Conflicting Emotions

Pregnancy announcements while you’re struggling with infertility tend to come with a lot of conflicting emotions. While you’re (usually) happy for the person making the announcement, it more often than not brings up a painful reminder that yet another person has achieved what seems to be the impossible for you.

I think I’m in a good place right now, since I’m doing the IVF, and therefore could be less than a month away from a positive pregnancy result of my own. It’s been six months (when I did my last IUI in December) since a potential pregnancy for me has felt this close. But despite my general positive outlook these days, a pregnancy announcement the other day still brought out some feelings that only someone familiar with the  infertility struggle could understand.

This was not the usual “oops I got pregnant” announcement, and therefore it did not elicit the normal set of conflicting emotions. This was a couple who had been trying about as long as we had, and who I wrote about in one of my first posts on this blog. When we last saw each other at the end of January, they were still on the waiting list for the fertility clinic, so I don’t know if they ended up doing fertility treatments, or lucked out with a miracle pregnancy. Regardless, this pregnancy was well earned, so when my husband casually mentioned in conversation the other day that they were pregnant, I said I was happy for them, and I am.

The thing is that I am also happy for myself. I’m happy that I stuck with my self preservation instinct and did not bond further over our infertility. I’m happy that despite pangs of guilt over the last few months I never got around to sending her the information on the fertility yoga class that I am taking (which would introduce additional opportunities for us to commiserate about our shared experience). And of course I’m happy that despite my lack of support on this front, they still managed to get pregnant.

It seems so petty that I can feel this way, especially when I really believe I may be on the threshold of a pregnancy of my own. But I know that if we had shared more about our struggles, this pregnancy announcement would be much more difficult to take as it would be yet another race that I had lost; one more person leaving me behind. While I’m not proud to say it, one thing I’ve learned over the last year is that when it comes to pregnancy related news and events, I have to support my emotional state first, before I can provide support for someone else. And sometimes these two things are mutually exclusive.

Housing Update – Part 1

I’ve had a bunch of posts/topics that I wanted to write in the last week, but once again life got in the way of me having any time to sit down and write! We had our housing trip to our new city last week, and since getting back on Sunday I’ve been fighting a cold, and am now sick.

I’ll start with the housing trip. I arrived first thing last Wed morning, with the plan to see a few houses and then take it easy most of the day. My husband was away for business in Europe, and would only be joining me on Thursday, so I didn’t want to see too many houses without him, but there were two houses that looked quite nice that had offers due Wed night, so I wanted to get in and see them before they sold. Our real estate agent threw a few more houses on the list (ones that had been on the market for a while, so could in theory sell any minute), so there was a total of 5 to see.

Well, wouldn’t you know it, one of the houses due for offers that night looked just right for us! It was in an amazing neighbourhood that we both loved (but for the most part could not afford), was nicely renovated, and met all of our other criteria. My mom saw the house with me (she’d also seen all the houses I saw in April), and after going through it, she said “You have to put an offer down on this house”. Despite the fact that my husband hadn’t seen it yet, I agreed with her.

Thankfully it was still early enough in the day that my husband was still up, so I emailed him about the house. He was in the middle of a conference, and had to present an award to someone shortly, so it took some time to finally get him on the phone, but we went over all the attributes of the house, and decided to go for it. Our #1 criteria for housing was location, and this house was in our absolute dream area. The rest of the day was taken up with deciding on the right price (we had to bid over asking, since there would be one other offer), and the offer negotiations.

As the day went on, I fell more and more in love with the house. The house purchase process is a real catch-22, because in order to want to put an offer down, you have to love the house and therefore are already emotionally invested. But when you’re only at the offer stage (especially when there’s other offers), you have to also guard against getting too far ahead of yourself as there is a good chance you will be let down. In many ways, it’s so much like going through fertility treatments. You’re doing treatments because you will go to great lengths to have a baby, but there are no guarantees that the treatments will be successful. So in both cases, your mind flip flops between imagining your future if everything pans out the way you want it to, and forcing yourself to not think about it in case you’re disappointed (again).

