants,  have not thought about such notions that I find offensive.   Of course I have wrestled with the idea that a child conceived from a donor egg may have unique challenges ahead in terms of  identity and their search for a place in the world.  Of course I have thought about adoption.  But each person must find there own way through this.  Who am I to judge another’s struggles or reactions to a gut wrenchingly emotional  time of loss and longing?  I bring to these decisions my own background and experiences of childhood, as does everyone who goes through such a journey.  The decision to do IVF, to adopt or to use donor eggs and/or sperm is not made lightly or quickly.     My decisions have been more like processes developed over seven years!  And yes, I am still questioning and still questing.    I am outraged, not that someone else thinks that I should think about such ideas, but that they would assume that I hadn’t!

How’s this for insanity?

June 8, 2009

So… I am one day late for my period.  One day late after an extremely stressful week which would absolutely account for the delay. Yet because my husband and I managed to have sex at exactly the right time last cycle I have hopes.  I have hopes after 7 years!  I have hopes despite the fact that part of the problem is getting the sperm to reach the egg!  I have hopes despite the fact that I’m 40 and my eggs are old.  I have hopes despite the fact that the last two IVF treatments failed because the egg didn’t fertilize properly, or at all.    I have hopes despite the image in the mirror reflecting back a chin full of hormonal pimples.  I have PMS and still have hope!  Hope? Insanity is more like it! (It’s killing me!)

Confidences

May 3, 2009

Over the past seven years people with children have had a number of different reactions to my childless state.  One very common reaction is to tell me that I can have their children if I want them.  When said publically this is the source of lots of laughter and bonding between those who are parents.  But sometimes this is said privately, sorrowfully.  Sometimes it’s not those exact words that are said.  Sometimes parents whisper confidences to me.  They wonder aloud to me if their lives would have been better without children.

Yesterday I was at a writer’s meeting and, as I was signing in, I had a chat to the security guard.  He knows our little group quite well now.  Somehow we got on to the topic of age.  He queiried how old I was.  He looked very suprised when I replied that I was “nearly 40”.  Then…(you can hear it coming can’t you?)…he asked if I had kids.  ( At least he asked, not assumed).  When I gave him the standard reply: “Sadly, no”.  He asked if it was because something was wrong with me or my husband.  I am always glad that I get to say “both of us”; that the blame is evenly weighted.  I am also always both outraged and amused that people ask this intensely intimate question without any hesitation. 

He paused, tossed his hands in the air and said dramatically, “You can take mine!”  I smiled and somberely looked into his eyes saying,  “That seems to be the way of it.”  In turn his face dropped and in a lowered voice so that only I, the infertile one, would hear,  confided in me that he often thought about what would have happened if he hadn’t had kids.  He wondered why he had them. He questioned what it was all for, when all they do is grow up and die, same as all of us.  He wondered if his life would have been more fulfilling without them and what kind of things he would have done if he didn’t have them.  I nodded and spoke one word  “Life”.  He nodded and for one moment we both acknowledged our same experience with regard to having children: disapointment.    It didn’t make me angry.  I am finally begining to see that their are many parents who play out some fantasy of being a fabulously fulfilled Mum and Dad for the benefit of other parents.  But as an infertile person I occassionally get a glimpse of their own disappointment that, despite having kids, they still have a void in their lives.  We all have them.   I see that children don’t fill that void.