We knew we were at a disadvantage to start, because the other offer was the selling agent’s buyer, but our agent did everything he could to level the playing field. While sitting in Starbucks with my mom when our offer was being presented, I couldn’t help but imagine our lives in the house. In a twisted, doomed to be disappointed moment, I even picked out the room that would be the nursery – that’s right, a nursery for a non-existent baby in a house I don’t own yet.

After about half an hour, I finally got a text from my agent saying that both offers were close so the sellers were sending them back to us to try again. We met up with the agent, and called my husband to discuss, and decided to go back with what we’d previously agreed was the highest we’d pay for this house. Our agent was confident we had a strong offer and that our chances of getting the house were really good.

Again, my mom and I waited, this time in the lobby of the real estate office. At one point I heard my agent walking towards us. He was walking very briskly and decisively, so I thought he must have good news for us. It was a false alarm though, as he was only coming out to tell us that they were reviewing the offers. So we waited some more.

Finally, he came out again. He made a thumbs down motion. Despite doing everything we could, we didn’t get it. It was back to the drawing board.

Pregnancy After Infertility

Why am I writing a post about pregnancy after infertility when I am not yet pregnant, and my next chance at a positive pregnancy test is a full 2 months away?

It’s partly a combination of wishful thinking and preparing myself for the pregnancy state of mind. But mostly, it’s my recent realization that even once I am pregnant, I will still feel infertile.

I read a quote on one of the online forums that I belong to from a woman who was in the process of adopting, that “Adoption cures childlessness. It does not cure infertility.”  And I totally get that. While you end up with a family, your body never did what so many of us are led to believe our main purpose is in life: procreate. It’s only in the last few weeks however, that it hit me that after years of infertility, pregnancy does not cure infertility either.

It happened for me at yoga. For some reason, I was looking ahead to the opportunity to take pre natal yoga classes once pregnant. It started out as a pleasant daydream of a glowing, pregnant me in a room with ten or fifteen other happily pregnant woman doing gentle stretches. There we were: all pregnant; all sharing the same experience; all the same. Except that we’re not the same.

And that’s when my warm and fuzzy daydream started to unravel. Because I realized that pregnancy would have come easier for most (if not all) of these woman than it will eventually come for me. I imagined some of these women saying (bragging) that this was an “Oops!” pregnancy – unplanned, or God forbid that it happened while they were on the pill or some other form of birth control. And other women saying that it took them way longer – four or five months, and that they were starting to get worried that something might be wrong, when bam! it happened. Maybe these women would even share what it was that helped them “finally” get pregnant: going on vacation that month; a few sessions of acupuncture; using ovulation predictor kits, or trying a new supplement.

Or we will commiserate about all of the wonderful aches and pains, and other side effects that pregnancy has inflicted on our bodies, and I will admit that I feel pretty good and have managed to avoid most of the usual maladies (If pregnant with a singleton, I am banking on an easy pregnancy, partly because I feel I’ve earned it, but mostly because my mother had two easy pregnancies and I also felt great physically when I was pregnant last year). And then someone (in all likelihood the woman who got pregnant on the pill) will say: “Wow, you’re lucky you’re not dealing with [fill in the blank]”. And I will think that when it comes to getting and staying pregnant, I’d trade my “luck” for any one of their’s in a heartbeat.

Given how common miscarriage is, I expect there will be a few other women in the room who have suffered losses and therefore understand that a positive pregnancy test does not automatically mean a baby in 9 months. But how many of these women had to endure their due date anniversary, their pregnancy anniversary, and their loss anniversary without being pregnant again, or having a  new baby in their arms?  How many got pregnant again, but suffered another loss?

Now maybe this group will not be as chatty as what I am imagining, and instead we will just go about doing our poses and beetle away home right after class. However, even without anyone sharing any details, I know there will be some women who got pregnant their first month trying, and that most of the other ones would have gotten pregnant within six months. I know there will be women who share my history of loss, but that in all likelihood they did not have to wait very long before achieving a succesful pregnancy. And I know that it’s almost a given that every single woman in the room other than me knows that she can get pregnant naturally, because she did. Even without anyone saying a word, I will still feel different, because I am different.

And this realization makes me very sad.

I lost my pregnancy innocence with my miscarriage, but I always thought that when I was pregnant again once the stress of beta numbers and the first few ultrasounds were out of the way, and I felt that things would probably work out (yes, I know that there are many, many things that can go wrong later in pregnancy, but going by the odds, most losses will be in the first trimester), I would feel like a “normal” pregnant woman. But I now know that is not the case.

To my pregnant infertile sisters – I finally understand what you are going through. You’re not one of “them”, you’re still one of “us”. And I’m really sorry that it has to be that way.

Pregnant: 2 weeks down, 38 to go

Today I am PUPO, which for the uninitiated means pregnant-until-proven-otherwise. Due to the quirkiness with how pregnancy is measured (i.e. measurement starts from the first day of your most recent period, rather than from ovulation), I am also two weeks pregnant.

What health class neglected to tell us (or if it did, most of us were not paying attention), is that not only are there just a few days each month when a woman can conceive; if she is in fact pregnant, she has to wait up to two weeks to find out. In this age of instant gratification, this feels like a ridiculously long time to wait for something, especially news as life-altering as a pregnancy. Therefore, for those trying to conceive, there is a window of approximately two weeks each month, when your part is done, but you do not know whether you are pregnant.

While a sperm needs to fertilize the egg within 24 to 48 hours of ovulation in order for pregnancy to be possible, the fertilized egg takes about 5 days to travel down the fallopian tube and into the uterus, where it can implant (implantation occurs 6 to 12 days after ovulation). Only once it implants, does it start to secrete the pregnancy hormone hcg, which is what is picked up by pregnancy tests.  While home pregnancy tests are getting more and more sensitive, and able to detect hcg in urine sooner than ever, given the mechanics of what happens when an egg gets fertilized, it’s impossible to cut the wait down any further. So we’re stuck waiting.

Many people find the two-week wait (as it’s commonly referred to) excruciating and painfully slow, however I’ve actually come to enjoy it over the last year.  When we first started trying for a baby, I was like most other people in that I couldn’t wait to find out whether things had worked or not, and took a pregnancy test the first possible chance I could. Of course, the test would always be negative, at which point the real mind games started.

The most sensitive pregnancy tests can detect hcg in your urine 5 days before your period is due. However, due to the  uncertainty around when the embryo implants, and therefore when it actually starts to secrete hcg, you may have had a successful cycle, yet testing early will still show a negative result. For example, the pregnancy test I use most often has stats something like this: detects 67% of pregnancies 4 days early, 78% 3 days early, 87% 2 days early, and 98% the day before your period is due. This means that today’s negative could be  tomorrow’s positive result. So you take another test the following day, and again it’s negative, but it is still early after all, and so on and so forth. After a few months on this rollercoaster, I found it was easier (not to mention cheaper!) just to wait things out until my period came. Then, for a long time, since I didn’t really expect things to work anyways, the two-week wait stopped having any meaning for me.

However in 2010, I discovered my love of the two-week wait while going through six intrauterine inseminations (IUI’s). Starting fertility treatments was difficult as it stemmed from a realization that we would need help to conceive, but it also brought back hope that pregnancy was possible. This time, I treasured those two weeks between the IUI and my pregnancy test date because until proven otherwise, I was pregnant. My last IUI was in December, however I am still recovering from the hangover of the possibilities that a two-week wait brings, so will embrace it and milk being PUPO for all it’s worth!